“It’s not for nothing that all of Russia remembers.” Glory of the Battle of Shevardino

“It’s not for nothing that all of Russia remembers.” Glory of the Battle of Shevardino

But why is there a battle for the redoubt at all? After all, let us remember, according to Kutuzov’s intention expressed the day before, during an inspection of the position, this flank, in the event of an enemy attack, was to retreat to the Semenov flushes. Why doesn't this happen? Let's listen to Bennigsen.

“During this case (Shevardinsky - V.Kh.),” he writes, “I went to our left flank to Prince. Bagration. He fully shared my opinion that Napoleon with his main forces would make the main attack on our left flank; he foresaw what would follow if our army remained in the position it occupied, namely, that our left wing would be driven back with losses. I promised him to present to the commander-in-chief all the danger that threatens part of our army. Upon my return, I went to Prince Kutuzov and gave a detailed report of everything I examined and noticed. I repeated to him the proposal made the day before to shorten our battle line, bringing the right flank closer, but no orders about this came.”

Here is another evidence of Kutuzov’s quite conscious calculation when disposing of troops at the Borodino position (in the historiography of the Battle of Borodino, this disposition of Russian troops is still recognized as Kutuzov’s mistake!). This calculation goes against the general opinion of both army commanders-in-chief, Barclay and Bagration, and even with the opinion of his chief of staff, Bennigsen, and yet Kutuzov not only does not follow their persistent proposals to change the disposition of troops at the Borodino position, but, on the contrary, persists in defense of his left flank. Why? After all, he couldn’t help but understand that when attacking our position on the evening of the 24th, Napoleon had no intention of seriously starting things off, but was only trying to deploy his forces? Doesn’t it follow from this that, persistent in holding his left flank, Kutuzov sought to give the Shevardin battle the significance of a general one and with his persistence forced Napoleon to seek advantages in a roundabout maneuver along the Old Smolensk road, in which, as we know, Kutuzov saw the basis for retreating from the Borodino position and would thus have the opportunity to make the smallest sacrifice to save Moscow? But Napoleon would not be Napoleon if he excluded such a possibility; therefore, his attack on the left flank of our position on the 24th was determined only by the measure of forced resistance of the Russian troops, without resorting to a maneuver along the Old Smolensk Road, which could frighten Kutuzov from his position. This situation left a lot of room for the valor of the troops on the battlefield. Both opponents seemed to test each other's strength that day.

Another reason for the stubborn resistance of our troops on the left flank could be the incomplete construction of fortifications on the left flank of our position. According to sources, the Semenov flushes were not completed by the time the French attacked our left flank on August 24 and were already being completed “under heavy enemy fire","under heavy crossfire from enemy batteries" Some researchers argue that the flushes were not completed even by the beginning of the Battle of Borodino.

Kutuzov at this time is in the center of the position, behind the 6th Corps, in strict accordance with the disposition for the general battle - “I will expect constant reports on actions, being behind the 6th Corps“, which once again emphasizes the importance that he attached to the Battle of Shevardino. A very interesting description of Kutuzov during this battle has been preserved, which was left to us by ensign of the 12th light artillery company N. E. Mitarevsky (6th Infantry Corps):

“A field marshal drove up to our corps and sat down on a folding chair with his back to the enemy between the 7th and 24th divisions. Until that time, I had not seen Kutuzov, but here we all saw enough of him, although we did not dare to get too close to him. With his head bowed, he sat in a frock coat without epaulettes, wearing a cap and a Cossack whip over his shoulder. The generals and staff officers from his retinue stood on either side; orderlies, messengers and several dismounted Cossacks positioned themselves behind. Some of his young adjutants and orderlies immediately sat down in a circle, took out cards and played stoss, while we watched and laughed.

The firing intensified incessantly. The field marshal kept sitting in the same position; officers often drove up to him; he seemed to be saying something briefly, was serious, but had a calm face. Some kind of strength seemed to emanate from the elderly leader, inspiring those who looked at him. I believe that this circumstance was partly one of the reasons why our army, smaller in number, having lost confidence in success during a ceaseless retreat, could gloriously withstand the battle with an enemy invincible until that time. What thoughts should have occupied the field marshal?.. To fight near Moscow with a great commander, not knowing the consequences of a decisive battle!.. They say that when the firing intensified, Kutuzov abruptly said: “Don’t get excited, buddy!”

