Tag Archives: Alexey Temnikov

“We Still Possessed Two Things – Courage and Honour”

On the morning of the 15th, Napoleon’s advance guard continued its march to Krasnoe.  Ségur describes how the column came across the Russian army which had passed the Grande Armée and was waiting across the road:  “… advancing without precaution, preceded by a crowd of marauders, all eager to reach Krasnoe, when at about five miles from that town a row of Cossacks, extending from the heights on the left and across the highroad, suddenly appeared before them.  Our soldiers halted, astounded.  They had not expected anything of the kind…”

Adrian Bourgogne of the Imperial Guard picks up the narrative:  “… the front of the Imperial columns was stopped by 25,000 Russians occupying the road.  Stragglers at the front caught sight of them first, and immediately turned back to join the first regiments advancing; the greater part of them, however, united and faced the enemy.  A few men, too careless or too wretched to care what they did, fell into the enemy’s hands.”

“The Grenadiers and Chasseurs, formed into close columns, advanced against the mass of Russians, who, not daring to wait for them, retired and left the passage free; they took up a position on the hills to the left of the road, and turned their artillery on us.  When we heard the cannon, we doubled our pace, as we were behind, and arrived just as our gunners were answering them.  The Russians disappeared behind the hills as our fire began, and we continued our way.”

Battle of Krasnoi
by Piter von Hess

“In two hours after the encounter with the Russians, the Emperor reached Krasnoe with the first regiments of the Guard — ours and the Fusiliers-Chasseurs.  We camped behind the town.  I was on guard with fifteen men at General Roguet’s quarters: a miserable house in the town, thatched with straw.  I put my men in a stable, thinking myself in luck to be under cover, and near a fire we had just lighted, but it turned out quite otherwise.”

“While we were in Krasnoe and the immediate neighborhood, the Russians, 90,000 strong, surrounded us – to right, to left, in front, and behind, nothing but Russians — thinking, no doubt, they could soon finish us off.  But the Emperor wished to show them it was not quite so easy a thing as they imagined; for although we were most wretched, and dying of cold and hunger, we still possessed two things – courage and honour.”

Old Guard Does Not Give Up
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

“On the evening of our arrival, General Roguet received orders to attack during the night…  at two o’clock [a.m.] we began to move forward.  We formed into three columns…  The cold was as intense as ever.  We had the greatest difficulty in walking across the fields, as the snow was up to our knees.  After half an hour of this, we found ourselves in the midst of the Russians.  On our right was a long line of infantry, opening a murderous fire on us, their heavy cavalry on our left… They howled like wolves to excite each other, but did not dare to attack.  The artillery was in the centre, pouring grape-shot on us.  All this did not stop our career in the least.  In spite of the firing, and the number of our men who fell, we charged on into their camp, where we made frightful havoc with our bayonets.”

Tomorrow, the battle continues.

Source:
Sergeant Bourgogne: With Napoleon’s Imperial Guard in the Russian Campaign and on the Retreat from Moscow 1812-13, Adrien Bourgogne, pp 102 – 105

Commemorative 1912 Russian Candy Box Card image and translation provided by Alexey Temnikov

“Courage – The Only Good Thing We Had Left”

Ségur continues his account of the Army of Italy after it crossed the Vop river, leaving stragglers, baggage and artillery on the far side of the river to be swarmed by the Cossacks: “The Army of Italy, divested of everything, dripping with the waters of the Vop, without food or shelter, spent the night in the snow near a village in which the generals tried in vain to find lodgings for themselves.  The soldiers attacked the frame houses, falling in desperate swarms on every dwelling, taking advantage of the darkness that prevented them from recognizing their own officers or being recognized by them.  They tore off the doors and windows, even the woodwork of the roof, caring little whether they forced others, regardless of their rank, to bivouac like themselves.”

“Their generals tried in vain to drive them off.  The soldiers, even those of the royal and imperial Guards, bore their blows without complaining, without offering any opposition, but without desisting.  Throughout the army similar scenes were repeated every evening.”

“They spent that night drying themselves around the fires they had lit, listening to the cries, curses, and moans of those who were still crossing the torrent, or who rolled from the top of the steep bank to their death in the ice-filled waters.”

