By Vladimir Velikanov
All available Russian infantry was on garrison duty on the Southern borders of Russia, and it was very dangerous to move it away because of the raids by Crimean Tartars. In the beginning, new regiments were formed by the enlistment of men, but this failed to produce sufficient numbers, and the Russian government ordered the first conscription. In 1652, one man from every 100 homesteads was conscripted. Including the enlisted manpower, this was enough number to form 15 regiments which bore the name of their colonel. The names of some these regiments were:
- Abraham Leslie - Butler - Gypson - Trafert - de Stevill - Jander - Gundermaher - Englis - Filippus - Albert van Bukoven - Martot - Zacks
These 12 regiments were part of the Russian Army, which seized Smolensk in 1654. They were trained by the new regulations of 1647 ucheny & khitrost ratnogo dela ("Knowledge and Ruse of Military Science"). It was Russian translation of "Military Art of Infantry" by I. Valgenhausen (J.J. Wallenhausen, Kriegskunst zu Fuss, 16??). In 1650 Dutch regulations for Reiters were also adopted (J.J. Wallenhausen, Kriegskunst zu Pferde, 1616 ?).
Intensive actions on the wide front during the 1654-67 War demanded more soldiers and the Russian government continued to conscript soldiers from all parts of the country. Usually one man was conscripted from every 25 homesteads, but in some districts in the West of the country one soldier was conscripted from every three adult men. These soldiers were called Datochnye (given or conscripted). The conscription of 1658 (one from 25 homesteads) resulted in 18,000 men. The conscription of 1659 (on the same conditions) resulted in 15,577 men. Each conscripted soldier had an "obligator", who had to go to army if he deserted. The conscription in December 1660 (one soldier from 20 homesteads) resulted in 17,423 men. It continued until September 1661. The total number recruited during these three national conscriptions was 51,000 men. During the war with Poland 1654-67, about 100,000 men were conscripted (this is the total for both national and local conscriptions). Datochnye (recruited) soldiers had to serve for life. During peacetime, most of the soldiers were dismissed until war began, the rest were used for border and garrison duties. The strength of these regiments differed.
During the war in 1663 there were about 50-60,000 men in 55 regiments. After the war this was reduced to 25-30,000 in 20-25 regiments.
In the 1663 the Russian field army against Poland consisted of: - 42 Infantry regiments - 24,377 men - 8 Dragoon regiments - 9,334 - 22 Reiter regiments - 18,795 - 2 Lancer regiments - 1,185 - 1 Hussars - 757
Conscripted regiments were conditionally divided into the two groups: - Gorodovye - Vybrannye Gorodovye regiments were stationed in garrisons throughout the Russia. As a rule, in peacetime these regiments were quartered in towns, and soldiers were dismissed and gathered once a year for inspection and exercises.
The word Vybrannye means "selected". They were the elite regiments of Russian Army. There were two such regiments, and they were stationed in Moscow. They were kept at full strength all of the time; however, their organization changed over time. At the beginning of the 1650's they probably numbered 1,600 men in 8-10 companies. In the 1660's and 70's the Vybrannye regiments numbered 2,000 men each. Each regiment was divided in two groups known as "thousands", one of pikemen and the other of musketeers. The musketeers of the Vybrannye regiments wore blue and the pikemen wore green uniform. By the 1690's these regiments had been reduced to 1,000 men each and wore red coats.
There is a great deal which is unknown about the organization of the Conscripted regiments. Enlisted regiments in 1632 numbered 1,600 in 8 companies (960 musketeers & 80 pikemen). Later regiments were 1,600 soldiers in 8 companies also; but during the 1654-67 War, Conscripted regiments (1,600 men) were probably divided in 10 companies (according to Chernov). Russian historian Razin wrote that at the end of the 1680's regiments contained 6-10 companies. Regardless of the number of companies in regiment, each company was divided into the 3 Kapralstvo (a unit under a command of corporal).
In reality each regiment had between 1,200 and 1,500 men. For example, in June 1655 the Corps of Khitrovo had 5,379 men in 3 Regular regiments and 12 Sotnia (a unit of one hundred men) of feudal levy. The Regular regiments numbered 4,000 soldiers in 3 regiments, or about 1,300 men in each. This Corps was the vanguard of the main Russian Army, which in the summer of 1655 advanced from Smolensk to Vilnius. This shortage of soldiers was peculiar to regular regiments, especially by the end of war.
