Tag Archives: Marshal Michel Ney

“More Than Equal To The Russian Troops”

Faber du Faur arrived at Krasnoi on the night of the 15th and described the accommodations and the situation the army found itself in.

Camp at Krasnoi, 16 November
by Faber du Faur

Camp at Krasnoi, 16 November
“We had forced our way through the Russians and reached Krasnoi as night fell.  The Young Guard, under [Édouard Adolphe] Mortier, was stationed on the road to Korythnia whilst Imperial Headquarters and the Old Guard, which still counted some 5,000 men in its ranks, occupied the little town and filled every house.  Everyone else, including ourselves, had to make do with whatever shelter they could find in the streets and gardens and considered themselves lucky if they were able to warm themselves by a fire.  This is how we spent the night.  We awoke on the morning of the 16th and only then did we appreciate the losses of the day before – men were missing, equipment and matériellost – and the danger we were now in as Kutuzov’s 90,000 Russians had

Count Mikhail Miloradovich

cut all apparent means of escape.  Before us the road to Gadi was occupied by Russians, the bulk of their army lay on our left flank and Miloradovich was on the Krasnoi-Korythnia road, barring our retreat to Smolensk and preventing us from linking up with Eugène, Ney and Davout, whose troops still lay around that town.  However, we were not disheartened for we placed our confidence in Napoleon and were convinced that, however we might fare against the Russian climate, we were more than equal to the Russian troops.”

“We spent the whole of the 16th waiting for the three army corps to come up from Smolensk and making demonstrations against the Russians around Krasnoi.  The boom of cannon and the rattle of musketry resounded around this little town throughout the day.  During the night of 16/17 November the guard managed to extricate Eugène and the remains of his corps.  But as Ney and Davout had not appeared by noon on the 17th, and fearing that we had remained too long at Krasnoi, and that the defile to Orscha might be cut, we began to march off towards Lyadi.  Thus the Imperial Guard marched out of Krasnoi and attacked the Russians to our left; these quickly fell back.  All of a sudden all firing stopped and we were able to reach Lyadi without hindrance and without having seen or heard the enemy.”

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

Blogger’s Note: This is the 200th post on this blog (including re-posts from 2011).  Thank you for reading!

Guest bloggers are welcome.  Contact me at ScottArmstrong@RussianSnows.com

~ Scott Armstrong

Napoleon at Borodino 2012

Today we have the ultimate guest blog post.  While Napoleon himself has long since passed on, he is ably represented in our time by Mark Schneider who has portrayed Napoleon at events around the world since 2005.  As you can tell from the photos and the story below, Napoleon is fortunate to have Mark carry on his legacy.

Because this blog is about the experiences of the soldiers on the Russian campaign, I asked Mark if he would be willing to write about his thoughts and experiences during the re-enactment marking the 200th anniversary of the battle of Borodino (la Moskova).  He readily agreed and here is the result.

Mark Schneider as Napoleon
Borodino 2012

When I look back at the great experiences that I have had portraying Napoleon since 2005, one of the great highlights will certainly have to be “La Bataille de la Moskova.” My name is Mark Schneider and I have had the great honor and pleasure to portray Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe since 2005. My first event was Waterloo and the experience has changed my life forever. Since that fateful afternoon in June, 2005, I have also had the honor to portray Napoleon at the 200th anniversary of Austerlitz (2005,), Jena (2006,) Berlin (2006,) Erfurt (2008,) and many other anniversary events such as Hollabrunn (2006-7,) Mormant (2007,) Borodino (2007,) Waterloo (2008,) Austerlitz (2007,8,11,) Sarzana (2011,) Jena (2011,) and now the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino!

Appearing as Napoleon at the 195th anniversary of Borodino gave me a taste of what it was going to be like in 2012. The battlefield was truly amazing to behold. The museum of Borodino was also quite magnificent with such items as Kutuzov’s carriage, uniforms and sadly even a French Eagle as well as many cannons. I was given a tour of many portions of the battlefield that I had read about since I was a child in David Chandler’s “Campaigns Of Napoleon” as well as de Ségur’s “Napoleon’s Russian Campaign, Paul Britten Austin’s “1812-Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia,” and Caulaincourt’s “With Napoleon in Russia.” It was one thing to read about this battlefield and quite another to walk or ride upon it! All of this was a great introduction to the huge anniversary event that would take place 5 years later.

