During the truce of summer 1813 the Russian army was transformed. By the time the autumn campaign began it was not just rested, well fed and reorganized but also much larger than had been the case in May. To understand how this happened requires us to retrace our steps a little and to look at events behind the front lines. In part this means understanding the complicated process of raising, training and equipping the hundreds of thousands of conscripts who reinforced the field armies in 1812–14. Just moving these forces from the Russian heartland to German battlefields was a challenge. In the autumn of 1812 the main training area of the reserve armies was in Nizhnii Novgorod province, some 1,840 kilometres even from Russia’s frontier with the Duchy of Warsaw. The war ministry reckoned that it took fifteen weeks of marching to cover this distance.1
Once in Poland and Germany, Russian armies had to be fed and supplied while operating a huge distance from their home bases. One way of putting this in perspective is to remember that more than half a million Russian soldiers served outside the empire’s borders in 1813– 14, and this in a Europe where only two cities had populations of more than 500,000. It is equally useful to recall Russia’s experience in the Seven Years War (1756–63), when Russian armies operated in the same German regions as in 1813. Their efforts were crucially undermined by the need to retreat eastwards hundreds of kilometres every autumn because they could not supply themselves on Prussian soil. For the Russians in 1813–14, to defeat Napoleon was only half the problem. Getting large armies to the battlefield in a state to fight him was as great a challenge and an achievement.2
In accordance with Barclay de Tolly’s January 1812 law on the field armies, as Russian troops advanced westwards a network of military roads spread across eastern and central Europe. It began well within the Russian Empire and stretched all the way to the front lines. Down these roads travelled the great majority of the reinforcements, ammunition and other supplies which kept the Russian army strong and in the field. At regular intervals along these roads food depots and hospitals were set up, and town commandants appointed. These commandants had detachments of up to 100 Bashkir and Kalmyk cavalry at their disposal, who if properly supervised were formidable military police. The commandant’s job was to make sure that roads and bridges were in good repair, and hospitals and depots properly supplied and administered. He registered the arrival and departure of all units on his stretch of road, reporting all movements to headquarters every ten days. The military roads made it much easier to ensure that troops en route to the front line were properly watched over, fed and cared for. The system was also a disincentive to desertion or marauding.3
The January 1812 (OS) army law also set out in some detail how Russian soldiers were to be supplied and fed when serving abroad. A sharp distinction was made between operating on the territory of allies, where all such matters were regulated by treaties between the states involved, and campaigning on enemy soil. The law made no allowance for neutrals: their territory should be treated in the same way as that of enemies. On hostile or neutral territory the army must supply itself from the land by requisition. Its day-to-day upkeep must not be the responsibility of the Russian treasury. Requisitioning should be carried out in orderly fashion, however, in order to preserve the troops’ discipline and protect the local population and economy. Wherever possible this must be done through the local administration, overseen by officials of the army’s intendancy. The intendant-general of the field army was ex officio to be the governor-general of all occupied territory and all officials were bound to obey his orders under threat of severe penalties for disobedience. Receipts were to be given for all food and materials requisitioned in order to prevent disorder and allow the local authorities to equalize burdens by repaying the holders of these receipts from their tax revenues.4
In the first half of 1813 Russian armies operated above all in Prussia and Poland. Well before the alliance with Frederick William was signed Alexander had agreed to pay for food requisitioned in Prussia. One-fifth of the value was to be paid immediately in Russian paper rubles, the rest subsequently in return for receipts. The instigator of this policy was Stein, who argued for it on political grounds and because it made no sense to ruin the population of a future ally, all of whose meagre resources would soon be needed for the war effort. This concession to the Prussians was never repeated when Russian troops were campaigning on Saxon and French territory.5
Immediately after the Russo-Prussian treaty of alliance was signed, the two governments came to an agreement on the upkeep of Russian forces operating on Prussian territory. Prussian commissars attached to Russian corps would requisition the necessary food in return for receipts. The commissars would then either arrange for food to be supplied from stores or for troops to be quartered on the population. The terms of repayment for the overall upkeep of the Russian forces on Prussian soil were generous. Food prices were calculated on a six-month average across the whole of Prussia, not at the hugely inflated rates of the districts in which masses of troops were actually operating. Three-eighths of the cost was to be covered by shipping grain from Russia to the Prussian ports, which the Russians were intending to do anyway for their own army. A further three-eighths would be in receipts, repayable after the end of the war. The final two-eighths was to be paid in paper rubles. Completely avoided was any requirement for the Russians to part with scarce silver and gold coin.6
The situation in the Duchy of Warsaw was very different, for this was conquered enemy territory. Polish food was to be crucial to the Russian war effort in 1813. Without it the Russian army could not have remained in the field in the summer and autumn of that year. The fact that all this requisitioned food was free was also vital for the Russian treasury. Though precision is impossible, the contribution of the Duchy of Warsaw to feeding and supplying both the Russian field armies and the Reserve Army, which was quartered on Polish territory from spring 1813, amounted to tens of millions of rubles.7
Russian policy in Poland was ambivalent, however. On the one hand, the Poles had to be milked if the Russian war effort was to be sustained. On the other hand, the emperor was anxious to win the loyalty of the Poles, whom he wished to make his future subjects. Kutuzov’s proclamation setting up the Polish provisional government in March 1813 promised that ‘all classes should feel His Imperial Majesty’s care for them and through this, and also through the abolition of conscription, would experience how great was the difference between his fatherly administration and the former one, which had been forced to plunder in order to satisfy the insatiable thirst for conquest of masters who called themselves allies’. Promised full pay, full protection for persons and property, and strict punishment for any bad behaviour by the troops, the overwhelming majority of Polish officials in the Duchy of Warsaw stayed in their jobs. This was a great benefit to the Russians, who could not remotely have found the cadres to run Poland themselves. It did mean, however, that most officials in Poland would only requisition energetically for the Russians if their own lives and careers were clearly at stake.8
The new provisional government was headed by two Russians: its deputy head was Alexander’s old friend, Nikolai Novosiltsev, a shrewd and tactful political operator whose appointment showed just how high a priority winning over the Poles was for the emperor. The head of the government, and simultaneously the governor-general of the Duchy, was the former intendant-general of Kutuzov’s army, Vasili Lanskoy, who was himself now replaced by Georg Kankrin. Lanskoy’s appointment underlined the even higher priority of using Poland to feed the Russian army, though most generals soon came to believe that he had ‘gone native’ and was serving Polish rather than Russian interests. For the Russians, however, the big problem was not in Warsaw but at provincial level. Despite what was said in the army law, it was impossible for the overstretched army’s intendancy to spare officials to oversee the Polish provincial administration. Nor could the army spare front-line officers. Kutuzov had appealed to Alexander to send officials from the Russian interior instead and this is what was done. But the number and quality of these officials was well below what was needed.9
