Borodino (Cassell Military Paperbacks)

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The adult recruits were sent to one of the twenty-six or so recruit-training depots which had been set up a few years before the war - the infantry depots in and the cavalry depots in Altogether between fifty and sixty thousand men were being processed in these establishments at any time. The active forces possessed a further reserve in the shape of the Supply Army, which was composed of the second battalions of the infantry regiments and one out of every six squadrons of cavalry, which remained on the home grounds of the regiments and acted as sources of replacements for the first and third battalions and the active squadrons.

Shortly before the War of the Supply Army was reorganized as an active support force of eight divisions of infantry , men and three divisions of cavalry 12, The grenadier companies of the second battalions remained permanently with the field armies, and were formed into the combined grenadier battalions two per division which fought at Borodino.


Barclay organized the Russian infantry into corps on the French model. Each corps was composed of two divisions of infantry, with one or more companies of artillery and a regiment or brigade of cavalry. In turn each division was made up of three brigades - two brigades of line infantry and one of jaegers light infantry. The brigade was made up of two regiments of three battalions each including the second battalion with the Supply Army.

Borodino (Cassell Military Paperbacks)

In the actual strength of a battalion stood at about eight hundred men, who were divided among three companies of musketeers and one of grenadiers. The grenadier company was divided into two platoons. The first platoon was made up of grenadiers proper and stood on the right of the battalion.

The second was the jaeger platoon and stood on the left - an obvious crib from the French system of centre companies, grenadiers and voltigeurs. Until Barclay reformed the organization of the battalion in , the grenadiers and the jaegers had been selected by height the taller men to the grenadiers, the smaller to the jaegers , and the jaegers had formed a third rank along the 40 rear of the battalion, which was just about the worst possible position for their work. Barclay was determined that the grenadiers and jaegers should win their places by merit alone: 'The slightest fault will deprive the jaeger and the grenadier of his distinction, and by "fault" I mean not only carelessness in drill and similar mistakes, but any offence which is inconsistent with the good conduct and honour of a crack soldier.

He pointed out that 'the Russian soldier possesses all the higher military virtues.

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He is brave, keen, devoted and reliable. Consequently we have no need to resort to cruelty in order to find means of training him and keeping him in order. In June, , Barclay began the task of remedying these abuses. The shade of Suvorov must have looked on with approval. The same brisk and intelligent spirit informed the new tactics. Arakcheev himself had introduced a 'quick' step of paces to the minute to supplement the slow march, though on the parade ground both kinds were still carried out as a stiff-legged goose-step. Otherwise the emphasis was taken off drill and more time was devoted to practical training.

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Barclay wrote to the generals on 6 September, , that 'the main occupation of a soldier's training should be shooting at a target. The men can become good marksmen only when their officers avoid all compulsion and have a fundamental understanding of the mentality of the soldier. He ordered a considerable quantity of powder to be set aside for training, and described how a target two yards high and just over two feet wide should be painted with horizontal stripes so as to accustom the men to elevating or depressing the musket barrel according to the range. In the Code of Infantry Service, also pubhshed in , Barclay stressed that in 41 musketry instruction and every other kind of training the officers must 'refrain from dealing out punishment, and take care to explain the rules with patience, showing what ought to be done and how it ought to be done.

When you are teaching you should reserve chastisement only for occasions of carelessness, though even here you must proceed with moderation and prudence'. The small arms factories at Sestrovetsk and Tula turned out between , and , weapons a year - clumsy pieces which were never reduced to a uniform system. In the Russians went to war with twenty-eight different calibres of infantry muskets, and eleven kinds of short rifles which were issued on the basis of sixteen to every squadron of cuirassiers and dragoons, and twelve to the NCOs and best shots of each jaeger company.