It is noteworthy that Kutuzov sits during the Shevardin battle "back to the enemy“, that is, he turned his face towards his right flank, which obviously bothered him more than the battle taking place on the left flank. And this is understandable - there was nothing unexpected for Kutuzov in the enemy’s attack on our left flank, while Napoleon’s intentions regarding our right flank remained unclear to Kutuzov. And this was another reason for Kutuzov’s stubborn retention of the left flank of his position - thereby he sought to better clarify Napoleon’s intentions.

Let's return to the Shevardinsky redoubt.

“The attackers are reinforced by some grenadier regiments of the 2nd division, which Lieutenant General Gorchakov himself led against the enemy,”

— writes Sievers. These were the Kiev, Siberian and Little Russian Grenadier Regiments. Dushenkevich describes their attack:

“The grenadiers, in front of whose regiments were priests in vestments, with a cross in their hands, walked truly into fear of the enemies - heroically, each had a tear of pure faith sparkling in his eyes, and on his face was the readiness to fight and die. As soon as they reached the battery, a bayonet battle broke out between us all; sometimes we knocked over with bayonets, sometimes the French artillery and cavalry attacked us. This is not a battle, but a real massacre took place here; the hitherto smooth field took on the appearance of a field plowed from the cross ricochet fire; cannonballs, grenades and grapeshots flew into swarms of our columns or pierced the ground in front of us, raising it, covering the front.”

Sievers continues:

“... in this situation I saw a brave enterprise of the enemy, in view of our cavalry, to take our infantry attacking the redoubt in the flank and rear with two strong columns between the redoubt and the village (Shevardino. - V. Kh.) quickly advancing. I rushed to the right flank of the cavalry line, which was under my command. The two arriving cuirassier regiments lined up at the front of the line. Their commander, the brave Colonel Tolbuzin 1st, comes to me. I point out to him the columns of enemy infantry advancing at a close distance, quite for him, in the first line of the Little Russian cuirassier regiment, he and this regiment hit one column, the Glukhovsky regiment hit another column, instantly overturned and pursued behind the enemy battery, which these brave regiments captured and the taken guns are presented to his team. The Kharkov and Chernigov dragoon regiments were ordered from me to reinforce the cuirassier, thereby covering their right flank, which was threatened by two infantry columns on the other side of the village. Two squadrons of the Kharkov Dragoon Regiment under the command of Major Zhbakovsky, two squadrons of the Chernigov Dragoon Regiment under the command of Major Musin-Pushkin struck at these columns and, knocking over, captured two cannons, with which the enemy began to arrange a battery to reinforce his infantry, but did not have time to fire a single shot . The attacking cuirassier and dragoon squadrons, pursuing the enemy, lined up in order; the enemy did not dare to make the slightest attempt on these regiments.”

We even have evidence from the French side of this brilliant attack by our cavalry. Says Vossen, who was part of these two enemy columns advancing between the village of Shevardino and the redoubt (108th and 111th regiments):

“The hill (i.e. Shevardinsky redoubt - V.Kh.) was already half bypassed by us when our voltigeurs stormed it and took away the enemy guns.”

Dushenkevich also confirms the French capture of the redoubt:

“No matter how hard the faithful sons of Russia resisted, the disproportionate advantage of the enemy forces captured our battery with its guns by the evening.”

Vossen continues:

“At this time, the brigade moved forward along the hollow, having this hill on the right side and some burning village (Shevardino - V.Kh.) on the left. When we had almost caught up with the retreating enemy, he suddenly stopped, turned back and opened fire on us in a platoon. The brave battalion commander Richer then galloped to the front of the first battalion and commanded: “Grenadiers! Forward, with hostility! Soon the platoons of the first battalion were so close to the enemy that some of the grenadiers were already using bayonets, when suddenly an enemy cuirassier regiment, which was in a grove in ambush, appeared on our right wing, and our voltigeurs, who were in the skirmishers, were crushed by the enemy cuirassiers. Our colonel commanded: “Regiment, form in a square,” but it was already too late, and when the colonel ordered a retreat, the cuirassiers attacked the front line of the first battalion, fought their way through the hastily built square, and cut down with sabers everyone they could reach. The other battalions began to retreat in great disorder; the survivors could still be saved thanks to one village located on our left side and which caught fire the minute we approached it (village of Shevardino. - V.Kh.). Meanwhile it got dark; the soldiers shouted: “Here on the 111th,” others shouted, “Here on the 108th.” When we gradually gathered in this way, some French infantry regiment standing nearby rushed towards arms, mistakenly believing that we were Russian, and began to shoot at us. Then the brave adjutant Major Wriston received orders to quickly go there with the explanation that the troops standing near the village were French; Wriston, as happy as he was brave, galloped into the rain of bullets and silenced that regiment.

