This is what we are told in the histories, and all that is perfectly incorrect, as any one may easily see who cares to go into the matter.

The Russians did not seek out the best position; on the contrary, on their retreat they had passed by many positions better than Borodino. They did not make a stand at one of these positions, because Kutuzov did not care to take up a position he had not himself selected, because the popular clamour for a battle had not yet been so strongly expressed, because Miloradovitch had not yet arrived with reinforcements of militia, and for countless other reasons.

The fact remains that there were stronger positions on the road the Russian army had passed along, and that the plain of Borodino, on which the battle was fought, is in no respect a more suitable position than any other spot in the Russian empire to which one might point at hazard on the map.

Far from having fortified the position on the left at right angles to the road—that is the spot on which the battle was fought—the Russians never, till the 25th of August, 1812, dreamed of a battle being possible on that spot. The proof of this is, first, that there were no fortifications there before the 25th, and that the earthworks begun on that day were not completed by the 26th; and, secondly, the Shevardino redoubt, owing to its situation in front of the position on which the battle was actually fought, was of no real value. With what object was that redoubt more strongly fortified than any of the other points? And with what object was every effort exhausted and six thousand men sacrificed to defend it till late at night on the 24th? A picket of Cossacks would have been enough to keep watch on the enemy’s movements. And a third proof that the position of the battlefield was not foreseen, and that the redoubt of Shevardino was not the foremost point of that position, is to be found in the fact that Barclay de Tolly and Bagration were, till the 25th, under the impression that the Shevardino redoubt was the left flank of the position, and that Kutuzov himself, in the report written in hot haste after the battle, speaks of Shevardino as the left flank of the position. Only a good time later, when reports of the battle were written at leisure, the incorrect and strange statement was invented (probably to cover the blunders of the commander- in-chief, who had, of course, to appear infallible) that the Shevardino redoubt served as an advance post, though it was in reality simply the fortified point of the left flank, and that the battle of Borodino was fought by us on a fortified position selected beforehand for it, though it was in reality fought on a position quite unforeseen, and almost unfortified.

The affair obviously took place in this way. A position had been pitched upon on the stream Kolotcha, which intersects the high-road, not at a right angle, but at an acute angle, so that the left flank was at Shevardino, the right near the village of Novoe, and the centre at Borodino, near the confluence of the Kolotcha and the Voina. Any one looking at the plain of Borodino, and not considering how the battle actually was fought, would pick out this position, covered by the Kolotcha, as the obvious one for an army, whose object was to check the advance of an enemy marching along the Smolensk road towards Moscow.

Napoleon, riding up on the 24th to Valuev, did not (we are told in the histories) see the position of the Russians from Utitsa to Borodino (he could not have seen that position since it did not exist), and did not see the advance posts of the Russian army, but in the pursuit of the Russian rearguard stumbled upon the left flank of the Russian position at the redoubt of Shevardino, and, to the surprise of the Russians, his troops crossed the Kolotcha. And the Russians, since it was too late for a general engagement, withdrew their left wing from the position they had intended to occupy, and took up a new position, which had not been foreseen, and was not fortified. By crossing to the left bank of the Kolotcha, on the left of the road, Napoleon shifted the whole battle from right to left (looking from the Russian side), and transferred it to the plain between Utitsa, Semyonovskoye and Borodino—a plain which in itself was a no more favourable position than any other plain in Russia—and on that plain was fought the whole battle of the 26th.

Had Napoleon not reached the Kolotcha on the evening of the 24th, and had he not ordered the redoubt to be attacked at once that evening, had he begun the attack next morning, no one could have doubted

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.