Beresina, Battles of
(1812)
   A series of bloody Franco-Russian engagements fought during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812. French forces were down to about 50,000 men and were pursued by Kutuzov and Wittgenstein’s combined 80,000 men to the north and Tshitshagov’s 34,000 men to the south. Worse, the Beresina River had thawed and was impassable.
   Diversionary tactics by Oudinot, however, kept Tshitshagov at bay and Kutuzov delayed his pursuit. Engineers worked through the night of the November 25 to build two bridges. The French began to cross and Tshitshagov’s realization of the situation on November 26 was too late. Against all odds, by the end of November 28, the French army was across the river. Perhaps 30,000 noncombatants died, many trying to get across in a panic as the bridges were destroyed, or killed by Cossacks in the aftermath. The French lost perhaps 25,000 men, the Russians 10,000. But what was left of the Grande Armée was able to continue marching to Poland.
   See also <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Palmer, Alan. Napoleon in Russia. London: Robinson, 1997.
   J. DAVID MARKHAM

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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