Battle of Borodino: Napoleon's Army and Battle Evidence

KorbenDallas

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The Battle of Borodino was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 in the Napoleonic Wars during the French invasion of Russia. The fighting involved around 250,000 troops and left at least 70,000 casualties, making Borodino the deadliest day of the Napoleonic Wars.

1812_Borodino.jpg

I find it interesting that in certain instances we know what Julius Caesar had for breakfast 2,000 years ago, and in others we are unsure whether 100,000 people were present at the Borodino Field for one of the most important battles of the 19th century. Kudos to Wikipedia for calculating the minimum, but at its max we could have had 350,000 people.

borodino.jpg

I'm not sure what battle you can have with 250,000-350,000 people, and whatever number of horses within a 3x2 mile area. It sure is easy to draw maps, but sticking all those people into this constricted space and making them fight... I don't know.

borodino_map_2.jpg

There is this Battle of Borodino webpage, with a few paintings accompanied by corresponding descriptions. If those paintings are representative of the battle in question, where are those 250,000 - 350,000 soldiers and god knows how many horses.

Sure you can fit all those people in there, but... Was it a battle, or was it a parade?

1920px-Peter_von_Hess_002.jpg


IMPORTANT
And finally the reason why I even started this thread. I think I did a fairly diligent search, though I am prone to missing stuff. But here is what I failed to find.
  • Where was the remainder of the Napoleon's 700,000 strong army (200,000 horses included)? That is approximately 500,000 people.
  • Was there any physical evidence of this battle ever taking place located at the Borodino field?
Related:
 

Timeshifter

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I regularly attend soccer games, 50,000 people in a small place, even with police and security, and '21st century tech' it is organised chaos outside at best, even without any trouble.

Imagine 5 x that ammount of people (on each side? , taking orders, sticking to orders, injured, dead, then the horses. Thats no battle, it would just be unbridled chaos. I simply don't buy the numbers, never mind the logistics.
 

jd755

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We've been to this lady's site before but here's some things she has found in contemporary accounts all be it told third hand, at least, as she seems to be quoting from other authors book.

During Napoleon’s Russian campaign, remains lingered for months. French General Philippe de Ségur described the scene at Borodino (1812) during the retreat from Moscow, almost two months after the battle.
  • After passing the Kologa, we marched on, absorbed in thought, when some of us, raising our eyes, uttered a cry of horror. Each one instantly looked about him, and there lay stretched before us a plain trampled, bare, and devastated, all the trees cut down within a few feet from the surface, and farther off craggy hills, the highest of which appeared misshapen, and bore a striking resemblance to an extinguished volcano. The ground around us was everywhere covered with fragments of helmets and cuirasses, with broken drums, gun-stocks, tatters of uniforms, and standards dyed with blood.
  • On this desolate spot lay thirty thousand half-devoured corpses; while a pile of skeletons on the summit of one of the hills overlooked the whole. It seems as though death had here fixed his throne.
  • Napoleon had ordered the Westphalian VIII Corps to stay and guard the battlefield, transport the wounded to hospitals, and bury the dead while the rest of the army continued on to Moscow. However, the corps could do little for the wounded, as the hospital system was rudimentary and no wagons or other means of transport could be found in the deserted villages.
  • The Westphalians remained on the battlefield surrounded by corpses and dying men, and they were forced to change position from time to time on account of the stench…. soldiers, at the request of some of the wounded in extreme agony, shot them dead and turned the face away while shooting… When von Borcke was riding on horseback over the battle-field on the 5th day after the battle, he saw wounded soldiers lying alongside the cadaver of a horse, gnawing at its flesh. On September 12th the Westphalians moved to Moshaisk, which was deserted by all inhabitants, plundered and half in ashes…. Burnt bodies were lying in the ruins of the houses which had been burnt, the entrance of these places being almost blockaded by cadavers. The only church…contained several hundred wounded and as many corpses of men dead for a number of days…. Soldiers, Westphalians as well as Russian prisoners, were ordered to remove the corpses from the houses and the streets, and then a recleansing of the whole town was necessary before it could be occupied by the troops.
Given these conditions, the Westphalians had managed only a rudimentary burial on the battlefield, as attested to by Sergeant Adrien Bourgogne, who came across the same sight as Ségur:
  • After passing over a little river, we arrived at the famous battlefield [Borodino], covered all over with the dead, and with debris of all kinds. Legs, arms, and heads lay on the ground. Most of the bodies were Russians, as ours had been buried, as far as possible; but, as everything had been very hastily done, the heavy rain had uncovered many of them. It was a sad spectacle, the dead bodies hardly retaining a human resemblance. The battle had been fought fifty-two days before.
  • After the Battle of Waterloo, local peasants were hired to clean up the battlefield, supervised by medical staff. The allied dead were buried in pits. The French corpses were burned. Ten days after the battle, a visitor reported seeing the flames at Hougoumont.
  • The pyres had been burning for eight days and by then the fire was being fed solely by human fat. There were thighs, arms and legs piled up in a heap and some fifty workmen, with handkerchiefs over their noses, were raking the fire and the bones with long forks.
Bones for fertilizer
Human remains could still be seen at Waterloo a year after the battle. A company was contracted to collect the visible bones and grind them up for fertilizer. Other Napoleonic battlefields were also reportedly scoured for this purpose.

