Battle of Saltanovka

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Battle of Saltanovka
Part of the French campaign in Russia
Raevsky saltanovka.jpg
General Rayevski leading his men into combat at the battle of Saltanovka.
Date23 July 1812
Location
Near Mogilev, Russian Empire (present-day Belarus)
Result French victory
Belligerents
Flag of France.svg French Empire Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France.svg Louis-Nicolas Davout Flag of Russia.svg Pyotr Bagration
Flag of Russia.svg Nikolay Raevsky
Units involved
elements of I Corps VII Infantry Corps
Strength

21,500–28,000 men [1] [2]

  • 22,000 infantry [2]
  • 6,000 cavalry [2]
55 guns [1]
17,000–20,000 men [2]
90 guns [1]
Casualties and losses
1,200 killed, wounded and missing [3] 2,548 killed, wounded and missing [3] [4] [5]

The Battle of Saltanovka, also known as the Battle of Mogilev (French: Bataille de Mogilev), was a battle during the early stages of the 1812 French invasion of Russia. [2]

Contents

A force of 17,000–20,000 Russian soldiers backed by 90 artillery pieces under Prince Pyotr Bagration and General Lieutenant Nikolay Raevsky attacked 21,500–28,000 French troops and 55 guns of Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout at and near the village of Saltanovka south of Mogilev on 23 July. [1] All Russian attacks were repulsed with heavy losses through superior French infantry and artillery firepower. [3] French casualties amounted to 1,200 men, while the Russians lost 2,548. [3]

Artillery class of weapons which fires munitions beyond the range and power of personal weapons

Artillery is a class of heavy military weapons built to fire munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls, and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.

Pyotr Bagration General of the Imperial Russian Army

Pyotr Bagration was a Russian general and prince of Georgian origin, prominent during the Napoleonic Wars.

Nikolay Raevsky Russian military commander

Nikolay Nikolayevich Raevsky was a Russian general and statesman who achieved fame for his feats of arms during the Napoleonic Wars. His family left a lasting legacy in Russian society and culture.

Davout's victory prevented the Russian Second Western Army under Bagration from joining the First Western Army of Barclay de Tolly at Vitebsk but could not stop Bagration from effecting the link-up later at Smolensk. [3] [6]

The Second Western Army was created during the 1810 as part of the reform of the Imperial Russian Army as a whole and was intended to defend the central western region of the Russian border with Poland to the Austrian border during the expected French invasion of Russia.

The First Western Army was created in 1810 as part of the reorganisation of the Imperial Russian Army, and was intended as a defense against the north-western part of the Empire from the expected invasion by Napoleon. The total troops in this Army included 150 battalions, 128 squadrons, 19 cossack regiments, and 590 guns.

Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly Russian general

Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly was a Baltic German Field Marshal and Minister of War of the Russian Empire during Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and War of the Sixth Coalition. Barclay implemented a number of reforms during this time that improved supply system in the army, doubled the number of army troops, and implemented new combat training principles. He was also the Governor-General of Finland.

Prelude

Avoiding French envelopment attempts at the beginning of the invasion, the Russian Second Western Army under Prince Pyotr Bagration was ordered on 7 July to join, via Mogilev, the First Western Army of Barclay de Tolly. [7] Bagration was threatened with encirclement by French emperor Napoleon's forces under King Jerome to the west and Marshal Louis-Nicolas Davout's I Corps to the north. [7] The Russian Prince moved rapidly to cross the Dnieper river at Mogilev to link up with Barclay. [7] Davout was faster, however, and 28,000 of his troops took Mogilev on 20 July. [7] The Russians arrived before Mogilev on 21 July and their vanguard under Colonel Vasily Sysoev drove out Davout's forward detachments near the village of Dashkovka to the south of Mogilev. [7]

Envelopment is the military tactic of seizing objectives in the enemy's rear with the goal of destroying specific enemy forces and denying them the ability to withdraw. Rather than attacking an enemy head-on as in a frontal assault an envelopment seeks to exploit the enemy's flanks, attacking them from multiple directions and avoiding where their defenses are strongest. A successful envelopment lessens the number of casualties suffered by the attacker while inducing a psychological shock on the defender and improving the chances to destroy them. An envelopment will consist of one or more enveloping forces, which attacks the enemy's flank(s), and a fixing force, which attacks the enemy's front and "fixes" them in place so that they cannot withdraw or shift their focus on the enveloping forces. While a successful tactic, there are risks involved with performing an envelopment. The enveloping force can become overextended and cut off from friendly forces by an enemy counterattack, or the enemy can counterattack against the fixing force.

Encirclement military term

Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces.

An emperor is a monarch, and usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife, mother, or a woman who rules in her own right. Emperors are generally recognized to be of a higher honour and rank than kings. In Europe, the title of Emperor has been used since the Middle Ages, considered in those times equal or almost equal in dignity to that of Pope due to the latter's position as visible head of the Church and spiritual leader of the Catholic part of Western Europe. The Emperor of Japan is the only currently reigning monarch whose title is translated into English as Emperor.

Opposing forces

Russian

Bagration had 45,000 men available but assigned only General Nikolay Raevsky's 17,000–20,000-strong VII Corps to attack Davout. [1] [8] [2] Bagration's order was essentially for an aggressive reconnaissance in force. [1] Depending on the strength of the French, Raevsky would either drive the French out and capture Orsha, thereby covering the First Western Army's crossing of the Dnieper or delay them long enough for Bagration to cross south of Mogilev. [9]

Reconnaissance military exploration beyond the area occupied by friendly forces

In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.

