The battle of Eylau (February 8, 1807) is a victory dearly won by Napoleon I over the Russians in the former East Prussia. It was a real carnage where Napoleon I discovered for the first time the Russian immensity and the harshness of his winters. It will take victory at the Battle of Friedland, June 14, 1807, for Tsar Alexander I to agree to negotiate. Peace will be made in Tilsit.
The battle of Eylau: a carnage
On September 26, 1806, with British and Russian support as part of the Fourth Coalition, Frederick William III of Prussia issued an ultimatum to Napoleon I. The latter responded with a lightning war, the culmination of which, Jena (October 14, 1806), enabled him to enter Poland as a triumphant, then to organize the economic blockade of Russia. But, to save Königsberg - where Frederick William III took refuge - and East Prussia, Marshal Bennigsen went against the French.
The battle began on the morning of February 8, 1807, on the Eylau plain, in the midst of a storm. Exhausted by eleven days of march, hampered in their maneuvers and their mobility by snow and mud, the 40,000 imperial soldiers came up against 60,000 Russians. The charges of Marshals Davout, Murat and Ney end up pushing them back. But the Russians withdrew in good order, without real defeat, leaving behind a mass grave: 40,000 dead at least, tragic heroes who marked the collective memory to the point of inspiring in Balzac the story of Colonel Chabert, buried alive in a pauper's grave.
Napoleon, testifying to his emotion, did not leave the place until all the soldiers were buried; then he took up his winter quarters on the Vistula and reorganized his army (supplies, artillery). This ultimately wins him in Friedland (June 14), a victory leading to the signing of the Treaty of Tilsit (July 7, 1807).
- Eylau (February 8, 1807): The Polish countryside, from the sludge of Pultusk to the snows of Eylau by Frédéric Naulet. Economica, 2007.
- Eylau: The battle told by the soldiers of Pierre Robin. 2005.
- Dictionary of the battles of Napoleon: 1796-1815 by Alain Pigeard. Tallandier, 2004.