The map's French caption reads:
------------------- Figurative Map of the successive losses in men of the French Army in the Russian campaign 1812-1813. Drawn up by M. Minard, Inspector General of Bridges and Roads in retirement. Paris, November 20, 1869. ------------------- The numbers of men present are represented by the widths of the colored zones at a rate of one millimeter for every ten-thousand men; they are further written across the zones. The red [now brown] designates the men who enter into Russia, the black those who leave it. —— The information which has served to draw up the map has been extracted from the works of M. M. Thiers, of Segur, of Fezensac, of Chambray, and the unpublished diary of Jacob, pharmacist of the army since October 28th. In order to better judge with the eye the diminution of the army, I have assumed that the troops of prince Jerome and of Marshal Davoush who had been detached at Minsk and Moghilev and have rejoined around Orcha and Vitebsk, had always marched with the army.

Charles Minard's 1869 Carte figurative des pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813, a flow map published in 1869 on the subject of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. The graph displays several variables in a single two-dimensional image: the army's location and direction, showing where units split off and rejoined the declining size of the army (note e.g. the crossing of the Berezina river on the retreat) the low temperatures during the retreat. chart showing the losses in men, their movements, and the temperature of Napoleon's 1812 Russian campaign.