The Eve of Battle on the Russian Side

I’ve been reading Alexander Mikaberidze’s book The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon Against Kutuzov.  He describes the scene that took place in the Russian camp the day before the battle:  “The eve of the battle was a Sunday, and many participants commented on an unusual calmness that descended on their camp that day.  To uplift the morale of his troops, [General Mikhail] Kutuzov  had the icon of the Black Virgin of Smolensk paraded through the ranks of the army.”

Parading of the Icon of Smolensk
on the eve of the Battle of Borodino

“Suddenly, as participants recounted, shouts of ‘[an] eagle is soaring!’ were heard, and thousands of soldiers looked up to see the bird gliding through the sky.  Kutuzov took off his cap as ‘The men around him shouted ‘hurrah’ and the yell was carried by the entire Army.  The eagle was still in the sky and the seventy-year-old commander, taking it as a good omen, stood with his head bared.  It was a remarkable sight!… A hundred thousand Russians were yelling ‘hurrah!'”

Antony Brett-James includes an account from a Russian captain with the grenadiers of the Fanagoria Regiment in his book 1812: Eyewitness Accounts of Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia.   “The soldiers were in fairly good order, and as they had had a rest during the last few days, they now sat, wrapped in their long grey coats, round the fires – and often joined in chorus to sing the … national songs which the Russian people are fond of.  This singing before the battle had a strange effect on me, and I listened to it for several hours until eventually I fell asleep, exhausted… 7 September was just dawning when I was woken by the roar of cannon from our right flank by the village of Borodino, and the battle began.”

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