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|Second Battle of Polotsk|
|Part of French invasion of Russia (1812)|
Battle of Polotsk, by Peter von Hess
|Commanders and leaders|
|Prince Peter Wittgenstein||Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr|
| 31,000 regular troops,|
9,000 regular troops operating independently;
Total of: 49,000
|Casualties and losses|
The Second Battle of Polotsk (18–20 October 1812) took place during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. In this encounter the Russians under General Peter Wittgenstein attacked and defeated a Franco-Bavarian force under Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr. In the aftermath of this success, the Russians took Polotsk and dismantled Napoleon's operations in Belarus. Wittgenstein's victory set the stage for the Battle of Berezina in November, in which three Russian armies converged on Napoleon from separate directions.
Louis Adolph Peter, 1st Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Ludwigsburg-Berleburg, better known as Peter Wittgenstein in English, was a Prince of the German dynasty Sayn-Wittgenstein and Field Marshal in the Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic wars.
Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus, formerly known by its Russian name Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.
The Battle of Berezina took place from 26 to 29 November 1812, between the French army of Napoleon, retreating after his invasion of Russia and crossing the Berezina, and the Russian armies under Mikhail Kutuzov, Peter Wittgenstein and Admiral Pavel Chichagov. The battle ended with a mixed outcome. The French suffered very heavy losses but managed to cross the river and avoid being trapped. Since then "Bérézina" has been used in French as a synonym for "disaster."
While advancing on Moscow, Napoleon left a contingent of French and German troops at Polotsk to guard his northern flank against Wittgenstein. The French defensive bastion at Polotsk, alternately commanded by St. Cyr and Oudinot and located about 200 miles (320 km) east of the Polish border and about 150 miles (240 km) northwest of Smolensk, was extremely important to Napoleon for several reasons.
Polotsk is a historical city in Belarus, situated on the Dvina River. It is the center of the Polotsk District in Vitsebsk Voblast. Its population is more than 80,000 people. It is served by Polotsk Airport and during the Cold War was home to Borovitsy air base.
Smolensk ; is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River, 360 kilometers (220 mi) west-southwest of Moscow. Population: 326,861 (2010 Census); 325,137 (2002 Census); 341,483 (1989 Census).
By establishing a firm front at Polotsk, Napoleon kept Wittgenstein's command at bay. It was critical to French interests that Wittgenstein not be allowed to march south, because such an advance by the Russians would lead to Napoleon's Grande Armée, hundreds of miles to the east, being exposed to an attack in its rear while it was engaging the main Russian army near Moscow. Such a development would sever the Grande Armée's communications with Europe and it would be at risk of being encircled.
The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon 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.
Furthermore, the French position at Polotsk was important because it served to protect Vitebsk, which was one of three massive supply depots Napoleon had established in western part of Russian Empire (nowadays Belarus). These three supply depots—the other two being Minsk and Smolensk—were to fuel Napoleon's war effort in the winter should the Grande Armée need to continue the campaign longer than originally anticipated.
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.
Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus, situated on the Svislač and the Nyamiha Rivers. As the national capital, Minsk has a special administrative status in Belarus and is the administrative centre of Minsk Region (voblasć) and Minsk District (rajon). The population in January 2018 was 1,982,444, making Minsk the 11th most populous city in Europe. Minsk is the administrative capital of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and seat of the Executive Secretary.
Throughout the summer and early fall of 1812, Russians and French were stalemated at Polotsk, which meant that St. Cyr's troops were accomplishing their objective of holding the "Dwina Line". The first battle of Polotsk, an inconclusive engagement fought in August, had the effect of keeping Wittgenstein's army at bay and was therefore considered a success by Napoleon.
By mid-October, however, the strategic balance of power at Polotsk had shifted dramatically. Wittgenstein's force had been massively reinforced and was now numerically superior to the French force it confronted. Wittgestein at this point was in command of close to 50,000 troops. This force was composed of 31,000 regular troops and 9,000 militiamen at Polotsk itself, and a second force of 9,000 troops under General Steingal operating in the rear and flank of Polotsk.
Against this Russian juggernaut, the French under St. Cyr had no more than 23,000 to 27,000 troops. On 18 October, Wittgenstein opened his offensive against the French "Dwina Line".
On the first day of combat, the Russians made seven consecutive frontal assaults on Polotsk, while Steingal's force began advancing on the French rear. The fighting at Polotsk was torrid and bloody, with the French losing close 8,000 to 12,000 troops, and the Russians suffering about 8,000 casualties. All seven Russian attacks were beaten back by the end of the day.
St. Cyr could claim to have won round one in this bitter battle, but the affair was not over. Planning to renew his attack once Steingal's forces arrived, Wittgenstein maintained a heavy artillery bombardment of Polotsk, and before long much of the town was consumed by fire.
Late on the next day, 19 October, Steingal advanced to within four miles (6 km) of Polotsk, and St. Cyr realized he was threatened with encirclement. That night, knowing that their position was untenable, the French began evacuating Polotsk. Fierce house-to-house combat ensued in the town as the Russians launched their final attack.
