“It’s not for nothing that all of Russia remembers.” Sun of Borodin

“It’s not for nothing that all of Russia remembers.” Sun of Borodin

At the end of the prayer service, already “in the evening,” Kutuzov ordered to station the 3rd Infantry Corps and the Moscow militia on the Old Smolensk Road, near the village of Utitsa, thus extending his left flank. On the outline of the Borodino position, attached to Kutuzov’s report to Emperor Alexander, the location of these troops is shown as secretive, but in reality it was not or did not turn out to be so. General Bennigsen, who stationed troops here, as he himself admits, placed them “in such a way that the enemy could see them and, fearing their attack, would not dare to direct all his forces against Prince Bagration" This order of Bennigsen is interpreted in our historiography as “sad mistake", which allegedly arose "by misunderstanding"or due to the arbitrariness of Bennigsen, who, as D.P. Buturlin writes, allegedly acted "without the knowledge of the commander in chief" and tore off "great idea» Kutuzova. However, this point of view is not consistent with reality.

First of all, as researchers have long noted, it was simply impossible to secretly deploy such a mass of troops in the bushes that covered the area in the area of ​​​​the Old Smolensk road, which together represented Tuchkov’s 3rd Infantry Corps and Markov’s militia corps.

“It was quite difficult to set up an ambush on Staraya Smolyanka behind, that is, to the east of the village (Utitsa - V.Kh.), because there was no forest here, but there were only bushes no higher than 1,5 arshins in height, to the south there was a big forest in the village,”

- writes A. Gerua. Skugarevsky wrote about the same thing:

“It is quite difficult to place an entire corps in ambush: Poniatowski would still soon open it and, shielded by part of his forces, for example, one division, he could send the rest of the troops around the Russian troops defending the Semyonov flushes.”

That the location of Russian troops in the area of ​​​​the Old Smolensk road could not be a secret to the enemy is confirmed by the testimony of Kolachkovsky (5th Poniatowski Corps), who describes Napoleon’s reconnaissance of this part of the position:

“September 6 was used for a detailed reconnaissance of the Russian position. The Emperor, the King of Naples and his entire staff arrived at the bivouac of the Polish corps, which had been set up at the position taken the day before, and, stopping there for a while, surveyed the enemy position. The old Smolensk road through Yelnya to Moscow and the village of Utitsa were visible quite clearly. Having surveyed the area, Napoleon gave Poniatowski instructions, which was to turn again onto the Old Smolensk Road, push the left wing (of the Russian troops - V.Kh.) from a position on the hill behind Utitsa and try to reach his flank and rear.”

Therefore, there is no reason to doubt the reasonableness of Bennigsen’s actions, and even less that they were not sanctioned by Kutuzov. If Bennigsen really could arbitrarily place troops in position, what prevented him from doing this, instead of convincing Kutuzov of it? Bennigsen himself writes about it this way:

“Upon my return (from the Old Smolensk road - V.Kh.) to Prince Kutuzov, I again convinced him to change our battle formation, assuring him, after inspecting the enemy troops, that it would undoubtedly be our left wing that would withstand the attacks of Napoleon with his main forces and that, on the contrary, our right flank will not be attacked at all. Therefore, I proposed to rest our right flank on the village. Gorki, and then transfer all the remaining troops of our right flank to strengthen our left flank. But my ideas remained without consequences.”

In addition to all these considerations, the documents also contain direct indications that the deployment of troops on the Old Smolensk Road took place precisely at the order of Kutuzov. From the report of the Commander of the Moscow military force, Count I. I. Markov, to M. I. Kutuzov dated September 1, 1812:

“I have the honor to inform Your Lordship that the engineer Captain Gozium, who was with me on the quartermaster part of the communications routes, at your command, escorted me with the Moscow military force to the old Smolyanka near the village of Utitsa...”

In order to adequately judge Kutuzov’s orders regarding the militia, one must understand that the militia was not a real army, and therefore could not be used by Kutuzov as such. Even that part of it, which was staged on the Old Smolensk Road, was intended not so much to be as to appear “significant reserve", which was noted by Prince Eugene of Württemberg:

“The very 15000th militia, placed behind General Baggovut, on the heights between Utitsa and Psarev, with its sparkling spears could seem to the enemy to be a significant reserve.”

