Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 

The  Battle of Borodino: French Reports 

By Alexander Mikaberidze
 

Marshal Michel Ney to Alexander Berthier, 9 September 1812, near Borodino, en route to Mozhaisk.

According to the orders of Your Most Serene Highness, the troops of the 3rd Corps took position on the 5th before the abbey of Kolinsky [Kolotsk], on the left of the Kolocha, and stayed at the ready to support the 1st Corps, a part of which had just attacked and taken the redoubt near the village of … [Shevardino].

On the 6th, the 3rd and 8th Corps formed on the height behind this redoubt; the day was spent in reconnoitering, and, the enemy holding its position behind Borodino, the battle was set for the 7th.

The instructions Your Highness addressed to me on the morning of the 7th expressed that with the 3rd and the 8th Corps, which the Emperor had put under my orders, I would hold the centre of the battle, leaning my right on the 1st Corps and my left on the 4th. I also had at my disposition the 3rd Corps of the cavalry reserves.

The Emperor ordered that the 1st Corps should start its attack along the wood, protected by batteries of 12-pounders, which had been constructed during the night; His Majesty gave me orders to attack at about 7 o'clock in the morning. I gathered the generals at once to review verbally the written instructions they had already received; the head of the troops read His Majesty's proclamation; it was welcomed by the soldiers with enthusiasm and to the cries of 'Long live the Emperor!' At once we started to march towards the enemy.

The divisions of the 3rd Corps advanced in the following order: the 10th, the 25th and the 11th; the first in column of attack, with its last regiments in column of battalions deployed at a distance of division, ready to form square and to serve as reserve. The 8th Corps was deployed on two lines.

The 10th division, after having repulsed all the sharpshooters and posts, approached the redoubt on the left of the enemy with the greatest valour, this redoubt was attacked at the same time by the troops of the 1st Corps, so that the 24th of Light Infantry and the 37th Line entered it pell-mell. The enemy, recovering from its first shock, turned around and went back to re-take the redoubt; but the 25th Division marched at that same moment to support the 10th and the enemy was repulsed. A charge I had executed by the 14th Brigade of Light Cavalry seconded the efforts and was successful.

While the 10th and 25th Divisions were engaged this way, the 11th marched on the redoubt of the centre and seized it. The enemy's renewed efforts, although making successively several charges of infantry and cavalry, were in vain; it retreated in great disorder and renounced re-taking its positions. The 8th Corps then arrived on the heights; I directed it to the right to attack, along with the Poles, the left of the enemy, which they accomplished with vigour.

As soon as I perceived that the redoubt of the right had been taken by the troops of the 1st and 4th Corps, I directed myself on the enemy, outflanking its left until it retreated.

I could not give too much praise in the great devotion of the troops under my orders, and it is nice to think that the zeal that animates them will be appreciated by the Emperor, as His Majesty himself witnessed it.

The loss of the 3rd Corps has been 2,500 killed or wounded. The battlefield attests to the immense losses suffered by the enemy.

[Signed] Marshal Duke of Elchingen

[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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