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"Why did the Russians do so well in 1806-1807" Topic


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Le Breton19 Sep 2017 2:13 a.m. PST

"wasn't possible to adequately supply a force of the size needed to subdue Russia"

Like the weather, the impossible distances were more or less the same for the Russians.

The distance from the Kalmyk steppes or the Bashkir homelands to Borodino are about the same as from Berlin. The Russian Siberian divisions marched a greater distance to Borodino than the distance from Paris. The Danube army's march to the Berezina was also very long (the Danube Army started as far west as Serbia).

The Russians' troop and supply movements occurred in less developed/populated territory than that through which the French advanced. For the Russians, they did move through more or less friendly territory. Whereas for the French, they left friendly Baltic/Polish/Lithuanian territory at about the longitude of Minsk (600 km from Borodino).

I think the French not only misjudged their adversary, but were essentially failed by their highly vaunted staff system. Whereas the Russians, despite all the negative "press", actually managed the supply of food/clothing/munitions, reconaissance and counter-reconaissance, replacements, forage, remounts, medical, etc., etc. with great skill. And so their army was, despite losses, intact and ready for the invasion of German-speaking lands in January 1813, while the Grande Armée lay dead or marching away to Russian prisoner-of-war settlements.

When the Kalmyk light horsemen watered their shaggy ponies at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris in the spring of 1814, they had been continously on campaign for 2 years agianst Napoléon and the French army – both so lauded as the "best" of this or that military virtue or skill.

The Kalmyks had travelled nearly 5,000 km from their yurts on the steppes. They arrived well-fed, well-mounted (with some spare horses), clothed, armed to the teeth, at about 80% of full-strength, in good health, and with good morale, attended by their Tibetan Buddhist monks – intact regiments still of military value.

I do not think that this result was by some accident.

picture

attilathepun4719 Sep 2017 10:30 a.m. PST

Yes, I agree that the Russians must have had a well organized supply system because in earlier campaigns they had managed to operate as far afield as the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland. However, I know nothing of the details of Russian logistical arrangements. My point was simply to debunk the common notion that it was just the Russian winter that caused the French disaster.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2017 10:34 a.m. PST

Regarding the 1812 Russian Campaign, I must point out that it was emphatically not just the weather that led to French disaster.

Look at the losses the French took just getting to Moscow, it was fairly obvious that they would loose at least as many getting back:

picture

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2017 10:41 a.m. PST

Napoleon started with over 500k soldier (that's with out the satellite armies) by Borodino he had 130k even counting for various detachments for garrisons. That's a huge loss. Russian summer heat, food shortage and cossacks claimed a hell of a lot more French than that fabled winter.
Napoleon was well on his way home by the time the real cold set in. And even than disease killed as many as the actual cold (and cossacks don't forget the cossacks)

And remember this was a strategy Barcley de tolly had set out. It was his plan that killed off half a million French and allied soldiers.

Le Breton19 Sep 2017 1:46 p.m. PST

" as far afield as the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland."

and Finland, Bessarabia, the Balkans, the Ionian Islands, the Caucasus and the occasional restive native on the shores of the Pacific …. often at the same time as fighting the French.

At Austerlitz, only aboutt 22% of the Russian army infantry was engaged. 78% were elsewhere. Actually, a share of the 78% were rather close, and Kutusov wanted to pull the French further east and fall back on this force …. so that the weather would be worse as the winter deepened and the French logistics more strained. The Austrians did not agree and insisted on giving battle at Austerlitz.

I do not know if Kutusov's plan would have worked, but he *did* have a plan, and not an obviously foolish one. And he had a system of logistics, remounts, replacements, etc., etc., etc. that would have permitted him to campaign into the winter – which he took to be an advantage over the French.

Gazzola20 Sep 2017 5:18 a.m. PST

Le Breton

If the allies found themselves outnumbered then that implies they allowed themselves to fall into such a situation and might also suggest bad planning all around, both military and otherwise etc.

And I'm sorry, but Suvorov certainly appeared to blame his allies for the overall failure.
'Korsakov has been beaten and his corps scattered! Jellachich and Linken have left us in the lurch [Suvorov could not possibly have known of Linken's retreat] Our whole plan has been thwarted!' Suvorov raged against the Austrians for everything he had had to endure from them since he had entered Italy, and most recently Thugut's crime of whisking Archduke Charles from Switzerland, which had made the defeat of Korsakov inevitable, and was responsible for the plight of his own army. He recalled the five days lost waiting for the mules at Taverne, and drew a comparison with the situation of Peter the Great when he was surrounded by Turks and Tartars on the Pruth in 1711:'

'What can we do now? [he continued] to go back is disgraceful; I have never retreated. To advance to Schwyz is impossible-Massena has over 60,000 troops, and all the men we have left amount to scarcely 20,000. We are devoid of provisions, ammunition and artillery…We can turn to nobody for help…We are on the verge of disaster!…All that remains is for us is to rely on Almighty God and the bravery and self-sacrifice of my troops! We are Russians! God with us! Save the honour of Russia and its sovereign! Save the son of the Emperor.'

Suvorov threw himself at the feet of Constantine, who raised him up and embraced him amid mutual sobbing.'
(Eagles Over the Alps by Christopher Duffy, page 223)

Seems to me allied co-operation was poor, as was supplies and overall command. So, I wonder if you agree with VW that those in charge should burden the blame here?

