The Bridge at Borisov

The next obstacle for the Grande Armée was the Berezina river.  Napoleon was counting on being able to cross the river on ice, but a recent thaw had made that

Marshal Nicolas Oudinot
Duke of Reggio

impossible.  Marshal Nicolas Oudinot was charged with the responsibility of capturing and holding the bridge at Borisov.  An advance unit of Poles managed to seize the bridge, but were driven off when the Russians arrived.  On November 23rd, Oudinot arrived with a larger force and charged into the town, routing the Russians, capturing 1,000 men and  300 supply wagons.  However, as they retreated across the bridge, the Russians set it on fire and destroyed it.  Now the two sides faced each other across the river without exchanging shots.

The bridge was gone.  Now the army would have to find another way to cross the river in the face of the enemy.  Oudinot sent reconnaissance parties north and south to find suitable fords where bridges could be constructed.  To keep the Russians guessing as to where the army would cross, Oudinot was ordered to show activity at all crossing points up and down the river.  Now it was a race to build the bridges and cross while facing Russians on both sides of the river.

Napoleon in Russia, Alan Palmer, pp 232 – 233

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