24-25 October, 1812
in Moscow preparing for retreat, Napoleon
Bonaparte decided to march his army south-west towards
Kaluga, a city in a lush region where plenty of supplies
could be found.
sent his stepson, Eugene Beauharnais,
and 15,000 men ahead of the main Grande Armee to clear the
way of any opposing Russian forces.
24 October, Eugene approached Maloyaroslavets determined
to get control of a major bridge across the River Lusha.
Russian force of 20,000 men under Dimitri Dokhturov occupied
the town but, despite the odds against him, Eugene immediately
launched a series of assaults to capture the bridge and
establish a bridgehead on the far bank.
fighting was fierce and the span changed hands at least
seven times before Eugene committed his last reserves and
threw Dokhturov's men - together with new reinforcements
- out of their positions. The Russians then fell back to
hills outside Maloyaroslavets.
lost 5000 men in the struggle, while the Russians some 6000.
fighting occurred the next morning, but the 25th is best
remembered for being the day cossacks nearly captured Bonaparte.
After that, he was wore a bag of poison around his neck.
was also the day that the emperor changed his mind - and
path of retreat - and turned his army north, away from the
provisions at Kaluga, and headed towards the now-barren
route the Grande Armee had taken on its march to Moscow.