Battle of Ostrovno

Last updated
Battle of Ostrovno
Part of Russian Campaign
Battle of Ostrovno 1812.PNG
Date25 July 1812
Location Astroŭna, Governorate of Vitebsk, Belarus
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Commanders and leaders
General Alexander Ostermann-Tolstoy King Joachim of Naples
General Étienne de Nansouty
Strength

2 infantry divisions
cavalry
66 guns

14,000 [1]

1 infantry division plus 2 battalions
32 squadrons

23,000 [1]
Casualties and losses
2,500 [1] 3,000 [1]

The Battle of Ostrovno (French: Combat d'Ostrowno) was a military engagement that took place on 25 July 1812, between French forces under the command of King of Naples Joachim Murat and Russian forces under General Ostermann-Tolstoy and ended with the Russian forces retreating from the battlefield. [2]

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

Kingdom of Naples former state in Italy

The Kingdom of Naples comprised that part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was created as a result of the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate Kingdom of Sicily. Naples continued to be officially known as the Kingdom of Sicily, the name of the formerly unified kingdom. For much of its existence, the realm was contested between French and Spanish dynasties. In 1816, it was reunified with the island kingdom of Sicily once again to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Joachim Murat Grand Duke of Berg and King of Naples

Joachim-Napoléon Murat was a Marshal of France and Admiral of France under the reign of Napoleon. He was also the 1st Prince Murat, Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808, and King of Naples from 1808 to 1815. Murat received his titles in part by being Napoleon's brother-in-law through marriage to his younger sister, Caroline Bonaparte, as well as personal merit. He was noted as a daring, brave, and charismatic cavalry officer as well as a flamboyant dresser, for which he was known as "the Dandy King".

Contents

Context

With the beginning of the Russian campaign in late June 1812, Emperor Napoleon I launched with his Grande Armée, in a series of envelopment maneuvers of the Russian Imperial armies before him, with the first such maneuver failing before the city of Vilna, virtually without any engagement taking place. Napoleon then launched a second such attempt towards Vitebsk, in a bid to turn the main Russian army under Barclay de Tolly. With French forces moving through different routes in the direction of Vitebsk, a first major engagement took place on 25 July near Ostrowno, 30 kilometers west of Vitebsk, when General Etienne de Nansouty's 1st Cavalry Reserve Corps encountered the forces of Russian General Alexander Ivanovich Ostermann-Tolstoy. [2]

French invasion of Russia Napoleon Bonapartes attempted conquest of the Russian Empire

The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 and in France as the Russian Campaign, began on 24 June 1812 when Napoleon's Grande Armée crossed the Neman River in an attempt to engage and defeat the Russian army. Napoleon hoped to compel Tsar Alexander I of Russia to cease trading with British merchants through proxies in an effort to pressure the United Kingdom to sue for peace. The official political aim of the campaign was to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia. Napoleon named the campaign the Second Polish War to gain favor with the Poles and provide a political pretext for his actions.

Emperor of the French title used by the House of Bonaparte

Emperor of the French was the monarch of the First French Empire and the Second French Empire.

The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.

Battle

Early on, in the morning of 25 July, General Nansouty set two of his divisions in motion, from the village of Boudilova and towards Ostrovno, in accordance with the orders he had received from the Emperor. Meanwhile, Murat, commanding the French forces in this sector, departed from the village of Beshankovichy with two battalions of the 8th Light infantry regiment, and headed towards Nansouty's position. Following Murat was the entire IV Army Corps of Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais, spearheaded by the division of General Delzons, which was followed at some distance by that of General Broussier. [3]

Beshankovichy Place in Vitebsk, Belarus

Biešankovičy is a town in the Vitebsk Province of Belarus and a port on the Western Dvina river. It is 51 km (31.69 mi) west of Vitebsk on the railway line between Orsha and Lepiel. The population is 8,200 (2004).

Eugène de Beauharnais French general and adoptive son of Napoleon I

Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg was the first child and only son of Alexandre de Beauharnais and Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie, first wife of Napoleon I.

Alexis Joseph Delzons French general

Alexis Joseph Delzons was a French general of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was killed in the Battle of Maloyaroslavets. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 16.

With Murat not yet on the field of battle, Nansouty's men encountered the vanguard of the Russian IV Corps, namely the 11th division under General Choglokov, the 23rd division of General Bakhmetiev, some cavalry and an artillery support of 66 pieces. Nansouty had under his command the light cavalry division of Bruyères (brigades Jacquinot, Piré and Nienwiewski) and the heavy cavalry division of Saint-Germain. In a bid to pin down the enemy and despite the disproportion in forces, Nansouty sent forward Piré's brigade [3] (16th Chasseurs à cheval and 9th Chevau-légers lanciers) [4] in a successful charge that dislodged the Russian vanguard and took 150 prisoners of war and 8 artillery pieces. [3]

Light cavalry

Light cavalry comprises lightly armed and lightly armoured troops mounted on horses, as opposed to heavy cavalry, where the riders are heavily armored. The missions of the light cavalry were primarily reconnaissance, screening, skirmishing, raiding, and most importantly, communications, and were usually armed with spears, swords, bows and later with pistols and carbines.

