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


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Brechtel19804 Oct 2017 8:26 a.m. PST

Davout's attack was blunted by the Prussians when they arrived, but Davout soon reorganized and counterattacked and retook much of the ground he had lost to the Prussians. The fighting ended because of dark and extreme cold.

And the Russians were faced with the French in a semi-circle around their army with the Konigsberg road in danger of being cut by Ney.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 8:30 a.m. PST

The prussians couldn't finish the job as the needed manpower had to be diverted as the arrival of Ney alarmed the Russians.

So just as the russians where saved by the arrival of the Prussians. The French were saved by Ney.

Brechtel19804 Oct 2017 10:03 a.m. PST

Ney didn't save the French, as Davout's counterattack had driven the Prussians back from their initial gains and recovered most of the territory they had lost to the Prussian counterattack.

As darkness fell, Davout was already replenishing the infantry ammunition of his divisions with that held by the foot artillery companies assigned to his infantry divisions.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 10:54 a.m. PST

Not what Crisis in the snow says.
Nothing about any counter-attack by Davout.

von Winterfeldt04 Oct 2017 11:41 a.m. PST

no – Davout was pushed back by L'Estoqu.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 12:10 p.m. PST

Yes. And L'Estoqu's prussians and Russians were about to destroy the French right flank. They only needed a few extra Russian battalions. But Benningsen had to divert those to the new Threat posed by Ney

Brechtel19804 Oct 2017 3:36 p.m. PST

Incorrect. Davout counterattacked L'Estocq and regained most of the ground that he had lost.

Napoleon's right flank, which was Davout, was not 'about to be destroyed' by the Prussians and Russians. You might want to read Davout's after-action reports.

Zhmodikov04 Oct 2017 4:38 p.m. PST

Brechtel198 wrote:

Comparing the battles in Switzerland in 1799 with the Berezina in 1812 (which was a river crossing operation in the face of hostile forces) is both illogical and ahistorical.

Why? The Korsakov was surrounded in Zurich, Massena had more troops, but Korsakov broke through and escaped. Suvorov had no road of retreat: Massena's troops were standing on all known roads, Massena had numerical superiority, but Suvorov's troops repulsed all attacks of the French and escaped over a mountain ridge by shepherd's paths. I think that both Korsakov and Suvorov were in worse situations than Napoleon at the Berezina.

Brechtel198 wrote:

The two Russian armies objective at the Berezina was to cut off Napoleon's retreat. And having two armies on either side of the river is evidence of that. Tshitshagov taking Borisov and burning the bridge over the river there is also evidence of their attempt to stop and trap Napoleon and the Grande Armee in Russia.

Only Tchichagov could try to stop Napoleon's army, Tchichagov managed to arrive at the Berezina before the arrival of Oudinot's II Corps. Tchichagov brought a part of his army over the Berezina and stationed in Borisov. Then he was attacked by Oudinot's corps and was driven out of Borisov over the bridge back to the western bank of the Berezina. Only then Tchichagov's troops burned the bridge. The French tried to broke through the burning bridge, but failed. Each of the two Russian armies were weaker that Napoleon's army, and they were divided by a river. Tchichagov had 33,000 men, and he believed that Napoleon would march on Minsk, so he sent a part of his troops to the south along the Berezina.

Brechtel198 wrote:

A large-scale ‘skirmish' is still a battle and the Grande Armee's commanders would many times form their first line as a heavy skirmish line in defense and would also attack with troops in a heavy skirmish line. That does not change the fact that the battle was desperate with heavy casualties on both sides.

There were not many battles in vast woods in the Napoleonic wars. At Berezina, the Russians did not launch attacks with troops in close order. The advance-guard under the command General Tchaplits (seven jager regiments with a few guns) fought against the Swiss and the Poles in skirmish order in the wood. The Swiss and the Poles also fought in skirmish order. There were no possibility to fight in either lines or columns. General Tchaplits repeatedly asked for reinforcements. Two infantry divisions (the 9th and 18th) were sent to support him. But then the French cuirassiers counterattacked, broke through the jagers and reached the foremost parts of the two divisions.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And Tshitshagov also brought the rest of his command to the Berezina crossings to support Tschaplitz.

The main forces of Tchichagov's army arrived too late, when a considerable part of Napoleon's troops had already crossed the Berezina. Tchichagov remained in the rear during the battle. Denis Davydov wrote that Tchichagov said to General Ivan Sabaneyev, who was his Chief of Staff, that he is unable to command troops on land, and asked Sabaneyev to take command.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Arnoldi was in place at the Studenka crossing with his four guns before the French began to cross and while the bridges were being built. Tshitshagov brought his artillery with him. And of the Russians failed to deploy their artillery on the west bank, the French did not have that problem as Napoleon supported Victor in his defense on the east bank with massed artillery firing across the river.

At the point of the crossing, the east bank of Berezina is higher that the west bank. Even if the Russians had managed to deploy their artillery on the west bank, this artillery would had been unable to hold out against Napoleon's artillery firing from the east bank.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Fezensac, who you first brought up as a source, definitely states that the French won at the Berezina. He is a first-person witness and his memoir is a primary source. That is not opinion, but the judgment of a professional soldier engaged in the action. Either Fezensac is a reliable source or he isn't-you cannot have it both ways when it disagrees with your preconceived ideas.

There is no such thing as "a reliable source" among the battle accounts written by participants. Battle participant describe more or less correctly the actions of their unit and of a few neighbor units at best. They often incorrectly describe actions of the other friendly troops, and they usually incorrectly describe the intentions and actions of the enemy. And they usually exaggerate the numbers of the enemy. So, one and the same source can contain correct information on some things or events and incorrect information on some other things or events. All available sources must be studied. Every source should be thoroughly read, analyzed, and compared with the other sources.

Fezensac did not state that the French won at the Berezina. Below is the complete quote:

On the next morning, the 28th, a sharp action commenced on either side of the river. Admiral Tchitchagoff, on the left bank, and General Wittgenstein on the right, combined their efforts to force back our troops, and drive them into the Berezina. To oppose the attacks of the Admiral, we had only the 2nd corps, and a part of the 5th; three weak battalions, posted on the main road, served as a reserve; they we all that survived of the 1st, 3rd, and 8th corps. The combat was sustained for some time; but the 2nd corps, overwhelmed by superior forces, began to give way, and our reserves becoming more exposed to the enemy's balls fall back. This movement occasioned the stragglers in the woods to fly for safety to the bridge. The young guard itself was shaken, and it soon would apparent that our only hope of safety now rested in the old guard, with whom we prepared ourselves to conquer or to die. In one short moment the appearance of everything changed, and the ground, which seemed likely to be the grave of the Grande Armee, became the scene of its last and not least triumph.
The Duc of Reggio [Oudinot] having been wounded after an heroic resistance, was succeeded un his command by Marshal Ney. The illustrious soldier, who had saved the 3rd corps at Krasnoi, now saved on the banks of the Berezina the whole army, and the Emperor himself. He rallied the 2nd corps, and boldly resumed the offensive. His experience served to guide the generals, and the courage inspired the soldiers. [General] Doumerc's cuirassiers broke through the Russian squares, and carried off their cannon. The French and Polish infantry seconded their efforts; and 4,000 prisoners and five pieces of cannon bore evidence of the victory. We received with warm congratulations the brave men who escorted these brilliant trophies; for it was by their valour that the day had been decided. Tchitchagoff, who had not expected to meet so formidable a resistance, did not renew his attack. Night ensued; the 2nd corps held its position, and the other corps returned to their bivouac in the woods.

Fézensac R.E.P.J. de Montesquiou, Souvenirs militaires de 1804 à 1814. Paris, 3-e édition, 1869, pp.130-131.

An English edition:
Fézensac, A Journal of the Russian Campaign of 1812. London, 1852, pp.135-136.

