Military Review

Borodino (remarks and opinions on some issues)

Napoleon sought to smash the Russian army from the very beginning of the campaign. But Barclay and Bagration, even joining their forces, avoided a decisive battle, continuing a retreat into the interior of the country. And so, after Smolensk, the French emperor, most likely, contrary to the original plans, is undertaking a campaign against Moscow. His assumption that the Russians would give a general battle at its walls was fully justified. And yet, according to eyewitness accounts, on the eve of this battle, Napoleon was very much afraid of a possible withdrawal of the enemy, and for this reason he acted very carefully.

It should also be noted that no matter how the French emperor strove to defeat the Russian army, it was in the capture of Moscow that he saw the successful completion of the campaign.

Kutuzov took command in a very unfavorable strategic situation in which, before the reserves and other troops approached, the best solution was apparently to keep the army. At the same time, in the battle for the ancient capital, the balance of forces, according to the Russian headquarters, was too unprofitable [1]. But the refusal of her protection contradicted the demand of the king and would hardly have found understanding in the army and the people.

After the arrival of the new commander-in-chief, the retreat continued for another five days, but this was most likely caused not so much by the search for a better position, as by the desire to attach all possible reinforcements to the army.

22 August, the Russian army is located at Borodino. At the same time, the main forces of the French remained in Gzhatsk, and their vanguard also did not show significant activity for the second day.

Although Kutuzov examined and approved the position, many did not have confidence that the battle would be given here. Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that Bagration did not worry too much about the dangers that threatened his army. No less wounded by the appointment of Kutuzov, Barclay, according to his recollections, inspected the location of his troops and ordered "to cover the right flank ... to build several fortifications and spotted" [2].

In fact, this wing has received even more attention. 22-th, there began the construction of a whole system of numerous fortifications. And at the same time, an order was issued on the 2 Army, according to which all of their entrenching tools were transferred to the main apartment, and in fact to the 1 Army [3]. Obviously, neither Bagration nor Barclay could give such an order on their own.

In the disposition of August 24, there is a special instruction that the huntsmen of the 1 Army "come as part of the occupation of forests, on the right flank, that are" [4]. There are no similar instructions, for example, on the protection of the Utice Forest.

According to his report [5], Platov, on the eve of the battle, “sent fifteen Cossack troops Balabin 2 to the right for fifteen versts, although Vlasov's 3 detachment was already observing the enemy north of the main position.

But what grounds were there for such concern for the right flank?

Of course, with too unreliable defense, the enemy would be able to cross over to Koloch in its lower reaches, with all the ensuing consequences.

The path to Mozhaysk on the left bank of the Moskva River was for the enemy, perhaps more convenient than, for example, the Old Smolensk Road, but, on the other hand, the French could hardly use it to carry out a maneuver secretly and suddenly. In addition, to reach the rear of the Russian army, they would need to force the Moscow River twice, even near Mozhaisk.

Finally, the right wing was still much better protected by the conditions of the terrain than the left.

Since 23 did not follow the retreat order in the morning, according to one version, Bagration, already alarmed by this development of events, gave his opinion on the position of the 2 army to the commander in chief, after which a new reconnaissance was held.

During the inspection of the position of Kutuzov, according to Barclay, he rejected his proposal to build a strong redoubt at Kurgan height, but ordered to build the Semenov fortifications [6].

As a result, these fortifications, on which the left flank relied on the day of the general battle, began to be erected a day or even more late.

And this is a mistake, first of all, the quartermaster general, who on August 20 was appointed M. S. Vistitsky 2. But, according to many historians, his duties were actually performed by K. F. Tol. And it was he who played the main role in choosing the position and deploying troops on it.

It should also be noted that if the French troops stopped in Gzhatsk not for two days, but only for one, they could reach the Russian left flank, when the engineering work on it had not yet begun.

Since there was little time left for the construction of serious fortifications near Semenovskiy, it was necessary to win it. This was the true meaning of the stubborn defense of Shevardin's position.

Just as likely, wanting to shield Kutuzov and himself from criticism, he pointed out that the Shevardino redoubt was built “in order to better discover the true direction of the enemy forces, and if possible, the main intention of Napoleon” [7].

But they began to build this redoubt just before the Semenov flash and almost simultaneously with them.

And 24 could only be “discovered” by the troops of Murat and Davout, who were in the vanguard of the main column, together with the corps of Ponyatovsky (who was supposed to support them) and sought to seize Shevardin's position. But it became quite clear after 3-4 hours of battle, and it lasted until nightfall, and at least half of the troops of the 2 army took part in it.

This battle, of course, did not completely predetermine the subsequent actions of the enemy. The next day, the Russian command was again necessary to closely monitor the movements of Napoleon's troops and try to unravel his true intentions. And in the same "Description of the battle ..." Tolya, Kutuzov comes to the conclusion that "Napoleon had the intention to attack the left wing of the Russian army with his main forces" only "in the evening" 25, when "on the right wing of the enemy, large movements ”[8].

Borodino (remarks and opinions on some issues)
The attack on the battery Rajewski. Artists F. Roubaud and K. Becker. 1913 g. Oil on canvas

But where was the left flank in the morning of August 24?

