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DECEMBER 2020

French Invasion to Russia: The Battle of Krasnoi

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The Battle of Krasnoi from the 15th of November to the 18th of November 1812 was a series of skirmishes fought in the final stage of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. The Russians under General Mikhail Kutuzov inflicted heavy losses on the remnants of the Grande Armée. Lacking sufficient artillery, cavalry and supplies to wage battle, Napoleon’s object at Krasnoi was to collect his scattered troops and to resume his retreat. Despite the vast superiority of his forces, Kutuzov refrained from launching a full-scale offensive during the four days of fighting.

On the 17th of November, in the key period of the battle when Russian victory was clear Kutuzov promptly cancelled his army’s planned offensive, even in spite of the Russians’ overwhelming superiority in strength. Napoleon with the debris of his army escaped.

This caused widespread protests among Russian officers and generals. In his memoirs, the British ambassador to the Russian Armys headquarters R. Wilson rejected any suspicion of Kutuzov “cowardice”, but noted that there was “some hidden reason” for such behavior of Russian Field-Marshal.
What were the real reasons of that decision?

There is a presumption that Kutuzov deliberately gave Napoleon, though not his army, the chance to get away. Thus the Russiancommander, acting in the best British political traditions, left alive the main opponent of the Britain on the European political scene and made Russia’s participation in the European campaigns of 1813-1814 a necessity. Otherwise, if Napoleon were removed from the scene by Russian hands, Britain would have beenable to unilaterally dominate the weakened Europe, as the United States woulddo with Western Europe later.

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