Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIX
The March on Russia 1707-1708

CHARLES marched from Saxony on 22 August 1707, and again he belied all predictions. It was expected that, after twelve months of idleness in Saxony, he would be impatient to hurl his army into Russia. But he advanced eastwards without haste. For nearly two months he remained at Slupce, west of the Vistula, where reinforcements joined him from Sweden, bringing his army to full strength. It now comprised 8,450 cavalry, 16,000 dragoons, and 19,200 infantry, all well equipped and the majority seasoned troops. In addition he counted on Lewenhaupt's army, sixteen thousand strong, joining him from Riga. It was the finest army that Charles had ever commanded.

In Poland, he allowed his troops to live off the land, and they plundered the unfortunate Poles without mercy. Corrupt, inconstant, divided by petty jealousies, the Poles were, he considered, unworthy of attention. But he was taking no risks that Stanislas might be unseated, and when at the end of October he marched from Slupce, he left behind eight Swedish regiments under General Krassau to support the King.

As they advanced eastwards, Charles's troops began to suffer hardships. The Russians had laid waste the land through which they were passing. Heavy rains had turned the roads to quagmires, and severe frosts had followed the rains. By Christmas they had reached the Vistula River. The Russians had destroyed the bridges, but Charles, grown impatient and refusing to wait for the ice to thicken

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