The situation before the battle. Battle of the Russian rearguard
Napoleon tried to cut off the Russian army from Russia and impose a decisive battle on it. The Russian army retreated in order to cover Königsberg and unite with the Prussian corps of Lestocq. In the course of this retreat, the Russian rearguard under the general command of Prince Bagration gave several successful battles to the French troops.
After the rearguard battle of Gough (January 25 1807), the Russian army, under the command of L. L. Bennigsen, left Landsberg at night and marched to Preisish-Eylau. The French army commanded by Napoleon continued to move in order to inflict a decisive defeat on the Russian troops.
The Russian rearguard was again headed by Prince Bagration. He was instructed to follow the detachment as slowly as possible, giving the army the opportunity to calmly pass the Preisish-Eylau and take up positions for the battle. On the morning of January 26 (February 7) 1807, the French troops continued to move. The French avant-garde under the beginning of Murat attacked the detachment of Bagration, located behind Landsberg. Russian troops stayed for more than an hour, then began to retreat.
Bagration's detachment stopped outside the village of Grungevhen. Russian troops settled into a comfortable position. Detachments of Baggovut and Markov stood between two lakes - Tenkniten and Waskater. The reinforcements sent by Bennigsen to Prince Bagration were located behind them: the 8 Division and several cavalry regiments. Ahead of Eylau is a detachment of Barclay de Tolly, who was supposed to cover the rest of the rear guard when they retreated through Eylau.
Murat, having discovered that the Russians had lined up for battle, stopped, awaiting the arrival of the main forces of the avant-garde. At 2 hours, French troops attacked Baggovut and Markov in three columns. Gun-gun fire of the Russian troops did not stop the brave enemy. The French were slim. Then Bagration ordered the Sofia and Pskov Regiments, with the support of the St. Petersburg Dragoon Regiment, to attack the enemy with hostility. Russian regiments without firing went to the enemy. After a fierce clash, the French were overthrown. They came to the aid of the second column. But at this time the Russian dragoons made a flank attack, the French were crushed and fled, losing the banner. The third French column attempted to rectify the situation, but was stopped by a shot fire. The French attack was repulsed.
After some time, when parts of the Augereau and Soult corps arrived, the French again launched an offensive. Murat attacked in the center, Augereau - on the left flank, through the village of Tenkniten, bypassing the lake, Soult - on the right flank, through the village of Vashkeiten. In all directions, Russian troops repulsed the enemy attack. In the center, the Pskov and Sophia Musketeers, the Moscow Grenadier and the 24 st Chasseurs fought bravely. On our right wing, His Majesty's Life-cuirassier, Elisavetgrad hussars, Kargopol and Ingermanlad dragoon regiments penetrated the French column and overturned the enemy. The French attacked our left flank were stopped by artillery fire of the 8 division. The French sent shooters against our batteries, but they were scattered by the hussars of the Izyum regiment.
The initial position of the Russian and French armies
Battle for Eylau
Murat personally led the third attack in the center, while the French went around the Russian flanks. Not being able to confront a numerous enemy, Bagration ordered to start a withdrawal. The French pursued our troops. They were met by a detachment of Barclay de Tolly. The French suffered heavy losses from rifle artillery fire, but continued to attack and broke into the city. As noted by the military historian A. I. Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky: “... blood flowed like rivers. The enemies attacked desperately, and met a fierce resistance. Mutual artillery fired in the streets at a distance of several fathoms one from another. ” With the stay of the new French troops, the situation became more and more complicated and the troops of Bagration and Barclay could not resist. Our troops left the city.
In this battle, Barclay de Tolly was seriously wounded in the arm (with a fracture). Interestingly, this injury contributed to the rise of a brave general. He went to St. Petersburg for treatment, where a meeting took place between the commander and Tsar Alexander Pavlovich. The general told the sovereign about the fighting, the situation in the army. During these conversations, Barclay became the confidant of the emperor. In two years, he will become a general of infantry and commander-in-chief in Finland, in three years he will become military minister, in five years he will lead the main army, which was to repel the invasion of the Great Napoleon’s army into Russia.
Leaving Eylau, Bagration was met by Benngsen, who gave him the 4 division and ordered him to recapture the city. The prince became the head of the division and personally led the infantry to attack. Russian soldiers silently followed the hero to attack. At the outpost, Prince Bagration proclaimed “Hurray!”, Repeatedly reinforced by troops and three columns, the army burst into the city: “... like fiery lava, the army spilled, chopped and cut the French on the streets and in the houses. The night stopped the battle. The city has remained behind us. ”
The French military man and writer Heinrich Jomini described the fight for the city as follows: “The battle in the city of Eylau itself was no less stubborn. Barclay de Tolly, supported by the Golitsyn division, twice occupied him even through the night darkness and only after the third attack gave way to the Legrand division. ”
When Bagration went to the army headquarters, leaving General Somov behind him, an annoying mistake occurred. The gathering of troops, who were scattered around the city, was announced in the side furthest from the enemy, which led to our army. As a result, when our troops headed for the assembly point, the city was left unguarded. The French took advantage of this and again occupied Aylau.
