Military Review

From Berezina to Neman. The expulsion of the French troops from Russia. Part of 2

Liberation of Vilna

By November 27 (December 9) in Vilna there were up to 30 thousands of French soldiers. Only about 9 thousand of them retained relative combat capability, the rest were completely inefficient and lost all understanding of order and discipline. They broke into the city, seized warehouses with provisions, beer and vodka, equipment, occupied a number of houses, and refused to move on, preferring to surrender than die during a further retreat. Shocked by the view of the French army, the townspeople locked themselves home and tried not to take to the streets.

At this time, the Russian army continued to pursue the enemy, striking at its rear. The vanguard of General Chaplitsa on November 24 (December 6) defeated the rearguard of Marshal Victor. The French lost more than 1 thousand to prisoners and 7 guns. Commander Murat hoped to get supplies for the troops in Oshmyany, but the warehouses were destroyed by the guerrilla Kaisarov on the night of 23 on November 24 (December 5-6), immediately after leaving the settlement of Napoleon. The Kaisarov detachment captured up to 500 people prisoners. Chaplits 25 November (7 December) continued to pursue the enemy and completely defeated the rearguard of Victor, taking Smogon, capturing up to 3 thousands of prisoners and 25 guns. On the same day, Mikhail Kutuzov informed the sovereign Alexander Pavlovich of his desire to stop the Main Army in the vicinity of Vilna in order to give the troops the opportunity to rest, gather the stragglers and the people who had recovered, to receive reinforcements (the Urusov division). The avant-gardes of Wittgenstein and Chichagov were to pursue the enemy. Russian troops were to follow the Austrians to the borders of Austria, and in relation to actions on the territory of Prussia, permission was sought from Emperor Alexander.

November 26 (December 8) Chaplitz was hitting enemy forces that were already retreating without a rearguard, 2 thousand prisoners were captured (according to other sources, about 4 thousand people), 61 gun. November 27 (December 9) Chaplitz defeated the enemy's avant-garde under the command of Victor, made up of the Loison division, captured 1,3 thousand prisoners and 16 guns. Victor continued his retreat and joined up with the remnants of the Bavarian Corps Wrede (up to 2 thousand people with several guns) and received Murat's order to hold positions with Vilna as long as possible. However, Seslavin’s detachment quite easily overthrew the enemy and Victor’s rear guard, losing 6 guns, fled to Vilna itself. Seslavin's detachment pursuing the enemy broke into the suburbs of Vilna, but without infantry, was pushed aside. Seslavin went a short distance and began to expect the approach of the troops of the Danube army Chichagov. In this fight, Seslavin was seriously wounded in the arm.

At this time, the defense of Vilna was headed by Marshal Ney, taking under his command the remnants of the Loison division and the body of Wrede (together with about 4 thousand soldiers), he also subordinated all the soldiers capable of holding weapon from the other "corps" - a few hundred people. Murat, realizing that the city did not hold him, gave the order to retreat. Under his command there were only a few thousand combat-ready soldiers, the rest turned into a crowd of refugees, thinking only about warming and eating. Murat also gave him instructions to take out the remaining guns, the treasury (about 2,5 million rubles) from the city, to destroy property that would not be able to be evacuated. Schwarzenberg, in the name of Napoleon, was ordered to go to Belostok to protect the Duchy of Warsaw, and Macdonald was ordered to go to Tilsit to cover Danzig and Königsberg. Murat himself in these difficult circumstances fell down in spirit and practically did not care about guiding the people entrusted to him. He himself gave another reason for panic and increased unrest, leaving the city headquarters in the direction of Kovno, as soon as the Seslavin detachment appeared.

28 November (10 December), at 4 o'clock in the morning Murat with Chief of Staff Berthier, Beaugarne, Davout, Mortier and other commanders headed along the Kovno road, the remnants of the guard were their convoy. According to the report of the Chief of Staff, Marshal Bertier, of the entire Imperial Guard, which counted thousands of soldiers during the invasion of Russia and reduced to 47 thousand by the time of the seizure of Moscow, there were no more than 19 — 4 hundreds. Crowds of armed and unarmed people pulled after them. The rearguard of Ney, despite all his efforts, could not expel all the soldiers from the city. Meanwhile, a detachment of Orlov-Denisov went to the Koven road. His Cossacks made several raids on the road and captured more than a thousand people. Simultaneously, the Cossacks of Platov came to Vilna. The fire of the Russian batteries increased the flight of the French of their city. After the shelling a general attack was carried out. The enemy columns were completely crushed, having lost only 5 thousand people by the prisoners. The rearguard tried to take with him the remnants of artillery and carts, but at Ponarskaya Mountain six miles from Vilna, everything had to be thrown and run away by the Cossacks. During the rampage, the army treasury was plundered and almost all carts were abandoned, many wagons carrying sick and wounded officers.

