and Napoleonic Wars
Napoleon was giving high praise to the fighting skills of the Cossack troops. He said
that one should give the Cossacks their due - it's them who gave Russia the victory in
that fatal for Napoleon campaign. "Cossacks are the best light troops among all that
exist. If I had them in my army, I would go through all the world with them".
Cossacks knew how to make raids! They were taught that by Circassian and Tartars, and
the Cossack raid was fast and sudden. Nobody in the French army could relax and be sure
that he wouldn't be attacked by the Cossacks. Cossacks were everywhere: it seemed like
every grove, every bush, was hiding one.
"You never know how to deal with them; if you spread into a line - they will
immediately form a column and will break the line. If you want to attack them by the
column - they quickly spread and embrace it from all sides" wrote one French
participant of Napoleon's campaign.
During the Battle of the Nations (at Leipzig), the French cavalry broke through the
lines of infantry and suddenly appeared at the settlement where Russian Emperor Alexander
I was stationed. The emperor was watching the overthrown troops and the help that was
going to reinforce them. However, the enemy's cavalry was real close, another moment - and
Russian tsar could be captive. The situation was saved by the Life Guard Cossack Regiment.
It was positioned at the bottom of the hill where the tsar was standing and attacked
French armor-clad cavalry with lances tilted forward. No wonder, tzars always considered
the Cossacks to be the best and most dedicated bodyguards.
And one more fact on Napoleon and his Russian campaign. I find this story rather funny
and ironic. In the fall of 1996 I was in Koblenz, Germany. During Napoleon's time Koblenz
was invaded by the French and even was for a while a major city of one of the French
provinces. In every tourist guide on Koblenz you will find a fountain erected under
Napoleon. It was to commemorate Napoleon's "certain impeding victory" in the
Russian campaign (the one where he attacked Russia with an army of 600,000 soldiers and
ran away with only 11,000). The Russians, after routing the French army, added the mocking
inscription "seen and approved". Francis Bacon expressed it perfectly: "The
monuments of wit survive the monuments of power."