“It’s not for nothing that all of Russia remembers.” August 25, 1812

“It’s not for nothing that all of Russia remembers.” August 25, 1812

It was a Sunday day, cold, damp, and the fires were lit somewhat sluggishly.

At 6 o'clock in the morning the firefight resumed and continued throughout the day, but according to many observers it was insignificant.

“We exchanged fire from time to time in the chain on our left flank, but even there the rifle fire was very weak,”

- writes N. N. Muravyov, quartermaster officer of the 1st Army.

To the participants in this skirmish on the left flank, it seemed far from so harmless.

“The entire army was quiet on the 25th, except for us. No one noticed the shooters on the left flank, and in our brigade there were hardly 30 people left in the company,”

- complains second lieutenant of the 50th Jaeger Regiment N.I. Andreev.

In some places in the distance and ahead we could hear cannon fire - these were grape shots that scared away Napoleon and his spies who were trying to observe our position from a closer distance. In general, both in the reports of the Russian command and in memoirs this day is noted as calm. Both armies, Russian and French, devoted it to preparations for battle.

“Thank God, I am healthy, my friend,” Kutuzov wrote to his wife that day. “We’ve been standing in sight with Napoleon for three days now, so much so that we saw him himself in a gray frock coat.” It is impossible to recognize him as he is careful, now he is buried up to his ears. Yesterday it was hellish on my left flank; We drove away several times and held the place, it ended already in the dark night. Our people did miracles, especially the cuirassiers, and took five French cannons.
Blessings for the children.
Faithful friend Mikhailo G[olenischev]-Kutuzov.”

In Kutuzov’s words we have an exact reflection of what happened on August 25 at the location of the French army - Napoleon was intensively strengthening his position. Why was this done? After all, none of the fortifications erected by the French during the 25th played or could have played any role in the battle - they stood too far from the battlefield. We find the answer from the French Colonel Pele, who writes that “significant fortifications", built by the French on the heights west of the village. Borodino, were supposed to “[]attract the attention of the enemy and provide a stronghold and communication for the army[/i].” And then he clarifies:

“The fortifications erected against the outbreak of the War were intended to mislead the enemy as to Napoleon’s true intentions.”

That is, these fortifications had a dual purpose, both defensive and, mainly, demonstration, and were supposed to confuse the Russian commander-in-chief, giving him the impression of a threat to the right flank of his position. Ermolov also mentions these fortifications in his “Notes”, without noticing, however, their deceptive purpose:

“The enemy on his left flank arranged the Italian army in a defensive position; trenches and batteries were erected against a fairly open area, convenient for the offensive action of our cavalry in large numbers.”

Other French fortifications had the same dual purpose and were built against the center and left flank of the position of the Russian army; Fyodor Glinka writes about them:

“On the 25th, after a whole day, both sides did not undertake any offensive movement, only a small skirmish for water took place in front of the position.

The strengthening of the line was not interrupted. On our part it was being brought to an end; and the enemy also spent the whole day building huge batteries. From the height of the bell tower, located in the village in front of the center of the position (Church of the Nativity in the village of Borodino. - V.Kh.), one could see through a telescope all the work of the enemy and a great variety of artillery that he had prepared. By evening, about a hundred guns were deployed on one of its main redoubts, opposite the center.”

The French plan of the Borodino field, taken after the battle in September 1812, does not report anything about these batteries. But we can clearly distinguish them on the reconnaissance plan of the fortifications of the Borodino field, taken in 1902 by military topographer F. Bogdanov - the largest of them was located south of the Aleksinka farm, and the slightly smaller one was located west of the village of Shevardino. They are also shown there on Tol’s plan, which is attached to the official description of the Battle of Borodino compiled by him. In addition, on the reconnaissance plan we find two other French fortifications - the Shevardinsky redoubt, which was turned into a French fortification after the retreat of the left flank of the Russian army to the Semenovsky heights, and southwest of it, on the Doroninsky mound, is another redoubt. All together, these fortifications really represented a powerful fortification system, fully justifying the words of Kutuzov addressed to Napoleon:

“It’s impossible to recognize him, no matter how careful he is, now he’s buried up to his ears.”

Behind this curtain of caution, Napoleon prepared his plan for a general battle. The only thing Napoleon was afraid of was scaring the Russian army from its position, so he started a firefight on the morning of the 25th on the left flank of the Russian army, provoking Kutuzov to continue the battle.

“The Emperor hoped,” writes Caulaincourt, “that in this way a battle would begin, which, in his opinion, should give him very advantageous results.”

However, the Russian commander-in-chief did not show any intention to attack, which suited Napoleon even more, as it allowed him to wait for his “artillery reserves and all other slightly lagging units" Everything was fine as long as the Russian army remained in position.

* * *
In the morning, Kutuzov waited for the enemy to attack. The 5th Guards Corps was close to the battle line.

