Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars

Imperial Russian Army during the Napoleonic Wars

The Imperial Russian Army was the principal armed force of the Russian Empire during its participation in the Napoleonic Wars. As a major European power, Russia could not escape the wars involving revolutionary and Napoleonic France, but as an adversary to Napoleon, the leadership of the new tsar, Alexander I of Russia (r. 18011825), who came to the throne as the result of his father's murder, in which he was rumoured to be implicated, became crucial. Alexander's primary focus was not on domestic policy, but on foreign affairs, and particularly on the growing influence of Napoleon. Fearing Napoleon's expansionist ambitions and the growth of French power, Alexander joined Britain and Austria against Napoleon.

War of the Third Coalition in 1805

Napoleon was angry that British troops had not evacuated the island of Malta.Chandler p. 304] The tense situation only worsened when Napoleon sent an expeditionary force to crush the Haitian Revolution.Chandler p. 320] In May 1803, Britain declared war on France.

In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement led to the creation of the Third Coalition. British Prime Minister William Pitt spent 1804 and 1805 in a flurry of diplomatic activity geared towards forming a new coalition against France. Mutual suspicion between the British and the Russians eased in the face of several French political mistakes, and by April of 1805 the two had signed a treaty of alliance.Chandler p. 328. The Baltic was dominated by Russia, something Britain wasn't comfortable with since it provided valuable commodities like timber, tar, and hemp, crucial supplies to the British Empire. Additionally, Britain supported the Ottoman Empire against Russian incursions towards the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, French territorial rearrangements in Germany occurred without Russian consultation and Napoleon's annexations in the Po valley increasingly strained relations between the two.] Having been defeated twice in recent memory by France and keen on revenge, Austria also joined the coalition a few months later.Chandler p. 331]

The Russian army in 1805 had many characteristics of ancien régime organization: there was no permanent formation above the regimental level, senior officers were largely recruited from aristocratic circles, and the Russian soldier, in line with 18th century practice, was regularly beaten and punished to instill discipline. Furthermore, many lower-level officers were poorly trained and had difficulty getting their men to perform the sometimes complex manoeuvres required in a battle. Nevertheless, the Russians did have a fine artillery arm manned by soldiers who regularly fought hard to prevent their pieces from falling into enemy hands. [p. 33, Fisher, Fremont-Barnes]

Napoleon defeated the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz in 1805.

War of the Fourth Coalition 1806–1807

The Fourth Coalition (1806–1807) of Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden and the United Kingdom against France formed within months of the collapse of the previous coalition.

In August 1806, the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm III made the decision to go to war independently of any other great power, save the distant Russia. Another course of action might have involved declaring war the previous year and joining Austria and Russia. This might have contained Napoleon and prevented the Allied disaster at Austerlitz. In any event, the Russian army, an ally of Prussia, still remained far away when Prussia declared war.

The French drove Russian forces out of Poland and created a new Duchy of Warsaw. Napoleon then turned north to confront the remainder of the Russian army [ [ Maps of Napoleon's Campaign In Poland 1806–7] .] and to attempt to capture the temporary Prussian capital at Königsberg. A tactical draw at Eylau (February 7–8) forced the Russians to withdraw further north. Napoleon then routed the Russian army at Friedland (June 14). Following this defeat, Alexander was forced to sue for peace with Napoleon at Tilsit (July 7, 1807), with Russia becoming Napoleon's ally. Russia lost little territory under the treaty, and Alexander made use of his alliance with Napoleon for further expansion.

At the Congress of Erfurt (September–October 1808) Napoleon and Alexander agreed that Russia should force Sweden to join the Continental System, which led to the Finnish War of 1808–1809 and to the division of Sweden into two parts separated by the Gulf of Bothnia. The eastern part became the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland.

Russo-Turkish War 1806–1812

The war broke out in 1805–1806 against the background of the Napoleonic wars. The Ottoman Empire, encouraged by the Russian defeat at Austerlitz, deposed the Russophile hospodars of its vassal states Moldavia (Alexandru Moruzi) and Wallachia (Constantine Ypsilanti). Simultaneously, their French allies occupied Dalmatia and threatened to penetrate the Danubian principalities at any time. In order to safeguard the Russian border against a possible French attack, a 40,000-strong Russian contingent advanced into Moldavia and Wallachia. The Sultan reacted by blocking the Dardanelles to Russian ships and declared war on Russia.