On the whole, from January until the middle of May 1813 the feeding of the troops went well and caused few clashes. This was especially true in Prussia and in Prussian settlements in the Duchy of Warsaw, where the population detested Napoleon and saw the Russian troops as liberators. Even in Polish areas matters usually went reasonably well, though Kutuzov’s advance guard moving through the centre of the Duchy of Warsaw subsisted on biscuit for most of January and only received its wartime meat and vodka rations from the beginning of February. The Poles undoubtedly suffered but not as much as civilian populations in areas conquered by Napoleon or, in the Seven Years War, by Frederick the Great. The Russians imposed neither conscription nor a war indemnity. Their leaders tried with some success to sustain discipline and protect the civilian population. For example, on 18 February 1813 Kankrin published instructions for the feeding of the Russian troops from Polish stores or by the households on which they were quartered. After spelling out the troops’ proper rations, which for soldiers operating abroad included meat and spirits three times a week, he encouraged the local population to report any excessive demands or misbehaviour by the soldiers. Given the men’s exhaustion and the way in which traditional distrust of Poles had been fed by the events of 1812, the regular troops appear to have behaved remarkably well. On 23 March, writing from Kalicz, Kutuzov told his wife that ‘our soldiers’ behaviour surprises everyone here and the morals shown by the troops even surprise me’.10
For six weeks from mid-May 1813, however, the army faced a crisis as regards food supply. Barclay explained the reasons for this crisis in a key memorandum for Alexander. He stated that the army’s problems were the consequence of a year’s campaigning back and forth across an enormous area in a manner which had no precedent in history. Disorder was inevitable. ‘The army has drawn far ahead of the supplies prepared in Russia and has almost no food reserve left with its units.’ According to the terms of the convention, the Prussian government was supposed to feed Russian troops when they were on Prussian soil. In Silesia, however, the Prussians did not have enough in their magazines to feed even their own troops in May 1813. A little could be done if one was prepared to purchase supplies with silver but the army’s treasury was almost empty. It had received thus far in 1813 less than one-quarter of the money owed it by the ministry of finance. In the longer term, however, the answer to the army’s needs was not the use of limited Russian funds to buy food but instead effective requisitioning in the Duchy of Warsaw. The key aims of Barclay’s memorandum were to get Alexander to force the finance minister, Dmitrii Gurev, to release funds immediately and to make the governor-general of Warsaw, Vasili Lanskoy, carry out the army’s plan for massive requisitioning in the Duchy. Barclay concluded by stating that unless Alexander did this, ‘I cannot guarantee that we will not face catastrophic consequences which will have a fatal impact on our soldiers and on military operations’.11
In his report Barclay told Alexander that the only thing which had saved the soldiers from starvation in early June was the providential arrival of the mobile magazine of Chichagov’s former Army of the Danube. The large store of biscuit it carried had tided the troops over for a number of weeks. Initially put together in Podolia and Volhynia in the summer of 1812, the 2,340 surviving carts of this magazine had struggled forward through snow and mud for 1,000 kilometres or more, despite the fact that heavily loaded peasant carts were supposed to be able to operate over distances of only 150 kilometres. Many of the carts had been hastily constructed of unseasoned wood. Most were of light construction and all were low slung with small wheels. In the autumn and spring mud it was almost impossible for horses to pull them. In comparison to Austrian carts, noted the magazine’s commander subsequently, the Russian civilian ones in his magazine carried less goods, were more fragile, and required more horses.
Matters were not improved by the fact that initially many of these carts were drawn by oxen. Given their voracious appetites, it was impossible for a train pulled by oxen to move in winter. In January and February 1813 therefore the mobile magazine had come to a halt and its oxen had been turned into rations. Urged on by Kutuzov, the mobile magazine had got under way again once spring arrived, its oxen replaced by requisitioned horses, but its Heath Robinson appearance was accentuated by the fact that most of the horses were having to pull the carts with furnishings initially designed for oxen. Many of the drivers had never had to deal with horses before, had not been paid since departure, and were in some cases individuals whom their landlords were trying to get rid of. In the circumstances it was a miracle that the magazine turned up.12
The arrival of the mobile magazine bought enough time for the Prussians to get their system for supplying the Russians back in order. Once it became clear that the armistice would last for weeks, it was possible to disperse the army into quarters. The Russian cavalry commanders were always extremely concerned about their horses’ proper feeding: now their regiments could be redeployed to areas well behind the front where oats were plentiful. Meanwhile the Prussian authorities had been helpful in organizing a deal between Kankrin and private Prussian contractors, who offered 55,000 daily rations of flour and bread partly on credit and partly for paper rubles. In a theatre of operations the first deficit item was always carts. The arrival in mid-July of 4,000 carts of the main army’s mobile magazine was therefore a huge asset. Kankrin divided some of the mobile magazines’ carts into echelons to bring up supplies from Poland by stages. Others were utilized to pick up food purchased from or provided by the Prussians, which had previously been impossible to transport.13
By the time the main army’s magazine arrived, Alexander had already responded effectively to Barclay’s appeal for money. He immediately commandeered for army headquarters almost 2.5 million paper rubles of ministry of finance funds held in Germany14and he ordered Gurev to remit the remainder immediately, commenting that he himself was a witness to the army’s urgent needs. Faced with a direct imperial command, Gurev wrote to Barclay on 13 July that he had already sent him 4.8 million silver and 4 million paper rubles, and more was on the way.15
From the perspective of headquarters Gurev’s delay in sending money already agreed in the military budget was indefensible. Inevitably, the finance minister saw things differently. Even before Napoleon’s invasion, budget deficits could only be covered by the printing of paper money and fears of financial collapse were common. As a result of the war, expenditure shot up and revenues shrank. Nearly 25 per cent of anticipated revenue had failed to arrive in 1812. In the first quarter of 1813 things were worse: only 54 per cent of expected revenues had come in by late April. Gurev blamed ‘the shock felt throughout the state in 1812, when on top of normal taxes, both traditional and newly established in that year, the population was burdened by the mobilization of the militia, by recruit levies, by military demands, duties and contributions: by a very conservative estimate all this amounted to over 200 million rubles’. Faced with a vast looming deficit all Gurev could do was to reduce expenditure wherever possible and fill the gap with additional printing of paper money. In April 1813 he predicted that if the war lasted throughout 1814 and its financing continued as at present then ‘no means will remain to rescue us from the final destruction of our financial system’.16
Although Gurev feared hyper-inflation within Russia he tended to believe that the enormous amount of economic activity linked to repairing the damage caused by Napoleon’s invasion would mop up much of the newly issued paper money. So too would growing Russian external trade now the Continental System was destroyed once and for all. The finance minister’s true source of panic was the large amounts of Russian paper money which the Field Army was spending abroad. No foreigner would wish to hang on to this money, nor would private individuals use it in payment for goods and services provided by other Germans. Therefore the entire sum was likely to be remitted back to Russia for exchange, with dire consequences for the ruble’s rate against foreign currencies.