“Although we formed the third line, we knew that we were already under fire,”

- writes warrant officer of the guards artillery A.S. Norov.

There was no attack; the matter was limited to a firefight on our left flank, and Kutuzov undertook a detour around the position. The details of this reconnaissance are unknown to us, but the episode that took place on the Central Mound is described in some detail, “on which the extremity of the right flank of the 2nd Army occupied a newly begun fortification, armed with 12 batteries and 6 light guns" Bennigsen, as Ermolov writes, stopped Kutuzov here, drawing his attention to the need to hold this place as “key of the entire position"whose loss"may cause disastrous consequences" He proposed strengthening the Central Mound with a redoubt for 36 guns, placing 3 or more sets of charges there. Toll energetically objected to this, arguing that it would be more reasonable to build a lunette here for 18 battery guns, and Kutuzov, after some deliberation, resolved this dispute in favor of building a lunette. The difference that determined the meaning of this decision was that the redoubt provided the possibility of all-round defense, while the lunette, designed to repel frontal attacks, definitely provided for the possibility of retreat.

Another order of Kutuzov was a change in the deployment of the 6th and 7th corps, which, according to the testimony of the quartermaster of the 6th Infantry Corps, Lieutenant I.P. Liprandi,

“The plan was for the 6th Corps, leaving its right flank at Gorki, to move its left forward and adjoin the mentioned height (Central Kurgan - V.Kh.), and the 7th Corps, leaving its left flank at Semenovsky, to the right would have adjoined the same height, which was therefore included in the first line of position, thus forming an outgoing angle between the aforementioned two buildings. This movement was ordered to be carried out some time before dawn the next day, August 26.”

In front of the right flank of the 6th Corps, adjacent to the Great Smolensk Road, Kutuzov ordered to extend a line of trenches, which created an additional obstacle to the enemy’s advance in this section of the position. Pele remarks about this:

“Natural and artificial obstacles made the Gorkinsky close passage (defile) impregnable from the front.”

Liprandi writes that the construction of a lunette on the Central Mound

“They could have started around 5 o’clock in the evening, and by the time the action opened at 6 o’clock in the morning on August 26, it was still far from finished.”

It can be noted that the quality of all the fortifications of the center and left flank of the Russian position is assessed as low by the participants in the Battle of Borodino, both from the Russian and French sides. The defender of flashes, non-commissioned officer Tikhonov, says:

“I saw Bagration’s trenches myself. So, it’s a shame to call it rubbish and shanty. In Tarutino they said that the Shevardinsky redoubt and the Raevsky trenches were the same: a shallow ditch, knee deep, embrasures to the ground, and you can climb through them deftly, and every soldier can be seen.”

Ermolov writes about the same thing:

“The weakness of the left wing in comparison with other parts of the position was noticeable, but the fortifications on it were insignificant and due to the short time it was impossible to make them better.”

Bennigsen sees only “several thin field fortifications, erected hastily" How "hastily sketched","hastily built“Eugene of Württemberg and Clausewitz characterize our fortifications of the left flank. The latter adds:

“Dug in sandy soil, they were open at the back, did not have any artificial obstacles, and therefore could only be considered as separate points of somewhat increased defensive capability. None of these fortifications could withstand a serious assault, and therefore most of them changed hands two or even three times.”

The 18th bulletin of Napoleon gives the same assessment of our fortifications:

“It was easy to notice that the redoubts were outlined in general terms, the ditch was shallow, without a palisade, without a fence of stakes.”

Memoirists of Napoleonic army are even more categorical:

“To strengthen the position, the Russians built several not fully completed redoubts and flushes (one redoubt behind the village of Borodino, and another somewhat to the left of it), which, however, did not allow mutual support by fire, because they were built too far from each other , writes Westphalian staff officer von Lossberg. “All these obstacles, however, were not strong enough to delay Napoleon and his army, accustomed to victory.”

Pele writes in the same spirit:

“The Russian fortifications were very poorly located. Their only merit was the blind courage of those who were supposed to protect them.”

But precisely this “quickly”, given that the Russian army stood at Borodino from August 22 to 25, may indicate Kutuzov’s initial lack of intention to fight at Borodino. Please note: the left flank of our position began to strengthen only on the evening of August 23 and was already attacked in the afternoon of the 24th, and the “key of the entire position,” the Central Kurgan, was literally on the eve of the battle, on the evening of August 25. According to the norms that existed in the military engineering art of that time,

"it was recommended to build field fortifications with a parapet height of approximately 4,5 to 7,5 feet (1,35-2,25 m) and a thickness of 4-9 feet (1,2-2,7 m) with an outer ditch, and sometimes and with an internal moat. With the total length of the front of such a separate fortification being approximately 300 m, 800 infantry men (under the guidance of sapper instructors) were assigned to its construction. This fortification was completely erected by them in 3 working days.”

