Battle of Pultusk
The Battle of Pułtusk took place on 26 December 1806 during the War of the Fourth Coalition
War of the Fourth Coalition
The Fourth Coalition against Napoleon's French Empire was defeated in a war spanning 1806–1807. Coalition partners included Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and the United Kingdom....

 near Pułtusk, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. Approximately 35,000 Russian soldiers with 128 guns under General Levin August, Count von Bennigsen
Levin August, Count von Bennigsen
Levin August Gottlieb Theophil , Count von Bennigsen was a German general in the service of the Russian Empire....

 resisted the attacks of 25,000 First French Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 soldiers under Marshal
Marshal of France
The Marshal of France is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements...

 Jean Lannes
Jean Lannes
Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, was a Marshal of France. He was one of Napoleon's most daring and talented generals. Napoleon once commented on Lannes: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant"...

. The Russians withdrew the day after this Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 action. Pułtusk is located on the west bank of the River Narew
The Narew River , in western Belarus and north-eastern Poland, is a left tributary of the Vistula river...

 approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...


Strategic context

After defeating the Prussian army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...

 in the autumn of 1806, Emperor Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 entered partitioned
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 to confront the Russian army, which had been preparing to support the Prussians until their sudden defeat. Crossing the River Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

, the French advance corps took Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 on 28 November 1806.

The Russian army was under the overall command of Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 Mikhail Kamensky
Mikhail Kamensky
Count Mikhail Fedotovich Kamensky was a Russian Field Marshal prominent in the Catherinian wars and the Napoleonic campaigns....

, but he was old and becoming infirm. The Russian First Army of some 55,000 to 68,000 men, commanded by Count Bennigsen, had fallen back from the Vistula to the line of the River Wkra
Wkra is a river in north-eastern Poland, a tributary of the Narew river, with a length of 249 kilometres and the basin area of 5,322 km². .Towns and townships:* Bieżuń* Radzanów* Strzegowo* Glinojeck* Sochocin...

 (Ukra), in order to unite with the Second Army, about 37,000 strong, under General Friedrich Wilhelm von Buxhoeveden
Friedrich Wilhelm von Buxhoeveden
Friedrich Wilhelm Count von Buxhoevden was a Russian Infantry General and a government official. Buxhoeveden commanded the Russian armies during the Finnish War....

 (Buxhöwden), which was approaching from Russia and was still several days march from the First Army. However, realising his mistake in allowing the French to cross the Vistula, Kamensky advanced at the beginning of December to try to regain the line of the river. French forces crossed the Narew River
The Narew River , in western Belarus and north-eastern Poland, is a left tributary of the Vistula river...

 at Modlin
Modlin Fortress
Modlin Fortress is one of the biggest 19th century fortresses in Poland. It is located the town of Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki in district Modlin on the Narew river, some 50 kilometres north of Warsaw...

 on 10 December, and the Prussian Corps commanded by General-Leutnant Anton Wilhelm von L'Estocq
Anton Wilhelm von L'Estocq
Anton Wilhelm von L'Estocq was a Prussian cavalry general best known for his command of the Prussian troops at the Battle of Eylau.-Biography:...

 failed to retake Thorn (Toruń)
Toruń is an ancient city in northern Poland, on the Vistula River. Its population is more than 205,934 as of June 2009. Toruń is one of the oldest cities in Poland. The medieval old town of Toruń is the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus....

. This led Bennigsen on 11 December to issue orders to fall back and hold the line of the River Wkra.

When this was reported to Napoleon, he assumed the Russians were in full retreat. He ordered the forces under Marshal Joachim Murat
Joachim Murat
Joachim-Napoléon Murat , Marshal of France and Grand Admiral or Admiral of France, 1st Prince Murat, was Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808 and then King of Naples from 1808 to 1815...

 – the 3rd corps of Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout
Louis Nicolas Davout
Louis-Nicolas d'Avout , better known as Davout, 1st Duke of Auerstaedt, 1st Prince of Eckmühl, was a Marshal of France during the Napoleonic Era. His prodigious talent for war along with his reputation as a stern disciplinarian, earned him the title "The Iron Marshal"...