From Kutuzov’s letter to the tsar a day later, it can be understood that the commander-in-chief decided to “bend” him “to this previously fortified elevations” (ie, flushes) only after the attack of the “main forces” of the enemy [9]. Barclay also thought the same way, believing that Semenovskiy was preparing a kind of reserve position for the troops of the 2 Army.

But in fact, the detachment of Gorchakov was essentially a rearguard. And even in the disposition of August 24, there is a certain hint that the “on the left flank” 27-division probably did not adjoin the 7 corps, although it was part of the Cor-de-batal [10] . But later it was supposed to be located on the eastern side of the Semyonovsky ravine, as shown in the “Position Plan ...” [11].

During the reconnaissance of 23 in August, Bagration also drew the attention of Kutuzov to the danger of bypassing the left wing along the Old Smolensk Road. The commander in chief, however, agreed with the opinion of Bennigsen, who proposed using non-combatant troops (that is, militia) to protect this road. However, it is clear that these troops would be able to block the path only to the very insignificant enemy detachment.

The corrections made during reconnaissance did not touch the center and the right wing. And in the future, Kutuzov rejected all proposals to place the entire army (or, at least, the Cor de Batal) to the south of der. Gorki, which can be explained by heightened attention to the northern flank, and, apparently, to a greater extent by the desire to keep in your hands the main path of retreat — the New Smolensk Road — in any event.

Of course, 23 of August, the intentions of the French Emperor could only guess. But in his letter to the king, written on the same day, Kutuzov announces his firm intention to leave the chosen position if the enemy tries to circumvent it [12].

Probably, at first Napoleon accepted the Shevardin redoubt as an advanced fortification and ordered to seize it without delay, in order to quickly reach the main Russian position. On the other hand, this redoubt simply prevented the advance of French troops to Borodin, threatening the main communication from the flank, and also blocked the path to the most advantageous direction of frontal attack.

However, some French marshals believed that the 24 of their troops had already attacked the main position of the enemy, and, consequently, the Russians would either try to recover the lost redoubt or retreat further east. This view, of course, could not help but disturb Napoleon [13].

After all, if the first assumption were justified, then the next day we would have to defend, not attack.

It was quite difficult to develop a good general battle plan for 25 August, also because of the Shevardinian battle that lasted until the night before. In addition, it was necessary to tighten the "artillery reserves and all the other slightly lagging units", i.e. two army corps and a significant part of the cavalry, which was not on roll call in Gzhatsk.

Finally, the further attacks of the left wing of the Russians were too predictable, and, quite possibly, Napoleon wanted to think things over carefully.

25 August Kutuzov conducted another reconnaissance [14]. Near Kurgan height, Bennigsen proposed to build a closed fortification of a bastion type with 36 guns there. But Kutuzov preferred the opinion of Tolya, and some time later they began to build a lunette on 18 guns. Thus, the delay in its construction was more than three days. Although a certain amount of work was done earlier, Rajewski believed that during the day only a simple open battery was at that height. At the same time, before the start of the battle, the Cordes de Batal began to pass directly through the Kurgan heights.

According to the report of Barclay, the 3 Corps of Tuchkov was transferred "24 numbers in the evening" to the left flank by order of Kutuzov. Later, he recalled that he found out about it by chance, and the body was ordered to follow him Toll [15].

But many historians believe that all this happened a day later.

Konovnitsyn in his report, unfortunately, definitely indicates only the time when the rangers of his division “were detached” to the left flank. And it remains unclear where her remaining regiments [16] were at that moment.

In his memoirs [17], Bennigsen writes that on 25 he went to the far left flank to place the body of the Tuchkov there. And in the report to Kutuzov, he reports that Vistitsky also took part in this. Ultimately, the body Tuchkov was placed directly in the village. The bird and her, i. almost in exact accordance with the "Position Plan ...".

But what was the purpose of this redeployment?

Its necessity Toll, as is known, explained by the threat of an enemy attack on the Old Smolensk Road. And, according to his “Battle Descriptions ...”, when “big movements” were noticed on the right flank of the French army in the evening of August 25, Kutuzov “immediately” sent the 3 corps “to cover” the Old Road, reinforcing it with the Morkov militia [18].

However, on the "Position Plan ..." Tuchkov's troops are "secretly located." In addition, their image on these creations more closely matches the covert location, and not defensive.

Therefore, according to another version, Tuchkov had to "act in the flank" to the enemy, who was attacking Bagration's flash, from a hidden position in the region of vil. Oak

According to A. A. Shcherbinin, Kutuzov assigned the 3 Corps and Militia divisions to join the battle in fact the key decisive role in the battle, and Bennigsen brought his plan “into nothing” [19]. But at present, many historians consider both of these statements to be either delusion or fiction.

In addition to Shcherbinin, E. Württembergsky, E. F. Saint-Pri, and Vistitsky, whose memories are perhaps most eloquent, were very well informed about this plan: “Bagration sent several times to Lieutenant General Tuchkov 1, so that he would der. The stumps struck the rear and the enemy's flank ... ”[20].

Researchers have long found that the place for an “ambush” was chosen rather poorly. Neighborhood der. Duck poorly provided visual secrecy of a large detachment. An old Smolensk road passed through the village, which, undoubtedly, was of great tactical importance, and the enemy could try to use it in their plans. In addition, the 3 corps and, accordingly, the line of the rangers in front of it were too close to the positions of the French army, which, of course, could cause concern to its command.