And the mention of severe weather in 1807 and 1812 was not offered as an 'excuse' for either the disaster of 1812 or the tough fight at Eylau, so I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion. That seems more of an excuse to try and blank out the weather effect. And I was merely pointing out, when mentioning the severe weather, that it was one of the defining factors of both the 1812 campaign and the 1807 action. I'm sure you will agree that to say that the severe weather did not have an affect would be very foolish indeed?

And it is all very well people stating, with their 'incredible' skill of hindsight, that certain campaigns were not planned well enough and the man at the top must take the blame. But in 1812 not even the Russians would have predicted such weather, which I believe also came early. And, of course, I doubt Napoleon could have predicted that the Russians would have kept retreating or abandon sacred Moscow without a fight. Many if not most of the Russians themselves would not believe it either, had such a suggestion been offered to them beforehand.

As for losses and the Russians not suffering as bad as the French in 1812. Well, it is their country and I'm sure their fellow Russians would naturally be more willing to provide supplies for their own troops, than they would for an invading army. Plus, who knows for sure how the Russian army really fared? I doubt they would want to provide anything that might show themselves as suffering equally to the French or lower their heroic or invincible reputation. However, if I remember rightly, some of the memoirs and accounts I have read in the past, did indicate they struggled at times and that supplies were kept equally hidden from them by the Russian people, which, considering their state of poverty and time of year, would be natural.

Le Breton20 Sep 2017 7:54 p.m. PST

Gazzola

"….. Seems to me allied co-operation was poor, as was supplies and overall command."
We agree about 1799. I wrote above :
"In 1799-1800, where the Russians fought alone or commanded, the results were good – otherwise not. This was again the same in 1805.
They blamed their alliance partners. A more neutral statement might be that the Russians were challenged by the need to integrate their forces with those of alliance partners."

"And the mention of severe weather in 1807 and 1812 was not offered as an 'excuse' for either the disaster of 1812 or the tough fight at Eylau,"
Maybe I misunderstood you.
When you wrote "In 1812, Napoleon's army suffered equally or more from the bad weather, than actual combat losses by the Russians. They were aided by bad weather in 1812 and at Elyau.", you seemed to imply the oft-repeated references to the French being defeated by the weather more than the Russians, "General Winter" and all that. If you instead meant that the more competent staff, logistics, medical, replacements, etc. systems of the Russians allowed them to campaign over long distances, in less economically developed countries, and in poorer weather with less degradation to their military capability than did the French – then I would agree with you.

For 1812 ….
" their fellow Russians would naturally be more willing to provide supplies for their own troops"
Well, that is rather the point. There were way too few people, with too few economic resources, among the local people to supply either army – even before a more or less consistent effort to move the villagers away from the advancing French. In English, a careful reading of the apppendices in Nafziger's book on the campaign will give some insight into the huge effort in planning and logistics that the Russians undertook to insure the supply of their troops.
And as to the locals being friendly : west of the longitude of Minsk, they were rather hostile to the Russians, east of there rather friendly. The French needed to support their army in "hostile" territory in the advance on Moscow for the last 600 km of their overall logistics chain.

"suffering equally to the French"
There is actually some good research being done on losses, etc. Not "equally', but of course the Russians lost quite a few troops both the combat and illness/weather/etc. The difference is that they did better at keeping an Army in the field, of overcoming the losses, the distances, the weather, etc., etc. And my point is that I do not see this as an accident, but rather as the product of very successful planning and preparation, of "techncial" proficiency in staffwork, logistics, medical, replacements, remounts, etc. for which the Russians – unlike the defeated and destroyed French – are seldom credited. My opinion only, of course.

Zhmodikov20 Sep 2017 9:59 p.m. PST

Le Breton wrote:

The Russian Siberian divisions marched a greater distance to Borodino than the distance from Paris.

There were no Siberian divisions at Borodino. There were no Siberian divisions in 1812 at all. The Russian population of Siberia in the early 19th century was too thin to raise divisions there. The regiments, which were named after Siberian towns, such as Omsk, Tomsk, and Irkutsk regiments, had no relation to these towns, as well as most other Russian regiments had no relation to the towns they were named after. At best, they were named either after the town they were raised at (though not necessarily of the people of the town's region, recruits could be brought to the town from other regions) or after the town in which they had their first permanent billets. For example, in the end of the 17th century Tsar Peter's "fun" troops were billeted in large villages Preobrazhenskoye and Semenovskoye, which were situated near Moscow, and so, when they were reorganized into two combat regiments in 1691, they were named Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments.

Art Inactive Member21 Sep 2017 2:30 a.m. PST

G'Day Gents

Mr. Truls and made the following statement:

"Most of the Russian officer corps had no real marshal interest and were officers mostly for the advantage in Russian high society, there was no universal training for cavarly and so regiments were trained on the whim of their commander(if he took any interest)"

"Few regiments had any training outside of parade grounds."

Just how true is this according to Russian accounts?

