Tag Archives: 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.”

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!”

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.”

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.

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

The Peasants Take Revenge

As the Grande Armée sent foraging parties out from Moscow, the villagers were returning to their homes and in no mood to tolerate more abuse at the hands of the marauders.

From a 1912 commemorative
candy box card
The caption reads:
“French Heist in Moscow”

This account is from a woman, Maria Stepanova, the wife of a pope, in Bogorodsic, renamed Noginsk, 27miles/45 kilometers east of Moscow:  “The enemy appeared nearly every day in our village and as soon as they were perceived all men took up arms; our cossacks charged them with their long sabers or shot them with their pistols, and behind the cossacks were running the peasants, some with axes, some with pitchforks.  After every excursion they brought ten or more prisoners which they drowned in the Protka which runs near the village, or they fusilladed them in the prairie.  The unfortunates passed our windows, my mother and I did not know where to hide ourselves in order not to hear their cries and the report of the firearms.  My poor husband, Ivan Demitovitch, became quite pale, the fever took him, his teeth chattered, he was so compassionate!  One day the cossacks brought some prisoners and locked them up in a cart-house built of stone.  They are too few, they said, it is not worth while to take any trouble about them now; with the next lot which we shall take we will shoot or drown them together.  This cart-house had a window with bars.  Peasants came to look at the prisoners and gave them bread and boiled eggs; they did not want to see them starving while awaiting death.  One day when I brought them eatables I saw a the window a young soldier — so young!  His forehead was pressed against the bars, tears in his eyes, and tears running down his cheeks.  I myself began to cry, and even to-day my heart aches when I think of him.  I passed lepecheks through the bars and went away without looking behind me.  At that time came an order from the government that no more prisoners should be killed but sent to Kalouga.  How we were contented!”

These are the instructions a Russian partisan leader, Colonel Denis Davidov, gave to a group of villagers about how to handle bands of French marauders:

“‘Receive them,’ I told them, ‘in a friendly fashion, offer them with bows (since in their ignorance of the Russian language they understand bows better than words) all you have in the way of eatables and especially drink,  put them to bed drunk, and when you perceive that they are really asleep, all of you pounce on their weapons which are usually to be found in a heap in a corner of the cottage or piled in the street.  When you have exterminated them, bury their bodies in the pigsty, in the forest or in some impenetrable place.  Take care at all costs that the spots where the bodies are buried are not given away by freshly dug earth; for this purpose scatter a pile of stones or logs over the spot.  All military booty such as uniforms, helmets, straps, etc., you must either burn or bury in the same places as the bodies of the Frenchmen.  This precaution is necessary because another band of infidels will very likely dig in the fresh earth, thinking to find money or your possessions there; but when instead they unearth the bodies of their comrades and objects belonging to them, they will kill you all and burn down the village.  And you, friend headman, must supervise the carrying-out of all my instructions and give orders for three or four lads to be always ready in your yard, so that the moment they catch sight of a very large number of Frenchmen they can mount their horses and gallop in different directions in search of me — I shall come to to your aid.'”

Thank you to Alexey Temnikov for providing information on the location and name of the village Bogorodsic which has since been renamed Noginsk.  Also for providing the image of the 1912 card and the translation.


Napoleon’s Campaign in Russia Anno 1812, Achilles Rose, 1913, p. 34

1812: Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia; Antony Brett-James, p. 203

Moscow Burns

In Alan Palmer’s book: Napoleon in Russia, he recounts how General Philippe Paul de Ségur entered Moscow to prepare the Kremlin to receive Napoleon.  He tried to sleep in an armchair, but around midnight, got up and looked out a window and saw: “Some distance away, in whatever direction I looked, there were flames leaping up.”

Moscow Burning

Sergeant Bourgogne with the Imperial Guard was with some of the first troops to enter the city.  In order to prevent looting, they were not allowed to leave the Kremlin square when dismissed.  Bourgogne said: “We went to the houses in the square to ask for food and drink, but as we found nobody in them we helped ourselves.”  The same thing was going on all over Moscow.

Shooting Arsonists
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

The commander of the Guard sent Bourgogne and his men off in search of pumps and hoses to fight the flames (they had all been destroyed by the Russians).  Men with torches were passing them by, but they were allowed to pass unchallenged.  His patrol eventually did round up some incendiaries, but Bourgogne himself allowed three to escape.

Russian Incendiaries

One of the escapes happened in this way:  Bourgogne’s men had rounded up 32 prisoners and he was in command of the rear guard.  As they went, he noticed one crying like a child, and saying repeatedly “Mon Dieu! I have lost my wife and son in the fire!”

The man turned out to be from Switzerland and had been working as a French and German tutor in Moscow.  Bourgogne felt sorry for the man and offered to help him look for his family.  The man recognized his house by the large stove standing in the burned wreckage.  The column stopped at this time due to the street being blocked by flames.  The man soon found his wife and son, both dead in the cellar of the house.

Napoleon in Russia, Alan Palmer

Image and translation of commemorative 1912 Russian candy box card provided by Alexey Temnikov

Borodino Aftermath

Faber du Faur painted and wrote about the aftermath including the fate of the Russian prisoners captured the day before.

