17 August 1812
battle of Smolensk was the first time since invading Russia
that Napoleon Bonaparte
had an opportunity to fight the defending armies.
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.
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.