Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 

The  Battle of Borodino: French Reports 

By Alexander Mikaberidze
 

General Joseph Poniatowski to Alexander Berthier. 7 September 1812, 10:00 p.m., on the battlefield

My Lord, I have the honor to apprise Your Most Serene Highness of today's activities. At five in the morning, the 5th Corps started its movement around the woods. We reached the old road from Smolensk to Moscow and followed this road and at the debouch of the woods, in the plain, we saw a strong column of infantry near the village of Passarevo. I had deployed a battery of 6- and 12- pounders on a knoll on the left of the road- and after striking upon the column for some time, I had my infantry quickly advance and with brisk force seized the village of Passarevo, and in a second attack the small wood that is before the village.

The countryside is full of woods and thickets, from the small wood to the top of the knoll which dominates the whole plain and which was strongly occupied by the enemy. I dispatched three battalions in extended order into the brushes that were full of a great number of Russian chasseurs on foot. A lively fusillade was at once engaged as well as a very strong cannonade, which lasted until noon. I gave orders to also take the knoll in an assault. The first battalions, with great efforts, were able to surround it; but even though they were supported by other battalions, it became impossible for them to sustain their efforts against a force infinitely superior. We were repulsed from the knoll, but we managed to maintain position in the underwood according to the order given by His Majesty, and I had my batteries continue to strike the summit of the knoll where the enemy had 12 large-calibre pieces.

We remained in that position until two o'clock in the afternoon when, noticing we were making considerable progress on the centre, I ordered another attack to be done on the knoll, supported by the cavalry which arrived by the back of the knoll at almost the same time as the infantry, and we were able to establish ourselves there. The enemy made some efforts to recapture it; not only was it brusquely repulsed but I vigorously pursued it with some infantry, cavalry and mounted artillery as far as one league or more. The cavalry made several charges on the infantry, which suffered great losses. We took very few prisoners because the cavalry sabred everything that came its way after it had received several rounds. We only took one caisson containing munitions for 12-pounders, and a number of charged howitzers. The prisoners we took will be sent to the headquarters tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, I have the honour to send to Your Most Serene Highness an officer who has just abandoned the Russian flags, desiring, as a Pole, to serve his country. He is in a good position to give us some very good information. According to what he has told me, it would appear that today the 5th Corps saw in front of it the army corps of Tutshkov [Tuchkov], composed of the grenadier division of Stroganov, named the second guard, and the division of Kanowitzin [Konovnitsyn], more than two battalions of grenadiers in reserve, two regiments of militia, one regiment of uhlans and one of hussars.

I cannot but applaud the happy result that I owe to the bravery and the zeal of the generals, officers and the troops. Before I can inform Your Most Serene Highness of the names of those who distinguished themselves, I would like to recommend to Your Most Serene Highness General Sebastiani, whose great advice helped me as much in the dispositions as did his vigorous action in the execution.

Tomorrow I will have the honour to transmit to Your Most Serene Highness the roll call with the exact loss suffered by the 5th Corps. The loss of the enemy has been extremely considerable, as witnessed by the battlefield and the declaration of the officer previously mentioned.

I await the orders of Your Most Serene Highness, and have the honour to be, etc.

The general commanding the 5th Corps

[Signed] Joseph, Prince Poniatowski

[I would like to express my gratitude to J. David Markham for granting me permission to use translations of battle reports from his book Imperial Glory: The Bulletins of Napoleon’s Grand Armée, 1805-1814 (London: Greenhill Books, 2003).]


 
 
 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2008

 

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