Europe 1812: French occupation of Moscow
Napoleon pushed deep into Russia in the hope of drawing the Russians into a decisive battle, but it was not until the French army approached Moscow itself in early September 1812 that his opponents felt forced to make a stand at Borodino, on the road to the city. In the bloodiest day of fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, the French triumphed, marching on to occupy Moscow as the Russians withdrew.
24 Jul–18 Dec 1812 Siege of Riga▲
In July 1812 the French marshal Jacques MacDonald led 30,000 French and Prussian troops north into the Russian governorate of Courland, where he attempted to capture the important Baltic port of Riga. With the assistance of British gunboats, the Russians defended the port along the line of the Dvina river and made a number of counterattacks on French positions. After a five-month siege, in which neither side made significant gains, MacDonald was forced to withdraw in December after the collapse of the French invasion of Russia.
12 Aug–2 Nov 1812 Anglo-Allies in Madrid▲
After their victory at Salamanca, Wellington’s forces defeated the French at García Hernández and Majadahonda, before advancing to liberate Madrid on 12 August 1812. Meanwhile King Joseph Bonaparte withdrew to Valencia, ordering Marshal Soult to evacuate southern Spain and join him. With their two armies united, King Joseph and Soult marched back into Madrid in early November, finding that the now outnumbered Allies had abandoned it days earlier.
16–18 Aug 1812 Battle of Smolensk▲
In early August 1812 Napoleon decided to continue his advance into Russia and crossed the Dnieper with some 185,000 men in the hope of drawing the 125,000-strong Russians into battle to defend the holy city of Smolensk. On 16–17 August the French launched a series of assaults on the city, suffering perhaps 10,000 casualties for 6,000 Russian losses, but could not break through. The attacks, however, set off a fire that soon consumed the city, prompting the Russian commander General Barclay de Tolly to withdraw on the night of 17–18 August.
7 Sep 1812 Battle of Borodino▲
A week after the capture of Smolensk, Napoleon decided to push on towards Moscow. In response, the Russian commander General Mikhail Kutuzov drew up some 120,000 Russian troops at Borodino, halting the roughly 130,000 advancing French just west of Moscow. In a brutal battle, the French inflicted about 45,000 casualties on the Russians for the loss of some 35,000, but failed to achieve the decisive victory that Napoleon desired.
14 Sep 1812 Fall of Moscow▲
Following the Battle of Borodino, the Russians abandoned Moscow, which fell to the French on 14 September 1812. That night fire broke out in the city and raged on for six days, ultimately destroying three-quarters of Moscow but sparing most of the stored food supplies. Although the Russian government officially blamed the fire on the French, it was almost certainly lit by the Russians themselves as a scorched earth strategy. The French occupied the city for 36 days before Napoleon, realizing the futility of remaining there, began the evacuation.