In September 1812, having completed its famous flanking march, the Russian army found itself on the territory of the modern Kaluga region. The state of the army was by no means brilliant. And it was not only the big losses that were natural for such a battle. The morale of the Russian soldiers and officers was difficult. Until the last minute, no one wanted to believe that Moscow would be surrendered to the enemy. And the movement of troops through the empty city before our eyes left the most difficult impression on all its participants.
In a letter to Alexander I dated September 4, Kutuzov reported:
"All the treasures, the arsenal, and almost all property, both state-owned and private, have been removed from Moscow."
In fact, the values that were left in the city can shake any imagination. It just hurts to read the endless list weapons and equipment, which included 156 guns, 74 974 guns, 39 846 sabers, 27 119 gun shells. The situation was even worse with the priceless military relics. The French got 608 old Russian banners and more than 1 standards, which, of course, was a terrible shame. The amount and value of food, industrial goods, treasures and works of art left in the city is impossible not only to calculate, but even to imagine. But most of all, the army was shocked by the fact that about 000 thousand wounded were left in the city (many said they were abandoned). A.P. Ermolov recalled:
"My soul was torn apart by the groan of the wounded, left at the mercy of the enemy."
But before that Barclay de Tolly, in his retreat from the western borders of the empire, "on his way he did not leave behind not only a single cannon, but not even a single cart"(Butenev) and"not a single wounded"(Caulaincourt).
It is not surprising that Kutuzov left Moscow "so that, as long as possible, not to meet with anyone"(Testimony of A. B. Golitsyn). He already knew that the troops called him “The darkest prince"(FV Rostopchin and A. Ya. Bulgakov write about this). He also knew that many
"They rip off their uniforms, not wanting to serve after the vilified surrender of Moscow." (certificate of S.I.Maevsky - chief of Kutuzov's office)
It is difficult to remember this, however, as L. Feuerbach, now half-forgotten, said,
"A look into the past is always a prick in the heart."
The words of General P.I.Batov will also be in place:
«History do not need to correct, otherwise she will have nothing to learn. "
As Publius Cyrus rightly remarked,
"Today is a pupil of yesterday."
And Vasily Klyuchevsky liked to say:
"History is not a teacher, but a warden ... She does not teach anything, but only punishes for ignorance of the lessons."
The situation in the Tarutino camp
After the battle at Borodino, Kutuzov sent the news of the victory to St. Petersburg. And therefore, instead of reinforcements, they sent him a field marshal's baton and 100 thousand rubles from the capital. Kutuzov still had 87 thousand soldiers under his command, 14 thousand Cossacks and 622 guns, but their combat effectiveness raised doubts: “Troops in decay", - stated NN Raevsky sadly.
The situation at the headquarters of the commander-in-chief was no better. A. P. Ermolov writes about “endless intrigue", N. N. Raevsky - about"intrigues of parties, envy, anger and selfishness”, DS Dokhturov - about the disgust that inspired him with everything that happened in the camp. It was about this time that A. K. Tolstoy hinted in his parody "History of the Russian State from Gostmysl to Timashev":
"Seemingly, well, lower, you can't sit in a hole."
But the general situation was that time worked for the Russians. Napoleon was inactive, hoping for an early peace negotiation, and the French army was decaying before our very eyes, looting in Moscow.
And the mobilization system of Russia finally started working, and new units began to approach Kutuzov's army. A month later, the number of Russian troops increased to 130 thousand. The regiments of the militia also approached, the number of which reached 120 thousand. However, everyone understood that it was possible to use the formations of the militia in the battle against the Great Army of Napoleon only in a very desperate situation. The outcome of their clash with veterans Ney or Davout was too predictable. And therefore, these hastily assembled, poorly organized and practically useless in military terms, the detachments were used only for economic work or carried out rear service.
One way or another, both the soldiers and officers of the Russian army gradually calmed down, the bitterness of retreat and despondency subsided, giving way to anger and a desire for revenge. The headquarters remained a weak spot, where the generals continued to squabble among themselves. Kutuzov could not stand Bennigsen and was jealous of Barclay de Tolly, Barclay did not respect both, calling them “weak old people”And Ermolov did not like Konovnitsyn.
