The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty
The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army

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Synopsis

“Gripping . . . a compelling story of personal hubris and humbling defeat.”
—Jack Weatherford,author of the New York Times bestseller Genghis Khan and the Making of the
Modern World


In a masterful dual narrative that pits the heights of human ambition and achievement against the supremacy of nature, New York Times bestselling author Stephan Talty tells the story of a mighty ruler and a tiny microbe, antagonists whose struggle would shape the modern world.

In the spring of 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte was at the height of his powers. Forty-five million called him emperor, and he commanded a nation that was the richest, most cultured, and advanced on earth. No army could stand against his impeccably trained, brilliantly led forces, and his continued sweep across Europe seemed inevitable.

Early that year, bolstered by his successes, Napoleon turned his attentions toward Moscow, helming the largest invasion in human history. Surely, Tsar Alexander’s outnumbered troops would crumble against this mighty force.

But another powerful and ancient enemy awaited Napoleon’s men in the Russian steppes. Virulent and swift, this microscopic foe would bring the emperor to his knees.

Even as the Russians retreated before him in disarray, Napoleon found his army disappearing, his frantic doctors powerless to explain what had struck down a hundred thousand soldiers. The emperor’s vaunted military brilliance suddenly seemed useless, and when the Russians put their own occupied capital to the torch, the campaign became a desperate race through the frozen landscape as troops continued to die by the thousands. Through it all, with tragic heroism, Napoleon’s disease-ravaged, freezing, starving men somehow rallied, again and again, to cries of “Vive l’Empereur!”

Yet Talty’s sweeping tale takes us far beyond the doomed heroics and bloody clashes of the battlefield. The Illustrious Dead delves deep into the origins of the pathogen that finally ended the mighty emperor’s dreams of world conquest and exposes this “war plague’s” hidden role throughout history. A tale of two unstoppable forces meeting on the road to Moscow in an epic clash of killer microbe and peerless army, The Illustrious Dead is a historical whodunit in which a million lives hang in the balance.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Stephan Talty

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STEPHAN TALTY is a widely published journalist who has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men's Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications. He is the author of Escape from the Land of Snows, the best-selling Empire of Blue Water, The Illustrious Dead, and Mulatto America.
 
Published June 2, 2009 by Broadway Books. 338 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Illustrious Dead

Kirkus Reviews

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By the attack on Smolensk in mid-August, Napoleon’s effective fighting force was reduced to 175,000, with the vanishing of the army attributed more to deprivation and the heat than to the dreaded “war fever.” After the bloodbath of Borodino in early September, the hospitals for the sick and wound...

Apr 01 2009 | Read Full Review of The Illustrious Dead: The Ter...

Publishers Weekly

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When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, typhus ravaged his army, killing hundreds of thousands and ensuring his defeat, according to this breathless combination of military and medical history.

Apr 20 2009 | Read Full Review of The Illustrious Dead: The Ter...

Book Reporter

This is the story of an army and a microbe.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of The Illustrious Dead: The Ter...

The Washington Post

A fast-paced sketch of this disastrous campaign, "The Illustrious Dead" is a military history that treats typhus as an invisible army on the battlefield, silently slaughtering hundreds of thousands of French soldiers, frustrating Napoleon's ambition, weakening his reign and changing the course of...

Jun 28 2009 | Read Full Review of The Illustrious Dead: The Ter...

Bookmarks Magazine

a compelling story of personal hubris and humbling defeat.”
—Jack Weatherford,author of the New York Times bestseller Genghis Khan and the Making of the
Modern World

In a masterful dual narrative that pits the heights of human ambition and achievement against the supre...

Jun 28 2009 | Read Full Review of The Illustrious Dead: The Ter...

New Scientist

New Scientist full online access is exclusive to subscribers.

Jun 28 2009 | Read Full Review of The Illustrious Dead: The Ter...

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