Battle of Borodino

Battle of Borodino

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The Battle of Borodino , fought on September 7, 1812, was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the French invasion of Russia
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened French hegemony in Europe...

 and all Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties. The French
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 Grande Armée under Emperor Napoleon I
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 attacked the Imperial Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

 of General Mikhail Kutuzov
Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov
Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov was a Field Marshal of the Russian Empire. He served as one of the finest military officers and diplomats of Russia under the reign of three Romanov Tsars: Catherine II, Paul I and Alexander I...

 near the village of Borodino, west of the town of Mozhaysk
Mozhaysk is a town and the administrative center of Mozhaysky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located to the west from the Russian capital, on the historic road leading to Smolensk and then to Poland. Population:...

, and eventually captured the main positions on the battlefield, but failed to destroy the Russian army despite heavy losses. About a third of Napoleon's soldiers were killed or wounded; Russian losses were also heavy, but her casualties could be compensated since large forces of militia were already with the Russian Army and replacement depots which were close by had already been gathering and training troops.

The battle itself ended with the Russian Army out of position. The state of exhaustion of the French forces and lack of information on the Russian Army's condition led Napoleon to remain on the battlefield with his army instead of the forced pursuit that had marked other campaigns that he had conducted in the past. The entirety of Napoleon's Imperial Guard, however, was still available to his disposition and in refusing to implement it he lost his singular chance to destroy the Russian army. The battle at Borodino was a pivotal point in the campaign, as it was the last offensive action fought by Napoleon in Russia. By withdrawing, the Russian army preserved its combat strength, eventually allowing it to force Napoleon out of the country.

Historical reports of the battle differed markedly depending on whether they originated from supporters of the French or Russian sides. Factional fighting between senior officers within each army also led to conflicting accounts and disagreements over the roles of particular individuals.

Napoleon's invasion of Russia

The French Grande Armée began its invasion of Russia on June 16, 1812. Emperor Alexander I
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia , served as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825 and the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825. He was also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania....

 proclaimed a Patriotic War in response and prepared to face the French. According to the plan of the German general Karl Ludwig von Phull
Karl Ludwig von Phull
Karl Ludwig von Phull was a German general in the service of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire. Phull served as Chief of the General Staff of King Frederick William III of Prussia in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt...

, the Russian troops under the command of Count Michael Barclay de Tolly had to face the Grande Armée at Vilnius region, the remaining troops under general Pyotr Bagration would launch an attack to the French' s southern flank and rear. However, Phull's plan soon was proved to be a fatal mistake, as the enormous Grande Armee was more than enough to separate and crush both Russian armies at the same time. Furthermore, the participation of Tsar Alexander I in commanding caused more chaos in the Russian army. The Russian forces massed along the Polish frontier were obliged to fall back in the face of the swift French advance.

Napoleon advanced from Vitebsk
Vitebsk, also known as Viciebsk or Vitsyebsk , is a city in Belarus, near the border with Russia. The capital of the Vitebsk Oblast, in 2004 it had 342,381 inhabitants, making it the country's fourth largest city...

, hoping to catch the Russian Army in the open where he could annihilate it. The French army, however, was not positioned well for an extended overland campaign as it was 925 km (574.8 mi) from its nearest logistic base at Kovno (Kaunas). The extended French supply lines were vulnerable to assault by Russian forces. Cossacks, Light Calvary, Guerrilla forces, and even French deserters attacked French supply columns and seriously depleted Napoleon's forces. The central French force under Napoleon's direct command had crossed the Niemen
Neman River
Neman or Niemen or Nemunas, is a major Eastern European river rising in Belarus and flowing through Lithuania before draining into the Curonian Lagoon and then into the Baltic Sea at Klaipėda. It is the northern border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast in its lower reaches...

 with 286,000 men but by the time of the battle was reduced to 161,475, mostly through starvation and disease. Nonetheless, the lure of a decisive battle spurred Napoleon to action, driving him further into Russia and further stretching his supply lines.

Meanwhile, infighting between Barclay's subordinates repeatedly prevented the Russian commander from committing his forces to battle. Barclay's constant retreat was perceived by both his fellow generals and the Russian court as a reluctance to fight; consequently, he was removed from command and replaced by Prince Mikhail Kutuzov
Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov
Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov was a Field Marshal of the Russian Empire. He served as one of the finest military officers and diplomats of Russia under the reign of three Romanov Tsars: Catherine II, Paul I and Alexander I...

 on August 29, 1812. Even though the 67-year-old General Kutuzov was not seen by his contemporaries as the equal of Napoleon he possessed the ability to muster a good defense. He was favoured over Barclay because he was ethnically Russian whereas Barclay was of Scottish descent and officers insubordinate to Barclay could accept Kutuzov, thereby uniting the Army. On 18 August, Kutuzov arrived at Sarevo to greet the army.

After taking over the army, Kutuzov organized a strong rearguard army under the command of General Konovsytsyn, and then ordered the Russian Army to prepare for an incoming battle. Kutuzov understood that Barclay's decision to retreat was correct, but the Russian troops could not accept further retreat. A battle had to occur in order to save the morale of the soldiers. The new commander had still not managed to establish a defensive position when the armies were within 125 kilometres (77.7 mi) of Moscow. He then ordered another retreated to Gzhatsk (Gagarin) on August 30, at that time the ratio of French to Russian forces had shrunk from 3:1 to 5:4. The time to fight had come.

A defensive line was established in the best available position before reaching Moscow near the village of Borodino. The Borodino field was too open and had too few natural obstacles to protect the Russians' center and left flank but it was chosen due to the protection provided by the Colotra river, because it blocked both Smolensk-Moskow roads, and because there weren't any better locations. Starting on September 3, Kutuzov strengthened the line with earthworks, including the Raevski
Nikolay Raevsky
Nikolay Nikolayevich Raevsky was a Russian general and statesman who achieved fame for his feats of arms during the Napoleonic wars. His family left a lasting legacy in Russian society and culture.-Early life:Nikolay Raevsky was born in Saint Petersburg...

