1812 Battle of Krasny
Battle of Krasny 15-18 November 1812 marks the Battle of Krasny in Napoleon’s Russian invasion when Field Marshal Prince Mikhail Kutuzov’s 50-60,000 Russians & 20,000 Cossacks savaged Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s 84,000 French. Napoleon retreated along the barren north Mozhaisk road.
Thousands died of starvation.
Reaching Smolensk on 9 November, he planned to continue to the Minsk supply depot. Believing Kutuzov had retreated, he sent his men out piecemeal. Poniatowski’s V & Junot’s VIII Corps left on 13 November, Napoleon’s Imperial Guard (16,000 men) on 14, Davout’s I Corps (9,000) on 15, Eugène’s IV Corps (6,000) on 16 & Ney’s III Corps (8,000) on 17. Between these Corps, 40,000 stragglers marched in unarmed, disorganized mobs.
Kutuzov marched parallel to Napoleon over the south Kaluga road. Supplies were plentiful. Faulty intelligence reported only 1/3 of the French were on the Krasny road. He decided to attack this “isolated” force.
On 15 November, Ozharovsky’s 3,500 men seized Krasny. V & VIII Corps had come & gone. Napoleon & the rest were still en route. Kutuzov’s main army deployed several miles south of Krasny in 2 columns.
Tormasov’s 20,000 men formed the left column.
Golitsyn 15,000 formed the center.
Miloradović’s 16,000 occupied Rshavka, east of Krasny, forming the right.
Roving Cossacks picked off French stragglers & isolated detachments.
That day, Napoleon marched past Miloradović. Wary of the Imperial Guard, Miloradović simply bombarded them at extreme range, to little effect. After noon, Denisov’s Cossacks attacked & were repelled.
Napoleon entered Krasny late that day, ejecting Ozharovsky. He planned to wait there for his army to catch up.
At midnight, his scouts found Ozharovsky’s camp. It was isolated & lacked pickets. He sent Roguet & the Young Guard. Marching silently, they burst onto the camp & routed the Russians.
Half were killed or captured.
The rest threw their weapons into a nearby lake & fled.
Without cavalry, Roguet couldn’t pursue.
Partisan leader Davidov, accompanying Denisov, wrote:
“After midday, we sighted the Old Guard, with Napoleon riding in their midst… the enemy troops, sighting our unruly force, got their muskets at the ready & proudly continued on their way without hurrying their step… Like blocks of granite, they remained invulnerable… I shall never forget the unhurried step & awesome resolution of these soldiers, for whom the threat of death was a daily & familiar experience. With their tall bearskin caps, blue uniforms, white belts, red plumes, & epaulettes, they looked like poppies on the snow-covered battlefield… Column followed upon column, dispersing us with musket fire & ridiculing our useless display of chivalry… the Imperial Guard with Napoleon ploughed through our Cossacks like a 100-gun ship through fishing skiffs.”
On 16 November, Miloradović cut Krasny’s east road & attacked Eugène. Eugène fought through, but lost 1/3 of IV Corps & all his guns & baggage. He only survived because Kutuzov ordered Miloradović to rejoin him & not press the attack. By now, Kutuzov was 8 km from Krasny. He forbade his men to advance until the 17th, giving Napoleon the whole evening to evacuate.
Kutuzov planned a 3 pronged attack.
Miloradović would operate east of Krasny, attacking Eugène & Davout. Tormasov would cut the west road. Ozharovsky’s reformed men would operate northwest of it.
Finally, Golitsyn would attack Krasny head on from the west. In conclusion, Napoleon would be encircled & destroyed. Furthermore, the next 2 days would be decisive.
Written by Garrett Anderson
Battle of Krasny