Major Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur was part of Ney’s IIIrd Corps during the Russian Campaign as a 32-year-old lieutenant. What makes him special, in addition to surviving the campaign, is that he was also an artist who made sketches of what he saw. He later turned those sketches into color paintings and gave us a visual record of the advance and the retreat accompanied by a narrative.
“On 29 June III Corps left Eve and, around noon, marched into Kirgalizky on the Vilia – a river considerably swollen by incessant rain. The bridge had been burnt and we halted on the banks of the river whilst a pontoon bridge was thrown across. On the 30th, early in the afternoon, the bridge was deemed ready and III Corps filed across to the far bank. The rain continued to fall in torrents and, as well as turning our camp into a bog, had soaked the ground, making it almost impossible to march.”
“On the far bank we had to climb some rather steep heights in order to get to Suderva, and it was extremely difficult getting the limbers forward. After a few guns and caissons had struggled to the crest of the heights – but then only by using double teams of horses – those that followed found the ground so churned up that guns and limbers sank up to their axles. It was therefore necessary to find an alternative route but, for the reasons already mentioned, this new route was similarly rendered impassable. Hundreds of horses expired and, half-submerged in the mire, marked the course of III Corps. This particular march cost us so many horses that we had to leave a battery of 12-pounder guns, and the bulk of our reserve, at Vilna for want of draught animals to pull them.”
Source: With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Major Faber du Faur, 1812, Edited and Translated by Jonathan North