Russo-Swedish War of 1808-1809

By the Finnish War he wrested the Grand Duchy of Finland from Sweden in 1809, and acquired Bessarabia from Turkey in 1812.

Anglo-Russian War (1807-1812)

The requirement of joining France's Continental Blockade against Britain was a serious disruption of Russian commerce, and in 1810 Alexander repudiated the obligation.

War of the Sixth Coalition (1812–1814)

The Russo-French alliance gradually became strained. Napoleon was concerned about Russia's intentions in the strategically vital Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. At the same time, Alexander viewed the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, the French-controlled reconstituted Polish state, with suspicion.

French invasion of Russia

"See main article on Napoleon's invasion of Russia"In 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia to compel Emperor Alexander I to remain in the Continental System and to remove the imminent threat of Russian invasion of Poland. The Grande Armée, 650,000 men (270,000 Frenchmen and many soldiers of allies or subject powers), crossed the Niemen River on June 23 1812. Russia proclaimed a Patriotic War, while Napoleon proclaimed a Second Polish war, but against the expectations of the Poles who supplied almost 100,000 troops for the invasion force he avoided any concessions toward Poland, having in mind further negotiations with Russia. Russia maintained a scorched earth policy of retreat broken only by the battle of Borodino (September 7), when the Russians stood and fought. This was bloody and the Russians were eventually forced to back down and open the road to Moscow. By September 14, Moscow was captured although by this point it had been largely abandoned by the Russians and prisoners had been released from Moscow’s prisons to inconvenience the French. Alexander I refused to capitulate and with no sign of clear victory in sight Napoleon was forced to withdraw from Moscow after the governor, Prince Rastopchin, ordered the city burnt to the ground. So the disastrous Great Retreat began, with 370,000 casualties largely as a result of starvation and the freezing weather conditions, and 200,000 captured. By November only 27,000 fit soldiers were among those who crossed the Berezina River. Napoleon now left his army to return to Paris and prepare a defence of Poland from the advancing Russians.

The 1813 Campaign in Germany

As the French retreated, the Russians pursued them into Central and Western Europe and to the gates of Paris. After the allies defeated Napoleon, Alexander became known as the savior of Europe, and he played a prominent role in the redrawing of the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In the same year, under the influence of religious mysticism, Alexander initiated the creation of the Holy Alliance, a loose agreement pledging the rulers of the nations involved—including most of Europe—to act according to Christian principles.

The 1814 Campaign in France

More pragmatically, in 1814 Russia, Britain, Austria, and Prussia had formed the Quadruple Alliance. The allies created an international system to maintain the territorial status quo and prevent the resurgence of an expansionist France. The Quadruple Alliance, confirmed by a number of international conferences, ensured Russia's influence in Europe.

"See also"
*Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov
*Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
*Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov

At the same time, Russia continued its expansion. The Congress of Vienna created the Kingdom of Poland (Russian Poland), to which Alexander granted a constitution. Thus, Alexander I became the constitutional monarch of Poland while remaining the autocratic tsar of Russia. He was also the limited monarch of Finland, which had been annexed in 1809 and awarded autonomous status. In 1813 Russia gained territory in the Baky area of the Caucasus at the expense of Persia. By the early nineteenth century, the empire also was firmly ensconced in Alaska.

Composition of the Imperial Russian Army

taff system

Alexander's generals

Army General Headquarters

Ranks of the Imperial Russian Army

Army organisation

The Imperial Russian Army entered the Napoleonic Wars organised administratively and in the field on the same principals as it had been in the 18th century of units being assigned to campaign headquarters, and the "Army" being known either for its senior commander, or the area of its operations. Administratively, the regiments were assigned to Military Inspections, the predecessors of military districts, and included the conscript training depots, garrisons and fortress troops and munitions magazines.