I was asked to attend the 200th anniversary event of Borodino over a year before it took place. My host was Alexander Valkovitch, a great historian and friend who has participated in many events with me to include Hollabrunn and Erfurt as Czar Alexander I. When all of the planning and organizing was complete, I received the official invitation. I was most excited to attend this great event that would commemorate the bloodiest single day in the Napoleonic Wars. Well, just as Napoleon had a long way to go in the campaign before Borodino was fought, so I too had a long way to go before I finally received my VISA! Once in my hand I was off to Moscow! It was a long journey, just as it was a long journey for the Grande Armee. Upon arrival, I then had to drive the 150KM south-west to the battlefield, and though I was not harassed by cossacks, there was a tremendous amount of Russian vehicle traffic on the highway. Upon arrival, I discovered that it was all worth it because I was about to participate in one of the most amazing events in re-enacting history.

Preparing the Meal

I arrived just as the sun was going down and our driver was kind enough to point out some of the monuments on the way. When we finally pulled into the camp site it was quite a sight to behold. The hundreds of tents and horses and cannons and soldiers walking about certainly made me feel as if I had returned back to September of 1812. I met my host Alexander Valkovitch and some other old friends from past events, and we enjoyed a late dinner and spoke of the battle and the days to come. I would turn in at a rather early hour of 11 pm and my accommodations would not be a tent but rather a former Soviet school! Just for one night though for the next night would be in the field.

Re-enactors’ Camp at Borodino 2012

After a restful night’s sleep, I donned my Chasseur a Cheval de la Garde Imperiale habit, and began the event. A quick Russian breakfast, a few press interviews and I was off to the cavalry camp where I would find my horse and my escort of the Chasseurs a Cheval commanded by my friend Capitaine Jean-Francois Remy Neris. At the cavalry camp there were many of my old friends waiting and it was truly a delight to see them. The sun was shining and all was well. I mounted my gray horse “Tauris” and went to the battlefield to review the Army. It was truly amazing to see so many beautiful units in attendance! Infantry, artillery and so many cavalry! Cuirassiers, Carabiniers, hussars, lancers, Chasseurs, Grenadiers a cheval and more! Truly a sight to see.

The Saturday event was basically a rehearsal for the main event on Sunday. We spent many hours in the saddle upon the battlefield watching the two great armies maneuver, fire, charge, get used to their mounts and prepare for the big day. As the day began to end, we marched back to the cavalry camp where we would rest for the night.

Mark Schneider as Napoleon and
former French President
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing

The next morning found the weather cloudy, cool and rainy. The Grande Armee was to participate in a ceremony by the one monument on the Borodino battlefield that honored the Grande Armee. In attendance was former President of the French Republic, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. He gave a very moving speech honoring all the soldiers that had died, and then I had the honor to meet with him and shake his hand.

When the ceremony was over, the rain was falling, but the battle had to go on! 200,000 people were expected to attend, rain or shine. We had time for a quick lunch and then it was back in the saddle and on to the battlefield.

Mark Schneider as Napoleon
Acknowledges the Crowd

To say that it was amazing is an understatement! At the head of the Etat-Major and the cavalry we marched out of the woods on to the field. What a spectacle! Thousands of soldiers and 200,000 people! We took up our positions and the battle began. Though there was a drizzle, I think it added to the atmosphere. When the cannons and the muskets began firing it obscured portions of the battlefield so at certain moments you could not see the crowd

The Semenovskaya phase
of the re-enactment

and only the soldiers on the field. It was as if September 7th 1812 had returned! From my position on the hill I could observe the entire field. I rode past the army to give them some encouragement, and then the onslaught began. The Great Redoubt had to be taken! The cannons roared, the cavalry charged, occasionally with riders tumbling off their mounts! Fortunately there were no serious injuries. As all this was going on, a narrator was giving a play by play of what was happening. As the battle continued, I left the safety of my ridge, with the Imperial Guard close at

Marshal Michel Ney
Portrayed by Franky Simon

hand and decided to take a closer look at the action. Marshal Ney rode up to me and said that the victory was ours if we would only commit the Guard, but I simply could not commit my last reserves so far from home. Victory would have to come with the men already engaged. I sent him back into the fray. The commander of my escort cautioned me that it was dangerous for the Emperor to be so close to the action, and he was right! Soon a Regiment of Cossacks was on us, galloping straight for me! My Chasseurs jumped into action and saved me, giving me time to place myself behind my beloved Guard. The battle began to come to an end. Just as the brave soldiers of the Grande Armée as well as the Russian Army fought to exhaustion that fateful day, so did the brave re-enactors. The time had come to end this great spectacle. The armies formed up in front of the thousands of spectators who had weathered the rain and cold . We galloped past them half a dozen times saluting them as well as the brave combatants. It was a moment I will never forget.