To protect himself from the enemy’s nightly attack, Bennigsen deployed the 4 Division between the army and the city. Napoleon, occupying Eylau, with the same purpose, put Legrand's division into the vanguard. This battle ended the day, the troops settled down to rest. Thus, the rearguard of Bagration held off superior enemy forces, ensuring that the main forces of the Russian army occupied positions at heights to the north of the city.
Both armies were preparing for a decisive battle. At the same time, the troops were very tired with marches and rearguard battles. Thus, they described the state of the opposing armies before the decisive battle of 27 in January (February 8) and 1807 of the year. French: “Never has the French army been in such a sad position. Soldiers every day on the march, every day at the bivouac. They go knee-deep in mud, without an ounce of bread, without a sip of water, unable to dry their clothes, they fall from exhaustion and fatigue ... The fire and smoke of the bivouacs made their faces yellow, emaciated, unrecognizable, they have red eyes, their uniforms are dirty and smoked.
The historian A. I. Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky wrote: “... in none of the wars that we heard before, we did not act in the winter time with such bitterness as in the era described by us. Russian and French prevailed frosts, deep snow, off-road. Only the darkness of the January nights put an end to bloodshed. Upon the termination of the battles, the soldiers rushed to the frozen ground for a brief rest, and fell asleep. When, in the twinkling of dawn, it was necessary to rise from an overnight stay, it was difficult to wake up the sleepy. In the races, they looked as if they were looking dumb, and the weaker, moving away from a small space from the camp site, lay down on the snow and fell asleep again. Nature came into its own, took over the forces of the brave, but did not exhaust the courage of the French and Russians, ready to fight to the last drop of blood. "
Plans and strengths of the parties. Location of troops
Bennigsen planned in a defensive fight to bleed the French army and prevent its breakthrough to Koenigsberg. In this regard, the Russian troops settled down northeast of Preussisch-Eylau, resting their right wing on the village of Schloditten, and their left to the manor house of Southgarten. The length of the front of the army Bennigsen was 4,5 km. Thus, Russian troops occupied a position that simultaneously covered two roads - one to Königsberg, and the other to Friedland, leading to the Russian border. The two lines of the front converged at an obtuse angle one verst from Eylau. At the top of this corner was built a powerful battery armed with 70 guns. A battery for 60 guns was erected near the village of Schloditen, and Southusgar had a battery for 40 guns.
The Russian army was built in divisions, having deployed battalions in the first line with arrows in front, in the second - battalion columns, in the third - a general reserve. Two light artillery companies were placed next to the battery at Schloditten, and the rest in the intervals between the regiments. The central battery was covered from the front by the Moscow and Shlisselburg regiments. Napoleon failed to locate this battery in a timely manner, and this circumstance became fatal for the Augereau corps. General Rezvy was appointed head of the entire Russian artillery. The cavalry was divided into three groups, which were located behind the right flank, center and left flank, being under the general command of General Golitsyn.
The right wing of the Russian army was commanded by General Tuchkov, the center was Saken, the left wing was General Osterman-Tolstoy. The village Serpalen ahead of Sausgarten defended Baggovut detachment. Four divisions - 5-I, 8-I, 3-I and 2-I, having in the middle Markov's detachment, were located in two lines. The reserves were in two places: behind the left wing of the 14 division of Kamensky, and behind the center of Dokhturov and Bagration with the 7 and 4 divisions (it was transferred from the avant-garde to the rear at the beginning of the battle).
The total number of Russian army was about 68 thousand people with 400 guns. In addition, Lestococa’s Prussian corps was expected on 8000 people. He should have joined the right wing of the army. Thus, the entire location of the Russian army stemmed from the desire to provide active defense.
Napoleon Bonaparte concentrated Preussisch-Eylau more than 70 thousand people and 450 guns. The French commander-in-chief planned to strike the main blow on the left wing of the Russian army in order to cut off the enemy’s communication with Russia. The overall battle plan included the task of surrounding the Russian army and destroying it. To do this, keeping the Russian troops from the front, Napoleon set the task for Ney and Dav to bypass both flank of the Russian position. Davu should have attacked the left Russian flank, and Ney bypass the right flank, at Schloditten. In addition, Ney had the order not to allow the connection with Bennigsen of Lestoc Corps, to cut off the Russians from Konigsberg.
Three divisions of Soult took up positions to the left of the road to Konigsberg, making up the left wing of the French troops. Ahead of Eylau was the division of Legrand, on the left flank of the corps - the division of Leval, behind him the light cavalry division of Lasal, on the right flank - the division of St. Iller. The remaining forces formed the center and the right wing (the Orgereau corps, the guards and cavalry) and had to attack the left wing of the Russians at the approach of the Davout corps and, overturning them, went to the rear. Together with Davout, advancing through Serpalen on Southgarten, the division of St. Iller, the corps of Augereau and the whole cavalry were to operate. Against the Russian left flank, Napoleon thus concentrated three-quarters of his forces. At the same time, Napoleon at the beginning of the battle had about 50 thousand people with 300 guns. The French were waiting for the troops Ney and Davout (about 25 thousand people).
Napoleon I on the battlefield near Eylau. French artist Antoine-Jean Gros
To be continued ...