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17 August 1812


The battle of Smolensk was the first time since invading Russia that Napoleon Bonaparte had an opportunity to fight the defending armies.

The Russian generals Barclay de Tolly and Bagration had traded space for time, but had reluctantly joined together - the pair disliked each other - at the city of Smolensk.

The first skirmishes between the armies occurred on the 16th, but the main battle began the next day and brought about difficult street fighting in the suburbs of the city.

By day's end the city was ablaze and some 10,000 French were killed or wounded. The Russians, who retreated the next day, suffered some 14,000 losses.




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