A redoubt is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on earthworks, though others are constructed of stone or brick. It is meant to protect soldiers outside the main defensive line and can be a permanent structure or a...

 in the center-right of the line and three open, arrow-shaped "Bagration flèches
Bagration flèches
Bagration flèches , are certain historic military earthworks named after Pyotr Bagration who ordered their construction. They were the pivotal Russian strongholds on the left flank during the Battle of Borodino in 1812. Located south-west of Semyonovskoye village, flèches consisted of two...

" (named after Pyotr Bagration
Pyotr Bagration
Prince Pyotr Ivanovich Bagration was a general of the Russian army. He was a descendant of the Georgian royal family of the Bagrations.- Life :...

) on the left.

Battle of Shevardino Redoubt

The initial Russian position, which stretched south of the new Smolensk Highway (Napoleon's expected route of advance), was anchored on its left by a pentagonal earthwork redoubt erected on a mound near the village of Shevardino. But soon, the Russian generals realized that their left wing was too exposed and too vulnerable. So, the Russian line was moved back from this position, but the Redoubt remained manned, Kutuzov stating that the fortification was manned simply to delay the advance of the French forces. Historian Dmitry Buturlin reports that it was used as an observation point to determine the course of the French advance. Historians Witner and Ratch, and many others, reported it was used as a fortification to threaten the French right flank, despite being beyond effective reach of guns of the period. The Chief of Staff of the Russian 1st Army, Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov
Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov
Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov , or Ermolov , was a Russian Imperial general of the 19th century who commanded Russian troops in the Caucasus War.-Early life:...

, related in his memoirs that the Russian left was shifting position when the French Army showed up sooner than expected, thus the Battle of Shevardino became a delaying effort to shield the redeployment of the Russian left. The construction of the redoubt and its purpose is still disputed by historians to this day.
The struggle opened on September 5 when King Joachim Murat
Joachim Murat
Joachim-Napoléon Murat , Marshal of France and Grand Admiral or Admiral of France, 1st Prince Murat, was Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808 and then King of Naples from 1808 to 1815...

's French forces met Konovnitzyn's Russians in a massive cavalry clash, the Russians eventually retreating to the Kolorzkoi Cloister when their flank was threatened. Fighting resumed the next day, but Konovnitzyn again retreated when Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais
Eugène de Beauharnais
Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, Prince Français, Prince of Venice, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, Hereditary Grand Duke of Frankfurt, 1st Duke of Leuchtenberg and 1st Prince of Eichstätt ad personam was the first child and only son of Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais and Joséphine Tascher de la...

' Fourth Corps arrived, threatening his flank. The Russians withdrew to the Shevardino Redoubt, where a pitched battle ensued. King Murat led Nansouty's First Cavalry Corps and Montbrun's Second Cavalry Corps, supported by Compans
Jean Dominique Compans
Count Jean Dominique Compans was a French Divisional General from 1811 and a participant of Napoleonic Wars....

's Division of Louis Nicolas Davout
Louis Nicolas Davout
Louis-Nicolas d'Avout , better known as Davout, 1st Duke of Auerstaedt, 1st Prince of Eckmühl, was a Marshal of France during the Napoleonic Era. His prodigious talent for war along with his reputation as a stern disciplinarian, earned him the title "The Iron Marshal"...

's First Infantry Corps against the redoubt. Simultaneously, Prince Josef Poniatowski's infantry attacked the position from the south. Fighting was heavy and very fierce, as the Russians refused to retreat until Kutuzov personally ordered them to do so. The French captured the redoubt, with the cost of 4,000–5,000 French and 6,000 Russian casualties. The small redoubt was destroyed and covered by the dead and dying of both sides.

The unexpected French advance from the west and the fall of the Shevardino redoubt threw the Russian formation into disarray. Since the left flank of their defensive position had collapsed, Russian forces withdrew to the east, constructing a makeshift position centered around the village of Utitza. The left flank of the Russian position was therefore ripe for a flanking attack.

Opposing forces

A series of reforms to the Russian army had begun in 1802, creating regiments of three battalions, each battalion having four companies. The defeats of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of Napoleon's greatest victories, where the French Empire effectively crushed the Third Coalition...

, Eylau
Battle of Eylau
The Battle of Eylau or Battle of Preussisch-Eylau, 7 and 8 February 1807, was a bloody and inconclusive battle between Napoléon's Grande Armée and a Russian Empire army under Levin August, Count von Bennigsen near the town of Preußisch Eylau in East Prussia. Late in the battle, the Russians...

, and Friedland
Battle of Friedland
The Battle of Friedland saw Napoleon I's French army decisively defeat Count von Bennigsen's Russian army about twenty-seven miles southeast of Königsberg...

 led to important additional reforms, though continuous fighting in the course of three wars with France, two with Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, and two with the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 had not allowed time for these to be fully implemented and absorbed. A divisional system was introduced in 1806, and corps were established in 1812. Prussian influence may be seen in the organizational setup. By the time of Borodino the Russian Army had changed greatly from the force which met the French in 1805–1807.

Russian forces present at the battle included 180 infantry battalions, 164 cavalry squadrons, 20 Cossack regiments, and 55 artillery batteries (637 artillery pieces). In total, the Russians fielded 155,200 troops. There were 10,000 Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

s as well as 33,000 Russian militiamen in the area who did not participate in the battle. After the battle the militia units were broken up to provide reinforcements to depleted regular infantry battalions. Of the 637 Russian artillery pieces, 300 were held in reserve and many of these were never committed to the battle.

According to Historian Alexander Mikaberidze, the French Army remained the finest army of its day by a good margin. It had been the legacy of the French King and its fusion with the formations of the French revolution and Napoleon's reforms had transformed it into a military machine that had dominated Europe since 1805. Each corp of the French Army was in fact its own mini-army capable of independent action.

French forces included 214 battalions of infantry, 317 squadrons of cavalry and 587 artillery pieces totaling of 128,000 troops. However, the French Imperial Guard, which consisted of 30 infantry battalions, 27 cavalry squadrons and 109 artillery pieces—a total of 18,500 troops—was also never committed to action.