So, when Fezensac wrote about a triumph and a victory, he meant only this successful counterattack, not the whole battle. And he clearly state that Napoleon's troops were on the verge of defeat: the 2nd corps began to give way, the reserves fell back, and even the Young Guard were shaken (fut ébranlée). However, he is incorrect in saying that the Russians did not renew their advance after the counterattack of the French cuirassiers. Thomas Legler, an Oberleutnant of grenadiers in the 1st Swiss Regiment, also mentions this counterattack, but he estimates the number of prisoners as 2,500. Then he wrote:

Das feindlische zweite Treffen, welches nun gegen uns in das Gefecht kam, hatte kaum eine halbe Stunde lang sein Feuer begonnen, so warden die Polen bis auf uns zurückgedrängt, die wir in unsere Linie aufnammen und somit auch unser Feuer wieder begannen. Wir erstaunten über die feindlischen, wohl angebrachten Schüsse

Muralt A. von, Legler T., Erinnerungen aus dem Feldzug Napoleons I in Russland 1812. Bern, 1940, S.207.

The same: Legler T., "Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem russischen Feldzuge vom Jahr 1812." // Jahrbuch des historishen Vereins des Kantons Glarus. Zurich & Glarus, Viertes Heft, 1868, S.45.

Translation:

The enemy second line, which had now engaged in combat against us, had begun their fire for scarcely half an hour, as the Poles were pushed back to us, whom we gathered into our line, and thus our fire began again. We were astonished by the enemy well directed shots…

A. Rey, a captain in the 1st Swiss Regiment, also mentions the charge of the French cuirassiers, and then he wrote:

Cette charge, belle et fructueuse, semblait devoir nous ôter l'ennemi de dessus les bras, et en efffet le feu se ralentit pour quelques instants. Mais il reprit ensuite une nouvelle intensité, qui annonçait l'arrivée de renforts à nos adversaires.

Rösselet A., Souvenirs de Abraham Rösselet. Neuchâtel, 1857, p.181.
Abraham Rösselet was an officer in the same regiment, he quotes a letter from Rey.

Translation:

This charge, beautiful and fruitful, seemed to have saved us from the presence of the enemy, and, as a result, the fire slackened for a few moments. But then it resumed with new intensity, which announced the arrival of reinforcements to our opponents.

Rey added that the Swiss launched a counterattack, and in the course of it he was wounded.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Once again, you are incorrect.

I disagree.

Now about Wittgenstein.

Brechtel198 wrote:

He outnumbered Victor and all of his attacks were defeated.

Only 14,000 of Wittgenstein's 28,000 fought in the battle: the advance-guard under the command of General Vlastov (4,000), a part of General Berg's corps (4,000), and the reserve under the command of General Fock. The rest of General Berg's corps arrived late in the evening, General Steinhel's corps – in the night.

Fezensac wrote:

In his resistance, the Duc of Belluno [Victor] accomplished all that talent and valour could inspire, but, pressed by superior force, he was unable to prevent the progress of the enemy. Towards the evening, the Russian artillery, taking up a commanding position, commenced firing on the confused multitude which covered the plain. The disorder then reached its height.

Fézensac, Souvenirs, p.133.
Fézensac, A Journal of the Russian Campaign of 1812, p.137.

So, "defeated" Wittgensten drove "victorious" Victor back.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Victor's cavalry counterattack with the Baden Hussars and the Hesse-Darmstadt Cheveau-Legers was not only successful and broke a Russian cuirassier unit, but suffered heavy casualties in the process. I believe the Germans later referred to it as a ‘Death Ride.'

And how do this prove Victor's alleged victory? There were many attacks and counterattacks. In the Journal of operations of the 1st corps it is said that the Russians repulsed attacks of Victor's troops, for ecample, see:
"Journal d'opérations du 1er corps russe (Wittgenstein)." // Revue des études napoléoniennes, Première année, Tome II, Juillet-décembre 1912, p.104.

There are detailed memoirs of Baden General Hochberg, he also mentions counterattacks of Victor's troops, for example, an unsuccessful counterattack of Berg infantry brigade under the command general Damas. Hochberg wrote that the Baden Hussar Regiment was almost completely destroyed, not more than 50 hussars crossed the Berezina.

Brechtel198 wrote:

If a historical conclusion is based on assembled facts, then it isn't an opinion. That is historical inquiry or it is based on primary witnesses such as Fezensac.

And still, it is an opinion, not a fact, and not evidence.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And the majority opinions of the historians I have read or that have been presented in this thread are that the French won at the Berezina.

It is a problem of your historians, not mine.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And if you wish to take to opposite opinion, then present any evidence that the French lost.

Well.
Fezensac:

all who were still on the other side, fell into the enemy's power, together with the baggage, a great part of the artillery, private carriages, and the trophies of Moscow, – in a word, all that had yet escaped previous destruction. More than 15,000 men perished or were taken in the course of this frightful day… the deplorable condition of the army made further resistance more and more difficult. The 2nd and 9th corps, who had sacrificed themselves to secure our passage, were now nearly in as lamentable a state as ourselves, and it was evident that the safety of the army would henceforth depend on the rapidity of its flight [rapidité de sa fuite].

Fézensac, Souvenirs, pp.133-134, 135.
Fézensac, A Journal of the Russian Campaign of 1812, pp.138, 139.

The safety of the "victorious" army depended on the rapidity of its flight. It is a catastrophe, not a victory.

In the 2nd and 9th corps, less than a half of men had remained in the ranks.

Marbot estimated the total loss of Napoleon's army as 20 to 25 thousand men.
Marbot J.-B.-A.-M. de, Mémoires du général baron de Marbot. 4-me édition, Paris, 1891, t.3, p.207.

"Defeated" Wittgenstein captured 12 to 15 thousand prisoners, including five generals and about 250 officers.

von Winterfeldt04 Oct 2017 10:00 p.m. PST

excellent posting +1

Gazzola05 Oct 2017 3:59 a.m. PST

Whirlwind

No one is pleading anything, for any reason.

And it is obvious that the aim of all battles is to win them.

If the French had been beaten at Berezina they would not have been able to cross.

If the French had been beaten at Eylau, the Russian would not have left the field.

If the French had been beaten at Borodino, the Russians would not have left the field and the French would not have been able to walk into Moscow so easily.

It is all very well people who just can't cope with these actions being considered as French victories, winging and moaning and saying, ah but they lost this many and that many and they lost the war, so it can't possibly be a victory. The fact is they were.

But I can understand why some people just won't accept it and it is they who are biased and letting their bias rule their head and ignore the facts.

And the fact remains, in 1807, Napoleon and the French won at Eylau and later won the won, in 1812, Napoleon won at Borodino, and won Berezina, but lost the war. I suggest some people just try and get over it. You can't change history or the facts.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2017 4:44 a.m. PST

Not only did the French loose Borodino, they lost the war right there, Napoleon HAD to destroy the Russians, the Russians only had to survive. Napoleon wasted the last of his offensive capability not. The Russian left the field knowing every day more and more troops were assembling.

And I still can't find any reference to any counter-attack by Davout at Eylau, he stopped the Prussians from advancing and held on and that was it.

Whirlwind05 Oct 2017 4:49 a.m. PST

Gazzola,

No amount of your special pleading, whinging and moaning will change the facts. I know that you get upset when your biases are challenged and shown by irrefutable logic and solid history to rest on nothing more than assertion; it must be very miserable when the weakness of your arguments is highlighted for all to see and yet more Napoleonic myth-making is refuted.

The fact remains that Napoleon failed at Eylau, failed at Borodino, lost half his men at the Berezina and entered the French language as a byword for crushing defeat and set a new standard for how badly a general can lose campaign.

I hope that one day you will get over it and learn to look at things objectively, but I imagine you will be still whimpering "he did win…he did win.." forever.

