Faber du Faur was an eyewitness and painted a number of scenes from the battle.  Here is his description that accompanies the painting below, “Evening restored a little calm.  The day was coming to an end, and apart from having to fire an occasional shot, we found ourselves rendered mere spectators to the scene which was literally being played out under our feet.  There was continual skirmishing, but it seemed as though the fighting was dying down, particularly as the various fires, which had broken out here and there, had made such progress as to render movement in the streets virtually impossible.  We could not tell whether or not the fire had been started by the Russians themselves, to impede our progress or destroy provisions horded in the town, or had been caused by the fighting.  Or perhaps it was a combination of these two factors?  Whatever the cause, it remains a mystery to this day.”

By the Walls of Smolensk,
18 August, at 5.00 in the Evening
by Faber du Faur

“Meanwhile, as these scenes were being played out on the right bank, the masses of the Grande Armée were gathering on the left bank, forming up on the heights above the town.  To the strains of martial music they began filing down towards the Borysthene, in preparation for the crossing of the river the next day.”

“It was an imposing scene complete with impressive music: the firing of Russian artillery, which, positioned on the heights opposite, sought to bring fire to bear on our massed ranks; the groan of our own artillery firing in reply and attempting to silence the Russian guns.  All this, on a beautiful summer’s evening, in the delightful, rolling countryside around Smolensk, branded our souls with a magic that is impossible to describe and that will live forever in the minds of all who were present at the scene.”

Source: With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Major Faber du Faur, 1812, Edited and Translated by Jonathan North

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