The withdrawal from Smolensk caused a further deterioration in the relations between the Russian generals and increased anti-Barclay sentiment. According to Sir Robert Wilson:
“The spirit of the Army was affected by a sense of mortification and all ranks loudly and boldly complained; discontent was general and discipline relaxing. The removal [of Barclay de Tolly]… had become a universal demand.”
On the 17th of August, in a letter to Alexander, General Count Shuvalov, one of the Czar’s advisors, presented his master with a stark decision:
“The Army has not the least confidence in the present Commander. … A new commander is necessary, one with authority over both armies and Your Majesty should appoint him immediately; otherwise Russia is lost.”
General Prince Mikhail Golnishchev-Kutusov was recommended as the new
Russian army commander by the committee of senior officers whom Alexander had charged with the task. Alexander was reluctant to appoint Kutusov, whom he had disliked since the disastrous Battle of Austerlitz, but, on 20th August, he signed the decree. Lord George Cathcart noted:
“in appointing Koutousof [sic.], it was considered that his long-standing in the Army, his recent able conduct of the Turkish campaign, and his former military reputation, would place him above rivalry, and that in consequence he might be a kind of head to unite all parties.”
Source: From Mikaberdize, A (2007) The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon versus Kutuzov. Campaign Chronicles (Ed. C Summerville). Pen & Sword Books Limited, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England. pp. 19–21.
Thank you to James Fisher for providing the information for this blog post.