"The [Russian] cavalry was fine and commanding. ...
The heavy cavalry are undoubtedly very fine; the men gigantic, the horses good, the equipment superior and in perfect condition.
The light cavalry are less striking ... but some of the hussars and lancers are good."
- General Sir Charles Stewart
1. Introduction: Russian Cavalry.
- - - - 4. Cuirassiers.
- - - - 5. Dragoons.
- - - - 6. Horse Jagers.
- - - - 7. Uhlans.
- - - - 8. Hussars.
10. Training / Tactics.
13. Hair Styles.
14. Best Regiments.
Picture: reenactment of the battle of Borodino.
In Brienne in 1814, General Vasilchikov led 3rd Dragoon Division (Panchulidsev’s),
Introduction: Russian Cavalry.
Picture: French carabiniers versus Russian hussars in the battle of Borodino. Picture by Keith Rocco, USA.
Cavalry is the branch of army, which reaps the fruits of victory or covers a retreat. With strong cavalry the effects of defeat are not always fatal. Every country had its own cavalry troops and they differed, some were better quality than other.
Of all arms, cavalry is probably the most difficult to handle in the field. It couldn’t engage an enemy except where the ground was favourable for the horses. It was easily disperesed and easily got out of hand. Cavalry ought to be at once the eye, the ear and the feeder of an army. With good cavalry an army is in comparative security, and in a condition to march into an enemy’s country. Cavalry had to be opportunistic, picking its moment with care.
The true worth of cavalry was the threat it posed to an enemy disrupted and defeated by infantry and artilery and the reaction it created. Throwing cavalry against a prepared enemy was an extreme and desperate measure or a mistake.
In 1804-05 there were:
In 1805 Russia had 200,000 infantry and 50,000 cavalry.
In 1812 there were 350,000 infantry and 75,000 cavalry.
From Asian steppes to Paris,
For example in 1806 the news about French advance arrived when Russian dragoons and hussars were in Nowe Miasto. The single word “French!” shouted in the night drove the Russian officers out of their sleep. Chaos erupted and all run to horses. Löwenstern’s gray horse became overexcited and caused difficulties to mount. Then the horse runs straight into the mass of dragoons despite protests of his master. This chaos would never happen if there was set a chain of pickets and guards and proper reconnaissance was done.
Kellermann’s cavalry division stood in front of Cafarelli’s infantry division and watched the Russian uhlans coming. What happened next is described different by both sides. According to Russians the uhlans overturned “three lines of French cavalry.” According to French sources the French cavalry voluntarily retreated behind own infantry and artillery.
Unfortunately the uhlans didn’t stop there and said, OK, come out you bastards and we will cut you to ribbons. The hotheaded uhlans rushed after Kellermann’s cavalry and got under heavy canister and musket fire from infantry. The fire unsaddled many riders but quite amazingly others pushed forward and managed to penetrate the French position. The uhlans got under fire from the second line of infantry (2,000-3,000 muskets). This is said that some of the young uhlans that lost their mounts were so angered that attacked the infantry on foot. Baron Meller-Zakomelski rode in the head of the uhlans and was hit by a bullet. He had trouble breathing and was surrounded by the French 5th Hussars. Meller-Zakomelski was taken prisoner by trumpeter Pincemaille, who himself was wounded. Hundreds of uhlans were hors de combat, and only approx. 200-250 of the toughest and luckiest rode back toward Bagration’s troops where Manteufel rallied them.
Thanks to French masterful coordination between cavalry, infantry and artillery the Russian uhlans have suffered horrible losses. According to Bogdanovich the uhlans suffered 508 casualties (!) Mihailovski-Danilevski and Gavlovski however give different number: 400 and 680 respectively. This action although very costly gave time for other Allies troops to restore order and regain composure. In the end of the battle General Bagration ordered the remaining uhlans to escort 16 guns, an order they fullfiled to the word.
Constantine however was proud of his brave uhlans, a single regiment attacked two divisions, 800 men against five thousands infantry and cavalry supported by artillery. Later on he ordered the Russian infantry halt and present their arms when the uhlans were passing by. Few days after the battle he wrote report to the monarch praising them. In second report written in 1806, which was based on Manteufel’s report, he presented to awards for Austerlitz 36 officers, and praised more than 200 privates and NCOs.
(The uhlans waited two years for another chance to cross their weapons with the French light cavalry. It took place in June 1807. This time for the enemy there was no infantry and artillery to retreat behind and the uhlans got their fair chance. The French hussars and Saxon chevauxlegeres and cuirassiers entered the town of Friedland. But here “the funny” Chalikov with one squadron of uhlans threw them out of the town. French light cavalry formed themselves west of Friedland, but then 4 squadrons of uhlans and 2 squadrons of Military Order Cuirassiers attacked them. The enemy was defeated and didn’t stop its flight until they reached the woods of Heinrichsdorf.)
(At Waterloo Guyot commanded the Guard Heavy Cavalry Division made of Horse Grenadiers and Dragoons)
[For more info read "French Cavalry Defeats Dutch Fleet?" by Peter Davis >> (ext.link)]
The Russian cavalrymen had their actions 'on ice' too. On March 6-9 1809 Yakov Kulniev was ordered to capture the Swedish Aland Islands (see map). Kulniev’s force consisted of 200 Cossacks and 172 Grodno Hussars. At 3 am the Russians appeared on the frozen sea. They could see the wheel trails and footsteps of the Swedish troops on the snow that passed through this area before. After long march they spotted on the skyline the rocks of an island. As they advanced further the Swedish pickets fired upon them.
Kulniev formed his Cossacks in skirmish chain, hussars 200 paces behind them and formed in line. In reserve was one sotnia (“hundred”) of Cossacks. Kulniev placed himself in the very front and with a loud “God with us!” and drawn saber rushed forward. Although the Swedes fled toward the rocks, leaving behind 80 killed, wounded captured they continued firing from behind rocks and trees. Due to difficult terrain the Russians fought on foot. Finally the hussars and Cossacks got upper hand and the Swedish garrison surrendered. Kulniev was awarded with St. Anna Order of 1st Class (the privates were awarded with 2 silver roubles each)
According to French General Caulaincourt the annihilation of 150 dragoons caused more consternation in Napoleon’s headquarters than “the loss of 50 generals.” (Curtis Cate - “The War of The Two Emperors” p. 305, 1985 Random House, Inc, NewYork)
Napoleon promptly has sent against Dorohov the remainder of the Guard Dragoons. They were joined by the Guard Chasseur-a-Cheval with five infantry and eight cavalry regiments. Forty guns supported the pursuing force.
In the ensuing battle with French light cavalry most of the Russians were killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. (Krestovski - “Istoriya 14-go Ulanskago Yamburskago Eya Imperatorskago Vysochestva Velikoi Knyazhny Marii Aleksandrovny Polka” St. Petersburg 1873, pp 180-182)
The dragoons had strength of 2 squadrons or less than 300 men. But these troops met with a strong force of Russian light cavalry, were defeated and pursued all the way to the main French army, creating confusion in the ranks of infantry and artillery.
Prussian officer Muffling participated in this attack and wrote: “We rode into the Young Guard and our right wing got as far as the Reserve … We captured two batteries and the enemy fell into the greatest disorder.” Only the gathering darkness saved the Young Guard and Duhesme’s division from a complete disaster.