, 7th Corps of Marshal Pierre Augereau, 5th Corps under Lannes, and Murat's 1st Cavalry Reserve Corps – to pursue towards Pułtusk. Meanwhile, Marshal Michel Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

's 6th Corps, Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte's 1st Corps, and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières
Jean-Baptiste Bessières
Jean-Baptiste Bessières, 1st Duc d' Istria was a Marshal of France of the Napoleonic Era. His younger brother, Bertrand, followed in his footsteps and eventually became a Divisional General...

's 2nd Cavalry Reserve Corps turned the Russian right. Marshal Nicolas Soult's 4th Corps linked the two wings of the French army.

Kamensky reversed the Russian retreat, and he ordered an advance to support the troops on the River Wkra. On the night of 23 and 24 December, Davout's corps forced a crossing of the lower Wkra in the Battle of Czarnowo
Battle of Czarnowo
The Battle of Czarnowo on the night of 23–24 December 1806 saw troops of the First French Empire under the eye of Emperor Napoleon I launch an evening assault crossing of the Wkra River against Lieutenant General Alexander Ivanovich Ostermann-Tolstoy's defending Russian Empire forces...

. After engagements at Bieżuń
Bieżuń is a town in Żuromin County, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland, with 1,903 inhabitants on the Wkra River. Jedrzej of Golczew, castellan of Płock, estaqblished the town at the end of the 14th century. Prince Siemowit IV, Duke of Masovia granted the city rights charter in 1406 and in 1869,...

 on 23 December with Bessières and Soldau (Działdowo) on 25 December with Ney, the Prussian corps under L'Estocq was driven north towards Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

. Augereau's corps seized a second crossing of the Wkra on the 24th at Kołoząb. Realising the danger, Kamensky ordered a retreat on Ostrołęka. At this time the old field marshal appears to have had a mental breakdown and returned to Grodno. Bennigsen decided to disobey his superior's orders by standing and fighting on 26 December at Pułtusk. He had available the 2nd Division of Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Alexander Ivanovich Ostermann-Tolstoy
Alexander Ivanovich Ostermann-Tolstoy
Alexander Ivanovich Count Osterman-Tolstoy was a Russian nobleman and soldier in the era of the French Revolutionary Wars...

, the 6th Division of Lieutenant General Alexander Karlovich Sedmoratski, part of Lieutenant General Dmitry Golitsyn's 4th Division, and part of Lieutenant General Fabian Gottlieb von Osten-Sacken’s 3rd Division. To the north-west, most of the 4th Division commanded by Golitsyn and the 5th Division under Lieutenant General Dmitry Dokhturov
Dmitry Dokhturov
Dmitry Sergeyevich Dokhturov was a Russian Infantry General and a prominent military leader during the Patriotic War of 1812....

 fought the Battle of Gołymin on the same day.


The weather caused severe difficulties for both sides. Mild autumn weather had lasted longer than normal. The usual frosts, which rendered the inadequate roads passable after the muddy conditions of autumn, were broken by thaws. There was a thaw on 17 December and a two-day thaw on 26 and 27 December. The result was that both sides found it very difficult to manoeuvre; in particular the French (as they were advancing) had great difficulty bringing up their artillery. Davout recorded it took two hours to cover 2½ miles.

There were also difficulties with supply. Captain Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcelin, Baron de Marbot
Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcelin, Baron de Marbot
Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin Marbot , French soldier, son of General Jean Antoine Marbot , who died in the defence of Genoa under Masséna, was born at La Riviere ....

, who was serving with Augereau's Corps wrote:


Pułtusk lies on the west bank of the River Narew
The Narew River , in western Belarus and north-eastern Poland, is a left tributary of the Vistula river...

 with a suburb on the east bank. The road from Strzegociz crossed the river by a bridge and then ran north-west towards Gołymin
Gołymin is a village in Poland, approximately north of Warsaw. It is now divided into three sołectwos: Gołymin-Ośrodek , Gołymin-Północ and Gołymin-Południe .Gołymin is the birthplace of politician Tomasz Nałęcz...

. A second road from Warsaw entered the town from the south-west, and then ran along the west bank of the river towards Rozan
Różan is a town in Mazovian Voivodeship, Poland. It is located at around . Narew River flows through the town....

