The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon Against Kutuzov (Campaign Chronicles)

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Russian General Nikolay Tuchkov had some 23, troops but half were untrained Opolchenye militia armed only with pikes and axes and not ready for deployment. Poniatowski had about 10, men, all trained and eager to fight, but his first attempt did not go well. It was at once realized the massed troops and artillery could not move through the forest against Jaeger opposition so had to reverse to Yelnya and then move eastward.

Some four regiments were called away to help defend the redoubts that were under attack and another 2 Jaeger regiments were deployed in the Utitsa woods, weakening the position. The Polish contingent contested control of Utitsa village, capturing it with their first attempt. Tuchkov later ejected the French forces by General Jean-Andoche Junot led the Westphalians to join the attack and again captured Utitsa, which was set on fire by the departing Russians.

After the village's capture, Russians and Poles continued to skirmish and cannonade for the rest of the day without much progress.

The heavy undergrowth greatly hindered Poniatowski's efforts but eventually he came near to cutting off Tuchkov from the rest of the Russian forces. Towards , after hours of resistance, the Russian army was in dire straits, but the French forces were exhausted and had neither the necessary stamina nor the necessary will to carry out another assault. Generals Daru , Dumas and Marshal Louis Alexandre Berthier also joined in and told the Emperor that everyone thought the time had come for the Guard to be committed to battle.

Given the ferocity of the Russian defense, everyone was aware that such a move would cost the lives of thousands of Guardsmen, but it was thought that the presence of this prestigious unit would bolster the morale of the entire army for a final decisive push. As the general staff were discussing the matter, general Rapp , a senior aide-de-camp to the Emperor, was being brought from the field of battle, having been wounded in action.

Rapp immediately recommended to the Emperor that the Guard be deployed for action at which the Emperor is said to have retorted: "I will most definitely not; I do not want to have it blown up. I am certain of winning the battle without its intervention.

Collecting Little Golden Books

Instead, he called the commander of the "Young Guard", Marshal Mortier and instructed him to guard the field of battle without moving forward or backward, while at the same time unleashing a massive cannonade with his guns. Napoleon went forward to see the situation from the former Russian front lines shortly after the redoubts had been taken. The Russians had moved to the next ridge-line in much disarray; however, that disarray was not clear to the French, with dust and haze obscuring the Russian dispositions.

Kutuzov ordered the Russian Guard to hold the line and so it did. All of the artillery that the French army had was not enough to move it.

Battle of Borodino

Those compact squares made good artillery targets and the Russian Guard stood in place from 4pm to 6pm unmoving under its fire resulting in huge casualties. Neither the attack, which relied on brute force, nor the refusal to use the Guard to finish the day's work showed any brilliance on Napoleon's part.

Both the Prussian Staff Officer Karl von Clausewitz , the historian and future author of On War , and Alexander I of Russia noted that the poor positioning of troops in particular had hobbled the defense. Barclay communicated with Kutuzov in order to receive further instructions. According to Ludwig von Wolzogen in an account dripping with sarcasm , the commander was found a half-hour away on the road to Moscow, encamped with an entourage of young nobles and grandly pronouncing he would drive Napoleon off the next day.

Despite his bluster, Kutuzov knew from dispatches that his army had been too badly hurt to fight a continuing action the following day. He knew exactly what he was doing: by fighting the pitched battle, he could now retreat with the Russian army still intact, lead its recovery, and force the weakened French forces to move even further from their bases of supply.

The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon Against Kutuzov (Campaign Chroni...

Kutuzov would proclaim over the course of several days that the Russian Army would fight again before the wall of Moscow. In fact, a site was chosen near Poklonnaya Gora within a few miles of Moscow as a battle site. However, the Russian Army had not received enough reinforcements, and it was too risky to cling to Moscow at all costs. Kutuzov understood that the Russian people never wanted to abandon Moscow, the city which was regarded as Russia's "second capital"; however he also believed that the Russian Army did not have enough forces to protect that city.

Kutuzov called for a council of war on the night of September 12 at Fili village. In a heated debate that split the council five to four in favour of giving battle, Kutuzov, after listening to each General, endorsed retreat. Thus passed the last chance of battle before Moscow was taken. It is not unusual for a pivotal battle of this era to be difficult to document. Similar difficulties exist with the Battle of Waterloo or battles of the War of in North America, while the Battle of Borodino offers its own particular challenges to accuracy. Personal accounts of the battle frequently magnified an individual's own role or minimised those of rivals.

Not only does a historian have to deal with the normal problem of a veteran looking back and recalling events as he or she would have liked them to have been, but in some cases outright malice was involved. Nor was this strictly a Russian event, as bickering and sabotage were known amongst the French marshals and their reporting generals.

The price of ambition

To "lie like a bulletin" [73] was not just a French affair either, with Kutuzov in particular promoting an early form of misinformation that has continued to this day. The over-reliance of western histories on the battle and of the campaign on French sources, has been noted by later historians. The views of historians of the outcome of the battle changed with the passage of time and the changing political situations surrounding them. Kutuzov proclaimed a victory both to the army and to Emperor Alexander. While many a general throughout history claimed victory out of defeat Ramses II of Egypt did so and in this case, Kutuzov was commander-in-chief of the entire Russian army, and it was an army that, despite the huge losses, considered itself undefeated.