Traffic at the Re-enactment
of Borodino 2012

The armies then began to march off, and I, still escorted by my faithful Chasseurs a cheval, began my ride back to the cavalry camp. Upon arrival I thanked my horse for bringing me safely through this weekend spectacular. I had a brief rest with my comrades, but soon it was time for me to go. After one last goodbye and thank you to my host Alexander Valkovitch, I had to get back on the road to the airport in Moscow. 200,000 people would be joining me, so a trip that would normally take one and half hours, now took five! It was worth it!

Vive l’Empereur!

I will never forget this amazing event at Borodino. It was truly a dream come true for me. I have been interested in Napoleon and his times since I was a little boy and dreamed of fighting in his battles. Well now that dream has come true. More than all of that, it was an honor to take part in an event that honored all of the soldiers that fought and died that day. I hope that by remembering and reenacting such a great event in history and all the sacrifices that were made, no one will ever forget.

Mark Schneider
“NAPOLEON”

Blogger’s Note:  Thank you Mark for this terrific post!  ~ Scott Armstrong

The Army Begins to Leave Smolensk

On the 14th, Napoleon left Smolensk.  The corps of Eugene, Davout and Ney were to follow at one day intervals.  Sgt. Adrian Bourgogne who was a member of the Imperial Guard followed a short time after Napoleon acting as rearguard of the men accompanying the Emperor.  We pick up Bourgogne’s narration while he was waiting for the artillery to cross a ravine:  “When we were at the other side, I saw three men round a dead horse; two of them staggered about as if they were drunk.  The third, a German, lay on the horse; the poor wretch was dying of hunger, and, not being able to cut the flesh, was trying to bite it.  He soon afterwards died where he was of cold and hunger.  The two others, Hussars, were covered with blood about the hands and mouth.”

“…walking by the side of the highroad to come up with the right of the column, and then wait for our regiment near a fire, if we were lucky enough to find one…. all along our way we were forced to step over the dead and dying…  we saw a man of the line sitting against a tree near a little fire; he was busy melting snow in a saucepan to cook the liver and heart of a horse he had just killed with his bayonet.”

“As we had rice and oatmeal with us, we asked him to lend us the saucepan to cook them, so that we could all eat together.  He was so delighted; so with the rice and straw-oatmeal we made some soup, seasoning it with a little sugar… as we had no salt.  While our soup was cooking, we roasted some bits of liver and kidneys from a horse, and enjoyed it greatly.”

Meanwhile, 90,000 Russian troops under General Mikhail Kutuzov, who were marching on a parallel road, finally caught up to and passed the Grande Armée.

Source:
Sergeant Bourgogne: With Napoleon’s Imperial Guard in the Russian Campaign and on the Retreat from Moscow 1812-13, Adrien Bourgogne, pp 101 – 102

The Toll so Far

Napoleon himself stayed in Smolensk until the 14th.  The last unit to leave was Ney’s IIIrd Corps on the 17th.  According to author George F. Nafziger, of the 100,000 men who had left Moscow in October, only about 41,500 remained.  The Imperial Guard was 14,000 of this number.  Eugène’s IVth Corps had 5,000 left while Davout’s Ist Corps had 10,000.  The V and VIII Corps (Poles and Westphalians) were merged and totaled 1,500.  The Minard map puts the total reaching Smolensk at 37,000, Ségur at 36,000.

Philippe-Paul de Ségur,  Napoleon’s aide-de-camp, describes how Napoleon “… had counted on finding fifteen days’ provisions and forage for an army of a hundred thousand men; there was not more than half that quantity of rice, flour, and spirits, and no meat at all.  We heard him shouting in great fury at one of the men who had been entrusted with the responsibility of providing those supplies. This commissary, it is said, saved his life only by crawling on his knees at Napoleon’s feet.  The reasons he gave probably did more for him than his supplications.”