On the same day the city was captured. By evening, the avant-garde Chaplitsa walked around the city from the west, cutting off the road to Kovno. At the same time, the Cossacks Platov and partisan detachments blocked other exits from the city. Then the advanced units under the command of Chaplitsa, Sukhozanet and Tetenborn entered the city. The remaining enemy troops surrendered with virtually no resistance. The French did not even have time to destroy even significant reserves that remained in the city. During the occupation of Vilna in the city and on the way to Ponar 72 guns were seized (according to other data, more than 100). In addition, an 41 gun was found in the arsenal and about 30 thousand guns. 7 generals, an 242 officer and more than 14 thousand soldiers were captured (of which more than 5 thousand were sick and wounded). At the disposal of the Russian army were large reserves of rye, flour and other supplies in the city and its environs. November 29 (December 11) moved its Kutuzov headquarters to the city.

From Berezina to Neman. The expulsion of the French troops from Russia. Part of 2

From Vilna to Kovno

The commander-in-chief ordered the Cossacks of Platov and the avant-gardes of Chichagov’s army to pursue the enemy retreating to Kovno. Earl Wittgenstein was given the task of smashing MacDonald’s 10 Corps if he didn’t speed up his retreat. General Léviz was instructed to leave enough troops in Riga to protect the order and move beyond MacDonald. General Tormasov, who led the corps of Tuchkov from Minsk, the Knorring and Ratt detachments, was given the task of fostering interaction with Saken's troops and acting against Schwarzenberg until he retreated to Austria.

The main army stopped at Vilna. It numbered about 42 thousand people: the main forces - about 27,5 thousand people, in the vanguard of Miloradovich - up to 6,5 thousand, in separate troops, reserve artillery and other troops - about 8,5 thousand people. About another 48 thousand people were sick and were in hospitals, 12 thousand died in battles, died from wounds and diseases (a total of about 100 thousand people spoke out of the Tarutinsky camp two months ago). Of the 622 implements that were in the army at Tarutino, 200 remained, the rest were abandoned due to the loss of horses, or for staffing. The Russian cavalry suffered the most damage, the most difficult tasks fell during the pursuit of the enemy, there were only 150 people in the Cossack regiments, and regular cavalry regiments from 60 to 150 people.

Platov and Chaplits continued to pursue the enemy and from November 29 (December 11) to December 1 (13) captured more than 2 thousand people, not counting those killed. November 30 (12) December Murat, with the pitiful remnants of the army, approached Kovno, where the garrison of 1,5 thousand German soldiers was stationed with 42 guns. The next day Neya arrived in the city with a rearguard. At the military council, it was decided to entrust Neu with the defense of Kovno, and the other troops to cross the Neman, retreating to Prussia. A total of 1200 people crossed the river in an organized manner with 9 guns. That was all that remained of Napoleon's "Great Army".

2 (14) December Cossacks Platov, Chaplitsa and Orurka's troops approached Kovno and opened artillery fire. He resisted. Then Platov sent the Cossacks to the other side, Ney was under the threat of complete encirclement. On the night of 3 (15) in December, Ney's detachment was almost completely destroyed during a break from the city. Through the Neman crossed only about 200 soldiers, who immediately scattered. It should be noted that Marshal Michel Ney was rightly called "the bravest of the brave," he performed his duty to the end, leading the defense of Vilna and Kovno. Only two came to Vilkovishki - Ney and Gerard. In a restaurant where French officers dined, a tramp entered in dirty clothes, with matted hair, with a beard covering his face, dirty, scary and raising his hand, loudly said: “I am the rearguard of the“ Great Army ”, Marshal Her! I gave the last shots on the Kovno bridge; I drowned the last weapon in Neman, I came here, making my way through the forests. ”

North and South

After the expulsion of Murat's forces, the main task was to oust the troops of Macdonald and Schwarzenberg. Commander-in-chief Mikhail Kutuzov ordered Chichagov and Wittgenstein to stop at the Neman, tighten the rear and go on the offensive against the troops of the 10 corps. MacDonald at that time was located in the area of ​​Busk - Mitawa. He had a rather vague idea about the events on the main line, since Napoleon and Berthier’s headquarters practically did not inform him. Only 6 (18) December, he received the order of Napoleon to depart to the Vistula. As a result, MacDonald began to withdraw only 7-8 (19-20) December.

At this time, the corps of Wittgenstein moved to Wilkomir, having in the forefront a detachment of Dibich. Simultaneously, Paulucci and Léviz were advancing from Riga. Paulucci forced Mitawa's garrison to capitulate. 10 (22) December Wittgenstein came to the place Keidan, and the Dibich squad captured Koltynyany. Wittgenstein also advanced the detachments of Vlastov, Golenishchev-Kutuzov and Shepelev with the task of blocking the enemy’s way to Tilsit.

