The Battle of Berezina took place November 26-29, 1812, between the Grande Armée of Napoleon, retreating after his failed invasion of Russia, and the Russian armies under Mikhail Kutuzov, Peter Wittgenstein and Admiral Pavel Chichagov.
The French army, in impossible conditions, managed to construct a single-span bridge on the Berezina (near Borisov, Belarus), and to retreat across the river strategically intact.
The battle ended uncertainly. The French suffered losses upwards of 25,000 combatants and 20,000 camp followers and stragglers. The Russian losses were estimated at upwards of 20,000 combatants.
Since then, “Bérézina” has been used in French as a synonym for “disaster.”
This 90mm resin vignette, sculpted by Alan Ball, depicts a scene from the river crossing at Berezina. Specifically, a Lancer of the V (Polish) Corps has rescued a woman and child from the freezing waters, while another Lancer, unhorsed and drowning, clings desperately to the woman’s skirts. The mounted Lancer warns off the drowning man, for fear of being dragged into the icy river.
8 additional images. Click to enlarge.