In which battle the Russians for the first time defeated Napoleon

History 20/02/20 In which battle the Russians for the first time defeated Napoleon

Everybody knows the words of Bonaparte about the battle of Borodino: “Of all my battles the worst thing is that I gave at Moscow.” However, in 1807 Russian troops destroyed the myth that the French Emperor can defeat any army. “Bloody draw” under Eylau (now Bagrationovsk in the Kaliningrad region) by many military historians considered to be the most difficult battle in the career of Napoleon.

Prussia on his knees

When in 1806 the struggle with Napoleonic France entered the Kingdom of Prussia, many were convinced that the days of the hegemony of Bonaparte in Europe are numbered. Brave Prussians, organized and vooruzhenie a numerous army of English money, seemed to be worthy successors of the glory of Frederick the Great. During the Seven years war a few years earlier “Old Fritz” caused to the sensitive French defeat at Rossbach and Latine. Now the soldiers of Frederick William III was preparing to restrain Imperial France.

no matter How great is the glory of the Prussian arms, she did not save the Kingdom from a crushing defeat. Within five days after the outbreak of war, 14 Oct 1806 main forces of the Prussian army were scattered in the battles of Jena and Auerstedt. Learn about the disaster, numerous well-fortified garrisons of fortresses surrendered one after another, just to see on its walls the French squadron. Through October 26, Napoleon solemnly entered Berlin.

According to the rules of military art, now the Prussian king had nothing left but to sue for peace. However, he did not succumb to the entreaties of their environment and trust of the Russian Emperor Alexander I has already sent to his aid two Russian armies totaling 120 thousand people.

While Russian troops moved to the border, Napoleon continued to fight against Prussia and came in her Polish territory. Here the Emperor of the French was OKadhan a warm welcome: the Polish nobility in Warsaw met him as a liberator and was willing to fight on his side for the freedom of the Commonwealth.

War in the snow

the Occupation of Warsaw was supposed to mark the end of the campaign 1806. Poor state of roads and irregular supply on the Polish land was not conducive to active hostilities, therefore, the French commanders were preparing to winter quarters. However, the Russians were ready to play against the rules.

Despite the confusion in the command and severe weather conditions, both Russian armies began to close in on Napoleon, intending to join him in the struggle on Polish soil. Even more amazing determination of the Russian seemed to be because they did not count on the aid of Prussia. The hapless allies could now put only a small corps numbering 10 thousand people.

In January 1807 the Russian army in Europe finally, there was the permanent commander. They became Leonty Leontyevich Bennigsen, a Hanoverian by birth a German. Careful staff officer, Bennigsen could hardly fit the role of a military leader in the harsh conditions of the winter of 1807, however, he had a big advantage – experience.

Experience tells us Leontiou Leontyevich, now that Napoleon is in a vulnerable position: his army has not received serious reinforcements and did not have time to rest from the rapid March through Prussian lands. If we allow the French to leave to spend the winter, the chance to expel them from Prussia in the spring will be gone.

Despite evidence of their goals, Bennigsen was indecisive, allowing the French commander to retreat, and he moved to the West of Konigsberg. The movement of the Russian army allowed Napoleon to plan a bold stroke: to attack stretched out on the March of the division Bennigsen, to push to the sea and seek their surrender. However, Napoleon’s plan went awry.

Russian patrols have intercepted secret dispatches, of which it became clear the General idea of the French command. Careful BennIhsan began to emerge from the trap, dragging the French. Russian rear guard led by Bagration, as in 1805, were doing their best to repel the French troops. Resistance soldiers of Peter Ivanovich allowed Bennigsen to take the carts and choose a favorable position at the town of Eylau.


According to the memoirs of contemporaries, in the beginning of the battle, the numerical advantage was on the Russian side. Bennigsen had about 70 thousand soldiers with 400 guns and waiting for the 10 thousand Prussians. Napoleon was a little more than 50 thousand with 300 guns, however, the Emperor expected the approach of Davout’s corps (16 thousand people) and Ney (14 thousand). After the arrival of these forces, he planned to fall on the Russian army.

