Sunday, December 26, 2010

Battle of Pultusk

On December 26, 1806, the Battle of Pultusk took place.  Russian troops under German general Levin Bennigsen defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's forces, which were under the command of Marshal Jean Lannes.  Sir Walter Scott covered this battle in his "The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte":

'On the 25th of November, the Russian army of Bennigsen, closely concentrated, occupied a position behind Pultusk ; their left, commanded by Count Ostreman, resting upon the town, which is situated on tha river Narew. A corps occupied the bridge, to prevent any attack from that point. The right, under Barclay de Tolly, was strongly posted in a wood, and the centre was under the orders of General Zachen. A considerable plain extended between the town of Pultusk and the wood, which formed the right of the Russian position. They had stationed a powerful advanced guard, had occupied the plain with their cavalry, and established a strong reserve in their rear. On the 26th, the Russian position was attacked by the French divisions of Lannes and Davoust, together with the French guards. After skirmishing some time in the centre, without making the desired impression, the battle appeared doubtful, when, suddenly assembling a great strength on their own left, the French made a decisive effort to overwhelm the Russians, by turning their right wing. The attack prevailed to a certain extent. The accumulated and superior weight of fire, determined Barclay de Tolly to retreat on his reserves, which he did without confusion, while the French seized upon the wood, and took several Russian guns. But Bennigsen, in spite of Kaminskoy's order to retreat, was determined to abide the brunt of battle, and to avail himself of the rugged intrepidity of the troops which he commanded. Ordering Barclay de Tolly to continue his retreat, and thus throwing back his right wing, he enticed the French, confident in victory, to pursue their success, until the Russian cavalry , which had covered the manoeuvre, suddenly withdrawing, they found themselves under a murderous and welldirected fire from one hundred and twenty guns, which, extending along the Russian front, played on the French advancing columns with the utmost success. The Russian line at the same time advanced in turn, and pushing the enemy before them, recovered the ground from which they had been driven. The approach of night ended the combat, which had been both obstinate and bloody. The French lost near eight thousand men, killed and wounded, including General Lannes and five other general officers among the latter. The Russian loss amounted to five thousand. The French retreated after nightfall with such rapidity, that on the next day the Cossacks could not find a rear-guard in the vicinity of Pultusk...'

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