General Nansouty (see picture ->) ordered Generals Colbert, Guyot, and Pire to charge with the cavalry of the Imperial Guard. Horse batteries of Old Guard supported them. The French guardsmen broke the hussars and pursued in their turn. Vasilchikov sent in the 3rd Dragoon Division. The dragoons formed “in two lines” attacked Nansouty’s Guard Cavalry frontallly and from the flank. The enemy was broken and pursued beyond La Rothiere itself leaving behind 24 guns of Old Guard which soon became the trophy of the dragoons. (Petre gives 24 guns as being lost. Petre - “Napoleon at Bay, 1814” p 33) The fleeing guardsmen were saved by part of the V Cavalry Corps, which regiments advanced in column of squadrons, wheeled to the left and struck the pursuing Russians. The Russian dragoons were pushed back but not without a fight and they still managed to bring back the captured guns of Old Guard. The Russian dragoon division must have made impression on the French because in the “Journal Historique de Cavalry Legere du 5e Corps de Cavalerie pendant la Campagne de France en 1814” participant of this fight, officer Petiet, gives the strength of the dragoons at six thousands. In fact their strength was only between 1.200 and 1.600 men.
Inspector of Cavalry Grand Duke Constantine (1779-1831).
General of Cavalry Ferdinand Wintzingerode (1761-1818).
General of Cavalry Fedor Uvarov (1773-1824).
General of Cavalry Prince Dmitrii Golitzin (1771-1844).
General-Lieutenant Fedor Korf (1774-1823).
General-Lieutenant Illarion Vasilchikov (1775-1847).
General-Lieutenant Karl Lambert (1772-1843.
General-Lieutenant Efim Chaplitz (1768-1825).
General-Major Ivan Dorohov (1762-1815).
General-Major Yakov Kulnev (1763-1812).
Organization: regiments and squadrons.
The basic tactical unit was squadron. The Russians tried to avoid having large squadrons as celerity and precision of movement couldn’t be attained with unwieldly troops.
Every squadron had 16 flankers (skirmishers), which were posted, in the end files of every platoon.
In hussar regiment all troopers were trained to function as
skirmishers and sometimes they were used in big numbers like for example in 1806 at Pultusk
and Golymin, or in 1812 at Kobrin.
Several squadrons formed regiment.
In 1805, there were:
In the beginning of 1812:
Two or three regiments formed brigade, two brigades formed division.
The cuirassier and dragoon regiments carried standards.
The cuirassier and dragoon regiments had 4-5 squadrons each. The I Squadron in every regiment was Chef’s Squadron, also called Leib Squadron. The Leib Squadron commonly consisted of the tallest men in the regiment. The V Squadron was called Commander’s Squadron. The II, III and IV Squadron were the center squadrons.
CUIRASSIER / DRAGOON REGIMENT
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The hussar and uhlan regiments had 8-10 squadrons each.
HUSSAR / UHLAN REGIMENT
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In 1810 was ordered that the reserve half-squadrons and squadrons were abolished and in their place during war every cuirassier and dragoon regiment left one of its center squadrons (II, III or IV) in quarters. This squadron was also called Reserve Squadron (Zapasnyi Eskadron).
Every light cavalry regiment had to leave one of its center squadrons of I Battalion and one of center squadrons of II Battalion in its quarters. The reserve squadrons had to sent men and horses to the squadrons in the field.
During 1812 war the reserve squadrons were also taken into field service. In June there were entire regiments organized of such squadrons and they were called svodno, or svodnyi. These cavalry regiments (svodnyie polki) were formed into brigades. The reserve squadrons performed quite well. For example in 1812 they defeated in Berezina the Baden and Hessian cavalry, and at the Battle of Polotzk the Svodno Guard Cavalry Regiment captured 15 enemy’s guns. (Bezotosnyi, Vasiliev, Gorshman, Parhayev, Smirnov - “Russkaia armiia 1812-1814” Vlados, Moskva 2000, p 150)
There were also regiments formed on temporary basis. For example in 1812 in the city of Riga was so called Combined Light Cavalry Regiment commanded by Pplk. Kunitski. It consisted of the IV and IX Squadron of the Grodno Hussar Regiment and the IV and IX Squadron of Polish Uhlan Regiment.
In December 1812 was issued an order that every cavalry regiment will have 6 field and 1
reserve squadron. But the army had no peace time to fully implement this order and some
regiments would have between 2 and 8 squadrons.
The flankers in every regiment were formed of the privates who occupied
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Picture: Battle of Fere Champenoise, France 1814. Russian cuirassiers routed French infantry formed in squares. Picture by Oleg Parkhaiev, Russia.
The Russian cuirassiers were heavy cavalry.
One witness described them as “Large and stout: the discipline and well-dressed
state of these men are very imposing.” The minimum height for the Russian cuirassier was
170 cm. For comparison the minimum height for the French dragoon was
162 cm, and for cuirassier 172 cm.
The Russian cuirassier was armed with 2 pistols, heavy pallash that later was replaced by a straight saber, and cavalry carbine or rifle. In 1812 the carbines were taken away and each cavalryman had only 2 pistols and saber. The flankers however kept their rifles. Until 1812 there was no body armor. For more information see chapter below, "The Armor."
The Russian cuirassiers were elite troops as their ranks were filled up with the best soldiers selected from dragoon, uhlan, jager and hussar regiments.
The Russian cuirassiers distinguished themselves in
Leipzig (1813), and Fere Champenoise (1814).
On 8th February 1807, His Majesty Cuirassiers routed French II Battalion
of 24th Line Infantry, inflicted very heavy casualties and captured its Eagle.
Picture: Battle of Katzbach 1813. Russian dragoons defeated and pursued French cavalry. Picture by Oleg Parkhaiev.
Until the end of 1812 the dragoons were the most numerous branch of cavalry and numbered up to 36 regiments. Then several regiments were converted into cuirassiers, horse jagers and uhlans. In 1813-15 there were only 18 dragoon regiments.
Dragoons' uniforms were cheaper than hussars' outfits. Dragoons' horses were smaller than cuirassiers' mounts, but were well shaped and more agile.
The Russian dragoons were armed as follow:
The dragoons were often assigned the lion’s share of fighting in battles,
were also used as occupation force, formed patrols, were in anti-partisan sweeps
(Caucasus), guarded the convoys and transports (Germany 1813),
fought dismounted in capturing or holding a village (Brienne 1814 and
Mohrungen 1807) or bridge (Saltanovka, 1812).
The dragoons however had several weaknesses. They were vulnerable when facing lance-armed cavalry, and Napoleon had a lot of lancers and uhlans. The dragoons were also trained in some infantry duties, and for this reason their horsemanship and their swordsmanship put them in a slight disadvantage when facing other cavalry. (This is to say that all cavalry could fight dismounted, but the dragoons could do this job better.) If the dragoons struck the enemy cavalry in the flank, they were victorious. They were also quite successful against infantry.
The best dragoon regiment was probably the St Petersburg Dragoons. This unit was one of the best
cavalry regiment in the army. St Peterburg Dragoon Regiment captured 4 French Colors:
two of infantry, one of dragoons and one of cuirassiers. There was no other
dragoon regiment in Europe with so many French trophies.
Below is a description of St.Petersbourg Dragoons's capture of French color in 1807 near Eylau.
The French 46th Line Infantry marched in snow while being fired upon by the Russian artillery and skirmishers.
It didn’t stop them from crossing their bayonets with the Russian infantry
and the famous 18th Line (nicknamed "The Brave") hurried to support their comrades.
Meanwhile the S.Petersburg Dragoons moved around own infantry and began deploying
into charge. The 18th Line suddenly saw a dark mass of cavalry coming at them
and leaving no time for forming the square. The French infantry wavered and fired.
