Europe 1812: Battle of Berezina
Suffering from the cold, exhausted supply lines, and repeated Russian attacks, the French retreat from Moscow soon degenerated into a disaster. In late November Napoleon narrowly managed to escape across the Berezina, evading a last Russian attempt to destroy his army but losing half his remaining troops. The emperor then raced back to Paris to raise new recruits while the remnants of his Grande Armée—some 10,000 of the over 400,000 who had marched on Moscow just months before—crossed out of Russia.
25–29 Oct 1812 Battle of Tordesillas▲
After his failure at Burgos, Wellington fell back to the Pisuerga river, where his 35,000-strong Anglo-Portuguese Army fought a series of defensive battles against the 53,000 advancing French under Joseph Souham. On 29 October the French seized the bridge across the Duero river at Tordesillas, compromising Wellington’s line and forcing him to retreat. A few days later, in the south, King Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Nicolas Soult retook Madrid. With the Allies now heavily outnumbered in Spain, Wellington withdrew to Ciudad Rodrigo, where he would prepare for the campaign of 1813.
31 Oct–1 Nov 1812 Battle of Aslanduz▲
Encouraged by Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in June 1812, the Persian crown prince Abbas Mirza led a large army into the Talish Khanate (in the south of modern Azerbaijan) and recaptured Lankaran. By October Abbas Mirza had reached the Araks river near Aslanduz, where his 14,000 Persian troops, 14 British guns, and 50 falconets were opposed by just over 2,200 Russians and 5 guns under the command of Pyotr Kotlyarevsky. Undaunted, Kotlyarevsky crossed the river by night and, in two main encounters over two days, ambushed the Persians and drove them back south. For the loss of 127 killed and wounded, the Russians inflicted several thousand casualties and captured 12 of their enemy’s guns, ending any Persian hopes of winning the war.
? Nov 1812–23 Jan 1813 Fall of Wahhabi Hejaz▲
In 1812 Muhammad Ali of Egypt, acting on behalf of the Ottoman Empire, invaded the Hejaz, which had been occupied by the Saudi and Wahhabi Emirate of Diriyah. Advancing from Yanbu, which they had seized bloodlessly in 1811, the Egyptians advanced inland towards Medina but were initially repulsed at Al-Safra. However, a renewed Egyptian offensive took Medina in November and drove the Saudis from Mecca the following January.
3 Nov 1812 Battle of Vyazma▲
By early November 1812 the French army had become stretched out in a column 100 km long and was wearied by constant Cossack attacks. Noticing a significant gap had developed near Vyazma, 26,500 Russians under Mikhail Miloradovich launched a major offensive against the 14,000-strong French rear under Louis Nicolas Davout. Davout was saved when Prince Eugène and Michel Ney brought in another 20,000 men to drive off the Russians, but the battle nonetheless cost the French some 7,000 casualties for 1,800 Russian losses.
15–18 Nov 1812 Battle of Krasnoi▲
By mid-November 1812 the retreating Grande Armée still contained some 80,000 troops, but about half of these were now unarmed, disorganized stragglers. At this point, as the French marched through Krasnoi, the Russians under Kutuzov and Miloradovich launched a four-day series of bombardments, ambushes, and raids that threatened to break down the French army. Although Napoleon managed to withdraw much of his forces, the French lost up to 13,000 killed and wounded, plus at least 20,000 stragglers captured, for Russian losses of just 5,000.
26–29 Nov 1812 Battle of Berezina▲
In late November 1812 Napoleon reunited with Victor and reached the Berezina river with some 49,000 French combatants and 40,000 stragglers, only to discover that the bridge at Borisov had been destroyed by the Russians. Sending Oudinot south to divert the 86,000 approaching Russians under Chichagov and Wittgenstein, Napoleon managed to buy time while a pontoon bridge was built and the opposing bank secured. The emperor and many of his troops crossed on the 27th–29th, thereby escaping encirclement, but lost over 20,000 combatants and almost all the stragglers in the process.