The Russian position at Borodino consisted of a series of disconnected earthworks running in an arc from the Moskva River
Moskva River
The Moskva River is a river that flows through the Moscow and Smolensk Oblasts in Russia, and is a tributary of the Oka River.-Etymology:...

 on the right, along its tributary, the Kolocha (whose steep banks added to the defense), and towards the village of Utitza on the left. Thick woods interspersed along the Russian left and center (on the French side of the Kolocha) made the deployment and control of French forces difficult, aiding the defenders. The Russian center was defended by the Raevsky Redoubt, a massive open-backed earthwork mounting 19 12-pounder cannons which had a clear field of fire all the way to the banks of the Kolocha stream.

Kutuzov was very concerned that the French might take the New Smolensk Road around his positions and on to Moscow so placed the more powerful 1st Army under Barclay on the right, in positions which were already strong and virtually unassailable by the French. The 2nd Army under Bagration was expected to hold the left. The fall of Shevardino unanchored the Russian left flank but Kutuzov did nothing to change these initial dispositions despite the repeated pleas of his generals to redeploy their forces. Thus, when the action began and became a defensive rather than an offensive battle for the Russians, their heavy preponderance in artillery was wasted on a right wing that would never be attacked, while the French artillery did much to help win the battle. Toll and others would make attempts to cover up their mistakes in this deployment and later attempts by historians would compound the issue. Indeed, Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

 too complained about Toll's dispositions being so narrow and deep that needless losses were incurred from artillery fire. The Russian position therefore was just about 8 kilometres (5 mi) long with about 80,000 of the 1st Army on the right and 34,000 of the 2nd Army on the left.

Bagration's flèches

The first area of operations was on the Bagration flèches, as had been predicted by both Barclay de Tolly and Bagration.
Napoleon, in command of the French forces, made errors similar to those of his Russian adversary, deploying his forces inefficiently and failing to exploit the weaknesses in the Russian line. Despite Marshal Davout's suggestion of a maneuver to outflank the weak Russian left, the Emperor instead ordered Davout's First Corps to move directly forward into the teeth of the defense, while the flanking maneuver was left to the weak Fifth Corps of Prince Poniatowski. The initial French attack was aimed at seizing the three Russian positions collectively known as the Bagration flèches
Redan is a term related to fortifications. It is a work in a V-shaped salient angle toward an expected attack...

, four arrow-head shaped, open-backed earthworks which arced out to the left en échelon in front of the Kolocha stream. These positions helped support the Russian left, which had no terrain advantages. There was much to be desired in the construction of the flèches, one officer noting that the ditches were much too shallow, the embrasure
In military architecture, an embrasure is the opening in a crenellation or battlement between the two raised solid portions or merlons, sometimes called a crenel or crenelle...

s open to the ground, making them easy to enter, and that they were much too wide exposing infantry inside them. The flèches were supported by artillery from the village of Semyanovskaya, whose elevation dominated the other side of the Kolocha. The battle began at 06:00 with the opening of the 102-gun French grand battery against the Russian center. Davout sent Compans's Division against the southernmost of the flèches, with Dessaix
Joseph Marie, Count Dessaix
Joseph Marie, Count Dessaix was a French general.He was born at Thonon in Savoy...

's Division echeloned out to the left. When Compans exited the woods on the far bank of the Kolocha, he was hit by massed Russian cannon fire; both Compans and Dessaix were wounded, but the French continued their assault.

Davout, seeing the confusion, personally led the 57th Line Regiment (Le Terrible) forward until he had his horse shot from under him; he fell so hard that General Sorbier
Jean-Barthélemot Sorbier
Jean-Barthélemot Sorbier, count, , was a French general of the Napoleonic Wars.-Revolutionary Wars:An aristocrat of the Ancien Régime, Sorbier joined the Royal Artillery Corps in 1782 and was a part of the La Fère regiment, where he met Napoleon Bonaparte...

 reported him as dead. General Rapp
Jean Rapp
Jean Rapp was a French Army general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.Rapp was born the son of the janitor of the town-hall of Colmar. He began theological studies to became a clergy man, but with his build and heated character, he was better suited to the military,...

 arrived to replace him, only to find Davout alive and leading the 57th forward again. Rapp then led the 61st Line Regiment forward when he was wounded (for the 22nd time in his career). By 07:30, Davout had gained control of the three flèches. Prince Bagration quickly led a counterattack that threw the French out of the positions, only to have Marshal Michel Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

 lead a charge by the 24th Regiment that retook them. Although not enamoured of Barclay, Bagration turned to him for aid, ignoring Kutuzov altogether; Barclay, to his credit, responded quickly, sending three guard regiments, eight grenadier battalions, and twenty-four 12-pounder cannon at their best pace to bolster Semyаnovskaya. Prince Bagration was wounded here as early as 09:30 hours while Colonel Toll, and Kutuzov moved the Guard Reserve units forward as early as 09:00 hours.
During the confused fighting, French and Russian units moved forward into impenetrable smoke and were smashed by artillery and musketry fire that was horrendous even by Napoleonic standards. Infantry and cavalrymen had difficulty maneuvering over the heaps of corpses and masses of wounded. Murat advanced with his cavalry around the flèches to attack Bagration's infantry, but was confronted by Duka's 2nd Cuirassier
Cuirassiers were mounted cavalry soldiers equipped with armour and firearms, first appearing in late 15th-century Europe. They were the successors of the medieval armoured knights...

 Division supported by Neverovsky's infantry. This counterpunch drove Murat to seek the cover of allied Württemberger infantry. Barclay's reinforcements, however, were sent into the fray only to be torn to pieces by French artillery, leaving Friant
Louis Friant
Louis Friant was born in the village of Morlancourt, 8 km south of Albert near the river Somme. The village would later suffer the misfortune of lying along the Western Front trench-lines of World War I....

's Division in control of the Russian forward position at 11:30. Dust, smoke, confusion, and exhaustion all combined to keep the French commanders on the field (Davout, Ney, and Murat) from comprehending that all the Russians before them had fallen back, were in confusion, and ripe for the taking. Napoleon, who had been sick with a cold and was too far from the action to really observe what was going on, refused to send his subordinates reinforcements; he was hesitant to release his last reserve, the Imperial Guard, so far from France.