The dragoons attacked from the front and from the rear and the infantry lost any
order. A desperate struggle was around the French standard.
Russian Horse Jägers.
Picture: Livland (Livonia) Horse Jagers in 1812-1814, by Viskovatov.
In December 1812 eight dragoon regiments were converted to horse jägers. The jagers were equivalent of French chasseurs-a-cheval. Actually I don't understand why Russia needed horse jagers, there was enough light cavalry.
The horse jägers were armed as follow:
Horse Jäger Regiments:
Picture: private and staff officer of Volhin Uhlan Regiment 1808-1811, by Viskovatov.
Before Austerlitz there were three horse regiments: Polish, Lithuania and Tartar, and one uhlan regiment, the Grand Duke Constantine Uhlans. In 1807 the horse regiments were renamed to uhlan regiments. In 1808 there were 8 uhlan regiments; Polish, Lithuanian, Tartar, Grand Duke Constantine's, Vohlin, and Chuguyev. In the end of 1812 Russia had 12 uhlan regiments.
The uhlans were armed as follow:
The uhlans were recruited mainly from Poles and Lithuanians living in western Russia. The Tatar Uhlan Regiment however was composed of Tartars. The idea for forming a Tatar unit was also proposed to Napoleon and Tatar Squadron was incorporated into Napoleon's Imperial Guard.
Russian generals had mixed feelings about their Polish and Lithuanian cavalrymen.
The problem was not their horsemanship and skills with weapon as these were good,
but with their commitment to the Russian cause. For example in summer 1812 the
uhlan regiments had several times more deserters and missing men than casualties
in combat. For this reason General Bagration, didn’t want the Lithuanian Uhlan
Regiment being included in his rear guard. I think Bagration exagerrated a little bit.
In uhlan regiments served higher number of nobles than in dragoon and horse jäger units.
In December 1812 seven dragoon regiments were converted into uhlans. These new units were called by some as the “dragoons with sticks” as they didn’t even receive their new uniforms until the end of 1814.
- Lithuanian-Tartar Horse (formed in 1797, in 1803 was split
- - into Lithuanian Horse and Tartar Horse. See below:)
- - - - - - - - Lithuania Horse (in 1807 renamed to uhlans)
- - - - - - - - Tatar Horse (in 1807 renamed uhlans)
Picture: Battle of Kliastitzy 1812, Russia.
The flamboyant, hard drinking and dashing hussars enjoyed a great popularity in Russia. There were poems, books and stories written about them. In 1815 Alexander Pushkin (ext.link), who is considered to be one of the greatest poets, wrote “Novel About the Lifeguard Hussars" and in 1833 another poem titled “". In 1832 Lermontov wrote a poem also titled “Hussar”. The XX century bard, Bulat Okudzhava wrote a song “Piesna o molodom gusare” (Song about young hussar). In 1962 was made film “Gusarskaia Ballada” (Hussar Ballad) directed by Eldar Ryazanov and in 1984 a TV movie titled “Dva gusara” (Two Hussars) directed by V. Krishtofovich.
The Russian hussars were between 165cm and 169cm tall, and rode on medium and medium-small but agile horses (between 1.42m and 1.51m). The French hussars rode on larger mounts (149-153 cm in 1812) less suited for small warfare and more sensitive to quality and quantity of food.
The hussars were armed as follow:
In no other branch of the army, were so many volunteers and footloose lads.
Many came from families with a long military tradition and were excellent
swordsmen and horsemen who were familiar with horses since they were kids.
Hussars’ gaiety around a bottle of wine, or vodka, and their rolling swagger
were well known. Opening the bottle of wine with a saber cut and drinking from woman’s shoe were ones of their many customs. In every hussar regiment existed
camaraderie and pride of belonging to a special group within the army.
There was saying: “Regiment is your family” and “Honor of your regiment - is honor
of your family.”
They also caused troubles, at Druia (Druja) group of hussars from Soumy Regiment beat the hell out of the Jews praying in synagogue. It created such uproar that only the intervention from the Rabbi saved the lives of troublemakers. In 1814 at Charmont at France the Soumy Hussars saw all quarters taken by Illovaiski XII’s Cossacks, and they quickly got very cranky. The hussars kicked out all the bearded warriors out of their rooms and took them for themselves. No officer dared to intervene when in the raining night the Soumy hussars arrived into Droupt St. Bâle (according to Löwenstern) and began kicking in the doors and breaking into houses.
@ - In February 1807 at Hoff, the Izoum Hussars met regiment of French hussars (it was either the 1st or the 3rd Hussars). Despite loud orders shouted by French and Russian officers the troopers were immovable. Then, according to S.G. Volkonski, one of the squadron commanders of the Izoum Hussars rode forward and was met by a French officer. They fought and the Russian won by throwing his opponent off horse. This act encouraged the Russians who charged forward while the enemy fled. (The Izoum Hussars were also numerically much stronger than the French hussars).
@ - In 1805, the Pavlograd Hussars won fame for delaying Napoleon’s advance for a whole day. (Haythorntwaite - “The Russian army during Napoleonic Wars - Cavalry”, p 44)
@ - In 1807 at Burkersdorf (Burkensdorf, Bohersdorf), the Soumy Hussars and Cossacks defeated six French dragoon regiments. General Milhaud wanted to commit suicide after such humiliation.
@ - In the battle of Eylau in 1807, a single hussar regiment penetrated the masses of French troops, slashing and cutting, to the proximity of the hill where stood Napoleon and his staff.
@ - On 24th January 1807 one squadron of Russian hussars demolished two squadrons of French dragoons, and captured two officers.
@ - In the end of July 1812 Lieutenant Tzytliatzev of Grodno Hussars took one NCO and 12 privates on a raid. First they captured 40 prisoners near the town of Drissa, and then they crossed a river and on the other bank captured a transport of wagons escorted by 160 troopers. The resistance was weak and the escort quickly surrendered. The hussars took 200 prisoners. Tzytliatzev’s casualties were low, 1 man and 2 horses were wounded.
@ - On May 25th 1807 Yakov Kulniev with two squadrons of Grodno Hussars observed the French across Pasleka River before sending Rudiger with one squadron. The French had no time to form a square and fled losing 100 men as prisoners. Near the village of Kommersdorf, Kulniev’s hussars spotted an enemy camp. To their dissapointment it was full of wounded and sick French soldiers. The poor fellows were shocked seeing the Russians in the midst of their camp. The Grodno Hussars continued their raid and captured an artillery convoy with cannons, mortars and 40 wagons full of gunpowder, cannonballs and grenades. The escort of this convoy gave no problems for the hussars, except five dragoons who galloped away. Kulniev send after them NCO Gasenko with three hussars. After a short fight two dragoons were laid on the ground and three were taken as prisoners.
Meanwhile the French command learned about these events and sent a large body of troops, which encircled the Russians. The hussars filled one of the captured carriages with gunpowder, and put wooden logs under the wagons full of grenades. They began crossing the river when three squadrons of French cavalry arrived. In that moment the hussars set fire to the logs causing a tremendous explosion. When the smoke fell down Kulniev with hussars were on one side of the river and the French pursuers on the other.
