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The Liberation of the Netherlands (November - December 1813)

From the Mémoires du comte Alexandre Benckendorf, Général cavalerie, Aide de Camp Général de S.M.E. l’Empereur de Russie

Translated By Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS

 

Source: RGVIA: f. VUA, d. 3376, part II, ll. 85-114.

My detachment comprised of the following:

Tula Infantry Regiment     700 men
A battalion of the 2nd Jager Regiment        400 men
Pavlograd Hussar Regiment   800 men
horse artillery company and five Cossack regiments   1600 men
  Total                3,500 men[i]

I was ordered to march to the Yssel River in the direction of Deventer. The purpose of this march was to engage troops gathering in Hilland and defend this part of Germany from an enemy invasion.

I was also given Colonel Naryshkin’s detachment comprising of three Cossack regiments and Count Chernyshev’s detachment of five Cossack regiments, temporarily commanded by Colonel Balabin in [Chernyshev’s] absence. The former detachment was on my right flank and I ordered it to move to Zwoll; second was on the left and I directed to Daesbourg.  Thus I was reinforced with 8 Cossack regiments. I advance along the road to Bentheim on 2 November.

I considered my detachment too strong for reconnaissance operations only. So I decided to invade Holland [tenter un coup de main]. On my orders, a Dutch colonel in our service departed for Amsterdam to study sentiments in the city and enter into communications with other enterprising people. I reported about my plans to General Bulow, who forwarded them to Munster, and wrote to General Winzegorode to get his permission as well.

 

Cossacks in the Netherlands
"The City of Deventer run over by the cossacks, and the captain of engineers wounded, on the 12th of November 1813." Artist: A. Vinkeles, based on a drawing by J.W. Pieneman. For more information see: Bas de Groot's
Russian Cossacks in Holland: 1813

Awaiting response, I moved on to Deventer and, en route, I attacked enemy several times with my Cossack detachments, who spread the news of my arrival. I was told that Deventer was defended by a garrison of 3,000 men, well supplied and reinforced by considerable artillery. I could take control through a surprise attack only.

I ordered the Bashkir Regiment under Major Prince Gagarin to cross the Yssel River and feint an attack on the bridge leading to the fortress, while I would have approached Deventer at night and tried to seize it. However, this undertaking ended in fiasco, but our attempt cost us only a few lives since darkness allowed us to retreat unnoticed.

Since I had no means of taking Deventer and my mission was not to waste my people and time, I left a detachment under Colonel Balabin to observe the fortress while I advanced to Zwoll.

Zwoll was not prepared for attack: two or three hundreds of poorly equipped cavalrymen comprised its entire garrison. On my orders, a few Cossacks from Naryshkin’s detachment appeared at fortress to entice the defenders, who did venture out but were routed and, in ensuing disorder, my troops entered Zwoll, capturing half of the garrison. I quartered my detachment at Zwoll. Control of this town allowed me to cross the Yssel River and establish direct communications with Holland.

At Zwoll, I found Dutch General von der Platen. He once lived in Russia and now happily endorsed my plans. General gave detailed information on the enemy forces and sentiments of local population. My envoy soon returned from Amsterdam accompanied by a trustworthy man from General Kraënhow, provisional governor of the capital, who promised support of enthusiastic inhabitants and urged me to accelerate my actions. I informed General Bulow about this and asked him to advance quickly to Holland. Meanwhile, not to waste time and to forve the Dutch to openly oppose France, I gave 200 Cossacks to Major Marklai with orders to advance without a respite to Amsterdam, avoid any encounters with an enemy and not to be concerned about lines of communication or retreat.

This courageous and intelligent officer managed to conceal his movement from enemy, avoiding major roads and entering Amsterdam. Inspiring by the appearance of Cossacks, the local population captured the remaining French in the city and raised a banner of independence. Meanwhile, Colonel Naryshkin departed Zwoll, captured Hardervyk and marched to Amersfoort. General Stahl with his Cossack regiment and two hussar squadrons, moved between Deventer and Zutphen and was ordered to proceed to Amersfoort. Receiving news from General Kraënhow’s messenger, General Buhlow advanced at once, capturing Daesbourg and approaching Arnheim.