Best Regards
Art

Brechtel19821 Sep 2017 3:10 a.m. PST

"wasn't possible to adequately supply a force of the size needed to subdue Russia"
Like the weather, the impossible distances were more or less the same for the Russians.
The distance from the Kalmyk steppes or the Bashkir homelands to Borodino are about the same as from Berlin. The Russian Siberian divisions marched a greater distance to Borodino than the distance from Paris. The Danube army's march to the Berezina was also very long (the Danube Army started as far west as Serbia).
The Russians' troop and supply movements occurred in less developed/populated territory than that through which the French advanced. For the Russians, they did move through more or less friendly territory. Whereas for the French, they left friendly Baltic/Polish/Lithuanian territory at about the longitude of Minsk (600 km from Borodino).
I think the French not only misjudged their adversary, but were essentially failed by their highly vaunted staff system. Whereas the Russians, despite all the negative "press", actually managed the supply of food/clothing/munitions, reconaissance and counter-reconaissance, replacements, forage, remounts, medical, etc., etc. with great skill. And so their army was, despite losses, intact and ready for the invasion of German-speaking lands in January 1813, while the Grande Armée lay dead or marching away to Russian prisoner-of-war settlements.
When the Kalmyk light horsemen watered their shaggy ponies at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris in the spring of 1814, they had been continously on campaign for 2 years agianst Napoléon and the French army – both so lauded as the "best" of this or that military virtue or skill.
The Kalmyks had travelled nearly 5,000 km from their yurts on the steppes. They arrived well-fed, well-mounted (with some spare horses), clothed, armed to the teeth, at about 80% of full-strength, in good health, and with good morale, attended by their Tibetan Buddhist monks – intact regiments still of military value.
I do not think that this result was by some accident.

The Russian army as described and characterized above did not exist. The reality was somewhat different.

The Russian supply system, medical department, and staff were inefficient and too many times corrupt. And there was considerable infighting and back-stabbing among the Russian general officers.

Time and Distance:

The Russians lost most of the big battles in 1812 and still couldn't defeat the Grande Armee at the Berezina when they has ostensibly trapped Napoleon between two armies with a third still pursuing. The French whipped both Tshitsagov and Wittgenstein at the Berezina and Kutusov failed to support either army, undoubtedly deliberately as he told Ermelov that it was Tshitsagov's turn to fight Napoleon. Kutusov had been beaten repeatedly by Napoleon and was undoubtedly scared to face him again. Clausewitz's comments on Kutusov are interesting.
Winter affected both armies, and they both shrank in numbers because of it. The French weren ‘t defeated by the weather, but by the sheer immenseness of Russia itself. The country was just too large and was of such a scale that the means of an early 19th century army, even one as skilled and organized as the Grande Armee, could not effectively campaign in Russia itself. On the Russian side, the country was hurt badly both by the immense losses the army suffered, but by the toll on the country itself and economically, as Russia was bankrupt. Without British subsidies the next few years, Alexander could not have kept Russian armies in the field (nor could Prussia or Austria for that matter.)

Supply and Forage:

The Russian supply ‘system' had always been inefficient and too many times the Russian soldier was starving on campaign. In late 1807 that became almost critical and Russian soldiers had even begged rations from French outposts. The supply system usually broke down early in a campaign, and even when they organized large supply convoys, as in Russia in 1812, these usually fell behind the troops and when they actually caught up, the food and forage had been largely used up feeding themselves and their horses. Russian troops went hungry and ragged in Russia and lost large numbers to the elements and starvation, and were many times in rags during the French retreat. Russian losses were just about equal to the elements as the French were. Overall losses undoubtedly approached those of the French, but the losses of irregulars can never be calculated as they weren't kept track of by the Russian commanders and staff.
Some British troops joked that it was a good thing the Russians religiously fasted on certain days because of the inefficiency of their supply system. In 1799 in Holland
And it should also be noted that the Russians were no more use to the cold weather than the French. During peacetime they were used to warm barracks and were not inured to hard campaigning in the winter. This not only happened in 1812 in Russia, but in 1799 in Holland.

From Sir Robert Wilson, Campaigns in Poland 1806 and 1807, 51-52:

‘the Commissariat is wretched, but not from the neglect of the commissaries. Magazines and transports are only to be provided with money. The Russian treasury was exhausted, and British aid amounting to eighty thousand pounds, was hardly obtained.'

‘Whilst armies are advancing rapidly, the food of the inhabitants can be seized and may prove sufficient; but when the seat of war becomes permanent, as was the case in Poland, in consequence of Russian valor, famine must destroy the population, and disorganization and disease consume the army, unless arrangements are made to ensure the regular supplies from unexhausted countries. As the Russian soldiery are satisfied with less than perhaps any soldiers in Europe, great facilities are afforded for the establishment of sufficient supplies; but, unless those supplies are, in the first instance, redundant, the convoys will always be intercepted by the famishing divisions in route, and rapine and violence will destroy all the resources which might be collected, under a proper direction, from the immediate country in which the army may be acting. As it was, no derangement could be greater, no effect more distressing, and no misery more continual, and it is only extraordinary that the army did not disperse, not from mutinous spirit, but actual necessity.'

From Christopher Duffy, Russia's Military Way to the West:

‘In the matter of the commissariat proper, the frauds endemic in the equipment department were far exceeded by those perpetrated in that of food supply (Proviant), where the fraudulent dealing alienated ‘all those honest contractors who were willing to provide the sustenance of the army at an infinitely cheapter rate. Altogether, wrote Langeron, ‘there never existed, and never will exist, more varefaced swindlers than the personnel of these departments'. The glorious example of the chiefs was sedulously imitated by the petty functionaries at the regimental level.' 196-197.

Sources:

-SM Rzhevskii, O Russkaya Armiya vo Vtoroi Polovine Edaterinskago Tsarstvivaniya, Moscow. ‘A scathing indictment of the state of the army, by a Russian general.'
-A Langeron, Russkaya Armiya v God Smerti Ekateriny II, St. Petersburg. ‘Possibly the most detailed and judicious contemporary account of the Russian army in the eighteenth century.' Note: Langeron was a French émigré in the Russian service who served through 1814.

