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Battle of Borodino Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of Borodino summary

The French Grande Armée under Emperor Napoleon I attacked the Imperial Russian Army of General Mikhail Kutuzov near the village of Borodino , west of the town of Mozhaysk , and eventually captured the main positions on the battlefield, but failed to destroy the Russian army despite heavy losses. About a third of Napoleon's soldiers were killed or wounded

  1. The struggle opened on September 5, 1812 when King Joachim Murat 's French forces met Konovnitzyn's Russians in a massive cavalry clash, the Russians eventually retreating when their flank was threatened
  2. Fighting resumed the next day, but Konovnitzyn again retreated when Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais ' Fourth Corps arrived, threatening his flank
  3. The Russians withdrew to the Shevardino Redoubt, where a pitched battle ensued
  4. Simultaneously, Prince Josef Poniatowski 's infantry attacked the position from the south
  5. Fighting was heavy and very fierce, as the Russians refused to retreat until Kutuzov personally ordered them to do so. The French captured the redoubt, with the cost of 4,000–5,000 French and 6,000 Russian casualties
  6. Since the left flank of their defensive position had collapsed, Russian forces withdrew to the east, constructing a makeshift position centered around the village of Utitsa. The left flank of the Russian position was therefore ripe for a flanking attack
  7. Despite Marshal Davout's suggestion of a maneuver to outflank the weak Russian left, the Emperor instead ordered Davout's First Corps to move directly forward into the teeth of the defense, while the flanking maneuver was left to the weak Fifth Corps of Prince Poniatowski
  8. Davout sent Compans's Division against the southernmost of the flèches , with Dessaix 's Division echeloned out to the left
  9. Davout, personally led the 57th Line Regiment ( Le Terrible ) forward until he had his horse shot from under him,
  10. Prince Bagration quickly led a counterattack that threw the French out of the positions, only to have Marshal Michel Ney lead a charge by the 24th Regiment that retook the positions
  11. Murat advanced with his cavalry around the flèches to attack Bagration's infantry, but was confronted by Duka's 2nd Cuirassier Division supported by Neverovsky's infantry
  12. Russian reinforcements from the North were sent into the fray only to be torn to pieces by French artillery, leaving Friant 's Division in control of the Russian forward position at 11:30
  13. Dust, smoke, confusion, and exhaustion all combined to keep the French commanders on the field (Davout, Ney, and Murat) from comprehending that all the Russians before them had fallen back, were in confusion, and ripe for the taking
  14. Napoleon, who had been sick with a cold and was too far from the action to really observe what was going on, refused to send his subordinates reinforcements, he was hesitant to release his last reserve, the Imperial Guard, so far from France
  15. Prince Eugène de Beauharnais advanced his corps against Borodino, rushing the village and capturing it from the Russian Guard Jägers
  16. Shortly after clearing Borodino, they faced fresh Russian assault columns and retreated back to the village
  17. The Russians counterattaced again. The sudden appearance of masses of enemy cavalry so close to the supply train and to the Emperor's Headquarters caused panic and consternation and prompted Eugène to immediately cancel his attack and pull back his entire Corps westwards to deal with this alarming situation
  18. General Thielmann led eight Saxon and two Polish cavalry squadrons against the back of the redoubt, while officers and sergeants of his command actually forced their horses through the redoubt's embrasures, sowing confusion and allowing the French cavalry and infantry to take the position
  19. The battle had all but ended, with both sides so exhausted that only the artillery was still at work
  20. The Russian troops successfully moved to the rear without being destroyed (despite suffering heavy losses)
  21. On the French side, the gain of the Raevsky redoubt cost them large casualties and, after that, Napoleon himself ordered his troops to retreat to the starting line.The Russians then reoccupied briefly their previous positions before retreating towards Moscow.