Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Czar Alexander

 

The “Big Army” crossing the Beresina River; (September 15, 2009)

 

            The self appointed Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, had entered Moscow.  The Russian governor of Moscow burned his Capital three days after the French troops entered this “Saint City”.  Bonaparte lingered for an entire month in Moscow, hopelessly waiting for Czar Alexander to initiate negotiation.  Bonaparte finally ordered the retreat; he also ordered General Moreau to blast off the Kremlin. Bonaparte was forced to re-take the same route he used for coming to Moscow.  Bonaparte and “The Big Army” of 670,000, initially, were to re-witness the scene of carnage of the battle of Borodino; with a twist: the 80,000 victims were reduced to carcasses and the wolves and crows had done their cleaning job.

            Finally, after weeks of walking in the Russian winter weather half the army was dead from freezing, famine, drowning, and diseases. The guerilla Cossacks harassed this multinational army into lunacy; many soldiers were acting up crazy and irrationally. Then this big army had to cross the Beresina River.  The Russian General Kutuzoff appeased the British General Wilson saying: “It is in the swamps of Beresina that the meteorite will cool down.  So far, Bonaparte has no alternative but to follow the passage that I let him take; he is not even allowed to stop and rest.”

            The main bridges on the Beresina were destroyed.  The French engineering regiment headed by Eble tried to build all night long two makeshift bridges in a valley; they had to construct the bridges dipping in frozen water. The pontoon layers knew that they will not survive the day.

            The Russian army of 40,000 headed by General Tchitchakoff was waiting on the other side of the river. Miracle of miracle, in the morning the Russians had vacated their posts to allow Bonaparte safe passage and not be made prisoner. Bonaparte crossed at 2 pm. Then mayhem ensued.

            The entire army was pressing to cross on unstable bridges. The first wave of crossers drowned or was trampled due to the heavy push from the back.  Those trying to climb from the sides were carried off by the freezing powerful river. Women were holding their babies off water to be picked up before sinking in the river; not many babies found rescuers: everybody had no time to lose.

            What is it with women and babies following armies? It has been the custom since antiquity for whole families to follow their “noble warriors”, not those mercenaries or poor soldiers. Perhaps the noble warriors didn’t feel excited being deprived of their tasty dishes or the warmth of female bodies. But what is it with babies and kids following an army? I never knew of a noble warrior caring of providing sympathy and affection to their kids. Obviously, women were of great help washing, cooking, cleaning after, gathering woods, tending the wounded, and rejuvenating the illusion of a peaceful period.  In this Russian campaign the civilians following the armies were caught between fires, crushed by horses and carriages, and killed when made prisoners.

            Then the Russian shells aimed amid this dense army increased the havoc. The bridge reserved for the artillery broke down. The masses surging from behind prohibited the column from backtracking. Everyone was precipitated in the river.  Thus, there was a surge to the only remaining bridge; men and materials were to be using this bridge. The carriages could not be stopped and entered in the masses and crashed into the compact assembled soldiers.  Nobody was hearing the moaning of the fallen and trampled.

            Bonaparte sent a brief message to the French Senate “During the 26 and 27 of November the army crossed.”   On December 5, 1812 Bonaparte abandoned his army and fled to Paris.

            If it was a military matter General Kutuzoff could have annihilated the French Big Army but he allowed it to cross the Russian borders.  There are two reasons for that decision: first, it was a highly political decision by Czar Alexander I.  Bonaparte was the master of Europe.  Without Bonaparte Europe would have sank into civil wars; the European leaders preferred Napoleon to stay for a short while so that he be targeted as the sole enemy and thus unite Europe until a political plan for restructuring the States is agreeable to all parties after the fall of Napoleon.  Second, it was a pragmatic decision.  The Russian army barely could afford to feed its soldiers.  It would have turned a horrific burden to caring for over 200,000 enemy soldiers who were enfeebled, sick, and crazy.  General Kutuzoff must have been extremely relieved to see the enemy has finally retreated behind the borders.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2021
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