True, on the "Position Plan ..." the location of the "ambush" squad could be depicted approximately. But even if it was intended to put the 3 corps to the south or east, Tuchkov and in these cases all his troops could be required to defend the Old Road, if a sufficiently large enemy detachment were to attack it.

Nevertheless, many believed that Tuchkov could easily accomplish his task, reproaching him with passivity, indecision, overestimation of the forces of the enemy attacking him, and even that he "could not hold on." But these reproaches can not be considered objective.

An important consequence of moving the 3 corps to the Old Smolensk Road was that its defense was, of course, much more reliable. But significant flaws did occur. The Tuchkov corps had little artillery, and no fortifications were built for it.

As stated in the “Report ...” [21], in the space “from the 3 corps to the left wing of the 2 army”, the 4 regiment of rangers was supplied “for better communication”.

Utitsky forest was not completely impassable and completely, which allowed the French to use there 26 of August rather large forces. And undoubtedly, part of the corps of Baggovut from the right flank played a very big role in the fight against these enemy troops. Thus, the Shtehovsky rangers, located "for better communication" between the 3 corps and the 2 army, could urgently need considerable reinforcement. Moreover, as it turned out later, they were also necessary for Bagration, and then for Tuchkov.

It is important to note that the regular troops sent to the Old Smolensk Road were taken not from the right flank, but from the main reserve, the number of which after that was significantly reduced.

After the Shevardino battle, the 2 Army suffered significant losses, but no reinforcements entered it, and therefore Bagration was forced to reduce its reserve by pushing the Vorontsov division into the first line. However, earlier the total number of guns in his army was brought to 186, and battery - to 90.

But in the event that the left wing of Bagration would be attacked by the main forces of the enemy, Kutuzov, according to F. Glinka, had already planned to reinforce it with the troops of Miloradovich the day before.

25 August was preparing for a decisive battle, and Napoleon, after spending that day two or three lengthy reconnaissance.

He declined Davout’s offer to bypass the enemy’s left wing with 1 and 5 corps at night. Indeed, a large detachment would have to overcome a considerable distance in the dark through the forest through unfamiliar terrain. In such conditions, he could get lost, be discovered by the enemy, etc., which could have a variety of consequences, including Kutuzov’s refusal to fight.

There was a certain risk in the substantial division of the main forces of Napoleon that arose with this plan. In addition, the detachment sent around it was still necessary to go out into the open to form battle formations. Otherwise, the whole mass of troops would remain in the forest.

On the whole, Davou’s plan promised a lot, but at the same time, probability and failure were not so small, which could have a great impact on the outcome of the battle.

When making such a maneuver in the afternoon, naturally, the effect of surprise was lost. And in the offensive through the forest it was possible to use almost one infantry in the loose ranks. And in these "forest" battles, even a large compound could be "bogged down". And yet there is an opinion that Napoleon should have sent more forces not to the Semenov fortifications, but to the south, because there the French managed to achieve quite good results, moreover using artillery and even cavalry.

In its own plan of the French commander, the main role was assigned to the frontal attack on the enemy’s left flank from Kurgan height to the Utitsky forest.

And bypassing the Old Smolensk Road, only a relatively small in size Polish corps was sent, which was to perform not at night, but at dawn.

It should be noted that this decision could have nothing to do with the troops of Tuchkov.

First of all, Napoleon could think simply about securing the flank to the main forces. In fact, the Old Smolensk road did not go so far from the route of the Davout divisions, and was not so extreme for the French. And if the enemy’s barrier on this road was weak, Poniatovsky could have made a detour.

In total, Napoleon planned to concentrate more than 90% of the “Great Army” (including the Polish corps) against the Russian left wing. By the beginning of the battle, he placed almost as many guns on the right bank of the Kolocha as Kutuzov had in the center, on the left flank and in the main reserve. But most of the rest of the artillery was subsequently used to support the offensive of Beau Bogarna to Kurgan height. At the same time, the guns of Miloradovich were separated by too great a distance even from the advanced posts of the enemy.

The French emperor took a number of measures in order to create a false impression among the enemy about the actual location and further actions of his troops [22]. 25 August on the left bank of the Kolocha was a significant part of the army, including the whole guard, which left its bivouacs at the village. Valuevo only with the onset of darkness.

It is logical that Napoleon showed the enemy the power of his left wing. At the beginning of the battle, the Russian command could see that there were sufficiently large forces, supported by fortifications, erected west of the village of Borodino. But the 4 divisions of Beogarne with the Italian Guard also had to cross over to Koloch at Aleksinsky ford already during the battle. The bosses of the viceroy put the bridges to make this maneuver at the last moment - on the night of August 26.

That same night, the French built three large artillery positions against the left wing and center of the Russian army. As a result, at dawn 26 August 102 French guns opened fire on the Semenov fortifications. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, the nucleus immediately reached the target. It is believed that the Russians on these fortifications and near them had 52 guns installed. At present, this figure seems to many to be too high for many historians. Another 18 guns were a little further - behind the Semyonov ravine. The battery of Schulman too, apparently, could not respond to the artillery of General d'Antoire de Vence, with equal fire.

Napoleon also, in order not to disturb the enemy, deliberately left the village of Borodino in his hands. And Poniatovsky, probably, did not even move closer to the Old Smolensk Road.

