Hell's Battlefield: Heilsberg.
June 1807.
"At Heilsberg Mashals Murat and Soult brought Bennigsen to action.
But so savage a stand did the Russians make that only the arrival
of Marshal Lannes prevented the battle from ending in a French defeat."
- Christopher T. Atkinson
"... the word 'butchery' occurs in many accounts of Heilsberg."
- Georges Blond

Napoleon and his generals. 1. Introduction.
- - The French army in 1807 >
- - "The First Polish War" >
- - "Everything leads to the belief
- - that the enemy is on the move >
- - On other fronts in 1807 >
2. "The Russians retired into a strong prepared
- - position at Heilsberg with 90,000 men."

- - Redoubts and bridges. >
- - Deployment of Russian troops >
3. Battle of the Advance Guards.
4. Massive cavalry battle.
5. French Imperial Guard rescued Murat's cavalry.
6. Bagration's Die-Hards.
7. Map.
8. Fight for the redoubts.
- - "The French infantry rushed forward." >
- - Russian counteroffensive. >
- - The French 55th Line lost their eagle, colonel, and number of officers. >
- - The French army was pushed back beyond Spuibach Stream. >
- - Lannes' arrival and night furious attack. >
- - The next day, at noon the odour of the corpses festering in the sun became horrible. >
9. Aftermath.
- - Casualties. >
- - After Heilsberg. >
- - Peace Treaty. >

After Napoleon's humiliation of Prussia,
the Emperor turned his attention
to subduing his mighty Russian foe.

"He [Napoleon] saw, from Berlin, in front of him
the Russian armies - now preparing to meet him
as his principal adversary." - Loraine Petre

Napoleon with a map. Negotiations between France, Britain and Russia, during the early months of 1806, broke down. Prussia had been lashed to fury by the discovery that Napoleon had attempted to bribe Britain with Hanover, which he had so recently ceded to Prussia. Wishing to strike her before succour reach her from Russia, Napoleon anticipated her ultimatum by marching against her towards the Elbe River.

In August 1806, the Prussian king, made the decision to go to war independently of any other great power. The Prussian ultimatum reached Napoleon on the 7th October. Approx. 150,000 French soldiers moved with such speed that Napoleon was able to destroy the fearsome Prussian army in two quick battles, Jena and Auerstadt. These defeats were a heavy blow to the Fourth Coalition against Napoleon. Coalition partners included Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and Great Britain.

Napoleon entered into Berlin in October and visited the tomb of King Frederick the Great. He instructed his marshals to remove their hats, saying, "If he was alive we wouldn't be here today."

The French army in 1807.
Napoleon hoped on finding the Russians
and defeating them in a pitched battle.

Napoleon and his Guard in 1806-1807. Loraine Petre described the French troops during the campaign in Eastern Prussia and Poland. He wrote: "The rank and file of the army was but little, if at all, past its best. In the earlier part of the campaign, its youngest men were the conscripts of 1806 who had, owing to their premature enrolment, already undergone a years' training. Many of the troops had been with Napoleon in his earlier campaigns and in Egypt, very many had been at Ulm and Austerlitz, the majority had just emerged from the briliant campaign of Jena.
They were now preparing for a renewed war against fresh enemies; the hardest task that an army can undertake. Even these hardened and enthusiastic warriors contemplated witg dread the prospect of a fresh winter campaign in an inhospitable and difficult country, and Napoleon was often remonstrated with, as he rode alongside of his men, for insisting on their advance to Poland.
To such complaints he would reply with the rough jests which his veterans loved to hear from him ... In action, the infantry was still splendid, and did not as yet require to be formed in deep columns of many battalions, such as was macdonald's at Wagram, three years later. The cavalry was excellent and well mounted, though, in the latter respect, they fell short of many Russian cavalry regiments. The artillery was highly trained and invariably made good practice." (Petre - "Napoleon's Campaign in Poland, 1806-1807" pp 27-28)

The winter campaign in eastern Prussia and Poland exhausted the French troops mentally and physically. They campaigned mostly in the wooded area and with few inhabitants, virtually wilderness. It was with extreme difficulty that the artillery could be moved along.
At Eylau the French have suffered 15,000-25,000 killed and wounded, this is about 1/3 of their forces. Riding over the battlefield one of the French commanders said: "Quel massacre ! Et sans resultat" (What a massacre! And for no outcome.) The French soldiers cried out for peace after Eylau.

Eylau was the first serious check to the French Grand Armee, which in the previous two campaigning seasons had carried all before it. In spring 1807 though the weather was still severe, Napoleon rousted his troops out of their winter quarters for drills and frequent field exercises. Meanwhile in France thousands of young men were called to arms. Napoleon caused these to be despatched to the front as soon as possible and they were drilled en route.

The "First Polish War".
"... France's enemies happened to be
Poland's oppressors ..."
- Charles Summerville

The defeat of Prussian army in Jena and Auerstadt did not end the war. Some Prussian troops survived the catastrophe and joined those stationed in Eastern Prussia (today Mazury). The French followed them.

In late autumn the French troops marched into Poland. They moved through Poznan (then Posen) and Kalisz. "The topography of Poland was little known [to the French]. A survey detachment directly under imperial headquarters was accordingly organized to which was entrusted the task of mapping the country as the army advanced. The instructions issued to these 'surveyors' are not without interest. They were to move with the advanced guard of each corps and to send their work daily to imperial headquarters. Attention was especially called to the necessity for recording the name of each village - this, one would think, was a somewhat superfluous instruction - with its population and nature of soil. Each sketch was to be signed so that, if more precise information was subsequently required by Napoleon, the officer concerned could be readily summoned. The emperor complained later that it was to find on his maps a place mentioned in a dispatch, and gave orders that places named must have their locality plainly described." (- F.D. Logan)

Napoleon's army crossed the Vistula River in several points and turned north-east. The French entered Eastern Prussia, inhabited by the Prussians and many Poles.

Loraine Petre described the theatre of war: "... a country for the most part flat, marshy, and thickly wooded - a country resembling, except in the last respect, the broads of Suffolk and Norfolk. There are no heights of any importance, and it is only in the north-western corner ... that it is possoble to describe the country as anything by an undulating plain. Here the underying rock of the Polish plain crops out, and gives rise to hills which, in places, reach the elevation of 500 to 700 feet above the sea, amongst which are imbedded the lakes ... "

The theater of war was wooded and it was impossible to find an area sufficiently clear of continuous forest to allow of the deployment of larger force. It was a difficult terrain for speedy maneuvers. There were only few roads and even fewer cities. It was a good place to put 'population explosion' in focus. :-)

Marshal Murat enters Warsaw. Marshal Murat entered Warsaw to a rapturous welcome. He was feted by the Poles igniting vain hopes of future kingship. "In the 16th century Poland had been one of the most powerful countries in Europe ... within the space of 200 years, however, Poland had been eclipsed by its neighbours ... Soon the country's history culture and language were extinguished and its very name abolished. In this way was the white eagle of Poland devoured by the three black eagles of Prussia, Russia, and Austria. ... Meanwhile the Poles looked for France, with its revolutionary ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, as a beacon of hope. The fact France's enemies happened to be Poland's oppressors was an obvious attraction, and many Polish soldiers volunteered for service in the French army." (Summerville - "Napoleon's Polish Gamble" p 15)

To the Polish deputations which approached him in Berlin and at Warsaw, he replied vaguely, "France has never recognised the different partitions of Poland; nevertheless, I cannot proclaim your independence until you have decided to defend your rights as a nation with arms in your hands by every sort of sacrifice, even that of life. You have been reproached with having, in your continued civil dissensions, lost sight of the interests of your country. Instructed by your misfortunes, reunite yourselves and prove to the world that one spirit animates the whole Polish nation."

Napoleon was furious with Marshal Murat, for forwarding one petition from Warsaw, in which it was prayed that the Polish kingdom might be reconstituted under a French commander. Napoleon's replies to Poles were sufficiently encouraging to assure to him the moral and material support of the Poles in the ensuing campaign, and to deprive Prussia and Russia of all hope of recruiting their armies by voluntary enlistment in Poland.

Napoleon conferring the Constitution
on Duchy of warsaw in 1807 Napoleon entered Warsaw in 1807 and French eagles soared over the Vistula. The Emperor was hesitant about reenacting the Kingdom of Poland. In spite of the ovations given him by the Poles, he wrote: "Only God can arbitrate this vast political problem ... It would mean blood, more blood, and srtill more blood ..."

