Thursday, June 14, 2012

Battle of Friedland

‘…Mean while, the bridge and pontoons were set on fire, to prevent the French, who had forced their way into the town, from taking possession of them. The smoke rolling over the combatants, increased the horror and confusion of the scene; yet a considerable part of the Russian infantry escaped through a ford close by the town, which was discovered in the moment of defeat. The Russian centre and right, who remained on the west bank of the Aller, effected a retreat by a circuitous route, leaving on the right the town of Friedland, with its burning bridges, no longer practicable for friend or foe, and passing the Aller by a ford considerably farther down the river. This also was found out in the very moment of extremity,—was deep and dangerous, took the infantry up to the breast, and destroyed what ammunition was left in the tumbrils.
Thus were the Russians once more united on the right bank of the Aller, and enabled to prosecute their march towards Wehlau. Amid the calamities of defeat, they had saved all their cannon except seventeen, and preserved their baggage. Indeed, the stubborn character of their defence seems to have paralysed the energies of the victor, who, after carrying the Russian position, showed little of that activity in improving his success, which usually characterised him upon such occasions. He pushed no troops over the Aller in pursuit of the retreating enemy, but suffered Bennigsen to rally his broken troops without interruption. Neither, when in possession of Friedland, did he detach any force down the left bank, to act upon the flank of the Russian centre and right, and cut them off from the river. In short, the battle of Friedland, according to the expression of a French general, was a battle gained, but a victory lost…’

The Battle of Friedland took place on June 14, 1807.  Napoleon’s French forces won the day, as Walter Scott reports in his “Life of Napoleon”. 


  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

  2. Gerald,
    Thanks for your comment.