Of course, it is very difficult to draw a definite conclusion about the extent to which these military “tricks” influenced Kutuzov’s decisions. However, the fact that the Russian commander-in-chief did not remove a single soldier from the right flank and not a single weapon to Napoleon was undoubtedly advantageous.

The correctness of the calculations of the generals is usually found out during the battle. Judging by the text of the "Description of the battle ...", the Russian army was, at least, quite well prepared for the fact that the main forces of the enemy will rush to its left wing. Only at the cost of huge losses and only by noon did the French manage to finally seize the Semenov fortifications. Moreover, before Bagration was wounded, this wing acted so successfully that it even had a “surface over the enemy” [23].

The authors of the very interesting study “Nine to Twelve ...” [24] convincingly prove that such a narrative of events is a distortion of facts, initiated by Karl Tol, first in the “Report ...” and then in the “Description of the Battle ...” [ 25]. Numerous documents indicate that Bagration was in fact wounded around 9 in the morning, and all three flashes completely passed into the hands of the enemy no later than 10 hours. With the help of changing the chronology of events and some literary devices, Toll sought to hide the true drama of this episode of the battle.

Perhaps, only the first attacks of the French troops on the positions of the Vorontsov division did not inspire great fears. But already around 7 in the morning, Bagration, seeing that the 2 Army was clearly inadequate, turned to Kutuzov and Barclay to send him reinforcements. According to Lavrov's report, even before this, “the entire Guards Infantry Division, appointed by the colonel for the Quartermaster’s Tolya ... took a position behind the right flank of the 2 Army to reinforce it” [26]. After some time, Bagration received in his direct command a second and combined Grenadier brigade of this division, as well as an 3 regiment of Guards cuirassiers with part of the artillery from the main reserve. Despite the fact that the time of the direct entry of the Guards into the battle was different, with the exception of the Shevich cuirassier, all of them, from the very beginning of the battle, were under the cruel fire of the enemy artillery. This fact particularly notes Lavrov in his report.

Barclay has repeatedly expressed his surprise and disagreement about such an early use in the battle of the Guards Corps. Bagration, apparently, held the same opinion and was in no hurry to throw into battle Guards regiments. At first, he brought his private reserves to the battle for flushes, as well as troops from neighboring positions.

The withdrawal of the 7 corps, the Konovnitsyn division and the Sievers cavalry to the Semenov fortifications certainly weakened the center and the left flank of the Russian army. But even before the movement of these troops from Raevsky and Tuchkov, not everything was all right.

Judging by the report and "Notes ..." by Yermolov [27], the defenders of Kurgan height suffered heavy losses from the fire of French batteries and, most likely, lacked artillery charges. The fortifications built there were weak, and because of its crampedness, the bulk of the infantry cover was outside, where it was destroyed by enemy grape-shooters. Moran’s infantry took advantage of this situation, taking possession of this important point during the first assault.

The troops of the 3 corps were significantly inferior to the Poles in artillery, and without the 3 division, in manpower too. In addition, Tuchkov almost immediately was forced to leave too unprofitable position near the village. Oak and retreat to 1,5 km east.

The actions of Napoleon's flank groups at the initial stage of the battle turned out to be generally very effective. Although the French did not succeed in firmly seizing the battery of Shulman and the Utitsky kurgan, the Russians needed solid reserves and enormous efforts to prevent this.

In the struggle for the Semenov flash, the following fact attracts attention. The troops of the 2 Infantry Corps, which should in the event of a serious threat to the left flank reinforce the army of Bagration, did not directly participate in this struggle. This happened because the 2 corps approached the left wing when the battle for the flushes was in the final stages, and the fate of these fortifications was actually already decided. At the same time, a very dangerous situation has developed for the Russians at the center of their position in the Utice Forest. For this reason, Barclay placed the 4 division south of Kurgan height, while Baggovut led the 17 division to the left flank of the army. Later, the 2 Brigade of the 4 Division joined him.

In order to reach the positions of the 2 Army, not to mention the Old Smolensk Road, Baggovut needed a lot of time. Therefore, to delay with the conduct of this maneuver was risky. Judging by the text “Reports ...”, Kutuzov ordered the transfer of the 2 and 4 buildings to the left wing and the center at about noon, and after injuring Bagration. But in reality, Baggovut’s corps left the right flank much earlier. And in the "Description of the battle ..." the commander-in-chief issues an order to Baggovut already shortly after 7 (i.e., around 8) in the morning. Most likely, the commander of the 2 corps received two orders: the first from Barclay, and the second later, when his troops were already on the way, from Kutuzov.

The initial position of the 4 Infantry and 1 of the Cavalry Corps was, in our opinion, fully justified, because before the start of the battle the entire Beauharnais group, with the exception of the Moran division, was located on the left bank of Kolochi. But the Osterman-Tolstoy infantry left the right flank too long before noon and, apparently, had been in the center of the position since 10 in the morning.

There are two opposing views about the basic idea of ​​Napoleon’s tactical plan - the use of an “oblique” order of battle (oriented against the most vulnerable part of the enemy’s “stretched” position) and the subsequent frontal offensive of the main forces.

Some believe that this decision was in principle correct, since by the 9 watches the French had almost achieved victory, and only some unsuccessful circumstances and the mistakes of their commanders prevented them from developing success. And after that, Kutuzov managed to tighten almost all of his reserves, including troops from the right flank.