Gurev warned that if the paper ruble’s exchange rate collapsed, the Field Army’s financing would become impossible. To avoid this he dragged his heels as regards remitting funds to army headquarters and got the committee of ministers to agree to a number of proposals, including paying officers and men abroad only half their pay with the remainder to be given them on return to Russia. Gurev’s argument, partly true, was that officers and men serving abroad to a great extent lived off the land and did not need much cash. Nevertheless, had it been implemented, the impact of this policy on the morale of the troops can easily be imagined: the army was already very badly paid by European standards and was fighting an exhausting campaign on foreign territory in a cause many even of the officers did not understand.17
Faced with peremptory orders from the emperor, Gurev would have released funds for the army in all circumstances but he was also greatly encouraged in this direction by news of a large impending British subsidy, of which he had despaired. In 1812 Alexander had not requested a British subsidy. This was partly a question of pride. In addition, fighting on his own territory he could finance the war without great difficulty. Perhaps for this reason, it was actually many months after diplomatic relations with Britain were restored that Alexander got round to appointing an ambassador in London. Once Russian armies advanced across the empire’s borders, however, the matter became urgent and the emperor nominated Christoph Lieven and sent him to London in January 1813 with a message for the British government: ‘In the present circumstances every dispatch of troops abroad is becoming very expensive for me. It requires the emission of metallic currency which totally undermines our rate of exchange. This would have a serious effect on our finances which they could not ultimately sustain, since the state’s revenues are bound to shrink considerably this year as a result of the complete devastation of some provinces.’ Lieven was ordered both to ask for a subsidy and to present the British government with a scheme for ‘Federal Paper Money’. This paper was to bear interest and to be redeemable immediately after the war. It was to be guaranteed by the British, Russian and Prussian governments, and was to be used to pay for part of the Russian and Prussian war effort. The scheme had been devised in Petersburg with the help, among others, not just of Stein but of the British financier Sir Francis d’Ivernois.18
Given British resistance to subsidies in 1806–7, Alexander may have expected tough negotiations in London. In fact Lieven found that the British were willing to offer Russia £1.33 million in subsidy and that a further £3.3 million would accrue as their share of the Federal Paper scheme. In the context of overall British overseas payments and subsidies these sums were relatively modest. The war in the Peninsula had cost the British £11 million in 1811 and all subsidies represented less than 8 per cent of the cost of Britain’s own armed forces. When calculated in paper rubles, however, £4.6 million was a mighty sum, which in principle should cover almost all Russian projected expenditure on the campaign in Germany for the remaining seven months of 1813. To be sure, the cash was slow to arrive, exchange and discounting costs took their toll, and some predictions on expenditure proved optimistic, but the British subsidy went some way towards calming Gurev’s worries at least for a time.19
If Alexander’s orders to Gurev were peremptory, his instructions to the governor-general of Warsaw, Vasili Lanskoy, were positively brutal. On 12 June Kankrin had set out the army’s requirement from the Duchy for 3 million kilos of flour, 400,000 kilos of groats, 250,000 litres of vodka, 330,000 kilos of meat and 1,000 cattle on the hoof, and a huge amount of oats for the horses. Barclay wrote to Lanskoy the next day that ‘all the supplies assigned from the provinces of the Duchy of Warsaw are to be levied immediately for it is these supplies alone which can guarantee the army’s victualling…the slightest slowness or deficits can lead to the troops suffering from severe hunger and can wreck the army’s condition and its ability to conduct military operations’. When Lanskoy pleaded the Duchy’s poverty and the foodstuffs already requisitioned by the army, he received one of the fiercest letters written by the emperor during the whole course of 1812–14. Telling his governor-general that the fate of the army, the war and of Europe depended on this requisition, Alexander warned him that he would bear personal responsibility for any failure to levy the full amount and deliver it to the army on time and by requisitioned Polish civilian carts.20
After receiving this command from Alexander, Lanskoy of course caved in totally, telling local officials that ‘no excuses of any sort will be accepted from anyone’, but Barclay remained unconvinced that the Polish provincial administration would carry out the requisition promptly and strictly. He therefore sent two special commissars to watch over them, armed with all the powers provided for in the Field Army law when it came to dealing with obstruction by officials in conquered territory. He gave these commissars an open letter commanding all officials ‘to execute the orders concerning the requisitioning and dispatch of supplies to the letter and without any deviation: any slowness, mistakes or, still worse, disobedience…will without fail result in a court martial under the army’s regulations for field courts martial and on a charge of treason’. Meanwhile orders went out to the commanding officer in the Duchy, General Dokhturov, to use his troops to enforce the levy. The Ukrainian mounted militia, in some cases of little use against the French, were formidable when it came to requisitioning Polish peasants’ carts to transport the supplies.21
Immediately after the armistice was signed Barclay got down to the business of reorganizing, re-equipping and training his troops. For this task he was the perfect leader. On 10 June he issued an order of the day to the soldiers and their commanding officers. He told the troops that they had not been defeated, and that they had lost not a gun nor an unwounded prisoner of war to the enemy. The armistice meant not peace but a chance to concentrate Russian and allied strength and make the preparations essential for a new and victorious campaign. Commanding officers were instructed that ‘their duty during the armistice period will be to devote all their efforts to ensuring that weapons, equipment and suchlike are in proper order; to maintaining the soldiers’ health; to preserving strict order and discipline; to training inexperienced soldiers in military skills; in a word to bringing each unit to a state of perfect readiness to achieve new victories’.22
During the two-month truce the measures taken earlier to re-uniform the troops bore fruit. On 16 July Kankrin reported that enough canvas for summer trousers and enough boots had now arrived for the entire army. In March Alexander had authorized the expenditure of 3.5 million rubles to pay for new coats and tunics for most units of the line. These were provided by private contractors in Königsberg and arrived during the armistice. Initially the cost was expected to be greater but Barclay de Tolly found and requisitioned a large store of excellent cloth in Posen in February initially earmarked for Napoleon’s army. This met the needs not just of Barclay’s own corps but also of the Guards. Still better, it was paid for by the Polish taxpayer.23