But it was not long before the Duchy of Warsaw became a bastion of France in central and Eastern Europe, and Polish troops stood ready to fight for Napoleon and independence. The war in 1807 was called by Napoleon the "First Polish War" and resulted in the formation of the Polish state. The country was divided into departments. The branches of justice, war, finance and police, were assigned to Polish government. (In 1812 Napoleon, in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, termed the war against the Russian Empire the "Second Polish War.)

The Russians had been located and beaten at Eylau and Hoff. The rest of the winter and spring passed in quietness. Napoleon had said that the army would go into winter quarters. The army had to recover 60,000 wounded, missing and deserters. The hospitals were overcrowded. The Emperor appreciated surgeons' hard work and rewarded them with promotions and money.

Reinforcements were on the roads from France. Napoleon decided to build a military camp in Osterode. The French engineers constructed a palisade around a vast square inside which were streets bordered by wooden huts. Each street bore the name of one of the latest victories. The Imperial Guard had its own camp, built with a degree of luxury. In the centre was a brick building where Napoleon installed himself.

French versus Russian infantry.
Picture by Keith Rocco. The news from France were not good. The slaughter at Eylau (see picture) had had the worst effect. The military police combed the rear areas to round-up deserters.

Napoleon had begun to contemplate a renewal of the campaign so early as the end of April, when he wrote Marshal Soult to send his sick to the rear, preparatory to a general advance. All he needed was only the capture of Danzig, an important sea port and fortress at the mouth of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea. In Danzig were immense stocks of ammunition and weapons. Danzig was defended by Prussian troops and few Russians and was also a threat to Napoleon's left flank.

Polish infantry and artillery
storming Tczew in 1807 Georges Blond gave somehow misleading description of the siege of Dirschau. Dirschau stands on the west bank of the Vistula protecting the approaches to Danzig. "The Poles in the Grande Armee had wantonly wrecked the small town of Dirschau because it had been defended by Prussians - only 500 of them, but General Dombrowski [sic] had first battered it with artillery. Then the Polish troops had opened fire indiscriminately on both the enemy and the population. Some houses remained miraculously intact amid the carnage." ( Georges Blond - "La Grande Armee" p 146)
Polish historian Marian Kukiel gives the strength of Prussian garrisson at one infantry battalion under Major Both, 650 men, and some town militia. (Kukiel - "Dzieje oreza polskiego w epoce napoleonskiej 1795-1815", publ. in 1912, pp 137-138.)
Dirschau was probably defedned by approx. 1,000 Prussians with 2 guns. The Poles had 2,500-3,000 raw recruits. The Poles brought up 1 gun, blew in the gates and took the city. The capture of Dirschau meant that Prussians were holed up Danzig.

Siege of Danzig in 1807 Danzig was besieged by Marshal Lefebvre's troops. Napoleon sent him an engineer, Chasseloup, and a fine gunner, Jean-Ambroise-Baston comte de Lariboisière.
Baron Lejeune writes: "All the best engineer officers of the French army were collected together under General Chasseloup at Danzig, and the operations were conducted with great rapidity, though not fast enough to please the Emperor, who, at a distance from the scene of action, did not realize that fresh obstacles were thrown in our way every day by the skill of the directors of the defence."

Lefebvre was sent to besiege Danzig, knowing nothing of that type of warfare.
Marshal Lefebvre Finally the Russo-Prussian garrison made a sortie in force. Lefebvre went flailing happily into the middle of the uproar, pushing aside the grenadiers who tried to shield him: "Come on my lads ! This I understand !" :-)
When Danzig finally fell to French hands, Levebvre became the Duke of Danzig and was awarded with a lot of money. Each soldier wounded at Danzig was to receive 10 francs. The unwounded soldiers 10 francs and a bottle of wine. The battle-hardened Lefebvre was to receive an individual who spoke with envy of the riches he enjoyed. Lefebvre replied: "You can have the lot at cost. ... I will fire 60 musket rounds at you and if you are still alive after that you can have the lot."

Meanwhile Mortier beat Swedish troops under Essen at Anklam, leading to the armistice of Schlachtow, on 18 April. The attack was ordered because Swedish troops had crossed the strategically important river Peene. After the armistice, the Swedes retained their part of Pomerania and Stralsund. Mortier's corps was thus free to rejoin Napoleon preparing to face the Russians. On 26th April Russia and Prussia signed the secret Convention of Bartenstein (Bartoszyce). Prussia and Russia agreed not to sign separate peace treaties with France.

Napoleon met the Persian
delegation at Finkenstein. In the beginning of April Napoleon set up his headquarters at Finkenstein (Le château de Finkenstein ) near Osterode, in East Prussia, now part of Poland. He was to stay there for few weeks. "I have just moved my headquarters to a very fine château, rather like the one which belongs to Bessières. Here I have many fireplaces, and this is something I like very much; since I often get up in the night, I like to see a fire burning. My health is perfect."
On 4th May France and Persia signed the Treaty of Finkenstein. Napoleon dispatched General Gardanne to Tehran. For Napoleon, the Persian alliance served a dual purpose. While it created a temporary diversion against Russia, it also threatened British interests in India. "France guaranteed Persia's territorial integrity and acknowledged her legitimate rights to Georgia, from which, and from all other Persian territory, France would make every effort to drive Russia." (- Iradj Khan )

"Everything leads to the belief
that the enemy is on the move."
- Napoleon

In summer the country was superb. The rye, oat and wheat was high, the roadsides were planted with willows and the villages were well-built. There were many lakes and forests. The French cavalry patrols noticed some activity on the Russian side.

Russian army on the move in 1805-1807.
Movie War and Peace, Russia. The Emperor wrote: "Everything leads to the belief that the enemy is on the move, though it is ridiculous on his part to engage in a general action now that Danzig is taken ..." The Russians attacked French advance posts. Napoleon left Finkenstein riding in a carriage and escorted by the cavalry of Imperial Guard. He wrote to Marshal Bernadotte: "I have yet to deduce what the enemy was trying to do. The whole thing had a smell of a rash move.

In early June, General Bennigsen decided to attack the advanced corps of Marshal Ney in East Prussia. His plan for the destruction of Ney was very complicated. The scheme had in its favor the fact that Ney his front being surrounded by woods, could not see what was going on at any considerable distance. Nevertheless, Ney obtained sufficient information from his cavalry to convince him that some serious movements were in progress before fim. He requested Soult to support his left and Davout to strengthen his position at Bergfried on the right.

Bennigsen postponed the movement till the 5th. Then he took on the offensive and after several small engagements had expanded its force and came to a standstill.

The Emperor had not been idle, he ordered the Guard cavalry to assemble at Finkenstein, and sent orders to his marshals. His design now was, to cut the Russian army from the Baltic Sea and Koenigsberg and its resources. On the 9th, the French troops occupied these positions:

  • - Marshal Soult's corps was at Altkirch
  • - Marshal Davout held the left bank of the Alle River above Guttstadt
  • - Marshal Ney's corps was at Guttstadt
  • - Marshal Murat's Reserve Cavalry was at Guttstadt
  • - the Guard was at Guttstadt
  • - Marshal Mortier was approaching Guttstadt

    Marshal Ney Bennigsen was furious at Ney's miraculous getaway: outnumbered by 3 : 1, it was an easy victory for the Russians. Fuming Bennigsen blamed Sacken for allowing Ney to escape. Next, Bennigsen fell victim to a French ploy that stopped his advance in its tracks. The Russian general received a captured dispatch, addressed to Ney, stating that Davout's corps is about to fall on Bennigsen's rear. Thrown into a panic, Bennigsen shifts into reverse, ordering a retreat. First he marched to Guttstadt, and then to Heilsberg. But the dispatch is bogus, planted on the Russians in an effort to save Ney.

    "Bennigsen, having failed in this attempt at a surprise stroke, had nothing to do but fall back along the main road which leads to Konigsberg, for his numbers were inferior to those which the Emperor could bring now against him ... On the other hand he felt fairly sure ... of being able to maintain the defensive indefinitely as he so fell back ... first of all he had heavily fortified Heilsberg, a place on the main road ... and next because he had proved during all the winter fighting the stubbornness of the Russian line." (- Hilaire Belloc)

    On other fronts in 1807.
    The Embargo Act was passed by the US Congress.
    It was partly brought upon by the 'Chesapeake Incident'
    and partly by Britain prohibiting on her trading partners
    from trading with France.