According to others, the outcome of this battle was quite natural, and the main reason for its “regrettable” results for the French was that Napoleon decided to attack the enemy’s well-fortified position from the front, and did not use the maneuver usually used in such cases.

But, first of all, the Russians did not build any “bastions” on the Borodino field. Their defense was based only on ordinary field fortifications, which, according to eyewitness accounts, had significant shortcomings.

Secondly, all the main strongholds on the left wing and in the center were eventually captured by the French. At the same time, the Russians fought for them with tremendous exertion of forces and also suffered very serious losses (probably even more significant). However, having lost all these fortifications, Kutuzov’s troops were not disorganized and did not retreat, but, on the contrary, maintained their order of battle and continued to defend themselves in a new position.

Napoleon’s plan was, in our opinion, not so erroneous, and a less stable opponent could suffer a complete defeat under the same conditions.

But under Borodino, this plan did not bring the expected result to the French commander, primarily because the Russian soldiers showed unprecedented heroism and resilience in this battle, and their commanders led their troops skillfully and energetically.

In many ways, for the same reason, the successes of the “Great Army” were not as significant at the initial stage of the battle, i.e. until 9 o'clock in the morning.

Cavalry battle in rye. 1912

Raid cavalry Uvarova and Platov

In contrast to the rather skeptical assessments of K. Clausewitz, in the opinion of many local historians, the cavalry raid of Uvarov and Platov played a very significant or even decisive role in the battle.

However, only these two generals in the Russian army were not awarded for participation in the Battle of Borodino. The fact that Kutuzov had certain claims to them was also evidenced by the memories of A. B. Golitsyn and the report of the commander-in-chief to the tsar from November 22 with the words “the Cossacks ... didn’t act, so to speak,” [28].

In addition, according to the "Notes" by A. I. Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky, Platov was "dead drunk on both days." This was mentioned in his notes by N. N. Muravyov-Karsky. Moreover, in the opinion of this eyewitness to the events, because of the “bad orders and drunken state” of the Cossack ataman, his troops “did not do anything”, and “the team that received him after him did nothing” [29]. That is, in other words, the actions of the Cossacks and cavalry on the left bank of the Kolocha not only did not play a significant role, but did not bring any benefit at all.

But what results did Kutuzov expect from this maneuver? And what was his ultimate goal?

According to the memoirs of Clausewitz, the idea of ​​a cavalry strike on the northern flank of the enemy arose from Platov, who had not found significant French forces on the left bank of Kolochy [30] early in the morning.

There is an opinion that, on the basis of this information, the Russian command could already conclude that in fact Napoleon had much fewer troops than previously thought. But such a conclusion at ten o'clock in the morning could be wrong.

Prince E. of Hesse-Philippstal, who arrived from Platov, first outlined a plan of the Cossack ataman, Colonel Tolya. And he, quite possibly, didn’t just get carried away with this plan, but also saw in it a way to completely change the nature of the battle and, maybe, even win it. Other military leaders also believed in the great prospects of this idea. For example, Barclay believed that if “this attack had been fulfilled with greater firmness ..., then the consequences of this attack would have been brilliant” [31].

Uvarov understood his task like this: “... to attack the enemy left flank, so that, at least somewhat, to delay his forces, which so strongly sought to attack our second army” [32].

According to one version, the surprise attack of the Russian cavalry was to divert a significant part of the French troops on the left bank of the Kolocha, after which Kutuzov planned to make a turn in the course of the battle. And it was for this purpose that he sent the 4 th infantry and 2 th cavalry corps [33] to the center of the position.

A strong counter-strike, of course, could make a big difference in battle. But could the raid of Uvarov and Platov's cavalry create anytime soon after noon (later the insignificance of their forces would have already been revealed) sufficiently favorable conditions for a counter-offensive?

Earlier, among domestic historians, it was considered that Napoleon, having learned about the appearance of Cossacks in the rear of the 4 Corps, immediately sent thousands of people to his left flank from 20 to 28. However, it has now been established that all these reinforcements actually comprised about 5 thousands of people, and thus did not even outnumber all the Russian troops who participated in the raid [34]. Moreover, Beauharnais restored order on the north wing almost on its own.

Such a result, of course, is not so impressive anymore, and all the blame for the fact that it was not possible to achieve more, many lay on Uvarov and Platov. But look at this episode of the battle from the enemy.

Napoleon was undoubtedly alarmed by reports from the left flank, since by that time no more than 10 thousand people remained to defend him. It is also clear that further movement of enemy troops in a southerly direction could pose a threat to General d'Anthoire de Vrancourt’s artillery, and later on the main route of retreat (although from the Shevardino village to the New Smolensk road in a straight line about 1,5 km). And to delay in taking the necessary measures was, of course, dangerous.

But d'Antoir very correctly assessed the situation and asked Beaugarne to send just the cavalry, and it would not take much time to approach her. He sent him two regiments of Pear, two guards regiments of Trier and, just in case, also all the infantry of the Italian Guard. Napoleon sent Colbert's brigade [35] to cover the rear. In the event of a greater danger, a little more cavalry would probably have been sent to the north wing, which, of course, in principle would not have changed anything.

On the other hand, the demoralizing effect of this Russian counterstroke could not be as strong as it was at the culmination of the battle.