Meanwhile, immediately after the armistice was signed and as an urgent priority, Barclay ordered a check on all muskets to try to reduce the number of different weapons and calibres in battalions. Captain Radozhitsky was one of the artillery officers assigned to this job. He wrote in his memoirs that he checked 30,000 firearms in ten days and came to the conclusion that the main problem lay with men returning from hospital who were simply given the first gun available before being dispatched to their regiments. He also stated that many soldiers in the line infantry regiments had old and useless muskets, though in fact this was only true in some divisions. Thanks to the efforts of Radozhitsky and his comrades, muskets were swapped between battalions to ensure much greater uniformity and thereby make the supply of ammunition more efficient.24
None of these efforts by Barclay would have added up to much had he not got down immediately to sorting out the administrative confusion bequeathed, in part anyway, by Wittgenstein. It was after all hard to feed or re-equip men if headquarters did not know where units were or how many soldiers were actually in their ranks. Passing orders down the military hierarchy was impossible if divisions were apart from their correct corps, or regiments from their brigades and divisions. Another prerequisite for any kind of order in the army was reuniting detachments with their parent regiments and getting rid of temporary composite units. It was time too to reunite the shrunken reserve (i.e. second) battalions with the rest of their regiments. Immediately after the truce was agreed Barclay went to war on these issues. Within a week he had new tables issued listing the brigades, divisions and corps to which every regiment belonged and showing where all these units were to be deployed and quartered. He enjoyed about 95 per cent success in re-imposing a clear and logical structure on his army by the end of June. So long as ‘partisan’ units existed and combined a majority of Cossacks with detached squadrons of regular cavalry total success was impossible.25
There remained one vital task: to integrate into the Field Army the tens of thousands of reinforcements who arrived during the armistice. Some of these were men returning from hospital or from detachments. As veterans, they were particularly valuable. Most of the new arrivals, however, came from the 200,000-strong reserve units formed in Russia during the winter of 1812–13 from new conscripts. For each regiment on campaign, a reserve battalion of 1,000 men, divided into four companies, was created within Russia. When these new battalions were ready, Alexander’s plan was that some of their companies would be dispatched to reinforce the armies in the field but a sufficient cadre would remain behind to train the next wave of recruits. These would bring the battalion back to full strength and allow, in time, yet more reinforcements to be sent to join the field armies. Similar arrangements were to be made for the artillery and cavalry. In the latter’s case, for every regiment on campaign, two reserve squadrons, each of 201 men, would be formed within the empire.26
In all, more than 650,000 men were conscripted into the army in 1812–14. The great majority of these were netted in the three general call-ups between August 1812 and August 1813 (83rd, 84th, 85th recruit levies) which covered almost all the empire’s provinces. In addition, however, a number of smaller call-ups targeted specific provinces. Since noble estates bore the burden of recruitment for the militia, these recruit levies above all targeted the 40 per cent of peasants who lived on state lands. The authorities realized that unless existing requirements were relaxed, they might not meet their quota of recruits. Therefore the age limit for new conscripts was raised to 40, the minimum height was reduced to just over one and a half metres, and men with minor physical defects were accepted. The huge demand for recruits meant that older and married men were conscripted in large numbers. Even if they survived the war, they faced decades of peacetime service. Tens of thousands of women would never see their husbands again but had no right to remarry, and many young families lost their main breadwinner.27
The 1810 regulations for state peasants required that recruitment records be kept which would guarantee both that obligations were fairly shared among households and that the burden of conscription fell on big families with many adult males rather than on small families which it would ruin.28 In 1812 recruit boards were ordered by the war ministry to check these records and at least in Riazan province – for which the sources are exceptionally full – the records were actually submitted along with the conscripts to show that due process had been observed.29
Pamfil Nazarov was a state peasant conscripted into the army in September 1812. His memoirs are a unique insight into conscription as seen from below. Nowhere in the memoirs does Nazarov suggest that his recruitment was unjust. On the basis of his family’s previous record of conscription and of the number of its adult males the Nazarov household was in line to provide a recruit. As was always the case, the peasant communal government targeted households, not individuals. It was up to the household itself to decide whom to send into the army. In this era most peasant households were extended families, including a number of married brothers and their children. It was notorious that the head of the household generally sent his nephews and even brothers into the army rather than his own sons. But in the Nazarov family it was clear that Pamfil was the only possible choice. Both his elder brothers were married: one had children, the other was weak. His younger brother was still under age.
Pamfil on the contrary was a strong, unmarried lad of 20. None of his family wanted to lose him: an atmosphere of misery reigned for days, with both Pamfil and his mother in particular sometimes overcome with tears. In September 1812 Napoleon was marching into the Russian heartland. Pamfil’s own province, Tver, was threatened and Moscow fell in the midst of his induction into the army. Pamfil was untouched by any feeling of patriotism or awareness of the broader political context, however. Instead he was possessed by numb misery and fear at the prospect of being ripped out of his accustomed world of family and village, and thrust into the alien and brutal life of a soldier. Resigned fortitude, and in Pamfil’s case prayer and obedience to God’s will, were his only support, as was true of the overwhelming majority of peasant conscripts in these years.
Pamfil was accompanied by his brothers and grandfather to the recruit board in the town of Tver. The governor of Tver province presided ex officio over the board and himself inspected Pamfil briefly. The medical inspection was barely more thorough. Once Pamfil stated that he was in good health it amounted to no more than a check on his teeth and a brief glance at his body. There followed immediately the two great induction rituals of the Russian conscript: Pamfil’s forehead was shaved and he took the military oath. Within a few days the recruits were sent to Petersburg: given the need for speed they travelled by cart. Once assigned to his regiment Pamfil Nazarov experienced some of the other typical aspects of the young conscript’s rite of passage. The shock of being thrust so suddenly into an alien and harsh world made him very ill: during his two-week fever his money and clothes were stolen. A fist in the face from a junior NCO for whom Pamfil refused to do an illegal favour was also typical, as was a caning when he made a mess of his first shooting practice with powder and lead.