Sixty thousand fine English muskets were given to the most deserving soldiers as rewards, which only added to the diversity. In any case the Russians were still under the spell of the Suvorovian doctrine which held that the bayonet was the true Russian weapon, and that the push with the bayonet was far more decisive than musketry. The Precepts for Infantry Officers on the Day of Battle, which came to the Second West Army in June, , stated that in the bayonet charge the true place of the officer was at the head of the men, and that this gallant individual 'could be sure that his subordinates, heartened by such an example, will never permit him to attack the enemy line alone'.

J Barclay's administrative and tactical system was applied throughout the infantry, and affected not just the line infantry but the grenadier regiments, the infantry regiments of the Imperial Guard and the jaeger regiments. The regiments of grenadiers are best described as a kind of super infantry, composed of men selected for their size and strength and distinguished by tall brass-fronted mitre hats.

The very best recruits were assigned to the infantry of the Imperial Guard, 42 which was composed of four regiments of heavy infantry, and two of jaegers recruited principally in Siberia and Finland. Sir Robert Wilson observed of the Guard that 'there cannot be a nobler corps, or one of more warlike description, and the simplicity of the dress gives to the man the full character of his figure and mien'. The jaeger regiments made up nearly one-third of the total of the infantry fifty regiments out of about They were prized for their high morale, though they received little specific training as light infantry, and were equipped and armed in the same way as the other foot soldiers.

These permanent regimental grenadiers and jaegers should not be confused with the grenadiers and jaegers of the elite company of the line battalion. At the beginning of operations in the Russian regular cavalry was composed of five regiments of heavy Lifeguard Cavalry, eight cuirassier regiments, thirty-six dragoon regiments, eleven regiments of hussars, three of uhlans lancers and some small units of Lifeguard Cossacks.

The largest single organization of Russian cavalry was the corps of three or four thousand riders, a formation which was dwarfed by the mighty combined cavalry corps which the French put into the field at Borodino. The Russian cavalry corps was composed of two divisions of three brigades each two brigades in t L j case of the cuirassiers.

There were ten divisions in all. Two or sometimes three regiments made up the brigade. The regiment, of about men, broke down into six squadrons one of which was detached on depot duty , and twelve half-squadrons of two platoons each. The Russian hussars sported much the same gorgeous and 43 highly impracticable uniforms as their counterparts in other armies.

The cuirassiers and dragoons wore metal-fronted, comb-tipped helmets in the Grecian style. The white-uniformed cuirassiers wore additional armour in the form of a heavy iron breastplate, lacquered in black, though in a spirit of misplaced heroism they scorned any cover for their backs.

The dragoons had no protection save their padded green jackets. The Russian cavalry put almost all its trust in cold stee. In , indeed, the standard carbines were withdrawn from all cavalry regiments, leaving sixteen men in each squadron with specialized firearms for their duty as flankers: the skirmishers of the heavy cavalry retained diminutive rifled carbines which were little more than stocked pistols, while the flankers of the hussars scattered small shot in every direction from an alarmingly unselective blunderbuss, the muzzle of which was in the shape of a flattened bell.

The attack on the enemy could be carried out either in deployed order of two ranks, with the second immediately behind the first, or by the column of platoons which was described as 'the best formation for every kind of movement'. The charge gathered momentum gradually: it began with a fifty-pace walk, changed to a trot for one hundred paces, and broke into a gallop for eighty before giving way to a furious carriere in which the horses were given their head for eighty more.

On either side of the main force the half-squadrons of sixteen men each swept forward in open order to guard the flanks. The Russian cavalry was mounted on tough, fast, if not very beautiful, horses from the Don and the Volga. As for the officers, Wilson noted that they attended to their duties 'with great zeal and diligence'. The Russian irregular cavalrymen, the cossacks, were the most exotic element in the entire army. They were the descen44 dants of outlaws and refugees who had settled on the lower reaches of the great rivers of southern Russia under the command of their atamans, or chiefs.

They constituted a permanent reserve of more than , men. Armed with lance, sword and pistol, they could ride for day after day at a steady five miles per hour, keeping up their spirits by the ingenious improvisations of their solo singers and the impact of their choruses - 'thundering peals of musical power and barbaric sublimity'.

