Napoleon’s army is struggling on its retreat. Its horses are dying, ill-fed and weakened. As the goods train falls apart, the rear-guard destroys wagons and armament to prevent it falling into Russian hands. On October 24, 1812, the army reaches Chirikovo where it leaves the old Kaluga road. The terrain is muddy after incessant rain, it is impossible to march any significant distance, and the losses of the army worsen day by day.
One unit is in the midst of ridding itself of armament when a passing gendarme accidentally drops his pistol. The sparks from it detonates the powder and the explosion kills several men. Many more are badly burned and perish over the next few days in hideous suffering.
By October 24, Kutuzov has caught up with Napoleon’s vanguard near the town of Maloyaroslavets. The battle here is furious and the little town changes hands several times, and is almost completely destroyed.
The battle eventually turns in the Russians’ favour. The French general Delzons who leads the vanguard and attacks the Russian positions is dead.
Thousands of men perish, but Kutuzov now commands the heights south of Little Yaroslavets, and can block the Grand Army’s path to Kaluga, where Napoleon hoped to replenish his food and supplies.</p
[Translated excerpts from КНИЖКА С КАРТИНКАМИ.]