Platov Cossacks
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

“It is a fact that reflects disgrace on the enemy, that in the midst of this chaos, within sight of so rich a prize, a few hundred men left a mile or so from the Viceroy, on the other side of the river, held both the courage and the cupidity of Platov’s Cossacks in check for twenty-four hours.  It is possible that the Hetman believed he had made sure of the destruction of the Viceroy on the following day.  Indeed, all his plans were so well laid that at the instant when the army of Italy, at the end of a troubled and disorganized day’s march, caught sight of Dukhovshchina, one of the few towns as yet uninjured [this town was not in the line of march on the advance to Moscow], and were joyfully hurrying forward to seek shelter in it, they saw swarming out of it several thousand Cossacks… At the same time, [Matvei Ivanovich] Platov with the rest of his hordes galloped up and attacked their rear and both flanks.”

“According to several eyewitnesses, the most terrible confusion ensued.  The disbanded men, women, and attendants rushed wildly on one another, stampeding through the ranks  For a moment this unfortunate army was little more than a form–less mob, an ignoble rabble milling blindly round and round.  All seemed lost; but the coolness of the Prince  [Eugéne] and the efforts of his officers saved the day.  The crack troops disengaged themselves from the confusion, ranks were re-established.  The army advanced under the protection of a volley of shots, and the enemy who had everything on their side, except courage — the only good thing we had left — broke ranks and scattered, content with a useless demonstration.”

“We immediately took their place in the town, while they pitched their camps outside and laid their plans for further surprise attacks which were to last up to the very gates of Smolensk; for the disaster at the Vop had made Eugène give up the idea of remaining separated from the Emperor.  The Cossacks, emboldened by success, surrounded the 14th Division.  When the Prince tried to rescue them, the soldiers and officers, benumbed and stiffened by sub-zero cold and a cutting north wind, refused to budge from the warm ashes of their fires.  In vain he pointed out to them their surrounded companions, the approaching enemy and the shells and bullets already falling around them.  They still refused to rise, protesting that they would rather perish there than bear such cruel suffering any longer.  Even the sentinels had abandoned their posts.  Nevertheless, Prince Eugène succeeded in saving his rear guard.”

The remains of the Army of Italy arrived at Smolensk on November 12, 1812.

Sources:
Napoleon’s Russian Campaign, Philippe-Paul de Ségur, pp 179 – 181

Commemorative 1912 card image and translation provided by Alexey Temnikov

Action Outside of Viasma and Panic in the Ranks

In Alan Palmer’s book, Napoleon in Russia, he describes the action that took place three miles to the east of Viasma as the French column headed west.  Since leaving Moscow, Davout’s Ist Corps had served as rearguard.

Platov Cossacks
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

During the day of November 3rd, 1812, Davout’s Corps was harassed by the Russian army and Cossacks.  As they neared Viasma, the Cossacks were able to cut off the column and capture parts of the baggage train which was travelling unguarded between corps as part of the column.

Colonel Lubin Griois is cut off from his guns and finds refuge in a hollow square formed by the Italian 92nd regiment.  The mass of stragglers among the ranks makes maneuvering and issuing orders difficult.  “This mass of isolated men, recognizing neither chiefs nor discipline and only heeding it thirst for pillage, was sorely tried.  At first the cannon shots it had halted, not knowing where to go in the fog that surrounded it.  Swollen by…  vivandières and a multitude of little carts laden with children and foodstuffs, it was throwing itself now to one side, now to the other, according to where the last projectile to strike in its midst had come from.  This flux and reflux of round shot, ploughing furrows in every direction and from which arose screams of despair, presented a horrible spectacle.  For very good reasons the units that were fighting repulsed these fugitives who were trying to take refuge in their midst, so that the poor wretches found themselves exposed to the enemy’s fire and sometimes to our squares’ too.  They floated in disorder over terrain littered with dead, wounded and shattered vehicles.”

In preparation for a general action, Ney’s 3rd Corps came back east to cover the column as it approached Viasma.  Near evening, Davout’s corps spotted some Russians and came under artillery fire.  The corps broke and ran for Viasma while Ney’s corps covered the retreat.  General Robert Wilson, watching from the Russian lines wrote that Ist Corps, “broke and rushed to the points of passage [through IIIrd Corps] in great confusion.  A regiment of Russian grenadiers charged his rearguard into the town, bayoneting all who resisted.”

