Many times in Russian history various invincible armies tried to conquer Russia. Today we will talk about the French army of Napoleon I, whichduring the Battle of Borodino stumbled on Russian persistence.
1812. Almost all of Europe was under the heel of Napoleon. The war was heading towards Russia’s borders. The Grand Army of Napoleon, commissioned for a crusade against Russia, reached 600 thousand people. Russian forces were three times smaller and scattered over a large territory. Plus, Austria and Prussia decided to join Napoleon’s army.
Napoleon tried to prevent reuniting of Russian armies and eliminate them one by one. However, talented commanders, among whom Bagration, skillfully distributed their forces in smaller clashes and did not engage in big battles, which allowed them to unite near Smolensk.
Still, there were not enough forces. So, a decision was made to look for another place for a decisive battle. But this was not a retreat.
French Marshal Davout: “Russian retreat is happening in a surprising manner. Only the landscape, and not Murat, determines their retreat. Movement … their movement seems to be going according to a plan, which has long been approved and artfully described.”
Taking the Positions
Not far from Moscow, in the Borodino area, the commander of the Russian army Kutuzov found a place which was “one of the best that you could only find on a flatland.”
Feeling out the Opponent
On August 24 a fierce battle for Shevardino redoubt broke out. 11,000 Russian soldiers managed to protectthe redoubt, which was attacked by 40, 000 French corps.
A Decisive Battle
On August 26 the battle of Borodinobegan. A division of General Delzon attacked the village of Borodino (a distracting attack) and forced out the defenders of the village.
The main blow was directed at the Russian left flank, at Semenov (Bagration) flushes. Ferocious battlesin this direction lasted almost until noon. Tens of thousands of people came together in a battleunder the continuous roar of 800 guns. Flashes were repeatedly passed from one side to the other.
Napoleon ordered the two cavalry corps to attack the left flank, but Russian troops managed to keep the front.
In response the Russian cavalry of Uvarov and Platov raided the left flank of the enemy, which provided a temporary respite on the left flank of the Russians.
The battle lasted until 9 o’clock in the evening. At the end of the battle the Russian artillery “managed to silence the French artillery.”
Consequences of the Battle
The French could not defeat the Russians, but Russians also could not advance any more. Reinforcements began to approach the French troops, and Kutuzov decided to save the army and move towards Moscow.
The losses of each of the parties in just one day amounted to 40 thousand people. Napoleon later said: “Of all of my battles the worst one was near Moscow. The French soldiers proved themselves in it worthy of victory, and Russians – to be called invincible.”
However, these terrible figures pale in comparison to others. The Battle of Borodino was not the last battle of the War of 1812. And out of six hundred thousand soldiers of Napoleon’s army only a few tens of thousands of weak and exhausted men returned to France after the Russian campaign. Still, they were allowed to leave only to avoid additional unnecessary casualties.
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