And what N.A. Okunev, one of the first historiographers of the Patriotic War of 1812, wrote about, characterizing

“The Moscow militia, which could not serve against such experienced troops as the French, except by deceiving the enemy about the size of the army that was under arms.”

This is indeed how it seemed to the Polish corps operating in this section of the position. Kolachkovsky writes that Russian troops stationed on the Old Smolensk road

“twice the strength of the Polish corps. The task entrusted to the latter was difficult in itself, but even having pushed back Tuchkov’s corps, the Poles would have stumbled upon strong reserves ready to repel the attack in such a dangerous direction.”

So all the “secrecy” of the location of the militia corps in the area of ​​​​the Old Smolensk road came down to its remote location (2 versts behind Tuchkov’s corps, according to Buturlin), which hid the real face of this army.

As for Kutuzov’s remark on the outlines of the Borodino position, attached to his report to Emperor Alexander: “Discreetly located", - then, most likely, this remark served as an explanation for that very "arts", which Kutuzov intended "fix the weak point of this position" Simple, clear and without unnecessary words.

Generally speaking, it is always difficult to judge Kutuzov’s intentions. Academician E.V. Tarle wrote that

“a researcher, even one who sincerely loves and reveres this great Russian man, is absolutely obliged to subject every word to the most persistent and attentive criticism, especially every official document emanating from Kutuzov, and first of all is obliged to ask himself in each case: to whom and why is Kutuzov writing.”

For all his outward simplicity and openness, Kutuzov remains, perhaps, the most impenetrable figure in the pantheon of Russian commanders. He can be compared with that skillful commander about whom Sun Tzu writes in his famous “Treatise on the Art of War”:

“He himself must always be calm and thereby impenetrable to others... He must be able to deceive the eyes and ears of his officers and soldiers and not allow them to know anything. He must change his plans and change his plans and not allow others to guess about them.”

* * *
Towards evening, Napoleon dictated battle orders to Berthier, his chief of staff, for the various corps and units of his army, but still hesitated in issuing the address to the troops with whom he usually preceded his battles. Something was unaccountably bothering him. What? – The location of the Russians, who had stretched their right flank to the detriment of their left, made it too attractive to attack their left flank. However, the indifference that Kutuzov showed to the obviousness of such a blow forced Napoleon to suspect some kind of catch here. It was not in his nature to underestimate the enemy, so he again and again checked his orders for battle against the map and the results of reconnaissance and again became convinced that Kutuzov simply did not leave him a better solution: a demonstrative attack on the village. Borodino tie the Russians to the center of their position, forcing them to worry about their retreat route, and in the meantime the main forces of the army, secretly transferred the night before the battle to the right bank of the Kolocha, fall on the Russian left flank, partially bypassing it along the Old Smolensk road, crush it and , leading the wing of the attack towards the Great Smolensk Road, onto the retreat path of the Russian army, to complete its defeat. Success did not seem doubtful to him. Everything had to be done "in order and methodically", in accordance with the movements of the enemy. For now he

“positioned his forces so as not to awaken the enemy’s attention too early.”

Pele says:

“Our forces were presented to this general (Kutuzov - V.Kh.) in two columns directed at the center of his line.”

In an effort to strengthen the false impression of his intentions and, all the more accurately, to achieve the desired success in attacking the Russian left flank, Napoleon ordered that in the evening the batteries installed against the right flank of the Russian position should open fire; "The firing continued for part of the night and resumed at dawn" Additionally, Feng writes:

“So that the enemy would not suspect us of intending to turn the front, the emperor left his standards and personal guards throughout the day on the hills near Borodino, where he spent the night from September 5 to 6.”

Napoleon is there at nightfall"even put up a brightly blazing beacon».
* * *

Barclay writes:

“Prince Kutuzov was asked in the evening, when darkness fell, to carry out a movement with the army so that the right flank would rest on the heights of Gorki, and the left would adjoin the village of Semenovskaya, but so that the entire 2nd Army would take the place in which the 3rd Corps was then located . This movement would not change the order of battle; each general would have his troops gathered with him; our reserves, without starting the case, could have been saved until the end, without being scattered, and perhaps they would have decided the battle; Prince Bagration, without being attacked, would have successfully attacked the enemy’s right flank. To cover our right flank, already protected by its location, the built fortifications, 8 or 10 infantry battalions, the 1st Cavalry Corps and the Cossack regiments of the 1st Army were sufficient. The prince apparently approved of this idea, but it was not put into action.”