Charles Claude Jacquinot French politician and officer

Charles Claude Jacquinot commanded a French cavalry division at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. He joined a volunteer battalion in 1791 and transferred to a light cavalry regiment as a junior officer in 1793. He earned promotion to squadron commander and was acting commander of his regiment at Hohenlinden in 1800. After serving in a staff position at Austerlitz in 1805, he led a light cavalry regiment at Jena in 1806. Promoted to general of brigade he led his horsemen at Abensberg, Raab and Wagram in 1809. During the French invasion of Russia he fought at Ostrovno, Smolensk and Borodino in 1812. During the 1813 German Campaign he led a cavalry brigade at Dennewitz and Leipzig. After being appointed general of division he fought at Second Bar-sur-Aube and Saint-Dizier in 1814. During the Hundred Days he rallied to Napoleon and led a light cavalry division in the Waterloo campaign. After 15 years of inactivity, he was restored to favor in the 1830s. Thereafter he held a number of commands and was appointed to the Chamber of Peers. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 20.

Heavy cavalry soldiers who engaged in direct combat on horseback

Heavy cavalry is a class of cavalry whose primary role was to engage in direct combat with enemy forces, and are heavily armed and armoured compared to light cavalry. Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, they were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale, plated, chainmail or lamellar armour as well as either swords, maces, lances, or battle axes.

Murat then arrived on the battlefield with reinforcements, deploying his two battalions of light infantry, and assuming personal command of Saint-Germain's cuirassier division. With the cuirassiers successfully countercharging and repulsing a Russian Dragoon regiment that had come up to attack the right wing of the French forces, Murat realised that he was in a dangerous position and sent word to General Delzons to hasten his march towards the field of battle. Several attacks ensued, with the French committing Jacquinot's cavalry brigade and the infantry, but with the Russians holding ground. Realising his numeric superiority, the Russian commander, General Ostermann-Tolstoy, launched an attack against both French wings, in an attempt to catch them in double envelopment. However, with the arrival of a fresh French division, Delzon's 13th division, the Russian commander decided to call off his attack and pull back. Murat opted against a pursuit, given his inferior forces and knowing that Broussier's division was too far off behind Delzons to be counted on. [3]

Light infantry type of infantry

Light infantry is a designation applied to certain types of foot soldiers (infantry) throughout history, typically having lighter equipment or armament or a more mobile or fluid function than other types of infantry, such as heavy infantry or line infantry. Historically, light infantry often fought as scouts, raiders and skirmishers—soldiers who fight in a loose formation ahead of the main army to harass, delay, disrupt supply lines, and generally "soften up" an enemy before the main battle. After World War II, the term "light infantry" evolved, and now generally refers to rapid-deployment units that specifically emphasize speed and mobility over armor and firepower. Some units or battalions that historically held a skirmishing role have kept their designation "light infantry" for the sake of tradition.

Cuirassier type of cavalry first appearing in late 15th-century Europe

Cuirassiers were cavalry equipped with armour and firearms, first appearing in late 15th-century Europe. The first cuirassiers were produced as a result of armoured cavalry, such as the man-at-arms and demi-lancer, discarding their lances and adopting the use of pistols as their primary weapon. In the later 17th century, the cuirassier lost his limb armour and subsequently employed only the cuirass, and sometimes a helmet. By this time, the sword was the primary weapon of the cuirassier, pistols being relegated to a secondary function.

Dragoon mounted infantry soldiers

Dragoons originally were a class of mounted infantry, who used horses for mobility, but dismounted to fight on foot. From the early 18th century onward, dragoons were increasingly also employed as conventional cavalry, trained for combat with swords from horseback.

Result

The Russians opted to withdraw from the field of battle. Despite Murat's bombastic report, claiming that the enemy lost 4,000-5,000 men dead or wounded and 700 to 800 prisoners, the Russian IV Corps probably lost 2,500 men, dead and wounded. [1] French total losses are estimated at 3,000; [1] the 2nd cuirassiers regiment registered high losses (187 horses lost), after enduring six hours of artillery fire. Additionally, during this engagement, which Napoleon labeled as "a vanguard action", French General Roussel was killed by a French sentry, who took him for a Russian soldier. [3]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Clodfelter, M. Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015, 4th ed. McFarland. 2017. P. 164
  2. 1 2 Tulard, p. 439.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Pigeard, p. 631-632.
  4. Thoumas, p. 38.

Sources

Coordinates: 55°08′20″N29°51′19″E / 55.1390°N 29.8554°E / 55.1390; 29.8554