Napoleon’s army is defeated at the Battle of Vyazma.
The Battle of Vyazma, occurred at the beginning of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. In this encounter, the rear guard of the Grande Armée was defeated by the Russians commanded by General Mikhail Andreyevich Miloradovich. Although the French repelled Miloradovich’s attempt to encircle and destroy the corps of Louis Nicolas Davout, they withdrew in a partial state of disorder after suffering heavy casualties from continued Russian attacks.
The French reversal at Vyazma was not decisive, but it was noteworthy because of its disruptive impact on the Grande Armée’s retreat.
Miloradovich’s cavalry attacked the disorganized French column holding the length of road which separated the I Corps from the IV and V Corps. Miloradovich also ordered his artillery, positioned on nearby heights, to begin a cannonade. The attack was a complete success, as it captured the French IV Corps baggage train and sent the French troops fleeing in disarray. Miloradovich then placed infantrymen and horse batteries astraddle the road, thereby severing Davout’s connection with the rest of the French army.
Simultaneous to Miloradovich’s attack to the west of Davout, Platov’s Cossacks attacked Davout from the east, supported by Paskevich’s troops. Davout’s infantrymen formed squares to meet the attack from Platov and Paskevich, and his artillerymen set up their pieces to return Miloradovich’s fire. The 14,000 exhausted, hunger-weakened soldiers of Davout’s Corps were now at risk of being overwhelmed and destroyed by the Russians.