Monday, May 25, 2015

Russian Army – Napoleonic Wars

Upon his accession to the throne, Tsar Paul launched a series of reforms aimed at transforming the Russian Army. His Gatchina Troops (the tsar's personal guard at the palace of that name), trained in the Prussian manner, became the pattern for the rest of the imperial army. New drill regulations were introduced in December 1796, while new uniforms were issued in the Prussian style, and soldiers were required to wear their hair pulled back behind their heads in tightly braided queues. The officer corps was purged, and 7 field marshals, over 300 generals, and more than 2,000 officers were expelled between 1796 and 1799. Regiments went through a major transformation, as regimental commanders lost their power and regimental chefs (colonel-proprietors) gained virtually unlimited authority over the units. For the duration of Paul's rule, units were designated after the chefs. Ten Jäger corps and three separate battalions were soon transformed into separate regiments. Under the 1796 Regulations, heavy cavalry regiments comprised five squadrons, while the light cavalry was organized into two regiments of five squadrons each. 

Paul's reforms were most beneficial for the artillery. Lighter artillery pieces were introduced, and specific regulations were adopted for barrels and carriages. New artillery was armed with 12-pounder (medium and small) and 6-pounder guns, and 20-pounder and 10-pounder unicorns (a type of artillery piece unique to the Russians, the unicorn was a compromise between an ordinary cannon and a howitzer). Russian artillery was organized into one horse and ten field battalions, each consisting of five companies. Each field artillery company included four medium 12-pounder guns, four small 12-pounder guns, and four 20-pounder unicorns. The horse artillery company consisted of six 6-pounder guns and six 10-pounder unicorns. Infantry regiments were also assigned artillery pieces. 

The Russian Army was divided between fourteen military inspectorates (inspektsia). Two inspectors (one each for infantry and cavalry) regularly examined troops in each inspection, while the Inspector of All Artillery supervised the whole branch of the service. Emphasis was put on drilling and parade appearance, rather than on actual tactical maneuvers. In January 1801, the Russian Army consisted of 446,059 men: 201,280 infantrymen, 41,685 cavalrymen, 36,500 artillerymen, 96,594 garrison troops, and 70,000 men in special forces (for example, the corps of Louis- Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Condé, a French emigré). 

On the accession of Tsar Alexander, the main military forces comprised the following forces: infantry-three Imperial Guard, thirteen grenadier, sixty-nine musketeer, and nineteen Jäger regiments; cavalry-four Imperial Guard, thirteen cuirassier, eleven dragoon, eight hussar, two horse, and three regular Cossack regiments; and the artillery and engineer service-four field and one horse artillery regiments, one pioneer regiment, and eight pontoon companies. The first several years of Alexander's reign saw the gradual transformation of Russian military forces. After the 1802 reforms, an infantry regiment was organized into three battalions of four companies each, and the average strength of units varied between 1,500 and 1,700 men. Although the Russian Army had ad hoc divisions on campaign, the conversion to a divisional system was only initiated in 1806, when the first eighteen divisions were formed. The normal strength of a division was 18,000- 20,000 men. By 1812 Russian forces increased to almost 700,000 men, including 362,000 infantry, 86,920 cavalry, 52,500 artillerymen, 75,000 garrison troops, and up to 120,000 irregulars. 

The Russian infantry included heavy and light infantry and garrison troops. In 1812, the heavy infantry included four Guard, fourteen grenadier, ninety-six infantry, and four marine regiments, and the Caspian Sea Marine Battalion. The garrison infantry comprised the Life Guard Garrison Battalion, twelve garrison regiments, twenty garrison battalions, and forty-two battalions and four halfbattalions of the Internal Guard. Infantry forces also included invalid companies. Each regiment included two to four battalions, each composed of four companies. Regimental chefs commanded the regiments, and the 1st battalion was designated as the chef bataillon (shefskii) and carried the chef’s name. In the chef’s absence, the regimental commander or commanding officer led the unit. After October 1810 a regular infantry regiment consisted of two active battalions (1st and 3rd) and one replacement (2nd, or zapasnoi) battalion; after November 1811 the 4th reserve (rezervnii) battalion was assigned to the recruitment depots. The grenadier companies of the 2nd battalions were often combined to establish combined grenadier battalions. The light infantry regiments did not carry flags, while the line infantry units usually had six flags (two for each battalion, except for the 4th battalion). One of the flags was considered regimental and often referred to as "white," while the other were known as "colored." 

