Sergeant Bourgogne’s Eyewitness Account

Adrien Bourgogne, a sergeant with the Imperial Guard, wrote an account of his experiences in the Russian Campaign.  Compared to his memoirs as a whole, the advance into Russia is a very small part of the book.  He does, however, describe in detail an encounter soon after his unit arrived in Vitebsk on July 27, 1812.

“We took up our position on a height above the town.  The enemy occupied hills to right and left.

The cavalry, commanded by Murat, had already made several charges.  Just as we arrived we saw 200 Voltigeurs of the 9th Regiment, who had ventured too far, met by a portion of the Russian cavalry, which had just been repulsed. Unless help arrived speedily to our men, they were lost, as the river and some deep gullies made access to them very difficult  But they were commanded by gallant officers, who swore, as did also the men, to kill themselves rather than not come honoroubly out of it.  Fighting as they went, they reached a piece of favourable ground.  They formed a square, and having been under fire before, their nerves were not shaken by the number of the enemy.  They were quite surrounded, however, by a regiment of lancers and other horse trying in vain to cut through them, and soon they had a rampart of killed and wounded all around them, both of men and horses.  This formed another obstacle for the Russians, who, terrified, fled in disorder, amid cries of joy from the whole army.”

After this engagement, “The Emperor at once sent for the most distinguised, and decorated them with the order of the Legion of Honour.”

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