They were excellent at outpost work and reconnaissance; they could mount excellent ambushes' and they were merciless in hunting down stragglers. In open combat, however, they did not prove particularly dangerous enemies. General Dumonceau, in his Memoirs, recalled that they made some noisy charges 'though if you keep up a bold front and are not intimidated by their deafening cries they will not press home the attack, but stop dead or fall back in order to prepare a new charge.

The moment the artillery opens up they make themselves scarce. Threaten them wuh a pistol or any kind of firearm and they will keep out of your way.

Battle of Borodino - WikiVisually

They never hold their ground or risk a personal combat unless they have odds in their favour of several to one. The Russian artillery had fallen somewhat behind the times by the beginning of the century, and the army came to Austerlitz in with guns that were heavy, powder that was dirty and artillerymen who did not understand their job. Prince Orlov loudly remarked that it was entirely a matter of luck whether Russian gunners hit their target or not.

It was Alexei Arakcheev who was largely responsible for putting things right. The System of introduced a new range of twelve- and six-pounder cannon and twenty-, tenand three-pounder 'unicorns'. These unicorns were longbarrelled howitzers of a type first designed by Danilov and Martinov in , and they threw explosive shells with greater velocity and accuracy than the six-inch howitzer of the French. The three-pounder unicorn went out of use before the War of , but the heavier models remained in service until the 45 Crimean War, after which many specimens found their way to Great Britain as prizes, where they may be recognized by the characteristic constriction at the exterior of the breech.

The elevating wedges of Arakcheev's guns were operated by screws, which gave greater accuracy, and the carriages as a whole were strong and light and equipped with admirable harness and tackle. The woodwork was painted apple green, and the brass barrels were rubbed until they shone like candlesticks. The Karbanov system of gun sights was fixed to the barrels in The lighter pieces were drawn by four of the strong but diminutive Russian draught-horses, eight or ten of which could pull a twelve-pounder into one side of a mountainous snowdrift and out the other.

The foundries at Bryansk, Ekaterinburg, Kamensk, Aleksandrovsk and other places were capable of casting eight hundred pieces a year for the armed forces, and great quantities of shot and shell were produced by the factories which had been established by Peter the Great in the Urals. As Wilson observed: 'No other army moves with so many guns, and in no other army is it the artillery in a better state of equipment. The field brigade was usually on an establishment of two companies of light artillery and one of heavy, each company being composed of up to twelve pieces.

The sixty-four guns of the Guard Artillery were on a separate roster of six companies. The job of the artillery on the attack, he said, was to knock out the opposing guns, but in a defensive battle it was better to concentrate one's fire against the infantry and cavalry.

At a range of a thousand paces it was worth chancing a shot only to check the range or to interfere with enemy movements; at six hundred paces artillery fire could cause considerable disruption and delay, but only became really murderous when the enemy closed to paces or less, in which case the gunners should fire as fast as possible.

At the beginning of the battle, however, Kutaisov believed that it was a good idea to 'conceal the number of your guns, and then increase the quantity in action as the comLdt goes on. In the Russian artillery the quality of the gunners and NCOs was generally high, though a gunner officer commanded little prestige in the army - the prototype of Tolstoy's Captain Tushin, who was blamed for having kept up the fight too long at Schongraben in On the day of battle the overall command of the artillery all too often fell to some ill-qualified oflScer who happened to have caught the eye of the generalissimo.

The Russians had a long tradition of field engineering, and in Paul put affairs on a sound basis by setting up a corps of pioneers. By the pioneers made up two regiments with a total complement of 2, men, a tiny force which was to exercise an influence out of all proportion to its size on the field of Borodino. The oflScer corps in general was a microcosm of the Russian upper classes, with its hard-working provincial 'Tushins', its brave, idle aristocrats, and its sprinkling of foreign careerists and adventurers.