Faber du Faur painted the scene on the bank of the Berezina where the army waited to cross.
Camp at Studianka, 26 November
“We left our camp at Nimanitschi before dawn on the 26th and marched for Borisov with the rest of the army; Borisov had fallen to Chichagov on the 23rd but had been recaptured by the Duke of Reggio [Nicolas Oudinot] on the 24th. Night had falled by the time we reached the town. We then followed the river for two leagues, the glow of the Russian campfires on the right bank helping us in our progress. When day broke our march was masked by a forest of pines. Firing could be heard but it seemed distant and muffled; however, it grew louder that afternoon. It was Oudinot, who, with II Corps, had crossed the river and was pushing Chichagov back towards Borisov.”
“We reached Studianka, which lies at the foot of some heights, that evening. The heights had guns positioned on them to defend the bridges that had been thrown across the river by General Eblé on the morning of the 26th. The bridge on the right was designed for infantry and cavalry whilst that a little further downstream was intended for artillery and all kinds of other vehicles.”
“The river itself is quite wide, with marshy banks, and is about six feet deep. There were ramps serving as approaches to the bridges, but these were partially flooded as the water level had risen recently. Wood from the village had been used to build the bridges, and what remained had largely been consumed in the campfires. What little was left served as our shelter that night whilst we waited to cross the river. The place was so crowded that we thought ourselves lucky to find shelter from the glacial winds against the walls of a hut and next to the headquarters of the French gendarmes.”
With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Major Faber du Faur, 1812, edited by Jonathan North