Bogdanovich, vol. I, pgs. 145-149.

 The Fighting at Vilkomir, June 1812

Meanwhile, having sent orders to his various corps to withdraw to Sventsyany, the commander-in-chief of the 1st Army also sent his heavy transport trains there from Vilna on 15 (27) June, and he himself set off on 16 (28) June with the 3rd and 4th Infantry Corps, in three columns: the right (as one faced the enemy) was made up of the 3rd Infantry Division and was sent via the Zelenyi [Green] bridge, Verki, and Lyubovno; the middle was the 1st Grenadier Division sent around the left side of Viliya to Antovil and Britanishki, where a bridge was built on rafts; the left, made up of the entire 4th Infantry Corps, went to Antovil and Puzhany, where another bridge was built on rafts. (Note: In general, during the retreat from the western border the 1st Army was dependent on bridges built by the Guards Équipage, which carried out this work under the direction of government roads engineers.)

Having beaten back our outposts, at 6 o’clock in the morning the enemy attacked the 3rd Corps’ rearguard, energetically pursued it through Vilna, and at Antokol started a rather heated skirmish with the Life-Cossacks and Teptyar Regiment. Several men on either side were killed or wounded in this affair. The cossacks captured Captain Count Segur and seven troopers of the 8th Hussar Regiment. During the withdrawal from Vilna, our forces were able to take all personnel with them except 85 sick. The provisions magazine located in the city was burned, and after our troops had withdrawn over the bridges across the Viliya, they were destroyed.

Simultaneously with the retreat of the 3rd and 4th Infantry Corps, the 1st Infantry Corps withdrew from Keidany to Vilkomir, where it was united with the 1st Cavalry Corps. The 2nd Infantry Corps withdrew from Orzhishki through Shirvinty and Gedroitsy; the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Corps moved from Smorgony to Mikhalishki; the 6th Infantry Corps from Pared moved to Vilozhin to cut off the 2nd Western Army’s route of retreat.

On the same day the French occupied Vilna, 16 (28) June, there was an engagement near Vilkomir between Oudinot’s leading troops and Wittgenstein. With the arrival of the 1st Infantry Corps at Vilkomir on 15 (27) June, Graf Wittgenstein had halted there to allow the troops to rest after making three forced marches and to link up with Vlastov’s column retreating from Rossieny through Remigoly to Onikshty. Then to cover the main forces of this corps and keep the road from Shaty and Yanov to Vilkomir under observation, a rearguard was positioned some six versts in front of this city. It was under the command of Major General Kulnev and made up of the 23rd and 25th Jäger Regiments, four squadrons of the Grodno Hussars, three sotnias of Platov 4th’s Don Cossack Regiment, and six guns of Light Company No. 27.

On 16 (28) June, one of the parties sent out by General Kulnev discovered the enemy along the road from Shaty some seven versts from Develtovo. Upon receiving a report of this, Kulnev detached Captain Kempfert of the Grodno Hussar Regiment with his squadron and a cossack sotnia to reconnoiter the enemy’s strength. With limited attacks, Captain Kempfert delayed the French cavalry until infantry arrived to support them, and then, on Kulnev’s order, he retreated through the woods and joined the vanguard. During this he was wounded by a bullet in his leg. Shortly before this Kulnev had been sent six horse-artillery guns under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Sukhozanet 1st to replace the light artillery which had been in his column, and when the enemy following Kempfert brought several squadrons and battalions out of the woods, then Kulnev sent two guns forward under the cover of jägers and hussars. After allowing the enemy cavalry column, moving along the main road, within close cannon range, he gave the order to open fire. The enemy troops, who had no artillery with them, were thrown into disorder and took cover in the woods. Meanwhile Lieutenant General Uvarov, who had remained in Vilkomir with the 1st Cavalry Corps, foresaw a new attempt by the enemy and so sent the Nezhin Dragoon Regiment out in support.

At one in the afternoon, the enemy renewed their assault with six infantry and four cavalry columns and forced Kulnev to withdraw past the village of Develtovo. Our troops occupied advantageous positions there and stood fast for about two hours, using cannon fire from well-placed artillery along with cavalry attacks. Meanwhile, the main strength of the corps was able to cross the Sventa. After Kulnev had been informed of this, he too began to withdraw, screening his movement in open areas with mounted troops and in overgrown places with infantry. On reaching Vilkomir, he made a last cavalry attack which gave the rest of his troops time to pass through the town and cross over the Sventa. Then the cavalry also withdrew, covered by musket fire from the jägers deployed behind fences on the river’s left bank.

During the withdrawal, Graf Wittgenstein’s horse artillery experienced grave danger. When the rearguard was moving back and already approaching Vilkomir, Kulnev had kept with himself Lieutenant Colonel Sukhozanet with six horse-drawn guns and he now ordered this horse-artillery unit, standing in front of the town, to withdraw and follow after Graf Wittgenstein’s troops. The general-staff officer designated to show the way did not know the Vilkomir area and instead of leading the artillery through to the bridge across the Sventa, he led it to the left through the center of the town and to a small bridge built over a large stream flowing into the Sventa. Thus, the horse-artillery detachment was given a direction which separated it from the other forces in the corps...

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