Smolensk, Battle of

   An indecisive battle on Napoleon Bonaparte ’s march to Moscow. French delays earlier in the campaign allowed the Russians to combine two armies, commanded by Generals Barclay de Tolly and Peter Bagration, at Smolensk, about 280 miles east of Moscow, and the Russian force now numbered about 50,000 men. Napoleon did little on August 15, allowing the Russians to prepare for battle. Battle came the next day as the two sides clashed in the suburbs, each sustaining heavy casualties. On August 17, Napoleon sent three corps against the city walls, but this was ineffective and both sides again sustained heavy losses. A lull on August 18 allowed Bagration to withdraw his army eastward, with Barclay soon following suit. Prompt French action could have been decisive, but General Junot failed to properly pursue and the Russians successfully retired, leaving a burning city to the French. Napoleon considered staying there for the winter, but ultimately marched east toward Borodino and Moscow.
   See also <>; <>.
    Austin, Paul Britten. 1812: The March on Moscow. London: Greenhill Books, 1993;
    Markham, J. David. Imperial Glory: The Bulletins of Napoleon ’ s Grande Armée 1805–1814. London: Greenhill, 2003.

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

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