. Before it reached Pułtusk this road was joined by one from Nasielsk
Nasielsk is a small town in Masovian Voivodeship, Poland. It is located on a major Warsaw-Gdańsk rail line and serves as a junction, with an additional connection to Sierpc....

. Another longer route to Rozan ran along the east bank. The final road was that to Markow, which ran northwards from the town. The town itself lay on low ground. To the north and west lay a plateau, narrowing to a wide ridge nearer the river. A ravine cut into the plateau near the river. A large wood lay on the north-west side of the plateau, towards the village of Mosin. Further out from the plateau more woods covered the approaches from Warsaw.


Lannes commanded two infantry divisions under Generals of Division Louis Gabriel Suchet
Louis Gabriel Suchet
Louis Gabriel Suchet, 1st Duc d'Albufera was a Marshal of France and one of Napoleon's most brilliant generals.-Early career:...

 and Honoré Théodore Maxime Gazan de la Peyrière. Suchet's 1st Division included General of Brigade Michel Marie Claparède
Michel Marie Claparède
Michel Marie Claparède was a French general. His name is engraved on the Arc de Triomphe.- Life :...

's 3-battalion 17th Light Infantry Regiment, General of Brigade Honoré Charles Reille
Honoré Charles Reille
Honoré Charles Michel Joseph Reille was a Marshal of France, born in Antibes.Reille served in the early campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars under Dumouriez and Masséna, whose daughter Victoire he married. In 1800, Reille was appointed commander of the Italian city of Florence...

's 4-battalion 34th Line Infantry Regiment and 3-battalion 40th Line Infantry Regiment, and General of Brigade Dominique Honoré Antoine Vedel's 64th and 88th Line Infantry Regiments, three battalions each. Gazan's 2nd Division comprised General of Brigade Jean-François Graindorge's 3-battalion 21st Light Infantry Regiment and 2-battalion 28th Light Infantry Regiment and General of Brigade François Frédéric Campana
François Frédéric Campana
Francesco Federico Campana was an Italian général de brigade who served in the armies of Napoleon I of France.- Life :...

's 100th and 103rd Line Infantry Regiments, three battalions each. General of Brigade Anne-François-Charles Trelliard
Anne-François-Charles Trelliard
Anne-François-Charles Trelliard or Treillard or Treilhard, born 7 February 1764 – died 14 May 1832, joined the cavalry of the French Royal Army as a cadet gentleman in 1780. During the French Revolutionary Wars he fought in Germany and Holland, eventually rising in rank to become a general...

 led 12 squadrons of the corps cavalry, which consisted of the 9th and 10th Hussar
Hussar refers to a number of types of light cavalry which originated in Hungary in the 14th century, tracing its roots from Serbian medieval cavalry tradition, brought to Hungary in the course of the Serb migrations, which began in the late 14th century....

 Regiments and the 21st Chasseurs à Cheval Regiment. General of Brigade Louis Foucher de Careil commanded the corps artillery, 38 guns in four foot and two horse artillery batteries at full strength.

Historian Francis Loraine Petre
Francis Loraine Petre
Francis Loraine Petre OBE was a British civil servant in India and a military historian upon his retirement. He wrote a two-volume regimental history of the Norfolk Regiment, but is best known for his works on the Napoleonic Wars. The grandson of the 11th Baron Petre, he was educated at Oscott...

 wrote that General of Division Nicolas Léonard Beker
Nicolas Léonard Beker
Nicolas Léonard Beker or Nicolas Léonard Becker or Nicolas Léonard Bagert, born 18 January 1770 – died 18 November 1840, joined the French army as a dragoon before the French Revolutionary Wars and rose in rank to become a general officer. In 1800 he married the sister of Louis Desaix, who...

's 1,200-strong 5th Dragoon
The word dragoon originally meant mounted infantry, who were trained in horse riding as well as infantry fighting skills. However, usage altered over time and during the 18th century, dragoons evolved into conventional light cavalry units and personnel...