First attacks on the Raevsky redoubt

Prince Eugène de Beauharnais advanced his corps against Borodino, rushing the village and capturing it from the Russian Guard Jägers. However, the advancing columns rapidly lost their cohesion; shortly after clearing Borodino, they faced fresh Russian assault columns and retreated back to the village. General Delzons
Alexis Joseph Delzons
Alexis Joseph Delzons was a French general of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was killed in the battle of Maloyaroslavets.-French Revolutionary Wars:...

 was posted to Borodino to prevent the Russians retaking it. Morand
Charles Antoine Morand
Charles Antoine Louis Alexis Morand Comte de l'Empire, was a general of the French army army during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars...

's division then crossed to the north side of the Semyenovka stream, while the remainder of Eugène's forces crossed three bridges across the Kolocha to the south, placing them on the same side of the stream as the Russians. He then deployed most of his artillery and began to push the Russians back toward the Raevsky redoubt. Broussier
Jean-Baptiste Broussier
Jean-Baptiste Broussier was a French Divisional General of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars.-Life:Broussier was born in Ville-sur-Saulx....

 and Morand's divisions then advanced together with furious artillery support. The redoubt changed hands as Barclay was forced to personally rally Paskevitch's routed regiment. Kutuzov then ordered Yermolov to take action; the general brought forward three horse artillery batteries that began to blast the open-ended redoubt, while the 3rd Battalion of the Ufa Regiment and two Jäger regiments brought up by Barclay rushed in with the bayonet to eliminate Bonami's Brigade. The Russian reinforcements' assault returned the redoubt to Russian control.
Eugène's artillery continued to pound Russian support columns, while Marshals Ney and Davout set up a crossfire with artillery positioned on the Semyonovskaya heights. Barclay countered by moving the Prussian General Eugen over to the right to support Miloradovich
Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich
Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich , spelled Miloradovitch in contemporary English sources was a Russian general prominent during the Napoleonic Wars. He entered military service on the eve of the Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790 and his career advanced rapidly during the reign of Paul I...

 in his defense of the redoubt. The French responded to this move by sending forward General Sorbier
Jean-Barthélemot Sorbier
Jean-Barthélemot Sorbier, count, , was a French general of the Napoleonic Wars.-Revolutionary Wars:An aristocrat of the Ancien Régime, Sorbier joined the Royal Artillery Corps in 1782 and was a part of the La Fère regiment, where he met Napoleon Bonaparte...

, commander of the Imperial Guard artillery. Sorbier brought forth 36 artilery pieces from the Imperial Guard Artillery Park and also took command of 49 horse artillery pieces from Nansouty
Étienne Marie Antoine Champion de Nansouty
Count Étienne-Marie-Antoine-Champion de Nansouty was a French cavalry commander during the French Revolutionary Wars who rose to the rank of General of Division in 1803 and subsequently held important military commands during the Napoleonic Wars. Of noble Burgundian descent, he was a student at...

's Ist Cavalry Corps and La Tour Maubourg
Marie Victor de Fay, marquis de Latour-Maubourg
Marie Victor Nicolas de Fay, marquis de Latour-Maubourg was a French cavalry commander starting under the Ancien Régime of France, and rising to prominence during the First French Empire...

's IV Cavalry Corps, as well as of Viceroy Eugène's own artillery, opening up a massive artillery barrage. When Barclay brought up troops against an attacking French brigade, he described it as "a walk into Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

". During the height of the battle, Kutuzov's subordinates were making all of the decisions for him; according to Colonel Karl von Clausewitz, famous for his work On War
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

, the Russian commander "seemed to be in a trance." With the death of General Kutaisov, Chief of Artillery, most of the Russian cannon sat useless on the heights to the rear and were never ordered into battle, while the French artillery wreaked havoc on the Russians.

The Cossack raid on the Northern Flank

On the morning of the battle at around 07:30, patrols of Don Cossacks
Don Cossacks
Don Cossacks were Cossacks who settled along the middle and lower Don.- Etymology and origins :The Don Cossack Host was a frontier military organization from the end of the 16th until the early 20th century....

 from Matvei Platov
Matvei Platov
Count Matvei Ivanovich Platov was a Russian general who commanded the Don Cossacks in the Napoleonic wars....

's pulk had discovered a ford across the Kolocha river, on the extreme Russian right (northern) flank. Seeing that the ground in front of them was clear of enemy forces, Platov saw an opportunity to go around the French left flank and into the enemy's rear. He at once sent one of his aides to ask for permission from Kutuzov for such an operation. Platov's aide was lucky enough to encounter colonel von Toll, an enterprising member of Kutuzov's staff, who suggested that General Uvarov's Ist Cavalry Corps be added to the operation and at once volunteered to present the plan to the commander-in-chief. Together, they went to see Kutuzov, who nonchalantly gave his permission. There was however no clear plan and no objectives had been drawn up, the whole manoeuvre being interpreted by both Kutuzov and Uvarov as a feint. Uvarov and Platov thus set off, having just around 8000 cavalrymen and 12 guns in total, and no infantry support. As Uvarov moved southwest and south and Platov moved west, they eventually arrived in the undefended rear of Viceroy Eugène
Eugène de Beauharnais
Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, Prince Français, Prince of Venice, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, Hereditary Grand Duke of Frankfurt, 1st Duke of Leuchtenberg and 1st Prince of Eichstätt ad personam was the first child and only son of Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais and Joséphine Tascher de la...

's IV Corps. This was towards midday, just as the Viceroy was getting his orders to conduct another assault on the Raevski redoubt. The sudden appearance of masses of enemy cavalry so close to the supply train and to the Emperor's Headquarters caused panic and consternation and prompted Eugène to immediately cancel his attack and pull back his entire Corps westwards to deal with this alarming situation. Meanwhile, the two Russian cavalry commanders tried to break what French infantry they could find in the vicinity, but, having no infantry of their own, the poorly coordinated Russian attacks came to nothing. Unable to achieve much else, Platov and Uvarov moved back to their own lines and the action was perceived as a failure by both Kutuzov and the Russian General Staff. As it turned out, however, the action had the utmost importance in the outcome of the battle, as it delayed the attack of the IV Corps on the Raevski redoubt for a critical two hours. During these two hours, the Russians were able to reassess the situation, realize the terrible state of Bagration's 2nd Army and send reinforcements to the front line. Meanwhile, the retreat of Viceroy Eugène's Corps had left Montbrun's II French Cavalry Corps to fill the gap under the most murderous fire, which used and demoralized these cavalrymen, greatly reducing their combat effectiveness. The delay contradicted a military principle the Emperor had stated many times: "Ground I may recover, time never." Also, the Cossack's raid contributed to Napoleon's later decision not to commit his Imperial Guard to battle.