All regiments in Russian Army in the 17th Century were named after their colonels. For example, during the Swedish sally from Riga on 2 October1659 four Regular regiments were defeated: Ziklert's, Nenart's, Angler's and Ungmann's. In this action 17 Russian colours were captured. It gives an idea about the number of colours in regular regiment. There were more than 17 (believe some were not captured) colours in 36-40 companies.
Probably each company had its own colour.
By the end of the 17th Century most Datochnye regiments lost their military efficiency because of 20 years peace. They lacked training and lost combat experience. In spite of this, there were 47 Datochnye regiments on the rolls at the beginning of the 18th Century. Some of them took part in the Azov campaign. As far as I know, they did not take part in the first actions of the Great Northern War, but were used in rebuilding the army following Narva. Some these regiments were converted to new infantry or garrison regiments, while others were broken up and the distributed among newly formed units. Peter did not use Datochnye regiments as field units because of their poor training.
Regular Cavalry Before the middle of the 17th Century, Russian cavalry consisted of Feudal Levy and Cossacks. Feudal Levy was called Pomestnaia (estate). Every member of gentry having any estate had to serve in this levy during war with his servants. Their number depended on the size of levy. According ancient Russian laws, if father had 2 or more sons, inheritance was received only by eldest. The others received nothing. They were called bezpomestnye deti boyarskie. They did not have to serve in army. This changed in the May of 1654. By an ordinance they were called to the army as volunteers. The Government decided to form regular Reiter regiments from them. (the feudal levy was called up only during war). These new units were a kind of elite cavalry.
During the 1654-67 War, the composition changed. Sometimes, losses were replaced by using recruited serfs or non-gentry volunteers. For example, in 1659-60 in the Reiter regiments in Belorussia and the Ukraine three-quarters of the units' strength was nongentry. After the war, all of these non-gentry units were converted to infantry and the Reiters again became an elite, gentry-based cavalry. In the middle of the 1670's in the 77 Russian garrisons on the Southern border there were 12,000 Reiters of which 10,658 were gentry. Reiters were equipped with a carbine and a pair of pistols. They also had sword or sabre. They were protected by cuirass and metal helmet. By an ordinance of 1660 these Reitar regiments consisted of 1,000 men. Each regiment consisted of a regimental staff and 10 companies each of 3 kapralstvo.
Besides the Reiters, another type of regular cavalry was the Lancers. They appear in the Reiters regiments, and were a copy of Polish pancerni cavalry. They formed a separate company in each Reiter regiment. The difference between Lancers and Reiters was in equipment. Lancers were equipped with a short lance (spear) and pistol. He was protected by a cuirass and helmet. In combat the Lancers were the shock troops in assault and protected the Reiters in close combat.
As separate units, Lancers appear by 1662 in the Belgorod Corps (on the southern border of Russia). Two regiments were converted from Reiters to Lancers. These regiments consisted of 5 companies, each of about 100 men. One company in each lancer regiment was Reiter.
In contrast to southern units, in the Novgorod Corps (Northwest) a separate Hussar regiment was formed. It had different history from the lancers. The hussars were formed as a close combat unit in Reiter regiments. Russian hussars were a copy of Polish Hussars, but without "wings" and shields . In 1662 a separate Hussar regiment was formed under Colonel Nikifor Karaulov. In consisted 20 officers and 350 hussars in five companies. In 1673 this regiment numbered 417 men, and 465 men in 1679.
Hussars were armed with a lance (not spear) and pistols. They were protected by a light cuirass and Naruchnik (an armour protecting the hands). In the middle of 1670's Lancer companies were added to Reiters regiments in Novgorod corps too, but a separate Hussar regiment was retained.
In 1680-90's regular cavalry, as well as regular infantry, lost their military efficiency. In contrast to the Datochnye infantry all cavalry units were disbanded by Peter the Great because he did not trust the old Russian gentry. New Russian cavalry (dragoons and horse grenadiers) were formed from recruited serfs.