And the general situation in the confrontation of the parties, which developed at the beginning of the active actions of Uvarov’s corps, and, above all, the French Guards, who remained in reserve, largely allowed Napoleon to avoid too hasty and rash decisions. And under such circumstances, it is unlikely that the French commander, who possessed a great deal of tactical experience, would not immediately wait for more accurate information about what was happening on the left bank of the Kolochi, would send a large number of troops there.

It is also important to note that the possibilities of Uvarov and Platov, naturally, were limited to the forces that they had. In addition, they were hampered by the terrain features and the lack of a unified command.

It is obvious that a much stronger effect from this counterstrike could have been achieved at the moment when the enemy would have squandered his offensive potential, throwing the last reserves into battle. But Kutuzov, apparently, could no longer wait for this moment, because at the tenth hour on the left flank there was a very disturbing situation.

According to another version, the raid of the Russian cavalry was only a diversion (diversion) with the ultimate goal of easing the enemy’s pressure on the left flank and center as much as possible. And the corps of Osterman-Tolstoy and Korf moved to the left along the front to strengthen the defense, since one would expect new enemy attacks in the area of ​​the Rayevsky battery.

But if the plan for a counter-offensive was not foiled, why did Kutuzov's discontent with the actions of Uvarov and Platov cause?

According to this version, the commander-in-chief, in the same way, could have claims to these generals, and expect that the enemy would send much more troops to the reflection of the Cossacks and regular cavalry.

In the end, this maneuver undoubtedly had quite favorable consequences for the Russians, since at a very tense moment of battle their enemy’s activity significantly decreased, and this pause lasted about two hours.

Gorki - command post of the Russian commander-in-chief Field Marshal Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov

Final battle

After the final capture of Kurgan heights by the French, both sides were already significantly drained of blood and tired.

By that time, Kutuzov did not have such a powerful reserve behind the lines of the main battle formation that was specified in the disposition of the August 24: 18 guard battalions, Grenadier 20 battalions, 11 infantry battalions and Xirasir squadrons. And the enemy was still strong enough, and he retained his main reserve. Therefore, the risk during the counteroffensive was definitely not small.

And yet, according to eyewitness accounts, Kutuzov gave oral orders about his intention to attack the enemy the next day, and in accordance with this plan, the disposition was made. But officially he sent Dokhturov the following order:

"I see from all enemy movements that he no less weakened us in this battle, and therefore, having already tied up with him, I decided to arrange the whole night in order for the entire army, supply artillery with new charges and tomorrow to resume the battle with the enemy ...".

Barclay received exactly the same order. He has a very interesting ending, which is rarely quoted: "... For any retreat in the present confusion will entail the loss of all artillery" [36].

Perhaps Kutuzov actually thought so at that moment. But this decision, of course, can only be considered as a preliminary one.

Late in the evening, he collected a council, “to decide whether to keep the battlefield next morning, or to retreat, and, meanwhile, ordered Toll to overlook the position of the left flank ... Arriving on the left flank, Karl Fyodorovich learned that the old Moscow road leads by forests, more directly to the post, on the communications of the army. From there only mentioned shots were heard. This circumstance was decisive. ”[37] Yermolov also believed that "the position of the Baggovut corps, which had not been noticed before, in the dark of night, and which the enemy could break the connection with other troops, led to retreat" [38].

Probably, when it became already known about big losses, Kutuzov wanted to convince the generals that there was a threat of a detour.

A.B. Golitsyn quite frankly wrote about this: “At night I toured with Tol a position in which our tired warriors slept dead and he announced that it was impossible to think to go forward, and even less to protect 45 t. The places that were occupied were 96 T ., especially when Napoleon had a whole Guards Corps did not participate in the battle. Kutuzov knew all this, but waited for this report and, after listening to him, ordered him not to hesitate to retreat ... ”[39].

But obviously another. No reinforcements would fit the Russian 27, and the enemy could have received them. And, undoubtedly, in such a situation it was better to retreat and move to connect with reserves than stay in place.

As for the convincing Russian tactical victory in the 26 th counteroffensive or the next day, it would clearly be Pyrrhic, if it was possible at all. But Kutuzov never sought such victories at all, not to mention how dangerous the loss of a large part of the army was in the current strategic situation.

By the end of the battle, Napoleon poorly concealed annoyance. But Berthier and others did not advise him to introduce guards into the cause, because "under such a situation, the success achieved by this price would be a failure, and failure would be such a loss that would cross out the battle win." They also “drew the emperor's attention to the fact that one should not risk a single corps, which is still intact, and that it should be reserved for other cases” [40].

In other words, the French marshals believed at that moment that even if victory was achieved, its price would be too high. It turns out that they also did not want a Pyrrhic victory, and even 600 miles from France. They also knew how to think strategically and think "not about the glories of the battles won only", but also about the fate of the entire campaign.

But these arguments of the marshals would not have been so strong if Napoleon had not seen with his own eyes that the Russians were not retreating, were maintaining their order of battle and were firmly in their new position.

Many believe that the rejection of the full use of the guard was a serious mistake of Napoleon. However, in the above-mentioned words of a participant in the events of A. Kolenkur, as you can see, “failure” after the main reserve of the “Great Army” entered the battle. And the French commander himself, according to Jomini, subsequently did not consider his decision erroneous, since "the enemy showed still quite firmness."