I anxiously waited response from General Winzegorode regarding my plans. Yet, I was very saddened by his firm order not to cross the Yssel River. General considered my detachment too weak to open military operations in a well-situated countryside with numerous fortresses.

However, I had already made first step – entire Amsterdam was in movement, residents begged us to arrive and I was intoxicated from exhilaration of independent command. So I decided to disobey orders. That night I gathered my troops and crossed the river.

The enemy was at the fortress of Deventer on the Yssel River; some 4,000 men were at Arnheim, an advance guard was at Amersfoort and a corps of 7-8,000 men was at Utrecht.

The fortress of Naarden was well supplied and defended by a garrison of 2,000 men. Muyden and Halveeg, two fortresses almost at the gates of Amsterdam, were also in good conditions.

Cossacks in the Netherlands
"Cossack outpost before Naarden" After a pendrawing by P.G. van Os, in the State Prints Cabinet, Amsterdam.  For more information see: Bas de Groot's Russian Cossacks in Holland: 1813

 

I had no means of attacking them directly since the enemy forces were much superior and my positions worsened after Major Marklai’s advance made the enemy double its discretion. I could succeed only if I misinformed the [French] about the strength of my forces and prevent them from carrying out their plans. Defiant Amsterdam, meantime, waited in fear the arrival of the irritated enemy. It was necessary to provide a prompt support for this center of national unity and facilitate armed uprising. A Hussar regiment and artillery under General Zhevakhov were ordered to reinforce General Stahl and Colonel Naryshkin. They were then instructed to attack an enemy advance guard at Amersfoort. I left colonel Balabin at Zwoll with order to continue observing Deventer and assure communications with me. As for me, I led infantry to Hardevick, where, on my secret request to General Kraënhow, ships were sent from Amsterdam. Departing Zwoll on the night of 22 November, I arrived at Hardevick that same day, covering six miles of the most horrible road. 

At the same time, General Buhlow began assaulting Arnheim and captured this fortress after a fierce fighting; it was one of the best feats [des beaux faits d’armes] of the war.

Arriving at Harderwick, I received intelligence that the enemy abandoned a post at Amersfort and that our cavalry pursued the enemy on the road to Utrecht. On my arrival to the harbor, I did not find enough ships and had to leave half of my infantry, which I moved to reinforce General Zhevakhov. That same evening, I boarded ships with the remaining troops of  some 600 men. Sueder See was covered with ice and an enemy flotilla, attached to Admiral Verhul’s squadron, patrolled the seashore at Harderwick.

Sailors predicted a difficult journey; we sailed at 11:00 p.m. to conceal our movement under the cover of night and prayed for leeward wind. At dawn we saw bell towers of Amsterdalk and entered the harbor around 8:00 a.m.

I went at once to General Kraënhow, who was shocked after hearing about the strength of my troops. But since there was no way back, we drafted a report in which my detachment was described as 6,000 men strong and then wrote an address to local population calling to arms.

Soon the town was on move, National Guard was ordered to gather at the Place du Palais and a huge crowd filled all streets, while all windows were decorated with flags of the House of Oranges; a fistful of just disembarked Russians were made a guard of honor deployed under palace balcony. 

Provisional government was soon formed and, at 10:00 p.m., the Act of Restoration of Independence of Holland was read to people. Air was filled with exultant cries and an artillery salvo spread this great news to every corner of the country.

Troops paraded in front of me, under jubilant cries of numerous crowds. Thousands of people of all estates, hastily armed, joined soldiers and, intoxicated of this jubilation, they marched towards two fortresses guarding Amsterdam. Garrisons of Mugden and Halweeg, already intimidated by clamor ion the city, surrendered after seeing numerous columns marching towards them. 900 men were captured and 26 guns were found in two fortresses. 

