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Bonaparte prepares for his Retreat.-- Defeat of Murat.
Cossacks hover round the French Army.--Movements and Operations of Kutusoff and Wittgenstein.—Escape of Winzingerode.-Russian Winter sets in.--Its Effects on the French Army.--Their insubordination.Battle of Kros. noi.
ABOUT the 16th of October Bonaparte had made preparations for his retreat from Moscow. What reasons he assigned to his army for this measure are not known : in his bulletins he endeavoured to persuade the people of France, that he was only about to make a latteral movement, and that by taking up a position at Smolensk, he should, in fact, be nearer Petersburgh than he was when at Moscow.; but still it was necessary to assign some pretext for leaving Moscow. In the buðletins which he first issued from that place, though he acknowledged that nearly the whole of it was consumed, and that almost the whole population had deserted it previously to the entrance of the French army, yet he asserted that sufficient of the city remained for their winter quarters, and that the inhabitants, intimidated or reduced to leave it by the threats or the misrepresentations of the governor, were soon encouraged to return, while the neighbouring peasantry brought in large supplies of provisions. These assertions were made at a time when Bonaparte entertained hopes of being able to persuade the Emperor Alexander to make peace; but as soon as he was convinced that this hope was fruitless, the account he gave in his bulletins of the situation of Moscow, and the disposition of the Russian people, underwent
a remarkable change. The conflagration of the city rendered it no longer a desirable or proper military station : it must therefore be abandoned, but not with an intention of flying from Russia; a stronger position, and an untouched and fertile country were to be sought, in wbich the army having recruited itself, the campaign was to reopen in the spring with renewed vigour and fresh triumphs. But the difficulty of fixing on a retreat was extremely great ; if possible, the route by which he had advanced to Moscow was to be avoided; over it had already passed two large arinies; the Russians had laid it so completely waste, that the French when advancing, had found it almost impassable, and the country on all sides totally stript of provisions or accommodation for an army. Such was this route in the month of September, when the French were advancing; but now, in October, when the heavy rains which precede the frosts were about to set in, the roads, already cut up by the passage of two armies, must be dreadful ; and the Russian peasantry had been employed to destroy them still more. Nothing, therefore, but dire necessity could compel Bonaparte to retreat by this route; if he chose one more to the east, it would not only lead him along roads little injured, but through a rich and fertile country; and though necessarily circuitous, yet if he could accomplish his retreat this way, he would in the end arrive much sooner in a friendly country than if he marched by Smolensk ; accordingly he determined if possible, to penetrate by the route of Tula and Kalouga. After fixing on his plan, it was necessary to prepare bis army for their long and dreadful march: this was much more difficult and embarrassing; for upwards of two months, two months of the most frightful season in Russia, he must expect they would be on their retreat. Even if the country were not lain waste, and stript of all that an army required; even if it were inhabited by a friendly people, it could scarcely expect, during this period, to receive, or collect provisions, as it retreated, since the roads would not permit them to be brought from any distance. To Moscow the army had brought little or no provision; to the capture of it, won by the battle of Borodino, Bonaparte taught and encouraged them to look forward as the event that would supply them with provisions in abundance ; but its conflagration had disappointed their hopes to such a degree, that some time before they began their retreat, they were compelled to content themselves with very scanty fare. Even by the statement of the bulletins, they began their retreat with only 20 days provisions ; and it was said that Bonaparte entered into contract with Polish Jews to supply the army on its march, and that these Jews, receiving the stipulated money, did not fulfil their contract.
* After "Bonaparte had decided on the route that he would follow on his retreat, and made such preparations as his circumstances would admit, it was necessary, as a preliminary step to beat and drive back the Russian grand army, which occupied and defended the Kalouga road. Kutusoff was aware of the intentions of the French ; and as he knew that a strong reinforcement was marching from Smolensk, to help in extricating the main French army, he resolved to attack Murat, who commanded the advanced guard, before it arrived. This advanced guard consisted of 45,000 men : on the 18th of October it was attacked by Kutusoff, and completely beaten! 38 pieces of cannon fell
into the hands of the Russians : 2000 men were left dead or wounded on the field of battle, and 1500 were made prisoners. On the same and the subsequent days an obstinate battle was fought on the banks of the Dwina. General Steingel proceeded from Riga, along the southern bank of that river, while general Wittgenstein marched along the opposite bank : their operations and plans were combined with so much judgment, that while the former attacked the corps of Macdonald, and the latter St. Cyr, Steingel drove the army of Mac. donald within a few miles of Polotsk; and Wittgenstein on the 18th of October, after a bloody engagement of twelve hours, compelled the force that was opposed to him to seek safety in its entrenchments. On the following day the entrenchments were carried by storm, and soon afterwards the town of Polotsk was retaken. St. Cyr was surrounded ; 2000 prisoners were taken, and the number of killed and wounded was proportionably great. We have mentioned those battles in this place, because it appears to have been St. Cyr's intention to have marched in such a direction, as to have met the main army in its retreat, and to have covered and assisted it : for the same reason, we shall notice here, that general Tchitchagow, the commander of the division of the Russian army which had arrived from the Danube, having driven back the Austrian general that was opposed to him, prosecuted the general plan of the campaign, and arrived at Minsk.
In consequence of the defeat of Murat, Bonaparte was compelled to abandon his intention of retreating by the route of Kalouga ; but in order, if possible, to deceive Kutusoff, he began bis march on that route, leaving Moscow on the 19th of October ; and having thus diverted the atten
tion of the Russian general, he turned off by forced marches with prodigious rapidity on the road to Smolensk. As soon as Kutusoff was informed of the route which the French army had taken, he began his march in a parallel line, leaving it to the other divisions of the army, and especially to the Cossacks, to hang on the rear and the flanks of the enemy: they did their duty. Bonaparte marched with the van of his army, surrounded by the imperial guards, whom he nourished with peculiar care. The Viceroy of Italy brought up the rear, and consequently following the main body with all his artillery and baggage, had to force his way through roads almost impassable, without supplies, without resources, and all the elements to contend with.
Bonaparte, for what purpose it is not easy to devise, left a garrison in the Kremlin. On the 22d of October, general Winzingerode arrived at Moscow, drove out the French garrison, and re-occupied the city. Anxious to prevent the effusion of blood, he advanced too far; and tho', as it is said in the Russian official accounts, he had a flag of truce.
From Sir R. K. Porter's Narrative of the Campaign in Russia, we have extracted the following anecdote.
When General Baron Winzingerode and his aid-de-camp Captain Narishkin were made prisoners at Moscow, in violation of every law, civil or military, Bonaparte ordered them to be brought before him : the command being obeyed, the French leader, swelling with rage, but with an air of triumpli, addressed the Russian General (who is a Hessian by birth) “Sir” cried he, “ you are a traitor: I shall send you back to your own country to meet the fate your infamy merits. You should