Battle of Maloyaroslavets
Battle of Maloyaroslavets Part of the French invasion of Russia (1812)
Battle of Maloyaroslavets, by Piter von Hess
Date 24 October 1812 Location Maloyaroslavets, Russia Result French tactical victory
Russian strategic victory
Belligerents First French Empire Russian Empire Commanders and leaders Eugène de Beauharnais & Davout under supervision of Napoleon Dmitry Dokhturov under supervision of Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov Strength 20,000 12,000 infantry
10,000 reinforcements later on.
Casualties and losses 5,000 6,000
The Battle of Maloyaroslavets took place on 24 October 1812, between the Russians, under Marshal Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, and part of the corps of Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon's stepson, under General Alexis Joseph Delzons which numbered about 20,000 strong.
On 19 October, Napoleon evacuated Moscow and marched south-west to Kaluga, de Beauharnais leading the advance. Unaware of this, and believing the force sighted at Fominskoye, 40 miles south-west of Moscow, was a foraging party, Kutuzov sent General Dokhturov with 12,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry and 84 guns to surprise it. While on the road, Dokhturov learned this force was the Grande Armée and decided to hold out until reinforcements came at the road junction and town of Maloyaroslavets, on the Luzha River.
Dokhturov entered the town from the south and found the French spearhead had seized a bridgehead. Fierce fighting began; the town changed hands five times. General Raevski arrived with 10,000 more Russians; once more they took the town, though not the bridgehead. De Beauharnais threw in his 15th (Italian) division, under Domenico Pino (Minister of War of the Kingdom of Italy), and by evening they had again expelled the Russians. During the course of the engagament the town changed hands no fewer than 8 times and it was quoted that the French and in particular the Italian Royal Guard under Eugène de Beauharnais 'fought like lions'. Marshal Kutuzov arrived, decided against a pitched battle with the Grand Army the next day, and to retire instead to the prepared line of defense at Kaluga. The mainly French and Italian forces won a victory on the day, only to realize that "unless with a new Borodino" the way through Kaluga is closed. This allowed Kutuzov to fulfill his strategic plans to force Napoleon on the way of retreat in the north, through Mozhaisk and Smolensk, the route of his advance that he had wished to avoid. French casualties were about 5,000, including Delzons killed, while the Russians lost 6,000.
After encountering such strong resistance on the South-Westerly road, Napoleon crucially decided to retreat directly West, over the land that had not only been devastated by the original French advance, but also the Russian scortched earth policies. Had Napoleon continued along the road South-West, it is possible that the entire campaign and subsequent campaigns would have been different.
The Battle of Italians
The victory was actually due to the courage of the Italian soldiers, that were praised by Napoleon. In facts, this battle is remembered as the "Battle of the Italians".
- ^ Commission française d'histoire militaire (1991) L'influence de la Révolution française sur les armées en France, en Europe, et dans le monde: actes. Fondation pour les études de défense nationale, p. 64
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