The Battle of Krasniy on the 2nd (14th) of August.
Krasniy is a small provincial town 50km from Smolensk. Here the heroic episode that is known in the history of 1812 under the name "exploit of Neverovskiy" took place.
The situation on the theatre of war was th e following: both Russian armies , the 1st under command of defence minister General Barclay de Tolly and the 2nd under command of Prince Bagration, joined in Smolensk. This event had a very significant meaning - it was expected that the retreat of Russian armies would be finished here and armies would start the offensive operations - that was the request of big number of Russian officers supported by the entire society. Trying to meet these emotions Barclay ordered both armies to go to meet Napoleon by the right bank of Dnepr. Too much time was spent on different maneuvers and shifting from one road to another. Napoleon in his turn was going to get round our armies, to seize Smolensk and to cut us off the Moscow road. To fulfill this plan the whole French army crossed Dnepr to the left bank and advanced along the Smolensk road not expecting any serious resistance. But happened otherwise. The 27th Infantry division 8.000 in number under the command of General Dmitriy Petrovich Neverovskiy was located in town of Krasniy that was on the enemy army way.
Joachim Murat, King of Naples, leading 15.000 cavalry was in advance-guard of French army, he was followed by Ney with infantry. All this mass of troops at 3 p.m. on the 2nd (14th ) of August came down Krasniy and met the desperate resistance from Neverovskiy's side. The cavalry detachment that was in his disposal was easily disperse by Murat. At the very beginning Neverovskiy had prudently sent back along the road to Smolensk the 50th Jaeger regiment and two cannons. He himself took the position with the infantry behind the town but later having seen before him too unequal forces and been afraid to loose his back Neverovskiy undertook an skilful retreat to Smolensk trying to have casualties as small as possible but making great losses to enemy. Neverovskiy was inspiring his soldiers with the followings words "Guys! Remember what you were taught: there is no cavalry that can overcome you; just shoot accurately, not hurrying; do no one dare to shoot before my command!"
A.I.Mikhailovskiy-Danilevskiy in his "Description of Patriotic war of 1812" wrote: "the enemy was swiftly coming from two sides. He was let to come at close gun shot. Motionless stony square stood silently proportionally as a wall not paying attention to what occurred around it. The command "Alarm!" resounded. The drums took up and aimed fire was as grape-shot in a moment French cavalrymen and horses covered the ground".
And then was the miracle of unprecedented courage. Slowly retreating under the persistent impact of splendid cavalry of Murat our heroes took a high price for each their step. Bullets were hailing the French cavalry and when the last were able to come closer to our squares they were met by bayonets. For us the fighting was much facilitated as Neverovskiy detachment was moving along the wide road that was from both sides lined with dense rows of big birches serving as a natural cover against cavalry attacks. The deep ditches were between the road and an opened field, that was also hampering the operations of French cavalry. You can perfectly see it on the canvas. There between two lines of trees the Russian soldiers stand in a close order. They are shooting, charging, again shooting sending the death to French. In deep General Neverovskiy himself could be seen in cocked hat raising the naked sword. And from the field the French cavalry is rushing like a hurricane and … retreats back been unable under the hail of Russian bullets to breakthrough the natural barrier created by the trunks of birches.
The combat continued till the very evening when Neverovskiy's detachment having lost 1.500 came under defense of those two cannons that had been sent to Smolensk earlier and now opened the fire on enemy. The French decided that it was a strong reinforcement and were to halt. At night Neverovskiy stopped 6km from Smolensk . His unprecedented exploit aroused just admiration of French that gave him his due. One of French historians said " The battle of Krasniy demonstrate the superiority of well-trained infantry over the cavalry". Another one, the secretary of Napoleon, said "the most brilliant bravery of our soldiers was exhausted; attacking the dense column they were slashing it but could not crush Russians". The third acclaimed "Neverivskiy was retreating as a lion".
Prince Bagration reporting to Emperor Alexander about this event wrote: "It's impossible to praise the bravery and fortitude that absolutely new division displayed fighting against excessively outnumbered enemy forces. One can even say that there is no example of such a courage in any other army!"
The comments are edited by I.N.Bojeyarov. The album "Invasion of Napoleon. Patriotic war of 1812." St.Petersburg, 1911
Prepared for Publication by Poliakov O. Translated by Makarov M.
© 1997-1998, Published as part of the project "1812".