Good luck to you.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2017 6:21 a.m. PST

Alexander, excellent comments on Souvorov's army in Switzerland. It should also be pointed out that army had already largely cleared Northern Italy of Revolutionary forces, fought and won three major battles on the process defeating two notable Revolutionary generals Moreau and Joubert and two future Marshals of the Empire, McDonald and St. Cyr (the latter still a subordinate),

Duffy's "Eagles over the Alps", "Russia's Military way to the West" and Longworth "The Art of Victory" are all well worth reading.

Brechtel19805 Oct 2017 7:08 a.m. PST

Three excellent references. Still, the Russian and French operations in Switzerland bear little, if any, relation to the operations along the Berezina in November 1812.

And, strategically, Suvorov was strategically defeated.

Brechtel19805 Oct 2017 9:07 a.m. PST

No amount of your special pleading, whinging and moaning will change the facts. I know that you get upset when your biases are challenged and shown by irrefutable logic and solid history to rest on nothing more than assertion; it must be very miserable when the weakness of your arguments is highlighted for all to see and yet more Napoleonic myth-making is refuted.

Personal comments only demonstrate the bankruptcy of your position. I would suggest that they not be made at all and stick to the topic with relevant postings.

Whirlwind05 Oct 2017 10:05 a.m. PST

Personal comments only demonstrate the bankruptcy of your position. I would suggest that they not be made at all and stick to the topic with relevant postings.

You did read Gazzola's post first, didn't you? Unsurprisingly it shows again the laughable bias in everything you do.

The only bankrupt position here is your own. No surprise there.

Now that I have drawn your attention to it, I imagine that your next posting on this thread will be to warn Gazzola that his personal comments have only demonstrated the bankruptcy of his position and he should stick to the topic with relevant postings. Are you going to do it or show your above posting to be the last word in hypocrisy?

Brechtel19805 Oct 2017 11:00 a.m. PST

I hope that one day you will get over it and learn to look at things objectively, but I imagine you will be still whimpering "he did win…he did win.." forever.

Now that I have drawn your attention to it, I imagine that your next posting on this thread will be to warn Gazzola that his personal comments have only demonstrated the bankruptcy of his position and he should stick to the topic with relevant postings. Are you going to do it or show your above posting to be the last word in hypocrisy?

Perhaps you could explain how these ad hominem comments further historical discussion?

Whirlwind05 Oct 2017 11:02 a.m. PST

Because I simply replied with his own words.

Whirlwind05 Oct 2017 11:06 a.m. PST

Perhaps you could explain the hypocrisy and dishonour of your post condemning me for using Gazzola's own words back at him?

Gazzola06 Oct 2017 4:19 p.m. PST

Whirlwind

Let me get this right, my viewpoints on Berezina, Borodino and Eylau as being French victories are, in your words, my 'special pleading, whinging and moaning'. That is hilarious, especially since I gave you the names of some of the historians who also believed the same, such as Alexander Mikaberidze, Philip Haythornthwaite and Digby Smith. Did you dare to look up where they stated them as victories?

And are you actually daring to suggest that I should accept your biased viewpoint over theirs. Based on your logic, they must also be 'pleading, whinging and moaning'. So, with that in mind, I will look forward to your next post where you accuse them of that. LOL

Whirlwind06 Oct 2017 6:02 p.m. PST

Gazzola,

Let me get this right

Okay, I'll correct you

my viewpoints on Berezina, Borodino and Eylau as being French victories are, in your words, my 'special pleading, whinging and moaning'

Since you wrote "It is all very well people who just can't cope with these actions being considered as French victories, winging and moaning and saying, ah but they lost this many and that many and they lost the war, so it can't possibly be a victory. The fact is they were. "…I'll just leave that there, about who can't cope with what, and who does the whinging.

What a hypocritical post. You are happy to dish it out and say that those who disagree with you are whinging and moaning, but you can't take it back at you.

That is hilarious, especially since I gave you the names of some of the historians who also believed the same, such as Alexander Mikaberidze, Philip Haythornthwaite and Digby Smith. Did you dare to look up where they stated them as victories?

Digyby Smith on Borodino:

Napoleon was again cheated of the victory he so desperately needed and his army was very badly knocked about

Digby Smith on Eylau:

Both the Russo-Prussians and French claimed a victory

Mikaberidze on Borodino:

The French gained a victory – albeit a narrow one..

But also

The battle, in fact, may be considered a key event in the downfall of the French First Empire, since Napoleon's failure to destroy the Russian Army and gain peace with Alexander led to ignominious retreat and the ultimate loss of his own Grand Army

So, then:

And are you actually daring to suggest that I should accept your biased viewpoint over theirs. Based on your logic, they must also be 'pleading, whinging and moaning'. So, with that in mind, I will look forward to your next post where you accuse them of that. LOL

So it is clear who has the biased viewpoint- you. Of course, if you had understood anything at all about my viewpoint you would know that I don't consider that anyone thinking that any of these events were French victories in and of itself is biased at all. But I guess that is beyond you.

However in one thing you are right: I don't accept the mere say-so of any historians. I look at the evidence, but I also look at the logic of their positions.

Whirlwind06 Oct 2017 6:06 p.m. PST

Gazzola,

Your posts are flawed, mistaken and aggressive. They show no interest in engaging with counter-arguments politely and constructively, getting angrier and angrier as your arguments crumble. I leave you to your thoughts and I put you back on stifle.

Le Breton07 Oct 2017 2:41 a.m. PST

Digby Smith on who won the battle at the Berezina

"Kevin asked me to list Russian victories in 1812 …. Beresina 26-28 Nov."
link

"It is a matter of opinion if you consider the Beresina to have been a French victory; the figures – as has been pointed out – tend not to support you."
link

Brechtel19807 Oct 2017 7:12 a.m. PST

Read the rest of the thread…including this posting:

'The Berezina was a French victory. Interestingly, it is listed as such in The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book by Digby Smith on page 406, first column under 'Beresina Crossing, 26-28 November 1812, battle.'
Maloyaroslavets was also a victory, won by Eugene over Kutusov.
So, it appears that the 'data' that was supplied is suspect at best and inaccurate at worst…'

link

Brechtel19807 Oct 2017 8:12 a.m. PST

From The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book by Digby Smith:

Eylau, Page 241: 'Both the Russo-Prussians and French claimed a victory, but the Russo-Prussians withdrew.'

Borodino, pages 390-392: 'A French and Allied victory over the Russians.'

Berezina, page 403: ' French victory over the Russians.'

Brechtel19809 Oct 2017 12:22 p.m. PST

If a historical conclusion is based on assembled facts, then it isn't an opinion. That is historical inquiry or it is based on primary witnesses such as Fezensac.

And still, it is an opinion, not a fact, and not evidence.

With that logic being applied, then all that you have written here is also nothing but opinion. Is that correct? Or, is it opinion only when you disagree with it?
Fezensac was very specific, and his ‘opinion' was that the French won, not the Russians. Weighing his ‘opinion' against yours, Fezensac ‘wins.'

And the majority opinions of the historians I have read or that have been presented in this thread are that the French won at the Berezina.
It is a problem of your historians, not mine.

Actually, it isn't a problem of the historians that I have referred to. They have done the research, assembled facts, and come to a logical conclusion. And they're not ‘mine' most of them being recognized as Napoleonic historians who have done the work and research.

Why? The Korsakov was surrounded in Zurich, Massena had more troops, but Korsakov broke through and escaped. Suvorov had no road of retreat: Massena's troops were standing on all known roads, Massena had numerical superiority, but Suvorov's troops repulsed all attacks of the French and escaped over a mountain ridge by shepherd's paths. I think that both Korsakov and Suvorov were in worse situations than Napoleon at the Berezina.

Were not the Austro-Russians attempting to entrap Massena at Second Zurich and not the other way round? And the Russians were both outmaneuvered and outfought at Second Zurich. Numbers were about even, and the French inflicted four times the casualties that the suffered and both Korsakov and Suvorov had to abandon their baggage and artillery in order to escape. Massena did not pursue Korsakov, and yet Second Zurich was a decisive French victory with Russia knocked out of the war? No, it isn't like the Berezina at all.

