On This Day in Napoleonic History – 14 November 1812

14The first day of the Battle of Krasnoi

A desperate and bloody battle of Krasnoi was fought between November 14 and November 18 on Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, as Eugene’s, Davout’s and Ney’s severely depleted corps tried to smash through Kutuzov’s army to reach the Berezina. Some 13,000 French were killed and 26,000 captured, including 7 generals. The battle left Napoleon virtually without cavalry or artillery. Kutuzov also suffered many casualties.

Napoleon believed that Marshal Ney’s entire corp had been destroyed on the way back from Krasnoi. When on November 23 Ney caught up with the main army at Orsha with only 800 survivors of what once was a regiment 40,000 strong, Napoleon was overjoyed. ‘I have more than 400 million francs in the cellar of the Tuileries,’ he said, ‘and would gladly have given the whole for the ransom of my faithful companion in arms.’

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