Battle of Maloyaroslavets
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|Battle of Maloyaroslavets|
|Part of the French invasion of Russia (1812)|
Battle of Maloyaroslavets, by Peter von Hess
| First French Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
|Eugène de Beauharnais & Davout under supervision of Napoleon||Dmitry Dokhturov under supervision of Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov|
10,000 reinforcements later on.
|Casualties and losses|
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 eight times and it was quoted that the French and in particular the Italian Royal Guard under Eugène de Beauharnais 'fought like lions'. The victory was effectively due to the courage of the Italian soldiers, that were praised by Napoleon. In fact, this battle is remembered as the "Battle of the Italians". Marshal Kutuzov arrived and 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 was 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 the withdrawal of Kutusov it became clear to Napoleon that he would be unable to force the Russian army into a decisive battle. Though a victory, Napoleon did not feel it was on a large enough scale to counter the news of Murat's earlier defeat at Vinkovo. Following the battle Napoleon turned the Grande Army west to Borowsk where the greater part of the artillery and wagons were located. This would be the first step in a retreat away from the Russians, with hoped-for winter quarters for the army potentially at Smolensk.
- Chandler, p. 1041.
- Chandler, p. 1041.
- 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
- Caulaincourt 1935, p. 177.
- Chandler, David (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan.