“The Field of the Great Battle”

By heading back to the Smolensk-Moscow road, the army would have to pass by the field of Borodino where little had been done to bury the dead from the battle in early September.  Jakob Walter gives his account, “Finally we went over the battlefield at Moshaisk in the Holy Valley.  Here one saw again in what numbers the dead lay.  From the battle site on to this place the corpses were dragged from the highways, and entire hollows were filled with them.  Gun barrels lay one on top of another in many piles from fifteen to twenty feet in height and in width where we bivouacked for the night.”

After the Battle of Borodino
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

Philippe-Paul de Ségur records his recollection of passing the field, “Beyond the Kolocha we were plodding along, absorbed in thought, when some of the men, happening to look up, gave a cry of horrified surprise.  We all stared around us, and saw a field, trampled, devastated, with every tree shorn off a few feet above the earth.  In the background stood a number of hummocks with their tops blown off, the highest of which seemed the most misshapen.  The spot had the appearance of a flattened, extinct volcano. Everywhere the earth was littered with battered helmets and breastplates, broken drums, fragments of weapons, shreds of uniforms, and bloodstained flags.  Lying amid this desolation were thirty thousand half-devoured corpses.  The scene was dominated by a number of skeletons lying on the crumbled slope of one of the hills; death seemed to have established its throne up there.  This was the terrible redoubt which had been the victory and the grave of Caulaincourt.  Along our lines ran the sad murmur, ‘The field of the Great Battle!'”

Sources:
The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, Jakob Walter, p. 62

Napoleon’s Russian Campaign, Philippe-Paul de Ségur, p. 159

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