Reconnaissance and Counter-Reconnnaissance:

One of the problems the Russians had, even inside Russia, was the lack of accurate and suitable maps. This caused problems and the Russians tended from time to time to get lost in their own country, especially the regular light cavalry. Reconnaissance was largely left to the Cossacks. This also applied to security and screening missions. Further, the Cossacks were poor scouts who tended to exaggerate the enemy's numbers and too many were illiterate and couldn't write down what they saw.

Replacements:

As Russian regiments in 1813 were smaller because of heavy losses, replacements were sometimes a long-time coming. Apparently, few large levies of replacements did not arrive with the field army until the August armistice in 1813. One of the problems the Russian army faced in late 1812 was that losses had been so heavy that the surviving cadres had to be ‘protected' especially in units, especially artillery units, where there were not enough suitable replacements to keep the units in the field if they suffered further heavy losses. The Russians could supply warm bodies especially to the infantry, but the skill level required for even a hint of competence.

Medical:

In 1812 there were only 800 doctors in the Russian army. Quite a few of them were ethnic Germans. The responsibility for Russian military hospitals in 1812 was divided between the commissariat (which was responsible for both supply and administration) and the medical department (the doctors and other medical personnel) was inefficient and caused problems tending the sick and wounded. The medical system nearly collapsed in 1812 because of the large numbers of sick and wounded and because of the constant movement during the campaign. They lacked the numbers to support the army as well as facilities to serve as hospitals in the interior of Russia. To that was added the usual corruption in the administrative services that had improved since 1807, but was still a large problem.
Engineers: The Russian engineer arm had the same problem that the artillery did-there were too few trained engineers in the Russian service. The two most senior Russian engineer officers in 1812 were Peter van Suchtelen, who was Dutch, and Karl Oppermann, who was a German. Alexander had separated the engineers from the artillery, but that was later than the French had done and the service was not up to supporting a large army's engineering needs on campaign.
Staff officers: The Russian staffs in general were inefficient and were supplemented by foreign officers, usually Germans, skilled in staff work, who were then resented by their Russian ‘comrades' which hampered staff work. They were not respected by the rank and file, nor were they trusted by them. Barclay's treatment by his own staff officers was because he was believed to be a ‘foreigner.' And this is a further testament for the below-average education level of the Russian officer corps, artillery and engineer officers included.

Ammunition:

Ammunition consumption was large in the big battles, such as Borodino, but the French didn't have any problem staying supplied with it during the campaign, as they had established magazines both before the invasion and during the campaign. They also had captured Russian magazines intact which facilitated the supply issue. Some figures for captured Russian supply magazines are as high as forty percent of the total established by Russia before the campaign.

Artillery:

While the 1805 artillery reforms were a solid advance for the Russian army, General Sievers remarking that he believed the guns and ancillary vehicles were as good as anyone else's, the tactical employment of artillery, as well as command and control, significantly lagged behind what the French had accomplished since 1763 and the Gribeauval reforms. Even the disastrous artillery losses the French suffered in 1812 (which was definitely not a reflection of their artillery system) were made up in sufficient time for the spring 1813 campaign which demonstrated institutionalized excellence of the French artillery system. The performance of the French artillery arm at the first large battle at Lutzen, with Drouot's large 80-gun battery destroying the allied center at close range, demonstrated a skill and competence level not seen in the Russian artillery arm during the wars. It is highly doubtful that the Russian artillery arm could have duplicated Senarmont's achievement at Friedland in 1807, and the one example of two Russian batteries advancing under fire at Gross-Beeren in 1813 was a result of being ‘brow-beaten' by the Prussian artillery commander, Karl Friedrich von Holtzendorf to follow his two Prussian batteries in the advance against the Saxon artillery. The Russian armies were artillery-heavy, employing large numbers of guns, generally outnumbering what the French fielded. Apparently, they made up in weight of metal what they did not have in skill. Russian batteries were actually too large, 12-14 pieces, for one junior artillery officer to command effectively and they did not organize an artillery reserve at the army level until 1812, but in the only artillery battle in that campaign, at Borodino, the Russian artillery arm was both outfought and outshot, with the Russian artillery reserve commander getting himself killed leading an infantry counterattack. Another problem with command and control is that Russian division and corps artillery commanders were not usually general officers. While this was not necessarily a problem at the division level, it certainly was at the corps level. General officers spoke differently to another general officer than to a senior field grade officer, and this hampered effective artillery employment, especially at Borodino.

Kalmyks, Cossacks, and Cupids:

The Cossacks, Bashkirs, Tartars, and Kalmucks with the army were generally illiterate, no one had any idea how many of them were with the army at any one time, and were generally poor scouts. They were deathly afraid of artillery fire and would seldom face it, and were probably the world's champion looters. The Bashkirs, Tartars, and Kalmucks were quite literally vassal tribes from the eastern frontiers of Russia and were more interested in looting than acquiring useful information for the Russian commanders. They were also brutal and more often than not, they would plunder and rape in the areas where they operated, friendly civilians or not.

They did not get along well with the Russian regular troops and held Russian civilians in contempt. They were professional fighting men, but on their own terms. Schwarzenberg said of them in 1812: ‘These organized bands are wily. They don't like infantry fire very much, they detest artillery, but when they are three to one they become impudent.' They were not interested in engaging in stand-up fights of any kind. That being said, the French light cavalry officer Antoine de Brack considered them the finest light cavalry in the world. At Hanau in 1813, a large force of Cossacks found the French trains in the French rear and believed it to be a ‘soft' target. The trains were commanded by General Radet of the Imperial Gendarmerie and he had two Guard infantry battalions plus the Gendarmerie d'Elite as security for the trains. He also had some artillery. The Cossack attacked the trains, now organized in a perimeter defense, and the attack was defeated by massed artillery fire which caused heavy losses to the Cossacks and ruined their attack. The Gendarmerie rode out in pursuit, picking up Cossack prisoners, who were decidedly unhappy.

