Battle of Borodino

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Battle of Borodino
Battle of Borodino
Battle of Borodino
date September 7, 1812
place Borodino , Central Russia
output Pyrrhic victory of the French
Parties to the conflict

France 1804First empire France Duchy of Warsaw Italy Confederation of the Rhine
Duchy of WarsawDuchy of Warsaw 
Italy 1805Italy 

Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire Russia


France 1804First empire Napoléon Bonaparte Michel Ney Joachim Murat Eugène de Beauharnais
France 1804First empire
France 1804First empire
Italy 1805Italy

Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire Mikhail Kutuzov Pyotr BagrationMichel Barclay de Tolly
Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire
Russian Empire 1721Russian Empire

Troop strength
587 guns
624 guns

30,000 to 35,000, including 47 generals and 480 officers

39,000 to 45,000, including 23 generals and 211 officers

Battle of Borodino (Europe)
Battle of Borodino
Battle of Borodino
Location of the battlefield

The Battle of Borodino (also: Battle of Moshaisk , French Bataille de la Moskova , Russian Бородинское сражение ) was a battle of Napoleon's Russian campaign . On August 26th, July / 7th September 1812 greg. At Borodino the French Grande Armée led by Napoleon and the Russian army under General Kutuzov fought one of the bloodiest battles of the 19th century.


The Russian commander in chief, Minister of War Michael Barclay de Tolly , had his armies withdrawn from major battles in good time after the French invasion and relied on a planned retreat as a defense strategy that brought the vastness of the country into play. After the defeat at Smolensk , General Barclay de Tolly withdrew further and reached Zaryovo Saimishche with his troops on August 29 , where he began to build positions for a battle. On the same day Kutuzov joined the army and ordered the expansion of the positions to be accelerated. On the afternoon of the next day he gave the order to withdraw. Tsar Alexander had appointed Prince Mikhail Kutuzov as Commander-in-Chief on August 20, after the Russian court had increasingly demanded that the Tsar end the retreat and do everything possible to save the former capital Moscow from the French.

On August 31, the Russian army reached Gschatsk and began building entrenchments. The next day Kutuzov again gave the order to retreat and surrendered to the Grande Armée Napoleon Bonaparte and his allies with his troops at Borodino. Borodino is located on the old road from Smolensk to Moscow , about 115 kilometers west of the Russian capital in the hilly landscape of the Central Russian Plate .

General Kutuzov had around 120,000 infantry and cavalry and 640 cannons . Taking advantage of the confusing, heavily wooded and scrub-covered area, which was also criss-crossed by ravines and ridges, Kutuzov had set up his troops south and north-east of Borodino. On the right wing, in the north, Barclay held a hill with 75,000 men, which, reinforced by jumps , was called the Great Schanze by the French . Behind it came a depression, followed by flesches . These were occupied by a division of the 2nd Western Army under Prince Bagration , who had a total of 30,000 men available. The heavily wooded area above the village of Utiza, where the Russian 3rd Infantry Corps covered the left wing of Kutuzov's army, joined to the south.

Napoleon's army also had a strength of around 128,000 men, of which around 28,000 were cavalry and 16,000 gunners with 587 cannons. The army consisted to a large extent of Poles, Württemberg, Westphalia, Saxons, Croats and Bavaria .

On September 5th, there had already been fighting over the upstream ski jump of Shevardino, which was conquered by the French. The Russian casualties amounted to 6,000 men and the Russian General Krasnov was fatally wounded. The losses on the French side amounted to 4,000 men. On the morning of September 7th, the officers read to their troops the proclamation that Napoleon had written the previous evening: “Soldiers, this is the battle you have so much wanted! Victory now depends on you. We need him. He will provide us with plenty of food and good winter quarters and enable us to return home quickly to the fatherland. Fight like at Austerlitz , Friedland , Vitebsk and Smolensk . May the most distant future boast of your conduct on this day. May one say of each of you: He was there at the great battle at the gates of Moscow! ”Since Napoléon did not use his guard of around 19,000 men, the Russian army outnumbered the battlefield.