Near Valueva, 8 September
by Faber du Faur

“Borodino was fought with 120,000 men on each side and more than 1,000 pieces of artillery vomiting death and destruction the entire day.  The Russians, pushed back from their positions and entrenchments, finally conceded defeat and withdrew from the field of battle soaked in the blood of more than 25,000 dead, whose bodies littered the field between Borodino and Semenovskii.  And what were the fruits of victory?  Virtually nil.  Few trophies fell to the victors that bloody day – something that had characterised the campaign to date.  Each army corps had triumphed, yet still we were cheated of a decisive victory.  And we had sustained heavy casualties.”

After the Battle of Borodino
Commemorative 1912 Russian
Candy Box Card

“The Russian army had been beaten but not destroyed.  It withdrew in good order and the victors, who had hoped to savour the fruits of a victory long-promised, including winter quarters and a prompt return to their homeland, found themselves suffering as much now as they had before the battle.  Most of the victors would see the prize, Moscow; would see it ruined and in flames; would experience the cold and the frost of the retreat; and would perish in the icy fields of Russia.”

“The trophies were out of all proportion to the sacrifices we had made – some thirty guns, mostly taken in the redoubts, some of which were too badly damaged to be of service, and some 1,000 prisoners.  These were our spoils!”

“The fate of these prisoners was terrible.  Taken to Smolensk, they were dragged towards the Prussian frontier, tormented by hunger and deprived of even the most basic necessities, and almost all perished before leaving their native land.”


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

Image and translation of commemorative 1912 Russian card provided by Alexey Temnikov

The Battle of Borodino

Antony Brett-James has an account by General Jean Rapp, aide-de-camp to the Emperor, who was on duty the night before the battle and slept in Napoleon’s tent: “The place where he rested was usually separated by a canvas partition from the room reserved for the duty aide-de-camp.  The Emperor slept very little.  I woke him several times to give him reports from the outposts which all proved that the Russians were expecting an attack.  At three o’clock in the morning he summoned the valet de chambre and had some punch brought in.  I had the honour of drinking some with him.  He asked if I had slept well.  I replied that the nights were already cool and that I had frequently been woken.”

Napoleon at Borodino

“He said to me: ‘Today we shall have to deal with this celebrated Kutuzov.  No doubt you remember that it was he who commanded at Braunau during the Austerlitz campaign.  He stayed in that place for three weeks without leaving his room once.  He did not even mount his horse to go and inspect the fortifications.  General Bennigsen, although as old, is a much more energetic fellow.  I cannot understand why Alexander did not send this Hanoverian to replace Barclay.’  He took a glass of punch, read several reports, and then added:

‘Well, Rapp!  Do you think that we shall have a successful day?’

‘There is no doubt about it, Sire.  We have used up all our resources, and have simply got to win.’  Napoleon went on reading and then said: ‘Fortune is a shameless courtesan.  I have often said it, and I am beginning to experience it.’ …

Napoleon Writes the Dispositions for Borodino
Commemorative 1912 Russian Candy Box Card

“Napoleon sent for Prince Berthier, and worked until half past five.  Then we mounted.  The trumpets sounded, the drums beat, and as soon as the troops spotted us, there were acclamations all the way.  ‘It is the Austerlitz enthusiasm again.’ ”

Who fired first?  Alexander Mikaberidze in The Battle of Borodino writes that it is generally agreed that the French fired first.  But some Russian accounts disagree.  D. Danilov of the 2nd Artillery Brigade claimed one of his guns fired first and the French replied.  He wrote “At dawn, the first Russian cannon shot was fired by our battery and this round was made by me personally… Everything fell silent but several minutes hardly passed when a long line of French guns, deployed in front of Shevardino, erupted in response.”

Levin August, count von Bennigsen, one of the Russian generals, believed Raevsky’s battery fired the first shot.  Kutuzov’s adjutant, Mikhailovsky-

Kutuzov at Borodino

Danilevsky noted “the first cannon-ball, fired by the enemy batteries, was directed towards the house occupied by Prince Kutuzov.”  Kutuzov’s ordinance officer Dreyling confirmed: “It barely dawned when the enemy fired his first round.  One of the very first cannon-balls flew above our heads and shattered the roof of the house where Kutuzov was billeted.”

Jakob Walter, a Westphalian soldier on the French side,  describes the battle: “On September 7, every corps was assigned its place, and the signal to attack was given.  Like thunderbolts the firing began both against and from the enemy.  The earth was trembling because of the cannon fire, and the rain of cannon balls crossed confusedly.  Several entrenchments were stormed and taken with terrible sacrifices, but the enemy did not move from their place…  Now the two armies moved more vigorously against one another, and the death cries and shattering gunfire seemed a hell…”

The Battle of Borodino has Ended

“This beautiful grain region without woods and villages could now be compared to a cleared forest, a few trunks here and there looking gray… Within a space an hour and a half long and wide, the ground was covered with people and animals.  There were groans and whines on all sides.  The stream separated the battlefield into two parts… Over the river there was a wooden bridge that had been burned… the banks on both sides of the bridge were filled with dead piled three and four deep.  Particularly the wounded who could still move hurried to the river to quench their thirst or to wash their wounds; but the suffering brothers had no help, no hope of rescue: hunger, thirst, and fire were their death…”

“We moved forward and camped by a forest on a height facing Moscow; it was a wood of green trees.  Here we not only had nothing to eat but also no water to drink, because of the high camp site; and the road through the fields was still covered with dead Russians.”

1812: Eyewitness Accounts of Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia, Antony Brett-James

Image and translation of the Commemorative 1912 Russian Card was provided by Alexey Temnikov