Zhmodikov21 Sep 2017 4:21 a.m. PST

Art wrote:

Just how true is this according to Russian accounts?

I think it is impossible to prove that most of the Russian officer corps had no real marshal interest, but, in the same time, it is impossible to prove that most of the Russian officer corps had real marshal interest.

I am not sure I understand this: "and were officers mostly for the advantage in Russian high society".
Many Russian generals had served many years by 1805. Most of them had little combat experience except those who took part either in the 1789-1790 Russo-Swedish war, either in the suppression of the Polish rebellion in 1792-1799, or in the 1799 campaign, and even if they did, they were field officers while they took part in these wars. So many were promoted generals for the years of service only.

There was a universal training programme for cavalry, but some regimental chefs and commanders altered it according to their taste. Grand Duke Constantine, the younger brother of Tsar Alexander I, was the Inspector of Cavalry, and he gradually instilled the universal training programme to the regimental chefs and commanders. I think he had succeeded in that by 1812.

The following statement:
"Few regiments had any training outside of parade grounds"
requires clarifications: what is "training outside of parade grounds", did it differ significantly from the "training on parade grounds", and how many regiments in other armies had any training outside of parade grounds.

von Winterfeldt21 Sep 2017 5:14 a.m. PST

yes indeed, whoever posted

""Few regiments had any training outside of parade grounds."

please submit sources and quotations on that, otherwise I guess – a statement based on nothing than immagination.

Also what is parade ground training, maybe better term it drill ground??

Whirlwind21 Sep 2017 5:39 a.m. PST

The Russians lost most of the big battles in 1812 and still couldn't defeat the Grande Armee at the Berezina when they has ostensibly trapped Napoleon between two armies with a third still pursuing.

It is an interesting personal foible that you don't think that the Russians were victorious at the Berezina but hardly supported by the facts. The criticism is perhaps that the Russians might have won bigger; that isn't the same as saying they didn't win.

link

It is impossible to make a logical case that the French "won" at Eylau but the Russians "didn't win" at the Berezina.

Brechtel19821 Sep 2017 6:39 a.m. PST

It is an interesting personal foible that you don't think that the Russians were victorious at the Berezina but hardly supported by the facts. The criticism is perhaps that the Russians might have won bigger; that isn't the same as saying they didn't win.

If the Russians had won at the Berezina, the French would not have gotten out of Russia. It's pretty simple really I should think. And I do believe that it has been explained quite logically regarding who won and lost at the Berezina.

'It has been said that the bridges presented a hideous spectacle due to the crowding and confusion…In reality, the crossing of the Berezina in the face of the enemy was a very large military undertaking that reflects further glory on the army and its chief.'-Berthezene.

As for Eylau, if the Russians had won, they would have stayed on the battlefield-they didn't. They were only saved from a complete defeat by the arrival of Lestocq's corps.

The link you posted is hardly a credible reference. Either make a valid argument for your position, or the point is moot and your conclusion(s) are incorrect.

Lastly, your personal comment ('interesting personal foible') is unnecessary on the forum. It is too bad that you have to pollute the forum with unnecessary negative personal comments. It is just yet another ad hominem personal attack that is a logical fallacy.

Whirlwind21 Sep 2017 6:48 a.m. PST

If the Russians had won at the Berezina, the French would not have gotten out of Russia. It's pretty simple really I should think. And I do believe that it has been explained quite logically regarding who won and lost at the Berezina.

No. That is you putting a level of victory that you know the Russians didn't achieve to try and pretend they weren't victorious. But I didn't say that one couldn't claim that the Russians didn't win at the Berezina – what I did say was that the same logic applies much more strongly to say Eylau and Borodino. No-ne has explained how logically the Berezina wasn't a Russian victory but Eylau and Borodino were French victories, for the good reason it is impossible.


'It has been said that the bridges presented a hideous spectacle due to the crowding and confusion…In reality, the crossing of the Berezina in the face of the enemy was a very large military undertaking that reflects further glory on the army and its chief.'-Berthezene.

Yes. They presented such a hideous spectacle that the word entered the French language to mean calamitous defeat!

As for Eylau, if the Russians had won, they would have stayed on the battlefield-they didn't. They were only saved from a complete defeat by the arrival of Lestocq's corps.

There you go – here you use "remained on the battlefield" as the qualifier for victory; so by this measure, the Berezina is a Russian victory.

Lastly, your personal comment ('interesting personal foible') is unnecessary on the forum. It is too bad that you have to pollute the forum with unnecessary negative personal comments. It is just yet another ad hominem personal attack that is a logical fallacy.

I didn't intend "personal foible" as an ad hominem attack, but since you have taken it as such, I unreservedly apologize for the remark and withdraw it.

basileus6621 Sep 2017 7:04 a.m. PST

You realize that you are not refuting Le Breton's comments, don't you, Kevin? What Le Breton was saying is that Russians faced the same or worst difficulties than the French and yet they were victorious. Actually, by highlightning the structural problems of the Russian army you are reinforcing his argument. Moreover, you are critizing the Emperor for being incapable of defeating such a backward army! How could he have failed against an army without experienced commanding officers, badly trained, badly fed and ridden by corruption and mismanagement? And yet Napoleon failed. Abismally. I can't share your bleak vision of Napoleon. Sure, he wasn't at the top of his game, but still…

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP21 Sep 2017 7:54 a.m. PST

please submit sources and quotations on that, otherwise I guess – a statement based on nothing than immagination.