The Army had been thoroughly reorganised on the Prussian model by the tsar's father Paul I against wishes of most of it's officer Corps, and with his demise immediate changes followed to remove much of the Prussianness from its character. Although the Army had conventional European parts within it such as the monarch's guard, the infantry and cavalry of the line and field artillery, it also included a very large contingent of semi-regular Cossacks that in times of rare peace served to guard the Russian Empire's southern borders, and in times of war served as fully fledged light cavalry, providing invaluable reconnaissance service often far better then that available to other European armies due to the greater degree of initiative and freedom of movement by Cossack detachments. The Ukrainian lands of he Empire also provided most of the Hussar regiments for the regular light cavalry. Another unusual feature of the Army that would be seen twice during the period would be the constitution of the Narodnoe Opolcheniye, for the first time since the coming to power of the Romanov dynasty.

In 1806 most of the Inspections were abolished, and replaced by divisions based on the French model although still territorially based. By 1809 there were twenty five infantry divisions as permanent field formations, each organised around three infantry and one artillery brigades. When Barclay de Tolly became the Minister of War in 1810, he instituted further reorganisation and other changes in the Army, down to company level, that saw the creation of separate grenadier divisions, and dedication of one brigade in each division to the yeger light infantry for skirmishing in open order formations.

Imperial Guard

Throughout the Napoleonic Wars the Imperial guard was commanded by Grand Duke Constantine. The Guard grew from a few regiments to two infantry divisions combined into the V Infantry Corps commanded at Borodino by General Lieutenant Lavrov and two cavalry divisions with their own artillery and train by the conclusion of the 1814 campaign.

Infantry of the Guard

At Austerlitz in 1805 the infantry of the Guard included:Guard Infantry Division - General Lieutenant Malutin
*1st Brigade - General Major Leontii Depreradovich-I
**Preobrazhensky Lifeguard regiment (2 btns.)
**Semenovsky Lifeguard regiment (2 btns.)
*2nd Brigade - General Major Vasilii Lobanov
**Izmailovsky Lifeguard regiment (2 btns.)
**Lifeguard Yegers (1 btn.)
**Life Grenadier regiment (3 btns.)

At Borodino in 1812 the infantry of the Guard included:Guard Infantry Division - General Lieutenant Lavrov
*1st Brigade - General Major Baron Rosen-I
**Preobrazhensky Lifeguard regiment (3 btns.)
**Semenovsky Lifeguard regiment (3 btns.)
*2nd Brigade - Colonel Hrapovitzki
**Izmailovsky Lifeguard regiment (3 btns.)
**Lithuanian Lifeguard regiment (3 btns.)
*3rd Brigade - Colonel Baron Bistrom
**Finnish Lifeguard regiment (3 btns.)
**Lifeguard Yeger regiment (3 btns.)

Cavalry of the Guard

At Austerlitz in 1805 the cavalry of the Guard included:Guard Cavalry Division - General Lieutenant Andrei Kologrivov
*1st Brigade - General Major Ivan Jankovich
**Lifeguard Hussar regiment (4 sq.)
*2nd Brigade - General Major Depreradovich-II [picture]
**Horse Guard regiment (4 sq.)
**Chevalier-Guard regiment (4 sq.)

At Borodino in 1812 the cavalry of the Guard included:1st Cuirassier Division - General Major Borozdin-II [General Lieutenant Depreradovich fell ill, was not present in battle]
*1st Brigade - General Major Shevich
**Horse Guard regiment (4 sq.)
**Chevalier-Guard regiment (4 sq.)
*2nd Brigade - General Major Borosdin-II
**His Majesty Cuirassier regiment (4 sq.)
**Her Majesty Cuirassier regiment (4 sq.)
**Astrakhan Cuirassier regiment (4 sq.) (non-Guard status) As part of the I Cavalry Corps - General Lieutenant Uvarov
*1st Brigade - General Major Chalikov
**Lifeguard Dragoon regiment (4 sq.)
**Lifeguard Uhlan regiment [Raised two years prior as the Odessa Hussars in the southern Ukraine as a personal project by the Grand Duke Constantine] (4 sq.)
*2nd Brigade - General Major Orlov-Denisov
**Lifeguard Hussar regiment (4 sq.)