Only Tchichagov could try to stop Napoleon's army…,

Why? The idea was to trap Napleon at the Berezina with the armies of Tshitshagov, Wittgenstein and Kutusov. Kutusov begged off, sending only a small command to the area which accomplished nothing. Tshitshagov was completely fooled by the French deception operations along the river, expertly conducted by Oudinot, and didn't figure out that the French were crossing at Studenka. Both Tshitshagov and Wittgenstein failed in their mission, just as both of them were failed by Kutusov.

Tchichagov managed to arrive at the Berezina before the arrival of Oudinot's II Corps. Tchichagov brought a part of his army over the Berezina and stationed in Borisov. Then he was attacked by Oudinot's corps and was driven out of Borisov over the bridge back to the western bank of the Berezina. Only then Tchichagov's troops burned the bridge. The French tried to broke through the burning bridge, but failed. Each of the two Russian armies were weaker that Napoleon's army, and they were divided by a river. Tchichagov had 33,000 men, and he believed that Napoleon would march on Minsk, so he sent a part of his troops to the south along the Berezina.

The operations along the Berezina, in and around Borisov and at Studenka lasted for over a week, from at least 21 November to 28 November. In that time frame, the French lost the Borisov bridge, found a ford across the river at Studenka, conducted deception operations against Tshitshagov to mask the chosen river crossing site, built two trestle bridges across the river, held the west bank bridgehead against any and all Russian attacks, defeated Tshitshagov and conducting an expert rear guard action against Wittgenstein to protect the east bank bridgehead, which did come under Russian artillery fire. All formed units crossed the river either before or amid the heavy fighting, and with the exception of the loss of Partenneaux's French division, Victor got his rear guard disengaged and across the bridges, which Eble then burned. The only other Frenchmen left on the east bank of the river were over 10,000 stragglers and camp followers that refused to cross the river and were captured and abused by Cossacks.

Both Tshitshagov and Wittgenstein, individually and together had more than enough troops to stop the crossing, or to fight it out with the French after the crossing. Both of the Russian commanders failed in their mission because they were duped as to the actual crossing point by Oudinot and his deception operation and because they were outfought by the French.

There were not many battles in vast woods in the Napoleonic wars. At Berezina, the Russians did not launch attacks with troops in close order. The advance-guard under the command General Tchaplits (seven jager regiments with a few guns) fought against the Swiss and the Poles in skirmish order in the wood. The Swiss and the Poles also fought in skirmish order. There were no possibility to fight in either lines or columns. General Tchaplits repeatedly asked for reinforcements. Two infantry divisions (the 9th and 18th) were sent to support him. But then the French cuirassiers counterattacked, broke through the jagers and reached the foremost parts of the two divisions.

If you actually take a look at the Grande Armee's battles, you'll find that the French fought either in the woods, rough terrain, or in the open. Generally speaking, they were more skilled in open order fighting (regardless of terrain) than their enemies. As examples, there was fighting in the hilly wooded country south of Ratisbon by Davout's III Corps against the Austrian corps of Hohelzollern and Rosenberg in April 1809. Lannes Reserve Corps fought heavily in the Wood of Sortlack against Bagration at Friedland in June 1809. Davout used woods to his advantage in the fight at Mogilev in 1812. In 1807 at Heilsberg, French General Legrand (a division commander in Soult's IV Corps, outmaneuvered and outfought the Russians in a strongly defended wood, driving them out by deploying one light infantry regiment and two separate light infantry battalions against the Russians as skirmishers backed up by formed troops in battalion columns.

And not fighting in closed order does not mean that there won't be heavy fighting. Fighting in skirmisher swarms was developed by the French during the Wars of the French Revolution. And I doubt that all of the fighting on the west bank of the river was done in open order.

The main forces of Tchichagov's army arrived too late, when a considerable part of Napoleon's troops had already crossed the Berezina. Tchichagov remained in the rear during the battle. Denis Davydov wrote that Tchichagov said to General Ivan Sabaneyev, who was his Chief of Staff, that he is unable to command troops on land, and asked Sabaneyev to take command.

Define ‘too late.'

Tshitshagov's main force arrived at the battlefield in enough time to engage Ney's and Oudinot's commands and crowd in on the bridgehead. The fighting was both heavy and serious, with both sides suffering heavy casualties in the process.

If Tshitshagov had arrived after Victor had crossed the river, then that was too late. As he didn't, he wasn't. He had, however, been completely taken in by the French deception plan which decisively delayed his arrival. That, too, was a French victory.

At the point of the crossing, the east bank of Berezina is higher that the west bank. Even if the Russians had managed to deploy their artillery on the west bank, this artillery would had been unable to hold out against Napoleon's artillery firing from the east bank.

But the fighting on the west bank took place south of the bridgehead and the crossing, so the point is moot. It is also an indicator that French artillery employment was superior to that of the Russians, which Russian General Sievers had remarked upon after 1807.

There is no such thing as "a reliable source" among the battle accounts written by participants.

I disagree. If that were an accurate statement, then the use of primary accounts would be useless. That is far from accurate.

Some memoirs/accounts are accurate, some are not and that means that source material, primary or secondary, have to be evaluated as to their accuracy and credibility. That is part of both historical methodology and historical inquiry. Evaluating sources for accuracy is essential to find the facts of any historical event.

Battle participant describe more or less correctly the actions of their unit and of a few neighbor units at best. They often incorrectly describe actions of the other friendly troops, and they usually incorrectly describe the intentions and actions of the enemy. And they usually exaggerate the numbers of the enemy. So, one and the same source can contain correct information on some things or events and incorrect information on some other things or events. All available sources must be studied. Every source should be thoroughly read, analyzed, and compared with the other sources.

Generally speaking, that is an accurate statement which anyone who studies military history should have to hand, either in writing or engraved on their brain housing group.

Fezensac did not state that the French won at the Berezina…

I disagree and it certainly seems to me that Fezensac stated that the French won (I have both volumes by Fezensac). By stopping the Russians breaking through the II Corps units, the French saved the bridgehead and the French were still crossing the river on the 28th. In point of fact, the 28th was the day of the heaviest fighting of the crossing and the Russians failed to stop the crossing on either side of the river.

Only 14,000 of Wittgenstein's 28,000 fought in the battle: the advance-guard under the command of General Vlastov (4,000), a part of General Berg's corps (4,000), and the reserve under the command of General Fock. The rest of General Berg's corps arrived late in the evening, General Steinhel's corps – in the night.

They still outnumbered Victor, especially after the capture of Partenneaux's division. Napoleon sent the Baden brigade back over the bridges to reinforce Victor and also supported him from expertly emplaced artillery on the west bank (even though it was lower than the east bank). I don't see your point here.

In his resistance, the Duc of Belluno [Victor] accomplished all that talent and valour could inspire, but, pressed by superior force, he was unable to prevent the progress of the enemy. Towards the evening, the Russian artillery, taking up a commanding position, commenced firing on the confused multitude which covered the plain. The disorder then reached its height.-Fezensac.
So, "defeated" Wittgensten drove "victorious" Victor back.

Did Wittgenstein take the bridges or the bridgehead? Victor held his position and withdrew intact, minus losses, at the end of the action without Wittgenstein interfering in the withdrawal. Wittgenstein's artillery fired on the mass of stragglers and camp followers in the bridgehead, not formed troops. Therefore, Wittgenstein failed in his mission and Victor accomplished his-that's a French win.

And how do this prove Victor's alleged victory? There were many attacks and counterattacks. In the Journal of operations of the 1st corps it is said that the Russians repulsed attacks of Victor's troops…

There are detailed memoirs of Baden General Hochberg, he also mentions counterattacks of Victor's troops, for example, an unsuccessful counterattack of Berg infantry brigade under the command general Damas. Hochberg wrote that the Baden Hussar Regiment was almost completely destroyed, not more than 50 hussars crossed the Berezina.

