Battle of Malatitze, 31 August 1708

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The battle of Malatitze was a minor battle during the Swedish invasion of Russian of 1708 (Great Northern War). Charles XII of Sweden was attempting to march to Moscow, while hoping to force Tsar Peter the Great to offer battle. On 5 August Charles had crossed the Dnieper, and marched south east, as if he was intending to attack Severia. Once the Russians left their strong positions at Gorki, Charles turned back towards Smolensk. Peter responded by concentrating his forces between Charles and Smolensk.

The Russian position made a direct attack almost impossible. Peter camped along the river Belaya Natopa, with both of his flanks and his front protected by a swamp. Charles camped along the river Chernaya Natopa, at the edge of the same swamp.

Peter appears to have decided to risk an attack on the Swedish position. His plan was launch an attack on the Swedish right under cover of darkness. Once the Swedes moved to respond, the main Russian army would attack across the swamp.

The first part of the plan worked as expected. A strong Russian force (9,000 infantry and 4,000 dragoons), crossed the swamp under cover of darkness and mist. At 7 a.m. on 31 August they launched an attack on two isolated Swedish regiments at the right of the Swedish line.

That attack was repulsed, but only after the Swedes suffered around 300 dead and 500 wounded. Russian losses were higher, with 700 dead and 2,000 wounded, and the attack was repulsed without offering any chance for Peter to launch his main attack. Although the Russian attack was repulsed, it worried many of the Swedes. The Russian infantry had stood and fought with far more determination than earlier in the war.

In the aftermath of the battle of Malatitze Charles hoped that he might soon have another chance for battle, but by 3 September Peter had evacuated his lines. The main Russian army soon retreated into Russia, leaving a cavalry force to harass the Swedish advance. By 14 September Charles was forced to abandon the direct route towards Moscow, and head for Severia.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 August 2007), Battle of Malatitze, 31 August 1708 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_malatitze.html

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