    Not only France and Russia were busy on the diplomatic and military field in 1807. In March the US Congress passes an act to "prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the USA ... from any foreign kingdom, place, or country." Slave trade is abolished in Great Britain. George Canning (ext.link) becomes British minister of Foreign Affairs.

    British infantry In March 16th 1807 the Royal Navy and 5.000 redcoats under General A. Mackenzie Fraser invaded and occupied Alexandria in Egypt. The aim was to secure the port as a base for Mediterranean operations and to prevent the French from taking advantage of it. The action however not only alienated Russian allies but was also a military catastrophe, with Fraser losing two battles at Rosetta (modern Rashid) on 29 March and 21 April. The crushed battalions suffered "almost 1.400 casualties". It forced the British to abandon the idea of expanding the conquered territory, and they were confined only to the city. Agreement to leave Egypt was signed in September, 1807.

    On 27th May, the Sultan Selim III was overthrown and replaced by Mustafa IV. His troops felt that the Sultan's anti-Islamic (ext.link) reforms were directly responsible for the decline of the Ottoman empire. A mutiny in part of the Turkish army ensued.

    President Thomas Jefferson. The Embargo Act was passed by the US Congress, during the second term of President Jefferson. (ext.link) It was partly brought upon by the 'Chesapeake Incident' involving Britain attacking a U.S. ship, (in June the British board USS Chesapeake) and partly by Britain prohibiting on her trading partners from trading with France.
    Britain and France were at war; the U.S. was neutral and trading with both sides. Both sides tried to hinder American trade with the other. Jefferson's goal was to use economic warfare to secure American rights, instead of military warfare. Initially, these acts sought to punish the British for its violation of American rights on the high seas; among these was the impressment of those sailors off American ships, sailors who claimed to be American citizens but not in the opinion or to the satisfaction of the Royal Navy, ever on the outlook for deserters.

    In July take place the disastrous British attack on Buenos Aires. (ext.link)

    In September, after a Danish refusal to surrender their biggest city, Copenhagen, to the British, the warships bombarded the place killing 2.000 civilians and destroying 30 % of the buildings. Then during armistice they carried off the Danish fleet and "all the naval stores in the arsenal."

    In September 1807, British ambassador from Constantinopole, Arbuthnot, had already pressed for warships to be sent to bully the Turks. Admiral Collingwood sent number of ships to the Dardanelles and shortly after this the British Cabinet decided to send Vice-Admiral Duckworth with more ships to the Turkish capital "to demand the immediate surrender of the Turkish Fleet , together with that of supply of naval stores from the arsenal ..."
    The Turks however showed no signs of being intimidated. They cannonaded the British forcing them to a hastily retreat on March 3rd. The British barely escaped being battered by 300 cannons. This military action ended up in humiliation.

    In 1807 in Austria everything was relatively quiet.

    In 1807 Portugal refused Napoleon's demand to accede to the Continental System of embargo against Great Britain, a French invasion under Junot followed, and Lisbon was captured. British intervention in the Peninsular War restored Portuguese independence.

  • ~

    Bennigsen didn't really know where exactly Napoleon would strike.
    Therefore he deployed his army on both sides of the Alle
    (Lyna) River behind fortified heights.

    "The Russians retired into a strong prepared position
    at Heilsberg with 90,000 men." - David Chandler.

    Teutonic castle in Lidzbark/Heilsberg. Heilsberg (Lidzbark) was a small town, situated on the left bank of the Alle River. In Heilsberg stood an old Teutonic castle. For many years it was a residence of the bishops of Warmia and a stronghold protecting the eastern border of their domain. By the power of the Second Peace Treaty of Torun signed in 1466, Warmia was incorporated into Poland. The year of 1772 brought the incorporation of Warmia into Prussia.

    On the north side of the Alle River (Lyna River today), an undulating plain stretched in all directions. It was intersected by the course of the Spuibach Stream. On the left side of the stream was the Lawden Wood. Half a mile south-west of the wood was the village of the same name.

    This whole area was familiar to the Russians. Between February and May they had made use of every fold of the terrain around Heilsberg. Majority of the earthworks stood on the southern bank of Alle River as Bennigsen anticipated the French to come from that direction.

    Bennigsen was born into a Hanoverian family in Brunswick and served successively as a page at the Hanoverian court and as an officer of Foot Guards where he participated in the Seven Years' War. In 1764 he retired from the Hanoverian army and entered the Russian service as a field officer. Bennigsen distingusihed himself in several campaigns. Tsar Alexander made him governor-general of Lithuania in 1801, and in 1802 a general of cavalry. After the Napoleonic Wars he retired from active service and settled on his Hanoverian estate of Banteln. By the end of his life he lost his sight.
    Before the battle "Bennigsen, was suffering from the stone, which occasionally subjected him to the tortures of the damned. He slept in his bivouac fully dressed, wrapped in his cloak ..." (Georges Blond - "La Grande Armee" p 1446)

    General Steinheil (Stengel) was born in 1762. Between 1806 and 1807 General Steinheil was general-quartermaster of Russian troops campaigning in Eastern Prussia and Poland. Steinheil distinguished himself in the battle of Eylau.

Leontii Bennigsen
    General of Cavalry Leontii Bennigsen

Faddei Fedorovich Steinheil
    General-Major Faddei Fedorovich Steinheil

    Cossacks - GL Ataman Platov
    - - - - - Cossack Brigade
    - - - - - Cossack Brigade

    Corps - GL Prince Gorchakov
    - - - - - 6th Division - GL Knorring-II
    - - - - - 8th Division - GL Essen-III
    - - - - - Reserve Division - GL Kamenski

    Corps - GL Dohturov
    - - - - - 3rd Division - GL Titov-II
    - - - - - 7th Division - GL Dohturov
    - - - - - 14th Division - GM Olsufiev

    Rear Guard - GL Prince Bagration
    - - - - - Division - GM Raievski
    - - - - - Division - GM Baggovout

    Cavalry (right flank) - GL Uvarov
    - - - - - Light Cavalry Brigade - GM Yurkovski
    - - - - - Dragoon Brigade - GM Dolgorouki-III
    - - - - - Dragoon Brigade - GM Alexeiev
    - - - - - Dragoon Brigade - GM Meller-Zakomelski

    Cavalry (left flank) - GL Prince Golitzin-V
    - - - - - Hussar Brigade - GM de Lambert
    - - - - - Hussar Brigade - GM Dorohov
    - - - - - Dragoon Brigade - GM Korff
    - - - - - Cuirassier Brigade - GM Kozhin

    Prussian cavalry - GM von Renbow (27 squadrons)

    Imperial Guard - Grand Duke Constantine
    - - - - - 2nd Division - GL Sukin
    - - - - - 1st 'Guard' Division (infantry) - GL Malutin
    - - - - - 1st 'Guard' Division (cavalry) - GL Kologrivov

    French and Russian Order of battle - Heilsberg 1807

    Emperor Napoleon
    Emperor Napoleon

    Marshal Berthier
    Marshal Berthier

    IV Army Corps - MdE Soult
    - - - - - 1st Infantry Division - GdD St.Hilaire
    - - - - - 2nd Infantry Division - GdD Carra St.Cyr
    - - - - - 3rd Infantry Division - GdD Legrand
    - - - - - Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB Soult

    Reserve Corps - MdE Lannes
    - - - - - 1st Infantry Division 'Grenadiers' - GdD Oudinot
    - - - - - 2nd Infantry Division - GdD Verdier
    - - - - - 3rd Infantry Division (Saxons) - GdD von Polentz

    Reserve Cavalry - MdE Murat
    - - - - - Light Cavalry Division - GdD Lasalle
    - - - - - Dragoon Division - GdD Latour-Maubourg
    - - - - - Dragoon Division - GdD Milhaud
    - - - - - Cuirassier Division - GdD de Espagne

    Imperial Guard (part)
    - - - - - Fusilier Brigade


    Redoubts and Bridges.
    The Russians had made use of every fold
    of the terrain around Heilsberg.

    Adolphe Thiers writes: "Numerous redoubts had been erected on those heights. They were occupied by the Russian army, parted in two by the Alle. This very serious inconvenience was redeemed by 4 bridges constructed in well-sheltered nooks, and allowing troops to be moved from one shore to the other. As according to all indications, the French would come along the left bank, the greater part of the Russian troops had been concentrated on that side. In the redoubts of the right bank, General Bennigsen had left only the Imoerial Guard and Bagration's division, fatigued with the actions fought on the previous day. Batteries had been disposed to fire from one bank to the other."

