French Invasion of Russia

Hess maloyaroslavets
1812 Oct 15


Maloyaroslavets, Kaluga Oblast

Sitting in the ashes of a ruined city with no foreseeable prospect of Russian capitulation, idle troops, and supplies diminished by use and Russian operations of attrition, Napoleon had little choice but to withdraw his army from Moscow. He began the long retreat by the middle of October 1812, leaving the city himself on October 19. At the Battle of Maloyaroslavets, Kutuzov was able to force the French Army into using the same Smolensk road on which they had earlier moved east, the corridor of which had been stripped of food by both armies. This is often presented as an example of scorched earth tactics. Continuing to block the southern flank to prevent the French from returning by a different route, Kutuzov employed partisan tactics to repeatedly strike at the French train where it was weakest. As the retreating French train broke up and became separated, Cossack bands and light Russian cavalry assaulted isolated French units.