It is clear from this that there was enough time to build full-fledged fortifications only on the right flank of the Russian position. This difference in the quality of the fortifications of the Borodino field was also established by specialists who subsequently examined them:

“The construction of the [Maslovsky] fortifications is thorough, much better and stronger than in the Shevardinsky redoubt and Semenovsky flushes.”

It is noteworthy that the same 3-day period was established for the restoration of Bagration’s flushes in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the battle:

“The sappers will be busy working on the flushes for no more than three days, and then they will go back to Moscow.”

The “precocity” of our fortifications can also be explained by the lack of entrenching tools in the armies, as Ermolov writes:

“In the engineering parks of the united armies there were not enough entrenching tools, and all fortifications were generally carried out in insignificant ways by private commanders appointed for their defense. The Minister of War demanded an entrenching tool from Moscow, but it was delivered on the very day of the battle.”

* * *

Having completed his survey of the Russian position by noon, Napoleon returned to his tent. Here a pleasant surprise awaited him - a portrait of his son, the King of Rome, which was delivered to him by the prefect of the palace, de Bosset, who had arrived from Paris. The painting, by Gerard, depicted an adorable baby playing in a bilbok; Moreover, the scepter served as his wand, and the globe as his ball. A wonderful allegory, which seemed especially successful here on the battlefield. Napoleon's valet Constant writes:

“He held the portrait on his knees for a long time, contemplating it with admiration, and said that this was the most pleasant surprise he had ever received, and several times barely audibly repeated: “My good Louise! What heartfelt attention! There was an expression of happiness on the emperor's face that was difficult to describe. Although his first reaction was calm and even some melancholy. “My dear son,” was all he said. But the pride of his father and the emperor began to speak within him as senior officers and even soldiers of the old guard approached the tent to look at the image of the King of Rome. The portrait was placed on a chair in front of the tent for viewing.”

Together with de Bosset, a courier from Spain also arrived, who brought news of Marmont’s defeat at Arapila. This ominous omen from afar did not seem so alarming to Napoleon now.

“The British are busy there. They cannot leave Spain to fight me in France or Holland. That's what's important to me."

- he said to Caulaincourt. Indeed, much more important was what was happening now here, on a field lost in the vastness of Russia, on which the fate of his campaign was being decided.

"Unfavorable affairs in Spain called for victory in the coming battle"

- Feng, his secretary, echoes Napoleon’s thoughts.

Here Napoleon was informed about "extraordinary movement", which took place in a Russian camp. Thinking that the Russians were retreating again, he hurriedly left the tent and, placing the telescope on the shoulder of the guardsman, began to peer into what was happening on the Russian side. No, they did not retreat - something else was happening there: the entire Russian army stood under arms, and in a prayer procession the clergy, accompanied by several platoons of infantry with shakos in their hands, carried an icon in front of the ranks of troops, before which the troops threw themselves to the ground, making the sign of the cross. Napoleon understood that this was a prayer service.

“Well,” he said to those around him, “they trust in God, and I hope in you!”

He no longer doubted that the Russians would not leave, but would fight.

This prayer service for the Russian army marks the culminating moment of its preparation for battle; he seemed to separate her from the vanity of the present and put her on the threshold of eternity. Liprandi says:

“Upon taking the position on August 22, the camp was a normal occurrence: everyone was taking care of one thing or another; various impressions replaced one another; passions and impulses did not subside; hopes did not stop at anything positive. Some believed that we would wait for the enemy here; others thought we would go even further; even the usual circles for card fights were vague. This continued until noon on August 25; Then everyone realized that he had stood on the spot to meet the enemy. The solemn procession through the entire camp of clergy in full vestments, with lit candles and with banners, with the icon of the Smolensk Mother of God, accompanied like a harrier by a gray-haired field marshal, generals Barclay, Bagration, Bennigsen, Platov, corps and other generals, with naked heads, suddenly changed feelings each and everyone... Yes! At the end of the sacred procession, all dreams, all passions extinguished, everyone felt better; everyone stopped considering themselves earthly, cast aside worldly concerns and became like hermits, ready to fight to the death... Peace of mind settled in everyone. Once they doomed themselves to death, no one thought about the next day.”

And, probably, nothing reveals a greater difference in the spirit and moral state of both armies on the eve of the battle than this prayer service, in which this difference was reflected as in a mirror.

“Having read the words addressed to both armies, both peoples,” Pele writes, “posterity can appreciate their moral qualities and the rightness of each side.”

Well, let's do it.

“Prince Kutuzov did not give any order, which is usually used to precede troops about a battle,” writes Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky. “But the fertile imagination of the French came up with some kind of ridiculous proclamation, as if Kutuzov had announced it during a prayer service.”

