The Wounded of Borodino are Left Behind

As the army passed by the field of the great battle, Surgeon-General Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey observed that the wounded, “… were squatting in a stinking infectious barn, surrounded on all sides by corpses, almost never receiving any rations and obliged to eat cabbage stalks boiled with horseflesh to escape the horrors of famine.  Because of a severe shortage of linen, their wounds had seldom been dressed.  ”

Napoleon ordered that the wounded be loaded onto carts and 200 Württembergers were set to the task.  Surgeon Heinrich von Roos noted, “The order was carried out in the most punctilious fashion, and wall was finished in an hour and a half.  Every carriage, whether it belonged to a marshal or a colonel, every wagon, every cantinière‘s cart or droschka had to take one or two.”

“However good the Emperor’s intentions, it turned out badly for the poor wounded.  They fell into the hands of crude-minded coachmen, insolent valets, brutal sutlers, enriched and arrogant women, brothers-in-arms without pity, and all the riff-raff of the train.  All these people only had one idea: how to get rid of their wounded.”

General Armand de Caulaincourt of Napoleon’s staff wrote, “[I had never seen] a sight so horrible as our army’s march 48 hours after Mojaisk.  Every heart was closed to pity by fear of starvation, of losing the overladen vehicles, of seeing the starving exhausted horses die.  I still shudder when I tell you I’ve seen men deliberately drive their horses at speed over rough ground, so as to get rid of the unfortunates overburdening them.  Though they knew the horses would mutilate them or the wheels crush them, they’d smile triumphantly, even so, when a jolt freed them from one of these poor wretches.  Every man thought of himself and himself alone.”

Major C.F.M. Le Roy is in Mojaisk when he sees the loading of the 200 wagons that have been brought from Moscow for the 2,000 wounded there.  “Having left Moscow already full of refugees, women and children, the vehicles had had to take up the men wounded at Winkovo and Malojaroslavetz.  And now these at Mojaisk!”

The wounded are carried out and “…placed on the top-seats, on the fore-carriages, behind on trunks, on the seats, in the fodder-carts.  They were even put on the hoods of the wagons if there wasn’t any room underneath.  One can imagine the spectacle our convoys presented.  At the smallest jolt the least securely placed fell off.  The drivers took no care.  And the driver who followed after, if not distracted or in a stupor or away from his horses, or even for fear of stopping and losing his place in the queue, would drive on pitilessly over the body of the wretch who’d fallen.”

And finally, Colonel Louis-Francois Lejeune attempts to save some of the wounded [on October 30] by propping up horses that have dropped from hunger and harnessing them to carts filled with the wounded.  “But scarcely had they dragged themselves a few paces than they died.  So our wounded remained there, abandoned.  And as we went off and left them, averting our glances, we had to harden our hearts to their cries.”

Source:
1812: The Great Retreat – told by the Survivors, Paul Britten Austin, pp 42, 46 – 47, 52

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