    The Russians had made use of every fold of the terrain around Heilsberg. On the northern bank stood 3 redoubts, probably 3 or 4 smaller earthworks were there as well. Mjr Karl-Friedrich von Both wrote shortly after the war about 6 redoubts on northern bank of Alle.
    Another author, Petre, mentioned just 3 redoubts, 1 earthwork by the river to defend the bridges, and further 2 earthworks interspersed. He also stated that the Redoubt #1 stood approx. 500 paces from the river, and Redoubt #2 stood approx. 900 paces north of the Redoubt #1.
    On Hoepfner's map are at least 7 redoubts and earthworks (fleches ?). The Redoubt #1 and #2 had walls 10 feet high and 12 feet thick. Wooden logs supported the inner and outer walls.

    Bennigsen "... felt fairly sure ... of being able to maintain the defensive indefinitely ... he had proved during all the winter fighting the stubbornness of the Russian line." (- Hilaire Belloc)

    Russian redoubt Nr 1  
on the northern bank
of Alle River Russian redoubts 
south of Alle River Left: Redoubt #1 on the northern bank of Alle River.
    Right: redoubts on the southern bank of Alle and the town of Heilsberg (in the upper right corner).
    On the southern bank of Alle River stood in a semicircle numerous field works. They were strongly garrisoned until Benigsen moved his troops on the northern bank.

    There were several bridges across the Alle River. One bridge was near the Redoubt #1, three pontoon bridges were set closer to Heilsberg and five bridges were in Heilsberg itself. These bridges were very useful for Bennigsen who moved cavalry, infantry and artillery across the river.

    Deployment of Russian troops.
    Bennigsen, didn't really know when and where exactly
    Napoleon will strike. Therefore he deployed his army
    on both sides of the Alle .

    At Heilsberg Mashals Murat and Soult brought Bennigsen to action. French author Adolphe Thiers writes: "After so many presumptuous demonstrations, the enemy's general could not but feel a temptation not to run away so swiftly, but to stop and fight, especially in a position where a great many precautions had been taken to render the chances of a great battle less disadvantageous. But it was far from wise, for time became precious, if he wished not to be cut off from Konigsberg."
    According to Russian author V.N.Shikanov, General Bennigsen didn't really know when and where exactly Napoleon will strike. Therefore he deployed his army on both sides of the Alle (Lyna) River behind fortified heights.

    The deployment of Russian troops was as follow:

  • - On the southern bank of Alle was Bagration's Advance Guard (excl. 20 squadrons of Shepelev's light cavalry brigade).
  • - On the northern bank, with its left flank resting on the small fieldwork near the river, stood the 8th Division.
  • - In the Redoubt #1 was placed one battery. This redoubt and its surroundings were defended by 4 battalions.
  • - Next to the 8th, on the right, was deployed the 6th Division.
  • - In and nearby Redoubt #2 stood one battery and 4 guns (total of 16 pieces) and some infantry. Behind this redoubt, as a reserve were 5 squadrons of Prussian Towarzysze Regiment (armed with lances).
  • - In Redoubt #3 was one battery and 2 guns (total of 14 pieces). It was also garrisoned by infantry.
  • - The whole area behind the Redoubt #2 and #3 was defended by Kamenski's Reserve Division.
  • - Between Redoubt #1 and #2, were deployed 6th and 4th Division.
  • - In reserve were 1st and 2nd Division.
  • - To the north, in and around the village of Wielochowo and beyond the lake, were Platov's Cossacks.
  • - The Lifeguard Hussar Regiment "was out in front on the Guttstadt road, two more cavalry regiments on that leading to Seeburg". But when it became certain that no attack was to be apprehended on he right bank (it was in the evening) these regiments were withdrawn to the cavalry reserve.

    Every infantry regiment of 8th, 6th, 4th and 5th Division had two battalions deployed in line, and the third battalion (grenadier battalion) behind them in column as a reserve.

  • ~

    Murat decided to wait for Soult's corps
    as his cavalry alone was not enough to take
    on Bagration's force.

    Battle of the Advance Guards
    Yermolov wrote that the French dragoons attacked
    Russian infantry not only from the front but also
    from the rear. Yermolov was able to escape only
    because he had a fast horse.

    Marshal Murat The spearheading French troops are under Marshal Joahim Murat. With his plumed hat, gold-braided uniform, and magnificent warhorse, Murat was the very image of a cavalier. Behind Murat's cavalry is marching infantry and artillery. Summerville writes: "The emperor, with the whole Grand Army in his wake, is riding towards the final showdown with Bennigsen. It is time to make the Polish gamble pay off. ... Stretching miles to the rear, his columns advance, toiling dusty dirt tracks in suffocating heat. ... Since Mohrungen, 15 miles west of Deppen, the troops have breathed the scent of war: burning houses, rotting corpses. Napoleon finds Deppen a ruin, torched by Bennigsen before turning tail for Guttstadt. ... Napoleon is delighted by developments ... " (Summerville - "Napoleon's Polish Gamble" p 118)

    Approx. 6 km from the main Russian positions at Heilsberg, stood Borosdin's small force:
    - Nizovsk Musketeers
    - Revel Musketeers
    - Finland Dragoons
    - cossack regiment
    Borosdin troops occupied the village of Launau (Laniewo today) and were also deployed on the plain. About 8 AM Murat had driven in Borosdin's force. Murat's cavalry began pushing back the Russian advance posts. The French then brought their batteries into position and opened well-directed fire upon the Russians.

    Before 10 AM (according to Shikanov it was earlier) Bennigsen received information from Borosdin that the French were advancing in the direction of Launau. Bennigsen sent GM Lvov with the task of supporting Borosdin. Lvov's force consisted of:
    - Kexholm Musketeers
    - two jager regiments
    - Kiev Dragoons
    - battalion of militia
    - 2 horse guns

    While the French artillery kept firing on Borosdin and Lvov's troops, GdD Latour-Maubourg led his dragoons in an all-out charge. Yermolov wrote that the French dragoons attacked Russian infantry not only from the front but also from the rear. Yermolov was able to escape only because he had a fast horse. About 2 PM Murat drove back Borosdin and Lvov.

    Map: Murat versus Bagration and Borosdin Meanwhile Bennigsen sent orders to Bagration who was retiring on the opposite side of the river, to cross by the pontoon bridges and to move again up the north bank and fend off the French. Bagration was himself here, there, and everywhere, directing, assisting, and encouraging his jagers and cavalry.

    Bagration met Borosdin's and Lvov's forces at Bewernick (Bobrownik today) retiring before the French. Bagration deployed his forces behind Bewernick and Dlugoleka. Jagers (in skirmish) order and some Cossacks were posted along and behind the Bewernick brook. Cavalry and horse battery towards Langwiese (today Dlugoleka), two batteries and three columns of infantry stood behind Bewernick.

    Bagration's artillery poured cannonballs and shells into the enemy's cavalry. The French halted and at 2 pm Murat - already in a filthy temper - decided to wait for Soult's corps as his cavalry alone was not enough to take on Bagration's force. Once Soult's infantry and artillery arrived they unlimbered 36 cannons on a heightened ground 500 m from Bobrownik, and opened fire. The French soon got the upper hand over the two Russian batteries (24 guns) and the green-clad gunners limbered up and withdrew. The Russian jagers and Cossacks covered the retreat of Bagration's force. About 3 PM St.Cyr's infantry division occupied Bewernick.

    Meanwhile the bulk of Bennigsen's army was on the southern bank of Alle (Lyna) River near Heilsberg. The Russian infantry ate their meal and sat near their stacked muskets, awaiting the call to arms. The Russians then began crossing the Alle River on the pontoon bridges. The Lifeguard Hussars were sent on the road toward Guttstadt (Dobre Miasto) south-west of Heilsberg. Two cavalry regiments were sent toward Jeziorany, south-east of Heilsberg, to link with a flying column commanded by GM von Knorring.


    At Heilsberg it was Russian cuirassiers' glory day.
    Their attack upon French cavalry, for daring and gallantry
    could not be exceeded. They succeeded in defeating
    a body of enemy estimated at two times their number.

    Massive cavalry battle.
    Murat charged with a headlong rashness but his horse was struck by canister.
    Horse and rider were knocked over together like a stand of muskets.
    Murat - now without one boot, it was stuck in the strirup of killed horse
    - quickly mounted another horse.