@ - In 1813 at Katzbach a total of 10 regiments under Vasilchikov were thrown at once into action against the French. The fields were awash with colorful uniforms of hussars, though there were also sizeable pockets of the Cossacks. The Alexandria and Marioupol Hussars advanced against the enemy from the front, while General Lanskoi, the beau sabreur, with the Ahtirka and White Russia Hussars moved against enemy’s flank. The Cossacks moved against the rear of the enemy. The French chasseurs and hussars (Sebastiani's II Cavalry Corps) stood near the artillery when the Russians strucked them. The 4th Light Cavalry Division (under Exelmans) suffered the most. General Sébastiani called - in vain - General Brayer’s division for support. The Russian hussars demolished the French in such a way that in recognition for this exploit the tsar awarded all four hussar regiments with special badges affixed to their shakos.
@ - In the battle of Dresden in 1813, the Grodno Hussars and Loubny Hussars attacked the 5th Voltigeurs of Young Guard already formed in square. The square was broken and 310 Frenchmen were killed, wounded and taken prisoner. The Young Guard felt vulnerable against the aggressive cavalry as many muskets were useless in the rain. The Russian and Prussian hussars were driven off by artillery fire and the Young Guard resumed its advance. The Grodno Hussars again attacked the Young Guard and broke another square.
@ - In 1813 north of Leipzig, the French infantry was retreating from Eutritzsch when General Blücher (see picture ->) expressed a wish to attack them. General Vasilchikov heard his words and responded “If your Excellency will permit, I will try with my hussars.” Permission was given and Vasilchikov issued orders. The 2nd Hussar Division (Ahtirka, Alexandria, Marioupol, and White Russia Hussars) led by Lanskoi swept proudly past, and then charged the infantry. The hussars then noticed several hussar, chasseur and dragoon regiments, which belonged to the III Cavalry Corps under General Arrighi. Two hussar regiments struck the right flank of Arrighi’s cavalry. As the Prussian witness, Graf Henkel von Donnersmark wrote, they “went on at a cracking pace”. The French chasseurs and hussars fled, some galloped toward Leipzig itself, while others sought refuge on the other bank of the Parthe River. There they continued toward the positions occupied by the infantry and artillery of the VII Corps. The pursuit was long, reaching Leipzig itself. The hussars captured a half thousand prisoners and 5 guns. Von Donnersmark remarked that this attack was “one of the best that I ever saw Russian cavalry made.” The defeat of Arrighi’s cavalry shook morally the infantry on the other side of the river. The hussars suffered very light casualties up to this point but when they were returning from the long pursuit they got under fire from the French infantry.
Blucher's ADC, von Nostitz writes: "... the attack was executed by four hussar regiments with great determonation, and to Blucher's intense delight - he watched it - the guns were captured together with 500 prisoners."
Prussian officer Graf Henkel von Donnersmark: "The cavalry of our corps, under the active and brave General Vasilchikov who distinguished himself at every occassion, made na excellent attack on General Arrighi's cavalry. ... Then the trumpets sounded, and the Marioumpol, Alexandria and White Russia Hussars trotted off. I could not resist the temptation to go with them ... Our cavalry went on at a cracking pace and the officers, who had burned with envy when they heard how Yorck's cavalry had distinguished itself the previous day [at Mockern], kept shouting Pashol, pashol ! (Go , go !) to their men. The enemy regiments did not stand the shock, but turned and fled towards Leipzig with us on their heels like a thunderstorm. Now and again there were minor clashes during the chase ... In this attack on Arrighi's cavalry, we came almost up to the suburbs of Leipzig. We took a lot of prisoners, and I captured a French squadron commander and took his sabre. Our losses were not inconsiderable, for on the way back we took fire from a French infantry column."
@ - In the battle of Brienne in 1814, the 2nd Hussar Division routed infantry division of Young Guard.
@ - In the battle of Craonne in 1814, the hussar division was so involved in fighting that all their generals were either wounded, injured or killed.
@ - In 1813 in Saxony several squadrons of Soumy Hussars and one squadron of Alexandria Hussars led by the “bloodthirsty and gruesome Figner” marched at night through enemy’s line. They have captured many stragglers who otherwise would reveal their presence. They halted in a village and Figner ordered complete silence. Several marauders who ventured into the village were killed. Only one managed to escape and informed the French command. The Polish uhlans came and with battle cries pushed into the village. The Russians jumped out of their hiding places and a fighting erupted in the short and narrow streets. Von Löwenstern wrote that many hussars were unsaddled and littered on the ground. The others fled with the Poles hot on their heels. The flight was slowed down by a narrow defilee and the Poles again got their lance into work. According to von Löwenstern (pp 136-137) when they finally escaped they were happy for the next days not to see the uhlans again and were able to catch their breath again.
Figner’s detachment then moved toward Königswartha (?). They attacked French 10th Hussars. The French hussars wearing their sky blue dolmans didn’t expect the enemy from this side and fled without resistence. The Russians chased them until the line of enemy’s infantry and artillery. Musket volleys and canister halted the pursuers. Near Lauban they were attacked by Saxon hussars attacked them. Löwenstern’s friend was taken prisoner. The Russians retreated through a village toward the positions where stood the rest of Figner’s detachment. Group of Don Cossacks (Karpov’s division) was ordered to attack the pursuing Saxons but showed little zeal. Furious Figner rode to their officer and strucked him with horsewhip. (According to Löwenstern, the commander of detachment, Figner, was killed at Reichenbach by drowning in a river being surrounded by Polish cavalry.)
@ - On 21st January 1807 near Langheim, the Russian hussars and Cossacks captured the entire squadron of French 3rd Hussards, including Capitaine St. Auban Le Brun.
@ - On February 14th 1807, the French 5th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 16th and 21st Dragoons (total of 18 squadrons) led by General Milhaud were at Burkersdorf, a village between Eylau and Königsberg. These regiments formed the 3rd Dragoon Division that was retreating after a reconnaisance in force. (At Waterloo Milhaud led eight cuirassier regiments). An inferior force of 400 Soumy Hussars and 350 Cossacks followed Milhaud for some time. According to Löwenstern the first encounter took place in the morning and the French appeared to be eager to fight. But he exagerrate somehow that after the first “hoorah!” the dragoons fled. Actually two hussar squadrons and 200 Cossacks attacked the frontal six squadrons but were pushed back. Then four hussar squadrons came out of village and struck with great impetuosity the French flank. Milhaud ordered the nearest dragoon brigade to face the attackers but it failed to do so on time. Instead the brigade was broken and fled. Whereupon the two other brigades, seeing the rout, turned about and hooved away. The dragoons could not be rallied until they had gone 3 miles to the rear.
Milhaud was infuriated at their perforance and ashamed at the swift defeat. He attempted to commit suicide by attacking the hussars while being accompanied by only four dragoons. Yermolov mentions that two of the exhausted French squadrons fled across a frozen lake. The Soumy Hussars and the Cossacks caught up with them and took as prisoners. Sir Robert Wilson writes that the French dragoons lost 400 killed and 288 captured as prisoners. Bennigsen gives the French casualties at 400 and one standard (guidon?). Löwenstern wrote that the hussars didn’t allow the French to gather, chased them to Ludwigsdorf (Ludwigswalde ?) and captured 300 prisoners. He explains that Colonel Ushakov send for two squadrons who were 2 miles away from Burkersdorf but these forces came too late to participate in the battle. (Löwenstern - “Mit Graf Pahlens Reiterei gegen Napoleon” Berlin 1910, Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, p 18)
Shikanov gives 180 prisoners and squadron standard/guidon of the 8e Dragons. (Shikanov V.H. - “Pervaia Polskaia Kampania 1806-1807” p 178)
Löwenstern also described how the village quickly became a market place where captured watches, weapons, uniforms, tobacco, pistols and horses were offered for sale. (To read more about General Milhaud "The highly controversial but talented soldier" read Terry Senior's article, ext.link.)