Throughout the night there were artillery duels which caused the French to take up their arms, but no attacks came.  Viasma caught fire and burned.

Napoleon was 45 miles ahead to the west when he received word of the action.  Ney and his IIIrd Corps was ordered to assume the rearguard position.  Also, the baggage was to travel in the middle of the corps, not between two corps and an escort was to line both sides of the road as it traveled.

Davout’s corps had left Moscow with 30,000 men and was now down to 15,000.

Sources:
Napoleon in Russia, Alan Palmer, pp 212 – 214

1812 The Great Retreat told by survivors, Paul Britten Austin, pp 69 & 71

Commemorative 1912 card images and translations provided by Alexey Temnikov

“Without Aid of Any Kind”

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.

Russian Uhlans on Exploration
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

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.”

After the Battle of Borodino
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

“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.”

Sources:
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

The Army Changes Direction

After Malojaroslavets and Napoleon’s close encounter with the Cossacks,  fearing the army’s path was blocked by the enemy,  the army was ordered to reverse directions, then head north to rejoin the Smolensk-Moscow road.  This meant the army would now be travelling over country devastated earlier in the campaign by the retreating Russians and advancing Grande Armée.

Faber du Faur painted a scene from October 26, 1812 of a Cossack attack.  He begins his description with the night before, “After considerable effort, and constantly being hustled forward by out rearguard, we reached Borovsk on the 25th just as night was falling.  Here we made camp and found that most of the army had done likewise, but the town and a number of villages around were on fire; this, combined with the sea of campfires, transformed a mellow autumnal evening into a scene of awful grandeur.”

Before Borovsk, 26 October
by Faber du Faur

“On the morning of the 26th large bands of Cossacks attacked those villages that lined the Moscow road and killed, wounded or chased out those stragglers who had lodged there.  Next they attempted to attack the army’s camps, but a few discharges of cannon and a charge of Guard cavalry drove them off.  Nevertheless, they were visibly encouraged by our evident disorder, and these horsemen now grew far bolder than they had been at the beginning of the campaign.”

Scouts Plastuns
(Scouts crawling on their bellies)
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

“It was here, at Borovsk, that fortune seemed to turn her back on us.  Here we received news of Malojaroslavets and, shortly afterwards, the order that we should march on Mojaisk, via Vereya, and re-join the Moscow-Smolensk road.  This we began to do on the afternoon of the 26th, even though it took us away from a region untouched by the hand of war and brought us back on to a road which had been transformed into a desert strewn with the dead and the dying even during our first passage.  This was the start of the retreat proper, and the event that signaled the destruction of the entire army.  We were promised comfortable winter quarters in Smolensk, amongst its richly provisioned stores and magazines.  But we were eighteen days’ march away from those stores – eighteen days at the mercy of hunger, the climate and our enemies!”

Sources:
With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Faber du Faur, 1812, Jonathan North

Image and translation of Russian commemorative card provided by Alexey Temnikov

The Kremlin

Faber du Faur captured an image from one of his last days in Moscow as preparations for departure were being made.

In the Kremlin, Moscow
17 October
by Faber du Faur

In the Kremlin, Moscow, 17 October
“Moscow boasts hundreds of churches, resplendent with gold, silver and brightly coloured, shimmering domes, earning for its city, the ancient capital of the Czars, the title of the City of the Golden Cupolas.  It is an astonishing sight, the only one of its kind, perhaps, in the entire world.  The city is a wonder to behold in the sunlight, particularly as you emerge from the forests to the west of Moscow, on the Mojaisk road.”

“In October 1812 the square to the east of the church was covered with hundreds of French and Allied caissons which, owing to the lack of draught horses, had been deposited within the Kremlin’s walls.  The square was so congested that it was in fact rather difficult to find a suitable position from which to draw.”

“The caissons were abandoned when we commenced our retreat and gunpowder from them was later used for blasting mine galleries beneath the Kremlin.”

Horses in the Assumption Cathedral

The cathedral on the right in the above painting with the silver domes is the Cathedral of the Assumption.  Faur included the following description giving the hundreds of years worth of history (even in 1812).  Contrast that with the images on the left.  “The Cathedral of the Assumption was founded in 1325 by Peter, Metropolitan of Kiev,

French in the
Assumption Cathedral
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

and was completed in 1327.  Struck by lightning in 1492, it was rebuilt in 1519 by Grand Duke Ivan Ivanovitch.  The interior was decorated by gold-leaf frescos commissioned by Czar Ivan Feodorovitch in 1692, and Catherine II restored the Church in 1773.”