Precisely because of the general squabbles, the battle near the Chernishna (Tarutinskoye) river did not end with a complete triumph of the Russian army. If you look at events objectively, you will inevitably have to admit that this was a day of wasted opportunities. Due to the intrigues of the top military leadership, the Russian troops were unable to build on their success and achieve complete victory. General P. P. Konovnitsin (future Minister of War) believed that Muratu was “given the opportunity to retreat in order with little loss" and that's why "no one deserves a reward for this deed". Bennigsen then sent a letter to Alexander I, in which he accused Kutuzov of passivity and inaction. The emperor, by the way, did not understand and forwarded this report ... to Kutuzov. He gladly read it to Bennigsen, and the relationship between these commanders deteriorated completely and irrevocably.
But the Battle of Tarutino was the first breath of fresh air that made the Russians believe in themselves and the possible success of the campaign. After this, in general, insignificant victory, the Russian army, like a phoenix, rose from the ashes. The French, on the other hand, for the first time doubted the successful completion of this campaign, and Napoleon came to the conclusion that instead of peace offers he would receive a difficult war far from home.
But let's not get ahead.
So, the Russian command knew that the vanguard of the Great Army of Napoleon, under the command of Joachim Murat and numbering about 20-22 thousand people, came to Chernishna on September 12 (24) and camped by this river. The place for the camp was chosen quite well, on both sides it was covered by the rivers (Nara and Chernishna), on the third - by the forest. Both armies were well aware of the whereabouts of the enemy, and, according to Yermolov, the officers of the sides often talked peacefully at the front posts. The French were complacent, confident in the imminent end of the war and a triumphant return home. The Russians, being inactive after the loss of Moscow, also did not rule out the possibility of concluding a peace.
But in Petersburg they expected decisive action from Kutuzov, and therefore it was decided to test their strength by striking a blow at the obviously weaker parts of the French avant-garde. Moreover, they were too far from the main forces of their army, and there was nowhere to expect help. The disposition of the attack was made by Generals Leonti Bennigsen and Karl Toll.
Many people know about Bennigsen - a participant in the assassination of Emperor Paul I and the commander of the Russian army in the battle that ended "in a draw" with Napoleon's troops at Preussisch-Eylau. Let's say a few words about Karl Fedorovich Tolya. This was an "Estlandian German" who turned out to be the only colonel admitted to the famous Council in Fili (9 more generals were present). True, there was also Captain Kaisarov, but he did not have the right to vote and performed the functions of a secretary.
KF Toll voted for the abandonment of Moscow - together with Barclay de Tolly and Count Osterman-Tolstoy (Kutuzov's nephew). He is also known for his description of the Battle of Borodino, in which for some reason he shifted all events by about 2 hours ahead. Later, he would become famous for his decisive actions in favor of Nicholas I during the Decembrists' speech, and on September 7, 1831, he would replace the wounded Paskevich during the storming of Warsaw. Will become the count and chief manager of the railways. So he was an adequate, experienced and well-deserved military commander. There are no grounds to suspect him of dishonest performance of his official duties.
Karl Wilhelm von Toll, portrait by George Doe from the War Gallery of the Winter Palace
Russian troops were to strike in two columns. It was assumed that the first of them, led by Bennigsen, would bypass Murat's left flank. The second, which Miloradovich was appointed to command, was supposed to attack the right flank of the French at this time.
On October 4 (16), Kutuzov signed the disposition of the upcoming battle. But then the oddities began. Ermolov (chief of staff of the army) suddenly left the camp in an unknown direction. Later it turned out that he went to a dinner party at one of the surrounding estates. Many contemporaries believed that in this way Ermolov tried to "substitute" the General Konovnitsyn, whom he did not like. As a result, command and control of the troops was disrupted, and many formations did not receive the necessary instructions in time. The next day, not a single Russian division was found in the designated places. Kutuzov was furious and "let off steam", insulting the first two officers that caught his eye. One of them (Lieutenant Colonel Eichen) then left the army. Ermolova Kutuzov ordered “expel from service”, But immediately canceled his decision.