In November 1822 a British paper reported:
  • It is estimated that more than a million of bushels of human and inhuman bones were imported last year from the continent of Europe into the port of Hull. The neighbourhood of Leipsic, Austerlitz, Waterloo, and of all the places where, during the late bloody war, the principal battles were fought, have been swept alike of the bones of the hero and of the horse which he rode. Thus collected from every quarter, they have been shipped to the port of Hull, and thence forwarded to the Yorkshire bone grinders, who have erected steam-engines and powerful machinery, for the purpose of reducing them to a granulary state. In this condition they are sent chiefly to Doncaster, one of the largest agricultural markets in that part of the country, and are there sold to the farmers to manure their lands. The oily substance, gradually evolving as the bone calcines, makes a more substantial manure than almost any other substance, particularly human bones. It is now ascertained beyond a doubt, by actual experiment upon an extensive scale, that a dead soldier is a most valuable article of commerce; and, for ought known to the contrary, the good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread. It is certainly a singular fact, that Great Britain should have sent out such multitudes of soldiers to fight the battles of this country upon the continent of Europe, and should then import their bones as an article of commerce to fatten her soil!
And from this page, dismissed by the site author but, assuming the French officer's words are accurate, the reality as regards numbers.
Louis-François Lejeune, an aide-de-camp to Napoleon’s Chief of Staff Marshal Berthier, wrote:
  • This strongly fortified position must have greatly encouraged the Russians; but what added yet more to their confidence, and gave them an immense moral[e] advantage over us, was the fact that they had plenty of provisions and fodder, and neither men nor horses had suffered from famine. Moreover, as they were always falling back upon their reserves, their numbers daily increased. Only twenty-six leagues from Moscow, they were sure of reinforcements and help of every kind, and their General, knowing the superstitious piety of his soldiers, took care to rouse their fanaticism by making the war appear to be one in defence of their religion. He had the image of a certain canonised bishop, which it was said had been miraculously rescued from the impious hands of the French, carried through the ranks with all the pomp due to some sacred relic. It excited the greatest enthusiasm wherever it appeared, and we could hear the shouts of joy with which its passage was greeted by the 160,000 Russians making up the army.
  • Very different were the sentiments of the French. Not nearly so numerous as the Russians, they were yet full of confidence in the genius of the great man commanding them, and thought of nothing but the joy of entering as conquerors the ancient city of the Czars, where their labours were to end and they were to reap the reward of all their toil. Imbued with this idea, they one and all donned their best uniforms to take part in the battle which was to be the crown of their glory.
  • More info on this site Battle of Borodino 1812 : Napoleon, Kutuzov, Invasion of Russia.
 

Martin77

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I think that just one so called original "document" - Russian Tzar order to it's troops written in french!! using Gregorian style date!!! cries - history we have is fake. Another nail in the coiffin of official history is Napoleon's order written with double date which was used in Russia at that time and - obvious later fake of russian faker :) Same with dozens of Napoleon signatures - obviously written by different people but official theory ignores it - introducing idiotic theory of constantly changing handwriting style of Napoleon, which fails in every second "original". I wonder what if they saw "Split" before that? :)
 
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