Sources:
With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Faber du Faur, 1812, Edited by Jonathan North

Commemorative card image and translation provided by Alexey Temnikov

The Story of Pavel Engelhardt

In 1912, a series of cards depicting scenes from the 1812 campaign were placed inside of Russian candy boxes in honor of the 100th anniversary of the invasion.  Alexey Temnikov sent me images of the cards and translated the phrases on them as well.  I will be using the cards in posts where appropriate, but one card raised a question.

Engelhardt’s feat
1912 Commemorative Russian Card

The card showed a civilian, lifting his blindfold before a firing squad.  I assumed it was another scene of shooting incendiaries in Moscow, but there was already a card depicting this.  The translation came back as “feat Engelhardt.”  Alexey wrote that Engelhardt was a landowner near Smolensk.  A search of the internet (the English version) for the story behind this scene came up empty, but did confirm an Engelhardt family around Smolensk.

Alexey was kind enough to send me a link to the Russian version of Wikipedia which has the following account [I’ve made a few changes to smooth out the translation done by my browser from Russian to English]:

Paul Engelhardt was born in 1774 to a family of nobles from Porechsky district of Smolensk province. He studied in the Land Cadet Corps, from which he graduated in 1787 with the rank of lieutenant, after which he served in the Russian Army. [He achieved] the rank of lieutenant colonel, [and] retired.

When in 1812 the French troops captured Smolensk, Engelhardt, together with several other armed peasants and landlords, organized a guerrilla army, which began to attack enemy units. Engelhardt was personally involved in the attacks on the enemy troops [and] in clashes personally killed 24 French. [He was turned over by his serfs to the] French. [On] October 3, 1812 a French military court sentenced [him] to death. The French tried to persuade Engelhardt to cooperate and offered him the rank of colonel in Napoleon’s army, but he refused.

On October 15, 1812 Engelhardt was shot at the gate Molohovskih Smolensk fortress wall (now defunct).  According to eyewitnesses, he stopped the French from reading his sentence before the execution, saying “… So as not to see more of the devastation of my country and the oppression of my countrymen.”  He forbid [the French] from blindfolding him and said, “Get out! No one had seen death, [but] I will see her,” said goodbye to colleagues and ordered [the firing squad] to shoot. Initially, the French shot him in the leg, promising to cancel the execution [and heal him if he agreed to come] over to their side, but he again refused. Then [he was] given a volley of 18 charges, two of which were in the chest and one in the stomach. Engelhardt was [still] alive. One of the French soldiers [then] killed him with a shot to the head. [On] October 24 at the same location was shot another member of the partisan movement – Semyon Ivanovich Shubin.

Commemorative card showing
the Englehardt monument
at the beginning of the 20th century

Engelhardt’s feat was immortalized on a marble slab in the church of the 1st Cadet Corps, where he trained. Russian Emperor Alexander I provide [the] Engelhardt [family an] annual pension. In 1833, Nicholas I gave money for the construction of [a] monument [to] Engelhardt. In 1835, a monument was erected on the site of his death. The monument was destroyed by the Soviet government. Currently, the house number 2 Dzerzhinsky Street, next to the Square of Heroes Memorial, [has] a memorial plaque on the execution Engelhardt.

Thank you to Alexey Temnikov for all of his help in providing the original 1912 candy card image, translation of the phrases on the cards and links to information about Engelhardt.

Note:  Other translations from Russian for the word “feat” are deed, exploit or act of bravery.

Source:
This is the link to the Russian website about Pavel Engelhardt which includes many links.  The site is in Russian, however, my computer gives me an option to translate the site into English.  Google also offers a translator.

By doing a search on Pavel Engelhardt in Russian (Павел Энгельгардт), I was able to get to this website which had information I used to verify/clarify/augment the information from the Russian Wikipedia site referenced above.

Note that I do not read or speak Russian.  All translating is done by either Alexey Temnikov or Google Translate.

Dates in this post are the modern, Gregorian dates. ~ Scott Armstrong