    Murat's cavalry, with dragoons in the lead, advanced towards Langwiese. Bagration's cavalry (Shepelev's brigade) attacked Murat before he reached his destination. Murat rallied his troops but then he was again attacked, this time by a larger force of cavalry (25-35 squadrons) led by Uvarov.
    General Uvarov Uvarov placed three jager regiments in the wood near Lawden, and sent cavalry under Kozhin and Fock across the Spuibach just as Bagration's troops were slowly faling back.

    Kozhin and Fock threw threw their squadrons, mostly cuirassiers (they wore no armor except helmets) against the flank of Latour-Maubourg's 1st Dragoon Division. General-Major Sergei-Alexeievich Kozhin was not only commanding the cavalry brigade, he was also the chef of His Majesty's Cuirassier Regiment, the best heavy cavalry outfit in the Russian cavalry right after the Guard. The timing of the attack was perfect as the French cavaliers were in a vulnerable situation. They were endeavoring to sort themselves out after their fight with Bagration's hussars and dragoons. The French dragoons were routed with easy. Especially the 15 squadrons of Russian cuirassiers hit them hard.

    The French fled with the Russians and Prussians hot on their heels. The victors however got under cannonade from the French artillery and were forced to fall back. The situation stabilized for a very short while. It was however a proverbial silence before the storm.

    Napoleon and French cavalry
at Friedland 1807. Murat rode to the front of the 3rd Heavy Cavalry Division and cried "Forward !" The cuirassiers drew their sabers and advanced. De Gonneville of the 6th Cuirassiers writes: "At this moment the grand duke of Berg (Murat) came up to us; he came from our right rear, followed by his staff, passed at a gallop across our front, bending forwards on his horse's neck, and as he passed at full speed by General Espagne, he flung at him one word alone which I heard, "Charge !"
    In the front was GdB Fouler's brigade (7th and 8th Cuirassiers).

    Murat throws himself into the thick of the fighting, heedless of all danger. On the fields by Langwiese - 1 km southwest from Lawden - developed a cavalry battle bewteen Uvarov's cavalry and d'Espagne's cuirassiers and Latour-Mauborg's dragoons.
    It was a bloody fight and costly for the French. Wounded were GdD d'Espagne, GdB Fouler, and colonels of 4th, 6th and 7th Cuirassiers. Col. Fulgent of the 4th Curassiers received a serious head wound from a sabre from which he eventually died. Also wounded were Col. Davenay and Col. Offenstein of the 6th and 7th Cuirassiers respectively. The only regimental commander to escape unscathed that day was Merlin of the 8th Cuirassiers, but one of the squadron flags of 8th was captured. Among the dragoons were wounded colonels of 4th, 14th and 26th Dragoons.

    Napoleon kept looking in the direction where French cavalry have been fighting. The Emperor anxiously asked Murat 'what's going on over there ?' Unable to relax the Emperor, Murat mounted his horse and rode to the front of 5th Hussars. In the past this regiment was part of the legendary Hellish Brigage led by GdB Lasalle. At Heilsberg the 5th and 7th Hussars and 3rd Chasseurs formed GdB Pajol's brigade.

    Marshal Murat and French cavalry
in 1807 at Heilsberg. Picture by Myrbach. Murat charged with a headlong rashness but his horse was struck by canister. Horse and rider were knocked over together like a stand of muskets. Murat - now without one boot, it was stuck in the strirup of killed horse - quickly mounted another horse. He took the entire brigade led by Pajol and advanced against the enemy. Uvarov's cavalry was of high quality and the fresh reinforcements brought by Murat changed little. The French continued to suffer heavy casualties and the battle continued. Colonel Dery and several other officers were wounded.

    Meanwhile Marshal Murat was surrounded by 12 Russian dragoons but the dare-devil General Antoine-Charles-Louis Lasalle arrived and saved his life. Atteridge, biographer of Murat, wrote: "He [Murat] caught and mounted a riderless horse, but was hardly in the saddle again when he was cut off and surrounded by a party of Russian dragoons. He was fighting for his life, when Lasalle in person arrived to the rescue, cutting down several of the enemy."

    A well-mounted Saxon cavalry regiment charged into the fray but it didn't change the situation. Cavalrymen in blue, white, red and green uniforms all intermingled in one confused mass. Colonel Chipault of the 4th Cuirassiers had received 56 sabre cuts !

    1807: French cuirassiers 
vs Russian heavy cavalry.
Picture by Viktor Mazurovsky. Murat's 6.000-9,000 cavalrymen were thrown back by 3,000-4,500 Russians and Prussians. By day's end, each cavalryman sabre will be dripping with blood.
    If the cavalry fight between Uvarov and Murat was so impressive, why does it receive such little attention? Quite possibly, most historians and scholars have concluded that the cavalry engagement was minor in comparison with the infantry and artillery actions and has been treated accordingly.

    Photo taken in 2002 by Jan Kowalik. This is a photo of the northern part of the battlefield at Heilsberg (Lidzbark Warminski today). View from position of Legrand’s infantry and Murat’s cavalry (from the Lawden forest) on the Russian positions. Somewhere here took place large cavalry battle. Photo taken in 2002 by Jan Kowalik.


    Savary brought up the Guard Fusiliers to support Murat.
    He said "It would be better for us if he (Murat)
    was less brave and had a little more common sense."

    French Imperial Guard rescued Murat's cavalry.
    The gallant commander of the Russian cuirassiers, Kozhin, was killed.
    One of the cuirassiers picked up his body, threw over saddle
    and rode away to the Russian lines.

    Fusilier-Grenadier and
Fusilier-Chasseur. Early period. Napoleon watched the raging battle, hunched over the mane of his horse. He was surrounded by generals and staff officers, they sat motionless on their horses. They could hear the rumble of the cannonade and pillars of smoke rose into the air.
    Napoleon's ADC Jean-Marie René Savary then received order to take GdD Roussel's 4 battalions of Fusiliers of the Imperial Guard and 12 guns and support Murat. On came these gallant men of the Imperial Guard in magnificent formation. They marched in the direction where was fought the great cavalry battle and were almost swept away by the fleeing cuirassiers and dragoons.

    General Savary Marshal Murat met Savary and insisted that the guardsmen attack with bayonet. Savary was annoyed with Murat's actions: "It would be better for us if he (Murat) was less brave and had a little more common sense." Savary's guardsmen loaded their muskets and cannons and opened fire at close range.
    The enemy was checked by crisp volleys of the Guard fusiliers and many Russians and Prussians were unsaddled. The gallant commander of the Russian cuirassiers, GM Kozhin, was killed. One of the cuirassiers picked up his body, threw over saddle and rode away to the Russian lines.

    Encouraged by this success, Murat rallied his cavalry and made a dash at the Russians. There was no more show of resistance and the Russians disappeared to whence they came. It is due, however, to say that this attack of the Russian cavalry was of a most daring character, when the extent of their advance from all support is considered, and that they thus attacked the French positively in their own lines. Pity for their character that so dashing an advance should have been followed by so poor ending.

    Russian artillery opened fire on the Fusiliers. According to Thiers "The brave General Roussel, who was, sword in hand, amidst the Fusiliers of the Guard, had his head carried off by a cannon ball." (- Adolphe Thiers)
    And the same moment described by St.Hilaire: "The fusilier-chasseurs of the Young Guard, commanded by General Savary, were put in motion to support the Saint-Hilaire division; those proved themselves as prodigious combatants with an intrepidity, which marked them throughout all the army. General Roussel, chief of staff of the Guard, who was in the midst of them, had his head carried off by a ball. General Curial, colonel of the fusilier-chasseurs of the Young Guard, was seriously wounded as a combatant at the head of this regiment with his accustomed courage." (St.Hilaire - "History of the Imperial Guard.")

    One Russian cuirassier regiment was pursued by the French cavalry. The Russian unit, Polish-Horse Regiment (made of Poles and Lithuanians in Russian service) was sent to counter-attack. The Russians cried 'Hurrahh !' but their fighting spirit evaporated quickly. They halted and then fled in the wildest confusion completely routed, before making any contact with the enemy. (In the end of the campaign, and in the beginning of 1812 campaign, many troopers of this regiment, mostly Poles, deserted to Napoleon.)


    The French drummer-boys beat pas de charge.
    Officers, with their sabers unsheathed
    barked out orders and words that Russians
    remembered having heard many times
    and that always made a deep impression on them.

    Bagration's Die-Hards.
    Bagration's hard fighting troops
    lost approx. 50 % killed and wounded.