Acting decisively to secure his battered forces' southern retreat route, St. Cyr ordered his Bavarian contingent to drive Steingal back early the following day, 20 October. This task was accomplished by the Bavarians impressively, as Steingal was compelled to retreat with heavy casualties. The French thus saved themselves from encirclement by the Russians, but still, the battle for Polotsk had been lost.
After three days of combat, St. Cyr's forces had been reduced to no more than 15,000 weary troops, in full retreat before Wittgenstein's 38,000 Russians. Two weeks later, Wittgenstein's troops captured the French supply depot at Vitebsk, inflicting a logistical disaster on Napoleon's fast collapsing Russian operation. Napoleon's northern front—the "Dwina Line"—was broken, and the consequences for Napoleon's Russian invasion were grim.
In the Battle of Lützen, Napoleon I of France halted the advances of the Sixth Coalition after the French invasion of Russia and the massive French losses in the campaign. The Russian commander, Prince Peter Wittgenstein, massively outnumbered, attempting to forestall Napoleon's capture of Leipzig, attacked the isolated French right wing near Lützen, Germany. After a day of heavy fighting, the combined Prussian and Russian force retreated; due to French losses and a shortage of French cavalry, Napoleon was unable to conduct a pursuit.
The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops, as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle was the culmination of the German campaign of 1813 and involved 600,000 soldiers, 2,200 artillery pieces, the expenditure of 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.
The Battle of Borodino was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 in the Napoleonic Wars during the French invasion of Russia.
Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, 1st Marquis of Gouvion-Saint-Cyr was a French commander in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars who rose to Marshal of France and Marquis.
The Battle of Smolensk was the first major battle of the French invasion of Russia. It took place on 16–18 August 1812 and involved 45,000–50,000 men and 84 guns of the Grande Armée under Emperor Napoleon I against 30,000–35,000 Russian troops and 108 guns under General Barclay de Tolly. Napoleon attacked Smolensk, occupied by Prince Pyotr Bagration's Second Army and captured two of the suburbs. During the night the Russians evacuated the burning city.
The Battle of Maloyaroslavets took place on 24 October 1812, between the Russians, under Marshal Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, and part of the corps of Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon's stepson, under General Alexis Joseph Delzons which numbered about 20,000 strong.
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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 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.
In the First Battle of Polotsk, which took place on 17–18 August 1812, Russian troops under the command of Peter Wittgenstein fought French and Bavarian troops led by Nicolas Oudinot near the city of Polotsk, halting Oudinot's advance toward Saint Petersburg. The First Battle of Polotsk should be distinguished from the Second Battle of Polotsk which took place during the same campaign two months later.
The Battle of Chashniki, sometimes called the Battle of Czasniki, was fought during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, on 31 October 1812, between Russian forces under General Wittgenstein, and the French army, commanded by Marshal Victor. This battle was a failed effort by the French to reestablish their northern "Dvina Line", which had crumbled as a result of Wittgenstein's victory at the Second battle of Polotsk just two weeks earlier.
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The Battle of Vyazma occurred at the beginning of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. In this encounter, the rear guard of the Grande Armée was defeated by the Russians commanded by General Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich. Although the French repelled Miloradovich's attempt to encircle and destroy the corps of Louis Nicolas Davout, they withdrew in a partial state of disorder after suffering heavy casualties from continued Russian attacks.
The Battle of Saltanovka, also known as the Battle of Mogilev, was a battle during the early stages of the 1812 French invasion of Russia.
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.
This is the order of battle of the French invasion of Russia.
Bernhard Erasmus von Deroy from the Electorate of the Palatinate became a noted general officer in the army of Bavaria. His military career began shortly after the start of the Seven Years' War. During the French Revolutionary Wars he first served on the side of the Coalition against the French revolutionaries, then fought as an ally of the First French Empire during the Napoleonic Wars. Deroy and his colleague, Karl Philipp von Wrede, were dominant personalities in the Bavarian military during the era of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Battle of Vitebsk, sometimes spelled Witepsk, was a military engagement that took place on 26 and 27 July 1812 during the French invasion of Russia. The battle put a French force, under the command of Emperor Napoleon I, in combat with Russian rearguard forces under General Petr Konovnitsyn and Peter von der Pahlen and ended with the Russian forces making a strategic retreat from the battlefield.
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Sigismond Frédéric de Berckheim became a French division commander during the last years of the Napoleonic Wars. Born into an old Alsatian family, he joined an infantry regiment at the age of 14. In 1807 he became the commanding officer of the 1st Cuirassier Regiment. In 1809 he led his cavalrymen at Eckmühl, Ratisbon, Aspern-Essling and Wagram. Promoted to general of brigade, he fought at First and Second Polotsk and the Berezina in 1812. He led a cavalry brigade at Lützen and Bautzen in 1813. Promoted to general of division, he led a cavalry division at Dresden, Leipzig and Hanau. He commanded a cavalry division at Arcis-sur-Aube in 1814. He became an inspector general and a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1815 and 1816. His surname is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 12.