Nevertheless, not everything in Pamfil Nazarov’s military life was pure suffering and shipwreck. The Grand Duke Constantine personally inspected the new recruits and assigned them to their regiments in Petersburg. At 1.6 metres Pamfil was too short for the Preobrazhenskys or Semenovskys, but Constantine assigned him to the light infantry of the Guards, meaning in this case the Finland Regiment. As a Guardsman Pamfil got better pay and a real uniform, rather than the shoddy recruit uniform which was the lot of most conscripts in 1812–13. Service in the Guards was no picnic: the Finland Guards suffered heavy casualties at both Borodino and Leipzig. Nevertheless the Guards regiments were in general held in reserve: service in them on campaign was not the weekly meat-grinder experienced by some regiments of the line infantry. Though wounded at Leipzig, Pamfil Nazarov was back in the ranks by the fall of Paris and he and his comrades took pride in their achievement. Unlike most men conscripted in 1812 he was to see his family again: as a reliable and exemplary Guardsman he was allowed three home leaves in the eleven years following the war. Even more unusually, Pamfil learned to read and write while serving in the Finland Regiment. When he retired after twenty-three years of service in the Guards he became a monk and was one of only two private soldiers in the Russian army of this era to write his memoirs.30
So long as recruits met the height and medical requirements, on private estates the government left it to the landowners to decide which of their serfs to send to the army. Richer peasants, and indeed most of their middling neighbours, preferred to put the burden of conscription on poorer villagers, who paid less of the village’s collective tax burden. The landowner might share the view of the peasant commune that conscription should be used to rid the village of marginal or ‘uneconomic’ families. On the other hand, some aristocratic landowners did attempt to uphold fair conscription procedures and to protect vulnerable peasant families. Whether they succeeded depended greatly on their estates’ managers because wealthy aristocrats owned many properties, and were themselves in any case most often to be found in Petersburg, Moscow or on service. Success might also depend on the nature of peasant society on a specific estate. Particularly in the more commercialized and less purely agricultural estates, it might be hard for a distant landowner to control the richer peasants.
The more than 70,000-hectare estate of Baki in Kostroma province was one of Charlotta Lieven’s ten properties.31 Hundreds of kilometres north of Moscow, Baki was no place for agriculture. The 4,000 or more peasants who lived on the estate were self-sufficient as regards food but the estate’s wealth was derived from its enormous forests. The richer peasants were in reality merchants: they owned barges on which they shipped the produce of the forests down the Volga, sometimes all the way to Astrakhan on the shores of the Caspian Sea. One of Baki’s wealthiest peasants, Vasili Voronin, owned many barges and employed scores of peasants. The clerk of the peasant communal administration, Petr Ponomarev, was his son-in-law. As the only truly literate peasant on the estate Ponomarev was a very powerful intermediary between the two worlds of the estate manager and the peasantry. In 1800–1813 Voronin used his power to ensure, for example, that conscription never touched his family, their clients, or men who worked for him. The estate steward, Ivan Oberuchev, accepted the Voronins’ power. Maybe there was an element of corruption here. Maybe Oberuchev just wanted a quiet life. Perhaps he would have argued that he was defending his employers’ interests by recognizing the realities of power on the estate.32
Charlotta Lieven’s instructions had been that the entire peasant community in its assembly should determine which households were eligible for conscription and that these families should then draw lots to decide the order in which their members would be called up. She had also ordered that smaller households must be spared. In 1812–13 these principles were ignored. Many sole breadwinners were targeted for conscription, with tragic consequences for wives and children left behind, for a family without an adult male lost its right to land. In Staroust, one of the estate’s many villages, six men were conscripted and two of them were the only adult males in the household. As bad was the case of the Feofanov brothers, of whom two out of three were conscripted in 1812. Meanwhile the Makarov family, the cocks of the village with seven eligible males, not merely provided no recruits in 1812–14 but had never done so for the fifty years that recruitment records had existed on the estate.33
In 1813 Charlotta Lieven dismissed the estate manager and replaced him by Ivan Kremenetsky, who had previously worked as Barclay de Tolly’s private secretary in the war ministry. Kremenetsky’s subsequent investigation revealed that fifty households on the estate had provided no recruits in the more than three decades for which records existed. Kostroma was part of the third militia district: unlike in the first two districts, only part of its militia was embodied. Subsequently the government required forty new army recruits from Baki in order to equalize the burden of conscription across the country on private and state peasants.
Charlotta von Lieven ordered that exemption certificates – each costing 2,000 rubles – should be bought in place of all forty recruits and that the households who had failed to provide recruits in the past should pay for them. Seventeen peasant households contributed 2,000 rubles each, which was roughly the annual salary of a Russian major-general. It says something about the confusing reality of Russian society at that time that seventeen illiterate peasants from the backwoods of Kostroma could pay such large sums without ruining themselves. Though in the short run a sort of justice had prevailed, in the longer term Kremenetsky’s tactics united the richer peasants against him and made the estate unmanageable and bankrupt. There was probably a moral to be drawn from this story. The emperor could not govern early nineteenth-century Russia without the nobility’s support. Probably Baki, a microcosm of the empire, could not be governed, or at least effectively exploited, without the cooperation of its wealthy peasants.34
The emperor and Arakcheev were acutely aware of the need to get reinforcements to the field armies urgently. Harassed by the war minister, who was himself under pressure from the emperor, the governor of Novgorod responded in early March 1813 that he was enforcing conscription with great strictness but that in his province some villages were well over 700 kilometres from the provincial capital and at this time of year the ‘roads’ were a sea of mud.35 No excuses saved the governor of Tambov province, who was dismissed in December 1812 for slowness and incompetence in running the recruit levy.
The governors themselves put pressure on their subordinates, and above all on the internal security troops, to complete the recruit levies as quickly as possible. These troops were usually of poor quality and hugely overburdened. In provinces affected by Napoleon’s invasion internal security was a major issue, with peasants sometimes threatening to ‘mutiny’ and marauders roaming the villages and forests. Many men were away escorting prisoners of war, while some of the best officers had been detached to serve in Lobanov-Rostovsky’s regiments. On top of this the internal security forces were obliged to escort vastly increased numbers of recruits to their training areas, which were usually hundreds of kilometres from their native provinces. The Riga Internal Security Battalion arrived in the town of Wenden in the province of Livonia on 2 February 1813 to help with the new recruit levy. On arrival it comprised 25 officers and 585 men: by the time it departed it had detached so many parties on escort and other duties that it was down to 9 officers and 195 men. Its troops were so exhausted and frustrated by sweeps through the countryside to catch conscripts in hiding that they sometimes seized any man they found by the roadside to make up their quota of recruits.36
The bureaucracy and the noble marshals strained every muscle to implement conscription but coercive mass mobilization for war was in many respects the raison d’être of tsarist administration. The system was meeting the challenge for which it was designed. Finding enough officers for the expanded army was often more difficult, partly because the pool of loyal and educated candidates was not enormous but above all because potential officers could seldom be coerced into the army. In 1812–14 generals in the field complained more often about a shortage of officers than of soldiers.
