French Invasion of Russia
Capture of MoscowMoscow, Russia
On September 14, 1812, Napoleon moved into Moscow. However, he was surprised to have received no delegation from the city. At the approach of a victorious general, the civil authorities customarily presented themselves at the gates of the city with the keys to the city in an attempt to safeguard the population and their property. As nobody received Napoleon he sent his aides into the city, seeking out officials with whom the arrangements for the occupation could be made. When none could be found, it became clear that the Russians had left the city unconditionally. In a normal surrender, the city officials would be forced to find billets and make arrangements for the feeding of the soldiers, but the situation caused a free-for-all in which every man was forced to find lodgings and sustenance for himself. Napoleon was secretly disappointed by the lack of custom as he felt it robbed him of a traditional victory over the Russians, especially in taking such a historically significant city. To make matters worse, Moscow had been stripped of all supplies by its governor, Feodor Rostopchin, who had also ordered the prisons to be opened. According to Germaine de Staël, who left the city a few weeks before Napoleon arrived, it was Rostopchin who ordered to set his mansion on fire.