The battle

Napoleon at Borodino. Painting by the Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin , 1897
The formation of the French and Russian troops on the morning of September 7th, 1812
French storm on the Fleschen southwest of Semyonovskoye

First phase of attack

At 5:30 a.m. on September 7th, Napoleon ordered fire to be opened. Napoleon's battle plan envisaged first conducting a diversionary attack against the village of Borodino with the IV Army Corps under the Viceroy of Italy, Eugène de Beauharnais , who stood as the left wing north of the road to Moscow. Napoleon wanted Kutuzov to believe that this was the main thrust aimed at encircling the Russian right wing. The main attack was to be carried out later in the middle with the 1st Army Corps under Marshal Davout against the front of Prince Bagration, while the cavalry of the 5th Army Corps under Poniatowski was to bypass the left wing of the Russians at Utiza in order to bring it in the back fall.

General Kutuzov had spent the night in the village of Tatarinowo and then rode near the village of Gorky, from where he and his staff took the lead. The right wing of the 1st Western Army with the 2nd and 4th Infantry Corps under General Ostermann-Tolstoy and Baggehufwudt , which was concentrated between the corner of the river Kalotscha and the Moskva and was additionally covered by the cavalry corps under Baron Korff and General Uvarow, was deployed here .

Prince Eugène attacked Borodino soon with the French IV. Corps, while the I. and III. Army Corps of Marshals Davout and Ney advanced with the infantry against the Flèches, whose lunettes had been erected southwest of the village of Semyonovskoye. Opposite here the troops of the Russian 7th and 8th Infantry Corps defended under Generals Rajewski and Borosdin . The Flèches were initially defended by General Vorontsov's 2nd Grenadier Division, Neverowski's 27th Infantry Division and by the 2nd Cuirassier Division under General Duka . The French divisions of Dessaix and Compans , supported by 102 cannons Flèches attacked directly and were greeted by Russian grapeshot covered. The French continued their attack even though Compans was already wounded. Marshal Davout saw the confusion and personally led the 57th Line Regiment forward as reinforcement. How costly the fighting was now, Napoleon quickly realized after Davout's horse was shot under him. The Kaiser replaced his Marshal, who could not be found at first, with General Rapp . This was wounded for the twenty-second time in his career and replaced by General Dessaix, who was also wounded after a short time.

Troops of the 5th Army Corps, mainly Poles under General Poniatowski, stormed the village of Utiza on the right wing during the first attack. Lieutenant General Tutschkow , commander of the Russian 3rd Infantry Corps , was able to recapture the village at 8 a.m. Reinforcements of the VII Army Corps with Westphalia were brought in and was able to storm Utiza again, which was then set on fire by the Russians. No further progress could be made on this section until the end of the battle on either side.

Ney's front divisions (Division Razout and Ledru ) had meanwhile stormed the southern gun emplacement of the Flèches and held them against the counterattacks of the Russian troops. The defense of the Russians on the Flèche was massively supported by artillery from the village of Semyonovskoye, from whose elevation the entire bank of the Kalotscha was dominated. The bulk of the 2nd Grenadier Division was already pulled forward behind the village of Semyonovskoye. General Vorontsov led several counter attacks, was seriously wounded and his entire division was severely decimated. Newerowski's troops supported the grenadiers as much as possible. Napoleon was surprised by the persistence of the Russians, who continued to fight even in a losing position, while in the past few years the Austrians and Prussians had surrendered or withdrawn under such circumstances. Napoleon said of the Russian infantrymen: "They are fortresses that must be destroyed with cannons."

