days before the decisive battle of Friedland,
the Russian and French armies clashed around the East Prussian
town of Heilsberg.
initial push by Russia's General Bennigsen was forced back
by Napoleon Bonaparte
and so 90,000 Russians withdrew into strong defensive positions
within the town.
Murat was the first French commander on the scene and
he launched his cavalry at the outlying Russian positions
in the village of Launau. Murat's attacks were successful,
but his pursuit was halted at Bevernick by perfectly sited
guns pinned the cavalry down and it wasn't until Marshal
Soult's infantry and cannons arrived that the Duke of
Berg was able to extricate himself. A mistake by the flambouyant
Murat led to his horsemen being routed by huge numbers of
Russian cavalry and only the intervention by General Anne
Jean Marie Savary with artillery and infantry saved him.
attack by the Russian cavalry had, however, opened up their
army's right flank and Soult was quick to try to take advantage
of the error.
for the French, the Russians quickly recovered and massed
artillery batteries plugged the hole.
battle for Heilsberg then turned into a bloody attritional
fight in which the French refused to withdraw despite the
increasing evidence the Russians were too well positioned
in redoubts and defensive lines along the River Alle.
night attack by a too-eager Marshal
Lannes also proved a costly failure with almost 2300
men falling as casualties.
next day there was an unofficial truce in which both armies
recovered their wounded and tried to bury the dead.
that a Russian bombardment began, but with strong French
forces finally manouevring around him Bennigsen withdrew
his forces towards Friedland.
had received a bloody check and lost some 11,000 casualites,
while the Russians around 8000. Friedland,
however, would be a different story.