Infantry regiments were organized into brigades, divisions, and corps. Two regiments comprised a brigade; three brigades (1st and 2nd infantry, 3rd Jäger) made a division. In a grenadier division, all three brigades were composed of grenadiers. Each division had field artillery consisting of one battery and two light companies. Divisions were designated by numbers, and by mid-1812 there were one Guard infantry division, two grenadier divisions, and twenty-four infantry divisions. Later, additional divisions were established to reinforce the army, including the 28th and 29th divisions from the Orenburg and Siberia garrisons forces; the 30th through the 37th divisions were raised from the 2nd battalions of the first twenty-seven divisions and the 38th to 48th divisions from the 4th battalions of the remaining divisions. The light infantry gradually increased throughout the Napoleonic Wars. In 1812 it consisted of two Guard and fifty Jäger regiments and the Guard ekipazh (crew). In addition, during the Russian campaign, special jäger regiments and battalions were organized within the gubernia Opolchenyes (provincially based, virtually untrained militia). The Jäger regiments had similar organization to the line infantry units. Each infantry division had one Jäger brigade, usually the third. 

After the 1801 reorganization, Russian heavy cavalry comprised five squadrons, of which four were active and one stood in reserve. In 1803, the number of cuirassier regiments was set at six, while the dragoons increased to twenty-two. By 1805 there were four Guard regiments, six cuirassier, thirty dragoon, eight hussar, and three uhlan (lancer) regiments, while in 1812, cavalry included six Guard, eight cuirassier, thirty-six dragoon, eleven hussar, and five uhlan regiments. The Russian Guard cavalry consisted of four regiments of five squadrons each, two heavy (Chevalier Guard and Life Guard Horse) and two light (Hussar and Cossack). 

Unit strengths varied greatly; on average, a heavy cavalry regiment consisted of one commanding officer, forty officers, seven NCOs, seventeen trumpeters, and 660 privates. Light cavalry regiments were divided into two battalions of five squadrons each; each regiment included one commanding officer, sixty-seven officers, 120 noncommissioned officers, twenty-one trumpeters, and 1,320 privates. One squadron from each battalion was designated as in reserve, while the remaining units were on active duty. On campaign, the reserve squadron remained in depot and trained recruits for the replacements. The regimental chef commanded each cavalry regiment, and the 1st squadron was usually named after him. In his absence, the regimental commander led the unit. Two or three cavalry regiments were often organized into a brigade, and three brigades (two heavy and one light) were united into a cavalry division. In 1812 divisions were further organized into cavalry corps. Cuirassier brigades had a separate designation from the general cavalry brigades. By 1812 there were one Guard cavalry division, two cuirassier divisions, and eight cavalry divisions. In March 1812 eight new cavalry divisions were formed; the 9th through 12th Divisions were organized from the replacement squadrons, while the 13th through 16th Divisions were raised from the cavalry recruitment depots. 

After the 1812 campaign the cavalry underwent major reorganization. Two dragoon regiments were transformed into cuirassier regiments, one dragoon regiment into a hussar regiment, seven dragoon regiments into uhlans, and eight dragoon regiments into horse Jägers. In late December 1812 new cavalry divisions were formed-one Guard cavalry division, three cuirassier divisions, four dragoon divisions, two horse-Jäger divisions, three hussar divisions, and three uhlan divisions. Each division now included four regiments, with each regiment composed of six active and one replacement squadron. 

Tsar Alexander also continued his father's reforms of the artillery. Starting in 1802 a special commission supervised its modernization. In 1803 the artillery train, which was previously manned by civilians, was placed under military control. New aiming devices (dioptre and quadrant) and caissons (ammunition wagons) were introduced in 1802-1803. In 1803, 3-pounder unicorns were distributed to Jäger units. The field artillery was reorganized. Regimental artillery was detached from units and formed into separate light artillery companies. In 1804 the regimental artillery was organized into regiments composed of two battalions of four companies each (two heavy and two light). In 1805 the inspector of all artillery, Aleksey Arakcheyev, launched a series of reforms to modernize the artillery. Known as the 1805 System, these measures introduced standardized equipment, ammunition, and guns. Following the Russian defeat at Austerlitz, however, further changes were introduced in the artillery. In 1806 artillery regiments were reorganized into brigades of two heavy, one horse, and two light artillery companies. Brigades were attached to infantry divisions. 

New artillery regulations prescribed specific instructions on artillery deployment and firing. By 1812 the artillery comprised the Guard and (regular) army branches. The regular artillery consisted of twenty-seven field artillery brigades (972 guns), ten reserve brigades (492 guns), and four replacement brigades (408 guns). Each brigade included one heavy and two light companies of 12 guns each. Cossack forces also included two horse artillery companies, with a third added in 1813. Artillery companies were armed with 12-pounder and 6-pounder guns, and 20-pounder and 10-pounder unicorns. A squad comprised two guns (vzvod) commanded by a noncommissioned officer. Two squads formed a division, and three divisions made one company, led by a staff officer.

No comments:

Post a Comment