 Division was also present, but did not note its composition. Digby Smith
Digby Smith
Digby Smith is a British military historian. The son of a British career soldier, he was born in Hampshire, England, but spent several years in India and Pakistan as a child and youth. As a "boy soldier," he entered training in the British Army at the age of 16...

 placed Beker in charge of the 2nd Dragoon Division and listed the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 13th, and 22nd Dragoon Regiments as part of this unit. General of Brigade Joseph Augustin Fournier
Joseph Augustin Fournier
Joseph Augustin Fournier, Marquis d'Aultane, was a general of division of the French First Republic, and fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was born at Valréas , 18 August 1759. Louis XVIII confirmed his rank of Marquis, and he continued in Bourbon service after the...

 Marquis de D'Aultane was the acting commander of the 3rd Division of Davout's corps. This unit was made up of two brigades. General of Brigade Claude Petit led the 2-battalion 12th Line Infantry Regiment and the 3-battalion 21st Line Infantry Regiment. General of Brigade Nicolas Hyacinthe Gautier directed the 25th and 85th Line Infantry Regiments, two battalions each. General of Division Louis Michel Antoine Sahuc
Louis Michel Antoine Sahuc
Louis-Michel-Antoine Sahuc, born 7 January 1755 – died 24 October 1813, joined the French Royal Army and spent 20 years there before fighting in the French Revolutionary Wars. He rose to command a French cavalry regiment and later became a general officer...

 led the 4th Dragoon Division, which only had one brigade present. General of Brigade Jacques Léonard Laplanche commanded the 15th and 25th Dragoon Regiments. Fournier had 70 chasseurs à cheval, 100 dragoons, and only one artillery piece attached to his command.

Bennigsen commanded Ostermann-Tolstoy's 2nd Division, Sedmoratski's 6th Division, and elements of the 3rd and 4th Divisions. The 2nd Division had three infantry and one cavalry brigades. Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Nikolai Mazovsky directed the Pavlovski Grenadier and Rostov
Rostov is a town in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, one of the oldest in the country and a tourist center of the Golden Ring. It is located on the shores of Lake Nero, northeast of Moscow. Population:...

Musketeer Regiments, Major General Alexander Yakovlevich Sukin led the Petersburg Grenadier and Jeletzsky Musketeer Regiments, and Major General Ivan Andreievich Lieven commanded the 1st and 20th Jager
Jäger is the German word for "hunter", and also a common Jäger is the [[German language|German]] word for "[[hunter]]", and also a common Jäger is the [[German...

 Regiments. Major General Koschin's cavalry brigade included the Life Cuirassier
Cuirassiers were mounted cavalry soldiers equipped with armour and firearms, first appearing in late 15th-century Europe. They were the successors of the medieval armoured knights...

, Kargopol Dragoon, and Soum
Izyum , is a city situated on the Donets River in the Kharkiv Oblast of eastern Ukraine. Serving as the administrative center of the Iziumsky Raion , the city itself is also designated as a separate raion within the oblast, and is located approximately 75 miles southeast of the oblast capital,...

Hussar Regiments, plus two cossack units. There were a total of 60 artillery pieces in four foot batteries and one horse artillery batteries.

The 6th Division also controlled three infantry and one cavalry brigades. Major General Karl Gustav von Baggovut
Karl Gustav von Baggovut
Karl Gustav von Baggehufwudt September 1761 Perila, Estonia 18 October 1812 battle of Winkowo, Russian Empire was a Lieutenant General in Russian Empire taking part both in Napoleonic Wars and Finnish War...

 led the Starokolski Musketeer and 4th Jäger Regiments, Major General Vasili Sergeievich Rachmanov commanded the Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

and Nizov Musketeer Regiments, and Major General Fedosei Mikhailovich Bikov directed the Reval
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

and Volhynia
Volhynia, Volynia, or Volyn is a historic region in western Ukraine located between the rivers Prypiat and Southern Bug River, to the north of Galicia and Podolia; the region is named for the former city of Volyn or Velyn, said to have been located on the Southern Bug River, whose name may come...

Musketeer Regiments. Major General Karl Osipovich Lambert's cavalry brigade comprised the Ekaterinoslav Cuirassier, Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

Dragoon, and Alexandrov Hussar Regiments, plus one Tatar and one cossack unit. The 6th Division artillery numbered 72 guns in five foot and one horse artillery batteries. The units of the 3rd and 4th Divisions are not listed. Altogether, Bennigsen controlled 40,500 men in 66 battalions, 55 squadrons, and his artillery.