@ - According to Eduard Löwenstern in 1807 in Golymin the Soumy Hussars was attacked with big noise by French 4th and 7th Dragons and was overthrown. The fleeing Russian hussars run toward the Ingermanland Dragoons but these dragoons didn’t let them pass without jeering. :-)
Grand Duke Constantine was the Inspector of Cavalry and he paid great attention to the neatness and accuracy of the uniform. For example fully dressed and shaved model-uhlans were sent to every squadron of his newly formed regiment and all the troopers had to be patterned after the models in great exactness. The sky would fall on earth if they didn’t look as ordered.
The most expensive uniforms were those of hussars and the cheapest were those of dragoons. The cost of officer uniforms was certainly higher than that of private. In 1803 the cost of uniform with ammunition box and the shabraque was 250 roubles for staff officer and 230 roubles for the subaltern officer.
In winter of 1812 the situation with uniforms was bad. The guard cuirassiers instead of wearing their splendid uniforms wore dirty rags and civilian clothes. When in mid December Constantine saw their officers, he was so horrified that forbade them to enter his headquarters ! But Kutuzov was more understanding and had no objections to the way they looked. This problem was 'solved' when Tsar Alexandr arrived in the army and ordered to arrest every officer who was not properly dressed. Additionally the tsar ordered from St. Petersburg 54.000 new uniforms and 54.000 new greatcoats for his army. (Bogdanovich M. - “Istoriya Voiny 1813 Goda” St. Petersburg 1863, Vol I, p 140)
In 1814 the Russian troops “had more the look of Frenchmen than Russians.” They have stripped the uniforms from killed Frenchmen or “exchanged” their own worn out outfits with the French prisoners. Only the Imperial Guard and all the cuirassiers still presented a magnificient sight.
Cheprak and Valtrap.
Training and Tactics.
The emphatic defeats in 1805 initiated organizational and tactical changes. In 1807 A. I. Hatov wrote Obshchii opyt taktiki, a work devoted to the cavalry, its use in combat and its tactics. According to Hatov the cavalry’s crucial role was to cover the retreating army, pursue the defeated enemy, scout for the army and could also decide the outcome of the battle. Cavalry actions were considered in a tight relation to infantry, and not as independent.
Hatov thought any firing from horse while standing as peculiar. The only accepted exception was when the flankers (horse skirmishers) used their firearms. Although their fire was known as being rather harmless they played important role of protecting the troops during march and on the battlefield from being harassed or disordered by enemy’s skirmishers. According to Hatov the firearms were given to the cavalry mainly to use on occassions when was lack of infantry or was a need to occupy an important position. (Hatov A. I. - “Obshchii opyt taktiki” 1807, Part I, p 186)
The new preliminary regulations for cavalry service were issued under the name of
Predvaritelnoie postanovleniye o stroievoi kavaleriiskoi sluzhbe and
consisted of two chapters:
In general the new regulations differed only lightly from the previous ones in 1796 and 1807-1808 and were somehow less innovative than those for the infantry.
The Russian cavalryman of XIX century was a universal soldier.
He was trained to use his edged weapon and his firearm, and to fight on horse
In the Russian cavalry manuals printed in 1797, 1805, and 1812 it is stated that
cavalry was to be formed in 2 ranks and not in three (as it is given by one popular western author.)
If the regiment was deployed in line the intervals between squadrons were on the length of platoon and between regiments on the length of entire half-squadron. In the line formation the chef of the regiment had to be 50 paces in front of the center of the regiment. To the left of him, in half of the horse length behind was his adjutant. Polkovnik (colonel) was 10 paces behind the chef, but in case the chef was absent then he would have to take his place. The first major took place in front of the I and II squadron, podpolkovnik (colonel-lieutenant) in front of the III and IV squadron and the second major in front of V and VI squadron. The podpolkovnik and the first and second major had to be placed 15 paces in front of the first row of troopers. The squadron commanders had to be about 8 paces in front of their squadrons.
There were several types of columns used by the cavalry for march and attack. The most common columns used for marching were the narrow columns by 3s or 6s - depending on the width of the road. On a very narrow road or when they had to pass a defile the regiment marched by a single file.
A column by platoon could be used for marching and as well on the battlefield. Each platoon had its commander one pace in front of the center of the first rank. The distance between each platoon in regimental column had the width of so many paces as many files were in that troop. The distance between squadrons was doubled.
There were columns on wider front too: a column by half-squadron and column by
squadron and these were quite popular and frequently used in combat. The
battlefield at Borodino was full of regiments maneuvering and attacking in columns
The training and drill were the major activities of the cavalry regiments during peacetime.
For 25-35 weeks each year the regiments were scattered in the countryside,
having their companies and squadrons separated by considerable distances.
An average cavalry regiment in 1805 was quartered in three or four villages and
never in one place.
Cavalry training started with the basics. First was drill and training on foot before they learned how to use their carbines. Mounting, dismounting and controlling the horse in various gaits (speeds of riding) were crucial skills a horseman had to learn. Even the basics could cause troubles for the beginners: as for example putting swiftly the saddle on horse’s back when the animal kept stepping sideways and moving round and round in a circle.
The more advanced training was to teach the horsemen to fall into platoons,
squadrons and battalions. It was important that the troops in a line did everything
together and all the maneuvers were done almost by instinct.
In early spring 1804, when the ground was not yet dry enough after thawing snows,
all squadrons of Grand Duke Constantine Uhlans gathered around the town of Mahnovka
for 6 weeks of “horse training” (dlia konnyh uchenii). When in May the
training was over, they returned to their allocated quarters.
Each half-squadron quartered in different settlement. Three sentries guarded each such settlemet.
One sentry consisted of 1 NCO and 7 privates and was stationed in the middle of
that settlement, by the main street. The other two sentries consisted of 1 NCO and
3 privates each and were stationed at the both ends of the main street.
Smoking was strictly forbidden for the sentries.
When the men were resting after maneuvers their horses were kept either in private
stables or on the pastures.
The quality of training varied, there were regiments poorly trained and disciplined and those who were outstanding. For example in Borodino Colonel Zass (he was admired by Prussian officers, incl. von Schubert) took his Pskov Dragoons and attacked the enemy’s infantry and cavalry. The dragoons broke and pursued the enemy becoming disordered. But then the trumpeters sounded and the dragoons rallied by their commander. It all was being done under fire. The order was restored and the regiment conducted another successful charge. Such exploits depended on the quality of training and careful preparations, which in turn depended on the quality of officers and the commander himself.
The history of cavalry horse in Russia is an interesting story. It was under Tsar Peter the Great that several new state-owned studs were organized to produce mounts for the army. Most of these horses had European and not Tatar origins.
Graf Orlov began his breeding experiments in the 1760s at Ostrov near Moscow. His mounts were the first saddle breed developed in Russia. During the Russo-Turkish wars, Orlov brought to Russia a large number of Arabians, among them Smetanka and Sultan I, Arabian stallions of truly outstanding distinction. He tried ten crossing types, Anglo-Asian was unsatisfactory but Arabian-Asian yielded Sultan II, a producer of good military mounts. In addition to Arabians, Orlov used the English Thoroughbred, the Karabakh horses, the Turkish, and even the Danish mounts. Traditionally the Don horse has roamed in herds, enduring harsh winters with little food. Its name comes from the Don River in Central Russia, then the heartland of Cossack country.
The first private stud farms devoted to the breeding of Don horses appeared at the end of the XVIII century and became well established and popular.
