Battle of Klyastitsy

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Coordinates: 55°53′14″N28°36′24″E / 55.88722°N 28.60667°E / 55.88722; 28.60667

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Contents

Battle of Klyastitsy
Part of Russian Campaign of the Napoleonic Wars
Klyastitsy.jpg
Battle of Klyastitsy, by Peter von Hess
Date28 July, then 29 July – 1 August 1812
Location Klyastitsy, Belarus
53°53′N28°36′E / 53.883°N 28.600°E / 53.883; 28.600
Result Inconclusive
Belligerents
Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Peter Wittgenstein
Yakov Kulnev  
Nicolas Oudinot
Strength
17,000 28,000
Casualties and losses
4,300 10,000

The Battle of Klyastitsy, also called Battle of Yakubovo, was a series of military engagements that took place in 1812 near the village of Klyastitsy (Russian : Кля́стицы) (Drissa uyezd, Vitebsk guberniya) on the road between Polotsk and Sebezh. In this battle the Russian corps under the command of Peter Wittgenstein stood up to the French corps under the command of Marshal Nicolas Oudinot. The result was inconclusive, with both sides suffering heavy losses and retreating along their communication lines after the battle.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although, nowadays, nearly three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.

An uyezd was an administrative subdivision of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the Russian Empire, and the early Russian SFSR, which was in use from the 13th century. For most of Russian history, uyezds were a secondary-level of administrative division. By sense, but not by etymology, uyezd approximately corresponds to the English term county.

Vitebsk City in Viciebsk Region, Belarus

Vitebsk, or Viciebsk, is a city in Belarus. The capital of the Viciebsk Region, it had 342,381 inhabitants in 2004, making it the country's fourth-largest city. It is served by Viciebsk Vostochny Airport and Viciebsk Air Base.

The battle

On 28 July 12 French cavalry squadrons were surprised and attacked by eight Russian hussard and Cossack squadrons under Gen. Yakov Kulnev.

Cavalry soldiers or warriors fighting from horseback

Cavalry or horsemen are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations such as cavalryman, horseman, dragoon, or trooper. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military forces that used other animals, such as camels, mules or elephants. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the 17th and early 18th centuries as dragoons, a class of mounted infantry which later evolved into cavalry proper while retaining their historic title.

Squadron (army) military unit of ground troops, typically of the cavalry of armored services, roughly equivalent to a company in other ground services

A squadron was historically a cavalry subunit, a company-sized military formation. The term is still used to refer to modern cavalry units but can also be used as a designation for other arms and services. In some countries, like Italy, the battalion-level cavalry unit is called "Squadron Group".

Yakov Kulnev Russian general

Yakov Petrovich Kulnev was, along with Pyotr Bagration and Aleksey Yermolov, one of the most popular Russian military leaders at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Suvorov's admirer and participant of 55 battles, he lost his life during Napoleon's invasion of Russia.

At that time Oudinot occupied the village of Klyastitsy on his advance towards St. Petersburg. There were 28,000 French troops, while the Russian Corps numbered 17,000. In spite of being outnumbered, Wittgenstein decided to fight. The battle started on 30 July at 2:00 pm. The Russian vanguard led by Kulnev (approximately 4,000 men) fought the French vanguard for the whole day near the village of Yakubov (Якубово). Kulnev managed to press the French but they kept the village under their control.

The next day, after several attacks and counterattacks, the Russian advance forced Oudinot to retreat to Klyastitsy. In order to continue their advance, the Russian troops had to cross the River Nishcha. Oudinot ordered his troops to set fire to the only bridge. While the Russian cavalry was wading across the Nishcha, the 2nd Battalion of the Pavlovsk Grenadier Regiment rushed the burning bridge. This was depicted by Peter Hess in his painting, illustrated to the right.

Grenadier infantry soldier armed with grenades or a grenade launcher

A grenadier was originally a specialized soldier, first established as a distinct role in the mid-to-late 17th century, for the throwing of grenades and sometimes assault operations. At that time grenadiers were chosen from the strongest and largest soldiers. By the 18th century, dedicated grenade throwing of this sort was no longer relevant, but grenadiers were still chosen for being the most physically powerful soldiers and would lead assaults in the field of battle. Grenadiers would also often lead the storming of fortification breaches in siege warfare, although this role was more usually fulfilled by all-arm units of volunteers called forlorn hopes, and might also be fulfilled by sappers or pioneers.

Kulnev continued to chase the French Corps with several cavalry regiments and one infantry battalion. After crossing the Drissa River on 1 August, his unit ran into an ambush and suffered heavy casualties from French artillery. Kulnev was badly wounded (he had both his legs severed by a cannonball) and died that same day. Oudinot retreated to Polotsk and the French advance on St. Petersburg failed.

Aftermath

Wittgenstein was awarded the Order of St. George of the Second Degree. Alexander I is reported to have called him "the savior of St. Petersburg". Capt. Krylov, whose unit was the first to cross the river over the burning bridge, received the Order of St. George of the Fourth Degree.

Order of St. George highest purely military decoration of the Russian Federation

The Order of Saint George is today the highest purely military decoration of the Russian Federation. Originally established November 26, 1769 as the highest military decoration of the Russian Empire by Empress Catherine the Great. After the 1917 Russian Revolution it was awarded by the White movement anti-communist forces under Alexander Kolchak until their collapse in 1921. The order was revived in the Russian Federation on August 8, 2000 by Decree №1463 of the President of Russia. The current award criteria were amended on September 7, 2010 by Presidential Decree 1099.

Alexander I of Russia Emperor of Russia

Alexander I reigned as Emperor of Russia between 1801 and 1825. He was the eldest son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. Alexander was the first Russian King of "Congress" Poland, reigning from 1815 to 1825, as well as the first Russian Grand Duke of Finland, reigning from 1809 to 1825.

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