The man explained “When I reached Smolensk, the bands of deserters the army had left behind in its advance on Moscow had already invested the city with horror and destruction.  Men were dying there as they had died on the road.  When we had succeeded in establishing some sort of order, the Jews were the first to furnish some provisions.  Some Lithuanian noblemen followed their example, inspired perhaps by a nobler motive.  Then the long convoys of supplies collected in Germany began to appear…  Several hundred head of German and Italian cattle were driven in at the same time.”

Dead in the Snow
by Ferdinand Boissard

“A horrible, death-dealing stench from the piles of corpses … was poisoning the air.  The dead were killing the living.  The civil employees and many of the soldiers were stricken, some of them to all appearances becoming idiots, weeping or fixing their hollow eyes steadily on the ground.  There were some whose hair stiffened, stood on end, all twisted into strings; then, in the midst of a torrent of blasphemy, or even more ghastly laughter, they dropped dead.”

The cattle were slaughtered “…. immediately.  These beasts would neither eat nor walk…. several convoys were intercepted, some supply depots taken, and a drove of eight hundred oxen were recently seized at Krasnoye.”

In short, the reserves were gone, drawn down by other units that had spent time in the city.  Other provisions had been sent east to meet the army as it retreated. Napoleon’s plans for spending the winter in Smolensk, if that was his intention, were gone.

Sources:
Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia, George F. Nafziger, p 305

Napoleon’s Russian Campaign, Philippe-Paul de Ségur, p 184 – 185

The Death of Caulaincourt

At the center of the Russian line at Borodino stood The Great Redoubt, also known as Raevsky’s Redoubt.  Throughout the morning and early afternoon of the 7th, it was the scene of fierce fighting.  Marshals Murat and Ney asked Napoleon repeatedly for  reinforcements.  Unwilling to risk his reserves, the Old and Young Guard, Napoleon refused and Murat turned to one of his own units that had not yet been committed, the cavalry of General Louis-Pierre Montbrun.  The General, however, had been killed.  Napoleon dispatched one of his aides-de-camp, General Auguste de Caulaincourt, to take command of Montbrun’s heavy cuirassiers.

Auguste’s older brother, Armand de Caulaincourt, was also on Napoleon’s staff as Master of the Horse.  Armand had also served as French ambassador to Russia.

Death of Calaincourt
by L Rousselot

Older brother Armand recorded, “My brother seized my hand, saying, ‘Things have become so hot that I don’t suppose I’ll see you again.  We’ll win, or I’ll get myself killed.’ ”  Arriving to take command of Montbrun’s troops, he finds the ADC’s of the fallen General weeping.  According to Ségur, Auguste said, “Follow me! Don’t weep, but come and take your revenge!”

The plan was for Auguste to lead the cuirassiers past the redoubt and then turn and attack it from the rear.  Baron Agathon Fain, Napoleon’s secretary, watched from headquarters at the Shevardino redoubt.  The cuirassiers charged through the Russian lines, then wheeled to the left “disappearing in a cloud of dust and smoke.”  Supporting infantry attacked, “Assailed on every side, the volcano [redoubt] thunders, flashes and sends forth torrents of fire that are redoubled and then suddenly extinguished.”  The Great Redoubt is in French hands.

Caulaincourt Dies Storming
the Great Redoubt
Caulaincourt is on the white horse
to the right of center

Auguste de Caulaincourt, then turned his horse to lead the attack against the massing Russian reserves preparing for a counter-attack and was struck dead by a musket ball through the heart.  Lt. Heinrich von Brandt described the aftermath, “Men and horses, alive, mutilated, dead but lying by sixes and eights heaped on top of each other covered the approaches all round, filled the ditch and the work’s interior.  While we were advancing they were carrying away General Caulaincourt.  He passed in front of us, carried by several cuirassiers on a white cuirassier mantle covered with great bloodstains.”

