At the beginning of autumn in the southern direction the situation was as follows: in Bobruisk there was a Russian garrison under the command of G. A. Ignatiev, he restrained Dombrowski's division; the corps of Ertel (about 15 thousand people) was located under Mozyr, against the division of General Moreau. Army Tormasov, after the battle of Gorodechno 31 July 1812 (Southern Direction: Victories at Kobrin and Gorodechno), moved beyond the river Styr, awaiting the approach of the Danube army from Bessarabia. Russian troops did not conduct active hostilities, their opponents also acted. The Saxon and Austrian corps of Rainier and Schwarzenberg did not disturb the 3 th Tormasov Western Army and gave it the opportunity to unite with the army of Chichagov. Rainier's corps was small for active operations, and the Austrians preferred not to take offensive actions, since Vienna had verbal agreements with Petersburg and preferred to wait, waiting for the decisive victory of France or Russia.
6 (18) September 38-th. The Danube army of Admiral Chichagov approached the southern front near Lutsk. The combined forces of Admiral Chichagov and General Tormasov totaled more than 60 thousand people. Schwarzenberg and Rainier together had about 43 thousand soldiers. Russian troops received on the southern flank a certain advantage in forces. According to the instructions of Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov, the forces of Chichagov and Tormasov began active operations against enemy troops in order to oust Schwarzenberg’s corps from Volyn. Kutuzov demanded that Tormasov launch an attack on the right flank of the "Great Army", Chichagov had to support his actions. 10 (22) September Russian troops crossed the Styr, it forced the enemy to start a retreat. 12 (24) September Tormasov received an order from the commander-in-chief to leave Volyn and join the main army. However, Tormasov and Chichagov did not submit directly to Kutuzov, having certain instructions from Emperor Alexander I. At a military meeting, it was decided to continue fighting in Volyn and Podolia. A few days later, an order was already received for Chichagov’s army to move to join up with the Main Army, and for Tormasov’s troops to remain in place. However, this instruction was not fulfilled. During September, the troops of Tormasov and Chichagov pushed the enemy across the Bug River to the Duchy of Warsaw. During the retreat, the troops of Rainier and Schwarzenberg lost 2,5 thousand dead, wounded and captured.
Before the Russian troops opened the opportunity to strike at a separate detachment of Dombrowski or to attack Minsk. 17 (29) of September Chichagov in Luboml received the plan of the sovereign Alexander, according to which the main goal of the southern group of troops was to concentrate as much as possible forces and locate them along the course of the Berezina River. September 22 (October 4), after the departure of Tormasov (he was entrusted with the internal structure and organization of military units), Chichagov assumed command of the two armies, and sent troops to Brest. Initially, they wanted to storm it, but the enemy, taking advantage of the fog, crossed the Bug and cleared the city.
In Brest, Chichagov’s army was inactive for two weeks. The admiral collected food for the troops and information about the enemy. In addition, from Brest to the rear of the enemy, two detachments under the command of Chaplitsa to Lithuania and Chernyshev to the Duchy of Warsaw were sent to the enemy's rear. Chichagov in drawing up a plan of further action considered several options for action. As a result, he abandoned the idea of launching an offensive against Warsaw, or uniting with the Main Army. The admiral decided to follow the instructions of Alexander I.
Chichagov divided the combined army into two parts. For actions against the Austrian-Saxon troops was left 27-thousand. army with 92 guns under the command of Fabian Osten-Sacken. Its structure included the corps of M. L. Bulatov, I. A. Liven and the Cossack regiments. Saken was given the task of defending the Podolsk and Volyn provinces. Vladimir-Volynsky left a separate detachment, reinforced by the Cossack division of I. O. Vitt. The main forces consisting of the avant-garde of Lambert, the Voinov and Sabaneyev corps were to go through Pruzhany to Minsk and further to the Berezina. In Slonim, Chaplitz's detachment was to join Chichagov's troops. In addition, it was expected that the main strike force would be reinforced by a detachment of Liders from Bessarabia and the corps of Ertel. Thus, the strike force should have been about 45-50 thousand people with 180 - 200 guns. However, when Chichagov’s army began to move towards Pruzhany, the enemy’s intention was revealed to attack Saken’s troops, so the admiral ordered Ertel to join up with Saken.
The appearance of the army of Chichagov on the main communication of the "Great Army" of Napoleon created a serious threat to the enemy. 18 (October 30) Chichagov's army made two columns in the direction of Pruzhany - Slonim. October 25 (November 6) arrived at Slonim and made a stop. October 27 Chichagov army moved to Minsk and Berezina.