    With the repulse of Russian cuirassiers by French artillery and the Fusiliers of the Imperial Guard, the flank of Bagration was exposed. This warhorse however was still on the 'French' side of the Spuibach and St.Cyr's infantry division attacked him frontally.

    Being pressed from the front and having his right flank exposed Bagration rapidly fell back. Until now the hard fighting troops of Bagration lost approx. 50 % killed and wounded. During crossing the Spuibach Stream Bagration's horse was killed.

    General Bagration Bagration was the master of rear-guard or advance-guard fighting, and was a tactically aggressive commander. In April 1799 Bagration captured Brescia in Italy, then he defeated French General Serurier and forced another commander, Moreau, to retreat to Marengo. At Trebia he led the advance guard. In 1805 Bagration again commanded advance guard of Kutuzov's army and then during retreat took command over the rear guard. Prince Bagration was placed in the most dangerous situations, where it would be necessary to fight against overwhelming odds. His heroics in 1806-1807 as rear-guard commander are well-known in Russia.

    Bagration halted and deployed his troops behind Spuibach. St. Cyr attacked two times and two times Bagration threw him back. Carra St.Cyr's division then was furiously attacked by Russian infantry. The French 24th Light, 4th and 28th Line suffered heavy casualties. Two brigade commanders, GdB Vivies and GdB Ferey were wounded.

    French general Cyr's division was replaced with St.Hilaire's division. About 3 PM Saint-Hilaire went into action. Senior officers, riding out in front of the ranks with their sabers unsheathed, barked out orders and words that even Russian veterans remembered having heard many times and that always made a deep impression on them. The infantry marched through the fields, in cadence with the monotonous roll of the drums and took Bewernick. The Russians were awed by such bravery.
    After a vicious fight St.Hilaire succeeded in getting to the other bank of Spuibach.

    Meanwhile the 18th Line Infantry (nicknamed "The Brave") was detached from Legrand's division and marched north to outflank the Russian lines. It was then attacked by Cossacks near the village of Grossendorf. The 18th found itself isolated and in a difficult situation. Two more battalions and one battery were sent and only then the 18th was able to withdraw.

    Diebitzsch Grand Duke Constantine established a mighty battery on the right bank of the Alle River and pounded St.Cyr's and St.Hilaire's troops. This magnificient battery was commanded by Diebich or Diebitzsch - in early 1830s commander of the Russian army.

    Bennigsen ordered Bagration's die-hards to march behind the main Russian frontline and rest. Bagration's jagers crossed the river and marched south where they took positions by the redoubts facing south and south-west. Bagration's light cavalry remained on the northern side of the river and joined Uvarov's cavalry on the flank of army.
    About 6 PM Bagration himself joined Kamenski and his staff in the center of the Russian army.

    Legrand's division and Savary's Fusiliers moved to attack the Lawden Wood. The wood was defended by three weak jager regiments left there by Uvarov. After a long and fierce battle and several bayonet charges made by both sides the French captured the wood. Tactically it was very important as the wood gave support to the northern flank of the French line.

    Map of Battle of Heilsberg 1807.

    Map opf Battle of Heilsberg 1807
    Map of Battle of Heilsberg 1807 (Lidzbark Warminski).
    Link to a French website with maps of Heilsberg

    Oudinot suggested Napoleon go to the safety.
    Oudinot added jokingly that if the Emperor
    refuses then Oudinot's grenadiers will
    take him by force.

    Fight for the redoubts.
    About 7 pm French infantry entered one of the redoubts.

    By now Murat's cuirassiers and part of the dragoons were moved from the flank to the reserve. The remaining dragoons and the light cavalry guarded the northern flank against Cossacks and Uvarov's cavalry.
    More than the threat from the French cuirassiers and dragoons, the most severe trial for the Russian infantry was the artillery fire. Forced to remain on their feet by the French cavalry, the infantrymen were exposed to the cannonballs and to the fragments of shells.
    The Russian bear's fighting blood had been up and he kept on feeding reinforcements into the action. With Bagration's troops out of the way, the numerous Russian artillery deployed along the entire battle line opened fire.

    Battle of Helsberg 1807. Up and down the line, men were reeling and falling, horses plunging and mad with wounds, the men yelling, shells bursting, it was as if the last day of Pompei. The cannonballs were throwing up chunks of soil where they struck. Smoke, splinters, blood, wreck and carnage were indescribable.
    The galling fire of so many cannons made a tremendous moral effect on the infantry and cavalry. If the cannonball struck column of infantry, the first man would have his head taken off, the next was shot through the breast, the next through the stomach, and the fourth and fifth had all their bowels torn out. Many wounded horses were limping over the field and suffering. Colonel of the French 4th Line Regiment and commanders of both battalions were wounded.

    Meanwhile Bennigsen brought over the Alle River the 7th, 3rd, and 14th Division. The 1st and 2nd Division formed the reserve.

    "The French infantry rushed forward."
    Nothing could stop the 26th Light Infantry,
    they carried the redoubt about 7 PM.

    French infantrymen. The French infantry rushed forward as it was intolerable to stay under such cannonade. On the columns pushed, closing the gaps, dressing the line, their pace breaking into a run as they neared the earthworks under a galling fire.

    Colonel of the French 105th Line Infantry was wounded twice. Savary's Guard Fusiliers left the safety of the Lawden Wood and marched on Legrand's flank. The 26th Light Infantry stormed the Redoubt #2. With muzzles of their cannons projecting through the embrasueres and ammunition close at hand, the Russian gunners awaited the French.
    "Adolphe Thiers: "General Legrand then detached the 26th Light to attack that of the three redoubts which was within his reach. That gallant regiment dashed off at a run, carried the redoubt in spite of General Kamenski's troops, and kept possession of it, after an obstinate fight. But the officer who commanded the enemy's artillery, having had his guns drawn off at a gallop, quickly removed them to the rear, to a spot which commanded the redoubt and covered the 26th with grape, which made prodigious havoc."
    Terrible grape fire decimated the 26th, it was followed by musket volleys fired by two battalions at the redoubt. To modern man, long accustomed to repeating and automatic firearms, one, two, or even three rounds per minute is nothing to write home about. However, once one comes to grips with the idea of 600 men, packed into front of about 200 paces, able to fire anywhere from 1000 to 3000 rounds per minute, then the image alters drastically, even in the eyes of a modern soldier.

    Nothing could stop the 26th, they carried the redoubt about 7 PM. According to Military Journal of the IV Army Corps it was the 26th Light, but according to Russians the 26th was repulsed and the redoubt was taken by the Guard Fusiliers. Shikanov thinks that the 26th could indeed take the redoubt but the Fusiliers held it while the 26th continued its advance. The Russians claimed that they saw the Fusiliers very near to the redoubt.

    Half of the Prussian Towarzysze Regiment attacked the 26th Light before being driven back by musketry. The Prussians returned to Bennigsen's line passing between columns of Russian infantry.

    GM Warneck's troops (Pernov, Kalouga and Sievsk Musketeers) were near the Prussians and could see in the fading daylight the outline of enemy formations. Then came the yellow flashes, followed by loud explosions, and the field was blanketed in smoke and blood. Although the Russians suffered badly they were moving at the double quick as steadily as if at drill. The men of the 26th Light turned the captured guns against the musketeers and opened fire. General Warneck and numerous officers and men fell to the ground.

    The musketeers however pressed forward. Some French and Russian subunits crashed together with a force that caused a murderous rebound, and rippling aftershocks sent men tripping and sprawling in the pack ranks that followed. All order disintegrated in a wild, frenzied fight of point-blank shots and clubbed muskets, and the wounded and dying were trampled underfoot.

    The Kalouga Musketeers having its grenadier battalion in the front retook the Redoubt #2 at bayonet point.

    Russian counteroffensive.
    The fleeing French infantry run in the direction
    of Lawden Wood where stood d'Espagne's cuirassiers.
    The cuirassiers became disordered and fled too.

    Russian musketeers. 
Movie War and Peace, Russia. GL Knorring's 6th Divison, GM Titov's 3rd Divison, and Sukin's 2nd Division attacked along their fronts. Shikanov mentions two other musketier regiments advanced with the 2nd Division. The French held their ground with musketry and artillery fire. Once the advancing Russian columns halted under the murderous fire, the 10th Light, 43rd, and 46th counter-attacked. The 57th Line (nicknamed "The Terrible") also charged with bayonet. They pushed the Russians back but were shattered by canister and fell back.

