The death of the Frenchman. The battle of Berezina set point throughout the battle

The tragic and heroic events associated with the termination of the stay of Napoleon in Russia, says Alexei Shishov, researcher, Institute for military history, military Academy of the General staff of the armed forces.

The burden of baggage

– Many French historians came up with to justify his countrymen. Everyone has heard the story that Napoleon’s army in Russia defeated “General frost” – terrible weather conditions. In fact, the first snow in the autumn of 1812, fell only in the first week of November, and the cold came still later. It is the cold, ironically, could save the French in retreat from Russia. But I didn’t. However, talking about it ahead…

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On the territory of Belarus, Grand army came into quite a pickle. There were several reasons. One had a beginning in the battle of Borodino, which the French cavalry had lost too many horses. Dragoons and cuirassiers were dismounted but the infantry tactics they didn’t know with full kit walking is not accustomed to. Because of this, during the retreat they were often thrown issued guns and it turns into a burden for the retreating army. Another reason was the moral decay of a great army. Looters, riscassi in Russian villages, put the procurement of food for the army on a “commercial basis”. All extracted, they often did not hand over the private part, and sold or exchanged for the spoils of war in foreign. Plus, the hostile attitude of the local population, which was taken for the axes and pitchforks. Plus the actions of the army of guerrilla groups, organized with the French real battles. Plus, coming on the heels of the Russian army, defeated the French near Chashniki in October and under the Red in November… as a result from the body of Marshal Ney, by the end of the Russian campaign left 300 people. In this state the French army in early October went to Western border of Russia near the town of Borisov on the Berezina river.


On the Berezina, the French have been waiting for. The West Bank of the river, which was just about to cross Napoleon, controlled the Danube army under the command of Admiral Pavel Chichagov is a 32 thousand fresh infantry and cavalry. From the North over Napoleon hung the body of Peter Wittgenstein (40 thousand), previously covering the road to Petersburg. From the East, trailing by a day or two, walked Kutuzov’s army (50 thousand). It seemed that the mousetrap’s snap. But there it was!

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Pike and the cat

…Hot on the heels of what happened then, Ivan Krylov wrote a fable “Pike and cat”. The words with which it begins, at the hearing so far: “the Trouble if pies begin furnaces the shoemaker, and to stitch boots the pastry cook”. In the Pike, inadvertently got on shore, together with a Cat to hunt mice, contemporaries easily recognized Admiral Chichagov. While he waited for the crossing of the French to the South of Borisov, Napoleon tricked him. Standing neck-deep in icy water, engineers General Eble brought whether two, or even three bridges North of the city near the village of Studenka. Him from 14 to 17 November, Russia had left the most organized and efficient part of the French, including the Old and Young guard. Was there the Emperor himself.

In fairness it should be noted that Wittgenstein was to blame for the relative failure of the battle of Berezina no less (if not more) than the ill-fated Admiral. Chichagov somehow tried to resist the greatest tactics of the XIX century Napoleon, but the General of cavalry Wittgenstein against orders of Kutuzov generally remained aloof from the fighting. He, however, was in favor with the Emperor Alexander I and soon led the entire Russian army.

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The fate of the French who stayed too long on the East Bank of the Berezina, was truly awful. On the last night that the ferry is still operated, the river is not crossed 40-45 thousand. Napoleon was sent to them generals, in a hurry, but the poor are too tired or simply warmed by the fires. In the morning on the commanding heights came out Russian artillery and opened fire. The French are in a panic rushed to the bridges, started a General dump. Not yet frozen river became the grave of tens of thousands of French people, after the first had crossed over burned bridges. Covering the flight of the Grand army of the Swiss volunteers were killed one and all.

Just left Russia from 20 to 28 thousand people – out of nearly 600 thousand who had crossed the Russian border in the summer of 1812 Napoleon, however, managed to keep all of his marshals and a significant portion of the officer corps, which allowed him to quickly recruit and train a new army. With it he fought in 1813, 1814 and the 100 days in 1815 Curiously, Chichagov, charged with all the failures of Berezina, hiding from the shame in France, where he died, forgotten by all and blinded, in 1849

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