Napoleon relieved Ney by counter-attacking the reserve cavalry under the personal guidance of Marshal Joachim Murat . Murat's cavalry tried to bypass the Flèches to attack Bagrations infantry from the flank, but was immediately confronted with Russian cuirassiers and the defensive carts of the 27th Division under General Newerowski . The French carried out seven attacks in succession against the Flèches, each time being thrown back in close combat. The cuirassiers under General Duka threw back the German and Polish light cavalry, the Württemberg infantry of the Marchand advance division was thrown back. Napoleon also sent Davout's 2nd Division under General Friant to help, which penetrated the Flèches for a short time, but was pushed out again by Russian counter-attacks. Bagration's troops were also reinforced in good time by the 3rd Infantry Division under General Konownitzin . Prince Bagration personally carried out several counter-attacks, during which he was seriously wounded by a shot in the leg at around 11:00 a.m. On Kutuzov's orders, General Dochturow , commander of the 6th Infantry Corps, took control of the left wing.

Second attack phase

The attack on the Rajewski ski jump. Painting by Franz Roubaud , 1913

Eugene's troops ( Delzon's division ) had meanwhile stormed Borodino and now took fire from there on the Great Redoubt. After the departure of Dochturow, General Kapzewitsch had taken command of the 6th Infantry Corps. Around 11 a.m., the viceroy with the French divisions Broussier , Morand and Gérard launched a massive frontal attack against the Great Redoubt held by Rajewski's troops. The French general Bonamy was seriously wounded during the battle for the hill and was taken prisoner. Meanwhile Baggowutt's 2nd Infantry Corps had been withdrawn from the right wing and regrouped to the left to reinforce the southern flank. The 4th Division of Prince Eugene of Württemberg reinforced the hard-pressed 7th Infantry Corps while the 17th Division under General Olsufjew marched south to Utiza to strengthen the 3rd Infantry Corps. General Nikolai Tutschkow was seriously wounded, General Stroganov , commander of the 1st Grenadier Division, took command for the time being. Prince Poniatowski had pushed back the Russian left wing, but came under heavy fire from the Russians in the thick brush on the hill behind it, so that it was not possible for him to carry out the planned enclosure. Thus, the battle could only be continued through artillery duels and frontal attacks, in the fight man against man, which also happened. General Baggehufwudt then took over the leadership in the Utiza area.

While Napoleon was still considering whether to reinforce Ney, a message came from the left wing. It was around noon when Viceroy Eugene received the order to launch another attack against the Rajewski Redoute, where the Russian 7th and 6th Infantry Corps were defending. In the meantime, Prince Kutuzov had given his cavalry reserve, concentrated on the right wing, under General Uvarov and Cossacks under Platov, permission to encompass the enemy front. About 8000 cavalrymen supported by 12 light guns were used. Uvarov's cavalry swung south-west and south, while Platov's Cossacks advanced west, eventually breaking into the undefended rear of Eugene's army corps. The sudden appearance of strong Russian cavalry near the train and the Emperor's headquarters caused consternation among the French and prompted Eugène to abandon his attack and withdraw his reserves to counter the threat. After Platow and Uvarow were unable to achieve anything without infantry support, they moved unsuccessfully behind their own lines. The attack of the French IV Army Corps on the Rajewski Redoute was delayed by two hours due to this cavalry raid. During these hours the Russians gained time to establish reinforcements on the already thinned front line between the 1st and 2nd Western Armies.

Saxon Cuirassier Regiment Zastrow attacking the Rajewski-Schanzen
Commons of the Astrakhan Cuirassier Regiment

Around noon Napoleon had the attack on the great redoubt renewed, now the viceroy's divisions were supported by General Chastel's light cavalry brigade on the left and the II cavalry corps on the right. When Murat's cavalry broke in on the left wing of the great redoubt, the viceroy of Italy's infantry attacked the Rajewski hill. Here, the Russian 26th Division defended by General Paskevich with great bravery, lost it almost the whole crew before by troops under Yermolov , Count Kutaissow and Vasilchikov been strengthened. On the Russian side, the fresh 24th Division under General Lichachev was brought forward to the defensive battle. Murat's cavalry masses had to withdraw and the 2nd Infantry Division under Friant was set up again to attack the so-called 4th Flesche and the village of Semyonovskoye. Gradually, Tolstoy's 4th Infantry Corps was regrouped from the right wing to the south and faced Friant, who had stormed Semyonovskoye.