Final attack on Raevsky redoubt

At 14:00, Napoleon renewed the assault against the redoubt, as Broussier's, Morand's, and Gérard
Étienne Maurice Gérard
Étienne Maurice Gérard, comte Gérard was a French general and statesman. He served under a succession of French governments including the ancien regime monarchy, the Revolutionary governments, the Restorations, the July Monarchy, the First and Second Republics, and the First Empire , becoming...

's divisions launched a massive frontal attack, with Chastel
Louis Pierre Aimé Chastel
Louis Pierre Aimé Chastel was a French officer in the Napoleonic Wars, who rose to lieutenant general of cavalry....

's light cavalry division on their left and the II Reserve Cavalry Corps on their right; At the Russian sides, 24th Division of Likhachov was sent into the battle. The Russian fought bravely under Likachev's motto: "Brethen, behind us is Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

But the French troops approached too close for the cannons to fire, and the cannoneers had to use everything to fight against their foes. General Caulaincourt
Auguste-Jean-Gabriel de Caulaincourt
Auguste-Jean-Gabriel, comte de Caulaincourt was a French cavalry commander who rose to the rank of general during the First French Empire...

 ordered Watier
Pierre Watier
Pierre Watier , was a French general of division.Born at Laon, Aisne, Watier is one of 660 personalities to have their name engraved under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the city where he died. His name appears on the 12th column and is spelt WATHIER....

's cuirassier division to lead the assault. Barclay watched Eugène's assault preparations and countered it, moving his forces against it. The French artillery, however, began bombarding the assembling force even as it gathered. Caulaincourt led the attack of Watier's cuirassiers into the opening at the back of the redoubt and met his death as the charge was stopped cold by Russian musketry. General Thielmann
Johann von Thielmann
Johann Adolf Freiherr von Thielmann was a Saxon soldier who served with Saxony, Prussia and France during the Napoleonic Wars.-Biography:...

 then led eight Saxon and two Polish cavalry squadrons against the back of the redoubt, while officers and sergeants of his command actually forced their horses through the redoubt's embrasures, sowing confusion and allowing the French cavalry and infantry to take the position. The battle had all but ended, with both sides so exhausted that only the artillery was still at work. At 15:30, the Raevsky redoubt fell with most of the 24th Division's troops. All the Russian cannoneers in Raevsky also died right next to their cannons, and General Likhachev was captured by the French. But, besides the dead Russian troops were the corpses of 1000 Caulaincourt's cuirassiers, including Caulaincourt himself.

However, the fall of the Raevsky redoubt did not have much meaning. The Russian troops successfully moved to the rear without being destroyed (despite suffering heavy losses). So, in spite of losing some areas in the battlefield, the Russian formation was prevented from collapsing. On the French side, the gain of the Raevsky redoubt cost them large casualties and, after that, Napoleon himself ordered his troops to retreat to the starting line. The Russians then reoccupied their previous positions.


The third area of operations was around the village of Utiza. The village was at the southern end of the Russian positions and lay along the old Smolensk road. It was rightly perceived as a potential weak point in the defense as a march along the road could turn the entire position at Borodino. Despite such concerns the area was a tangle of rough country thickly covered in heavy brush well suited for deploying light infantry. The forest was dense, the ground marshy and Russian Jaeger were deployed there in some numbers. Russian General Nikolay Tuchkov
Nikolay Tuchkov
Nikolay Alexeivich Tuchkov was a Russian general of the Russo-Swedish War , the suppression of the Kościuszko Uprising and the opposition to the French invasion of Russia. He rose to the rank of lieutenant general and commander of an infantry corps....

 had some 23,000 troops but half were untrained Opolchenye (militia) armed only with pikes and axes and not ready for deployment. Poniatowski had about 10,000 men all trained and very eager to fight but his first attempt did not go well. It was at once realized the massed troops and artillery could not move through the forest against Jaeger opposition so had to reverse to Yelnya and then move eastward. Tuchkov had deployed his 1st Grenadier Division in line backing it with the 3rd division in battalion columns. Some four regiments were called away to help defend the redoubts that were under attack and another 2 Jaeger regiments were deployed in the Utitsa woods, weakening the position. The Polish contingent contested for the village of Utiza, effecting its capture with their first attempt but Tuchkov had ejected the French forces by 08:00. General Jean-Andoche Junot
Jean-Andoche Junot
Jean-Andoche Junot, 1st Duke of Abrantès was a French general during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.-Early life:...

 led the Westphalians to join the attack and again captured Utiza, which however was set on fire by the departing Russians. After the village's capture, Russians and Poles continued to skirmish and cannonade for the rest of the day without much progress. The heavy undergrowth
Undergrowth usually refers to the vegetation in a forest, which can obstruct passage through the forest. The height of undergrowth is usually considered to be 0.3 – 3 m . Undergrowth can also refer all vegetation in a forest, which isn't in the canopy....

 greatly hindered Poniatowski's efforts but eventually he came near to cutting off Tuchkov from the rest of the Russian forces. General Barclay sent help in the form of Karl Gustav von Baggovut
Karl Gustav von Baggovut
Karl Gustav von Baggehufwudt September 1761 Perila, Estonia 18 October 1812 battle of Winkowo, Russian Empire was a Lieutenant General in Russian Empire taking part both in Napoleonic Wars and Finnish War...

 with Konovnitzyn in support. Any hope of real progress by the Poles was then lost.