Ségur describes the moment when Armand hears the news of his brother’s death, “A messenger raced to the Emperor to announce both victory and the loss.  The grand equerry, brother of the slain general, was listening.  At first he was shocked, but immediately braced himself against the cruel loss; and had it not been for the tears that ran silently down his cheeks, one would have thought him unmoved.  The Emperor said to him, ‘You have heard: do you wish to withdraw?’  accompanying his words by an exclamation of grief.  But at that time we were advancing against the enemy.  The equerry neither answered nor moved, but simply touched his hat, as a sign of thanks and refusal.”

Armand later wrote Napoleon said, “He has died as a brave man should, and that is, in deciding the battle.  France loses one of her best officers.”

Sources:

1812: Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia, by Paul Britten Austin, p. 304

Napoleon’s Russian Campaign, Philippe-Paul de Ségur, p. 75

Napoleon in Russia: The 1812 Campaign, by Alan Palmer, p. 126

In Camp

Faber du Faur painted a scene of the encampment of Ney’s III Corps on August 31, 1812.  The scene seems in contrast to many of the descriptions of the destruction of the countryside leading up to Borodino.  Faur’s painting shows a standing field of grain and houses and buildings untouched upon the arrival of the French.  Unfortunately, what had been spared by the Russians, was soon destroyed by the French.  The following description accompanies the painting.

In Camp, 31 August
by Faber du Faur

“From Viasma onwards the land became more and more fertile, and our march through Gjatsk took us through rolling countryside and well-constructed villages.  Most of these villages, which the Russians had not destroyed as they fell back before us, would soon be submerged under the torrent of the retreating French army and would disappear without a trace.”

“Here we find III Corps, camped in the fields to the left of the main road, close by a stately country seat soon to become Marshal Ney’s headquarters.  The fields, cultivated with so much care, the houses, so clean and tidy, and the château, so charming and fine, all bore testament to the affluence and comfort of the inhabitants, all of whom had fled.  Within one day of our arrival, all this prosperity had vanished, destroyed and trampled by out troops.  By 1 September the charming scene depicted here had been entirely erased.”

Source: With Naopoleon In Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Major Faber du Faur, 1812, Edited and Translated by Jonathan North

In Camp Before Valuntina-Gora

In contrast to Jakob Walter’s description of a swift pursuit of the Russians after Smolensk, Faber du Faur writes about three days of rest.  While they were both in Ney’s IIIrd Corps, it appears that du Faur was involved in the action at Valutina-Gora while Walter was not.  This most likely explains the rest given to du Faur’s unit.

du Faur provides the following description for his painting:  “On the 20th, the day after the battle, we quitted the battlefield and made camp on the plateau, just to the right of the main road.  Three days of rest followed, drawing to a close a bloody period of fighting.”

In Camp Before Valutina-Gora, 22 August
by Faber du Faur

“We heard that we were to be reviewed by the Emperor, who had, the day after the fighting at Valutina, already reviewed Ney’s other divisions and that of [General Charles-Étienne] Gudin.  Our days of rest were marked by the occasional return of a few inhabitants who had fled during the fighting.  Some of them came over to our camp, meeting our curious troops who, by means of signs, gestures and a little Russian they had picked up, attempted to communicate with them.”

The Battle of Valutino

Following the battle of Smolensk, Ney’s IIIrd Corps crossed the Dnieper River and pursued the Russian armies at they headed east.  50,000 men of Barclay de Tolly‘s Russian army became lost and marched nine hours through the woods at night, only to find that they had marched in a semi-circle and were only a mile further down the road than when they had started.  To make matters worse, Ney’s Corps was now only a few miles away although Ney didn’t realize it at first.

Faber du Faur picks up the story: “Ours corps (IIIrd), with the 11th Division to the fore, followed the Russian rearguard for a number of hours until it took up a position near Valutina-Gora and made ready to accept battle.”

Near Valutina-Gora, 19 August
by Faber du Faur

“The terrain was boggy and treacherous and impeded the use of both artillery and infantry.  The Moscow road passed over the Kolovdina stream by means of a bridge and then climbed the wooded heights, almost perpendicularly, before reaching the Valutina plateau.  The Russians had placed infantry on this plateau and trained heavy guns on the road and on the valley below and had thrown thousands of light infantry into the surrounding woods.  Ney did not have sufficient men with which to attack this formidable position and, initially, bombarded the Russians and sent forward clouds of skirmishers.  However, just after five in the evening, Gudin‘s division of I Corps arrived, sent forward in support by the Emperor.  Ney deployed and led his troops forward into the bloody battle.”

