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

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