In this ill-fated skirmish, our regiment lost about 300 people killed, including the battalion commander with his adjutant major and 12 subaltern officers. The entire regimental artillery with people and convoys were killed, only a few infantry barely escaped."

We can note the rapidity of the changing situation near the redoubt: Vossen’s regiment had just been able to capture the redoubt, when it again found itself in the hands of Russian troops. And this fact, confirmed from French sources, as well as the time indicated by Vossen - already at dusk and even in darkness, refutes the statement of Napoleon's 18th bulletin that the Shevardinsky redoubt was captured by the French an hour after the start of the attack, Russian troops "put to flight", but "at seven o'clock in the evening the fire stopped" All this is, to put it mildly, an exaggeration, but it allows us to get an idea of ​​the degree of reliability of the French evidence about the Battle of Borodino.

But here’s what else is important to note: the grenadier and cuirassier regiments that entered the battle, according to sources, “at seven o'clock in the evening", belonged to the reserves of the 2nd Army, which, according to the disposition announced by Kutuzov for the general battle, were supposed to

“be preserved as long as possible, for the general who still retains his reserves will not be defeated.”

And, therefore, for some reason Kutuzov considered it very important to hold the position at Shevardin, even if by the end of the day he decided to bring reserves into battle here. Doesn’t it follow from this that he tried to the end to preserve the importance that he attached to the Battle of Shevardino, and continued to test Napoleon’s intentions?

“The night had already come,” writes Sievers, “the infantry action near the redoubt continued somewhat…”

And Dushenkevich confirms:

“...the most terrible battle in this small space continued until late evening with equal tenacity.”

He describes the final part of the battle as follows:

“At about 10 o'clock at night we were ordered to free our flank of a battery captured by the enemy, which was heavily guarded; those who owned it gave us the most severe treatment, but in a few minutes we proved our point - we took the redoubt back with a significant loss of officers and lower ranks on both sides. At the same time, the dying haystacks, lit in the evening during the battle, to our right, helped us notice that a strong enemy column was moving in an indirect direction, probably in order to cut us off and attack in the rear or for some other purpose. Neverovsky, turning his regiments to the right, instantly putting them in order, ordered Simbirsky, opening the shelves, taking the gunpowder away from them, to go again without a shot or noise with bayonets at that column. Our regiment, approaching it with dead silence, suddenly and decisively attacking the flank, inflicted a brutal defeat. The French, leaving their enterprise, rushed back in great disorder, we mixed with them, cut down many, pursued, took one wagon with medical supplies, another with white crackers and two cannons, continuing to destroy further. Tired, having been continuously in the heat of battle since three o'clock in the afternoon, our regiment shouted for cavalry to help; The Order's cuirassier regiment was already racing in our wake; We continued our work, not listening to the noise and rumble of the cuirassier column, until the voice of the authorities rang out: “Guys, place the cavalry, spread out, spread out!” Having let the cavalry pass, we stopped, and that was the end of our actions on August 26th. Our brigade commander, Colonel Knyazhnin; the chief of the regiment Loshkarev and the rest, all the staff officers in our regiment were severely wounded, of the chief officers only 3 remained unharmed, the rest were killed, some were wounded; I am also in this last action, thanking the Almighty! on earth one’s native is honored to shed blood. They took us all, some were carried into the hands of doctors, and at night transports of the wounded were sent to Moscow.”