Nothing could express a jubilation that enthralled residents of this large and wealthy city. It was indeed an awakening of entire nation, whose strength and liberty, subdued by oppression and misfortune, now suddenly regained their powers. New government hastened to arm residents and establish order in the city. Everyone wanted to help with defense and public opinion gradually became more and more decisive and firm.  As first hours of this great movement expired – the city was free from threats from two surrendered fortresses – small numbers of my detachment could not be concealed anymore and thoughts of impending future began to take over the leaders of the uprising; so they approached me with the following questions: how do you hope to defend our liberty? What are your military plans?  What are intentions of the Allied powers regarding our political existence? I wrote General Winzegorode inquiring what should I tell the Dutch. He replied that the Emperor’s intention were completely unknown to him. Yet, I had to respond without any vacillation; any awkwardness on my part or a small indecisiveness would have destroyed the trust of the city and turned my expedition into a partisan raid without any purpose and results.

I responded: the sole means of their defense was through my detachment and I did not conceal its inferiority in numbers. I also told them about circumstances that caused Buhlow to support this undertaking as well as about the landing of the English troops that would arrived in our support as soon as they land on the shore. I then discussed the Dutch patriotism and the enemy caught in surprise. [I explained that] my military plans were to risk everything for their freedom. As for the intentions of the Allied powers regarding existence of Holland, [I told them] that I had order to find out wishes of this nation, help to carry them out and then inform my Emperor. Therefore, I asked them: what else do you want? They told me: return of Prince of Oranges. Only this House could guarantee our independence. It was decided to dispatch a deputy at once to ask the Prince to return and lead his nation. Yet, a few years before this same people made everything possible to get rid of the Prince’s family.

The Prince was already aware of events in Amsterdam and waited for a moment to depart for England.

Cossacks in the Netherlands
"Bivouac of the Cossacks outside the Muider-gate, Amsterdam, November 1813" after a watercolor of Fr. J. Pfeiffer Jr.. in the National Prints cabinet, Amsterdam.  For more information see: Bas de Groot's
Russian Cossacks in Holland: 1813

 

Thus, while I knew that our armies were idle at Frankfort negotiating with Napoleon and was unaware of political attitude in the Cabinets of Ministers or intentions of the Emperor [Alexander], I was also concerned with a thought of what I have done and promised [in Holland.] I sent a courier to Frankfort to inform the Emperor about my entry in Amsterdam and then wrote to General Buhlow asking to consider me under his command, if he decided to continue operation [in Holland that] we already began.

My hopes soon turned real. The enemy, learning about my arrival at Amsterdam, assumed that I had a stronger detachment that it was in reality. Observing a strong column approaching Utrecht, [the French] became certain that entire Holland would follow the example of its capital and began hasty retreat across Leck and Waal, abandoning positions on both banks of these rivers.

General Prince Zhevakhov remained at Utrecht. Cossacks under General Stahl pursued the French retreating to Vyck and Vyanen, while Cossacks under Colonel Naryshkin proceeded to Rotterdam and prepared to cross the river there.

General Buhlow approached Utrecht where he was to take commanded of the cantons [cantonnements] and the Dutch volunteers, and blockaded Naarden and Deventer.

I dispatched Major Marclay with his detachment to Helder to gather intelligence on movements of enemy admiral Verhul. This distinguished officer forced the admiral to surrender; the latter, concerned about his crew of Dutch sailors, abandoned the fortress of Helder with its ten guns. He also signed capitulation with Major Marclay, according to which he pledged not to partake in any hostilities if you was allowed to continue buying supplies [si on lui permettait seulement de continuer à acheter  à terre ses provisions]. Certainly, it was first time in history that a Cossack detachment negotiated [capitulation] with an admiral.

Soon, arrival of the Prince of Orange was announced; his family friends hurried to meet him and Amsterdam prepared to meet its ruler, chosen by the right of birth and through the will of people.

Entire population of this enormous city came out to meet the Prince and filled all streets and squares. Russian Guard[ii] was deployed at the Palace gates, Cossacks preceded the carriage and I awaited the Prince with all officers and city officials at the bottom of staircase. While getting out of carriage, the Prince barely remained on foot because of the surge of people surrounding him and I rushed forward extending my hand to help him move through the crowd and enter the Palace. The Prince appeared on the balcony and the exclamations doubled in voice. He was moved by this scene but it was obvious that he still could not comprehend the importance of his new status and fully appreciate the moment.