The movement of the enemy forces. Fight at Volkovysk 2 - 4 (14 - 16) November 1812
Schwarzenberg, having received news of the beginning of the Chichagov army movement, suggested at first that all Russian troops had left the area of Brest. Therefore, he moved the troops after the army of Chichagov, planning to strike at her. His strength increased due to the division Dyuryutta. Schwarzenberg left to cover his flank Rainier corps in the area of Belsk and moved to Volkovysk to preempt Chichagov in Slonim.
But as soon as Saken received information about the crossing of the enemy’s troops through the Bug from Drogichin, he immediately launched a decisive offensive with all his forces. A small garrison was left in Brest - one infantry and two Ukrainian Cossack regiments. On October 22 (November 3), two Cossack regiments that were part of Melissino’s avant-garde, four squadrons from Vysoko-Litovsk defeated two squadrons of Austrian hussars, 75 people were captured. Then the avant-garde Melissino 27 of October (8 November) overtook the enemy rear-guard behind Narev near Rudni and captured about a hundred people, having beaten off part of the wagons. At the same time, a message was received about the retreat of the forces of the Rainier corps to Porozov, and then to Volkovysk.
The appearance of Saken troops in the rear of Schwarzenberg forced the Austrians to act more carefully. Schwarzenberg troops were threatened with a double strike. True, after the troops of Saken, the Rainier Saxon corps also moved, which occupied Volkovysk. The troops were located on the heights of the city, and the headquarters of the corps in the city itself. Having established this, Saken decided to attack 2 (14) on November of Saxons and defeat them. Saken planned to capture all the enemy generals, using a favorable moment. For this, three detachments of three battalions each were supposed to capture the city late in the evening without noise and firing. Colonel Belokopytov with one of the battalions was ordered to capture General Rainier. Behind them moved the rest of the troops. The Russians performed at 10 in the evening. The blizzard helped the Russian forces to approach the city imperceptibly. General Jean-Louis-Ebenezer Rainier himself was forced to escape through a window, and he managed to escape to the location of the troops. Division General Durutt was wounded. Russian soldiers captured the enemy office. One of the Saxon regiments, who rushed to the rescue of the headquarters, was thrown back by the soldiers of the Vyatka infantry regiment and lost the banner. The turmoil in the enemy’s camp was aggravated by the fire that started in the city, which became widespread because of the strong wind.
Russian troops successfully occupied Volkovysk, but due to bad weather they could not continue the battle. The shootout lasted all night. 3 November situation was stable. Attempts Saxons to repel the city were reflected. Saken first sent Melissino to attack enemy positions, but then withdrew his troops, since he received a message about the movement of Schwarzenberg’s corps to Volkovysk to help the Saxons. Only in the evening did the Cossacks report that Schwarzenberg's troops turned back to Slonim (in fact, the Austrians were waiting for Rainier’s signal to strike the Russian corps). Therefore, Saken, convinced of the superiority of his forces, ordered 4 November to attack the enemy. Rainier, in turn, knowing about the approach of Schwarzenberg troops, also did not doubt the success.
The November 4 (16) battle began with an artillery shootout. Saken sent around the left flank of the enemy Major General Bulatov with three regiments, so that they crossed the river Ros above the city. However, this plan is not singing to realize. About one o'clock in the afternoon a message was received that Isabelin had been captured in the rear (there were patients and carts there). The Serpukhov Dragoon Regiment overthrew several Austrian squadrons and saved part of the wagon train, but Izabelin could not fight off, since he was busy with the strong vanguard of Schwarzenberg's corps. At this time, Russian troops found that the only crossing over Ros was not occupied by the enemy. Renier behaved passively, remaining on the heights behind Volkovysk, which allowed Saken to calmly withdraw his troops to Gniezno, to give his troops rest. Then Saken went to Svilochi. Attempt Rainier and Schwarzenberg to break the troops Saken failed. There is no exact loss data for this battle. Russian sources report only 500 captured enemies and 100 killed Russians. Foreign sources report the losses of the Russian army in 2 - 10 thousand people, which is clearly a strong exaggeration. If the troops of Saken had suffered such a serious defeat, Schwarzenberg would have had to leave Rainier’s corps and continue the pursuit of Chichagov. However, Schwarzenberg and Rainier continued to work together, trying to catch up and defeat the group Saken.
