Smolensk battle of 1812 - the first serious clash of the Russian army with Napoleon
Held at the beginning of August, Smolenskthe battle of 1812 was the first battle between the Russians and the French, and although it did not become a general battle, it nevertheless turned into one of the most dramatic events of the war with Napoleon. It is safe to say that this clash of armies marked the beginning of a turning point in the course of the confrontation.
Although the retreat of the Russian army to Moscow is notHowever, after the Battle of Smolensk was over, it took a somewhat different character, and Napoleon began to realize that the rapid "blitzkrieg" would not work, and sooner or later we would have to look for new ways of conducting the war and perhaps even occasions for a truce .
Interestingly, although neither Napoleon himself northe commander of the First Western Army, Mikhail Barclay de Tolly, did not seek to conduct the Smolensk battle, it was almost impossible to avoid it. Napoleon needed to make a break in his rapid advance on Russian territory. Because of the need to provide for themselves with food, the French troops stretched out to the sides, and they had to be reassembled into a single fist, simultaneously trying to cut off the First Western Army of Barclay de Tolly from the connection with the Second Army commanded by Bagration and simultaneously them both from the capital.
Barclay de Tolly also feared to join the directbattle with the troops of the French emperor knowing how trained and strong his soldiers are in this way of conducting combat operations. He did not want to weaken the fighting efficiency of the Russian armies by such a battle, realizing that in any case the advance of the enemy to Moscow will not be able to stop. However, because of the persistent pressure of the imperial environment and his own generals, which was encouraged by the seeming fragmentation of the French army, he had to agree to a battle near Smolensk.
On August 4, fifteen thousand Russian troopsreflected the first blow of the French in Smolensk, restraining their offensive and providing an opportunity for the First and Second Western Army, which by the evening of the same day united in a 120,000-strong group, to approach the city and settle on the heights of the right bank of the Dnieper opposite the 200,000-strong French army, left bank.
The next morning Napoleon expected the Russian troops to leavein the field for the battle across the whole form, but this did not happen. The Russian commander-in-chief, who still wants to keep the army at any cost and not be cut off from the capital, ordered to retreat towards Moscow. In order to cover the retreat and to restrain the onslaught of French troops, the corps of Rayevsky and Dokhturov, and the divisions of Neverovsky and Konovitsin, who in the main participated in the battle with the French, were allotted. The loss of Napoleon's army near Smolensk was about 20 thousand people. Whereas the Russian army lost only 10,000 fighters.
The next day at Valutina Mountain - the village,located 10 kilometers from Smolensk, there was a clash between the 3,000th Russian detachment commanded by General Tuchkov and 40,000 Frenchmen from the corps of General Ney, sent by Napoleon with the aim of cutting the communications of the retreating Russian army. Tuchkov, assessing the danger that Ney's maneuver represented for the Russians, voluntarily blocked the way for the French by his small detachment, taking a very convenient position near the Smolenskaya road. Thanks to the advantage of his position, Tuchkov managed to restrain the French all day and even to periodically turn into counterattacks. During the last of them, which was already under moonlight, the brave general was wounded with a bayonet and was taken prisoner.
However, Tuchkov's efforts were not in vain. The Russian army was successfully retired. Thus, the Smolensk battle was completed, lasting for a total of two days. Smolensk fell, but the Russian army without significant losses crossed the Dnieper and retreated deep into Russia, ready for further combat operations.