Orsha City in Vitebsk Region, Belarus

Orsha is a city in Belarus in the Vitebsk Region, on the fork of the Dnieper and Arshytsa rivers.

French

Weakened by the transferral of his troops elsewhere and fatigue, Davout had 21,500–28,000 effectives on hand at Mogilev, including 22,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, in three infantry division under generals Jean Dominique Compans, Joseph Marie Dessaix and Michel Marie Claparède and cavalry under generals Étienne de Bordesoule and Valence. [2] [9] [1] Davout deployed his forces at Saltanovka, a naturally strong position. [9] The left flank was covered by the bogs of the Dnieper. [9] A stream ran through a ravine across his front, with a bridge inside Saltanovka. [9] The village itself was surrounded by forests. [9] Davout constructed earthworks to strengthen his line, fortified the buildings on the main road and set up artillery batteries. [9] The bridge at Fatova was destroyed. [9]

Infantry military service branch that specializes in combat by individuals on foot

Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.

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.

Division (military) large military unit or formation

A division is a large military unit or formation, usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. Infantry divisions during the World Wars ranged between 8,000 and 30,000 in nominal strength.

Battle

Initial stages

At 07:00 on 23 July, VII Corps' advance guard of two Jäger battalions under Colonel Andre Glebov drove out Davout's outposts on the French left flank. [9] By 08:00, the bridge on the left was in Russian hands and the Jäger continued their advance. [9] Davout deployed the 85th Line Regiment for a counterattack, backed by artillery. The Russian attack failed as crushing French artillery and infantry firepower mowed down the unprotected Russian infantry, who died where they stood rather than break for cover. [9]

While the Russian attack was faltering, Bagration sent Raevsky a new order to storm Mogilev. [1]

Fatova

The 26th Infantry Division under Ivan Paskevich assaulted Fatova in extended column formation, forcing I/85 to retreat. [9] Davout sent a battalion of the 108th Line Regiment and some artillery to help out. [9] The two French battalions redeployed on the heights south of Fatova and defeated the Russian attacks. [9] Backed by 12 guns, Paskevich opened another assault that bashed through the French defenders to take the village. [9] Past Fatova, Davout had prepared an ambush with four battalions from the 108th Line, lying low amidst the wheat fields behind the village. [9] The concealed French troops launched a devastating counterattack that caused heavy losses on the Russians and threw them back in disarray. [9] Fatova was recaptured by the French. [9] Paskevich attacked and captured the village again. [9] Davout now moved forward the 61st Line from his reserve. [9] All Russian attacks were repulsed and on the right, two French battalions overran the Nizhniy-Novgorod and Orlov regiments, crossing the stream. [3] Paskevich deployed the Poltava regiment to prevent his right flank from being enveloped. [3]

Saltanovka

The Russian attack's main point of effort was Saltanovka. [3] Raevsky personally led the Smolensk Infantry Regiment to capture a dam and shield the attack of his main force. [3] The 6th and 42nd Jäger Regiments would act as support, along with artillery on both sides of the main road. [3] Paskevich's assault on Fatova would take place at the same time. [3] Raevsky blundered, however, not hearing the agreed-upon artillery fire that would signal the advance. [3] His own attack started too late. [3] French artillery inflicted huge losses on Raevsky's men. [3] Raevsky personally led a charge, allegedly with his 11 and 16-year old sons Nikolai and Aleksandr (although Raevsky denied it), but the attempt failed regardless. [3] French prisoners informed Raevsky that French reinforcements were on the way. Bagration ordered a full retreat to Dashkovka. [3] [10] Davout attacked the Russian rearguard later that day but did not achieve a result. [1] Tolstoy gives an account of the storming of the dam in War And Peace, Book III, Chapter 12 when an officer describes the event to a sceptical Count Nikolai.

Aftermath

The Second Western Army constructed a bridge south of Mogilev at Novy Bikhov and crossed the Dnieper toward Smolensk. [3] The battle prevented Bagration from joining the First Western Army under Barclay de Tolly at Vitebsk, forcing Bagration to retreat to Smolensk. [6] Saltanovka is generally seen as a French victory but despite failing to link up with Barclay at Vitebsk, Bagration accomplished his objective of joining the main Russian force later at Smolensk, and avoided Napoleon's encirclement. [3] [6]

Casualties

The Russian losses were 2,548 men killed and wounded, [4] [5] although Marshal Davout officially declared that they lost 1,200 dead and 4,000 wounded. [2] Davout admitted to only 900 casualties, which include 100 prisoners from the 108th line regiment and were officially reported by him. [2] The Russians claimed French casualties of 4,134 killed, wounded and missing. [3] [4] [5] Actual French losses were about 1,200. [3]

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Mikaberidze 2015, p. 758.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pigeard, pp. 551–552.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Mikaberidze 2015, p. 528.
  4. 1 2 3 Clodfelter M. Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500–2000. McFarland, 2002. p. 184
  5. 1 2 3 George F. Nafzinger. Napoleon's Invasion of Russia. Presidio Press. 1988. p. 126
  6. 1 2 3 Mikaberidze 2015, p. 759.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Mikaberidze 2015, p. 526.
  8. http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_mogilev.html
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Mikaberidze 2015, p. 527.
  10. Mikaberidze A. Russian Officer Corps of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Casemate Publishers, 2005. P. 320

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References

Coordinates: 53°54′00″N30°20′00″E / 53.9000°N 30.3333°E / 53.9000; 30.3333