Lesnaya, Battle of

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The battle of Lesnaya, fought on October 9, 1708, between the Russian army of Peter the Great and a Swedish column under General Adam Ludvig Lewenhaupt, played an important role in the campaign of that year through its weakening of the Swedish army. Russia's aim was to resist the attempt of Charles XII, King of Sweden, to invade Russia. Charles marched through Poland, reaching Grodno (now western Belarus) by January 1708, and resumed the march eastward toward Moscow the following June. Peter's army retreated before him, laying waste the land and offering occasional resistance. At the Russian-Polish border, Charles realized that he could go no further east, as he was running out of supplies, so he turned south toward the Ukraine. At the same time, General Lewenhaupt was moving southeast from Riga to join his king with 12,500 men, sixteen guns, and several thousand carts filled with supplies for the Swedish army. As Lewenhaupt approached the village of Lesnaya, on the small river Lesyanka southeast of Mogilev (now southeast Belarus), Peter brought up a flying corps of 5,000 infantry and 7,000 dragoons. Peter divided his forces into two columns, one commanded by himself, the other by his favorite, Alexander Menshikov. In a fortified camp made of the wagons, Lewenhaupt defended himself from noon on, until the Russian general Reinhold Bauer came up with another 5,000 dragoons. Around 7:00 p.m. the fighting stopped, and Lewenhaupt retreated south toward the main Swedish army, losing half his force and most of the supplies. Peter estimated the Russian losses at 1,111 killed and 2,856 wounded. The battle played an important role in sapping the strength of the Swedish army and provided Russia with an important psychological victory as well. To the end of his life Peter celebrated the day with major festivities at court.

See also: great northern war; peter i

Paul A. Bushkovitch

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Lesnaya, Battle of

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