Announcing a defeat would have removed Kutuzov from command, and damaged the morale of the proud soldiers.

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While Alexander was not deceived by the announcement, it gave him the justification needed to allow Kutuzov to march his army off to rebuild the Russian forces and later complete the near utter destruction of the French army. Histories during the Soviet era raised the battle to a mythic contest with serious political overtones and had Kutuzov as the master tactician on the battlefield, directing every move with the precision of a ballet master directing his troupe. Noted author and historian David G. Chandler writing in , echoes the Soviet era Russian histories in more than a few ways, asserting that General Kutuzov remained in control of the battle throughout, ordered counter-moves to Napoleon's tactics personally rather than Bagration and Barclay doing so and put aside personal differences to overcome the dispositional mistakes of the Russian army.

Nor is the tent scene played out; instead Kutuzov remains with the army. Chandler also has the Russian army in much better shape moving to secondary prepared positions and seriously considering attacking the next day. His dispositions for the battle are described as a clear mistake leaving the right far too strong and the left much too weak.

Only the fact that Bagration and Barclay were to cooperate fully saved the Russian army and did much to mitigate the bad positioning. Suffering a wound on the Borodino battlefield was effectively a death sentence, as French forces did not possess enough food for the healthy, much less the sick; consequently, equal numbers of wounded soldiers starved to death, died of their injuries, or perished through neglect. Using the same accounting method for both armies brings the actual French Army casualty count to 34,—35, Some 52, Russian troops were reported as dead, wounded or missing, including 1, prisoners; some 8, men were separated from their units and returned over the next few days, bringing the total Russian losses to 44, Twenty-two Russian generals were killed or wounded, including Prince Bagration , who died of his wounds on 24 September.

The next nearest battle would be Waterloo , at about 55, for the day. In the historiography of this battle, the figures would be deliberately inflated or underplayed by the generals of both sides attempting to lessen the impact the figures would have on public opinion both during aftermath of the battle or, for political reasons, later during the Soviet period. Although the Battle of Borodino can be seen as a victory for Napoleon, some scholars and contemporaries described Borodino as a Pyrrhic victory.

Russian historian Oleg Sokolov posits that Borodino constituted a Pyrrhic victory for the French, which would ultimately cost Napoleon the war and his crown, although at the time none of this was apparent to either side. Sokolov adds that the decision to not commit the Guard saved the Russians from an Austerlitz -style defeat and quotes Marshal Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr , one of Napoleon's finest strategists, who analyzed the battle and concluded that an intervention of the Guard would have torn the Russian army to pieces and allowed Napoleon to safely follow his plans to take winter quarters in Moscow and resume his successful campaign in spring or offer the Tsar acceptable peace terms.

However, in a long term war of attrition, the battle was just one more source of losses to the French when they were losing two men to one.

When Napoleon Ventured East

Both the French and the Russians suffered terribly but the Russians had reserve troops, and a clear advantage in the logistics war. The French Army supplies came over a long road lined with hostile forces. According to Rhien, so long as the Russian Army existed the French continued to lose. This victory ultimately cost Napoleon his army, as it allowed the French emperor to believe that the campaign was winnable, exhausting his forces as he went on to Moscow to await a surrender that would never come.

Furthermore, while the Russian army suffered heavy casualties in the battle, they had fully recovered by the time of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow; they immediately began to interfere with the French withdrawal, costing Napoleon much of his surviving army. Poet Mikhail Lermontov romanticized the battle in his poem Borodino. The battle was famously described by Leo Tolstoy in his novel War and Peace , "After the shock that had been received, the French army was still able to crawl to Moscow; but there, without any new efforts on the part of the Russian troops, it was doomed to perish, bleeding to death from the mortal wound received at Borodino.

In , the Imperial Russian Navy named a battleship after the battle. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky also composed his Overture to commemorate the battle. There are also remnants of trenches from the seven-day battle fought at the same battlefield in between the Soviet and German forces which took fewer human lives than the one of A commemorative 1-ruble coin was released in the Soviet Union in to commemorate the th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, and four million were minted.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Borodino disambiguation. Borodino , Russia. French invasion of Russia. Main article: French invasion of Russia. See also: Russian Army order of battle Napoleon , p. Diaries of the Campaigns. Volume 1 of Russian voices of the Napoleonic Wars. Translated by Alexander Mikaberidze. Archived from the original on Retrieved Military History Quarterly.

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Histoire et collections. The Washington Post. August 8, Herold, J. Christopher New York: Columbia University Press. Chandler, pp. Itineraire de l'Empereur Napoleon. Paris, Tableaux par corps et par batailles des officiers tues et blesses pendant les guerres de l'Empire — Napoleon and Wellington: the Battle of Waterloo and the great commanders who fought it. Napoleon; a History of the Art of War: From the beginning of the Peninsular war to the end of the Russian campaign, with a detailed account of the Napoleonic wars.

The first total war: Napoleon's Europe and the birth of warfare as we know it. How Far from Austerlitz? War and Peace. Garden City: International Collectors Library. Dictionary of Minor Planet Names 5th ed. New York: Springer Verlag.

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