This proposal was the same as that made to Kutuzov and Bennigsen. Kutuzov hears this proposal from the first day the army entered the Borodino position and yet does not follow it, as Kutuzov’s critics believe, in vain. But these critics do not notice that the obviousness of the enemy’s attack on our left flank was created by Kutuzov himself; that with such a disposition of the army at the Borodino position, Kutuzov ensured the preservation of the army. What else could be more important for him?! After all, he could not help but understand that one battle, even a successful one, does not decide the fate of the campaign! What "warriors like Napoleon cannot be stopped without terrible loss"! And that, therefore, given the balance of forces that existed at that time, even the success of the battle, achieved at the cost of “terrible loss", could not have any consequences other than a further retreat of the army and a concession to Moscow! All this was quite clear to Kutuzov’s mind, and therefore, unlike other generals who inclined him to change the disposition, and therefore to greater involvement of the army in the battle, Kutuzov was more concerned about preserving the army as the only condition for the continuation of the war and the salvation of the Fatherland. His tactics, of necessity, became defensive. Occupying the majority of his forces on the New Smolensk Road and controlling the Old Smolensk Road, Kutuzov had the opportunity to prevent the enemy from encircling from any side and at the same time was ready to repel an enemy attack in the most obvious direction - on the left flank, turning the troops of the right flank into a source of constant reserve. Thus, he had the opportunity to retain his position, and maintaining the position was a guarantee of preserving the army. This was the only real result of the battle that Kutuzov was striving for, and this result signified the success of the battle in his eyes! The disputes surrounding the winner in the Battle of Borodino are connected precisely with a misunderstanding of the main aspiration of the parties: for Napoleon it was to defeat the Russian army and put an end to the protracted war; for Kutuzov, it is to preserve the army as the only condition for the continuation of the war and the guarantee of saving the Fatherland. From the perspective of this main aspiration of the parties, the result of the Battle of Borodino becomes clear, and, in particular, to whose benefit it tended.

Pele writes:

“Fortune undertook to correct the orders of the Russians; on the morning of the 7th, their left flank, having become almost perpendicular to the director, was less distant from the right flank.”

Fortune had nothing to do with it. This was a simple calculation by Kutuzov, which allowed him, after the Battle of Shevardin, to withdraw the troops of his left flank, bringing it closer to the right, and remain in position. It is precisely this stubborn stay of Kutuzov in position, which so unaccountably worried Napoleon, that betrays the Russian commander’s confidence in his position. Therefore, we have reason to believe that the Battle of Borodino took place according to the scenario unobtrusively proposed by Kutuzov. Pele indirectly confirms this when he writes:

“The disposition of the Russians determined the disposition of Napoleon.”

In the evening of that day, the chief of artillery of the 1st Army, Mr. A.I. Kutaisov issued his famous order:

“Confirm from me in all companies that they do not move from their positions until the enemy sits astride the guns. To tell the commanders and all the gentlemen officers that by courageously holding on to the closest shot of grapeshot, we can only ensure that the enemy does not give up a single step of our position. Artillery must sacrifice itself; let them take you with the guns, but fire the last shot of grapeshot at point-blank range, and the battery, which will be captured in this way, will cause harm to the enemy, which will completely atone for the loss of the guns.”

This order went against the prevailing practice of rewards at that time, according to which the loss of guns in battle was equivalent to defeat. Emperor Alexander even considered it necessary to emphasize in his rescript to Kutuzov, so that

“those commanders of artillery companies whose guns are lost in battle should not be nominated for any awards.”

However, Kutaisov’s order makes us feel the determination that, on the eve of the Battle of Borodino, covered the entire Russian army, from soldier to general.