The proof of the success of Victor's rear guard operation is that Wittgenstein was denied access to the bridges and Victor got his corps out and across the bridges in good order.

Regarding the Baden Hussars, that is why their charge, along with the Hesse-Darmstadt Chevau-Legers, was termed the ‘Death Ride.' What it did was drive back the Russians and stabilize Victor's line. Victor's mission was to protect the bridges and stop Wittgenstein from penetrating to the bridgehead. Victor was successful. And Victor's counterattacks were designed to stabilize his line and to repulse any Russian penetration. He was successful in this also.

Well…

all who were still on the other side, fell into the enemy's power, together with the baggage, a great part of the artillery, private carriages, and the trophies of Moscow, – in a word, all that had yet escaped previous destruction. More than 15,000 men perished or were taken in the course of this frightful day… the deplorable condition of the army made further resistance more and more difficult. The 2nd and 9th corps, who had sacrificed themselves to secure our passage, were now nearly in as lamentable a state as ourselves, and it was evident that the safety of the army would henceforth depend on the rapidity of its flight [rapidité de sa fuite].-Fezensac

Fezensac is describing what the Russians took after the battle was over and the French army was across the river. In actuality, French artillery losses were not very heavy. The number of pieces lost I've seen listed as between 5 and 25. The greater majority of the artillery was taken across the river and went west until it was lost at Vilna-not to enemy action but because of the terrain, the weather, and the soft-shoeing of the gun teams who couldn't get the guns and vehicles up a long incline.

And, yes, the French had to retreat as fast as they could, which was the object of the exercise at the Berezina. They were trying to escape and the decisive success at the Berezina allowed that.

The safety of the "victorious" army depended on the rapidity of its flight. It is a catastrophe, not a victory.

The campaign itself was disastrous, but the fight at the Berezina was not. Berthezene's comment on the crossing is about as accurate as assessment of the action as you're going to get. The bottom line is the the crossing of the Berezina was a success and the French accomplished their mission; the Russians did not.

In the 2nd and 9th corps, less than a half of men had remained in the ranks.

French losses from combat action at the Berezina were heavy-but it should be remembered that the fighting was heavy and on the 28th sustained. And Russian losses were at least 10,000 dead and an unknown number of wounded.

Marbot estimated the total loss of Napoleon's army as 20 to 25 thousand men.

Marbot has been found by more than a few competent historians to have too many times ‘remembered with advantages.' He is not the best source for the period-there are quite a few others that can be relied on instead. And it should be remembered that at least 10,000 of the French losses were either stragglers or camp followers, and those were rounded up by Wittgenstein's command after the bridges had been burned by Eble early on 29 November.

Speaking of reliablility, Wittgenstein's after-action reports have been mentioned as being somewhat unreliable. Bennigsen's are worse. Napoleon's Bulletins, which were never intended as history, cannot be used as reference material except to point out the intentional errors. There is a wonderful story in von Brandt's memoirs about writing after-action reports. As a junior officer, he submitted an after-action report to his commander after a minor action which was both accurate and truthful. His commander rewrote it to describe a minor epic, giving it back to von Brandt and announcing ‘that is how you write an after action report.'

Von Brandt makes the comment that ‘Victor kept the Russians under Wittgenstein at bay whilst on our side of the river [west bank] the vanguard, consisting of a few thousand brave men from Oudinot's, Ney's, and Poniatowski's corps, as well as from the Vistula Legion, took on Tshitshagov's troops in that bloody but glorious struggle which reopened our escape route to Vilna.'

"Defeated" Wittgenstein captured 12 to 15 thousand prisoners, including five generals and about 250 officers.

Again, at least 10,000 of those captured were stragglers and camp followers who were taken after Victor had withdrawn across the bridges and Eble burned the bridges early on 29 November. And, yes, Wittgenstein was defeated by Victor.

Gazzola09 Oct 2017 4:25 p.m. PST

Whirlwind

You say you have put me on stifle, should I consider that a pyrrhic victory? LOL

Well, other people seem to have no problem with making comments relating to posts made by those they say they have placed on stifle.

But firstly, me, angry…really? Not in the least. I was actually enjoying the debate, although somewhat amused at some of the viewpoints expressed.

And surely the fact I looked up what some historians said about those battles and who came to the same conclusions over the French victories, suggests I was willing to debate the matter and find material to support my views.

Anyway, if you have put me on stifle, that is your choice, although it does suggest that you were the one who was angry. I have never put anyone on stifle and I certainly would not do so because they disagreed with my viewpoint.

But, it is your choice. I won't hold any grudges against you because I know some people just can't take anyone challenging their viewpoints, which is rather sad. Yet having different viewpoints is a fact of life, and there would be very few debates if they didn't.

Anyway, here is something I came across. No 4 is very interesting.
link

attilathepun4709 Oct 2017 7:54 p.m. PST

Egad, the thread that refuses to die--seems like a parody of an old horror movie title.

Gazzola11 Oct 2017 6:05 a.m. PST

attilathepun47

Deleted by Moderator

Sad really because I found it interesting how people interpret history and, in this case, individual battles, so differently. But it is clearly obvious that personal bias has clouded some people's viewpoints.

And it obvious that some people will just not accept one side won various battles because they lost the campaign or war, which is a bit bizarre, Deleted by Moderator.

After all, this is the Napoleonic Discussion board, so people are meant to discuss items and events, not hide what people are saying because they might disagree with their viewpoints.

Anyway, yes, I think this topic has probably run its course. Perhaps it was a kind of pyrrhic victory after all, although I never saw it as a battle of viewpoints, but rather a discussion and debate of viewpoints. Others sadly, did not seem to see it that way. But I guess that's life.

attilathepun4711 Oct 2017 9:09 a.m. PST

Actually, I enjoy seeing vigorous debate on historical issues, as long as it remains in the spirit of intellectual inquiry. This, however, had wandered far from the original post, and was starting to simply rehash the same arguments over and over. Hence, my comment. I hope it did not offend anybody.

4th Cuirassier12 Oct 2017 12:47 a.m. PST

@ Gazzola

But I can understand why some people just won't accept it and it is they who are biased and letting their bias rule their head and ignore the facts.

Similarly, there are those who find it very hard to forgive the Duke of Wellington for being one of only two unbeaten commanders of the wars (Davout), for repulsing pretty much every attack ever made on any of his positions, for being desperately needed by the Prussians at Waterloo, for the latter losing every 1815 battle they fought without him, and for his army never requiring wholesale, root-and-branch reorganisation in the wake of shattering military defeat at the hands of numerically inferior French forces.

Those are the facts, and they are desperately troublesome for people raised as Anglophobes, in the same way that historical French military prowess is very upsetting for people whose views of the French are based on 1940.

Gazzola12 Oct 2017 4:45 p.m. PST

4th Cuirassier

If someone is a good commander, they are a good commander and it does not mean they have to win every battle or campaign to be classed as one. And in my opinion, Wellington has to be classed as a good commander.

However, I'm not sure about classing Wellington as undefeated. If I remember rightly he failed at Badajoz at first and later at Burgos and was forced to retreat?

And don't you mean the Prussians were desperately needed at Waterloo? LOL

I personally don't know anyone raised as an Anglophobe.

In terms of national military prowess of a nation, it would be silly for anyone to base opinions or viewpoints on just campaigns and battles were a nation did well or were they did not do so well. Every nation has had its ups and downs, its glory and less glory days. In some ways, that's what makes history so interesting, especially military history, well, to me anyway.

The problem only arises when people give the impression that the nation they favour never failed or lost a battle or a campaign, or a nation they may dislike for whatever reason, never won or were better at some point than the nation they favour. Still, it takes all kinds to make this world and thankfully we are not all robots in our views and opinions, well, not yet anyway.