    The Russian infantry returned and again attacked the French. The green coats captured (battalion) Eagle of the 36th Line Infantry. The French abandoned the area around Redoubt #2.

    Prussian Towarzysze in 1806, 
picture by Knotel The Russian musketeers and Prussian cavalry (Ziethen's dragoons and Towarzysze Regiment) rushed after the fleeing French. The fleeing French infantry run in the direction of Lawden Wood where stood GdD d'Espagne's 3rd Cuirassier Division. The cuirassiers became disordered and fled too.

    The Prussians then pursued the heavies into the midst of the French artillery where they cut down number of gunners. French infantry formed squares and delivered well-aimed volleys, the Prussians were forced to retire to their original position. GdD Oudinot suggested the Emperor go to the safety. Oudinot added jokingly that if the Emperor refuses then Oudinot's grenadiers will take him by force.

    The 55th Line lost their eagle, colonel,
    and number of officers.

    Legrand's division and Savary's Guard Fusiliers
    were formed in hollow squares, containing the
    Russian prisoners. The squares were then attacked
    by the Russian and Prussian cavalry ...

    St.Hilaire had sent 55th Line Infantry to support the brave 26th Light. Saint-Hilaire was considered by Napoleon as the bravest of all generals of the infantry. ("The brave General Saint-Hilaire, the pride of the army, as remarkable for his wit as for his military talents ..." - Baron Lejeune)
    St.Hilaire's division suffered heavy casualties from artillery fire. The colonel of 14th Line was wounded. Sweeping forward like an incoming tide, the 55th Line Infantry battled their way toward the redoubts, only to find their valor matched by that of their opponents.

    Russian infantryman in 1807 The 55th Line was attacked by Prussian cavalry and Russian infantry and was overthrown. They also lost their eagle, colonel, and number of officers. The eagle of 55th Line Regiment was captured by NCO Anton Antonov of Pernov Musketeers. After war the Pernov was awarded with georgievskiie znamenia.

    Prussian hussars capture
French Color. Picture by Knotel. Prussian historians claimed that the Prittwitz Hussars captured the Eagle. German artist Knotel painted a picture showing this moment. There is however no data, no names of Prussian soldiers who captured the Eagle, no nothing to back up this claim. So it looks like the Russians and not the Prussians did it.

    The confusion in this sector of the battlefield was riotous. Legrand's division and Savary's Fusiliers were formed in hollow squares, containing the Russian prisoners. The squares were then repeatedly attacked by Russian and Prussian cavalry and forced to retire behind Spuibach.

    The French line was pushed back
    beyond Spuibach Stream.

    The battle seemed over for the night.

    With Legrand's division and Savary's Fusiliers falling back, St.Hilaire's and St.Cyr's divisions found themselves close the Redoubt #1 but with exposed flank. So they, too, began withdrawal during which they have suffered heavy losses from the Russian artillery. Almost the whole French line was pushed back beyond Spuibach. Only the Lawden Wood was in French hands.
    Darkness was falling and the victorious Russians decided to go back to their redoubts. The battle seemed over for the night.

    Lannes' arrival and night furious attack.
    Warned by a French deserter
    of the impending attack,
    Bennigsen was prepared to meet it.

    Marshal Lannes Meanwhile arrived Marshal Lannes with his divisions. At about 10 PM he sent Verdier's division from the Lawden Wood forward against the Redoubt #2. Warned by a French deserter of the impending attack, Bennigsen was prepared to meet it.

    Bennigsen sent 14th Division on the right flank. The commander of this division, Olsufiev was wounded and replaced by GM Alexeiev. Verdier's division, supported by the 75th Line (of Legrand's division), advanced across the plain separating the two armies.
    The Russian gunners eagerly waited for such moment. Lannes' troops received such a load of iron that they rapidly fell back on the Lawden Wood. Then Bennigsen sent several jager battalions against the wood. The French repulsed them.

    It was dark, about 11 PM, when the last shots were fired. But there was no silence, the groans of the wounded and their heart-wrenching cries for water and help, made it impossible to rest.

    Rain fell. "Bennigsen, a prey to acute pain and to great perplexities, passed the night at bivouac, wrapped in his cloak. It requires a strong mind to defy at once physical pain and moral pain. General Bennigsen was capable of enduring both." ( Adolphe Thiers - "History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon." p 308 Vol II, publ. in 1849 in Philadelphia.)

    The next day, at noon the odour of the corpses
    festering in the sun became horrible.

    "Bagration was sick with fever and fell
    unconscious from his horse several times
    during the battle." - Charles Summerville

    In the morning both armies again faced one another. The men were hungry. Gonneville of the 6th Cuirassiers recorded: "The baggage had not come up; we had no bread or anything else to eat. I had a little tea made in a bit of a canister shot case." Russian artillery from the southern bank of the Alle cannonaded St.Cyr's division. Napoleon decided on dislodging Bennigsen by maneuvering.

    At noon the odour of the corpses festering in the sun became so horrible the troops had to retire some distance. Bennigsen received information that Marshal Davout's corps had been sighted on the Landsberg road. Bennigsen at first failed to appreciate the significance of the French appearance in that place. He conceived that the French were moving on Konigsberg, and that Lestocq's Prussians, might not be strong enough to resist the advance and cover Konigsberg, he therefore detached Kamenski with 9,000 men to join him and ordered Lestocq to retire to Konigsberg. Meanwhile Davout met Platov's Cossacks.

    Before midnight Bennigsen finally understood what is in store for him, he crossed the Alle River and quickly marched away. His movement was unperceived by the French. Jean Barres of the Imperial Guard wrote: "The day closed without result ... and we bivauacked on the ground we occupied, amidst the dead ..."

    There was no rest for Bagration's troops. Bagration was sick with fever and fell unconscious from his horse several times during the battle. "Bagration once more, with Platov's Cossacks, took the post in which he had already shown such marked capacity, the command of the rear guard. It was not tll the morning of the 12th was well advanced that the last troops had passed the river, burning the bridges behind them, as well as the camp on the right bank." (- Petre)


    "Heilsberg has been sadly overlooked by many
    who would rather bath in the light of Napoleon's
    more dazzling exploits."
    - Battlefield Anomalies

    "With such losses, it is easy to judge
    how fierce was the struggle."
    - Loraine Petre

    Napoleon and his Guard 
enter Heilsberg in 1807. Napoleon entered the town of Heilsberg (see picture), and wrote a short letter to Marie Countess Walewska and left. (In 1807 Napoleon fell in love with a Polish aristocrat, the Countess Walewska. She gave him a son, Alexandre, and remained faithful to him until he was exiled.)

    Fron Napoleon's point of view, it is certain that his object, in so far as it consisted of compelling Bennigsen to evacuate the position he had prepared with such care, could have been attained with trifling loss on the next day. As marshal Davout appeared beyond Bennigsen's right flank, there can be no doubt that he would have felt himself bound, as he actually did on the 11th, to seek temprorary safety, once more, on the right bank of the Alle River.

    "Of the tactics of the French in this terrible combat, there is not much that is favourable to be said. Napoleon attacked a very strong position with very inferior forces, for it was not till too late in the day to save the situation that Lannes' corps, Ney, and the Guard could reach the battlefield. The two latter took no part in the fighting, and merely served as a support on which the beaten corps in front could fall back.
    With Soult's endeavours, in face of an overwhelming enemy, no fault could be found. But for Napoleon's presence on the field, it is not impossible that that cautious marshal would have refrained from pressing his attack much beyond Bewernick, until the turning movement on the Russian right should take effect. Murat, on this day, appeared to no advantage. ...
    Napoleon was disgusted with behaviour of his cavalry; 'they did nothing I ordered' he said. Lannes' final attack, at 10 PM, was mere waste of life; it could not reasonably be expected to succeed with a single division." (Petre - "Napoleon's campaign in Poland, 1806-1807" pp 303-304)

    "But Heilsberg cannot be described as a French success. As at Eylau, Napoleon is left in possession of a battlefield, not a decisive victory." (Summerville - "Napoleon's Polish Gamble" p 124)

    "... Bagration's conduct of his rear guard action against Soult was admirable as his fight on the previous evening before Guttstadt. His steadfast resistance wore out the enemy, before they even arrived within striking distance of Bennigsen's line of battle.
    Similarly, Uvarov, and the Prussian cavalry behaved magnificently towards Lawden against Murat, Savary, and Legrand. The promptitude with which the Grand Duke Constantine supported Bagration, by his battery on the right bank of the Alle, must not be forgotten." (Petre - "Napoleon's campaign in Poland, 1806-1807" p 304-305)

    In the morning all the horrors of battlefield
    were clearly visible.