James R. Arnold: Crisis in the snow.

Le Breton21 Sep 2017 7:55 a.m. PST

Aleksandr,

So, I should have written the former regiments of the Siberian inspection?

18th Jäger, for a simple example, had been raised in Siberia and stayed there for decades until late 1810. Did OK at Borodino.

I think the Russian geographic naming is generally known to be honrific.

Brechtel19821 Sep 2017 8:24 a.m. PST

I didn't intend "personal foible" as an ad hominem attack, but since you have taken it as such, I unreservedly apologize for the remark and withdraw it.

Apology accepted. Thank you.

Brechtel19821 Sep 2017 8:28 a.m. PST

I think the French not only misjudged their adversary, but were essentially failed by their highly vaunted staff system. Whereas the Russians, despite all the negative "press", actually managed the supply of food/clothing/munitions, reconaissance and counter-reconaissance, replacements, forage, remounts, medical, etc., etc. with great skill. And so their army was, despite losses, intact and ready for the invasion of German-speaking lands in January 1813, while the Grande Armée lay dead or marching away to Russian prisoner-of-war settlements.

That is the portion being refuted, Bas. And, as stated, the main problem with the French invasion was the size of the country they invaded. That's what defeated them. And also, the Russians in 1813 had suffered so many casualties during the 1812 campaign that they could not face the French alone-they needed at least the Prussians, and they still lost in the spring campaign. The Austrian alliance and British subsidies is what finally defeated the French, unfortunately.

The 'with great skill' in the issues posted is incorrect factually, as shown.

Art Inactive Member21 Sep 2017 8:55 a.m. PST

Truls

I disagree

From Davouts correspondence with Napoleon in 1808, volume II, pp 197

Les officiers russes sur le Niémen annoncent qu'on doit former au mois de mai un camp du cote de Wilna pour s'excercer aux manoweuvres francaisce, chaque corps ayant enyoye un certain nombre d'officiers et sous-officiers a Petersbourg, pour les apprendre.

It would seem to me that there was an interest after all…

Also I have never heard of any documentation stating that the Russians were not capable of drill, evolutions of the battalion, brigade and line…nor have I heard of the Russians not knowing how to form square…

Best Regards
Art

Zhmodikov21 Sep 2017 9:25 a.m. PST

Le Breton,
Two regiments were brought from Siberia in 1811: the 18th Jager and Selenginsky Infantry.
At Borodino, Feldwebel Zolotov of the 18th Jager Regiment captured French General Bonamy.

Zhmodikov21 Sep 2017 9:37 a.m. PST

Brechtel wrote:

If the Russians had won at the Berezina, the French would not have gotten out of Russia.

What will you say about the battle of Leipzig? That Napoleon won the battle, because the French had gotten out of Germany?

Le Breton21 Sep 2017 10:27 a.m. PST

Shirvanskiy, Tomskiy and 19-y Yegerskiy in the 24th Division ?
No ?

Brechtel19821 Sep 2017 11:03 a.m. PST

What will you say about the battle of Leipzig? That Napoleon won the battle, because the French had gotten out of Germany?

That question is just a little ridiculous.

However, the idea that the French lost at Borodino, Eylau, and the Berezina is equally ridiculous.

Whirlwind21 Sep 2017 11:22 a.m. PST

However, the idea that the French lost at Borodino, Eylau, and the Berezina is equally ridiculous.

It might be, but I don't think anyone has said that. What has been said is that if someone considers the French to have been victorious at Eylau and Borodino, there can be no logical grounds for thinking that the Russians didn't win at the Berezina.

What are the criteria for victory? The examples normally given are:

Bodycount
Possession of the Field
Fulfilment of Maximum Objectives

The only one that arguably the Russians didn't achieve was the third, if one considers that is the major indicator of victory. Fine. But if one does so, one certainly cannot consider Eylau or Borodino French victories. On the other hand, if one considers bodycount and/or possession of the field the key indicators, then the Berezina must be a crushing Russian victory. There doesn't appear to be any other logical conclusion.

Whirlwind21 Sep 2017 11:28 a.m. PST

One could pick a different criterion, the one that would probably be ised in modern campaign methodologies: which battles brought each side closer to victory? I deliberately didn't pick this one because it favours the Russians so much. Eylau didn't advance the French cause at all, neither did Borodino (i.e in both cases the French position was better before the battle than after it). The Berezina, even though it didn't achieve all the Russians might have hoped, still brought ultimate campaign success much closer for them.

4th Cuirassier21 Sep 2017 11:38 a.m. PST

If Eylau was a French defeat, there is surely a stupid book waiting to be written that claims it was a German victory because the arrival of Germans secured it.

Brechtel19821 Sep 2017 11:38 a.m. PST

The Russian campaign was already lost by the French by the time of the Berezina. Napoleon's intent and objective was to get what was left out of Russia.

The Russians made a serious effort to trap the French at the Berezina. It didn't work, and the armies of both Tshitshagov and Wittgenstein were defeated in the process, and Kutusov failed to support his fellow army commanders because he was afraid to face Napoleon again.

That counts as a win in the field for the French, not the Russians. They successfully built two trestle bridges across the river after the Borisov bridge was burned by the Russians. The French then conducted a deception operation to fool the Russians for their intended crossing site. After Tshitshagov figured out he had been hoodwinked as to Napoleon's intention, he attacked the bridgehead on the western bank of the river and was defeated.