The main tactical results

1) In the "battle of the giants," none of the opposing sides could win a convincing victory.

2) According to modern Russian historians, the French lost 24-26 August 35-40 thousands of people. In the Russian army, thousands of people were out of order from 40 to 50. our article "The number and loss of armies at Borodino"].

3) Despite the enormous exhaustion, both armies as a whole have not lost their combat capability. As for the reserves kept by the commanders, Napoleon, as we know, did not use the guards divisions of Curial and Walter (except Colbert's brigade) in battle at all. Horn's division, although it was pushed forward by the end of the day, remained behind the lines of other troops and did not enter combat contact with the enemy.

A rather large part of the Russian army also did not take an active part in the battle. But, first, from the regular infantry and cavalry with the enemy did not fight only part of the main apartment and 4 regiment of rangers, who were on the right flank.

Secondly, the main part of the main reserve troops, on the disposition of 24 of August, entered the battle or was advanced to the 1 line at the beginning of the battle. At the final stage of the battle, the cuirassiers of Shevich and the L.-GV were also quite active. Finnish regiment. And formally only lgv remained in reserve. Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments. But after the fall of the Kurgan battery, they actually defended the space between the 4 corps and the left flank, repelling the attack of the enemy cavalry there.

4) Late in the evening, Napoleon, wanting to tidy up his weary troops, took them to their original positions. Attaching great importance to this fact, many Russian historians shared Kutuzov’s opinion: “... and it ended in the fact that the enemy never won a single step of the land ...” [41]. This is not entirely true at least in relation to the village of Borodino, which remained in the hands of the French, not to mention a significant change in the situation of the left flank and center of the Russian army by the end of the day.

Of undoubted interest to the researcher are also facts relating to the nature of the battle and the successes achieved by opponents at its various stages.

Napoleon almost all day owned the initiative. The offensive of the French troops, which began with the very first shots, gradually gained momentum, constantly creating for the army of Kutuzov the threat of a breakthrough of defense or a flank round. The Russians managed to repel all attacks of the enemy, but no similar threats were created on their part. An exception is the raid of the cavalry of Uvarov and Platov, which made Napoleon jittery. However, neither at this, nor at any other moment of the battle did Kutuzov find it possible or useful to seize the tactical initiative. Therefore, the counterattack of the Russian cavalry caused only a pause, without changing the nature of the battle as a whole.

Even when the battle subsided, the French were still trying to make some last supernatural effort to break their opponent's resistance.

During the battle, the Russians, having lost a number of key strongholds of their position, were forced to concede a significant part of the “battlefield” in the whole space from the New to the Smolensk Old Road. Napoleon ordered to leave the captured territory, when the battle was actually over. The French troops retreated to their original positions in full battle order, without being attacked and actively pursued by the enemy.

About the advantages of the parties

This topic is quite extensive, and here we limit ourselves only to a brief opinion on the main aspects.

The Borodino position was not, of course, ideal for the Russians. Along with the virtues, she had obvious shortcomings. However, stopping the French in Gzhatsk gave their enemy at least two days for optimal positioning of the troops and engineering position preparation.

In the area where the main struggle developed (between Kolocha, the Stonets creek and the Utice Forest), the terrain did not give any particular benefits to either side.

As for the correlation of forces, the French had quite a substantial superiority in regular troops. True, in infantry and cavalry (that is, without special forces), it was, according to our calculations, somewhat smaller [See our article "The number and loss of armies at Borodino"].

On the other hand, the Russians had an advantage in artillery guns. Moreover, according to their total caliber, it was even more significant (according to some estimates, about 30%).

Although they did not usually take the Cossacks into account in the battles, they were a well-armed and trained army, capable of performing part of the functions of light regular cavalry. And the Kutuzov militia could be used to solve problems of an auxiliary nature.

In qualitative terms, the French army was, undoubtedly, very strong - with her, Napoleon conquered almost all of Europe.

According to many foreign historians, this army had a great advantage in its more progressive internal organization, in which, for example, even a simple soldier had very good career opportunities. Thanks to this, the commanders who were retired were easily replaced, and so on. In addition, the French were superior to their opponent tactically and had more veterans and experienced soldiers in their ranks.

But on the whole, the motivation of the participants of the campaign of the “Great Army” to Russia was exactly the same as the other conquerors. And, of course, the great role played by the personality cult of Napoleon.

Historians rightly point out that the Russian army had a significant number of inexperienced recruits. Indeed, just a few days before the army approached Borodin, more than 15 thousands of Miloradovich recruits entered it.

But there were undoubtedly veterans of the previous campaigns among the troops. Indeed, from 1804 to 1812, Russia has continuously fought the year - with Iran, France, Turkey and Sweden. And in this war, the army of Barclay and Bagration reflected the invasion of the huge forces of the enemy for the third month.

Even J. Pele-Klozo mentioned the steadfastness and courage of the Russian soldiers, their "determination to die sooner than to give in," and also called their army one of the two first in the world. True, he believed that the Russian military leaders had "little art", with which, of course, we cannot agree.

The morale of Kutuzov’s army was undoubtedly greatly enhanced by the fact that its soldiers and officers fought for their fatherland under the walls of the ancient capital.

In the end, the “moral elasticity” of the Russian troops in this battle was very high.

Separately, we note that the French army had very serious supply problems, which affected not only the condition of the soldiers, but also the horses. The Russians did not experience such difficulties with food and feed.