Battlefield in 1812 g in the vicinity of Volkovysk. Source: Military Encyclopedia. Volume VII.
Saken's troops decided the main task - Schwarzenberg stopped pursuing Chichagov’s army. As a result, Chichagov's troops marched into the rear of Napoleon. 6 (18) November, Saken's troops left Rudnya, repulsed the attack of the forward detachments of Schwarzenberg and retreated to Belovezhskaya Pushcha, destroying the bridges behind them. A few days later the troops of Saken settled south of Brest-Litovsk. Saken showed the ability of an independent commander, skillfully tacking, he managed to evade a decisive battle with the superior forces of the enemy, not losing sight of him, kept the troops, distracted the enemy from the main theater of operations.
Chichagov army movement. The rout of the enemy near Minsk (November 1-3) and the battle of Borisov (November 9)
October 25 (November 6) Admiral Chichagov received news of Napoleon leaving Moscow and the retreat of the “Great Army”. This forced him to accelerate the movement of the army. Count Lambert with the vanguard was sent to Nesvizh, followed by the rest of the troops. It must be said that the Russian general of French origin, Karl Osipovich de Lambert, was one of the most experienced generals of the Russian army: he fought in Poland, Persia, Switzerland, in the anti-French campaigns 1805-1807. He showed courage in battle, was an example of fearlessness, became an excellent commander, distinguished himself in many battles.
One of the goals of the army was Minsk. It was located on the important communications of the enemy and was one of the bases for the supply of the enemy army. The garrison of the city was weak - about 2 thousand veterans and 3,6 thousand recruits who were trained. True, General Dombrovsky received an order to arrive in Minsk. However, his forces were insignificant and could not resist the army of Chichagov.
The commander of the garrison Bronikovsky sent most of his forces - about 3,5 thousand people under the command of Kosetsky, to Novo-Sverzhen, to protect the crossing over the r. Neman, and if necessary, destroy it. However, Kosetsky made a grave mistake. He, instead of destroying the crossing and settling on the left bank of the river, crossed it. 1 (13) November Lambert's advance guard smashed the enemy with a sudden blow and captured the city and the crossing. The enemy battalion, which stood in the city managed to make only one salvo, and was forced to lay down weapon. The victory was complete: the enemy lost the killed to 500 people, and the prisoners - about 800 people. Loss of Russian troops - 7 killed, 37 injured.
2 (14) November Cossacks of the avant-garde with the support of the dragoons of the Arzamas regiment, completely destroyed the enemy squad number in two hundred infantry and one hundred cavalry. 3 (15) November Kosetskogo detachment was finally destroyed. First, the enemy cavalry was overturned and two French battalions were surrounded. Kosetsky was able to escape with a hundred ulan in Minsk. The French, surrounded on all sides, courageously fought off and repulsed several attacks. However, when four guns were brought up and began to shoot them with canister, the French suffered heavy damage and capitulated. Then two Lithuanian battalions surrendered and surrendered without a fight. In fact, the Kosecki detachment ceased to exist: in three days the enemy lost only prisoners to 3 thousand people, two guns were captured. The losses of the Russian troops were insignificant.
Dombrowski managed to arrive with a part of his division to Minsk, but having familiarized himself with the situation, he realized that the situation was hopeless. He began to withdraw his forces to Borisov, followed by Bronikovsky. Minsk left without a fight. 4 (14) November Lambert occupied Minsk, capturing about 2 thousands of enemy soldiers, mostly sick and wounded, large warehouses with provisions and fodder, 110 Russian prisoners were released. November 5 to the city arrived the main forces of the army Chichagov. At the same time, the Cossacks and the dragoons on the Vilna road took about another 2 thousand prisoners and a lot of carts. The army of Chichagov was reinforced by two regiments from the detachment of General Liders, who arrived from the Balkans. The admiral expected more powerful reinforcements - the arrival of the 15-th. enclosures Ertel. With this corps, Chichagov's forces increased to 45 thousand people, which allowed him to independently engage in the retreating remnants of Napoleon’s army. However, Ertel was unable to execute the repeated order several times. He found various reasons to refuse to carry out the order to join the army of Chichagov, showing excessive caution. He will be removed from the command of the corps, but this will not correct the situation, precious time has been lost.