The service life of the horse in light cavalry was determined on 8 years. The imperial “A” brand was on every cavalry horse’s haunch.
During Napoleonic Wars many regiments rode on the Don horses.
Originally the Don horse was a small mount, but during the 1800's large numbers of the
Persian Arabs and Karabakh horses were bred to the Don. The Arabian horses were introduced
to the Don Cossacks’ herds as war booty.
The influx of foreign breeds resulted in larger horse, which combined the stamina of the
older breed and the more refined conformation of the foreign stocks.
The Don horse had a chiseled head, a little bit elevated forehead, proportioned ears,
a muscular chest and strong, fine legs. Their neck was rather lean, their chest was muscular,
their mane and tail were thin and their feet were usually sound and hardy.
The Bashkir horse was another surprisingly enduring both under the saddle and when used as a draft horse. Its qualities were appreciated in 1812-1814. Big herds of Bashkirs grazed on the pastures and could survive winter temperatures up to - 40 C ! The Bashkir had a long and massive body, wide and straightish back and breast cage was wide and deep. The limbs were relatively short and head was large, the horse was not a beauty contender. Russia has been a land of hard practical uses of horses in difficult terrain and harsh climate, with the poorest of foods and having to cover vast distances.
During the Napoleonic Wars the Russian horse although enjoyed an unsurpassed endurance it lacked the weight and bone for a shock effect in battle. This situation was often remedied by purchases of big mounts in Germany and Prussia. For example during the campaigning in 1813 and 1814, Tsar Alexandr purchased large number of big and strong horses from Germany and Prussia for his cuirassiers and from Prussia and Poland for his light cavalry.
Another source of cavalry horses were southern parts of the Russian Empire,
today the western and southern part of Ukraine. This land of vast steppes has a rich history
of horse combat. Here was the Wild East of Europe, where mounted troops criss-crossed the
country, ambushed the enemy, impaled or skinned the prisoners and burned the villages to the
ground before disappearing on the horizon. Here was the battleground where the Poles fought
against Russians, Cossacks, Turks and the wild Tatars for couple of centuries.
There was no uniformity of color of the horses in squadrons and regiments, except the
Imperial Guard. Outside of the guard much depended on the commander of regiment and
on the availability of mounts. There could be individual squadrons or even regiments
enjoying uniformity of color among their horses but it was not common. It was in contrast to the French cavalry which had its squadrons distinguished
by different colors.
On April 30, 1802 (JC) the height requirements and cost of horses were specified. The height of the horses for the cuirassiers was set between 2 arshin> 4 vershok and 2 arshin 2 vershok. The cost was approx. 100 roubles. Horses for dragoons were between 2 arshin and 2 vershok and 2 arshin and 1 vershok and cost 50 roubles.
Horses for ulans and hussars were between 2 arshin 2 vershok and 2 arshin and cost 40 roubles. The price could be increased by 15 roubles if the mount was of higher quality. The biggest horses were in the Guard Cavalry Regiment and Lifeguard Horse Regiment. At Fère Champenoise (1814) officer A. Y. Mirkovich from the Lifeguard Horse Regiment lost his mount in combat. When he was given another by one of the troopers, Grand Duke Constantine smiled and said: “Well, Mirkovich I see you are already riding on the elephant !”
The height given in cm is not always consistent
with the height given in hands as they are usually
given by two or three different sources.
Russian cavalry was armed with various firearms (pistols, carbines, musketoons, muskets and rifles), lances and edged weapons (pallash, straight and curved saber).
Picture: 1 - cavalry rifle 1803, 2 - hussar musketoon, 3 - pistols
The firearms used by Russian cavalry consisted of carbines, rifles, dragoon muskets and pistols. They were produced by Russian factories and purchased in Germany and Britain. There was also certain amount of Austrian and French (captured) weapons.
Comparison of the range of firearms in Russian army:
Each dragoon carried a 142cm long musket, bayonet and 2 pistols. The musket was carried on the saddle, on the right side. The flankers in dragoon regiments were armed with rifles as it was with the flankers in cuirassier regiments. In November 1812 was ordered that only pistols and 16 rifles per squadron can be left while the muskets were given to the infantry.
The musketoons appeared in Russian cavalry in 1790s. This smoothbore weapon had a
shortened barrel and was easier to use on a horse than the longer musket. Although it was
less accurate than the rifle, musket, and carbine it was more effective at close range due to
the way it was employed, like a miniature cannon.
The hussars, except their flankers, were equipped with carbines.
Hussar carbine 1809-pattern
Cavalry rifle 1803-pattern
The pistol was light, short and portable and for these reasons was given to the
cavalry. The two pistols were in saddle holsters. Hussar pistol weighted approx. 1,5 kg.
There were several models of pistols used, some of them of foreign origin.
Their length slightly varied from model to model and was between 45 cm and 60 cm.
Pistols had three major problems: misfires, poor accuracy and short range of fire,
only up to 30 m.
Picture: 1 - dragoon saber 1806, 2 - cuirassier saber 1810, 3 - cuirassier saber 1798, 4 - light cavalry saber 1798, 5 - light cavalry saber 1809
The basic weapon of cavalry was the saber. During Napoleonic Wars the Russian cavalry used several patterns of curved and straight sabers. The officers’ sabers were of better quality, most often their hilt was gilded. Additionally the cavalry was issued some number of weapons of foreign origin: British, Austrian, Prussian or (captured) French.
Unlike the use of the pistol or carbine the saber required the physical contact with the opponent. The curved saber was used in its best when swung in an arc to achieve a cutting effect by a motion towards the center of the enemy with the horseman’s arm extended. It also allowed to cut with a slicing action, where the blade's edge was drawn across the opponent with a quite good result. Straight saber may also cut, but this is directly dependent for its effect on the weight of the blade and the position of its center of balance. The cut was a more instinctive blow than a thrust, and in cavalry mêlées the average cavalryman will tend to cut even if his sword is more suited to the thrust.
The light cavalry saber - Pattern 1798 was used by the hussar and ulan regiments, the dragoon regiments of the
Caucasian inspection till 1809, and until 1812 by Lifeguard Uhlan Regiment.
The light cavalry saber - Pattern 1809 replaced the old sabers in the Lifeguard Uhlan Regiment,
Lifeguard Hussar Regiment, and in the dragoon regiments of the Caucasian Inspection.
By 1812 this weapon replaced also the old sabers in all the hussar and ulan regiments.
The heavy cavalry saber - Pattern 1798 was carried by the cuirassiers at Austerlitz, Eylau and Friedland until 1809-1810
when it was replaced by a thinner weapon modeled on the popular French patterns.
After war in 1805 the Russians introduced cavalry saber - Pattern 1806 for their dragoons.
It had a straight 89-cm long blade, was 3.8-cm wide, and weighted 1.65 kg.
This weapon was copied after the sabers of French dragoons and had a point enabling the
man to thrust more effectively than with the curved saber or with the old heavy cavalry sabers.
However the length of the blade was insufficient to make the dragoons equal to their French counterparts in a line vs line combat. It also
didn’t have the curvature needed to match the French hussars’ sabers in individual combat.
The heavy cavalry saber - Pattern 1809 (1810) was one of the most obvious images of the Russian cuirassiers, perhaps second to the black armor. The troopers in the front rank charged with wrist turned inward, their hands at eye level and the point lower than hand. The troopers in the second rank attacked saber high. It was THE weapon for the heavies as it had a straight 97-cm long blade allowing the greatest reach when used its point. This wapon was modeled on French cuirassiers’ saber. The scabbard was made of iron.