Artillery of the Guard

At Austerlitz in 1805 the artillery of the Guard included:
*Lifeguard Artillery Battalion - General Major Ivan Kasperskyi
**Lifeguard Heavy Battery (12 guns)
**Lifeguard Horse Battery (12 guns)
**Lifeguard Light Battery (12 guns)
**Lifeguard Light Battery (12 guns)

At Borodino in 1812 the artillery of the Guard included:
*Lifeguard Artillery Brigade (now a part of the Guard Infantry Division)
**Graf Arakcheiev's Heavy Battery (12 guns)
**I Lifeguard Heavy Battery (12 guns)
**I Lifeguard Light Battery (12 guns)
**II Lifeguard Light Battery (12 guns)
**Lifeguard Equipage (2 guns)
*Lifeguard Horse Artillery - Colonel Kozen (attached to 1st Cuirassier Division)
**I Lifeguard Horse Battery (12 guns)
**II Lifeguard Horse Battery (12 guns)
*Guard Sapper Battalion

Cossacks of the Guard

At Austerlitz in 1805 the Lifeguard Cossack regiment (5 sotnias) was attached to the 1st Brigade of the Guard Cavalry Division.

At Borodino in 1812 the Cossacks of the Guard included:
**Lifeguard Cossack regiment (5 sotnias)
**Black Sea Cossack Guard sotnia
**Lifeguard Orel sotnia

Infantry of the Line



Cavalry of the Line

Heavy cavalry

Light cavalry

Cossack cavalry

Artillery of the Line

Foot artillery

Horse artillery

Cossack artillery

Artillery Train


Narodnoe Opolcheniye

Army Quartermasters

Formations and tactics






tandards and guidons

Bands and music



* Chandler, David G., "The Campaigns of Napoleon", Simon & Schuster, New York, 1995 ISBN 0-02-523660-1
* Fisher, Toddm Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, "The Napoleonic Wars: The Rise and Fall of an Empire", Osprey Publishing Ltd., Oxford, 2004 ISBN 1-84176-831-6

ee also

*Russian Army order of battle (1812)
*Imperial Russia
* [ Russian army during the Napoleonic Wars]
* [ Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library] Military history and graphics

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Imperial Russian Army — Armies of Russia Kievan Rus Druzhina (862–1400s) Voyi …   Wikipedia

  • Napoleonic Wars — Top: Bat …   Wikipedia

  • Imperial Russian Guard — Leib Guard ( ru. Лейб гвардия, from German Leib , meaning body ; cf Life Guards) were military units serving as personal guards of the Emperor of Russia. Peter the Great founded the first such units following the Prussian practice in the 1690s,… …   Wikipedia

  • Military mobilisation during the Hundred Days — During the Hundred Days of 1815, both the Coalition nations and the First French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte mobilised for war. This article describe the deployment of forces in early June 1815 just before the start of the Waterloo Campaign and… …   Wikipedia

  • Military history of Australia during the Second Boer War — The military history of Australia during the Boer War is complex, and includes a period of history in which the six formerly autonomous British Australian colonies federated to become the Commonwealth of Australia. At the outbreak of the Second… …   Wikipedia

  • Switzerland in the Napoleonic era — History of Switzerland This article is part of a series Early history …   Wikipedia

  • Russian Empire —    During the nineteenth century, tsarist Russia was the largest contiguous empire in the world. Stretching from Polish lands in the west to the Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean, the Russian Empire was a Eurasian power and consequently played a… …   Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914

  • Imperial Guard (Russia) — Leib Guards reception at the Constantine Palace. The Russian Imperial Guard, officially known as the Leib Guard (Russian: Лейб гвардия pronounced leyb gvardiya , from German Leib, meaning body; cf Body Guards) were military units serving as… …   Wikipedia

  • The Domination — For other uses, see Domination (disambiguation). The Domination of Draka is a dystopian alternate history series by S. M. Stirling. It comprises a main trilogy of novels as well as one crossover novel set after the original and a book of short… …   Wikipedia

  • Russian Civil War — Clockwise from top: Soldiers of the Don Army in 1919; a White infantry division in March 1920; soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Army; Leon Trotsky in 1918; hanging of workers in Yekaterinoslav by the Czecho …   Wikipedia