The Prince was accompanied by the English ambassador Sir [Richard] Klankarty, who informed me about the plans of his government regarding Holland; his forthright conversation calmed me down in respect to my own political enterprises.

In the evening, the Prince, ambassador and me went together in carriage to the theater. The Prince was meet with loud greetings; the powerful sentiments of the nation, that retained its sense of freedom, were evident everywhere The Dutch were unaccustomed to seeing the Prince as their ruler, but now they gave due respect to the first citizen of the state; their acclamations were not cries of subjects [sujets] but rather confirmed their choice of a most respectable man to rescue the State. This nuance both bewildered [witnesses] and added grander to the occasion. Meantime, General Zhevakhov received order to leave his post to the Prussians marching from Utrecht and move to Rotterdam, where I directed my remaining infantry. General Stahl moved to Leck and deployed his advance posts at Bommes and Gorcum.

Planning to join my detachment, I stopped at Lay to take part in the war council, where Prince of Orange, General Buhlow, English ambassador and me were present. They did not want to risk anything and wanted to force fortresses to surrender. On my turn to voice opinion, I declared that I planned to risk everything, cross the Waal and try to take advantage of the enemy confusion to occupy a strong position on the left bank to facilitate our movements and take military operations from central regions of Holland. The Prince and ambassador liked this idea a lot; General Buhlow initially refused to accept it for quite some time, but then promised to cover my offensive, dispatching several battalions to protect my movement from the garrison of Gorcum.

I arrived at Rotterdam on 28 November. At the moment when I desperately needed all my troops, General Winzegorode recalled three Cossack regiments of Colonel Naryshkin and one of the five regiments of Colonel Balabin. He knew that I entered Holland against his will and, although he had to commend my actions because of their success, he still tried to undercut me as mush as he could [il tâcha de me contrecarrer autant qu’il le pût]. Now I had to give up almost half of my cavalry and try other ways to address this problem. 

General Stahl received order to cross the Waal and proceed further without a halt and, avoiding any encounters with the enemy, to approach Bréda on the Antwerpen road. Meantime, the Dutch volunteers occupied de Briel and Helvoestluys, a battalion of the 2nd Jager Regiment seized Dordrecht and Captain Peterson with 100 Cossacks and brave compatriots drove the enemy out of Hoge-Swaluwe.

While awaiting the Prussian detachment I was promised before but that had not arrived yet, I dispatched a battalion of the Tula Infantry Regiment with two guns[iii] to seize a nearby dam that served as a crossing site between Gorcum and Hartingsweld. That same night I followed these troops with my remaining forces. I brought a jager battalion from Dordrect and also took with me Prussian partisan Major [Frederic August Peter von] Colombe, who commanded 600-men strong infantry and cavalry. This courageous officer never abandoned us and rendered great services.

The Dutch gunboats [les chaloupes canonières], which the residents of Rotterdam hastily assembled, now bombarded Gorcum and approached the fortifications of this fortress. Gorcum was defended a garrison of some 7-8,000 men.

General Stahl, though a rapid and will conceived march, suddenly approached Breda. The city residents, encouraged by his arrival, threatened the French, and General Stahl, being informed about events in the city, quickly attacked the Antwerpen gates, seized them and captured some 600 French soldiers.

Breda, one of the most formidable fortresses and key to Holland, had no means to defend itself: there were no guns on the walls and the fortifications were in worst condition. Napoleon, dominating Germany and crossing the Nieman to dictate peace in Moscow, never bothered to repair fortresses of Brabant.

At dawn, being at a distance of a cannon shot, I began crossing the river on various sized boats. The river was wide and strong wind was blowing; it was particularly difficult for us to soothe horses. Fortunately, [French] garrison did not bother us. Finally, we gathered on the opposite bank, but still had to cross a location well defended by the guns of Woreum fortress, located vis-à-vis Gorcum on the left bank of Waal. The enemy did not even think of disputing our advance – it was impossible to anticipate such stoke of luck.

There was no other road for my large detachment and artillery but the one to Gartrüdenberg – this was a naturally well protected place that was covered on this side by the waters of Bies Boosch. However, I knew that its garrison was small and unprepared for attack. General Stahl already dispatched Cossacks to reconnoiter area as well as an officer to demand surrender from the Commandant Général de Brigade [Jean-Baptiste] Lorçait. At that moment, General Lorçait returned from inspection and, observing my forces, he signed surrender of the fortress on condition of free passage for his weak garrison to France.

