Situation before the fight
During an attempt to organize a strike on the enemy, Field Marshal Kamensky sent the commander of the 4 Division, Prince Dmitry Golitsyn, with Kostroma Musketeers, Order of Cuirassier and Pskov Dragoon Regiments, 18 battery guns to the town of Slubov as a reserve of the Benningssen corps. Arriving at Slubovo, Golitsyn went to Novemeasto, where the field marshal’s main apartment (headquarters) was to be, but found no one except the wounded. The troops have already gone to Stregochin. The prince returned to Slubovo. He was ordered to remain in Slubov and watch the enemy.
At night and in the morning of 13 (25) of December, Dneprovsky Musketeer, Tavrichesky Grenadier and Little Russian Cuirassier Regiments, two squadrons of Sumy Hussars arrived in Slubovo after falling behind their divisions. It soon became clear that Stregochin was occupied by the French, and an enemy also appeared on the road from Lopachin. Thus, the detachment of Prince Golitsyn was among the enemies. Golitsyn decided to go to Golymin, where he hoped to unite with the Dokhturov division. Moving slowly, heavy guns tied up in impassable mud. As a result, more than half of the guns had to be thrown, riveting them.
Dokhturov, having received the order of the commander-in-chief to go to Pułtusk via Macs, sent a division to the main forces of the army. Only the Moscow Dragoon and Moscow Musketeer Regiments did not have time to speak. Dokhturov remained with them to wait for Golitsyn. On the morning of December 14 (26), the Golitsyn squad arrived in Golymin. People and horses were completely exhausted by the difficult road, so our troops were forced to stop to rest. In total, the Russian detachment consisted of 16-18 thousand fighters.
Meanwhile, the French corps under the command of Augereau, Davout and Soult were on the march to Golymin, from where the French were planning to turn on the Macs in the flank and rear of our army. The thaw and the rains turned the roads into a swamp, so the French also moved slowly. The first to reach the city was the Corps Augereau, but not with all the forces, part of the troops were still on the way.
Russian commander Dmitry Vladimirovich Golitsyn (1771 — 1844)
Golitsyn raised troops. Prince Shcherbatov with the Kostroma regiment and 4 cannons occupied the forest on the left flank. Three squadrons of the Pskov dragoons and order cuirassiers settled to the right. In the center in the first line are located the Tauride Grenadier, Dnieper Musketeer regiments, reinforced by dragoons and cuirassiers. The reserve was the Little Russian Cuirassier Regiment, two squadrons of hussars and two regiments of the Dokhturov division.
Initially, the battle broke out in the forest, where the advancing French faced the Kostroma infantry regiment. At first the regiment faltered; it consisted of recruits and was not yet in combat. However, General Shcherbatov, with the banner of his hands, rushed to the attack and the soldiers followed the commander. The order has been restored. After that, the Kostroma people bravely fought all day, not yielding to an experienced enemy.
Continuing the battle in the forest, the French troops turned left and when they entered the open space they came under the blow of our guns. The French cavalry attempted to capture the guns, but the attack of our dragoons and cuirassier overturned the enemy. Acerius needed to capture the Russian artillery, since with its strong fire it did not allow his corps to turn on the plain for a decisive blow. He threw the 1 Infantry Division into the attack. However, this French attack was repelled. According to Augereau, “The Russian canister and impassable swamp forced the division to retreat.”
In the meantime, the Orgero corps was reinforced by the backward forces and forward columns of the Davout corps. Golitsyn strengthened the left wing of Prince Shcherbatov with two battalions from the Tauride Grenadier and Dneprovsky Musketeer Regiments. From the reserve in their place was nominated Moscow Musketeers Regiment. The right flank strengthened the Moscow Dragoon Regiment. The Russian right wing was attacked by the French cavalry, but without success, then the Moscow dragoons and Little Russian cuirassiers counterattacked.
Russian troops under the command of Golitsyn and Dokhturov fought hard. The goal of our commanders in this situation was to wait for darkness, so as to retreat unnoticed before the superior forces of the French. Our troops contributed to the fact that the French artillery bogged down in the mud and lagged behind. And those batteries that came to the battle, did not have time to move from place to place. The roads were so ruined that the guns simply sank in the mud. Therefore, the Russian squad had an advantage in artillery. In 15 hours, unexpectedly for the Russians, reinforcements approached them — detachments of Count Palen and Chaplits cut off during the French movement.
As part of the detachment of Palen were: 21 th rangers regiment, 8 squadrons of Sumy Hussars and a company of horse artillery. The detachment under the command of Peter Palen was located on the extreme right wing. Not having received the order of the command, and finding that the rest of the troops were retreating, Palen also began to withdraw towards Pultusk. But with Lopachina, the Russians stumbled upon the superior forces of the French. Reflecting the attack of the enemy, and not seeing the opportunity to go to Pultusk this road, Palen moved to Ciechanov. On the way, the squad had to repel the strong onslaught of the enemy. In Tsekhanov Palen met the detachment of Major General Yefim Chaplitsa - Pavlograd hussars of the regiment with a horse artillery company. Chaplits was sent for reconnaissance by Buxgevden. The French cut off the detachment from the main forces, but Chaplitz slipped away. From Tsekhanov, Palen and Chaplits went to Golymin.