    In the morning all the horrors of battlefield were clearly visible. There were thousands upon thousands of wounded and killed soldiers who had been already stripped of all clothes. Large patches of grass were covered with blood. The level of suffering for the soldiers was beyond compare. There were bodies without heads, without legs, shot through the belly, with blown away foreheads, with holes in their chests, wounded, kicking horses.

    Faddei Bulgarin of Grand Duke Constantine Uhlans described how not far from Heilsberg his uhlans met a Frenchman who had his face shott off by canister. No skin, no eyes, no jaws, only tongue was left in the throat of this sufferer. Chalikov asked if there is a volunteer to shot thim and end his pain. There was not one man who wanted to do it. Finally the blacksmith of this regiment, a Swede named Tortus, agreed to do it. He drank vodka and took the Frenchman into a forest. The uhlans heard one shot and the matter was over. Bulgarin wrote that the entire night his every dream was about this poor guy.

    According to Shikanov the Russians lost 6.000 men at Heilsberg. The French lost 12,600 (1.398 killed, 10.359 wounded and 864 prisoners). Each side had 7 generals wounded.
    Loraine Petre writes: "The loss in this great battle was enormous on both sides. Soult's corps alone admittedly lost 6,601 the total loss of the French was probably at least 10,000.

    Yet there were engaged on their side only the corps of Soult, Murat, and one division of Lannes. The Russians had lost 2,000 or 3,000 killed and 5,000 or 6,000 wounded; in all, not less than 7,000 or 8,000 besides prisoners. the 1st and 2nd Divisions, and the greater part of the Russian cavalry, had not been engaged at all. With such losses, it is easy to judge how fierce was the struggle." (Petre - "Napoleon's campaign in Poland, 1806-1807" pp 302-303)

    Other sources gives the following casualties: Russians 8.000-11,000, French 11.000-13,000. Many generals and senior officers fell. Henri Lachoque writes: "... the brave General Roussel, chief of staff of the Guard, had his head blown off by a shell. Curial was severely wounded marching at the head of the Fusiliers-Chasseurs who covered themselves with clory. Major Vrigny and Captains Schramm, Deshayes, and Labusuquette were among the wounded." (Lachoque - "Anatomy of Glory" p 97)

    Baron Marbot writes: ".. Colonel Sicard was mortally wounded. He had already been wounded at Eylau, and although scarcely recovered from his injuries, had returned to take part in the renewed fighting. Before he died, the good colonel requested me to say his farewell to Marshal Augereau, and gave me a letter for his wife. I was very much upset by this painful scene. "

    After Heilsberg.
    From Heilsberg Bennigsen continued his march
    along the right bank of Alle River.

    After the battle of Heilsberg. Georges Blond writes: "Bennigsen, always as doleful as a sick dog, led his troops in retreat along the right bank of the Alle River in the direction of Konigsberg." Alle River makes a great bend to the east and north, so that the French, moving across the chord while he followed the arc, were able to outstrip him. Bennigsen crossed to the left bank of Alle only to find his way barred by Marshal Lannes' corps. (See map --> )

    Friedland was a battle Bennigsen should never have fought. It would have been wiser to have fallen back, behind the Pregel River, and united there with Lestocq's Prussian corps, which had been moving parallel with the Russian army but nearer the Baltic Sea.

    Bennigsen's defeat at Friedland strengthened the peace party at the Russian court. Grand Duke Constantine (Tsar's brother, commander of the Russian Imperial Guard), Prince Czartoryski (a Pole, friend and advisor of Tsar), Kurakin (Ambassador of Russia in Vienna in 1806 and in Paris in 1808), and many others, were now in the ascendant.

    Peace Treaty.
    Napoleon and Tsar Alexander
    met on a raft in the middle of
    the Nemunas River.

    Few days after the battle of Friedland, Napoleon and Tzar Alexander met at Tilsit. French author Georges Blond described the Tzar: "At 30, Tzar Alexander was a blue-eyed blond, extremely handsome. The French called him 'the Greek lover'. A born seducer, courteous, gallant, perpetually smiling, with all the symptoms of a sensitive heart easily moved. Six years earlier, he had coldly allowed his father, Paul I, to be murdered." Alexander asked Napoleon's agreement to inviting King of Prussia, and Napoleon said yes. Napoleon judged the king severely: "He is an extremely limited man, lacking character or talent, truley a simpleton, a dunce and a bore."

    Soon the Treaty of Tilsit was concluded. Napoleon and Tsar Alexander met on a raft in the middle of the Nemunas River. Marshal Davout had his entire III Army Corps in white trousers for the review celebrating the peace treaty.
    Fete given for the Russian Guard 
by the Grenadiers in 1807 at Tilsit. 
Picture by Chereau. "The engineers had built a large wooden hut in which the officers of the Guard were to feast their erstwhile opponents. On the 30th the sun shone briliantly in a cloudless sky. In a well-chosen meadow, a cannon-shot from the town, planks nailed to trestles formed picninc tables for the 'brotherly feast', arranged around a square in which the band would play.
    The meal consisted of soup, beef, mutton, pork, goose and chicken. To drink: beer, brandy in barrels at the ends of the tables.
    The Guards ate standing.
    Russian and French Guard. The Russians, initially suspicious and awkward, were reassured by the French. Coignet has left a detailed account of this feast, and although he may have exaggerated some details, he did so inadvertently, having written his memoirs more than 30 years after leaving the service and one can understand that this was in no way a formal banquet.
    'These hungry men [the Russians] could not restrain themselves: they knew nothing of the reserve which one should exhibit at table. They were given brandy to drink, which was the drink of the meal and, before offering them a glass, it was proper to drink and then to pass them a goblet in white metal containing a quarter of a litre. The contents immediately disappeared; they swallowed a morsel of meat as large as an egg with each swig. They were quickly uncomfortable and by signs, invited us to unbutton, as they were doing. We saw that, in order to exagerrate their manly chests, they were swathed in cloth, which we were disgusted to see them discard." ( Georges Blond - "La Grande Armee" p 158)

    France and Russia secretly agreed to aid each other in disputes — France pledged to aid Russia against Turkey, while Russia agreed to join the Continental System against Britain. Napoleon also convinced Alexander to instigate the Finnish War against Sweden in order to force Sweden to join the Continental System. Russia agreed to evacuate Wallachia and Moldavia, which had been occupied by Russian troops. The Ionian Islands, which had been captured by Russian navy, were to be handed over to the French.
    Prussia lost about half its territory: the left bank of the Elbe was awarded to the newly-created Kingdom of Westphalia, and the Polish lands in the Prussian possession were set up as the Duchy of Warsaw. Prussia was to reduce the army to 40,000 men.

    Napoleon and Tsar Alexander at Tilsit
determine the future of Europe. The treaty ended war between Russia and France and began an alliance between the two empires which rendered the rest of Europe almost powerless.

    However, Napoleon's matrimonial plans to marry the tsar's sister were stymied by Russian royalty.

    Sources and Links.
    Recommended Reading.

    Shikanov - 'Piervaia Polskaia Kampaniia 1806-7"
    von Höpfner - "Der Krieg von 1806 und 1807" Vol. III and IV
    Petre - "Napoleon's Campaign in Poland, 1806-1807"
    The Department of History at the US Military Academy - series of campaign atlases
    Georges Blond - "La Grande Armee" publ. in 1995
    Adolphe Thiers - "History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon." publ. in 1849
    Sir Wilson - "Brief remarks on the Character and Composition of the Russian Army,
    and a Sketch of the Campaigns in Poland in the Years 1806 and 1807"
    Summerville - "Napoleon's Polish Gamble"
    Map from The Department of History at the United States Military Academy
    Marshal Joachim Murat.
    Marshal Jean Lannes.
    Marshal Nicolas-Jean de Dieu Soult, duke de Dalmatie
    General Antoine-Charles-Louis de Lasalle.
    Levin August, Count von Bennigsen.
    Mihail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly
    Zahar Dmitrievich Olsuviev
    Fabian Vilhelmovich Sacken
    Fedor Karlovich Korff
    Matvei Ivanovich Platov
    Travel to Lidzbark Warminski.
    Mazury Travel Guide.

    French and Russian Order of battle - Heilsberg 1807

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    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies