Thursday, July 05, 2012

Two Centuries ago ... Russian forces escape

Prince Bagration as portrayed in Mosfilm's War and Peace by Sergei Bodnarchuk

Russian forces under the command of Prince Bgration, operating near Ochmiana, had realized the danger they were in over the past three days and slipped from the encirclement that Bonaparte had designed for them.

Fifth July found a letter from Jerome on Napoleon's desk, written from Grodno on the 3rd,reporting that his cavalry probes had found no trace of the Russians at Ochmiana apart from two weak detachments of infantry, and the Bagration seemed to be moving off toward Slonim and Minsk with his seven divisions.  In other words, Jerome had hardly advanced a yard, had consequently failed to pin down the enemy (his vital task if the trap was to be sprung properly) and had also taken 48 leisurely hours to inform Napoleon of his findings.  Once again the Emperor gave vent to his wrath.  "Tell him," he instructed Berthier, "that it would be impossible to maneuver in worse fashion ... that I am severely displeased that he failed to place all the light troops at Poniatowski's disposal for the purpose of harassing Bagration; tell him," Napoleon concluded scathingly, "the he has robbed me of the fruit of my maneuvers and of the best opportunity ever presented in war - all on account of his singular failure to appreciate the first notions about warfare."  So great was Jerome's fury when he received this tirade that after a further tiff with Davout a week later he decided to throw up his command and return to Westphalia.  He left the front in high dudgeon on July 14, and his formations were temporarily taken over by Marshal Davout.

~ Chandler D., The Campaigns of Napoleon p.776

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