This night attack of Russian troops at Shevardin is an example of the enthusiasm and unanimity with which the Russian troops fought here. Mr.-L. also writes about her. A.I. Gorchakov, who commanded the troops under Shevardin:

“The battle was the hottest, until darkness all three points (i.e. Shevardino, the redoubt and the forest at the tip of the left flank of the Borodino position - V.Kh.) were held, I remained in the hope and desire that the complete darkness the night would stop it, but between Kurgan and the village I heard the strong clatter of enemy troops, the darkness was so great that from a distance it was impossible to see the number of them, and by the sound it was only possible to recognize that it was cavalry and in a much stronger column. Until now, I had not yet used the cuirassier division in action and kept it out of range, then I sent it the order to quickly attack this enemy column. But despite all the haste, the Cuirassier Division needed a few minutes to reach the enemy, and in those minutes the enemy, moving quickly into the interval between Kurgan and the village, could cut these two points and put us in great difficulty; it was necessary to stop the enemy’s desire before the arrival of the Cuirassier division, and in reserve I had only one battalion of the Odessa Infantry Regiment left, and quite weak, I took advantage of the strong darkness, ordered this battalion to go attack the enemy, but forbade them to shoot, and while walking, beat the drums hard and shout hurray; This desperate action was a complete success, because it stopped the enemy’s movement, at which time the Cuirassier division managed to fly in, went on the attack, overthrew the enemy and took four cannons from him. (The capture of which is not mentioned anywhere, but was counted by them in return for the number of those we lost in the battle of August 26). After this defeat, the enemy fire completely ceased, and we remained in our places until midnight; then I received an order to leave these places and go to the position where they were preparing to host the battle and where it was on August 26.”

The St. George cavalier from the same Neverovsky division as Dushenkevich confirms:

“We fought at Shevardin at night as during the day: the village was burning. They took us back, it was completely night."

And finally, Mr. D. P. Neverovsky, commander of the 27th Infantry Division, writes:

“On August 24, the enemy attacked one of our batteries, which was separated from the position, and I was the first sent to defend the battery. The fire was terrible and cruel; They took the battery from me several times, but I took it back. This battle lasted for 6 hours, in front of the whole army, and at night I was ordered to leave the battery and join the army in position. In this battle I lost almost all my brigade chiefs, headquarters and chief officers; and near Maksimov my horse was killed. On the eve of this battle they gave me 4000 recruits to fill the division; I had 6000 in front, and came out with three. Prince Bagration gave me an order of gratitude and said: “I will take care of you.”

Thus ended this unexpected, both in suddenness and in its stubbornness, Shevardino battle. Kutuzov became convinced that Napoleon was afraid of scaring him away from his position, but the need to strengthen the left flank of the position became obvious to him. Therefore, by nightfall, Kutuzov withdraws the left flank of the position from Shevardin to the Semenovsky fortifications, bringing it closer to the reserves and with a possible route of retreat to the side of the Great Smolensk Road, and transfers the 3rd Infantry Corps of the city. N.A. Tuchkov 1st from the reserve of the 1st Army to the left flank of the position where he was “placed about a mile behind the village of Semenovskaya, serving as a reserve of the 2nd Army", that is, not yet on the Old Smolensk Road. The village of Semenovskaya was ordered to be dismantled, except for two or three houses that did not require significant time for destruction - this was done to prevent a fire that could interfere with the movement of our troops during the battle - and on the site of the dismantled village they set up a 24-gun battery. Even the guns of the artillery reserve were brought close to the battle line, as Lieutenant of the 2nd Light Company of the Guards Artillery I. S. Zhirkevich writes:

“On the 24th... the French made a large survey of our troops and persistently attacked us, so that their cannonballs even fell in our reserve, although without harming us. On the same date we were moved forward, to the line itself, and positioned on the left flank of the army (meaning the left flank of the 1st Army - V.Kh.), where we spent all of August 25.”

Moreover, in anticipation of Napoleon’s main attack on our left flank, Kutuzov at 9½ o’clock in the evening gives General Miloradovich, who commanded the troops of the right flank of the Borodino position, the following order:

“...if the enemy’s main forces move to our left flank, where Prince Bagration’s army is, and attack, then the 2nd and 4th corps will go to the left flank of the army, forming its reserve. The places where the corps will be located will be shown by the chief quartermaster, Lieutenant Colonel Neidgard.”

However, this “if” proves that Kutuzov still had concerns for his right flank. We expected Napoleon to resume the battle the next day. The cavalry's horses remained saddled all night. According to Sievers,

“The grenadier regiments that captured the redoubt left it in the night and were withdrawn, like all the infantry, to a position, and the cavalry, lined up in two lines, remained in place, extended the chain and before dawn, leaving some in place, also retreated to their previous position.”

