Smolensk, Battle of 1812

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Smolensk, Battle of (1812)


defensive combat operations of Russian troops from August 4 to 6 (16 to 18) against Napoleon during the Patriotic War of 1812. After a brief respite in early August, Napoleon’s main forces—about 200,000 men in all—renewed their offensive with the purpose of capturing Smolensk and gaining the rear of the First and Second Russian armies, which were advancing along the Rudnia axis. The tenacious defense at Krasnyi on August 2 (14) by General D. P. Neverovskii’s detachment delayed the French advance guard for 24 hours and allowed the Russian command to move up to Smolensk a corps of 13,000–15,000 men under General N. N. Raevskii; on August 4 (16) the Russians repulsed the attacks of the 22,000-man French advance guard, which was moving on Smolensk. By the evening of August 4 (16), the First and Second Russian armies—about 120,000 men in all—had drawn up to Smolensk and taken positions to the north of the city. The Russian commander in chief, General M. B. Barclay de Tolly, seeking to protect an army inferior in strength to the enemy, decided to withdraw from Smolensk, despite General P. I. Bagra-tion’s opinion. He ordered the Second Army to retreat along the Moscow Road; the First Army was to hold Smolensk in order to cover the retreat. Raevskii’s weakened forces were replaced by General D. S. Dokhturov’s corps, which was reinforced by Neverovskii’s and P. P. Konovnitsyn’s divisions –20,000 men in all. On August 5 (17), Russian troops stubbornly defended the burning city of Smolensk against attacks by as many as 140,000 of the enemy. On the night of August 6 (18), Dokhturov’s troops withdrew to the right bank of the Dnieper, and the First Army began its retreat. On August 6 (18), the exchange of fire continued; the Russian rear guard did not allow the enemy to enter Smolensk. The French lost 20,000 men in the battle of Smolensk and the Russians 10,000. [23–1850–]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.