Battle of Brest (1794)
|Battle of Brest|
|Part of the Kościuszko Uprising|
|Russian Empire||Polish rebels|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Alexander Suvorov||Karol Sierakowski|
|Casualties and losses|
|about 1000 men killed||about 5,000 men killed
500 taken prisoner
The Battle of Brest (referred to by Polish historians as "Bitwa pod Terespolem" (Battle near Terespol)) was a battle between Russian imperial forces and Polish rebels south-west of Brest (near the village of Terespol), present-day Belarus, on 19 September 1794. It was part of the Kościuszko Uprising.
Before 19 September, Polish rebels fortified themselves in the marshes near the town of Brest. At night (at 2 AM, according to one source), Alexander Suvorov moved his troops near the Polish positions, and attacked at dawn. The fighting lasted for six hours, often involving hand-to-hand combat, but the Russians finally managed to gain the upper hand, destroying the Polish force. 500 of Sierakowski's men were taken prisoner, and the fields all around Brest were covered with corpses. The Polish lost all of their 28 artillery pieces and two banners. According to Russian sources, Sierakowsky himself fled to Siedlce with a detachment of his cavalry corps. A Russian military report stated that losses on their side stood at 95 killed and 228 injured, however in reality it is estimated that around 1000 Russians were killed.
The Russian victory at Brest took a major hit on Polish morale. Tadeusz Kościuszko himself was distraught by the loss. In August, he announced at a meeting that by September, the Ottoman Empire would declare war on Russia and that "Suvorov, occupied by [them], could not be in Poland." Subsequently, there were rumors that a relatively low-raking Cossack general named Suvorov, as opposed to the well-known one, was going to lead the Russian fight in Poland. After the Battle of Brest, however, it became clear which Suvorov was on the front lines.
Kościuszko rushed to Siedlce to rally his troops and prevent the spread of panic. He explained the defeat at Brest as not the fault of the Polish commanders, but rather that the Russians simply had a numerical superiority. He also presented several of his commanders with new awards, with golden rings inscribed with the slogan, "The fatherland to its defender". Despite Kościuszko's efforts, Polish morale still suffered. This is evidenced by a report presented by Kościuszko, to the commanders of the Lithuanian army in Grodno:
"I warn the whole military; if anyone disturbs him with talk about how as if it is impossible to hold out against the Muscovites, or starts shouting during the time of battle that the Muscovites are on our rear, that they are cutting us off, or the like, he will be immediately locked in cuffs, turned over to a court and, by show of guilt, shot. I order to general Makranowski that during battle, part of the infantry with artillery will always stand behind the line with cannon charged with grapeshot, which will shoot those who flee. May everyone know that by advancing, they will gain victory and glory, but by turning back, will meet shame and imminent death. If among those who serve there are those who are convinced that the Muscovites cannot be defeated, people who are indifferent to their fatherland, freedom and glory, may they announce in advance their resignation from duty. It hurts me that I must institute such harsh rules. "
Kościuszko found it necessary to remind his subordinates of their historical legacy:
"Some tens of your ancestors could have conquered the entire Muscovite state, brought their czars in shackles, appointed the Muscovites a lord - but you, descendants of those very Polacks [sic], may doubt the successes of a fight for the fatherland, freedom, and your houses, for blood-relatives and for friends, and consider undefeatable those predatory gangs, who take the upper hand on you only because of your cowardice. "
Reaction in Russia
In Saint Petersburg, Suvorov's victory was very well received. Catherine the Great granted him an expensive diamond hat bow and three cannon captured from the Poles; Pyotr Rumyantsev thanked Suvorov and presented a most flattering evaluation of his efforts.
- "Battle near the Krupchitskiy Monastery and near Terespol (Brest)". Retrieved April 3, 2011.
- Orlov, N. A. (1894). Штурм Праги Суворовым в 1794 году (The Storm of Prague by Suvorov in 1794). Saint Petersburg: Тип. Штаба войск Гвардіи и Петербургскаго воен. округа.
- Item 196, Packet 4, No. 349. Moscow Archive of the Head Staff.
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- Item 196, Packet 8, "Statements of gentleman Dashkovich". Moscow Archive of the Head Staff.
- Saltykov's Secret Journal. p. 135.
- Stanisław Herbst "Z dziejów wojskowych powstania kościuszkowskiego 1794 roku" Warszawa 1983. pages 365-77
- “Powstanie kościuszkowskie 1794 : dzieje militarne” pod red. T. Rawskiego, vol. II, Warszawa 1994