Military Subjects: Battles & Campaigns


 


Russian-Prussian Order-of-Battle at Eylau: 8 February 1807

Introduction

By Stephen Millar


"More than 60 squadrons galloped around to the right of the fleeing corps and rushed against us, waving their swords. The field was engulfed in a roar and the snow, ploughed over by 12,000 united riders lifted and swirled from under them like a storm. Brilliant Murat with his carousel-like costume followed by a large suite, was ablaze ahead of the onslaught with a naked saber and flew directly into the thick of the fight. Rifle and cannon fire and leveled bayonets were unable to stem the deadly tide. The French cavalry crumpled and stomped on everything, broke through the first line of the army and its impetuous rush had reached the second line and our reserve, but here it broke against the cliff of a stronger will. The second line and the reserve stood their ground, did not waver and turned back the awesome tidal wave with thick battery and rifle fire."

-- from Denis Davidov’s memoirs [translation: Greg Troubetzkoy]

The Battle of Eylau [or Preussisch-Eylau] was fought on 7-8 February 1807 in East Prussia. This engagement – fought on snow-covered terrain during an intermittent blizzard -- is famous in Napoleonic military history for several reasons: Marshal Pierre-Francois-Charles Augereau’s disastrous assault with VII Corps against the Russian line; the subsequent charge of Marshal Joachim Murat’s cavalry which broke through the Russian Army’s centre [see above]; the eventual outcome of the battle (a costly stalemate with more than 20,000 casualties on each side).

After some preliminary action on 7 February -- fought by GM Petr Ivanovich, Prince Bagration’s rearguard, which covered the Russian army’s withdrawal from Landsberg to Eylau -- the main battle began early the next morning. Although GC Leonty Leontievich, Baron Bennigsen’s army eventually withdrew from the field -- which allowed Napoleon to claim a victory -- the Russian infantry had stood its ground all day against La Grande Armee. The indecisive slaughter at Eylau, however, was later eclipsed by Napoleon’s decisive defeat of Bennigsen’s army at Friedland on 14 June 1807.

Bennigsen’s army at Eylau has one of the more confusing orders-of-battle of the Napoleonic Wars: ‘wing’ commanders like GL Nikolai Alexeievich Tuchov I retained their divisional commands; individual brigades were attached/detached to other units (GM Andrei Andreievich Somov’s ‘combined’ division is an good example); the higher number of field-officers bearing Roman numerals after their surname -- usually denoting two or more brothers serving in the Imperial Army.

It is common in Russian orders-of-battle to discover multiple spellings of Russian officers’ names (Bennigsen’s first name has been spelled Leonty, Leonti and Leontii in various sources). In many cases, sources have also ‘simplfied’ names like Dokturov [Dohkturov], Borosdin [Borozdin] and Tchaplitz/Chaplitz [Tschaplitz] for ease of reading.

Organizational sources often conflict with each other. For example, GM Petr Petrovich, Count von der Pahlen III’s cavalry brigade is also listed as a Reserve Cavalry command, with GM Baron Korff, GM von der Osten-Sacken II and GM von Manteuffel as brigade officers. In addition, it should be noted some sources state GL Prince Gallitzin held a similar Reserve Cavalry command.

The composition and command structure of GL Anton-Wilhelm von L’Estocq’s Prussian detachment on 8 February is also uncertain. L’Estocq -- commanding the remnants of Prussia’s field-army which had survived the disastrous 1806 Campaign – arrived on the battlefield later in the day with 5,000-6,000 men (along with the Russian Vyborg Musketeer Regiment).

The strength of Bennigsen’s army at Eylau ranges from 63,000-76,000 men, although some contemporary sources go as high as 80,000 men.

Russian Army

Bennigsen, GC Leonty Leontievich, Baron; Commander
Steinheil, GM Fabian; Chief-of-Staff
Rezvoi, GL; Chief-of-Artillery

 

 

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2004

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