Bennigsen arrayed his forces along the Pułtusk-Gołymin road, with three lines composed respectively of 21, 18 and 5 battalions. The left rested on the town, the right on the Mosin wood. The artillery was positioned in front of the first line. On the extreme right Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly , was a Russian Field Marshal and Minister of War during Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and War of the Sixth Coalition.-Early life:...

 occupied part of the Mosin wood with three battalions, a cavalry regiment and an artillery battery covering the road to Gołymin. Baggovut covered the left of the line and the bridge over the Narew from a position in front of the ravine with ten battalions, two squadrons of dragoons and an artillery battery. Deployed along the edge of the ridge were 28 squadrons of cavalry linking Barclay de Tolly and Baggovut. Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

 cavalry was deployed in front of them.

Marshal Lannes had orders to cross the Narew at Pułtusk with his corps. He was aware that there was a Russian force in front of him, but did not know its size. After struggling through the mud, his first troops reached the area at about 10:00 AM, and drove the cossacks back onto the Russian main line. Because of the terrain, Lannes could only see the Russian advance positions on the extreme left and right with the cavalry between them.

Lannes deployed Suchet's division on his left, opposite the Mosin wood. Gazan's division covered the rest of the Russian line. The few guns were deployed on the left and in the centre.

At about 11:00 AM the French right advanced against Baggovut. The Russian cossacks and cavalry were driven back and Baggovut sent forward a Jäger
Jäger (military)
Jäger is a term that was adopted in the Enlightenment era in German-speaking states and others influenced by German military practice to describe a kind of light infantry, and it has continued in that use since then....

 unit, which was driven back despite artillery support. The French centre had also advanced, to attack Baggovut from the flank. But this manoeuvre exposed them to the Russian cavalry line, seven squadrons of which suddenly attacked the French flank in a sudden snow storm while Baggovut's cavalry and the jägers attacked from the front. A French infantry battalion then took the Russian cavalry in their flank. After a confused melee the Russians fell back to their original position. Lannes's cavalry division, under Trelliard tried to advance but was driven off by artillery fire.

At the same time as the French right attacked, on the French left Suchet's division, led by Lannes in person, attacked the position held by Barclay. The initial attack drove the Russians out of the wood, and captured the battery stationed there, but Barclay’s reserve drove the French back into the wood and recaptured the guns.

The French centre had also advanced. The Russian cavalry withdrew behind the main line, exposing the French to artillery fire from the Russian batteries.

By about 2 p.m. the French position looked dangerous. The Russian left had held, the French centre was suffering from the artillery fire, and on the right increasing pressure was beginning to force Suchet's men out of the wood. A French retreat looked a distinct possibility when unexpected reinforcements arrived.

The 3rd Division of Davout’s 3rd Corps, temporarily commanded by his Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

 Fournier, had been ordered to pursue a Russian column apparently retiring on Pułtusk. Concerned about the strength of the Russian cavalry force which was escorting guns and stores, Fournier had pursued but not engaged. He was preparing to stop for the night when he heard the sounds of combat to his right, and so marched his men towards Pułtusk. Due the state of the roads he was only able to bring up one gun.

Seeing this force approach, Bennigsen wheeled back his main line to face the wood, thus reducing the artillery fire directed at Lannes’s units. Barclay, finding Fournier attacking his right flank, fell back to the right of the main Russian line. Bennigsen reinforced him with two infantry regiments and some cavalry, and directed an artillery battery to fire on the wood. Thus reinforced Barclay attacked the wood. The French were driven out, and Fournier’s right flank exposed. This was attacked by twenty squadrons of Russian cavalry, but the 85th French Infantry Regiment formed squares and by a steady fire drove the cavalry off. At about 8:00 PM the combat died away, and Fournier retired to the edge of the woods.

The arrival of Fournier's division also had an effect on the French right wing. With the switch of much of the Russian artillery to support Barclay de Tolly, the French were able to use their own guns to support a fresh attack at about 2:00 PM on Baggovut by the brigades of Claparède and Vedel, supported by Gazan on their left. Baggovut's men were driven back over the ravine in their rear, and their guns captured. Ostermann-Tolstoy established a battery to Barclay's right and reinforced by five battalions he attacked. After a desperate fight the French were thrown back and the guns recaptured. The French right and centre fell back to their start positions as night fell.