“…Gudin himself fell at the head of his division, close by the Kolovdina bridge, struck down by a mortal wound…  It was around 11 o’clock that evening, with the moon shining down on the heaps of bodies, that the Russians finally withdrew.”

“We camped where we stood on the field of battle, amongst the dead and wounded.  Many of the latter dragged themselves towards our campfires, hoping to share in our meal.  By the morning most of these unfortunates had died.”

A re-enactment of this battle recently took place in Russia on August 4, 2012.  About 1,200 people participated from Russia, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States.  Below are some photos of that re-enactment.  Thank you to my friend Alexey Temnikov for providing the information and photos for this event.

 

 

 

A Crowded Road

The purpose of this blog is to tell about what daily life on the campaign was like for the soldiers who experienced it.  Two things that are often overlooked are the fact that the French made up only about half of the 500,000 strong Grandé Armée.  The rest was made up of countries that had been conquered by France and its allies.

The other is that Russia didn’t have a lot of roads.  Marching a few hundred thousand soldiers (with wagons, artillery, cavalry, etc….) down the same narrow, unpaved road and there are bound to be disputes that break down among national lines.  Following is an account from an unnamed artillery lieutenant serving with troops from Würtemberg [Confederation of the Rhine, now part of Germany] in Ney’s IIIrd Corps:

Wurttemberg artillery piece

“Not only the 3rd Corps was on the march, but often the Imperial Guard as well and sometimes several other corps, all on the same road which, on top of all this, was frequently almost impassable for artillery.  As a result serious disagreements were caused every day by the extreme difficulty in observing a regular order of march.  The artillery was particularly bad in this respect, because if anything broke on a wagon or a gun, or if a horse had to be unharnessed on account of exhaustion, the vehicle in question would be cut off by the troops behind, and it was perhaps evening before it reached the bivouac and could rejoin its battery.  Under these circumstances the French infantry were so unpleasant and brutal that their officers, so as to prevent an unfortunate, godforsaken gun from travelling near, let alone in front of them, would more often than not have bayonets leveled at the leading horses and strike the soldiers of the train.  On our side this behavior aroused intense hatred and bitterest resentment…”

The officer wrote that his brigade often marched on the flank of the corps and sometimes, the artillery would not be able to follow them the whole way and would be obliged to return to the main road.

“…When we did this, nobody wanted to let us into the column, and we had to try and secure a tiny place on the road by dint of asking pleasantly, sometimes with insults and oaths, often at sword-point.  I can honestly say that none of the hardships and dangers of this campaign irked me half as much as this daily bickering and squabbling on the march.  As I was the only officer in the battery who spoke French, it always fell to me to conduct these wrangles.”

Source: 1812: Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia by Antony Brett-James

The Campaign in Pictures

Major Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur was part of Ney’s IIIrd Corps during the Russian Campaign as a 32-year-old lieutenant.  What makes him special, in addition to surviving the campaign, is that he was also an artist who made sketches of what he saw.  He later turned those sketches into color paintings and gave us a visual record of the advance and the retreat accompanied by a narrative.

“On 29 June III Corps left Eve and, around noon, marched into Kirgalizky on the Vilia – a river considerably swollen by incessant rain.  The bridge had been burnt and we halted on the banks of the river whilst a pontoon bridge was thrown across.  On the 30th, early in the afternoon, the bridge was deemed ready and III Corps filed across to the far bank.  The rain continued to fall in torrents and, as well as turning our camp into a  bog, had soaked the ground, making it almost impossible to march.”

Between Kirgaliczky and Suderva, 30 June

“On the far bank we had to climb some rather steep heights in order to get to Suderva, and it was extremely difficult getting the limbers forward.  After a few guns and caissons had struggled to the crest of the heights – but then only by using double teams of horses – those that followed found the ground so churned up that guns and limbers sank up to their axles.  It was therefore necessary to find an alternative route but, for the reasons already mentioned, this new route was similarly rendered impassable.  Hundreds of horses expired and, half-submerged in the mire, marked the course of III Corps.  This particular march cost us so many horses that we had to leave a battery of 12-pounder guns, and the bulk of our reserve, at Vilna for want of draught animals to pull them.”

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