I passed through Gartrüdenberg, where the Dutch were now arming themselves and organizing a new garrison to defend the fortress. That same day, 1 December, I arrived at Breda.

We marched from Rotterdam without even a one-minute break and covered eleven miles in 36 hours, crossing three major rivers in process. I immediately turned to work, trying to repair some of the damage fortress walls that protected route to transport provisions and forage. I also thought about procuring gunpowder and artillery for the troops.

Colonel Chechensky was dispatched with two Cossack Regiment to subdue a garrison at Willemstadt. Colonel arrived there late that day. Seeing our troops, the French abandoned town on ships, leaving behind over 100 guns, 52 fully armed gunboats and numerous other munitions. Capture of this fortress gave me a possibility to defend Breda, but of greater importance was the fact that the English troops could now land here. The English found a favorable and well defended harbor at Willemstadt.

I deployed a hussar squadron and 100 Cossacks under command of Major Alferiev as advance posts to cover landing of the English troops. Alferiev’s detachment remained under command of English General [Thomas] Graham until he was able to replace them with his own cavalry. Simultaneously, Major Alferiev was instructed to watch a garrison at Bergen Opzoom.

General Stahl was ordered to approach Wustwesel and dispatch detachments towards Antwerpen, where General Carnot recently arrived to take command of this important fortress. Colonel Chechensky with the Bug Cossack Regiment was at Turnhout.

A Prussian Major Colombe left his infantry at Breda and, being reinforced by Captain Peterson with 100 hussars and two Cossack sotnyas, he was instructed to move outposts towards Maline and Louvain.

Hearing about captures of Breda, Gartrüdenberg and Willemstadt, General Buhlow left Utrecht, blockaded the fortress of Gorcum and marched with his troops to Bommel.

However, the enemy soon recovered from first surprise and concentrated its forces as detachments gathered from various directions. Sailors at Antwerpen were given weapons and enlisted in the army units. General Carnot was very actively involved in preparations for war. Napoleon’s order instructed him to drive the Russians across the rivers and recaptured Breda at any cost. I learned all that I feared from a captured courier from Paris.

The enemy, with some 17-18,000 men and formidable artillery but inexperienced troops, soon left Antwerpen. They proceeded to Wustwesel and forced General Stahl to retire. Colonel Chechensky was ordered to harass the enemy en route, without leaving a road from Turnhoult to Breda.

General Stahl was instructed to slowly retreat on the same road that enemy proceed along. To reinforce him, I dispatched two horse artillery guns and a squadron of hussars; and to ensure that he would not arrive in confusion to Breda, I deployed a battalion of 2nd Jager Regiment at a concealed location outside the fortress so that in case of necessity, [Stahl’s] cavalry would have cover to rally.[iv]

General Stahl’s knowledgeable orders made this precaution unnecessary; he disputed every step of enemy’s march and entered Breda in perfect order and without casualties at noon on 7 December.

Since the esplanade around the fortress was not cleared, enemy tirailleurs took positions in gardens and huts [cabanes] that were adjacent to glacis. Batteries were deployed at close distance from fortress and fierce assault began.

Artillery Captain [Ivan Onufrievich] Sukhozanet deployed guns on the forward fortifications and opened such intensive fire, supported by our infantry fire, that the enemy called off attack and contented with artillery bombardment. That same day, I expected with great hopes the arrival of heavy artillery and ammunitions from Willemstadt – the only means to successfully defend Breda.

I soon learned that the enemy dispatched a detachment to capture the Ternheide crossing on the Mark River, where ships [with heavy artillery and supplies] were supposed to pass. From there, [the French] could advance directly to Gartrüdenberg that was defended only by local residents and so could have been easily captured.  By that time, I would have lost my communications and means to receive reinforcements I awaited so eagerly.