In 1812–14 much the biggest source of new officers was noble NCOs, usually called sub-ensigns in infantry regiments and junkers in the cavalry.37 They were the equivalent of the British navy’s midshipmen, in other words officer cadets who were learning on the job before receiving commissions. The great majority of peacetime infantry and cavalry officers won their commissions this way. The Russian army therefore went to war in June 1812 with a large number of young cadets ready to fill posts caused by casualties or by the army’s expansion. They were almost always the first choice when vacancies occurred. In the Guards Jaegers, for instance, thirty-one young men were commissioned as ensigns in 1812–14 and of these eighteen had served as noble NCOs in the regiment before the war. All but one of the eighteen were commissioned in 1812. Subsequently the regiment had to draw on other sources for its new officers. This was a pattern familiar across the army.38
The next largest group of new officers were NCOs who were not the sons of nobles or officers.39 Most of these men were commissioned into the regiments in which they had served as NCOs in peacetime, though Guards NCOs often transferred to line regiments. The two key requirements for promotion were courage and leadership in action, and literacy. Some rankers had been commissioned in the eighteenth century and in the first decade of Alexander’s reign but wartime needs hugely increased the number in 1812–14. The key moment came in early November 1812 when, faced with a dire shortage of officers, Alexander ordered his commanders ‘to promote to officer rank in the infantry, cavalry and artillery as many junkers and non-commissioned officers as are available, regardless of whether they are nobles, so long as they merit this by their service, their behaviour, by their excellent qualities and by their courage’.40
Once the army had exhausted the supply of potential officers from within its regiments it was forced to look elsewhere. One key source was cadets from the so-called Noble Regiment, the cut-price and accelerated version of a cadet corps which had been the ministry of war’s main new initiative in the pre-war years to find additional officers for an expanding army. In 1808–11 the ‘Regiment’ had commissioned 1,683 cadets into the army. In 1812 it graduated a further 1,139, though many of these young officers only reached their units in early 1813. With so many cadets graduating and many of the Noble Regiment’s instructors drafted to lead reserve units in late 1812 there followed a lull, but a new inflow of young men into the ‘Regiment’ began in the winter of 1812–13 and many graduated in 1814. By then, however, former cadets were outnumbered by the many young civil servants who were transferring into the army, sometimes under pressure from their bosses. A few of these men had served in the army before entering the civil service, as had a larger number of the many militia officers who transferred into regular regiments in 1813–14.41
In the winter and early spring of 1812–13 the new reserve formations were concentrated and trained in four main centres. Petersburg and Iaroslavl in north-west Russia prepared reinforcements for the Guards, the Grenadiers and Wittgenstein’s corps. The 77,000 infantry and 18,800 cavalry reinforcements for Kutuzov’s main body were concentrated near Nizhnii Novgorod, 440 kilometres east of Moscow. Andreas Kleinmichel and Dmitrii Lobanov-Rostovsky had been responsible for forming the regiments created on Alexander’s orders immediately after Napoleon’s invasion. Now the emperor appointed them to command the new reserve formations in Iaroslavl and Nizhniii Novgorod respectively. More than seven weeks after orders had gone out to Kleinmichel, Alexander instructed Lieutenant-General Peter von Essen to train 48,000 reinforcements for Chichagov’s army. Essen’s headquarters was the fortress town of Bobruisk in Belorussia, 150 kilometres south-east of Minsk. Essen was so short of officers to train and command his recruits that great delays occurred. In the end, his battalions arrived in the theatre of operations three months after the other reinforcements and only just in time for the battle of Leipzig. Had similar delays occurred to the rest of the reserves, the Russian army would have played a far smaller role in the autumn campaign and Napoleon might well have defeated the allies in August and September 1813.42
In the late autumn and winter of 1812 Dmitrii Lobanov-Rostovsky struggled to begin the formation of his battalions amidst the chaos which followed Moscow’s surrender. Alexander and Kutuzov, hundreds of kilometres apart with Napoleon between them, were sending him contradictory orders. He had lost touch with many of the officers and even the generals who were supposed to be helping him train the new battalions. Equipment was also a big headache. The destruction of the commissariat stores in Moscow made it unthinkable to provide proper uniforms, wagons or the copper kettles which the men used for cooking, the latter a particular problem for inexperienced recruits unused to scrounging for themselves.43
By the winter of 1812 Russia was also running short of muskets. Production at Tula had been disrupted and it took time for imported British muskets to arrive and even they did not fully cover demand. Early in November Alexander ordered Lobanov-Rostovsky to supply only 776 muskets for each 1,000-strong reserve battalion he was forming. Given the high drop-out rate from sickness and exhaustion among the new recruits, the remaining 224 men were supposed to acquire muskets from comrades who were left behind in the long march to join the army in the field. Though perhaps realistic and necessary, this policy cannot have helped the new recruits’ morale.44
Given the immense difficulties faced by Lobanov, it was inevitable that the war ministry would be heavily criticized for its slowness in feeding and equipping his troops. In the circumstances, however, Aleksei Gorchakov and his subordinates performed reasonably well in the winter of 1812–13: the ministry’s senior commissariat and victualling officers both went to Nizhnii Novgorod in person to help Lobanov. Their job was made even more difficult when Lobanov’s troops set off in December on the long march from Nizhnii to their new deployment area at Belitsa in Belorussia, well over 1,000 kilometres away. The move made obvious sense. With the theatre of operations moving to Germany the reserves needed to be concentrated in the western borderlands. Having struggled to get arms and equipment to Nizhnii, however, the war ministry now had to redirect them in the middle of winter and through a countryside turned upside down by war.45
Arranging the march of scores of thousands of inexperienced troops was also not easy. While drowning in the detailed preparations which needed his attention, Lobanov-Rostovsky suddenly received urgent orders to divert part of his forces to suppress a mutiny in the Penza militia, ‘in the name of His Imperial Majesty the Sovereign’, ‘without the slightest loss of time’ and with ‘extreme severity’. The mutiny was suppressed without difficulty but the tone of Count Saltykov’s instructions reflected the central government’s acute fear that a horde of armed peasant and Cossack militiamen might unleash mayhem in a region where Pugachev had roamed forty years before.46
Lobanov-Rostovsky reported his arrival in Belitsa to Alexander on 1 February 1813. It was at this point that his worst troubles began. His troops’ deployment area covered three provinces: northern Chernigov, southern Mogilev and south-eastern Minsk. In today’s terms this means north-central Ukraine and south-eastern Belarus, the region of Chernobyl. This was a poor area in 1812, much poorer and less densely populated than central Great Russia. Suddenly establishing a city of 80,000 men in this region in the middle of winter was a great challenge. Immense efforts went into housing, feeding and training the troops and providing medical services.47
