First Battle of Polotsk

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First Battle of Polotsk
Part of the French invasion of Russia (1812)
Date 17–18 August 1812
Location Polotsk, Belarus
Result Indecisive
Russians retreat
French advance toward Saint Petersburg halted[1]
Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Kingdom of Bavaria Kingdom of Bavaria
Commanders and leaders
Prince Peter Wittgenstein Nicolas Oudinot (WIA), Marquis Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr
22,000 troops,
135 cannons
18,000 troops,
120 cannons
Casualties and losses
4,500–5,500 6,000

In the First Battle of Polotsk, which took place on 17–18 August 1812, Russian troops under the command of Peter Wittgenstein fought French and Bavarian troops led by Nicolas Oudinot near the city of Polotsk, halting Oudinot's advance toward Saint Petersburg.[1] The First Battle of Polotsk should be distinguished from the Second Battle of Polotsk which took place during the same campaign two months later.[2]

After the battle of Klyastitsy and several minor losses Oudinot's Corps retreated to Polotsk. In the early morning of 17 August, the 1st Infantry Corps led by Wittgenstein attacked the French positions near the village of Spas, forcing the French to retreat. Oudinot transported additional units to the sector of the attack and also counterattacked in the centre. By the night both the French and the Russians managed to keep their positions. Oudinot was wounded and had to hand over the command to Gouvion Saint-Cyr.

The next morning Gouvion Saint-Cyr undertook a major offensive. He managed to mislead Wittgenstein about the area of the offensive, regroup his troops and suddenly attack the left flank and centre of the Russian positions. In the beginning the offensive was a major success, the French troops crushed the Russians and captured seven cannons. When the defeat seemed imminent, Wittgenstein organized a cavalry counterattack. It caused a scare among the French who had to cease the offensive and retreat. On the other hand, Wittgenstein retreated to the Drissa. For the next two months both the French and the Russians did not attempt to upset the balance of powers.

French-Bavarian losses numbered 6,000 killed, wounded, and missing while the Russians lost 5,500. Bavarian general officer losses were heavy. General of Infantry Bernhard Erasmus von Deroy was mortally wounded and General-Major Siebein was killed. General-Majors Vincenti and Raglovitch were both wounded. Among the French, both Oudinot and General of Brigade François Valentin were wounded. Russian Generals Berg, Hamen, and Kazatchkowski suffered wounds.[3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wittgenstein, Peter Khristianovich
  2. Hugh Seton-Watson (1967). The Russian Empire, 1801-1917: 1801-1917. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822152-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Smith, Digby. The Napoleonic Wars Data Book. London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9, 386–387

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