And here are examples of this "the fertile imagination of the French":

“On the sixth,” writes the same Pele, “the Russian general (Kutuzov. - V.Kh.) ordered the distribution of excess food and strong drinks to his troops. Surrounded by priests carrying relics presented as miraculous, he solemnly moves through the camps. In the army, in Moscow, the language of the crudest superstition is heard everywhere, as ordered. They use the name of God for evil, linking it with strife caused by people.”

It would hardly be possible to interpret the prayer service of the Russian army more misleadingly, but the French authors seem to be trying to outdo each other in this. Segur, whose pen seems to have received the greatest recognition among the public, writes without hesitation:

“Kutuzov... turned to piety and patriotism, which were the innate properties of this too rude people, who were familiar only with sensations, which made them all the more dangerous as an adversary.”

A devastating philippic addressed to the Russian army follows:

“Russian soldiers obeyed without reasoning, slavery closed them in a tight circle, and all their feelings were reduced to a small number of insignificant needs, aspirations and thoughts; in addition, not being able to compare themselves with other peoples, they were arrogant and gullible due to their ignorance; in their veneration of icons they were idolaters as much as Christians can be, for out of this religion of the spirit, entirely moral and abstract, they made something material, material, in order to subordinate it to their poor and narrow-minded understanding.”

The French, writes Segur,

“they looked for reinforcement within themselves, being confident that the true powers and the heavenly army are hidden in the human heart.”

But feigned superiority alone was apparently not enough to justify the readiness “chosen ones of European education"(Pelé's expression) to fight and die on this then nameless Russian field. And Rapp finds this justification:

“We had no preachers, no prophets, not even food,” he writes, “but we carried a legacy of long glory; we had to decide who should establish laws for the world: either the Tatars or us.”

That's it! They, it turns out, came to the Borodino field to challenge us, the “Tatars”, right “set laws for the world"! Was it possible to find a more ridiculous explanation for the Russian army for its presence at Borodino?! In reality, they simply denied Russia its right to sovereign existence, which explains what the Russian army was actually fighting for on the Borodino field!

“The feeling of love for the Fatherland was developed at that time in all ranks,”

- writes N. N. Muravyov, a participant in the Battle of Borodino.

However, French authors apparently felt the need to strengthen their reputation. Pele, without hesitation, continues to bring new arguments in favor of the superiority and inevitable success of the French army:

“The two first armies in the world were preparing to challenge the scepter of Europe. On the one hand there were twenty years of triumphs, the art and habit of war, excellent organization, brilliant and enlightened courage, confidence based on constant victories, ardor that one death could stop. On the other hand, there is the desire to restore ancient fame and make one forget numerous failures, blind devotion and ineffective courage, passive obedience developed by iron discipline, and finally the determination to die rather than yield. Carried away by the love of glory so far from the fatherland it wishes to glorify, the French army is calm, relying on one man. An army of ancient Scythians defends the land where she was born and their temples - the only hearth that slavery allows her to know. In our ranks, everyone takes part in affairs, reasons, understands, foresees; everyone makes his own plan, according to the happy expression of our brave soldiers. There is no non-commissioned officer who cannot command his company; there is no second lieutenant unable to lead his battalion. In all births weapons There are officers of high merit who are ready to fill any position. In the midst of an opposing army between wild tribes and half-Asian hordes, which are partly part of it, slavishly carry out the orders received: there is little skill among the commanders and little understanding among the soldiers. All ranks are poorly occupied and even more difficult to replace: every death, every wound produces emptiness. Whether any talent comes forward, it is a foreigner and for this reason alone he is suspicious and even disgusted. It should also be said that these officers were distinguished by many Frenchmen who were expelled from their fatherland by the misfortunes of our old times and to whom the Russians owe most of their successes. Thus, you meet the French wherever you are about to acquire some kind of fame.”

Let no one think that all this was written by French authors on the eve of the Battle of Borodino. Not at all! All this was written by them much later - in the 20s and even 30s, when all of them, "heirs of long glory", who speak so arrogantly and contemptuously about the Russian army, have already witnessed how this "army of ancient Scythians","inexperienced and unintelligible", made up of "tribes of wild and semi-Asian hordes“, not only did not allow them to “solve” anything under Borodin, but she herself decided, and finally, the question of the existence of the “great army”, expelling its pitiful remnants from Russia in December 1812, then entered Paris and put an end to Napoleon’s rule! But nothing enlightened"chosen ones of European education"! They remained with their unfortunate and disastrous prejudice in their imaginary superiority!
1 comment
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. +5
    18 September 2023 07: 19
    The author did a good job of conveying the mood, the buzz of strings stretched almost to breaking point before a hitherto unprecedented concert. Thanks to him . About the shortage of entrenching tools - I recognize my native army.... nothing changes...