These arrangements were barely in place, however, when Lobanov received two new commands from Alexander on 1 March. These orders breathed the impatient ruthlessness which was the hallmark of Aleksei Arakcheev, the emperor’s assistant on all matters concerning reserves and the mobilization of the rear. The first wave of reinforcements was to be dispatched to the Field Army immediately. Lobanov was to inspect all departing units personally to ensure they were fully equipped and victualled. He was then to remove himself and the remainder of his troops hundreds of kilometres north-westwards to Belostok, on the Russo-Polish frontier. The emperor had decided to create a united Reserve Army which would be deployed in the Belostok area and would be responsible for training and dispatching all future reinforcements to the armies in the field. Even initially this Reserve Army was to be over 200,000 strong. Lobanov was appointed its commander and ordered to submit plans for the new Reserve Army’s deployment immediately.48
Lobanov was not exaggerating when he responded to Alexander on 1 March that he feared that his physical powers could not sustain such burdens. The following month must surely have been among the most stressful in his life. Within a week he had submitted to Alexander a plan for the organization and quartering of the new Reserve Army. Immediately on receiving Alexander’s orders on 1 March to dispatch the reinforcements at once, Lobanov responded that ‘Your Majesty may do with me what you want and I place my head on the block’, but it was totally impossible to execute this command. He did, however, promise to do everything possible to speed the troops’ departure and proved as good as his word. By the middle of March he had dispatched 37,484 reinforcements to the Field Army.49
It was not just Lobanov, however, who suffered because of the Field Army’s urgent need for reinforcements. Of the 37,000 men, 2,350 had died by the time the reinforcements reached Warsaw and a further 9,593 were left behind along the way because of illness or exhaustion. Reinforcements sent from Petersburg and Iaroslavl suffered similar losses. Lobanov subsequently put down most of these casualties to exhaustion: many of these men – almost all of them new recruits – had marched 3,000 kilometres or more in the past few months, through snow and mud, and latterly across a ravaged war zone where typhus raged. In time, most of the 9,000 men left behind would recover and rejoin their battalions. Nevertheless the scale of the losses bears witness to the immense difficulties Russia faced in getting reinforcements to the theatre of operations in these critical months.50
For all the difficulties overcome by Lobanov and his colleagues, it was General Andrei Kologrivov, tasked with forming the bulk of the army’s cavalry reserves, who faced the greatest challenge in 1812–13. He was to do an outstanding job. Training cavalrymen was much more complicated than turning recruits into effective infantry. Given good raw material and efficient training cadres, acceptable foot soldiers could be ready in three months. Cavalry would take at least three times as long. The cavalry recruit needed the same initial drill as an infantryman. The peasant recruit had to stand up straight, know his right from his left, and march in step. In short, he had to become a soldier. The cavalry recruit needed to master both cold steel weapons and firearms. Amidst the rush to train recruits in wartime, in the cuirassier and dragoon regiments the job of skirmishing might initially be left to veterans. But a light cavalryman who knew nothing about skirmishing, firearms and outpost duty was a danger to his comrades.51
The biggest challenge came when the peasant recruit first encountered his horse. Unlike Cossacks, who were bred in the saddle, few peasants rode horses, though it helped Kologrivov that the great majority of his first 20,000 recruits came from the southern provinces of Orel, Voronezh, Tambov and Kiev where horses and in some districts studs were numerous. The Russian light cavalry and dragoon horses drawn from steppe herds were feisty animals. The brief but ferocious breaking-in of these horses often left them hard to handle initially. The recruit’s life was also not made easier by the need in wartime to accept more mares than would otherwise have been the case. This did not contribute to order in a cavalry squadron packed with stallions. Despite these problems the cavalry recruit had to master his horse quickly. He must learn to ride first on his own and then in formation, carrying out increasingly complicated manoeuvres at ever greater speed. Crucially, he must also learn to water, feed and care for his horse properly, otherwise a cavalry regiment would quickly disintegrate amidst the strains of a campaign.52
In 1813–14 the Russian cavalry got its horses from a number of sources. The Field Army requisitioned or even occasionally bought a few horses in the countries through which it marched: its finest coup was to grab part of the King of Saxony’s stud. In the spring of 1813, however, Alexander ordered that no more cavalry horses were to be purchased abroad, since they were far cheaper in Russia. All cavalrymen in the Field Army whose horses were lost were to be sent back to Kologrivov to receive new mounts and help in the formation of reserve squadrons.53
A small number of the horses acquired in Russia came from the state’s own studs, both in the winter of 1812–13 and subsequently. These were fine animals but most were reserved for the Guards cuirassiers and dragoons.54 A far larger number of horses were bought by the regiments’ remount officers, in other words by the normal peacetime process. On their own, however, the remount officers could never have satisfied the hugely increased wartime demand. In addition, the price of horses went through the roof.55 In September 1812 Alexander sent the head of the internal security troops, Evgraf Komarovsky, to levy horses in lieu of recruits in the provinces of Volhynia and Podolia. He secured more than 10,000 cavalry horses – sufficient for fifty full-strength squadrons – from the two provinces. As a result the scheme was extended to the whole empire, with Komarovsky in charge. In time he sent General Kologrivov a further 37,810 horses. In addition, beginning in the winter of 1812–13, the governors bought 14,185 horses for Kologrivov’s cavalry. These huge numbers illustrate Russia’s wealth in horses, especially when one recalls that they do not include the great number of animals acquired for the army’s artillery and baggage trains.56
In addition to acquiring new horses, the army made great efforts to preserve the ones it already had. In December 1812 Kutuzov ordered cavalry commanders to ‘remove all ill, wounded or very thin horses from the cavalry and settle them in Chernigov province once communications with it reopen’.57 This policy of resting and rehabilitating horses in depots established behind the lines was to continue until the army reached Paris in 1814. What percentage of horses was detached in this first wave is impossible to say but it was certainly considerable. The 2nd Cuirassier Division alone sent away 164 horses out of a total of well under 1,000 and there is no reason to think it was untypical.58
In the early summer of 1813 a young lancer officer, Lieutenant Durova, returned to duty after sick leave. Durova was a unique officer since she was female, serving for many years while preserving her secret. Like all convalescents returning to active military service from Russia, she was assigned to the Reserve Army, a policy which helped greatly to refill its ranks with veterans. She was sent to the cavalry depot, which had now moved forward to Slonim, charged along with three other officers ‘with fattening up the exhausted, wounded, and emaciated horses of all the uhlan regiments’. She adds that ‘to my part fell one hundred and fifty horses and forty uhlans to look after them’, which is a reminder of how very labour-intensive was the care of cavalry horses. Every morning after breakfast,
I go to inspect my flock in their place in the stables. From their cheerful and brisk capers I see that my uhlans…are not stealing and selling the oats, but giving them all to these fine and obedient beasts. I see their bodies, previously distorted by emaciation, taking on their old beauty and filling out; their coats are becoming smooth and glossy; their eyes glow, and their ears, which were all too ready to droop, now begin to flick rapidly and point forward.59