The 7 (19) of November, reinforced by Lambert’s vanguard (up to 4,5 in thousand soldiers) was sent to Borisov to establish communication with Wittgenstein’s army. The rest of the troops also moved behind him, a garrison was left in Minsk. General Lambert sent intelligence to Berezina, which led the prisoners and obtained important information. It turned out that the enemy garrison in Borisov’s bridgehead was awaiting the arrival of Dombrowski’s detachment and Victor’s corps. Lambert decided to immediately attack the enemy position, without waiting for the French reinforcements to approach. Lambert's troops made a big transition, breaking the 35 versts on bad roads in one day. After a short rest, the march was continued at night, and the troops made it a day to 50 miles. Early in the morning of November 9, Lambert gave the order to prepare for battle until the enemy noticed the Russian troops.
On November 6, Borisov arrived with the remnants of the Minsk garrison Bronikovsky. He was confident of the remoteness of the Russian troops and inactive 7-8 (19-20) November. Bronikovsky even weakened the garrison of the bridge fortification, sending all forces except the two battalions to rest. 8 in the evening arrived at the very tired Dombrovsky detachment (about 5 thousand people), Bronikovsky convinced that all the approaches to the bridge were covered with advanced posts and crossings. Dombrovsky, hoping for the orderliness of his comrade-in-arms, placed part of the troops across the river.
The Russian soldiers removed the advanced posts of Bronikovsky without a single shot, and around 6 in the morning they were at a distance of a shot from the fortifications. Under the thunderous “Hurray!”, The huntsmen seized the flank redoubts. In the camp of the enemy began to panic. Only one regiment (1 line) under the leadership of the Italian campaign veteran Colonel Malakhovsky did not panic and overturned the rangers of the 38 regiment, who captured the left redoubt. Lambert transferred the 7 th Jäger Regiment to this area under the command of Major General Engelhardt, who was advancing in the center. Russian rangers, in whose head Engelhardt was (he fell in this battle), hit the flank of the enemy convoy, knocked it over and again occupied the redoubt.
The Poles from the village of Dymki moved two battalions under Colonel Seravsky to defend the right redoubt. But the huntsmen of the 14 regiment knocked over the enemy and drove him into the forest. At about 10 in the morning, the rest of Dombrowski's troops opposed the Russian right flank; they were supported by the soldiers of Seravsky. The position of Lambert was critical, it was bypassed by superior enemy forces. However, he did not think about retreat. He advanced against the Poles the 12 th cavalry artillery company with one battalion of the Vitebsk regiment and the Alexandria hussars. The Poles were stopped by artillery fire, and then overturned by an attack of infantry and hussars. The defeated enemy troops retreated over the Berezina ice to Dombrovsky's forces at Borisov. At the same time, another battalion of the Vitebsk regiment and the Arzamas dragoons again drove into the forest Poles who wanted to strike the rear of our troops (they will cross the river above Borisov).
After that, Lambert decided to complete the tete-de-pon assault. After the shelling, the huntsmen went on the attack, but were repelled. Lambert supported the attackers with his presence, but was badly wounded in the leg (treatment will require one and a half years). The wounded general refused to leave the battlefield: “I stay with you here too,” he said to the rangers who took him off his horse, “either die, or wait until you take me to Borisov’s apartment.” The shelling was resumed and brought the enemy into complete disorder. Attempts by Dombrovsky to cross into the fortifications were stopped by Russian fire, and the attempt to support the garrison with artillery from the left bank failed. At three o'clock in the afternoon, the Russian rangers broke the stubborn resistance of the enemy and knocked him out of tet-de-pon. The enemy threw 6 guns and ran across the bridge. The huntsman, pursuing the Poles, crossed to the left side of the Berezina. They were followed by dragoons, hussars and artillery. The Poles, driven out of the city, ran towards Orsha, pursued by the Russian cavalry. 10 (22) of November, the main forces of Chichagov approached Borisov.
The plan of business at Borisov. Source: Bogdanovich. History World War 1812 of the year. Volume III.
Vanguard Lambert won another brilliant victory in a brutal and bloody battle. The enemy lost killed 1,5-2 thousand people, prisoners - 2-2,5 thousand people. Our losses were heavy: 1,5-2 thousand people killed and wounded (almost half of the avant-garde squad that went to Borisov). It must be said that the severe wound of Lambert will have a negative effect on the further actions of the Chichagov army. When the wounded Lambert was being transported from Borisov along the r. Berezina for treatment, he foresees the crossing of the remnants of Napoleon’s army from Studyanka, and he sent them to Chichagov. Unfortunately, this brilliant general will not be at the decisive moment of the battle on the Berezina, which will make it easier for the French to break through the river.
Karl Osipovich de Lambert.