Zhmodikov15 Oct 2017 5:50 a.m. PST

Brechtel198 wrote:

With that logic being applied, then all that you have written here is also nothing but opinion. Is that correct?

Yes, of course. I never said that my words are the ultimate truth.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Fezensac was very specific, and his ‘opinion' was that the French won, not the Russians. Weighing his ‘opinion' against yours, Fezensac ‘wins.'

I can't see this opinion in Fezensac's memoirs. He wrote that the French won the combat at the west bank. He also wrote that the combat had ended after the counterattack of the French cuirassiers, who were supported by other troops. Two Swiss officers, Legler and Rey, wrote that the Russians renewed the combat about a half an hour after the counterattack. Did Fezensac write that the French won the whole battle in some other source, in his diary or in a letter?
And even if Fezensac clearly said that the French won the battle, why does he ‘win'? He was a Frenchman, an officer in Napoleon's army, and he was a participant of the battle. His opinion should be biased. He did not see the whole battle and did not read all published accounts written by participants. I can't say that I read all published accounts written by participants, but I read many.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Actually, it isn't a problem of the historians that I have referred to. They have done the research, assembled facts, and come to a logical conclusion.

I have done the same. And I think that I read more accounts of the battle, than many western historians did, because I read almost all accounts from both sides.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And they're not ‘mine' most of them being recognized as Napoleonic historians who have done the work and research.

I think that the research of the battle is not finished, and will probably never be finished.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Were not the Austro-Russians attempting to entrap Massena at Second Zurich and not the other way round?

The Russians tried to get the armies of Suvorov and Korsakov together. They failed, because Massena had forced Korsakov to leave Switzerland before Suvorov arrived. Then Massena tried to entrap Suvorov in the Alps, but Suvorov escaped.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And the Russians were both outmaneuvered and outfought at Second Zurich. Numbers were about even, and the French inflicted four times the casualties that the suffered and both Korsakov and Suvorov had to abandon their baggage and artillery in order to escape. Massena did not pursue Korsakov, and yet Second Zurich was a decisive French victory with Russia knocked out of the war?

Korsakov was surrounded in the town of Zurich, but on the next day he broke through and escaped, and later he fought at Schlatt and Konstanz. He had lost about a half of his guns at Zurich, not all his artillery. Suvorov had only a few light mountain guns of Sardinian production, they were abandoned, but he escaped with his men. His army was able to fight later, and Archduke Charles tried to persuade Suvorov to take part in the actions, which he planned, but Suvorov refused.
Napoleon's army was unable to fight after Berezina, it retreated without any attempts to stop. Nobody says that the events in Switzerland in 1799 are Russian victories. Why do some historians say that the Berezina is a French victory?

Brechtel198 wrote:

The idea was to trap Napleon at the Berezina with the armies of Tshitshagov, Wittgenstein and Kutusov.

Only Tchichagov was able to cut the way of retreat of Napoleon's army. But he had not enough troops to defend the 50 kilometers of the Berezina west bank. If he had concentrated his army to Studyanka, Napoleon would have crossed the river in some other point. Wittgenstein followed Oudinot and Victor, Kutuzov followed Napoleon. Both Wittgenstein and Kutuzov couldn't overtake their adversaries and cut their way of retreat. And there were no radio to effectively coordinate the converging advance of the three Russian armies.

Brechtel198 wrote:

The operations along the Berezina, in and around Borisov and at Studenka lasted for over a week, from at least 21 November to 28 November. In that time frame, the French lost the Borisov bridge, found a ford across the river at Studenka, conducted deception operations against Tshitshagov to mask the chosen river crossing site, built two trestle bridges across the river, held the west bank bridgehead against any and all Russian attacks, defeated Tshitshagov and conducting an expert rear guard action against Wittgenstein to protect the east bank bridgehead, which did come under Russian artillery fire. All formed units crossed the river either before or amid the heavy fighting, and with the exception of the loss of Partenneaux's French division, Victor got his rear guard disengaged and across the bridges, which Eble then burned. The only other Frenchmen left on the east bank of the river were over 10,000 stragglers and camp followers that refused to cross the river and were captured and abused by Cossacks.

And where is the alleged French victory? On the west bank they barely held out against a part of Tchichagov's army. Victor fought against Wittgenstein's troops, which arrived by parts. How can the losing of a whole infantry division be considered "an expert rear guard action"?
Victor took were heavy casualties and retreated across the river when it was almost dark.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Both Tshitshagov and Wittgenstein, individually and together had more than enough troops to stop the crossing, or to fight it out with the French after the crossing.

How? Each of them had less troops than Napoleon had (about 30,000 against about 50,000). None of them could defeat Napoleon by his own troops only. Taken together, their armies were stronger than Napoleon's army, but they were divided by the river. Napoleon had built the bridges, so he could bring all his troops on either bank of the river or reinforce the troops on one bank with other troops from the other bank. Оne of Victor's divisions crossed the river twice, that of General Daendels, of I remember correctly.

Brechtel198 wrote:

If you actually take a look at the Grande Armee's battles, you'll find that the French fought either in the woods, rough terrain, or in the open. Generally speaking, they were more skilled in open order fighting (regardless of terrain) than their enemies. As examples, there was fighting in the hilly wooded country south of Ratisbon by Davout's III Corps against the Austrian corps of Hohelzollern and Rosenberg in April 1809. Lannes Reserve Corps fought heavily in the Wood of Sortlack against Bagration at Friedland in June 1809. Davout used woods to his advantage in the fight at Mogilev in 1812. In 1807 at Heilsberg, French General Legrand (a division commander in Soult's IV Corps, outmaneuvered and outfought the Russians in a strongly defended wood, driving them out by deploying one light infantry regiment and two separate light infantry battalions against the Russians as skirmishers backed up by formed troops in battalion columns.

In your examples, woods occupied only parts of the battlefields. And in some cases the woods allowed the artillery to maneuver inside of them. The Berezina is a different case. The whole battlefield was a vast wood. The artillery could be positioned only on one road.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And I doubt that all of the fighting on the west bank of the river was done in open order.

What I can say? Read memoirs of the Swiss officers, whom I mentioned in my previous messages, and also memoirs of Tchichagov, Tchaplits, Langeron, Malinovsky, and others. They all clearly say that the infantry fought in skirmish order.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Define ‘too late.'
Tshitshagov's main force arrived at the battlefield in enough time to engage Ney's and Oudinot's commands and crowd in on the bridgehead. The fighting was both heavy and serious, with both sides suffering heavy casualties in the process.

When Napoleon's troops began to cross the river, there was only a weak Russian detachment under the command of Colonel Kornilov at the west bank at the point of the crossing. The main forces of the advance-guard under the command of General Tchaplits were stationed near Stakhov. Kornilov's detachment was driven back, Tchaplits advanced, but he was unable to drive Napoleon's troops back to the bridges. When the 9th and 18th Russian infantry divisions arrived and appeared in the rear of Tchaplits troops, the French cuirassiers counterattacked. After the counterattack, the Russians renewed the fighting, but soon the day was over.

Brechtel198 wrote:

If Tshitshagov had arrived after Victor had crossed the river, then that was too late. As he didn't, he wasn't. He had, however, been completely taken in by the French deception plan which decisively delayed his arrival. That, too, was a French victory.

As I have said, if Tchichagov had concentrated his army to Studyanka, Napoleon would have crossed the river in some other point. Tchichagov had not enough troops to be strong enough in all points at which crossing was possible.

Brechtel198 wrote:

But the fighting on the west bank took place south of the bridgehead and the crossing, so the point is moot. It is also an indicator that French artillery employment was superior to that of the Russians, which Russian General Sievers had remarked upon after 1807.

The fighting on the west bank took place in the vast wood, the artillery could be positioned only at one road. General Sievers did not write about battles in vast woods, so his remarks had no relation to this case.

