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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

August 17th, 1812 - The Battle of Smolensk

Conflict: Napoleonic Invasion of Russia

Combatants: French vs. Russians

Location: Russia

Outcome: French victory

The initial strategy of the Russian army during Napoleon's invasion involved strategic withdrawal rather than battle with the superior French forces. On August 17th of 1812, however, Napoleon struck the Russians at Smolensk before they could retreat. Each side fielded roughly 50,000 soldiers in the engagement. The French took 9,000 casualties and inflicted slightly more on the Russians. Fearing a direct drive on Moscow, General Mikhail Barclay de Tolly pulled all Russian forces out of Smolensk.

Battle of Smolensk 1812 by Martinet and Couche

Points of Interest:

  • A week after the evacuation from Smolensk, Barclay de Tolly was replaced by General Mikhail Kutuzov as commander of the Russian army.

  • Barclay de Tolly returned to a smaller command and did well at Borodino the following month. He would be re-promoted to commander of the Russian army during the Hundred Days.

Napoleon I by Andrea Appiani

Mikhail Barclay de Tolly by Petr Borel

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