MacDonald's corps was moving in two columns, the French division of Granjan and the Massenbach detachment was in the forefront, and after two transitions the Prussian troops of York. The appearance of Russian troops forced MacDonald to speed up the march, but under Tilsit, his forces still faced the troops of Vlastov and Golenishchev-Kutuzov. The French were able to push the Russian troops and occupied the city. The York column on the way met the Dibich detachment, the Germans were offered to conclude an armistice. 13 (25) December York rejected the Russian proposal and continued moving. 17 (29) December Dibich sent Lieutenant Colonel Clausewitz to York with two documents. In the first, it was reported that in the event of York trying to unite with the French Macdonald, the main forces of Wittgenstein would go on the offensive and destroy the Prussian troops. The second document was a letter from MacDonald to Duke Bassano, where the unreliability of the Prussian troops and the need to remove most of the Prussian generals and officers from command were reported. In addition, Major Seidlitz arrived in Berlin on the eve of York and reported on the current state of affairs, on the readiness of the Prussian monarch to break off relations with Napoleon. However, the king hesitated and did not send any specific instructions to York. York, after weighing all the data, decided to declare the neutrality of the Prussian troops and gave an order to Massenbach to withdraw from Tilsit. The Russian command took this news with great joy. Sovereign Alexander suggested that York completely switch to the side of Russia. However, York did not dare to take such a step, having no instructions from Berlin.

The neutrality of the Prussian troops put MacDonald in a difficult position, from 35 thousand soldiers he lost more than 20 thousand people. Under his command, only Granzhan's division remained, which alone could not withstand the forces of Wittgenstein. So MacDonald hurriedly left Tilsit and moved on to Koenigsberg. Wittgenstein continued the offensive, while Chichagov approached East Prussia. Russian troops threatened Konigsberg from two directions. Murat ordered Macdonald to retreat from Koenigsberg. As a result, Napoleon’s left-flank grouping ceased to exist. The remnants of the 10 Corps and the Konigsberg garrison retreated beyond the Vistula. During the period from 7 to 20 December, Russian troops captured about 4 thousand people.

Also successfully ended the fighting and right flank. After crossing the Berezina, Kutuzov sent detachments of Ozharovsky and Davydov to watch the Austrian troops. From Vilna, the commander-in-chief moved the corps of Tuchkov, the troops of Saken and Essen, as well as the vanguard of the Main Army under Vasilchikov and the troops of several corps under the command of Miloradovich against Schwarzenberg. The task was to push the Austrians abroad. Against 30, thousands of Schwarzenberg soldiers were sent 45 thousand Russian troops.

However, active hostilities were not. The Austrians were not eager to die for Napoleon, and after the news of the defeat and exile of the French army, the meaning of fighting for France completely disappeared. The Austrian officers and the public decried the government for collaborating with Napoleon and reporting the defeat of Napoleon with approval. Schwarzenberg's troops, on the orders of Vienna, left the Russian lands and hastily retreated to the Duchy of Warsaw. Following the Austrians, the Rennes Saxons also retreated to Warsaw. Receiving a message about the secret negotiations between the Austrians and the Russian commander-in-chief, Rainier led the troops to Oder. The troops of Miloradovich at the end of December occupied Warsaw without resistance. During the retreat, the enemy lost more than 4 thousand prisoners.

Mikhail Kutuzov sent a diplomatic representative Anstett to Schwarzenberg with a proposal to conclude an armistice. 18 (30) January was signed a secret document on the truce "without a certain period of time", the Austrian troops retreated to Galicia. The Austrian government began to seek an agreement with the anti-French coalition.

Thus, the Russian army solved the task of driving the enemy troops abroad. By the end of December, the Russian army reached the western border, completing the counteroffensive. The “Great Army” of the next European civilizers was almost completely destroyed, and its remnants were driven out of the Russian land. In Russia, thousands of people laid 552 heads, more than 1200 guns were lost. Therefore, Clausewitz made a quite correct conclusion: “No matter how critics may speak about certain moments of persecution, the energy with which this persecution was carried out must be attributed, the fact that the French army was completely destroyed, and it is impossible to imagine a greater result.”

The Russian army and Mikhail Kutuzov did not allow the formation of the scattered French forces and Napoleon’s allied forces, they did not let them stay at the turn of Smolensk or Vilna. Only Rainier and Schwarzenberg corps and one division from Macdonald Corps could retain their combat capability and leave across the western border of Russia. Prussia and Austria began to lean towards an alliance with Russia and other members of the anti-French coalition.


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  1. Born in USSR
    Born in USSR 30 November 2012 10: 25
    I am proud that I was born Russian!

    I remember, at the dawn of perestroika, I came to Egypt, came to a megaware party and sat at a table with Italians. The people were immeasurable and at a table for 6 people sat 11-12. After I informed the company that I was Russian from Moscow, the Italians talked to each other and quickly left the table. As a result, until the end of the party, my friend and I sat comfortably together at a 6-seater table, although everyone else was sitting on top of each other ... Of course, we can say that it’s bad when everyone is afraid of you, but for some reason it was nice ... and comfortable ...
  2. Nagaibak
    Nagaibak 30 November 2012 11: 21
    Many thanks to the author for the great work done in covering the events of the Patriotic War of 1812.
  3. nitrid
    nitrid 30 November 2012 13: 21
    A little more such a patriotic note in the press - we will be proud of our ancestors.
  4. datur
    datur 30 November 2012 18: 55
    Quote: nitrid

    More such patriotic notes in the press - we will be proud of our ancestors. - and rightly so !!! for the Westerners are still being taught the agllic version !!! feel
  5. Napoleon I
    Napoleon I 15 December 2012 21: 40
    The article is wonderful. Just tell me where you get the material from. Bogdanovich? Baturlin? Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky?