Looking back into history it is hard to understand exactly how the people of the time had felt. One can never fully understand the hardships of life in the past, and in order to attempt to understand we depend highly on written sources, textbooks, diaries and memoirs. Jakob Walter’s Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier in one such source. In his diary, which reads more like a memoir, Walter shares his experiences of his life in Napoleon’s Grand Army during the campaigns of 1806, 1809 then 1812.
Unlike most diaries written by people of the past, Walter’s diary is most definitely meant to be shared with those of the present and future. Through all of Walter’s account with his French “comrades” and the locals of the lands they were moving through he describes what he was feeling and thinking. While this is the point of keeping a diary, his honesty and pure uncaring towards Napoleon’s campaigns proves that his loyalty was obviously not to Napoleon or his campaigns.
Walter’s purpose in writing this diary may have started out as his way to keep in touch with his family and friends he was forced to leave at home in Germany, but evolved into a way to share the hell that he was living in. In the beginning, it seemed as if Walter was more or less writing to himself, writing about what he was surviving. As the diary progresses to the campaign of 1812, when the Grand Army made its way into the heart of Russia, it seems as if Walter realizes that he may not live through this and his focus changes to a more detailed diary.
When a person write to themselves they have no need to write explicit details, they can remember the details with just a word. When a writer writes to an audience details become a major piece of their work, it is their only way to explain and show the reader what life was like. As the diary progresses Walter uses more details, he begins to paint a picture of how horrible his life was, …