In 1811 part of dragoons received from arsenals in Moscow and Kiev the so-called “Imperial pallash. ” It was Austrian broadsword weapon. (Bezotosnyi, Vasiliev, Gorshman, Parhayev, Smirnov - “Russkaia armiia 1812-1814” Vlados, Moskva 2000, p 15)
In 1801 was ordered that the privates in horse regiments (Polish and Tartar-Lithuanian) had lances with woodwork painted in red. In May 1806 the privates of Grand Duke Constantine Uhlan Regiment replaced their carbines with lances that had their woodwork painted in black. The adopted in 1806-1807 by all regiments lance shaft was black. According to Polish tradition, only the troopers in the first rank were armed with lances and the Russians followed this pattern. The total length of the lance averaged between 280 and 290 cm.
The pennant was called horonzhevka from Polish choragiewka.
In 1812 selected troopers of ulan regiments were sent as instructors to drill hussars with the use of the lance. Between April and May most of the hussar regiments were armed with lances. Three regiments campaigning on Crimean Peninsula and along Danube River were issued lances a little bit later.
Officially the lances of hussars were without pennants. Unofficially the Pavlograd and the Izum hussars attached pennants (turquoise-white and red-dark blue, respectively) to their lances and probably at least the Ahtyrka did the same. According to Kutuzov’s headquarters’ journal of military operations (8 Oct. 1812): “Mjr. Hrapovitski, in order to confuse the enemy, has ordered his hussars to put pennants on their lances…” (M. I. Kutuzov. - “Sbornik dokumentov” Vol. 4, Part 2. Moscow, 1955, p 130)
In the following campaigns in 1813-1815 it was left up to hussars if they want to abandon or keep their lances. This is interesting that the Lifeguard Hussar Regiment never carried lances.
Mustaches and Hair Styles.
The new recruits had their heads and beards shaven. Some of them tried in vain to bribe
the barbers. The cavalrymen and Cossacks, privates and officers, all wore mustaches.
(The only few exceptions were officers of dragoon and cuirassier regiments.)
In 1806-1807 the pigtails were discarded for the lower ranks. Later on they were abolished for the officers too.
When the hussars had to abandon their innumerable plaits from the temples, they
were quite unhappy. They considered this as a blow to their self-esteem and complained that
they will become “no better than dragoons.”
The Best Regiments of Russian Cavalry.
We have selected six regiments (1 cuirassier, 1 dragoon, 4 hussars) which distinguished themselves on battlefield, captured enemy's color and guns, or put up a gallant fight to beat off the enemy. The Guard regiments are excluded.
Abbreviations of ranks:
"The Grodno hussars were, as usual,
brilliant in combat." - Ernst M. H. von Gaffron
Chefs: 1806 - 1811 GM Dmitrii D. Shepelev,
1811 - July 1812 GM Yakov P. Kulniev,
1812 - 1814 Fedor V. Ridiger (in May 1813 GM)
Commanders: 1811 - Oct. 1812 Plk. Fedor V. Ridiger
Friedrich Rüdiger (in May 1813 GM)
This regiment was formed in June 1806 from squadrons taken from the Alexandria, Izum, Olviopol and Soumy hussar regiments. The Grodno Hussars were led by Yakov Kulniev, a fiery fighter and tough disciplinarian. He was a legend in Russia and died in combat in young age. In 1806-1807 the Grodno Hussars fought at Mishinitzy where they defeated French chasseurs and broke an infantry square. On May 25th 1807 two squadrons led by Kulniev fought at Kommersdorf. They captured many prisoners, ammunition wagons, and destroyed enemy's camp, blew up wagons and carriages and got out of the encirclement. The Grodno Hussars fought at Friedland where they participated in the big cavalry battle. Then, when the French cut off one battalion of the Pavlovsk grenadiers, the Grodno Hussars came with rescue and fend off all attacks made by French cuirassiers.
In 1808-1809 the Grodno hussars participated in the campaign against Sweden: near Viano Farm executed a "powerful charge, driving the Swedes off the field." In March 1809 they participated in the famous march on the frozen Baltic Sea.
In July 1812 French General Jean Saint Geniez was taken prisoner at Onikszty by Kornet Glebov. St. Geniez was the first French general captured by the Russian army during this war.
Between 3rd and 17th July the Grodno Hussars were very active in small warfare and captured up to 2.000 prisoners. In July at Filipova, tye Grodno Hussars (8 squadrons) defeated 12 squadrons of the French 7th and 20th Chasseurs, and a Polish uhlan regiment. The enemy was pursued and 170 were taken prisoner.
On July 18-19th 1812 at Druia the hussars and Cossacks defeated French 11th and 12th Chasseurs and Polish 10th Hussars. In the end of July, within the period of several days Tzytliatzev with 20 hussars captured 200 prisoners. On Oct. 6-7th (18-19th) they fought with distinction at the Second Battle of Polotzk. In April 1813 the Grodno hussars were awarded with silver trumpets for 1812 war.
In 1813 the Grodno Hussars fought in Luneburg, Lutzen, Bautzen and Dresden where they broke the square formed by 5th Voltigeur Regiment of Young Guard. The enemy lost 10 officers and 300 men killed, wounded and taken prisoner.
On Oct. 14th 1813, they fought gallantly in Leipzig, held off all attacks conducted by the Saxons, Polish and French cavalry and won the praise of the witnesses of the battle. A Prussian cuirassier Ernst M. H. von Gaffron wrote: "As far as I remember the Grodno hussars were first through the village of Cröbern, then our regiment, as we went straight into the attack... The Grodno hussars were, as usual, brilliant in combat."
In Leipzig they also attacked artillery deployed between Holzhausen, Zuckelhausen and Stötteritz and seized a couple of guns. On the 3rd day of battle of Leipzig this regiment conducted three consecutive charges. During one of them NCO Gruzenko was the first who got to enemy's battery and killed an officer. The French cavalry counterattacked and Gruzenko had to abandon his trophy. Frustrated he spiked the gun, then drew his pistol and killed the draft horses. Several French dragoons attacked him but being a good swordsman he unsaddled the first attacker with a quick cut. The other dragoons kept respectful distance and let him go. At Probstheida the Grodno and Soumy Hussars "furiously attacked" and overthrew part of French infantry under Marshal Victor. For Leipzig their officers were awarded with Russian and Prussian awards (from Prussian King was the Pour le Mérite order).
In 1814 the Grodno Hussars fought in Brienne, Bar sur Aube, Arcis and Paris. In 1814 the Grodno Hussar Regiment was awarded with badges on their shakos. When the Napoleonic Wars ended this regiment had 400 men who were awarded with Military order for bravery in combat.
"The Scum of All Vagabonds
Who Were Ripe for Gallows".
Chefs: 1807 - Aug 1813 GM Alexei P. Melissino
Aug 1813 - Jan 1814 GM Evgenii V. Davydov
1814 - GM Ivan Troshchinski
Commanders: 1808-1810 Plk. I. A. Maximovich-Vasilkovski.
This regiment was raised in 1807 in similar way as were formed the first uhlan regiments, it means from all classes of free Russian and foreign persons who were not subject to the poll tax and not under other service obligations. The length of service was prescribed to be not less than 6 years instead of 25 years. In their ranks served Russians, Tatars, Greeks, Serbs, Hungarians, Poles, Moldavians, Turks, Jews and even Italians. One could find among them men of all walks of life, artists, gentry, vagabonds, foreigners and "those of the worst sort." But in combat "the scum" fought like Verzeifelte against the enemy.
