The Conflagration Was Master Of The Battlefield

Faber du Faur was greatly impressed with the images of Smolensk.  His next painting shows the scene at 10 pm on the night of the 18th,  “The rumble of cannon fire gradually died away and firing had virtually ceased.  The conflagration had come between the two opposing armies and had made itself the master of the battlefield.  A cannon fired the final shot of 18 August and the fighting was over.  A profound silence descended – a silence broken by the roar of flames devouring houses.  Our troops had gathered and were resting after the

By the Walls of Smolensk,
18 August, at 10.00 in the Evening
by Faber du Faur

day’s ordeals.  Even so, our hearts cried out for a good number of troops who had quitted the campfires that morning never to return.  Many fell by the river, having fallen in the assault of the bridgehead or in the street fighting.  Those that died quickly probably died well.  If, wounded, they lay in the streets at the mercy of a roaring inferno, they would surely be consumed by that merciless fire.”

“At 10 o’clock we were gathered in that part of the town untouched by the fire, the reflection of which was dancing on the surface of the river and off the surface of the Tartar walls and towers.  The whole area was lit up, but the scene was of but short duration.  Even before midnight the fire abated and the most beautiful, the richest part of Smolensk, which had been such an imposing sight that morning, now lay as smouldering, flaming cinders amongst smoking rubble.”

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

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