Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 

The  Battle of Borodino: French Reports 

By Alexander Mikaberidze
 

Marshal Joachim Murat to Alexander Berthier, 9 September 1812, Mozhaisk

During the night of the 6th to the 7th, I received some general dispositions for the battle; I ordered the execution of these dispositions, and at 5 o'clock in the morning the 1st, 2nd and 4th Corps of Cavalry Reserve were in columns of each brigade, and at the foot of the redoubt.

The 1st Corps of Cavalry Reserve was to support the attack of the 1st Army Corps, the 2nd that of the 3rd Army Corps. The 4th marched in reserve at the centre, and was to support either of those corps according to the need. His Majesty had placed the 3rd Corps of Cavalry Reserve at the disposition of the Viceroy [Eugene]. Once the attack signal was given, everything was put in movement in that order.

The Emperor, upon receiving word that the Prince of Eckmuhl [Davout] had just been wounded, gave me orders to go to him and take command of the 1st Army Corps if the Prince was not in condition to resume his command. I returned to inform His Majesty that the Prince had told me his wound was only a contusion and that he was able to continue to command. A moment later, His Majesty told me to advance and see what was happening at the redoubts; I went there at a full gallop. As I arrived, our light troops entered the second redoubt from which they were repulsed. Some Russian cuirassiers were charging our light infantry, but they were received with a brisk fusillade from our infantry and pushed back quickly by the 1st Brigade of Bruyères’ division.

A charge of the Wurttemberger regiment of Beurmann’s brigade was made at the same time with great success upon the Russian infantry that was marching at the first redoubt, and was entirely sabred. Then, I ordered a charge at the second redoubt, which was definitely taken.

The whole 1st Corps of Cavalry Reserve received the order to take position behind these redoubts, and the 4th Corps [of Cavalry Reserve] also received orders to advance, cross the ravine and charge the cannon of the infantry which were at the village, a very important position for the enemy. General Latour-Maubourg, at the head of the Saxon cuirassiers, debauched on the enemy in spite of their infantry and artillery fire, charged it, sabred a large number and maintained his position. During this time, General Nansouty, at the head of the 1st Division of cuirassiers under the orders of General Saint-Germain, charged vigorously all that was on the right of the two redoubts and swept the plain as far as the ravine of the village. At that moment, His Majesty dispatched Friant's division to me. General Dufour crossed the ravine at the head of the 15th Light Infantry regiment, routed the enemy and arrived on the major heights of the position that was behind the village. General Friant supported this movement with all the rest of his division placed in reserve by brigade. Then, I had General Caulaincourt, at the head of the 2nd Corps of Reserve, cross also; as soon as he arrived on the other side of the ravine I gave him orders to charge on his left all that was there of the enemy, and attempt to reach the big redoubt, which, taking us in the flank, caused us a lot of mischief each time it found a favourable occasion.

That order was executed with as much rapidity as bravery. General Caulaincourt, at the head of the 2nd Division of cuirassiers under the command of General Watier, overthrew everything he met in front of him, and finding he had gone past the large redoubt on the left, came back and fell upon it and with the 5th of Cuirassiers took it from the enemy. This brave general died gloriously in that redoubt, which was held until the troops of Gérard’s division arrived. However, the Russians formed several masses of infantry composed of the Russian Guard and of their reserve. Supported by a great number of cavalry, the enemy was marching to re-take the village. I had ordered the successive arrival of all the artillery of the cavalry and that of the Friant division. About 80 pieces of artillery were put in battery within grapeshot of the enemy masses. I ordered a rolling fire, which stopped the movements of the Russians. The Emperor was able to convince himself of the hardship inflicted by our artillery on the enemy when he surveyed the field of battle yesterday.

The Russian cuirassiers supported the movement of their infantry and charged several times the artillery, the cavalry and the French infantry. They were constantly repulsed with great losses, and the field of battle is covered with their dead. They lost a great number of horses in these different charges. The brigade of carabiniers under the orders of Generals Paultre and Chouard and the 11th and 12th Regiments of Chasseurs headed by General Pajol, as well as the Saint-Germain and Bruyéres divisions, all have particularly distinguished themselves as they were in front.

The time had come to extinguish all the enemy's artillery fire and to seize its last position, which was forward of the left of the 3rd Corps. I ordered the Friant division to march; meanwhile, I ordered a vigorous charge to be made on the whole front. The enemy was overthrown, threw itself into the woods and retired its artillery; all the plain was cleared and the last position taken out: that is where I had the good fortune to meet His Majesty.

Here is the history of what the troops accomplished under my orders at the battle of the 7th. The corps of all the arms rivaled with zeal, courage and devotion for the service of the Emperor. As soon as the state of generals, officers, non- commissioned officers and soldiers who distinguished themselves reaches me, I will hastily release their names. However, I must particularly cite Generals Montbrun and Caulaincourt who died with glory on the battlefield. General Belliard had a horse killed under him and two wounded.

Generals Nansouty, Grouchy, Friant, Bordessoulle, Mourier, Queunot, Roussel, Chouard and Bessiéres distinguished themselves. Generals Latour-Maubourg, Pajol, Bruyères, Lahoussaye, Piré, Jacquinot and Dufour, as well as Generals Dery and Dumont, who marched at the head of different charges, all had horses killed or wounded. I must also cite Generals Pignatelli, Rossetti; Colonels Romeuf, Gobert, Picerno and Berthemy (the latter was wounded); Squadron Chief Bonnafoux, also wounded; Prince Curiati and Lieutenants Beaufremont, Petitin and Pérignon. The latter, consumed by a fever, whom I wanted to send back, answered me this way, “Sire, I ask Your Majesty to permit me to stay by your side; one is never sick on the day of a battle.”

I will cite Colonel Borelli and the officers of my staff whose case I have the honor to send to you and for whom I request the advancement from Your Majesty.

[Signed] Joachim Napoleon

[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: June 2008

 

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