September 7, 1812: The Battle of Borodino is fought.

Two hundred years ago on this day, over a hundred thousand soldiers from Napoleon’s Grand Armée met forces of around the same number from the Imperial Russian Army (under Mikhail Kutuzov) near Borodino, located 120 km west of Moscow. The ensuing battle was the bloodiest single-day action of all of the Napoleonic Wars, resulting in at least 70,000 casualties. Although Borodino was and is generally considered a French “victory”, the Grand Armée sufferedonly slightly fewer casualties than the Russians, and, in hindsight, Napoleon’s losses here may very well have cost him the war. The Russian army retreated following their defeat, leaving the path to Moscow open, so Napoleon trudged on, despite dwindling supplies and a weakened army. By the time he abandoned Moscow and made his retreat out of Russia, the Grand Armée could boast no more than 30,000 soldiers fit for battle, out of the original 690,000.

The battle was immortalized by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (written to honor the Russian defenders who fought at Borodino) and also by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace

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