Napoleon received a message from Ney, who asked that the entire reserve, i.e. the Imperial Guard , be sent to the Flèches to force the decisive breakthrough through the Russian center. In itself, this proposal was sensible and the only possible way to end this battle in victory, since Ney and Murat's troops had done excellently but were exhausted and urgently needed reinforcement. Marshal Bessières , the commander of the Guards Cavalry, asked his emperor: “Do you want to risk your last reserves 2,600 kilometers from Paris?” So he only helped Ney to a limited extent by firing even more guns at the Flèches, until there were a total of 400 were.

The Russian artillery fire now demanded ever greater losses from the enemy. Friant, who had already been injured near Smolensk, was wounded again. After the jump could be conquered at noon, they had to retreat after a Russian counterattack. Latour-Mauburg's IV Cavalry Corps was now brought forward to the right and behind Montbrun's cavalry and set up to attack the great redoubt. In the first row the Saxon Guard du Corps rode, followed by the Cuirassier Regiment Zastrow (General Thielmann ) and behind them the Polish cuirassiers under the Uhlan regiments under General Rozniecki . The Saxons, Westphalia and Poland rode in front of Friant's troops and initially attacked Tolstoy's infantry. The newly deployed Russian infantry greeted the enemy with a hail of bullets, their salvos devastated the front row of the Saxons. The riders who had broken through stormed on between the fields and then met the Russian dragoons and hussars of Generals Kreutz and Sievers , who soon forced the Saxons and Westphalia to retreat. General Montbrun was fatally wounded in the last attacks on the "Große Schanze" . Napoléon replaced him with General Auguste de Caulaincourt . More French cavalry attacks followed. In the afternoon the cavalry and infantry from the corps of Ney and Eugène could finally conquer the hill, but Caulaincourt was fatally wounded in the process. The Russians were repulsed. Napoleon, cautious in the face of the Russian resistance, did not allow his troops to pursue the enemy.


The loss figures differ considerably in the sources. The highest assessments, however, often no longer correspond to the figures currently predominantly represented by historians. The GDR military historians Helmert and Usczeck put the losses on the French side as 58,000 out of 135,000, those on the Russian side as 44,000 out of 128,000. Ludwig Renn, in turn, wrote of 50,000 (out of 130,000) French losses and 58,000 (out of 120,000) on the Russian side. Eugen Tarlé also confirmed that (almost) half of the Russian army was destroyed . In 1987, the Military History Museum in Minsk spoke in its exhibition of 28,000 dead (out of 130,000) on the French and 52,000 (out of 120,000) on the Russian side. Exactly these numbers of victims were confirmed in 2008 by the State Museum Kassel (in its exhibition about King Lustik and the model state of Westphalia), as well as the Westphalian victims of the Russian campaign (Westphalian cuirassiers fought in the battle of Borodino at the Rajewski hills).

On the Russian side

Most authors put the losses on the Russian side at 39,000 to 45,000 men today. Older numbers are up to 58,000 men.

The Russian generals Bagration, Alexander Kutaisow, Nikolai and Alexander Tutschkow, Ivan Krasnow and Boris Golitsyn were killed or mortally wounded, 21 other generals were wounded, five of them only slightly and remained on duty. The wounded General Likhachev was taken prisoner. German, Swedish, Austrian and even French officers fought on the Russian side. The major general in Russian service, Prince Karl August Christian zu Mecklenburg , was wounded in Borodino, as was General Saint Priest . The German officers Klinger and Lamsdorf, adjutants to Barclay de Tolly, were killed, as were a number of other foreign officers in Russian service. Only 2,000 men were captured.

On the French side

The losses of the French army are difficult to determine due to the loss of much of the documentation when withdrawing from Russia. Some historians put the French casualties at 30,000 to 35,000 men. There are at least 460 officers listed by name; their total number is estimated at 480 today.

