Daily Archives: October 23, 2012

Approaching Malo-Jaroslavets

General Sir Robert Wilson was at Kutuzov’s headquarters on October 23 when messengers began arriving with news that the French had left Moscow.  “It was clear Malo-Yaroslavets was the point on which the enemy was moving; and whilst the corps was getting under arms, advice was received that the enemy from Fominskoye was already on the march in that direction.  Not a moment was lost: by seven o’clock the corps of Dokhturov was straining every nerve to reach Malo-Yaroslavets before the enemy whose lights were frequently visible during the night, as the columns occasionally approached within a mile or two of each other.”

Inscription on the picture – Oh no,
Will They Eat Horse Meat as the Turks?
Inscription on the card –
I Said Will They Eat Horse Meat?
Kutuzov at Fili
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

“Malo-Yaroslavets is built upon the side and summit of a lofty hill, rising immediately above the Luzha, and over which river is a bridge distant about a hundred yards from the ravine.  The ground on both flanks of the town, ascending from the river, is woody and steep, and the ground on the left is intersected with very deep fissures and ravines, so as to be impracticable for artillery movements from the bank of the river.  The whole town is built of wood; near the summit of the hill there is an open space like a grande place; and near the ravine, at the bottom are a church and a couple or more of houses that command the approach.”

Meanwhile, on the French side, Jakob Walter was outside Malo-Yaroslavets on guard duty the night before the battle: “Near Jaroslavetz in the evening the Russian Moldavian army, which had come from Turkey, met us.  In this city I was ordered on guard at the headquarters of the general staff while the army encamped in front of the city.  Here the inhumanity of the commanders began to mount: the remaining troops’ weapons were inspected, and many who did not have their weapons fairly rust-free got 12-20 strokes with a club until they were near desperation.”

Sources:
The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, Jakob Walter, p. 59

1812: Eyewitness Accounts of Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia, Antony Brett-James, p. 213

Exhausted Horses and Muddy Roads

Faber du Faur was travelling near the end of the column and records the difficulties they experienced on October 23, 1812, “Overcoming a number of difficulties, in part caused by our horses dropping from exhaustion and in part from the disorder reigning in the marching columns, we finally pushce dthrough the Desna and Krasnaya-Pakra defiles and, on 24 October, reached Czirikovo.  We then left the old Kaluga road, turning off to the right in order to gain, via Rudnevo, the new road.  As we made this oblique march we found ourselves bogged down in clay soil churned up by the rain, and it was here that we began to lose wagons, horses and caissons.  We had been able to reach Czirikovo without any such loss, but it had only been after a supreme effort and now our horses were exhausted.  From now on we abandoned or destroyed what we could not haul with us.  We even had to leave behind some of the more exhausted horses.

On the Road from Moscow to Kaluga,
Near Bykassovo, 23 October
by Faber du Faur

The rearguard burnt any wagons it came across so that they would not fall into enemy hands.  Sometimes soldiers did not even wait for the rearguard to come up but attempted to destroy vehicles then and there, placing the troops marching past in extreme danger.  Here, for example, as some artillerymen attempt to rid themselves of a caisson, a mounted gendarme rides up and fires his pistol at it in order to set it ablaze.  It explodes, costing the gendarme his life and burning a number of men most horribly.  These would die a miserable death but a few days later as the march continued.”

Source:
With Napoleon’s Army in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Faber du Faur, 1812, Edited by Jonathan North