Napoleon's refusal to commit the Guard

Towards 15:00, after hours of heroic and stoic resistance, the Russian army was in dire straits, but the no less valiant French forces were exhausted and had neither the necessary stamina nor the necessary will to carry out another assault of the enemy line. At this crucial juncture, Murat's chief of staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

, General Augustin Daniel Belliard
Augustin Daniel Belliard
Augustin Daniel Belliard, comte Belliard et de l'Empire was a French general.Belliard became an officer between 1792 and 1793 under Dumouriez in Belgium...

 rode straight to the Emperor's Headquarters and, according to General Ségur
Philippe Paul, comte de Ségur
Philippe-Paul, comte de Ségur , French general and historian, son of Louis Philippe, comte de Ségur, was born in Paris.-Career:...

 who wrote an account of the campaign, told him that the Russian line had been breached, that the road to Mozhaysk
Mozhaysk is a town and the administrative center of Mozhaysky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located to the west from the Russian capital, on the historic road leading to Smolensk and then to Poland. Population:...

, behind the Russian line, was visible through the gaping hole the French attack had pierced, that an enormous crowd of runaways and vehicles were hastily retreating, and that a final push would be enough to decide the fate of the Russian army and of the war. Generals Daru
Pierre Antoine Noël Bruno, comte Daru
Pierre Antoine Noël Bruno, comte Daru was a French soldier, statesman, historian, and poet. The French generally refer to him as Pierre Daru.-Early career:...

, Dumas
Guillaume Mathieu, comte Dumas
Guillaume Mathieu, comte Dumas was a French general.-Biography:Born in Montpellier, France of a noble family, he joined the French army in 1773 and entered upon active service in 1780, as aide-de-camp to Rochambeau in the American Revolutionary War. He had a share in all the principal engagements...

 and Marshal Louis Alexandre Berthier
Louis Alexandre Berthier
Louis Alexandre Berthier, 1st Prince de Wagram, 1st Duc de Valangin, 1st Sovereign Prince de Neuchâtel , was a Marshal of France, Vice-Constable of France beginning in 1808, and Chief of Staff under Napoleon.-Early life:Alexandre was born at Versailles to Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Baptiste Berthier ,...

 also joined in and told the Emperor that everyone thought the time had come for the Guard to be committed to battle. Given the ferocity of the Russian defense, everyone was aware that such a move would cost the lives of thousands of Guardsmen, but it was thought that the presence of this prestigious unit would bolster the morale of the entire army for a final decisive push. A notable exception was Marshal Bessières
Jean-Baptiste Bessières
Jean-Baptiste Bessières, 1st Duc d' Istria was a Marshal of France of the Napoleonic Era. His younger brother, Bertrand, followed in his footsteps and eventually became a Divisional General...

, commander of the Guard cavalry, who was one of the very few senior generals to strongly advise against the intervention of the Guard. As the general staff were discussing the matter, general Rapp
Jean Rapp
Jean Rapp was a French Army general during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.Rapp was born the son of the janitor of the town-hall of Colmar. He began theological studies to became a clergy man, but with his build and heated character, he was better suited to the military,...

, a senior aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

to the Emperor, was being brought from the field of battle, having been wounded in action. He immediately recommended to the Emperor that the Guard be deployed for action at which the Emperor is said to have retorted: "I will most definitely not; I do not want to have it blown up. I am certain of winning the battle without its intervention." Determined not to commit this valuable final reserve so far away from France, Napoleon rejected another such request, this time from Marshal Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

. Instead, he called the commander of the "Young Guard", Marshal Mortier
Édouard Adolphe Casimir Joseph Mortier
Édouard Adolphe Casimir Joseph Mortier, 1st Duc de Trévise was a French general and Marshal of France under Napoleon I.-Biography:...

 and instructed him to guard the field of battle without moving forward or backward, while at the same time unleashing a massive cannonade
For the cannon see CarronadeCannonade was an American Thoroughbred racehorse best known as the winner of the 1974 Kentucky Derby. Owned and bred by prominent businessman John M. Olin, Cannonade was foaled at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky...

 with his 400 guns.

End of the battle

Napoleon went forward to see the situation from the former Russian front lines shortly after the redoubts had been taken. The Russians had moved to the next ridge-line in much disarray, however that disarray was not seen from that distance with the dust and haze raised by an army on the move. Kutuzov ordered the Russian Guard to hold the line and so it did. Not all the artillery that the French army had was enough to move it. Those compact squares made good artillery targets and the Russian Guard stood in place from 4pm to 6pm unmoving under its fire resulting in huge casualties. All he could see were masses of troops in the distance and thus nothing more was attempted. Neither the attack, which relied on brute force, nor the refusal to use the Guard to finish the day's work showed any brilliance on Napoleon's part.

Only the misplacement of Russian forces by Kutuzov over both Bagration's and Barclay's protest prevented the ruin of the French army that day, both the Prussian Staff Officer Karl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

, the historian and future author of On War
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

, and Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia
Alexander I of Russia , served as Emperor of Russia from 23 March 1801 to 1 December 1825 and the first Russian King of Poland from 1815 to 1825. He was also the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland and Lithuania....

 noting that the poor positioning of troops in particular had hobbled the defense. Barclay communicated with Kutuzov in order to receive further instructions. According to Wolzogen (in an account dripping with sarcasm), the commander was found a half-hour away on the road to Moscow, encamped with an entourage of young nobles and grandly pronouncing he would drive Napoleon off the next day. Despite his bluster, Kutuzov knew from dispatches that his army had been too badly hurt to fight a continuing action the following day. He knew exactly what he was doing: by fighting the pitched battle, he could now retreat with the Russian army still intact, lead its recovery, and force the weakened French forces to move even further from their bases of supply. The dénouement became a textbook example of what a hold logistics placed upon an army far from its center of supply. On September 8, the Russian army moved away from the battlefield in twin columns to Semolino, allowing Napoleon to occupy Moscow and await for 5 weeks a Russian surrender that would never come.

Kutuzov would proclaim over the course of several days that the Russian Army would fight again before the wall of Moscow. In fact, a site was chosen near Poklonnaya Gora a within a few miles of Moscow as a battle site. However, the Russian Army had not received enough reinforcements, and it was too risky to cling to Moscow at all cost. Kutuzov understood that the Russian people never wanted to abandon Moscow, the city which was regarded as Russia's "second capital"; however he also believed that the Russian Army couldn't have enough force to protect that city. Kutuzov then called for a council of war at the night of September 1 at Fili village. In a heated debate that split five to four to give battle, Kutuzov, after listening to each General, endorsed retreat. Thus passed the last chance of battle before Moscow was taken.