During the night, Bennigsen decided to retire, and did so the next day, 27 December, using the longer road to Rozan along the east bank of the Narew. From there he continued his retreat to Ostrołęka. Fournier's division also moved off to rejoin the 3rd Corps at Golymin. Lannes was in no position to pursue the Russians, and occupied Pułtusk on 28 December.


Losses on both sides are disputed. Lannes claimed the Russians lost 2,000 killed, 3,000 wounded and 1,800 prisoners, a total of 6,800; Sir Robert Wilson
Robert Thomas Wilson
General Sir Robert Thomas Wilson Kt was a British general and politician who served in Egypt, Prussia, and was seconded to the Imperial Russian Army in 1812. He sat as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Southwark from 1818 to 1831...

, British liaison officer with the Russian army, claimed the Russians lost less than 5,000 men. Lannes admitted 700 French killed and 1,500 wounded; Russian authorities said the French losses were 7,000 killed and wounded and 70 prisoners. Given that the French were attacking and exposed to artillery fire a total for them of 7,000 killed, wounded and prisoners does not seem unreasonable, and a total of 5,000 casualties for the Russians seems a good estimate. Another authority gives French losses as five generals and 140 officers killed or wounded, 3,200 soldiers dead or wounded, and 700 captured. Russian losses are stated as 3,500 total, including 1,500 men and 12 guns captured. On the French side, Lannes, Bonnard, Claparède, and Vedel were all wounded.

Bennigsen claimed a victory. The consensus seems to be that having decided to fight, in defiance of his orders he could have better disposed his forces, taken the offensive and destroyed Lannes's corps before Fournier came up. Bennigsen said he thought he was facing 60,000 French under Napoleon in person, which may explain his defensive stance. Bennigsen also complained that Buxhoeveden did not support him, but that officer was obeying his orders to retire.

Lannes, on the other hand, was following his orders, and the result was to find himself facing a superior force in a good defensive position. Napoleon's orders had not allowed for this, and unaware of the odds against him Lannes attacked. If Fournier had not used his initiative and marched to the sound of the guns the result may have been very different.


At the Battle of Gołymin, Golitsyn successfully held off a superior French force. This, combined with the failure of Soult's corps to pass around the Russian right flank spoiled Napoleon’s chances of cutting the Russian line of retreat and trapping them against the River Narew.

The Russian 5th and 7th Divisions retired towards the main body of the army at Rozan. Bennigsen's forces fell back to Nowogród
Nowogród is a small town in northeastern Poland located about 13 km away from the city of Łomża, in Łomża County, in Podlaskie Voivodeship, with 1,998 inhabitants . It is centered on the area known as Skansen Kurpiowski which is an open air museum dedicated to Kurpie culture and a popular...

 on the River Narew, uniting on 1 January 1807 with the forces under Buxhoeveden.
On 28 December, Napoleon stopped his advance and, having lost contact with the Russian army, decided to go into winter quarters. His troops were exhausted and discontented, and the supply situation was in great disorder.

The break in hostilities did not last long. Soon afterward, Bennigsen was appointed army commander and he launched an unexpected winter offensive into East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

. Aimed at the French strategic left flank, the Russian blow was blunted at the Battle of Mohrungen
Battle of Mohrungen
In the Battle of Mohrungen on 25 January 1807, most of a First French Empire corps under the leadership of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte fought a strong Russian Empire advance guard led by Major General Evgeni Ivanovich Markov. The French pushed back the main Russian force, but a cavalry raid on...

 on 25 January 1807. Napoleon immediately counterattacked, trying to cut the Russian communications line that ran to the northeast. The French caught up with the Russians on 7 and 8 February 1807 and the dreadful Battle of Eylau
Battle of Eylau
The Battle of Eylau or Battle of Preussisch-Eylau, 7 and 8 February 1807, was a bloody and inconclusive battle between Napoléon's Grande Armée and a Russian Empire army under Levin August, Count von Bennigsen near the town of Preußisch Eylau in East Prussia. Late in the battle, the Russians...

was fought.

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