Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns

 


The Battle of Borodino: Reports

By Alexander Mikaberidze

Colonel Alexander Kutuzov* to Lavrov, 1 [13] September 1812

After Colonel [Matvei] Khrapovitsky, [Ivan] Kozlyaninov and [Ivan] Musin-Pushkin were wounded, I, as a senior officer, assumed command of the Life Guard izmailovskii Regiment and have an honor to report about this regiment;s actions against the enemy on 26 August.

Following Your Excellency's order, Colonel Khrapovitsky, in addition to his 2nd Guard Infantry Brigade, took command of the Combined Grenadier Brigade and, having transferred the command of the LG Izmailovskii Regiment to its acting senior officer Colonel Kozlyaninov, he ordered, around 6 a.m., to deploy in battalion columns for attack and leave the reserve, where we remained until then, to assume position in the front line.

En route, we endured a heavy cannonade, which inflicted considerable harm, but could not contain the impetus of these courageous columns, rushing to their destination. Arriving there, we fully experienced the severity of the enemy canister fires. On Lieutenant General Konovnitsyn's orders, Colonel Khrapovitsky, who remained in front of the troops to direct all movements, ordered the columns to deploy en echeque. In this position, the enemy, trying in vain to defeat our regiment, increase the fire of his artillery, and although it devastated our ranks, it failed to produce any disorder among the men. The ranks were simply closed up again and soldiers maintained their discipline as coolly as if they had been on a musketry exercise. Soon, the enemy cavalry appeared to the right from us and forced the 1st Battalion's column to leave its position in en echeque and line up with the columns of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions; at the same time, Colonel Khrapovitsky ordered columns to form squares against the cavalry. The enemy cuirassiers made a vigorous attack but quickly paid a heavy price for their audacity. All squares, acting with remarkable firmness, opened fire and waged battalion volleys from the lateral faces. The enemy's armour proved to be a weak defence against our fire and added no courage to them; The enemy cavalrymen quickly showed us their backs and fled in disorder. A fresher cavalry, consisting of horse grenadiers, tried to remedy the failure of the attack but was received in the same manner, was routed and fled back in shame.

At this time, around 12 p.m., our gallant commander Colonel Khrapovitsky was wounded in the thigh and ankle by a canister shot and ended his celebrated command after riding around all battalions and expressing his gratitude for the troops' orderliness and courage. Shortly before that Colonel Kozlyaninov, the acting commander of the regiment, was also wounded by a canister. Kozlyaninov was replaced by Colonel Musin-Pushkin, who about three hours later was sent to take command of the 2nd Guard Infantry Brigade, replacing its commander, the wounded Colonel Udom of the Life Guard Litovskii Regiment.

After the enemy cavalry was repelled, the enemy resumed artillery fire and his canister showed our firm columns, which remained immobile. On Lt. General Konovnitsyn's order, Colonel Musin-Pushkin dispatched the 3rd Battalion to occupy the heights located to the lefy. Led by Captain Martynov, this regiment seized these heights and, sending our a skirmisher chain, retained it until Captain Martynov was wounded and his successor Staff Captain Katenin, receiving order from Major General Vasilchikov, made a oblique movement forward and marched to cover a battery deployed on battalion;s right flank, about two hundreds paces away. The enemy artillery fire, that was directed at that battery, did not prevent our column from accomplishing this mission in complete order.

While the 3rd Battalion was accomplishing these feats, Lt. General Konovnitsyn, remaining with us and sharing the same dangers, ordered to have the columns of the 1st and 2nd Battalions deployed in oblique [ustupom] in order to facilitate their lateral defense, and then to form squares against cavalry. The enemy cavalry again resumed its charges but was destroyed by the cross-fire of these two battalions. The cavalry did not date to harass our columns ever since and only observed the site of its defeat from afar. The enemy artillery, however, continued to inflict horrible casualties on us and the approaching enemy skirmishers were driven back on multiple occasions. Around 5 p.m. Colonel Musin-Pushkin was wounded in the chest and I assumed the command of both the regiment and brigade. All of this was taking place in view of His Excellency General of Infantry Dmitri Sergeyevich Doklhturov, who was present at our columns after 2p.m. and doing the left cavalry charge on the square of the 1st Battalion, and we had an honor to receive his gratitude for courage and gallantry with which we endured the severity of the enemy fire and maintained order in our columns and squares, despite rapidly changing commanders, which His Excellency, as well as Lieutenant General Konovnitsyn, can attest.

The darkness descending around 8 p.m. silenced the enemy artillery and the nightfall found out columns in the same order as they were deployed that morning. During the thirteen hours long battle, these columns endured three cavalry attack and continuously remained under cannonballs, shells and canister.

I consider my duty to inform Your Excellency that every ranks sought compete with each other in fearlessness, gallantry and precise execution of orders. I have nothing left but to attach a list of staff and junior officers, who participated in this battle, with notes indicating who commanded what unit.

* Alexander Petrovich Kutuzov (1777-1817) had enlisted in the Life Guard Izmailovskii Regiment in 1788 and gradually rose through the ranks, fighting at Austerlitz and Friedland. He was promoted to colonel in July 1808 and, after successful service in 1812 and 1813, he became a major general in September 1813. In later years, he commanded a brigade in the Caucasus before dying in 1817.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2007

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