Friday, 9 September 2011

Beresina

On the 27-28 November 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte would take his weakened Grand Army to the west for the safety of Poland but this move would prove the undoing of his already failing Russian Campaign. Napoleon's army only consisted of 49,000 French soldiers who were capable of fighting and only 40,000 non-combatants who followed behind, the Russians had more than 140,000 troops.
Napoleon's plan was to cross the Beresina River but found when he arrived that the frozen river had already thawed and was now impassable. Luckily for Napoleon whose resources were mostly depleted had a French commander of the bridging equipment General Jean-Baptiste Eble who had the foresight to keep back essential equipment to build a bridge to span the river on the west bank.
As General Eble was able to build his bridge in freezing cold water, a diversion was created by Marshal Oudinot to engage the Russians in combat, this resulted in the French cavalry and infantry quickly crossing and defending the bridge. A second bridge was quickly built and cannons were brought across to defend their position.
Napoleon Bonaparte was able to get his depleted Grand Army across the bridge and heavy casualties were suffered by both sides, but the Russian losses paled in comparison to the French losses. But the utter humilating defeat against Napoleon was the 10,000 soldiers who were massacred by the Russians but also the 20,000 who died crushed to death by the panic to cross the bridge and the soldiers who died in the freezing water as a result of the bridge collapsing. Napoleon's legacy was left behind.

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