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Encyclopedia > Borodino

The Battle of Borodino (September 7, 1812 (August 26 in the Old Style Russian calendar)), also called the Battle of the Moskova, was the largest single-day battle of the Napoleonic Wars and arguably the greatest battle in human history up to that date, involving nearly quarter a million soldiers.

It was fought by Grande Armée under Napoleon I of France and the Russian army of Alexander I near the village of Borodino, west from the town of Mozhaysk. The battle ended with the undecisive tactical results for both armies, and only strategic considerations forced the Russians to withdraw. Napoleon's conduct during the battle also shows that his tactical decisions were marred by the attempt to evade the repetition of "Pyrrhic victory".

French Grande Armée had begun the invasion of Russia in June, 1812. Russia proclaimed a Patriotic War in defence of the fatherland. The Russian forces fell back before the invaders, executing a 'scorched earth' policy as they withdrew. The new Russian commander, Prince Mikhail Kutuzov, waited until the French were within 125 Kilometers of Moscow before choosing to seek a battle. Kutuzov picked an eminently defensible area near the village of Borodino and from September 3 strengthened it with earthworks, notably the Rayevski Redoubt in the centre-right of the line and three open arrow-shaped ' Bagration fletches' to the left. Around 115,000 men and 630 cannon then waited for the French to arrive.

Napoleon came to the battle with maybe 125,000 men and 587 cannon; faced with the Russian defences his usual tactical skill appears to have left him, as he ordered a frontal assault straight at the Russians. It is believed he was seeking a decisive encounter that would destroy the Russian army in one day. The initial French attack was successful if costly, Joachim Murat directed a joint cavalry and infantry attack that by early afternoon had broken through the Russian line and seized the Rayevski Redoubt, lost it and retaken it. But the Russians committed their reserves and the battle ground down into a bloody attritional mess. A Russian counter-attack was broken by artillery; as night fell, both sides broke away and the Russian forces retreated, at first only a few miles, but later that night they began to withdraw all the way past Moscow.

The Russians had suffered around 44,000 casualties and the French 35,000. The Russian retreat opened the way for the French to seize Moscow on September 14 but the capture would do the French very little good. The battle was famously described by Leo Tolstoy in his novel War and Peace.

External links

  • A very detailed description of the battle (http://www.fortunecity.com/victorian/riley/787/Napoleon/1812/boro1.html)
  • General description of the battle (http://web2.airmail.net/napoleon/Borodino_battle.htm)
  • The Virtual Battle of Borodino (http://www.hamilton.edu/academics/Russian/warandpeace/vb/)

Another Battle of Borodino took place in October 1941.

  Results from FactBites:
Battle of Borodino - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1217 words)
It was fought by the French Grande Armée under Napoleon I of France and the Russian army of Alexander I near the village of Borodino, west from the town of Mozhaysk.
The clash at Borodino was a pivotal point in the campaign as it was the last offensive battle fought by Napoleon.
A huge panorama representing the battle was painted by Franz Roubaud for the centenary of Borodino and installed on the Poklonnaya Hill to mark the 150th anniversary of the event.
  More results at FactBites »



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