On This Day in Napoleonic History – 28 June 1812

28Napoleon enters Vilnius, the capital of Polish Lithuania

The Second Polish Campaign, as Napoleon called it, or the Russian campaign, as it is commonly known, was underway.

Napoleon wrote to Marie Louise, telling her that his headquarters were located in a fine mansion only a few days earlier occupied by Emperor Alexander, who was ‘very far from thinking at the time that I was so soon to enter here’.

One of his officers reported, ‘Our entry into the city was triumphal. The streets were full of people, all the windows were garnished with ladies who displayed wildest enthusiasm.’ As he entered the city, Napoleon surrounded himself with Polish units.

During his ten days in Vilnius, he set up a provisional government for the Lithuanian Poles. Lithuania was officially joined to Poland in a ceremony at Vilnius Cathedral. ‘I love your nation. For the last 16 years I’ve seen your soldiers at my side in the battles of Italy and Spain,’ Napoleon told the representatives of the Poles. Although he offered Poland his ‘esteem and protection’, he would never go one step further and grant Poland the independence it so ardently wished for.

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