Battle of Klyastitsy

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Klyastitsy
partof=French invasion of Russia (1812)

caption="Battle of Klyastitsy", by Piter von Hess
date=July 30 –­ August 1, 1812
place=Klyastitsy, Belarus
result=Russian victory
commander1=Prince Peter Wittgenstein
commander2=Nicolas Oudinot
casualties2=5,500 dead,
1,000 captured

The Battle of Klyastitsy is a relatively minor engagement which took place near the village of Klyastitsy ( _ru. Клястицы) (Drissa uyezd, Vitebsk guberniya) on the road between Polotsk and Sebezh. In this battle the Russian corps under the command of Peter Wittgenstein, ordered to defend St. Petersburg, defeated the French corps under the command of Marshal Nicolas Oudinot

The battle

On July 28, twelve French cavalry squadrons were surprised and attacked by eight Russian hussard and Cossack squadrons under General Yakov Kulnev. In spite of their numerical superiority, the French squadrons lost the skirmish and retreated.

At that time Oudinot occupied the village of Klyastitsy on his advance towards St. Petersburg. There were 28,000 French troops while the Russian Corps numbered 17,000. In spite of being outnumbered, Wittgenstein decided to fight. The battle started on July 30 at 2 pm. The Russian vanguard led by Kulnev (ca 4,000 men) fought with the French vanguard for the whole day near the village of Yakubov. Kulnev managed to press the French but they kept the village under their control. On the next day, after several attacks and counterattacks, the Russian advance forced Oudinot to retreat to Klyastitsy. In order to continue their advance the Russian troops had to cross the river Nishcha. Oudinot ordered his troops to set fire to the only bridge. While the Russian cavalry was wading across the Nishcha, the 2nd battalion of the Pavlovsk Grenadier regiment rushed the burning bridge. This instance was depicted by Peter Hess in his painting, illustrated to the right.

Kulnev continued to chase the French Corps with several cavalry regiments and one infantry battalion. After crossing the Drissa river on August 1 his unit ran into an ambush and suffered heavy casualties under the fire of French artillery. Kulnev was badly wounded (he had both his legs severed by a cannon-ball) and died the same day.

Finally Oudinot retreated to Polotsk and the French advance on St. Petersburg failed.


Wittgenstein was awarded the Order of St. George of the Second Degree. Alexander I is reported to have called him "the saviour of St. Petersburg". Captain Krylov, whose unit was the first to cross the river over the burning bridge, received the Order of St. George of the Fourth Degree.

Online references

*ru icon [ Battle of Klyastitsy]

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