The unexpected arrival of these reinforcements allowed our troops to survive until the evening. At dusk, our troops, not having suffered defeat, began to retreat. At this time, the advanced forces of Soult's corps came to the battlefield and Napoleon himself arrived, who ordered the continuation of the offensive. The French broke in after our retreating troops in Golymin, where a bloody battle began in the dark, soldiers fought hand-to-hand combat, with bayonets and butts. But, despite all efforts, it was not possible to prevent the enemy from successfully retreating Golitsyn.
In this battle, the Russians and the French lost approximately 1 thousand people. Despite the double advantage of the enemy, the Russian troops under the command of Golitsyn restrained the attacks of the main forces of the French during the day and only in the evening began to withdraw. Russian regiments moved in perfect order. The French did not pursue them. 15 (27) December, a detachment of Golitsyn and Dokhturov united with the troops of Buxgevden in Makow. Thus, under Glymin and Pultusk, Napoleon’s hopes for the encirclement and destruction of the Russian army were broken.
December 15 Bennigsen began to withdraw troops to Ostrolenka. December 17 our troops crossed the Narew. In this case, Bennigsen and Buksgevden avoided each other until the question of who was in charge was resolved. Then the troops of Bennigsen and Buksgevden marched towards Novogrod, they marched along the left and right banks of the Narew. December 19 Buxgewden arrived at Novogrod. Here passed the military council, which decided to send troops to the north, in the Prussian lands. December 28 troops came to Tykochin. December 30 Russian army headed for Johannesburg. On the march came the order, which appointed Bennigsen commander, and Count Buksgevden was appointed Riga military governor.
The December battles influenced the morale of the enemy. The French in battles with the Russian avant-gardes, in the battle of Pultusk and Golimin, faced not fallen Prussians, but fresh and persistent Russian regiments. Within one year, the French army crushed the Austrian and Prussia armies that were considered the strongest in Western Europe. The French believed in the lucky star of Napoleon, the invincibility of the French army under his command. However, fighting with stubborn and fierce Russian regiments shook their confidence. The French did not achieve a clear victory in any case, everywhere the Russians held a blow, went over to tough counterattacks and retreated in order. The Russian commanders, despite the contradictory instructions of Field Marshal Kamensky, often took responsibility, were not afraid to engage in battle with the superior forces of the enemy. The glorious battles of December 1806 overshadowed the pogrom of Austerlitz, showed the true strength of the Russian army.
As Mehring wrote: “Both sides were gripped by the unpleasant feeling that opponents faced here, invincible to each other. French troops have never fought in such a harsh and inhospitable terrain; the art of their shooters, who were able to shoot down thin and long lines of a mercenary army with their accurate fire, was powerless against the strong, one after another endless rows of Russian infantry, accustomed to all the hardships of the northern climate; Napoleon was forced ... to return to the old method of war he had rejected, placing his troops in winter quarters and starting to take the fortresses that were in his rear. ”
Militarily, at the first stage of the war, the advantages of the new organization of the Russian army were clearly revealed. With the transition to the divisional system in 1806 in the hands of the division commander, 15-20 had thousands of people, and the division could conduct an independent battle for up to reinforcements during 1-2 days. This was a surprise to Napoleon.
The prospect of a protracted war did not suit Napoleon, so he made an attempt to start peace negotiations, but failed. Opponents went to winter apartments. December 18 Napoleon went to Warsaw. The French emperor, not daring to pursue the Russian army in the winter, decided to establish himself on the Vistula, pull up reinforcements from France and prepare for further campaign. The Lanna Corps is located between the Narew and the Bug; Davout building in Pultusk; Soult's case - at Makov; the case of Auger - at Vyshgorod; Ney - at Mlava; Bernadot at Elbing. The German troops of the Rhine Union and the Polish forces, recruited by Napoleon, were concentrated at Thorn, they were intended for the siege of Danzig and Graudenz. Napoleon hoped to stay in Warsaw until spring, where he was rapidly developing an affair with Valevska, but already in early January he learned that the Russian troops had begun a movement, and hastily left for the army. As a result, soon the active hostilities continued.
European capitals closely followed the clash between the Russian and French armies. Vienna was particularly interested in the campaign. The Vienna court was divided into two parties. Part of the Austrian elite, including the Emperor Franz and the Chief Minister of the Stadium, wanted a break with Napoleon. The Austrians were eager for revenge for the previous defeats. However, the Austrians were afraid of the relics of Napoleon’s empire, the nobles were afraid that the war would take place on Austrian territory and their estates would be threatened with ruin. The peace party was headed by the Generalissimo, the Archduke Charles, he wanted to complete the military transformations so that Austria would be well prepared for war. In general, the Austrians were inclined to believe that the conflict between Russia and France is beneficial to Austria. Napoleon, who will exhaust strength in the fight, will have no time for Austria. The weakening of Russia was also beneficial to Austria. The Russians at that time entered another war with Turkey, and the activity of Russia in the Balkan direction worried the Austrians and affected their strategic interests. Thus, the war of Russia and France suited Vienna. The Austrians negotiated with both the Russians and the French, they promised, they bargained and waited, whose will they take. Therefore, the attempts of Russian diplomacy to incline Austria to their side were fruitless.