Brechtel198 wrote:

If that were an accurate statement, then the use of primary accounts would be useless. That is far from accurate.

We should use the primary sources, because we have no better sources. But "to use" does not mean "to believe". Sources should be studied, compared, and analyzed in a way not unlike the analysis of crime witnesses testimony.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Some memoirs/accounts are accurate, some are not and that means that source material, primary or secondary, have to be evaluated as to their accuracy and credibility. That is part of both historical methodology and historical inquiry. Evaluating sources for accuracy is essential to find the facts of any historical event.

Would you like to say that there are sources so reliable, that they contain only accurate information? How could a participant of a battle get accurate information on the actions, which he could not see, if we know that participants sometimes incorrectly describe even the actions that they could see?

Brechtel198 wrote:

I disagree and it certainly seems to me that Fezensac stated that the French won (I have both volumes by Fezensac).

I think that Fezensac wrote about the combat at the west bank, which he could see personally:

the 2nd corps, overwhelmed by superior forces, began to give way, and our reserves becoming more exposed to the enemy's balls fall back. This movement occasioned the stragglers in the woods to fly for safety to the bridge. The young guard itself was shaken, and it soon would apparent that our only hope of safety now rested in the old guard, with whom we prepared ourselves to conquer or to die. In one short moment the appearance of everything changed, and the ground, which seemed likely to be the grave of the Grande Armee, became the scene of its last and not least triumph.

I think that the words: "In one short moment the appearance of everything changed" (En un instant tout changea de face) clearly indicate that this passage is only about the counterattack at the west bank.

And Fezensac incorrectly described even this combat, as it can be seen, if we compare his memoirs with memoirs of Legler and the letter by Rey, who both fought in the first line, while Fezensac's regiment was in the reserve behind the Swiss.

Brechtel198 wrote:

They still outnumbered Victor, especially after the capture of Partenneaux's division.

They arrived by parts and outnumbered Victor by the evening 28th, and Victor retreated over the bridges late in the evening.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Did Wittgenstein take the bridges or the bridgehead? Victor held his position and withdrew intact, minus losses, at the end of the action without Wittgenstein interfering in the withdrawal.

No, Wittgenstein did not take the bridges. Does it mean that he was defeated? If a general is considered defeated when his advance was stopped, and his attacks were repulsed, even if his adversary retreated late in the evening without the general interfering in the withdrawal, then the French were defeated at Pultusk, Eylau, Heilsberg, and Borodino. Do you agree, and if not, why?

I am sorry, I don't understand what it means: "withdrew intact, minus losses". Victor had lost about a half of his troops. Fezensac wrote that after the battle the 2nd and 9th corps were in almost the same lamentable state as the other corps, which retreated from Moscow. He also wrote that before the crossing Napoleon had about 50,000 men, and lose about 15,000 in one day of 28th. Is the losing of 30 per cent men in one day a victory? At the same time, after the battle "defeated" Wittgenstein pursued the "victorious" Napoleon's army.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Wittgenstein's artillery fired on the mass of stragglers and camp followers in the bridgehead, not formed troops.

Wittgenstein's artillery fired at all enemies, whether they were formed or unformed. As you probably know, the cannonballs were fired at a little elevation angle of the cannon barrel, they ricocheted from the ground and jumped over a long distance, killing, maiming, wounding, and bruising anyone on their way.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Therefore, Wittgenstein failed in his mission and Victor accomplished his-that's a French win.
The proof of the success of Victor's rear guard operation is that Wittgenstein was denied access to the bridges and Victor got his corps out and across the bridges in good order.

What was Wittgenstein's mission in which he failed? Who assigned him this mission? Why do you think that Wittgenstein's mission was to access to the bridges and to destroy Victor's troops completely at any cost?

Brechtel198 wrote:

Regarding the Baden Hussars, that is why their charge, along with the Hesse-Darmstadt Chevau-Legers, was termed the ‘Death Ride.' What it did was drive back the Russians and stabilize Victor's line. Victor's mission was to protect the bridges and stop Wittgenstein from penetrating to the bridgehead. Victor was successful.

Victor accomplished his mission, although at a high price, but this does not mean that Wittgenstein was defeated.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Fezensac is describing what the Russians took after the battle was over and the French army was across the river. In actuality, French artillery losses were not very heavy. The number of pieces lost I've seen listed as between 5 and 25.
The greater majority of the artillery was taken across the river and went west until it was lost at Vilna-not to enemy action but because of the terrain, the weather, and the soft-shoeing of the gun teams who couldn't get the guns and vehicles up a long incline.

The guns were taken because the Russians pursued the remnants of Napoleon's army. A vigorous pursuit of the retreating enemy after a victorious battle usually brought the most important results: lots of prisoners and trophies, as Clausewitz explained (On War, part 4 (Battle), chapters 12 and 13). The Russians pursued the remnants of Napoleon's army and collected prisoners and trophies. Hence, the Russians were the winners, Napoleon was the loser.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And, yes, the French had to retreat as fast as they could, which was the object of the exercise at the Berezina. They were trying to escape and the decisive success at the Berezina allowed that.

If Napoleon decisively won at the Berezina, why did his army retreat without any attempt to stop, and disintegrated in the process? Why did he leave his army?

Brechtel198 wrote:

And Russian losses were at least 10,000 dead and an unknown number of wounded.

I have never seen any attempt to accurately estimate the Russian losses at the Berezina using archival sources. All estimates are guesses at best.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And it should be remembered that at least 10,000 of the French losses were either stragglers or camp followers

If the stragglers had not been captured, they would have escaped, and they would have been active soldiers in 1813.

Brechtel198 wrote:

Speaking of reliablility, Wittgenstein's after-action reports have been mentioned as being somewhat unreliable.

As I have said, Baden General Hochberg also mentions attacks of Victor's troops on Wittgenstein's troops, some of them were successful, some not. This was a usual course of battles of the period: the adversaries deployed their troops, bombarded one another with their artillery, launched local attacks and counterattacks in order to gain a more advantageous position at some points of a battlefield or to regain lost points.

Brechtel198 wrote:

And, yes, Wittgenstein was defeated by Victor.

Then the French were defeated at Pultusk, Eylau, Heilsberg, and Borodino. And Napoleon won at Leipzig: he successfully crossed the river in his rear, he escaped, avoided a complete defeat, and "withdrew intact, minus losses."

Le Breton15 Oct 2017 8:31 a.m. PST

@Brechtel :
"Baden Hussars and the Hesse-Darmstadt Cheveau-Legers was not only successful and broke a Russian cuirassier unit, but suffered heavy casualties in the process. I believe the Germans later referred to it as a ‘Death Ride.'"
"their charge, along with the Hesse-Darmstadt Chevau-Legers, was termed the ‘Death Ride."

The only mention I found of "death ride" (or anything similar in German), this was :
Artillery Of Napoleonic Wars – by Kevin F. Kiley – page 231
"[T]he Baden Hussars and the Hesse-Darmstadt CheveauxLégers, sacrificed themselves in a gallant charge, forever after known as the "Death Ride,""

So, other than you, who ever used the term "Death Ride" ?

==========================

The Baden Hussars mustered 17 officers and 382 other ranks on 1 September.
They had series of small actions on 11 and 12 November.
2 of 3 squadrons of Baden hussars were at the Berezina, 11 officers and about 200 troopers.
About 50 troopers remained in formation at the end of the action, the rest wounded, killed, scattered or captured.
The regiment fell back to Vilna, where they were essentially all captured.

