10 July 2012, 12:36

1812 War: Battle of Borodino. Part III

1812 War: Battle of Borodino. Part III
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The-almost-12-hour battle took place outside the town of Mozhaisk at the Borodino field located 110 kilometers from Moscow. The Battle of Borodino was preceded by a fighting near the village of Shevardino which had a spate of strategic commanding points.

The-almost-12-hour battle took place outside the town of Mozhaisk at the Borodino field located 110 kilometers from Moscow. The Battle of Borodino was preceded by a fighting near the village of Shevardino which had a spate of strategic commanding points. The Russian forces included 8.000 infantrymen, 4.000 cavalrymen and 36 guns, while French troops under the command of Davout, Murat and Ney consisted of about 30.000 infantrymen, 10.000 cavalrymen and 186 guns.

The Battle of Shevardino took place on September 5, 1812. At the end of the day, French troops, who were much greater in numbers, managed to capture the Shevardino Redoubt after a series of successful attempts to do so. The Battle of Shevardino helped the Russians to buy time and complete the construction of defensive lines on a main battle-ground. The battle also enabled Russian forces to define a main direction of the attack.

September 6 saw both armies brace for a decisive battle, with Napoleon and his marshals personally inspecting lines of Russia’s battle outposts. Bonaparte came to a conclusion that as a result of the Battle of Shevardino, the Russian army’s left wing collapsed, while its right wing was reliably protected. Napoleon believed that his army’s attack position was convenient and advantageous, something that he felt will help his army to prevail. In the evening, Bonaparte issued an order to launch an offensive against Russian forces in the morning of September 7.

At dawn, more than 100 French guns began to shell the Bagration fleches. The Russians retaliated in what was followed by a shoot-out between the army’s advanced units. In a bid to contain the Russian army’s right wing, Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais’ Fourth Corps simulated an attack against a Russian chasseur regiment, a red-herring maneuver that was finally discerned by Kutuzov who then quickly dispatched army reinforcements to the Raevsky Battery.

The main developments, however, unfolded at the Russian army’s left wing near the Bagration fleches. Napoleon planned to seize them with the help of corps under the command of Davout, Murat, Ney and Junot. It was at the Bagration fleches where the bulk of artillery was concentrated. The defense of the fleches was supervised by General Bagration who was at the helm of the 2nd Russian army. Commander-in-Chief Kutuzov who kept an eagle eye on the fighting noticed that Bagration’ army is under threat. He issued an order to send reserve forces to the Bagration fleches which included the Izmailovsky, Litovsky and Finlyandsky guards regiments, as well as a Cossack regiment under the command of Platov and 100 guns. The Russian troops repulsed 4 frontal attacks on the Bagration fleches and subsequently launched a counteroffensive in the evening.

Realizing that he failed to make any progress near the Bagration fleches, Napoleon carried out an attack against the Kurgannaya Height, the Russian army’s central outpost. The Russians forces under the command of General Dmitry Dokhturov put up a stout resistance, killing scores of enemy troops, something that, however, failed to prevent French forces from capturing the Kurgannaya Height. The Russians, though, managed to drive the Frenchmen out of the outpost after General Alexei Yermolov, the 1st Russian army’s chief of staff, launched a counteroffensive with the help of 3 chasseur regiments.

Midday saw the intensification of enemy attacks on the Bagration fleches and the village of Semyonovskoye, but only the 8th attack was successful. Suffering huge losses, French forces managed to finally take hold of fleches and then seize the Raevsky Battery, another major outpost of the Russian army.

French troops were exhausted and had neither the necessary stamina nor the necessary will to carry out another assault of the enemy line. Napoleon refused to commit the Imperial Guard and by the evening he took away his army on initial positions, while the Russian army re-occupied the Raevsky Battery, and the villages of Semyonoskoye and Utiza. Kutuzov immediately sent a dépêche to Emperor Alexander I to announce that the Russian army survived the Battle of Borodino.

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