Aftermath in Viazma

Sir Robert Wilson, an English General attached as an observer to the Russians, wrote about what he found after the French had left Viazma.  “The shells that the enemy [the French] had buried in the different houses then burning were continually exploding, and the passage through the streets was very dangerous.  This thoughtless conduct of the enemy was the death-warrant of many an unfortunate wretch.  I had the satisfaction, however, of seeing a very interesting Swiss family saved.  The two daughters were as beautiful young women as I ever saw in my life.  The first day I proceeded forty versts, the next seventeen, the next twenty-five, when we entered Dorogobuzh by force, the enemy having two divisions in the town who attempted some resistance.  The marches were very severe, as the weather was of the most desperate character; but the scene for the whole route represented such a spectacle that every personal consideration was absorbed by the feelings that the sight of so much woe excited.”

“The naked masses of dead and dying men; the mangled carcasses of ten thousand horses, which had, in some cases, been cut for food before life had ceased, the craving of famine at other points forming groups of cannibals; the air enveloped in flame and smoke; the prayers of hundreds of naked wretches, flying from the peasantry whose shouts of vengeance echoed incessantly through the woods; the wrecks of cannon, powder-wagons, military stores of all descriptions, and every ordinary as well as extraordinary ill of war combined with the asperity of the climate, formed such a scene as probably was never witnessed to such an extent in the history of the world.”

1812: Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia, Antony Brett-James, pp 221 – 222

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