Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 

The  Battle of Borodino: French Reports 

By Alexander Mikaberidze
 

General Eugène de Beauharnais to Alexander Berthier, 10 September 1812, Ruza

In accordance with the orders of His Majesty, the 4th Army Corps left on 5 September at six o'clock in the morning from its camp, forward of Lousos. After an hour's march, a brisk cannonade on my right alerted me that the enemy was resisting the troops that were advancing on the road to Moscow. His Majesty's instructions were to turn the redoubt of the enemy's army. I would then seize a village built on a height, which the Russians had neglected to occupy. As soon as they saw us the masters of this place, they started a retrograde movement. This movement could only take place under firing from our cannon charged with grapeshot, which took all the corps in flank or in the rear that passed within our reach. The enemy gathered with fresh troops arrived in its position at Borodino; some campaign works added a lot to the natural strength of the site. In the afternoon, the 4th Corps delivered a sustained artillery fire to support the attack His Majesty had ordered on the redoubt [at Shevardino], against which the enemy army was leaning its left.

On the 6th, the day was spent in preparations and reconnaissance. His Majesty put the divisions of Morand and Gérard at my disposition, as well as the corps of cavalry of General Grouchy, to which I joined the next day the brigade of light cavalry of General Guyon. In the evening the troops were disposed as follows: The division of General Morand on the right, that of General Gérard behind it, farther to the right and in the rear the cavalry of General Grouchy, in charge of gaining the area which would allow the best use of his arm, as quickly as the circumstances would permit. At the centre and in echelon of  Gérard’s division was placed Broussier’s division, with the Royal Guard on foot and on horse behind it in reserve. Delzons’ division formed the extreme left. It was supported by the light cavalry division under the orders of General Ornano. During the night, General of Engineers Poitevin threw four bridges over the little river of Kolocha, the banks of which were scraped and cut by a great many ravines and separated us from the enemy.

The order of His Majesty was to seize the village of Borodino as soon as I heard the cannonade well under way on my right, and advance as we made progress in that part. Thus, the next day, the 7th, at five thirty in the morning, General Delzons had the 106th attack the village of Borodino. At the moment when this brave regiment, formed in a column, entered the village, General Plauzonne, who guided it, fell mortally wounded from a gunshot. The 106th, carried away by its bravery, rapidly crossed the three bridges the enemy had established on the Kolocha behind the village and advanced towards the enemy lines. The Russians, persuaded that our intention was to debouch from that point to separate their wing from the center, settled their attention on that point for several hours. Adjutant-Commandant Boisserolle, whom I praise much, had replaced General Plauzonne; he took some excellent dispositions to defend the village of Borodino, which according to general instructions of the battle, was not to be passed.

While this was happening on my left, I had sent forward the division of General Morand, in charge of attacking the redoubt which covered the center of the enemy's army; it was formed, the first line deployed, the second by columns of battalions. In spite of 80 pieces of artillery and violent musketry fire, that brave division came out of the ravines and advanced very calmly on the plateau. The 30th Line crossed the bayonet and penetrated the redoubt; but they could not maintain their position. General Bonnamy, who marched at the head of the regiment, was wounded and taken in the redoubt. For the moment, our efforts had to concentrate on the conservation of the plateau: five lines of Russian infantry were advancing to reclaim it and were approaching the right of General Morand.

Immediately I had Gérard’s division start to form a little beyond and to the right of the first; the 7th Light was placed on the left, and I arranged the division of General Broussier to support them. The combat became engaged again along this whole line with extreme vigour. The enemy renewed its efforts to take away the plateau; but it was in vain. His Majesty's troops remained unshakable in their position.

In the hope of creating a useful diversion to disengage his centre, the enemy decided to make a big movement of cavalry by his right, while turning our left. Eight regiments and several thousand Cossacks totally overflowed this wing and the Russian artillery was doubled to cannonade the village. The brave Colonel of Artillery Demay was killed on the plateau. The light cavalry division of General Ornano, too weak to offer resistance to such considerable forces, retreated in order. The 2nd Line of General Delzons, which had been constantly supporting the troops that defended the village of Borodino, was rapidly formed into squares. This formation was not yet accomplished when the Croats received a charge that they repulsed with their fire. The enemy cavalry, reinforced by new squadrons, came to charge the 84th, which received it in the same manner. The forces of this cavalry were increasing each moment, it renewed successively its charges on the square of the Light 8th and the Croats, of the 84th and the 92nd; but everywhere it is received and sent back with the same vigour. The Hussars of the Russian Imperial Guard were particularly mistreated; the enemy gave up the idea of breaking down our infantry.

In the centre and to the right of the troops under my orders, the combat had continued with the same ardour. Upon returning from the left where my presence had been necessary, I made new dispositions for the attack of the great redoubt. Five battalions of the G6rard division, which had not been engaged, were placed on the right, the Broussier division in front and to the left. All this infantry rose at a charge and without firing; at the same time the cuirassiers that were on its right made a very brilliant charge and entered the redoubt. The 21st, 17th, 9tb and 25tb Line attacked the redoubt in front and in the flank, and seized it; there were still 21 pieces of artillery there. The enemy had formed in the rear on several lines and was covered by a ravine; I had it attacked; my troops crossed the ravine, overthrew the enemy and established themselves on the opposite plateau: the Russians, crushed, retreated. In spite of the obstacles of the terrain, General Grouchy executed a great charge with the division of cavalry of General Chaste] who, at that moment supported the left of the infantry. General Grouchy was slightly wounded by a splinter of a shell.

I should cite all the regiments who were engaged; but the 106th, 9th, 30th and 2 1 st Line have been remarkable by their calm and their intrepidity. My staff has particularly distinguished itself; it joined in several charges of infantry and cavalry. Almost all of the officers who are a part of it have been wounded or dismounted. I must especially mention to Your Highness the essential services given on that memorable day by Generals Morand, Guilleminot, Gérard, Almeras and Colonel Bertrand of the 106th. My aide-de-camp Seve and the young Fontanes of Saint-Marcellin deserve to be cited in this report.

[Signed] Eugène Napoleon

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2008

 

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