On this day "from all the surrounding villages they brought many carts to Mozhaisk to transport the wounded", of which many were expected in the battle. This was the result of Kutuzov’s order issued the day before to prepare 1000 carts at each station from Mozhaisk to Moscow. It was also appointed to have at each station

“two doctors and two paramedics with medicines and bandages. Their duty is to remain in those places as long as circumstances require it, and to provide the necessary assistance to arriving transports with the sick and wounded. In the city of Mozhaisk there is the first station where the sick and wounded should gather and from where they will be sent by transport of no less than 100 and no more than 300 people to the next station, which is called Shelkovnaya, a distance of 22 versts from the city; from this station it will go 22 versts to the village of Kubinskoye, from which 27 versts to the village of Perkhushkina, and finally 28 versts to Moscow.”

They say that Kutuzov stayed in a hut for the night, “located now behind the main redoubt" The Cossack detachment of Ataman Platov was sent the night before the battle "15 versts"from the right flank of the position"to observe the enemy movement, so that he could not go beyond our flank».

* * *
This long day was ending. The final preparations for the battle were being completed in the Russian camp. The warriors finished the embankments on the batteries, transported the artillery to their places, prepared charges and cartridges. The soldiers cleaned their guns, sharpened their bayonets, and whitened their belts. The officers put on clean underwear in the evening; soldiers each wore a white shirt, saved “in case of emergency.” In the French camp they also cleaned clothes and weapon; the order was given "put on your dress uniform tomorrow"(Logier). In the evening the wind began to blow, the sky became overcast, and a cold, foggy night set in. Countless fires lit up at the locations of both opponents. They were burning all around"versts for twenty spaces", casting a crimson glow onto the dark sky.

"The flame in the sky foreshadows the shedding of blood on earth"

- the Russian soldiers said.

The mood of both armies was striking!

“Our soldiers, calm in their conscience, confident in the help of God, the defender of the right, some - after yesterday’s hot battle, others - from the day’s labors, rested calmly with the dying lights,” writes F. N. Glinka. “The deep silence of the night along the entire line was not interrupted by anything except the lingering call of the sentries and the dull knock of those working on the batteries. On the contrary, double fires burned brightly in the enemy’s camp; music, singing, trumpets and shouts filled the surrounding area with feedback. Through the whole night they continued to move.”

This picture of the striking difference between both camps on the night before the Battle of Borodino is given in many Russian testimonies:

“The enemy, excited by the proclamations of their leader, laid out large fires, reveled in whatever they could and seethed with rage against us; ours, on the contrary, also embittered at the French and ready to punish them for the invasion of our Fatherland and the devastation they caused, refrained, however, from excess in food and drink, of which we had a lot near Moscow, and prayed to God to strengthen them courage and strength and blessings in the desperate battle ahead,”

- writes N. N. Muravyov.

“I heard the quartermasters loudly calling for a portion: “The vodka has been brought; who wants it, guys! Go to the glass! Nobody moved. A deep sigh escaped in places and the words were heard: “Thank you for the honor! We weren’t prepared for this: it’s not the kind of day tomorrow!” And with this, many old people, illuminated by the dying lights, made the sign of the cross and said: “Mother Most Holy Theotokos! Help us stand up for our land!”

- writes F.N. Glinka.

However, French authors also gave free rein to their “fertile imagination” - they depict Russian soldiers drinking on the eve of battle:

“Kutuzov had no shortage of liquor, which greatly inspired Cossack enthusiasm” (Rapp).

“Prayers (among Russians – V.Kh.) were interspersed with drinking alcoholic beverages” (Lashuk).

And the correspondent of General Puybusc even counted that in the Russian army “Each soldier had two bottles of wine" All this is a deliberate lie, but it, again, gives an idea of ​​the degree of reliability of the French evidence about the Battle of Borodino.

As for the “noisy joy” of the French camp, it was inspired by Napoleon: behind this noise curtain, the redeployment of French troops took place and batteries were erected for tomorrow’s attack. One of them was seen by Second Lieutenant N.I. Andreev, whose regiment (50th Jaeger) guarded the forest at the tip of the left flank of the 2nd Army:

“From the 25th to the 26th on the night, close to us, the enemy sang songs, beat drums, music thundered, and at dawn we saw that the forest had been cut down and a huge battery appeared opposite us, where the forest was.”