Bernhardi puts the losses of the French army at 28,086 men. He considers this number to be too low, but allows it to apply to the actual battle of Borodino, although the French data he cites include the battle of Shevardino. The French chief surgeon Larrey gave the number of dead on the French side, including the battle of Shevardino, with 9,000 men (after Bernhardi).

The corps under Junot lost up to 3,000 Westphalians . General Damas was killed, Generals von Lepel and Tharreau were mortally wounded, General Hammerstein and Colonel von Borstel were wounded. The Württemberg generals von Breuning and von Scheeler were also wounded, as was the Bavarian general Dommanget . A total of eleven generals were killed and 18 wounded on the French side. General Bonamy was captured. The Saxon cavalry brigade Thielmann was almost completely wiped out.

Dominique Jean Larrey , the Oberfeldscher , had to amputate 200 arms and legs during the battle and in the hours that followed. On the Russian side, the Tsar's personal physician, the Scot James Wylie , was in charge of the care of the wounded. According to Britten-Austin, 58,521 dead soldiers and 35,478 dead horses were later counted. The number of horses dead shows the crucial involvement of the cavalry in this battle. Napoleon lost most of his remaining cavalry and had to form cavalry units on foot.


The Borodino Obelisk on the former battlefield

Because the battlefield remained in French hands after the orderly Russian retreat, the battle can be seen as a tactical victory for the French. The high losses suffered by the French, however, were much more severe than the Russian ones because of their irreplaceability. Although the way to Moscow was now open for Napoleon, in a situation in which time was playing dramatically against him, he missed a decisive victory that might have persuaded his opponent to negotiate with him. From a strategic point of view, the outcome of the Battle of Borodino was unfavorable for Napoleon.

On the Russian side, General Bagration, one of the most capable commanders, was fatally wounded. Since Kutuzov reported a Russian victory after the battle, thanksgiving services were held and the supposed victory was celebrated; Kutuzov was appointed marshal. The entry of the French troops into Moscow came as a surprise to its residents.

The Battle of Borodino was won by Napoleon, but his decision to march on to Moscow and wait more than a month for negotiations ultimately led to his defeat in the Russian campaign.

Contemporary witness reports

Albrecht Adam (1786–1862) was a battle painter and accompanied Napoleon's stepson Eugène de Beauharnais on the campaign to Russia. Adam watched the battle of Borodino. This is how he described the situation after the battle.

“The soldiers dragged themselves out of the fight, dripping with blood, in many places the field was covered with corpses; the wounds and mutilations I saw on people and horses that day is the most horrific thing I have ever met and cannot be described. "

Albrecht Adam later condensed his impressions in the painting from 1840 of the abandoned battlefield After the Battle (in the Georg Schäfer Museum ) with a dying and riderless horse, fallen soldier and two soldiers looking after wounded comrades.


A detailed and realistic description of this battle and the Battle of the Beresina can be found in Tolstoy's novel War and Peace (1868–69; Volume III, Part 2, Chapters XIX – XXXIX). Other Russian artists such as Tchaikovsky and Pushkin and Lermontov have also dealt with the subject. In Theodor Fontane's novel Before the Storm (1878, Volume 3, Chapter 11) there is a description of the battle from the perspective of a member of the Thielmann Brigade.

After the battle, a settlement founded in Bessarabia in 1814 was named Borodino , which had emerged as the number 1 village with German emigrants in the area. Tsar Alexander I had called German colonists into the country in a manifesto of 1813 in order to cultivate the newly won steppe areas that he had wrested from the Turks in the Russo-Turkish War .

In 1912, on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, Franz Roubaud created a monumental panorama painting and in 1962 it was exhibited in a specially built rotunda ( Panorama Museum of the Battle of Borodino ) on Kutuzovsky Prospect in Moscow.


