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Battle of Eylau Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of Eylau summary

The Battle of Eylau or Battle of Preussisch-Eylau, 7 and 8 February 1807, was a bloody and inconclusive battle between Napoléon's Grande Armée and a Russian Empire army under Levin August, Count von Bennigsen near the town of Preußisch Eylau in East Prussia

  1. Marshal Soult's IV Corps and Marshal Murat's cavalry were the first French formations to reach the plateau before Eylau at about 14:00 on the 7th. The Russian rearguard under Prince Bagration occupied positions on the plateau about a mile in front of Eylau.
  2. The French promptly assaulted the Russian positions.
  3. The French were repulsed. Bagration's orders were to offer stiff resistance in order to gain time for Bennigsen's heavy artillery to pass through Eylau and to join the Russian Army in its position beyond Eylau.
  4. During the afternoon the French were reinforced by Marshal Augereau's corps and the Imperial Guard, making up about 45,000 soldiers in all. Under pressure of greatly superior forces Bagration conducted an orderly retreat to join the main army.
  5. The retreat was covered by another rearguard detachment in Eylau led by Barclay de Tolly. The rearguard action continued when French forces advanced to assault Barclay's forces in the town of Eylau.
  6. At 22:00 Bennigsen ordered the Russians to retreat a short distance, leaving the town to the French.
  7. During the night Bennigsen withdrew some of his troops from the front line to strengthen his reserve. This action resulted in the shortening of his right wing.
  8. On the morning of the second day the French were active early on probing the Russian position, particularly on the Russian right wing. Bennigsen, fearing that the French would discover that he had shortened his right, opened the battle by ordering his artillery to fire on the French.
  9. The French replied to the Russin fire and the ensuing artillery duel lasted for some time with the French having the best of it because of their more dispersed locations.
  10. Meanwhile, the French had occupied in force some fullering mill buildings within musket shot of the Russian right wing. Russian jagers ejected the French. Both sides escalated the fight, with the Russians assaulting the French left wing on Windmill Knoll to the left of Eylau. By this time Davout's III Corps began to arrive on the Russian left wing.
  11. To forestall the perceived Russian attack on Eylau and to pin the Russian army, so that Davout's flank attack would be more successful, Napoleon launched an attack against the Russian centre and left with Augereau's VII Corps on the left and Saint-Hilaire's Division of Soult's IV Corps on the right.
  12. As soon as the French marched off a blizzard descended, causing all direction to be lost. Augereau's Corps followed the slope of the land and veered off to the left away from Saint-Hilaire. Augereau's advance struck the Russian line at the junction of its right and centre, coming under the fire of the blinded French artillery, and then the point-blank fire of the massive 70-gun Russian centre battery. Meanwhile, Saint-Hilaire's division, advancing alone in the proper direction, was unable to have much effect against the Russian left.
  13. Bennigsen took full advantage, falling on Saint-Hilaire's division with more cavalry, and bringing up his reserve infantry to attack the devastated French centre. Augereau and the three or four thousand survivors fell back on Eylau, where they were attacked by about 5,000 Russian infantry.
  14. Counter attacked by the Guard's bayonette charge and Bruyère's cavalry in their rear, the attacking Russian column was nearly destroyed
  15. With his centre almost broken, Napoléon resorted to ordering a massive charge by Murat's 11,000-strong cavalry reserve — aside from the Guard, the last major unbloodied body of troops remaining to the French.
  16. Murat's squadrons charged through the Russian infantry around Eylau and then divided into two groups. The group on the right, Grouchy's dragoons, charged into the flank of the Russian cavalry attacking St Hilaire's division and scattered them completely.
  17. Murat himself the dragoons wheeled left against the Russian cavalry in the centre and, joined by d'Hautpoult's cuirassier division drove the Russian cavalry back on their infantry.
  18. Fresh Russian cavalry forced Murat and the dragoons to retire, but d'Hautpoult's cuirassiers broke through everything and the broken Russian were cut to pieces by fresh regiments of cuirassiers.
  19. The cuirassiers forced their way through the first and second line of Russians and only after 2,500 yards did the charge finally expend its force in front of the Russian reserves.
  20. Rarely had French cavalry played such a pivotal part in a battle. In part this was because, for the first time, Murat's men were now mounted on the best cavalry horses in Europe, freshly requisitioned in the aftermath of the conquest of Prussia.
  21. Davout's corps, about 15,000 strong, was now in position and began to drive in the Russian left.
  22. Through the afternoon, Soult, Augereau, and Murat managed to hold their ground while Davout, assisted by Saint-Hilaire, gradually bent the Russian left back further and further pushing it back to a right angle with the Russian centre. By 15:30 it seemed that the Russian cohesion would soon break as their left was in full retreat.
  23. The 9,000 man Prussian force, having lost a third of its strength to Ney's pursuit, approached the battlefield via the Russian right and passed completely behind the Russian position to its left wing.
  24. At 16:00 the Prussians under L'Estocq counterattacked by falling on Davout's exposed right flank, and the heartened Russians soon launched a fresh attack against Davout. Over the next three hours Davout was halted and forced back to a line running from the village of Kutschitten to near the village of Anklappen towards Saint Hillaire's right by Eylau.
  25. Delayed by the weather the leading division of Ney's corps did not reach the battlefield until around 19:00 and immediately swept forward into the Russian right and rear.
  26. Bennigsen counterattacked. Bitter fighting continued until 22:00, at which point both sides drew off a little.
  27. After a contentious council of war with several of his generals forcefully arguing for continuing the fight for a third day, at 23:00 Bennigsen decided to withdraw and, covered by the Cossacks, the Russians silently began to leave. The exhausted French did not even notice until 03:00 and were in no condition to pursue.