Tag Archives: Karl von Suckow

The Impossibility of Removing the Dead from Among the Living

What became of the wounded?  Bellot de Kergorre, a Flemish war commissary wrote of what he found in Mojaisk where he was charged with the feeding of the wounded, “Bandaged with hay and groaning dreadfully, they lived for the first few days on the few grains they could find in the straw they were lying on and the little flour I was able to give them. When soup was made it had to be taken to them, but we’d nothing to put it in!  Providentially I came upon a fair number of little bowls intended for lamps, so we were able to give our patients some water.  The lack of candles was a terrible privation.”

In the poorly lit shelters, “some men who, hidden in the straw, had been overlooked.  A shocking thing was the impossibility of removing the dead from among the living.  I’d neither medical orderlies nor stretchers.  Not only the hospital but also the streets and houses were full of corpses.”

Kergorre does get some carts to remove the dead after a few days.  “I personally took away 128 who’d been serving as pillows for the sick and were several days old.”

Baron Jean Dominique Larrey
Tending the Wounded
at the Battle of Moscow
by Louise Lejeune

Captain Pierre Aubrey of the 12th Chasseurs had been wounded and was one of those lying in the straw in Mojaisk.  “I’d quite enough to do driving off people who came too close.  The stirring of the least blade of straw around me caused me atrocious pain.  The famous Dr. [Dominique Jean] Larrey and his surgeons had made so many amputations at Mojaisk that there was a heap of legs and arms so big a large room couldn’t have contained them.”

Kergorre continues and lists the supplies issued to him, “…one barrel of flour, which we distributed to the generals, 4 or 5 pounds apiece. There were twelve divisional generals and 14 brigadiers  As for the other wounded, they were excluded from this issue.”

“I had very few feverish cases and apart from two or three hundred deaths during the first few days I saved all my patients.”

Kergorre’s immediate supervisor expressly forbid him “… to touch the convoys destined for headquarters and ordered [him] to live off the country.  But I told him I’d take full responsibility for levying a tithe on the convoys, preferring to be court-martialled for feeding the wounded entrusted to my care than to let them die of hunger.”

Source:

1812: Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia, Paul Britten Austin, p. 326-328

The Country was Barren and Dusty Past the Niemen

In the book 1812: Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia, Antony Brett-James quotes Lieutenant Karl von Suckow.  Lt. von Suckow wrote there was “Not a soul in sight, not an inhabitant in the villages we passed through…. we were all struck by the absence of any birds flying up at our approach.”

“These exceptional marches, added to the great shortages we had to put up with, thinned our ranks to an unexpected degree and thousands of men disappeared within a very short time.  Hundreds killed themselves…Every day one heard isolated shots… Patrols were sent to investigate and they always came back and reported… [it was a] Frenchman, or an ally, who has just committed suicide.”

To add to the misery of the heat and lack of food and water was the dust.  Lt. von Suckow writes that the dust was so thick “I recall that at one stage, so as to prevent anyone taking a wrong turning, a drummer was stationed at the head of each battalion, and his job was to beat the drum all the time.  This fact alone will indicate just how dense the clouds of dust were.”

A Captain Fritz _____ (last name unknown) from Pomeranian Mecklenburg, now part of northern Germany, was serving on the Russian side.  Writing about the Russian withdrawal towards the fortified camp of Drissa in early July, he also remarked on the dust.  He had served on the British side in Spain so was used to heat and dust, but these couldn’t compare to the conditions in Russia.  “If one was unfortunate enough to be caught between the innumerable waggons, which ploughed along in deep sand ruts at the slowest pace of the draught animals, and to have to remain among them for hours on end without being able to escape, then one was enveloped in so much dust that one really thought one would suffocate.”

An Unfortunate Comment

Lieutenant Karl von Suckow serving in the Chasseurs á pied of the Württemberg Guard recalled a dinner given to brigade commander General Ernst von Hügel near Stuttgart before the start of the Russian campaign: “The General warned us to have no illusions on the matter and to prepare ourselves resolutely to meet every eventuality.  One young lieutenant did not share this point of view.  He believed that verything would go well, and he was even thoughtless enough to exclaim:

‘Pooh!  A war against Russia!  The prospect worries me no more than eating a slice of bread and butter!’

At these words the General replied in a grave tone of voice:

‘All right, Lieutenant.  When the occasion arises, I shall not fail to remind you of the slice of bread and butter.’

He kept his promise.”

Source: 1812, Antony Brett-James

The Country was Barren and Dusty Past the Niemen

In the book 1812: Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia, Antony Brett-James quotes Lieutenant Karl von Suckow.  Lt. von Suckow wrote there was “Not a soul in sight, not an inhabitant in the villages we passed through…. we were all struck by the absence of any birds flying up at our approach.”

“These exceptional marches, added to the great shortages we had to put up with, thinned our ranks to an unexpected degree and thousands of men disappeared within a very short time.  Hundreds killed themselves…Every day one heard isolated shots… Patrols were sent to investigate and they always came back and reported… [it was a] Frenchman, or an ally, who has just committed suicide.”

To add to the misery of the heat and lack of food and water was the dust.  Lt. von Suckow writes that the dust was so thick “I recall that at one stage, so as to prevent anyone taking a wrong turning, a drummer was stationed at the head of each battalion, and his job was to beat the drum all the time.  This fact alone will indicate just how dense the clouds of dust were.”

A Captain Fritz _____ (last name unknown) from Pomeranian Mecklenburg, now part of northern Germany, was serving on the Russian side.  Writing about the Russian withdrawal towards the fortified camp of Drissa in early July, he also remarked on the dust.  He had served on the British side in Spain so was used to heat and dust, but these couldn’t compare to the conditions in Russia.  “If one was unfortunate enough to be caught between the innumerable waggons, which ploughed along in deep sand ruts at the slowest pace of the draught animals, and to have to remain among them for hours on end without being able to escape, then one was enveloped in so much dust that one really thought one would suffocate.”