This is confirmed by the chief of staff of the 2nd Army, Saint-Prix:

“Our outposts spent the entire night within pistol shot distance of the redoubt and only retreated in the morning under the cover of the artillery of the flashes.”

Kutuzov had reason to be pleased with the result of the Battle of Shevardin, about which he wrote to Emperor Alexander:

“On the 24th, with the retreat of the rearguard to the cor-de-battal, the enemy took the direction of important forces on our left flank, under the command of Prince Bagration. Seeing the enemy’s desire to move his main forces towards this point, in order to make it more reliable, I recognized it as necessary to bend it to the previously fortified elevations. From 2 o'clock in the afternoon and even into the night the battle took place very hotly, and your Imperial Majesty's troops on this day showed the firmness that I noticed from the very moment I arrived at the armies. The 2nd Cuirassier Division, having to make the last of its attacks even in the dark, especially distinguished itself, and in general all the troops not only did not yield a single step to the enemy, but hit him everywhere with damage on his part. At the same time, prisoners were taken and 8 guns, of which 3, completely destroyed, were left in place.”

The mention here of prisoners is noteworthy, because it provides an opportunity for comparison. Napoleon's valet Constant says that at the end of the Battle of Shevardin, Caulaincourt came to Napoleon's tent, and he

“with excitement in his voice he asked: “Did you bring prisoners with you?” The general replied that he could not take prisoners, since Russian soldiers preferred to die rather than surrender."

And this absence of prisoners on the French side constitutes another, and very significant, difference in the results of the Shevardin battle for both sides.

The Shevardino battle left an impression in the French army that was far from satisfied, despite all the bravado of French historiography. Here is what one French staff officer writes about this battle:

“The Russians stubbornly defended themselves against our attack. Things were very hot, and the redoubt was changing hands. Rifle and cannon fire continued until late in the evening. The Russian cavalry attack, with the assistance of infantry, harmed us. Their cuirassiers overthrew the first line of our right wing infantry onto the second and created such confusion in it that the King of Naples hastened personally with a detachment of his cavalry to help restore order. Our loss would not have been so sensitive for us, but it gave birth to the idea in the troops that if the enemy defended his individual post so strongly, then what should have been expected from him in a general battle?

Indeed, there was something sinister in this blind and senseless, as it seemed to the French, resistance of the Russians, something denying their eternal invincibility and therefore even more frightening.

In the Russian camp they also analyzed the events of the past day and shared their impressions. Bagration's orderly, Prince N.B. Golitsyn, says:

“After this battle, which Prince Bagration observed from afar, I accompanied him to his apartment in the village of Semenovskaya, where he left me for dinner; there was also the chief of staff of the 2nd Army, Count Saint-Prix. At dinner, the conversation turned to the events of the day, and Prince Bagration, weighing all the successes and failures, proclaimed that the advantage remained on our side and that the honor and glory of the Shevardin battle belonged to Prince Gorchakov ... "

The night turned out to be rather cold, the sky was sometimes covered with clouds, sometimes cleared. Kutuzov and his headquarters were located in the village of Tatarinov, deep in the Borodino position.

“After this bloody evening, the lights of the bivouacs showed us on the opposite side a long line of arriving French hordes,”

- writes A. S. Norov, ensign of the guards artillery of the 2nd light company.
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  1. +5
    17 September 2023 15: 43
    Strange. There are no comments yet. I'll at least add my own.
    Thanks to the author for the work!
    The series of articles about the Patriotic War of 1812 is very interesting. I'm looking forward to the next one!
    1. +6
      17 September 2023 16: 56
      I like it. I'm also looking forward to the continuation.

      A very correct presentation: quotes from the memoirs of witnesses to the battle.
    2. +5
      17 September 2023 18: 51
      Quote: Stas157
      Strange. There are no comments yet.
      Nothing strange: there are no errors (I didn’t see them), what should I write comments about?
    3. +2
      17 September 2023 21: 03
      What's the point of commenting? No one will write better than Bogdanovich anyway. As for quotations, everything has long been published in both collections and separate editions.
  2. UAT
    17 September 2023 21: 02
    Thanks to the author. I think that the incredible desire of the Russian troops for victory and, what is no less complex and very interesting, the subtleties of Kutuzov’s plans are perfectly conveyed.
  3. +1
    19 September 2023 08: 44
    Excellent work and series of articles! More such authors! Topvar should establish an annual award for the best series of articles. Here's the first nominee!