[1] The strength of the French army was estimated at 165-195 thousand people. In fact, even with the "late" 1 th Guards and 15 th infantry divisions, Napoleon could collect, according to our estimates, no more than 150 thousands of combat-ready soldiers.
[2] MB Barclay de Tolly Image of military operations of the first army in 1812 year. M., 1859. s.17.
[3] Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.62.
[4] Toll K.F. Description of the battle of the village of Borodino 24-th and 26-th August 1812-th year. SPb., 1839. s.53.
[5] Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.99.
[6] MB Barclay de Tolly Decree. cit. s.17.
[7] Toll K.F. Decree. cit. s.6.
[8] Ibid. S.9.
[9] Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.86.
[10] Toll K.F. Decree. cit. s.51.
[11] The so-called Croks of the Borodino position, which were attached to the report of M.I. Kutuzov Alexander I from 25 August 1812 Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.87-88.
[12] Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.64.
[13] Kolenkur A. Napoleon's march to Russia. Memoirs. Smolensk, 1991. s.124-125.
[14] Ermolov A.P. Notes ... M., 1865. H.1. (1801-1812) with .193.
[15] MB Barclay de Tolly Decree. cit. s.18.
[16] World War 1812 of the year. VUA materials. SPb., 1911. Volume XVIII. s.92.
[17] L. Bennigsen Letters of war. Kiev, 1912. s.74.
[18] Toll K.F. Decree. cit. s.9-10.
[19] Kharkevich V.I. 1812 year in diaries, notes and memoirs of contemporaries. Issue 1. Vilna 1900. s.14-18.
[20] Ibid. S.187.
[21] Report M.I. Kutuzov Alexander I about the battle of Borodino. Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.134-141.
[22] J. Pele-Closo (Borodino battle. Extraction from General Pele’s notes on the Russian 1812 war of the year) mentioned these measures // Read IOIDR, 1872, b.1, p.70). He also believed that Napoleon was more profitable not to attack the Shevardino redoubt before the start of the general battle.
[23] Toll K.F. Decree. cit. s.36.
[24] A. Vasilyev, L. Ivchenko. Nine by twelve, or the story of how someone turned the hour hand (about the time of Bagration flush falling) // Homeland, 1992. No. 6-7. s.62-67.
[25] Toll K.F. Description of the battle of the village of Borodino 24-26 August 1812, drawn up on the basis of the reports of the city of corps commanders of the Russian army ... // Domestic Notes, 1822. No. 28-29.
[26] World War 1812 of the year. VUA materials. SPb., 1911, Volume XVIII. s.17.
[27] World War 1812 of the year. VUA materials. SPb., 1911, Volume XVIII. s.98-100.
[28] Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.343; Kutuzov M.I. Collection of documents. T.4. h.xnumx. M., 1. s.1954.
[29] Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky A.I. Notes: 1812. // Historical Bulletin, 1890. No. 10. p. 154; Muravyov-Karsky N.N. Notes // Russian Archive, 1885. No. 10. p. 249, 257.
[30] Clausewitz K. 1812 year. M., 1937 with .92.
[31] MB Barclay de Tolly Decree. cit. s.23.
[32] World War 1812 of the year. VUA materials. SPb., 1911. Volume XVIII. s.19.
[33] Popov A.I. Borodino. Northern flank 2-ed., Corr. and add. M., 2008. s.74.
[34] Ibid. S.69.
[35] Ibid.
[36] Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.95-96.
[37] Ibid. S.399.
[38] Ibid. S.356.
[39] Ibid. S.343.
[40] Kolenkur A. Napoleon's march to Russia. Memoirs. Smolensk, 1991. s.128.
[41] Borodino. Documents, letters, memories. M., 1962. s.101.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Brother Sarych
    Brother Sarych 7 September 2012 08: 34
    Yes, the text is difficult to understand, especially for the unprepared reader ...
    A solid text, without snot and cries, there would be more ...
  2. Kaa
    Kaa 7 September 2012 11: 18
    The French fought perfectly, but the analogy of football suggests itself - look at the scoreboard at the end of the match.
  3. Trapperxnumx
    Trapperxnumx 7 September 2012 14: 09
    Yes, the clash of the giants, you cannot say otherwise. And the result is predictable - without any visible success from any side. Although, in terms of points, the French were probably a little ahead. In principle, in the case of a timely approach of reinforcements, Kutuzov could well continue the battle the next day. The same applies to artillery - given its rather significant advantage, this advantage was not properly used, and the art itself was "smeared" without strong concentrations. All this suggests that it was not the victory itself that was much more important for Kututzov, but rather to avoid defeat. And he completed his task successfully.
    Glory to the heroes!!!
  4. Charon
    Charon 7 September 2012 21: 24
    This is the most detailed analysis of the battle, which I have seen in my entire life.
    Friday night is not ready to appreciate. But in my memory for decades there has not been such a detailed study.
    Maybe I was just not looking there? Everything can be. But for any author + for labor.
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  6. 16
    16 8 September 2012 20: 57
    a good article, one-piece and a lot of information !!! for me personally not previously known !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  7. Alex
    Alex 8 January 2014 11: 48
    To the author "+" and many thanks for this titanic work. I have not seen anything like this anywhere before, I will familiarize myself with other indicated materials on this issue with interest.