  • Friedrich Steger : The campaign of 1812. Chronicle of the "Great Army" in Napoleon's campaign against Russia in 1812 according to contemporary sources with many illustrations of the time . Phaidon-Verlag, Essen 1985, ISBN 3-88851-074-4 (unchanged reprint of the Braunschweig 1845 edition)
  • Carl von Clausewitz : The Russian campaign of 1812 . Magnus Verlag, Essen 1984, ISBN 3-88400-162-0 (unchanged reprint of the Berlin 1906 edition).
  • Armand de Caulaincourt : Mémoires . Plon, Paris 1933.
    • German translation: With Napoleon in Russia. Memories of General Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza, Grand Stable Master of the Emperor . Velhagen & Klasing publishing house, Bielefeld 1938.
  • Eugen Tarlé : Napoleon in Russia 1812 . Steinberg Verlag, Zurich 1944.
  • Alexander Mikaberidze: The Battle of Borodino. Napoleon against Kurtusov . Pen and Sword, Barnsley 2007, ISBN 978-1-84415-603-0 .


  1. Alexander Mikaberidze, p. 204.
  2. ^ Nigel Nicolson, p. 107.
  3. In the Russian army there were several generals named Tutschkow who were brothers.
  4. Heinz Helmert, Hans Jürgen Usczeck: European wars of liberation from 1808 to 1814/15; military course. 2nd Edition. Military Publishing House of the GDR, Berlin 1981, pp. 161–165.
  5. Ludwig Renn : Warriors, Landsknecht and Soldier . Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1979, p. 124.
  6. ^ A b Richard K. Riehn: 1812. Napoleon's Russian Campaign . John Wiley, New York 2001, ISBN 0-471-54302-0 .
  7. ^ Digby Smith : The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book . Greenhill Books, London 1998, ISBN 1-85367-276-9 .
  8. Eugen Tarlé, p. 189.
  9. Ader, a Frenchman, stated that the Russians lost more than 50 generals, which is very unlikely as the Russian army would have lost almost all of the generals in this case.
  10. The figures vary between 700 and 2,000 men.
  11. В. Н. Земцов: «Битва при Москве - реке» М. 2001 год. стр. 260-265.
  12. ^ Aristide Martinien: Tableaux par corps et par batailles des officiers tues et blesses pendant les guerres de l'Empire (1805–1815) . ´Ditions Militaires Européennes, Paris (unaltered reprint Paris 1899).
  13. ^ Theodor von Bernhardi : Memories from the life of the kaiserl. Russian Generals of the Infantry Karl Friedrich Count von Toll, Vol. 2 . Second increased edition. Verlag von Otto Wigand, Leipzig 1865, p. 113 ff.
  14. ^ The former Kingdom of Westphalia is not identical to today's Westphalia. The Kingdom of Westphalia extended from Halle (Saale) to around Paderborn, the capital being Kassel. From today's perspective, most of the inhabitants were Hesse; Hanover, Braunschweig and Magdeburg also belonged to the Kingdom of Westphalia.
  15. Friedrich Steger, p. 99, names ten killed and 14 wounded generals. Then there is General Girardin, who was killed, and the wounded Generals Dessaix, Subervie, Teste and Dommanget, who are not named by Steger. In other sources the French losses are given with up to 50 generals.
  16. quote! Hyacinth Holland : Albrecht Adam (1786–1862). From the life of a battle painter; Self-biography with an appendix . Verlag Cotta, Stuttgart 1886, p. 190. Quotation found in Bruno Bushart , Matthias Eberle, Jens Christian Jensen : Museum Georg Schäfer. Explanations of the exhibited works. 2nd Edition. Schweinfurt 2002, ISBN 3-9807418-0-X , p. 25.
  17. ^ Bruno Bushart, Matthias Eberle, Jens Christian Jensen: Museum Georg Schäfer. P. 25.

Web links

Commons : Battle of Borodino  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 55 ° 31 ′ 15 ″  N , 35 ° 49 ′ 15 ″  E