Nepoleon's March on Moscow: A Data-Rich Depiction of Disaster
In his courses and in his book "The visual Display of Quantitative Information," Tufte cites the notable example of this data-rich depiction of Napoleon's 1812 march on Moscow, originally drawn by Charles Joseph Minard in 1869 (and translated by Dawn Finley and redrawn here by Elaine Morse in 2002). As shown by the thick, brown line, Napoleon's army crosses into Russia from Poland in June with 422,000 troops. The line gets proportionally thinner, indicating casualties as the battle move eastward. Only 100,000 troops reach a sacked and deserted Moscow by September. An early and bitterly cold winter, with temperatures dipping down to minus 36 degrees Fahrenheit (as shown by the scale at the bottom of the chart), forced a disastrous retreat. The steadily narrowing black line shows the grim toll as troops succumb to starvation, exposure and drowning at icy river crossings). Only 10,000 troops make it back into Poland. Tufte calls it "a visual War and Peace" and "the greatest anti-war poster ever created."