I did earlier leave a post at the Ternheide crossing and Prince Gagarin had just returned with the Bashkir regiment, a hussar squadron and two guns from a mission I dispatched him along the right bank of the Mark River. He attacked without hesitation about enemy superiority and achieved a complete success: Ternheide was seized, 200 soldiers captured and the remaining [French] troops owed their rescue to the darkness and difficult terrain. An hour later the French would have captured the transport ships.

So, heavy artillery finally arrived and, as a result of efforts of our artillery officers and the Dutch under Colonel Steinmatz, guns were installed on the ramparts: some directed platforms, others helped to place guns in mountings [les autres placaient les piéces sur les affûts] most of which required serious repairs, and the rest examined guns, prepared charges and matched balls [reomplissaient les charges et assortissaient les boulets]. This work was conducted under enemy fire and we did not have time or means to respond to it. Our silence made the French general believe that we were about to surrender and he sent a man to negotiate surrender. However, the French general soon had to back away since our new artillery of 40 guns opened fire and showed that he had nothing to hope here.

Colonel Chechensky approached Tilborg to harass the enemy and protect my communications with General Buhlow. Prince Gagarin remained at Ternheide and maintained contact with Major Alferiev’s detachment, sending me information on English troops that landed at Willemstadt.

In the evening on 8 December, Colonel Colombe and Captain Peterson returned to Breda. They were at Louvain and Maline, where they captured 8 guns and liberated 300 English soldiers captured in Spain.

This remarkable meeting turned into great event for the army in 1813. The enemy bombarded the town. A few fires resulting from cannonade frightened residents, but our troops quickly extinguished them and maintained order and tranquility in town.

In the morning on the 9th, the enemy intensified bombardment and made another attempt against the Turnhout gates. The assault continued for long time and ended only when I made a sortie from the Antwerpen gates. Soldiers of the Dutch battalion, hurriedly assembled from city youth, attacked with cries of joy. They demonstrated an admirable gallantry. I assigned hundred best soldiers from our infantry to support them. The enemy suffered considerable losses and cannonade was soon suspended. Although it resumed for some time in the evening, the night was peaceful

The English could not help us: their ships with horses were delayed by strong winds on the seas. Also, the Bomuel Weart was covered with ice and impassable, preventing General Buhlow, who tried to help me, from crossing it with the troops. Still, the French were concerned about the arrival of the English and Prussians and had either to hasten capture of Breda or abandon positions and retreat.

On 10 December, they occupied all roads, except the one occupied by Prince Gagarin. Batteries, deployed by advance guard, were quickly moved towards fortress under cover of night. As a result, we lost a few people and several houses were destroyed. a bastion, where I deployed my detachment, was damaged and unsuitable for fighting; so most guns were removed from it.

Late in the afternoon, the enemy vigorously attacked three city gates. Prince Zhevakhov defended the Atnwerpen gates and his dismounted hussars competed with the infantry in gallantry. General Stahl and the Prussians under Colonel Colome defended the Turnhout gates. Everyone was animated with remarkable ardor and assurance of success was visible in all faces. I already hurried with reserves to the Bois le Duc gates, where, I believed, was the most decisive action. The terrain was relatively open and, in the evening, I led three hussar squadrons, a Cossack detachment and four horse artillery guns on sortie. We engaged the [French], repulsed their first attack and drove them back for considerable distance.

I halted pursuit concerned that such an easy victory could lead to ambush. By stoke of luck, Prince Gagarin arrived with his Cossack detachment at that moment. With loud cries, the Cossacks attacked the French from the rear. The French thought that I operated in concert with General Buhlow and this forced them to quickly retreat. In the evening, I ordered to set up numerous bonfires and deployed sentries so it seemed that entire corps was deployed in camp there. Meantime, assaults were repulsed at other places as well and the enemy suffered considerable casualties.  By night, cannonade ceased everywhere.

All reports from positions described a loud noise coming from the French camp. It was impossible to observe enemy positions because of a dense morning fog. By 8:00 a.m., I lowered bridge and moved forward outposts despite dense mist. They soon informed me that the besiegers abandoned their positions and retreated from Breda.

This news was even more pleasant considering that our supplies were dwindling and city residents already suffered from lack of provisions. General Stahl was ordered to pursue the enemy on the Antwerp road. He was able to do this until Westwesel, where the French halted and fortified themselves. Colonel Colombe with a Cossack detachment marched to Turnhout.

