From the journal of Colonel Montesquiou Duc de Fezensac with Ney’s III Corps, we learn about the army’s arrival at the Smolensk-Moscow road on the 29th.
“The roads were encumbered with carriages of all descriptions, which arrested our progress at every step; then we had to cross the swollen streams, sometimes on a rickety plank, sometimes by wading with the water up to our waist… on the 29th, leaving to our right the ruins of Mojaisk, we reached the great road below that town.”
“The sufferings which we were doomed to undergo … We had now nothing to look forward to before Smolensko, which was 80 leagues distant. Until our arrival there, we should seek in vain for either flour, meat, or forage for our horses. We were reduced to those provisions we had brought from Moscow, and these, trifling as they were, like all plunder, were most unequally distributed…Some companies had abundance, while others were starving… Moreover, to preserve our provisions, the horses that drew them must also be preserved, but these perished in numbers every day also from the want of food.
The soldiers who strayed from their ranks to seek wherewith to relieve their hunger, fell into the hands of the Cossacks and armed peasants… From the very first day, our retreat had the semblance of a rout… A column of Russian prisoners marched immediately in our front, escorted by troops of the confederation of the Rhine. They barely received a little horse-flesh for food, and their guards massacred those who could no longer march. We came across some of their corpses, which, without exception, had their skulls knocked in. I must do the soldiers of my regiment the justice to record their indignation on beholding these evidences of so dark a deed; moreover they were not insensible to the cruel reprisals which this conduct exposed them to, should they chance to fall into the hands of the enemy.”
“As we passed through the village of Borodino, several officers revisited the field of the Moscowa [Borodino]. They found the ground still covered with the vestiges of the battle. The dead of the two armies still lay on the spot where they had received their death wound. It has been even said that some wounded were discovered who were still breathing. I can scarcely credit this, and no proof of it has ever been furnished.”
“On the evening of the 29th October, we arrived at the Abbey Kolastskoé. It had been converted into a hospital, and was now one vast burying-ground. A single building… had also served as a hospital for our sick. Commanding officers received orders to identify here the men belonging to their respective regiments. We found that the sick had been left without medicine, without provisions, without aid of any kind. I could scarcely penetrate into the interior from the filth which obstructed the staircase, passages, and even the rooms themselves. I came across three men of my regiment, whom I had the gratification of saving.”
A Journal of the Russian Campaign of 1812, Raymond Eymery P.J. Montesquiou-Fezensac, translated by W. Knollys, published in 1852, pp. 75 – 77
Commemorative 1912 card images and translations provided by Alexey Temnikov