Here are the fates of their officers:

At the Berezina :
Oberst von La Roche-Starkenfels – wounded by a bayonet thrust, captured at Vilna, repatriated 1814
Major Dietz – wounded at the berezina captured at Vilna, died due to the "strains" of the campaign and capitivity 26 April 1813
Rittmeister Bischof – wounded at the Berezina, captured at Vilna, died of typhus 13 February 1813
Lieutenant von Preen – wounded at the Berezina, captured at Vilna, escaped captivity and returned to service in 1813
Lieutenant von Stettin – wounded at the Berezina, captured at Vilna, died of the "strains" of the campaing and capitivty in 1813
Lieutenant Sartori – wounded and captured at the Berezina, died in captivity 1813
Lieutenant von Ammerongen – wounded at the Berezina, evaded capitivty, returned to service in 1813
Lieutenant von Riß – wounded at the Berezina, captured at Vilna, died 3 December 1812
Lieutenant von Seldenech – lightly wounded 11 November, evaded capitivty, returned to service in 1813
Lieutenant Graf von Leiningen – wounded at the Berezina, captured at Vilna, repatriated 1814
Regiments-Chigurg Rohaut – captured at Vilna, repariated 1814
Chigurg Weßel – evaded capitivty, returned to service in 1813

Not with the hussars at the Berezina :
Oberstleutnant von Grolmann – detached to Dorf Patrowieschten (?), caputured at Vilna, died of typhus 8 February 1813
Zweiter Obert von Cancrin – killed by a artillery shell 12 November 1812
Rittmeister Schwarz – in hospital at Vilna, where he was captured, repatriated 1814
Rittmeister von Rüdt – detached to Dorf Patrowieschten, lightly wounded 23 November, caputured at Vilna, escaped captivity and returned to service in 1813
Lieutenant Bachelin – had arrived with 90 replacement troopers, evaded captivity, returned to service 1813
Lieutenant Bedert – died at the hospital at Droza in 1812
Lieutenant von Strauß – detached to the General Staff
Chigurg Burstert – detached to Dorf Patrowieschten, captured in Vilna, remained in Russia, fate uknown

See : link

Le Breton15 Oct 2017 12:36 p.m. PST

By the way ….

The so-called "Death Ride" had the following stages :
1. Charge of the 4 squadrons of Baden Hussars and Hessian Guard Light Horse (~400 total) against a square formed of 3 depot jäger companies of the 2nd battalion of the Russian 34th Jäger under Major Lev Timofeyevich Zhirkevich with less than 300 men, breaking their square
2. Counter-charge by less than 200 Russians cuirassiers under Colonel of the Life-Guard Horse regiment Aleksiy Adrianovich Protasov, which allows the jäger to disengage
- replacement squadron of the Chevalier Guards : staff-captain Mikhail Nikolayevich Avdulin-2
- replacement squadron of the Life-Guard Horse regiment : captain Vladimir Karlovich Knorring-1
The Russian horse was described as only a "Züge [platoon] feindlicher Kürassiere" by their opponents *
* see link
3. The German horse disengages and while reforming sends some jäger prisoners to the rear escorted by Hessian troopers
4. The German horse are attacked by a charge given by 2 remaining depot fusilier companies of the 2nd batallion of the Pavloskiy Grenadiers This is the same battalion that stormed the burning bridge at Kliastitsy and was distinguished at both battles of Polotsk. Only 200 or so remained remained at the Berezina, under the command of Major Andrey Matveyevich Kishkin and Major Dmitriy Nikiforovich Krylov
5. THe German horse recoils and then a battery of Russian artillery, which had come up with the grenadiers, opens up a heavy fire at close range which scatters the hussars and light horsemen

With thanks to the esteemed Markus Stein ….

The work by the Badener court painter Feodor Dietz (Neunstetten, Baden 1813 – Arc-lès-Gray, Haute-Saône 1870), "Die badischen Truppen unter Markgraf Wilhelm decken den Rückzug der napoleonischen Armee in der Schlacht an der Beresina", was painted in 1842 under a commission from Großherzog Leopold. It hangs now in the Wehrgeschichtliches Museum at Rastatt. In the foreground you see the Russian jäger with black leatherwork and single grenades on the cartridge boxes *, to the right the Russian cuirassiers and to the center-right in second plane the forming Pavlovskiy's with white leatherwork, and low "fusilier" mitres with brass fronts.

* 34th Jäger had been the Vilna Musketeers until late 1810, and are noted as still using some Musketeer disctinctives in 1812. They may have blackened their white leatherwork, but still likely had (as show in the painting) the single brass grenades for musketeer center companies instead of the jâger's regiment numerals. Their model 1808 Russian muskets are well depicted, with blacked slings, but the woodwork itself remains varnished – older jäger units might have also blackened their weapons' woodwork.

picture

picture

Whirlwind15 Oct 2017 4:35 p.m. PST

BTW, the last time we did the Berezina… TMP link

attilathepun4715 Oct 2017 9:54 p.m. PST

@Le Breton,

You seem to imply that Brechtel made up the term "death ride" in relation to the charge of the Badem amd Hessian cavalry. I am not taking sides in this debate, but that particular accusation is definitely unjustified. I cannot recall exactly where I have seen that term used for this event, but I certainly do remember reading such a description, and it cannot have come from his book on artillery because I have never laid eyes on a copy of that work.

Le Breton16 Oct 2017 3:02 a.m. PST

"You seem to imply that Brechtel made up the term "death ride""

I just wrote that I looked for it and could not find it from anyone else.
Assuming the Brechtel did *not* make it up, I would suppose he would know where he found it.

Also, if you look at the actual results, there were lots of wounded officers, almost all captured in Vilna, but not so many dead on the battlefield. Which made me wonder why "Death Ride". In German, the phrase is, as far as I understand, more commonly used when a ship or boat takes on an attack with every expectation of being sunk. I could not find it so much with regard to cavalry.

I found the phrase in English (starting in 1855) with regard to the Life Brigade at Balaklava.

And there is no "accusation" even if Brechtel did make up the term. He can describe the action any way he wants,of course. I just want to know if anyone else used the same or similar description.

Brechtel19816 Oct 2017 4:21 a.m. PST

You seem to imply that Brechtel made up the term "death ride" in relation to the charge of the Badem amd Hessian cavalry. I am not taking sides in this debate, but that particular accusation is definitely unjustified. I cannot recall exactly where I have seen that term used for this event, but I certainly do remember reading such a description, and it cannot have come from his book on artillery because I have never laid eyes on a copy of that work.

Thanks very much. That was a very nice thing to post and it is greatly appreciated.

The term 'Charge of Death' regarding the action by the Baden Hussars and Hesse-Darmstadt Cheveau-Legers at the Berezina can be found in Philip Haythornethwaite's Uniforms of Napoleon's Russian Campaign, pages 140 and 142.

I used the term 'Death Ride' because I had found it in another reference which I cannot now recall. I believed the term was more colloquial and not a straight translation. I will undoubtedly come across it again and if I do I will post it. The subject reference referred to was written fifteen years ago and I haven't revisited it looking for references for quite some time as I have been busy with other projects.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time such comments have been sent my way by the subject poster. At least seven have now been posted and I have asked him to stop at least twice, but the continuation of the ad hominem comments is getting old. I guess that old habits die hard.

Brechtel19816 Oct 2017 9:26 a.m. PST

Then the French were defeated at Pultusk, Eylau, Heilsberg, and Borodino. And Napoleon won at Leipzig: he successfully crossed the river in his rear, he escaped, avoided a complete defeat, and "withdrew intact, minus losses."

I suggest that the horse has been beaten to death on this topic, at least for this go round. So moving on to the next topic might be a good idea. All that is going on is a back and forth that is solving nothing and comments such as the above are nothing short of ahistorical.

And, again, you have not demonstrated that the Berezina was a French defeat (nor Eylau or Borodino).

Gazzola17 Oct 2017 7:08 a.m. PST

Brechtel198

I guess there are people who just don't want to accept French victories, no matter what. And even when you offer historians stating them as victories, they still won't accept it! It is unbelievable that they don't want to consider or base each battle and result as an individual action. It seems their obvious bias rules their heads and, considering they ignore or try to twist anything you offer, you can do nothing but laugh and move on to the next topic.

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