The following day, 12 December – the birthday of His majesty – we had a Te Dieu service on the ramparts of the fortress. The Dutch and Prussians, serving with our troops, attended this service and knelt [to celebrate the day.] I asked the English, [General] Buhlow and the Dutch to come and replace my troops since I could not stay with the garrison alone. Furthermore, General Winzegorode wrote one order after another requesting me to join him. He was proceeding with his corps towards the Rhine and wanted to me to join him there to cross the Rhine together. Finally, after numerous troubles, I was finally replaced by 2 English, 2 Prussian and 2 Dutch battalions. I sent them to Breda and then marched out myself. To deceive the enemy, I moved to Tilbourg first and my two Cossack regiments attacked the enemy there at night.

A day later, I moved to Bommel, where General Buhlow’s troops were located, and from there to Arnhaim and Emmerich, where I planned to cross the river, while General Winzegorode approached Dusseldorff. However, the river current carried ice with such force that despite all our efforts it was impossible to construct a bridge there. I wrote about this to the General [Winzegorode]. General either already considered or pretended to consider [il cruit ou feignit de croire] me disobeying his orders and sent me order to transfer command to a more experienced officer. I thought I did not deserve such humiliation. But such was General Winzegorode’s revenge for my successful expedition into Holland that was conducted against his will.

My only consolation was receiving the Order of St. Vladimir of second class that the Emperor himself sent to me, the Order of the Red Eagle of first class that the Prussian King awarded me owing to General Buhlow’s reports and the Order of the Sword of the first class that the Swedish Crown Prince presented to me. The most pleasant rewards for me were a saber of the Regent of England [Régent d’Angleterre], a sword [epée] of the Prince of Orange, King of Holland, and the trumpets of honor with my name and the date of our entry in Amsterdam were awarded to the Tula Infantry and 2nd Jager Regiments.

I departed my brave detachment with tears on my eyes. The detachment did not cross the Rhine at Emmerich but was directed to Düsseldorf, where I traveled alone.


Notes:

[i]Benckendorff’s detachment was larger than he describes and amounted to over 4,600 men. Below is a more detailed composition of his forces, with their strength for late November 1813:

Commander – MG Alexander Benckendorff

Infantry Brigade of MG Fedor Knipper – 1555 men

Tula Infantry Regiment (1st and 3rd Battalions) – chef MG Alexander Patton, commander Col. Turevnikov – 1060 men

2nd Jager Regiment (1st battalion) – chef GM Fedor Knipper, regimental commander Lt.Col. Gustav Essen, battalion commander Constantine Schrepenberg – 495 men

Cavalry (including Cossacks) – MG – George Stahl – 3,064 men

Pavlograd Hussar Regiment (8 squadrons) – commander MG Spiridon Zhevakhov – 967 men

1st Bug Cossack Regiment – Col. Alexander Chechensky – 435 men

Andreyanov II Don Cossack Regiment – commander unclear – 398 men

1st Bashkir Horse Cossack [konno-kazachii] Rregiment – commander Major Fedor Gagarin – 411 men

1st Horse Artillery Company – commander Captain Ivan Sukhozant – 10 guns with 200 men

Don Cossack Brigade of Colonel Melnikov V – commander Lt. Col. Gregory Melnikov IV

Menikov IV Cossack Regiment – 4 sotnyas – 353 men

Melnijkov V Cossack Regiment - 5 sotnyas – 300 men

[ii] Benckendorff refers not to the Imperial Guard but rather to his infantry that now served as “guard of honor”

[iii] Regimental history, “Istoria 72-go pekhotnoho Tulskogo polka 1769-1901” (Warsaw, 1901) referred to two companies with two guns led by Major Belemovsky. The Russians occupied the dam without a fight and when the French finally appeared, they avoided attacking the Russians, instead retreating towards Breda.

[iv] Regimental history, Istoria 96-go pekhotnogo Omskogo pola (St. Petersburg, 1902) refers to a rear guard action near Breda involving the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Jager Regiment; battalion lost 11 men, including 4 killed.

 

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