The Loubny Hussar Regiment was organized and led by a male beauty GM Alexei P. Melissino. Melissino was well educated, spoke fluently in several languages and was so well and proportionately build that served as a model for the monument of the Tzar Peter the Great. Although he was an agreeable person he had a strange thread in his character that caused the "the scum of all vagabonds" quivering from fear. He kept them under iron fist. Alexei Melissino himself was "brave like a lion" and expected not less from his thugs. At Dresden having thrown his horse on bayonets he was killed by 3 musketballs fired by the Young Guard. (Other source described that a cannonball killed him in front of his regiment).
Chef: 1807-1810 GM Baron Egor Meller-Zakomelski
1810 - Jan 1812 Plk. Egor E. Klebeck
Jan 1812 - 1815 Plk. Prince Ivan M. Vadbolski (in May 1813 GM)
In their ranks served Russians, Poles and Lithuanians. In 1805 at Durrenstein - together with infantry - they mauled French 4th Dragoon Regiment. In 1812 near Smolensk, the Mariupol and Elisavetgrad Hussars impressed Sir Robert Wilson. He considered their courage and skill in the maneuver as unsurpassable. At Valutina Gora their attack at Lubino caused considerable damage to enemy's infantry (described as "chopped on the spot"). At Vilno they captured Color of the 9th Cuirassier Regiment. The Mariupol Hussars' hour of fame came in fall and winter of 1812 during the pursuit of Napoleon's Grande Armee. They participated in numerous small combats and captured hundreds of prisoners. In February 1813 they were awarded with 22 silver trumpets for the 1812 campaign.
In 1813 at Katzbach they made a gallant charge which put the French cavalry into flight. For this exploit the monarch awarded them with badges on shakos with inscription "For distinction 14 Aug. 1813". In Leipzig in 1813 they fought between villages of Eutritzsch and Schönefeld and together with the Ahtirka hussars broke French troops and chased across the Parthe River. Then, despite the fire from French artillery they struck the flank of the III Cavalry Corps. The enemy broke and sought refuge behind infantry. In few minutes the French were seen in every direction for miles rearward with hussars on their heels. A half thousand prisoners and 5 guns were captured. This defeat shook the French infantry on the other side of the river. (Description in Nafziger's "Napoleon at Leipzig")
In 1814 at Brienne they participated in the defeat of infantry of Young Guard but at Craonne the cavalry of Old Guard routed them.
Chef: 1806-1814 GM Efim I. Chaplitz (in 1812 GL)
Commanders: Dec 1806 - 1810 Plk. Baron Alexandr V. Rosen
1810 - 1815 Plk. (GM in Sept. 1813) Prince Spiridon E. Zhevahov.
(Zhevahov, or by Georgian name Dzhavahishvili, came from Georgian
princeses and served in this regiment since 1797.)
The Pavlograd Hussars was one of the most popular cavalry regiments in Russia. In this regiment served Russians, Lithuanians, Poles and Ukrainians. Between July 1806 and Sept 1814 their chef was GM (GL since Oct 1812) Efim I. Chaplitz. He was officer with Polish origins and participated in the wars against Turks, Poles, fought in Caucassus, and against the French in 1805, 1806 and 1807. In 1812 he sent "shock waves" through Lithuania by demolishing one of Napoleon's guard cavalry regiments at Slonim, the 3rd Lancers (Young Guard).
In 1805 the Pavlograd Husars were part of the hard fighting Bagration's Rear Guard and won fame for delaying French advance. At Enns, disregarding the canister fire they burned a bridge. (Duffy - "Austerlitz 1805" 1977, p 56)
In Hollabrunn they fought until were cut off from the main body of Bagrations' corps. Spiridon Zhevahov led his squadron against the encircling forces and the rest of the regiment followed them. For Hollabrunn/Shöngrabben they were allowed to carry two standards in every squadron as a special honor. (Alla Begunova however (after Strukov's "Istoricheskiy ocherk o regaliah i znakah otlichiya Russkoi Armii" 1902, Vol III, p 19) gives them only 1 St. George standard for the entire regiment.) The Pavlograd Hussars also fought in Durrenstein and Austerlitz, where while trying to cover the withdrawal of defeated infantry, they put on a desperate fight against several cuirassier regiments. According to Kutuzov's "Sbornik dokumentov" they lost 243 men at Austerlitz.
In 1807 the Pavlograd Hussars were again part of the hard fighting rear guard under Bagration.
In 1812 after the battle of Kobrin, General Chaplitz sent two squadrons of Pavlograd Hussars on the road from Kobrin to Slutzk. The hussars met two squadrons of Saxon cavalry with two guns. They met and "cut to pieces" one part of the Saxon force and chased the other part toward Kobrin itself, the guns were captured as well. They also fought at Slonim where with the Cossacks defeated Napoleon's 3rd Lighthorse-Lancer Regiment (Young Guard). At Berezina they routed French cavalry and captured Color (squadron guidon ?) of French 3rd Lancers.
In 1813 between January and April they participated in the blockade of Torun (Thorn), then fought in Lepzig and were part of corps liberating Holland. In Nov-Dec the Pavlograd Hussars together with infantry, artillery, and Cossacks captured Amesterdam, Rotterdam and Breda.
In 1814 in Craonne they conducted 8 charges (!) and despite the exhaustion of horses and men they formed the rear guard of the retreating Russian forces. They paid the heaviest price for their heroics - this is said that out of 900 men only 400 survived. After the battle at St. Dizier the Pavlograd Hussars again covered the retreat of infantry on the road to Bar-le-Duc. In 1814 they were awarded with badges on their shakos for this campaign.
In one of the great novels, "War and Peace" (ext.link) by L. Tolstoy, the Pavlograd hussars are mentioned on several occassions.
Chef: 1809-1814 GM Andrei I. Gudovich
Commanders: 1809 - 1810 Plk. Fedor von Raden
1811 - Pplk. (Plk. in July 1813) E. F. Stakelberg
Their helmets and leather pouches bore St. George star instead of the eagle, their collars and shoulder straps were black. It was one of the toughest cuirassier outfits in Europe. For their competence and bravery they obtained superior results and set example that inspired others to strive for glorious achievements. At Eylau officer Serguienko and private Illin captured eagle and drapeau of the II Battalion of French 24th Line. (This loss is confirmed by French sources in Andolenko. Capitaine de Castelverd states that the French unit "was completely overcome.") The cuirassiers also captured a French battery but due to the lack of horses these had to be left behind. Such was their involvement in fighting at Eylau that in the end a mere captain led them ! This regiment fought with distinction also in Heilsberg and Friedland. Vasilii Alferov was awarded with #2523 St. George Cross (Military order) For Distinction for capturing 2 guns on 24th Jan (5th Feb) 1807.
In 1812 at Krasne they destroyed infantry column. ("Russkaia armiia 1812-1814" p 69) In April 1813 this regiment was awarded with 22 St. George trumpets for campaign of 1812.
Sources and Links.
For bibliography see our article "The Russian Army."
Russian Infantry - - - - - Russian Cavalry and Cossacks - - - - - Russian Artillery
Russian Imperial Guard
Battle of Heilsberg 1807
Bennigsen vs Napoleon
Battle of Borodino 1812
The bloodiest battle of the Napoleonic wars
Battle of Dresden, 1813
Russians, Austrians and Prussians
crushed by Napoleon
Battle of Leipzig, 1813
The Battle of the Nations,
the largest conflict until World War One.
Battle of La Rothiere 1814
Russians under Blucher defeated Napoleon.
Napoleon, His Army and Enemies