Wittgenstein attempted to take the crossing site on the eastern bank of the river, but was repeatedly defeated in those attempts by Victor.

If that isn't a victory for the French, then I cannot figure out what one is. It was certainly failure on the part of the Russians.

Now, we can debate this all day and next week if you like, but I doubt I'm going to change your mind, and you're definitely not going to change mine, so I suggest we move on.

However, if you insist on continuing then you can have the last word in the discussion if you like.

Osterreicher21 Sep 2017 12:07 p.m. PST

I would like to add that, in my view, any battle should be analyzed by the extent of the victory on the Tactical, Operational, Strategic, and Grand Strategic levels.

For example, Eylau at best was a minor French victory, as the Russian losses were slightly worse, the Russians were forced to retreat the following night, Davout nearly tore apart the Russian left, and Ney arrived for any continuation of the battle on the following morning.

Operationally, the Russians were not able to maneuver as they were before the battle, but the French were unable to follow up in any meaningful way, so a draw perhaps, or slight advantage to the French.

Strategically, Bennigsen's winter offensive was blunted and both sides went back into winter quarters, slight victory for the French for stopping this, but in no way was this a clear strategic victory.

Grand Strategically, no victory or peace was achieved, so really a draw.

For Berezina, any Tactical gain, was more than offset by being ejected from Russian soil in a rather awful manner, so Operationally, Strategically, this was surely still a victory for the Russians, and Grand Strategically, the effect didn't dispute the massive Grand Strategic victory for the Russians.

My definitions are: Tactical – regiment and below, Operational – divisional and corps maneuver on the battlefield, Strategic – corps and army maneuver in a theatre of operations, and Grand Strategic – against whom one wars and with whom one allies.

Zhmodikov21 Sep 2017 12:15 p.m. PST

The Shirvansky Regiment was stationed in the Caucasus region.
The Tomsky Regiment left Siberia in 1808.
I have no information on the 19th Jager Regiment.

Zhmodikov21 Sep 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

Brechtel198 wrote:

That question is just a little ridiculous.

Why? What are the differences between the Berezina and Leipzig? In both cases Napoleon successfully crossed a river and avoided a complete defeat by superior enemy forces or even escaped being captured himself.

However, the idea that the French lost at Borodino, Eylau, and the Berezina is equally ridiculous.

Who said that the French lost at Borodino and Eylau?
Napoleon lost at the Berezina – more than ten thousand of his soldiers were captured, he lost about 200 guns.

The Russian campaign was already lost by the French by the time of the Berezina.

The 1813 campaign in Germany was already lost by the French by the time of Leipzig. The allies defeated three little separate French armies (Ney and Oudinot at Dennewitz, Macdonald at the Katzbach, Vandamme at Kulm) and had significant numerical superiority.

The Russians made a serious effort to trap the French at the Berezina.

Only Tchichagov made an effort to trap the French at the Berezina. Wittgenstein was very cautious.

It didn't work, and the armies of both Tshitshagov and Wittgenstein were defeated in the process

How many prisoners and how many guns did the French capture from Wittgenstein? How far was Wittgenstein driven from his position? Marshal Victor lost almost a whole infantry divison of General Partonneaux – it was surrounded and surrendered, with the generals and artillery.

That counts as a win in the field for the French, not the Russians.

It depends on who counts and how to count.

Wittgenstein attempted to take the crossing site on the eastern bank of the river, but was repeatedly defeated in those attempts by Victor.

Wittgenstein did not attempt to take the crossing site on the eastern bank of the river. He very cautiously engaged in a combat with Victor's troops, but did not try to attack them resolutely with large forces.

RudyNelson21 Sep 2017 3:23 p.m. PST

Ok, so the question dealt with a specific period or war. The 1806-07 was just one of several eras but I fail to regard the Russians as vastly inferior in any of them.
Back when I was researching, 1970s and 1980s, army lists and determining morale and melee values for the troops, many sources and books were reviewed.
Many regard the largest variance as being due to Command leadership. All armies had changes in quality so may be regarded as a wash in research. But in game design it would be a key factor.
In both game design and reader responses, the individual tends to have an axe to grind. They want to justify a certain position so slant the data material to reflect their view point.
This MAY, but not entirely be the reason for so many tangents in different conflict eras. It is hard to hang with so of the extended posts. regardless of how entertaining they may be.

Whirlwind21 Sep 2017 6:05 p.m. PST

The Russian campaign was already lost by the French by the time of the Berezina. Napoleon's intent and objective was to get what was left out of Russia.

And he had many fewer left after the Berezina. That counts in the Russian favour, not the French.

The Russians made a serious effort to trap the French at the Berezina. It didn't work

Exactly the same argument could – and logically would have to – be made about the US Armies at Falaise and Argentan. Are we seriously thinking that because not all the Germans were killed or captured in the pocket, then this was a defeat for US arms? Of course not. We think of it as a victory, which could have been bigger; we think of it as a German defeat, which could have been worse.

Now, we can debate this all day and next week if you like, but I doubt I'm going to change your mind, and you're definitely not going to change mine, so I suggest we move on.

Actually, my aim in this isn't to change your mind as such. What my aim is to point out to you that when you are trying to convince the members of TMP about a different point (here, the tactical inferiority of the Russian system to the French) then it is counter-productive for your case to rely on examples which are highly contentious in their own right.

von Winterfeldt21 Sep 2017 9:50 p.m. PST

so the French stayed on the field of battle logic and then win applies for Eylau?

but the Grande Armée of 1812 – I hate to say French because the half were Allies – make a runner at the Beresina and left the battle field in the hand of the Russians – still win a victory?