Thus, the battle began a day later. However, this was for the best. The fact is that Murat learned in time about the plans of the Russian commander-in-chief, and on the day of the alleged attack, his troops were brought to full readiness. Not waiting for the attack of the Russians, the French lost their vigilance.
So, on October 6 (18), only the Life-Cossack units of Adjutant General V.V. Orlov-Denisov appeared at the French camp.
V.V. Orlov-Denisov, portrait by George Doe from the Military Gallery of the Winter Palace
On this occasion, Kutuzov later told Miloradovich:
"You have everything on your tongue to attack, but you do not see that we do not know how to make difficult maneuvers."
Without waiting for other formations of his column, Orlov-Denisov made an independent decision to attack the enemy.
This is how the Battle of Tarutino began, which is sometimes called the "Battle of Chernishny", and in French literature one can find the name Bataille de Winkowo ("the battle at Vinkovo" - after the name of the nearest village).
The French were taken by surprise, and this blow came as a complete surprise to them.
Many have read about this attack in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace:
“One desperate, frightened cry of the first Frenchman who saw the Cossacks, and everything that was in the camp, undressed, sleepy, threw guns, rifles, horses, and ran anywhere. If the Cossacks had pursued the French, not paying attention to what was behind and around them, they would have taken Murat and everything that was there. The bosses wanted this. But it was impossible to budge the Cossacks when they got to the booty and prisoners. "
As a result of the loss of the pace of the attack, the French came to their senses, lined up for battle and met the approaching Russian jaeger regiments with such dense fire that, having lost several hundred people, including General Baggovut, the infantry turned back. This was the end of the Tarutino battle. In vain L. Bennigsen asked Kutuzov for troops for a massive attack of the retreating enemy. Field Marshal said:
"They did not know how to take Murat alive in the morning and arrive at the place on time, now there is nothing to do."
Moreover, Kutuzov also stopped the movement of Miloradovich's column, which could take part in the pursuit of the retreating French. As a result, the swing turned out to be "a ruble", and the blow - "half a penny": of the entire Russian army, only 12 thousand people participated in the battle (7 thousand cavalry and 5 thousand infantry), Murat in perfect order withdrew his units to Voronovo. Nevertheless, it was a victory, the losses were significantly less than the French, there were prisoners and trophies. The army was inspired and returned to their camp to the music of the bands and songs.
The retreat of Napoleon's army from Moscow
Moscow, which had burned out by that time, had long been of no value to the Great Army. Napoleon's marshals tried to persuade the emperor to withdraw the rapidly degrading and losing discipline troops to a more convenient position. Napoleon refused, arguing that Moscow was the best place for peace negotiations, the proposal of which he was eagerly awaiting from Alexander I. Finally, he made a principled decision on the withdrawal of troops, but hesitated with the choice of the date. Upon learning of the attack of his vanguard, Napoleon realized that there would be no negotiations. After that, he announced the decision to return to the plan of a two-stage war, which he himself had developed earlier, which envisaged, after defeating the Russian army in a general battle, retreating to winter positions and continuing the campaign next year.
On October 8 (20), the French army began its movement from Moscow. At Kutuzov's headquarters, they found out about this only on October 11 (23).
Most of all, Kutuzov then feared that Napoleon would go to Petersburg. The same was very much feared in the capital of the empire. In a letter dated October 2 (old style), Alexander I wrote to Field Marshal:
"It will remain your responsibility if the enemy is able to dispatch a significant corps to Petersburg ... for with the army entrusted to you ... you have every means to ward off this new misfortune."
Therefore, Kutuzov "shed tears of joy"Not because Napoleon left Moscow (there was not the slightest doubt that the French would leave Moscow sooner or later), but because he learned the direction of his movement - to Maloyaroslavets.
Battle of Maloyaroslavets
The battle at Maloyaroslavets on both sides was an improvisation of pure water, took place without a plan and was a cruel "meat grinder". The result was the almost complete destruction of this city and heavy losses of both the Russians and the French.