The official “Description of the Battle of Borodino” gives a description of what happened then in the French camp:

“The enemy army, which outnumbered our army, on the night from the 25th to the 26th, united to the right of the redoubt (Shevardinsky - V.Kh.) the 4th, 5th and 2nd divisions of the 1st corps , and on the left bank of the Kolochi River the 1st and 3rd divisions of the same corps, at the same time the 3rd and 8th corps and the entire guard crossed over bridges built near the village of Fomkin to the right bank of the Kolocha River and took up a position... »

At 2 a.m. Napoleon composed an appeal to the troops:

“Warriors! This is the battle you've been wanting. Victory is in your hands: we need it. She will bring us abundance, good winter apartments and a speedy return to our fatherland! Act as you acted at Austerlitz, Friedland, Vitebsk and Smolensk, and later posterity will remember with pride your exploits on this day and will say about you: and he was in the great battle under the walls of Moscow!
September 7 at 2 am

In French historiography, it is widely believed that Napoleon was ill on the eve of the Battle of Borodino, and this allegedly influenced the indecisive outcome of the battle. However, Napoleon's valet Constant writes the opposite:

“He was not as ill as M. de Segur claims.”

And the testimony of Adjutant General Rapp, who was on duty in Napoleon’s tent the night before the Battle of Borodino, fully confirms this:

“Night has come. I was on duty and slept in Napoleon's tent. The compartment where he slept was usually separated by a linen partition from the other where the adjutant on duty slept. The Emperor slept very little. I woke him up several times to give him reports from the outposts, which all proved that the Russians were expecting an attack. At three o'clock in the morning Napoleon called the valet and ordered him to bring himself some punch; I was honored to drink it with him. He inquired of me whether I had slept well; I replied that the nights had already become fresh and that I was often woken up. He told me: “Today we will have to deal with this notorious Kutuzov. You, of course, remember that it was he who commanded at Braunau. He remained in this place for three weeks, never leaving his room; he did not even mount his horse to inspect the fortifications. General Bennigsen, although also an old man, is much more lively and agile than him. I don’t know why Alexander didn’t send this Hanoverian to replace Barclay.” He drank a glass of punch, read a few reports and continued: “Well, Rapp, do you think things will go well with us today?” – “Without a doubt, Your Majesty; we have exhausted all our resources and must win out of necessity.” Napoleon continued his reading and then remarked: “Happiness is a real courtesan; I have often said this, but now I am beginning to experience it myself.” - “How, Your Majesty, remember, you did me the honor of telling me near Smolensk that the work has begun and we must bring it to the end. This is now more true than ever; there is no time to retreat now. In addition, the army knows its position: it knows that it can only find supplies in Moscow, which is only 120 miles away.” - “Poor army! It has shrunk a lot; but only good soldiers remained; besides, my guard remained inviolable.” He sent for Berthier and worked until half past six.”

At 5 o'clock in the morning an officer appeared from Ney and reported that the marshal still saw the Russians in front of him and was only waiting for orders to launch an attack.

“This news,” writes Segur, “seemed to restore strength to the emperor. He gets up, calls his people and leaves the tent, exclaiming: “Finally they are caught! Forward! Let’s go open the gates of Moscow!”

It was already half past five, Rapp writes.

“We mounted the horses. Trumpets were blowing. Drums were heard. As soon as the troops noticed the emperor, unanimous shouts were heard. “This is the enthusiasm of Austerlitz,” said Napoleon. “Order the proclamation to be read.”

Accompanied by his retinue, he reached the Shevardinsky redoubt. Here he was given a chair. He turned him back forward and straddled him, then took the telescope and began to look into it, placing his elbows on the back of the chair. Nothing could be seen through the fog that spread around. He lowered the pipe and sniffed air through his nose. He loved this moment before the start of the battle, when nature seemed to freeze, listening to his will. It was quiet, cold and foggy. Then the sun came out.

“It’s a little cold today,” Napoleon noted, turning to his retinue, “but the beautiful sun is rising. This is the sun of Austerlitz!

Those around him began vying with each other to repeat his words, agreeing with their happy omen.

Yes, it was the sun. But it was the sun of Borodin, and this time it rose on the side of the Russian army.
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  1. +2
    19 September 2023 05: 43
    Hmm !!!
    Count Kutaisov gave his artillerymen the Sacrificial Order.
    And he fulfilled it himself with Honor.
  2. UAT
    19 September 2023 09: 07
    Thank you! Your text conveys the mood in such a way that it gives me goosebumps.