Estimates of the sizes of opposing forces
made at different times by different historians
Historian French Russian Year
Buturlin 190,000 132,000 1824
Segur 130,000 120,000 1824
Chambray 133,819 130,000 1825
Fain 120,000 133,500 1827
Clausewitz 130,000 120,000 1830s
Mikhailovsky-Danilivsky 160,000 128,000 1839
Bogdanovich 130,000 120,800 1859
Marbot 140,000 160,000 1860
Burton 130,000 120,800 1914
Garniich 130,665 119,300 1956
Tarle 130,000 127,800 1962
Grunward 130,000 120,000 1963
Beskrovny 135,000 126,000 1968
Chandler 156,000 120,800 1966
Thiry 120,000 133,000 1969
Holmes 130,000 120,800 1971
Duffy 133,000 125,000 1972
Tranie 127,000 120,000 1981
Nicolson 128,000 106,000 1985
Troitsky 134,000 154,800 1988
Vasiliev 130,000 155,200 1997
Smith 133,000 120,800 1998
Zemtsov 127,000 154,000 1999
Hourtoulle 115,000 140,000 2000
Bezorosny 135,000 150,000 2004

It is not unusual for a pivotal battle of this time period to be difficult to document. Similar difficulties exist with other examples such as the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 or the American War of 1812, while the Battle of Borodino offers its own particular challenges to accuracy. Modern historian Adam Zamoyski noted: "No other campaign in history has been subjected to such overtly political uses."

Personal accounts of the battle frequently magnified an individual's own role or minimised those of rivals. The politics of the time were complex and complicated by ethnic divisions between native Russian nobility and those having second and third-generation German descent, leading to sharp rivalry for positions in command of the army. Not only does a historian have to deal with the normal problem of a veteran looking back over years or decades recalling events as he or she would have liked them to have been, but in some cases outright malice was involved. Nor was this strictly a Russian event, as bickering and sabotage was not in the least unknown amongst the French Marshals and their reporting Generals. To "lie like a bulletin" was not just a French affair either, with Kutuzov in particular promoting an early form of misinformation that has continued to this day. Further distortions occurred during the Soviet years, when an adherence to a "formula" was the expectation during the Stalin years and for some time after that. The over-reliance of western histories on French sources has been noted as well.

The views of historians of the outcome of the battle changed with both passing time and the changing political situations surrounding them. Kutuzov proclaimed a victory both to the army and to Emperor Alexander. While many a general throughout history claimed victory out of defeat (Ramses II of Egypt
Ramesses II
Ramesses II , referred to as Ramesses the Great, was the third Egyptian pharaoh of the Nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire...

 did so), in this case there were multiple reasons. Kutuzov was the one man to whom the entire Russian Army could give its allegiance, but it was an army that, despite the huge losses, considered itself undefeated. Announcing a defeat would have removed Kutuzov from his command, and further damaged an army that had endured much and still stood proud. While Alexander was not deceived by the announcement, it gave him the justification needed to allow Kutuzov to march his army off to rebuild the Russian forces and later complete the near utter destruction of the French army. As such, what was said by Kutuzov and those supporting his views was allowed to pass into the histories of the time unchecked and unfettered.

Histories during the Soviet era raised the battle to a mythic contest with serious political overtones, and had Kutuzov as the master tactician on the battlefield directing every move with the precision of a ballet master directing his troupe. Kutuzov's abilities on the battlefield were, in the eyes of his contemporaries and fellow Russian generals, far more complex and often described less than complimentarily. Noted author and historian David G. Chandler
David G. Chandler
David G. Chandler was a British historian whose study focused on the Napoleonic era.As a young man he served briefly in the army, reaching the rank of captain, and in later life he taught at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Oxford University awarded him the D. Litt. in 1991...

 writing in 1966 echoes the Soviet era Russian histories in more than a few ways, asserting that General Kutuzov remained in control of the battle throughout, ordered counter-moves to Napoleon's tactics personally rather than Bagration and Barclay doing so and put aside personal differences to overcome the dispositional mistakes of the Russian Army. Nor is the tent scene played out; instead Kutuzov remains with the army. Chandler also has the Russian army in much better shape moving to secondary prepared positions and seriously considering attacking the next day. Later historians Riehn and Mikaberidze have Kutuzov leaving most of the battle to Bagration and Barclay de Tolly, leaving early in the afternoon and relaying orders from his camp 30 minutes from the front. His dispositions for the battle are described as a clear mistake leaving the right far too strong and the left much too weak. Only the fact that Bagration and Barclay were to cooperate fully saved the Russian army and did much to mitigate bad positioning of the available forces. Nothing would be more damning than 300 artillery pieces standing silent on the Russian right.


The casualties of the battle were staggering: according to French General Staff Inspector P. Denniee, the Grand Army lost approximately 28,000 soldiers: 6,562 (including 269 officers) were reported as dead, 21,450 as wounded. But according to French historian Aristid Martinien, at least 460 French officers (known by name) were killed in battle. In total, the Grand Army lost 1,928 officers dead and wounded, including 49 generals.
Suffering a wound on the Borodino battlefield was effectively a death sentence, as French forces did not possess enough food for the healthy, much less the sick; consequently, equal numbers of wounded soldiers starved to death, died of their injuries, or perished through neglect. The casualties were for a single day of battle, while the Russian figures are for the 5th and the 7th, combined. Using the same accounting method for both armies brings the actual French Army casualty count to 34,000–35,000.

Some 52,000 Russian troops were reported as dead, wounded or missing, including 1,000 prisoners; some 8,000 men were separated from their units and returned over the next few days, bringing the total Russian losses to 44,000. Twenty-two Russian generals were killed or wounded, including Prince Bagration, who died of his wounds on September 24.

Historian Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer, OC is a London-based independent Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist and military historian.Dyer was born in St. John's, Newfoundland and joined the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve at the age of sixteen...

 compared the carnage at Borodino to "a fully-loaded 747 crashing, with no survivors, every 5 minutes for eight hours."