Together with horses, Kologrivov above all needed trained cadres. By the winter of 1812 the Field Army’s cavalry regiments had a great many under-strength squadrons, usually with a disproportionate number of officers and NCOs. At Alexander’s suggestion, in most cavalry regiments Kutuzov created three, two or if necessary even just one full-strength squadron for service in the field. The remaining cadre of officers, NCOs and veterans was sent to help Kologrivov form reserve cavalry. In the spring 1813 campaign the Smolensk Dragoon Regiment, for example, deployed two squadrons with the Field Army. These now comprised 13 officers and 332 other ranks. Meanwhile 18 officers and 89 other ranks were sent to Slonim to join Kologrivov.60 The detailed report on the Reserve Army which Lobanov submitted at the end of the war, packed with statistics, shows that the Reserve Army’s cavalry had contained many more veteran soldiers and a much greater proportion of officers and NCOs than was the case with the infantry. Given the realities of cavalry training and service this was essential.61
The generous provision of horses, officers and veteran troopers goes a long way to explaining why Kologrivov made such a success of forming the cavalry reserves but it is far from the whole story. According to his aide-de-camp, the poet Aleksandr Griboedov, Kologrivov organized not just horse hospitals, blacksmiths and other obvious adjuncts to a depot for cavalry but also picked recruits with key skills, trained others and created workshops to manufacture horse furnishings, saddles and uniforms, thereby not just saving the state a great deal of money but also freeing himself from overdependence on the war ministry’s commissariat.62
Between March and September 1813 Kologrivov sent 106 squadrons to the Field Army. In November 1813 he sent another 63 and had almost as many more ready for dispatch. Dmitrii Lobanov-Rostovsky spent much of his time inspecting units of the Reserve Army before their departure to the Field Army. His comments about the cavalry were always complimentary in all respects. He was usually satisfied with his infantry and artillery reserves too but the artillery’s horses were a frequent cause of complaint, as was the infantry’s equipment. Though he thought most of his departing infantry well trained, there were exceptions. In December 1813, for instance, he commented that the reserves now departing to reinforce Wittgenstein’s corps were too young and needed more time to prepare for combat.63
Perhaps the fairest judges were foreigners, however, not least because they were inclined to make informed comparisons. On 8 June 1813 Sir Robert Wilson watched as Alexander inspected the Guards and Grenadier reserves just arrived from Petersburg and Iaroslavl. Aware that they had spent the last three months on the march, he was astonished by their appearance:
These infantry…and their appointments appeared as if they had not moved further than from barracks to the parade during that time. The horses and men of the cavalry bore the same freshness of appearance. Men and beasts certainly in Russia afford the most surprising material for powder service. If English battalions had marched a tenth part of the way they would have been crippled for weeks and would scarcely have had a relic of their original equipments. Our horses would all have been foundered, and their backs too sore even for the carriage of the saddle.64
Colonel Rudolph von Friederich was the head of the historical section of the Prussian general staff. He had no doubt that the Russian reserves who arrived during the armistice were much superior to most of the Prussian and Austrian reinforcements who joined their field armies at that time. The Russian was ‘an excellent soldier, of course without any intellect, but brave, obedient and undemanding. Their arms, clothing and equipment were very good and on the whole they were well trained.’ Above all, these soldiers who had survived months of gruelling marches were extremely tough and resilient. As to the cavalry, they were ‘in general excellently mounted, well-trained and impeccably uniformed and equipped’. Friederich’s only criticism of the Russian reinforcements was that ‘only the jaeger regiments had been taught to skirmish’.65
As regards training, it helped that the great majority of the reserves had arrived in the Field Army’s encampments by the end of June. Most reserve units were broken up and distributed among the army’s battalions and squadrons. The July weather was fine and the Field Army’s regiments possessed the free time and the veterans to help complete the reserves’ training, including intensive shooting practice. Friedrich von Schubert was the chief of staff of Baron Korff’s cavalry in Langeron’s army corps. In his memoirs he wrote that
the reserve squadrons, new recruits and remounts arrived in the regiments from Russia and the training and exercising of the men and the horses lasted from morning until night: it was a very hectic, brisk but cheerful business…the same happened in the infantry and artillery…Our efforts paid off because at the end of the armistice the Russian army was in better condition than at the beginning of the war: fully up to strength, well-equipped, healthy, full of courage and enthusiasm for battle, and with a mass of experienced and tested generals, officers and soldiers in numbers it had never previously possessed.66
The Russian reinforcements moving westwards in the spring and summer filled not just the Field Army but also the allied strategic reserve, in other words the so-called Army of Poland which Alexander ordered General Bennigsen to form in early June.67Bennigsen’s four infantry divisions had been blockading the fortresses of Modlin and Zamosc in the spring. Some of their units had also been performing an internal security role in Poland. At one point their combined strength was less than 8,000 men. By the end of the armistice, however, just these four divisions were 27,000 strong. In September Bennigsen’s army, which included Count Petr Tolstoy’s militia corps, advanced through Silesia to join the Field Army.68
But Bennigsen’s army could not just set off to Saxony, uncovering the French garrisons besieged in Modlin and Zamosc and leaving the Duchy of Warsaw denuded of troops. When the autumn campaign began, Napoleon was poised in Silesia, within jumping distance of the Polish border. Many Poles awaited his arrival with impatience. If he advanced through Silesia, his fortresses at Danzig, Modlin and Zamosc would become very important. When Alexander ordered Bennigsen forward, he therefore instructed Dmitrii Lobanov-Rostovsky’s Reserve Army to move across the Duchy of Warsaw and take over his role of blockading Modlin and Zamosc, watching Warsaw and Lublin, and overawing the Polish population. At the same time Lobanov was to continue with his troops’ training and to prepare to dispatch further reinforcements to the Field Army.69
In the last months of the war the Reserve Army played a crucial and successful role in Alexander’s strategy. By deploying Lobanov’s men across the Duchy of Warsaw the emperor had released Bennigsen’s army to make what proved to be a major contribution to the autumn 1813 campaign. The Reserve Army’s blockade of Modlin and Zamosc led to the fall of both these fortresses in the winter of 1813. Throughout this period the Reserve Army’s reinforcements continued to flow to the Field Army in Germany and France. At the end of the war, strengthened by troops released by the fall of Danzig and by the first wave of recruits from the 85th recruit levy, the Reserve Army was at unprecedented strength, with more than 7,000 officers and 325,000 men on its rolls. As always, paper strengths did not accurately reflect the numbers actually present in the ranks. Moreover, many of the soldiers were not yet fully trained or armed, and almost one-quarter were sick. Nevertheless, had the struggle with Napoleon continued there would have been no doubt of Russia’s ability to pull its weight on the battlefield. Also to the point, at a moment when other powers might contest Alexander’s right to Poland, not merely did he have a formidable army in the field to deter them, he could also point to a fresh force of well over a quarter of a million men positioned in the region which he was claiming.70