On October 9, Kutuzov received a message from the commander of one of the partisan detachments, Major General I.S.Dorokhov, with a request to send reinforcements to attack the French units that entered the village of Fominskoye (now the city of Naro-Fominsk). They were the cavalry units of Philippe Ornano and the infantry of Jean-Baptiste Brusier. That day, no one suspected that these were only the vanguard units of the entire French army. Dokhturov's corps was sent to help Dorokhov, who after a long journey came to the village of Aristovo (Kaluga region). On the night of October 11, the commander of another partisan detachment, Captain A.N.Seslavin, arrived at Dokhturov's location. On the eve he was taken prisoner by a French non-commissioned officer, who reported that the French had left Moscow and the entire Great Army was moving towards Maloyaroslavets. But Seslavin did not know that Napoleon himself was in Fominsky at that time.
Dokhturov sent a courier to Kutuzov and moved his corps to Maloyaroslavets.
On October 12 (24), the combat units of this corps entered the battle with the Delzon division (which was the first of the French to start the Battle of Borodino). In this battle, Delson died, and the already familiar partisan, Major General I. S. Dorokhov, received a serious wound, from the consequences of which he later died.
Napoleon at that time was in Borovsk, from where, having learned about the battle of Maloyaroslavets, he arrived in the village of Gorodnya, located a few kilometers from this city.
In the afternoon, they approached Maloyaroslavets and immediately brought into battle the corps of General Raevsky and two divisions from the corps of Davout, a fierce battle ensued, in which about 30 thousand Russians and 20 thousand French participated. The city passed from hand to hand, according to various sources, from 8 to 13 times, out of 200 houses only 40 survived, the streets were littered with corpses. The data on the losses of the parties vary in the reports of different authors, but we can safely say that they turned out to be approximately equal.
As a result, the city remained with the French, and Napoleon sent a message to Paris about a new victory. Kutuzov, however, withdrew his troops 2,7 km to the south, took up a new position - and also sent the news of the victory to St. Petersburg.
On October 14, both the Russian and French armies almost simultaneously retreated from Maloyaroslavets: like balls with the same mass, which received impulses of equal magnitude, but with different directions in a collision, the enemy armies rolled back in different directions.
The Russian army withdrew to Detchin and Polotnyanoy Zavod. People from Kutuzov's entourage claimed that he was ready to retreat further. His words convey:
"The fate of Moscow awaits Kaluga."
And Napoleon issued a strange order, which contained the following lines:
"We went to attack the enemy ... But Kutuzov retreated in front of us ... and the emperor decided to turn back."
Russian and French historians still argue about the Battle of Maloyaroslavets. Russian authors say that Kutuzov managed to block the enemy army's path to Kaluga or even further to Ukraine. Some French argue that while part of Napoleon's troops fought at Maloyaroslavets, the rest of the army continued to move towards Smolensk, and thus managed to break away a considerable distance.
Kutuzov then really "lost" the French army (like Napoleon the Russian after the Battle of Borodino). It was possible to catch up with her only at Vyazma, when Miloradovich's detachment went to the Old Smolensk road, but he did not have enough forces to prevent the movement of the troops of Davout, Beauharnais and Ponyatovsky. He nevertheless entered the battle and sent a messenger to Kutuzov asking for help. But the field marshal, faithful to the tactics of the "golden bridge", again refused to send reinforcements. This is how the famous "parallel march" began, which ultimately destroyed the French army, but at the same time completely weakened and literally brought the Russian army to exhaustion and loss of fighting qualities. F. Stendhal had the right to say that
"The Russian army arrived in Vilna not in better shape than the French."
And the Russian general Levenstern directly stated that his soldiers “misery no less than the enemy».
Returning to the battle for Maloyaroslavets (which Kutuzov put on a par with the Battle of Borodino), we can say that it did not bring a decisive victory to either side. But it was about him that Segur later told the veterans of the Great Army:
"Do you remember this ill-fated battlefield, where the conquest of the world stopped, where 20 years of continuous victories crumbled to dust, where the great collapse of our happiness began?"
At Maloyaroslavets, Napoleon for the first time in his entire career as a commander did not dare to give a general battle. And for the first time he retreated from the unbroken enemy. Academician Tarle had every reason to assert that the true retreat of the French army began not from Moscow, but from Maloyaroslavets.