Despite the fact that time was on the side of the French, Bennigsen decided not to attack, preferring to cling to their positions. While the soldiers of Davout and Ney churned mud of the Prussian roads, trying as soon as possible to help Emperor, on the field of Eylau did their job artillery mowing down hundreds on both sides.

When Bonaparte was informed about the approaching long awaited Davout columns, from ordered huge masses of infantry (division Saint-Hilaire and augereau corps) to attack the left flank of the Russian order of this powerful blow to prepare the emergence of new forces.

In that moment, when regiments began the rapprochement with the Russian lines, the unexpected happened: on the battlefield rose a snow-storm completely closed the review to the officers and soldiers. When it dissipated, it became clear that the soldiers of augereau were trapped. Case lost his way and found himself at the very center of the Russian troops stood in the main battery. The first is to understand the Russian gunners.

On the heads of the startled Frenchmen poured cores and buckshot, turning the once neat rows of soldiers of augereau in a bloody mess. At this moment mixed, the French were attacked by Russian infantry. Grenadiers, excited a double portion of vodka, knocked down the French. The centre of Napoleon’s army wavered, and the Russian made their way to the headquarters of the Imperatora, so it had to interfere guard.

In this critical moment, Napoleon had sent troops against the Russian cavalry, which was in reserve. The Russian onslaught was stopped only when the 12 thousand cavalry, headed by Murat struck the center of the army.

there ensued a Grand cavalry battle, and extraordinary heroism of Russian cuirassiers and Dragoons, came to the rescue with wings. Horse Bennigsen’s reserves were exhausted, and Napoleon in the sleeve still had a trump card – he rushed to attack the horse guards: horse grenadiers, the Chasseurs and gendarmes.

Before sunset

the Shock of the French cavalry was backed up by just came to the rescue of Davout shelves. They are so wedged in Russian military orders, which creates a threat to Russian reserves, and some of the units broke and began to retreat to the North. It seemed that the victory in the hands of Bonaparte, but here he proves himself again the Russian artillery.

the Reserve artillery of General Yermolov could buckshot be cool the ardor of the soldiers of Davout, already celebrating the victory. After the destructive fire of the Russian batteries on the French hit fresh forces of the Prussian General Istoka, which by this time had approached the battlefield. The Russians and Prussians managed to recapture important positions, but the success of the forces they were not enough. Now both sides thought the battle over.

By six o’clock in the evening, a fight broke out with new force: to Eylau came troops of Ney. The attempt to attack the Russian rear was unsuccessful, as there were still battle-worthy regiments. It retreated, and a terrible battle continued in the dark for another four hours. The thunder of cannon fire verse 21 o’clock. That now collect in the cold moaning of the wounded was out of the question.

the End

the outcome of the battle was not clear, even with the sunset. No doubt only one: the loss of both armies suffered terrible. It is estimated that in the battle of Eylau both sides killed at least 50 thousand people. Such losses have led Leontius Bennigsen to retreat: inTroy had no more than 30 thousand.

Huge damage was done and the French army. It is significant that Napoleon more than a week remained in one place, not having the strength to persecution or other decisive steps. Both armies retreated to their winter quarters, leaving the spring-summer campaign to decide the fate of the war.

Who won? Although both sides did not fail to claim victory, the result is more like “draw”. Losses on both sides were about equal: 21 thousand French and 25 thousand of the Russians and the Prussians. Although the battlefield remained with Napoleon (so usually determine the winner), the Russian army to defeat, he could not.

It is a barren in strategic terms the battle can even be called a strong-willed victory of Russian: the first time the best commander in Europe not defeated the enemy, and paid for one day of the battle, huge price. In addition, the effect of the defeat of Prussia was nullified by the resistance of Russian troops. All this makes the “draw” when Praises-Eylau one of the toughest of Napoleon.

Maxim Saltykov

© Russian Seven

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