Taken as a one-day battle in the scope of the Napoleonic conflict, this was the bloodiest battle of this series of conflicts and also the bloodiest battle since people used gunpowder in battlefields. Taken as a single-day battle, the combined casualties range to 64,000~65,000. The next nearest battle would be Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, at about 55,000 for the day.

In the historiography of this battle, the figures would be deliberately inflated or underplayed by the generals of both sides attempting to lessen the impact the figures would have on public opinion both during aftermath of the battle or, for political reasons, later during the Soviet period.


Although the Battle of Borodino can be seen as a victory for Napoleon, some scholars and contemporaries described Borodino as a Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

. Russian historian Oleg Sokolov agrees that Borodino ultimately constituted a Pyrrhic victory for the French, which would ultimately cost Napoleon the war and his crown, although at the time none of this was apparent to either side. Sokolov adds that the decision to not commit the Guard saved the Russians from an Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of Napoleon's greatest victories, where the French Empire effectively crushed the Third Coalition...

-style defeat and quotes Marshal Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, one of Napoleon's finest strategists, who analysed the battle and concluded that an intervention of the Guard would have torn the Russian army to pieces and allowed Napoleon to safely follow his plans to take winter quarters in Moscow and resume his successful campaign in spring or offer the Tsar acceptable peace terms. Digby Smith calls Borodino 'a draw' but believes that posterity proved Napoleon right in his decision to not commit the Guard so far away from his homeland. According to Christopher Duffy
Christopher Duffy
Christopher Duffy is a British military historian. Duffy read history at Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1961 with the PhD. Afterwards, he taught military history at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the college of the British General Staff...

, the battle of Borodino could be seen as a new Battle of Torgau
Battle of Torgau
In the Battle of Torgau on 3 November 1760, King Frederick the Great's Prussian army fought a larger Austrian army under the command of Field Marshal Leopold Josef Graf Daun. The Prussians won a costly victory in one of the bloodiest battles of the Seven Years' War.-Background:In August, Daun...

 in the XIX century, when both of the sides sustained terrible losses but no one could achieve their tactical goals, and the battle itself does not have a clear result. Even both the sides claimed this battle their own victory.

However, in a long term attrition war, the battle was just one more source of losses to the French when the French were losing two men to one. Both the French and the Russians suffered terribly but the Russians had reserve troops, and a clear advantage in the logistics war. The French Army supplies would come over a long road lined with hostile forces. According to Rhien, so long as the Russian Army existed the French continued to lose. This victory ultimately cost Napoleon his army, as it allowed the French emperor to believe that the campaign was winnable, exhausting his forces as he went on to Moscow to await a surrender that would never come. Historian Rhiem notes that the Borodino victory allowed Napoleon to move on to Moscow, where—even allowing for the arrival of reinforcements—the French Army could only possess a maximum of 95,000 men, who would be ill equipped to win a battle due to a lack of supplies and ammunition. The Grande Armée suffered 66% of its casualties by the time of the Moscow retreat; snow, starvation, and typhus ensured that only 23,000 men crossed the Russian border alive. Furthermore, while the Russian army suffered heavy casualties in the battle, they had fully recovered by the time of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow; consequently, they immediately began to interfere with the French withdrawal, costing Napoleon much of his surviving army.


Poet Mikhail Lermontov
Mikhail Lermontov
Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov , a Russian Romantic writer, poet and painter, sometimes called "the poet of the Caucasus", became the most important Russian poet after Alexander Pushkin's death in 1837. Lermontov is considered the supreme poet of Russian literature alongside Pushkin and the greatest...

 romanticised the battle in his poem Borodino
Borodino (poem)
Borodino is a poem by Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov which describes the Battle of Borodino, the major battle of Napoleon's invasion of Russia...

. The battle was famously described by Count Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 in his novel War and Peace
War and Peace
War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature...

as "a continuous slaughter which could be of no avail either to the French or the Russians". A huge panorama representing the battle was painted by Franz Roubaud
Franz Roubaud
Franz Alekseyevich Roubaud was a Russian painter who created some of the largest and best known panoramic paintings.Roubaud was born on 15 June 1856 in Odessa and attended an art school there. In 1877 he went to Munich, where he studied at the Munich Academy...

 for the centenary of Borodino and installed on the Poklonnaya Hill
Poklonnaya Hill
Poklonnaya Gora is, at 171.5 metres, one of the highest spots in Moscow. Its two summits used to be separated by the Setun River, until one of the summits was razed in 1987...

 in Moscow to mark the 150th anniversary of the event. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

 also composed his 1812 Overture
1812 Overture
The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49, popularly known as the 1812 Overture or the Overture of 1812 is an overture written by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of Moscow against Napoleon's advancing Grande Armée at the Battle of...

to commemorate the battle.

In Russia, the Battle of Borodino is reenacted yearly on the first Sunday of September. On the battlefield itself, the Bagration flèches are still preserved; a modest monument has been constructed in honor of the French soldiers who fell in the battle. There are also remnants of trenches from the seven-day battle
Battle at Borodino Field
The Battle at Borodino Field was a part of the Battle of Moscow, on the Eastern Front of World War II. While referring to the battle in Russian, the Borodino Field is actually more commonly applied rather than just Borodino, cf...

 fought at the same battlefield in 1941 between the Soviet and German forces (which took fewer human lives than the one of 1812).

A commemorative 1-ruble coin was released in the Soviet Union in 1987 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, and four million of them were minted. A minor planet
Minor planet
An asteroid group or minor-planet group is a population of minor planets that have a share broadly similar orbits. Members are generally unrelated to each other, unlike in an asteroid family, which often results from the break-up of a single asteroid...

 3544 Borodino
3544 Borodino
3544 Borodino is a main-belt asteroid discovered on September 7, 1977 by Chernykh, N. at Nauchnyj. It is named after the village of Borodino, commemorating the battle that took place there in 1812.- External links :*...

, discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh
Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh
Nikolay Stepanovich Chernykh was a Soviet and Russian astronomer.Chernykh was born in the city of Usman' in Voronezh Oblast...

 in 1977 was named after the village Borodino.

External links