On July 25 1812, Napoleon reaches Beshenkoviche and learns that Barclay has eluded him. Barclay is at Vitebsk waiting for Bagration to join him with the Second Army, and apparently preparing to fight. Barclay has left Count Ostermann-Tolstoy with about 12,000 men at Ostrovno to delay any French advance. Napoleon is cheered with news that the Russians are going to fight and writes: "We are on the eve of great events." Napoleon's letter is reproduced below.
Napoleon to M. MARET
Beshenkovitch, 25/A July, 1812. "Marshal Davoust had a battle on the 23rd at Mohilef; I have not yet learned the details. Bagration wished to trample over him and was defeated. A note, written at six in the evening, on the field of battle, said that the enemy had been defeated. To-day we had an affair with his advanced guard, and captured eight guns and 700 men. The Russian army is at Vitebsk. I tell you this for your information, but you need not write anything about it. We are on the eve of great events. . .
1. Adam Zamoyski, Moscow 1812. Napoleon’s Fatal March, New York 2004, pages 177