Tag Archives: Colonel Louis-Francois Lejeune

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

The column leaving Moscow: “..no pen can describe it adequately”

Many accounts describe the army as it left Moscow on October 19, 1812. Captain von Kurz on the evacuating army: “Although the march-out of the army had been going on since two o’clock, at midday crowds were still pushing their way out through the gateways of this half-ruined city; and in countless columns they moved along the broad high-road.”

“It was not only the number of fighting men who made up the endless procession, but the innumerable wagons, carts, droshkys, chaises, often laden with booty.  And the number of guns, ammunition wagons, vans, and the like, moving in eight or ten parallel columns, took up an incalculable stretch of road.  Beside the artillery, powder-wagons, and carts, the rest of the many vehicles were loaded with provisions of all sorts: wine, brandy, sugar, coffee, tea, tobacco, salt meat, dried fish, etc… Other wagons contained booty in the form of gold, silver, precious stones, and valuable furs.  Whereas most officers owned a cart, the generals had a half a dozen.  Supply officials and actors, women and children, cripples, wounded men, and the sick drove in and out of the throng of kibitkas and droshkys; countless servants and maids, sutlers and people of that sort accompanied this march.  In short, the whole thing presented such a peculiar and astonishing appearance that no pen can describe it adequately.  From both sides the columns of horsemen and pedestrians broke out and went wherever the ground allowed, across the fields beside the road, so as to leave the paved road free for those on foot.  Nevertheless the enourmous clutter of transport became jammed, and it was impossible for individuals to find room.  The great crowd had become so intermingled that to make one’s way forward required a tremendous effort…  Inexhaustibly they seemed to press out from the ruins of Moscow, and the heads of these columns vanished far away on the horizon.”

Colonel Louis-François Lejeune was upset at how all of the carts and carriages slowed the progress of the column:  “All these vehicles, laden with the food and booty which were to sustain us against cold and hunger, still assumed enormous proportions, and I am going to give you an idea of my own position in this respect — I who was one of the officers most interested in travelling without impedimenta.  I still had: (1) five riding horses; (2) a carriage drawn by three horses and carrying my belongings, as well as furs to wrap round me in camp; (3) the wagon laden with staff documents, maps, and the kitchen utensils for the officers and clerks — this was pulled by four horses; (4) three small carts, each drawn by three little Russian horses and weighted down by the clerks, the cook, the oats, sugar, coffee, four, and some scarce bales of hay; (5) the secretary’s horse; (6) lastly, the three horses which I had harnessed to my sister’s carriage: she had gone ahead.  All this made a clutter of six vehicles and twenty-five horses, which scarcely carried the essentials.”

“The Emperor was very upset by these delays, and ordered that every vehicle not essential for transporting the few provisions we carried should be burnt and the horses used to pull the guns.  This very wise step was feebly put into force, such was the number of people who had an interest in evading this severe measure…  the army…  took six days to cover eighty miles.”

The column leaving Moscow: “..no pen can describe it adequately”

Many accounts describe the army as it left Moscow on October 19, 1812. Captain von Kurz on the evacuating army: “Although the march-out of the army had been going on since two o’clock, at midday crowds were still pushing their way out through the gateways of this half-ruined city; and in countless columns they moved along the broad high-road.”

“It was not only the number of fighting men who made up the endless procession, but the innumerable wagons, carts, droshkys, chaises, often laden with booty.  And the number of guns, ammunition wagons, vans, and the like, moving in eight or ten parallel columns, took up an incalculable stretch of road.  Beside the artillery, powder-wagons, and carts, the rest of the many vehicles were loaded with provisions of all sorts: wine, brandy, sugar, coffee, tea, tobacco, salt meat, dried fish, etc… Other wagons contained booty in the form of gold, silver, precious stones, and valuable furs.  Whereas most officers owned a cart, the generals had a half a dozen.  Supply officials and actors, women and children, cripples, wounded men, and the sick drove in and out of the throng of kibitkas and droshkys; countless servants and maids, sutlers and people of that sort accompanied this march.  In short, the whole thing presented such a peculiar and astonishing appearance that no pen can describe it adequately.  From both sides the columns of horsemen and pedestrians broke out and went wherever the ground allowed, across the fields beside the road, so as to leave the paved road free for those on foot.  Nevertheless the enourmous clutter of transport became jammed, and it was impossible for individuals to find room.  The great crowd had become so intermingled that to make one’s way forward required a tremendous effort…  Inexhaustibly they seemed to press out from the ruins of Moscow, and the heads of these columns vanished far away on the horizon.”

Colonel Louis-François Lejeune was upset at how all of the carts and carriages slowed the progress of the column:  “All these vehicles, laden with the food and booty which were to sustain us against cold and hunger, still assumed enormous proportions, and I am going to give you an idea of my own position in this respect — I who was one of the officers most interested in travelling without impedimenta.  I still had: (1) five riding horses; (2) a carriage drawn by three horses and carrying my belongings, as well as furs to wrap round me in camp; (3) the wagon laden with staff documents, maps, and the kitchen utensils for the officers and clerks — this was pulled by four horses; (4) three small carts, each drawn by three little Russian horses and weighted down by the clerks, the cook, the oats, sugar, coffee, four, and some scarce bales of hay; (5) the secretary’s horse; (6) lastly, the three horses which I had harnessed to my sister’s carriage: she had gone ahead.  All this made a clutter of six vehicles and twenty-five horses, which scarcely carried the essentials.”

“The Emperor was very upset by these delays, and ordered that every vehicle not essential for transporting the few provisions we carried should be burnt and the horses used to pull the guns.  This very wise step was feebly put into force, such was the number of people who had an interest in evading this severe measure…  the army…  took six days to cover eighty miles.”