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP22 Sep 2017 3:16 a.m. PST

The French always win, because they get 100000 points for being French(Top gear logic)

Bagration181222 Sep 2017 3:36 a.m. PST

Since this is ostensibly about 1806-07, I suppose Heilsberg was also a French win, no?

Bagration181222 Sep 2017 3:37 a.m. PST

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, by the way.

Zhmodikov22 Sep 2017 4:25 a.m. PST

Art wrote:

From Davouts correspondence with Napoleon in 1808, volume II, pp 197

Les officiers russes sur le Niémen annoncent qu'on doit former au mois de mai un camp du cote de Wilna pour s'excercer aux manoweuvres francaisce, chaque corps ayant enyoye un certain nombre d'officiers et sous-officiers a Petersbourg, pour les apprendre.

There was such practice in the Russian army: one officer, and a few NCOs and drummers from each regiment went to St.Peterburg, where they learned new drill exersices from the Guard offficers, NCOs and drummers. Then they returned to their regiments and taught the other officers, NCOs and drummers to what they had learned in St.Peterburg. Several officers mention such trips to St.Peterburg in their memoirs (Yakov Otroschenko, who was a captain in the 7th Jager regiment in 1810, was promoted major after such trip and transferred to the 14th Jager regiment; Mikhail Petrov, who was a captain in the 1st Jager regiment in 1811, was promoted major in February 1812 and returned to his regiment).
And it can be clearly seen in the sources that after 1805 the Russians began to adopt some French formations and tactical methods, for example, colonne d'attaque, feu de deux rangs (French method of firing by files with the third rank men only reloading, but not firing themselves), etc.

Art Inactive Member22 Sep 2017 5:12 a.m. PST

G'Day Alexander,

Thank you for the information…

As you already know…the Russian Military School for Infantry Service published in 1826(?) is a good example of similarities in Russian and French methods…especially with the aid of the diagrams at the end of the book… -well for me at least ;-)

Best Regards
Art

Bagration181222 Sep 2017 5:37 a.m. PST

Hi Art and Alexander –

Is the 1826ish volume mentioned above available online?

Brechtel19822 Sep 2017 6:17 a.m. PST

What my aim is to point out to you that when you are trying to convince the members of TMP about a different point (here, the tactical inferiority of the Russian system to the French) then it is counter-productive for your case to rely on examples which are highly contentious in their own right.

I'm not attempting to convince anyone of anything. I am merely posting what I have found historically and militarily correct as to outcomes and why.

I don't see the point of you attempting to assess what my intent is or isn't-usually when someone attempts that course of action it is incorrect.

Whether or not you accept what I have posted is immaterial, and your best guess as to what either my intent or 'case' may be is also immaterial.

I don't post for any particular person, but for the forum as a whole. And while I do post in response to ideas and postings that I find here, the replies are for everyone-to accept or not accept as they wont. To try and 'deduce' an agenda of some type, as it appears you are attempting to do, is futile.

Brechtel19822 Sep 2017 6:20 a.m. PST

There is an excellent account of the battle of Heilsberg in the Arnold/Reinertson book Napoleon's Triumph, 140-191. It is also an excellent study of the Friedland campaign.

The authors note that the French lost at Heilsberg, but it is worthy to consider that Napoleon was ready to continue the battle the next day, and Bennigsen was not. Further, Bennigsen reported a victory to the Tsar in his after-action report.

Art Inactive Member22 Sep 2017 6:38 a.m. PST

G'Day Bragration…

Yes it is free online…

Let me remember where I got it…but I do remember the link was given by Seroga on this forum

Best Regards
Art

von Winterfeldt22 Sep 2017 6:43 a.m. PST

in case it could be that copy

books.reenactor.ru/?bookid=1038

also see

TMP link

many thanks to Seroga

and also this link is very interesting

link

Whirlwind22 Sep 2017 7:52 a.m. PST

I'm not attempting to convince anyone of anything. I am merely posting what I have found historically and militarily correct as to outcomes and why.

This is semantics. I'm not inferring your intent, I'm commenting on what you have actually written in the thread.

Bagration181222 Sep 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

Many thanks, HK! Appreciated, sir.

Gazzola23 Sep 2017 12:54 p.m. PST

Whirlwind

I can't understand why you and others cannot accept the concept of a French victory at Berezina and who won at Borodino, Eylau and Leipzig?

I don't want to insult your intelligence but your denial of the facts implies you appear to be deliberately ignoring the obvious.

At Berezina-the aim of the French was to cross the river and escape, despite the heavy odds against them. They succeeded in crossing. The Russian aim was to stop them. They failed to do so. This indicates a clear French victory.

At Eylau the aim of both sides was to defeat their opponents and gain the battlefield. The fact the Russians retreated and the French remained on the field, indicates that the French won the day. The same could be said of Borodino.

However, at Leipzig, the French left the field, which indicates that the Allies won the day and it was their victory.

I don't think that is hard for anyone to understand or accept.

Gazzola23 Sep 2017 1:08 p.m. PST

Le Breton

My opinion is that severe weather aided the Russians in 1812 but was not the only cause of the overall French defeat.

And we must not forget that the Russians were campaigning in their own country, so, to a certain degree, as vast as Russian is, one would expect them (or some of them) to have a better knowledge of the land and availability of supplies.

We can't change history and it is pretty clear that the French won in 1807 and lost in 1812.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2017 1:20 p.m. PST

The aim of Napoleon at Eylau was to crush the russian army and win the war. He failed to do that. So Russia wins the battle.

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