Peter Bagration
"The Lion of the Russian Army"

Chapter I

Peter (Ivanovich) Bagration descended from an ancient Dynasty of the Georgian kings - Bagrations. Their genealogy comes from region Tao-Klarjeti ("Kingdom of the Georgians") that can be singled out among provinces of Georgia.

In the second half of the 10th century, during the rule of the distinguished political figure David Kuropalates, great-great forefather of the Peter Bagration. ("Kuropalates" is a honour title given by the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire), Tao-Klarjeti became a large and powerful principality, whose southern borders reached lake Van and the town of Erzink (Erzincan). The growth and consolidation of this principality contributed to an expansion of its cultural and economic ties with other kingdoms and principalities. King David Kuropalates even interfered in some internal affairs of the Byzantine Empire. Thus, in 1079, during a rebellion against the Emperor Basil, David Kuropalates sent him reinforcement troops led by Tornike Eristavi, thereby helping the monarch of the great Byzantine Empire to save his throne and his empire. David Kuropalates' name was known throughout the Orient, where he commanded great authority. The Armenian historian Stepanos Taronets, a contemporary of David, wrote: "The great David Kuropalates surpassed all the rulers of our time ... He established peace and good will in all eastern states, especially, in Armenia and Georgia. He put an end to wars...and defeated all the peoples living around, and all monarchs submitted to his authority of their own free will".

David Kuropalates initiated the political unification of Georgia. Supported by Joane Marushisdze, his contemporary Kartlian (Iberia) Eristavi and active political figure, David Kuropalates raised his adopted son Bagrat Bagration to the throne of Kartli (Iberia) (in 975) and Abkhazia (in 978), thereby actually uniting Eastern and Western Georgia into a single state. Since then a new royal dynasty of Bagrations originated and governed over Georgia throughout of almost 900 years.

Among the ancestors of P. Bagration there were such prominent Kings and statesmen, like the greatest King of Georgia David IV the Builder, who liberated the country from Seljuks and defeated on Didgori valley on 12 August, 1121 by an army in 55,000 men a coalition of all Muslim State in 450,000 men; legendary empress Tamar, the period of which reign was a "Gold Century" in a history of Georgia; King George VI the Brilliant, who expelled in 1334 Mongolians from Georgia and released those Georgian monasteries on the Sacred Earth, that were taken by Muslims; King George VII, who fought with most furious enemy of Georgia, Temur (Tamerlan) who invaded 8 times in Georgia during 14 years, have razed it to the ground, but could not managed to conquer it; Kings Bagrat V, Luarsab, Simon, Irakli II and many others, who assemble the Glory of the Georgia...

Among the ancestors of Peter Bagration, there was a king Vakhtang VI, outstanding state and public figure of Georgia of first half of XVIII. In 1723 after several years of struggle with Iran and Turkey, Vakhtang VI was compelled, together with retinue of 1200 men, to abandon Georgia.

The nephew of king Vakhtang VI, Alexander Bagration (son of Vakhtang's brother - Jese), who stayed in Georgia for struggle against Turks, also was forced in 1757 to move in Russia, where he has continue a military service in Russian army.

He took part in a grade of the lieutenant colonel in battle actions of Russian armies on Northern Caucasus on a defense of southeast borders of Russian Empire. There passed a military service his son Ivan Bagration.

Up to a grade of the colonel, Ivan Bagration has left in a resignation and put up in city of Kizlyar, where in 1765 his son Peter, future famous Russian commander, was born.

The children's years Peter carried out in the parental house. Unfortunately, any certain items of information about this part of his life have not reached up to us. It is possible to assume, that, being brought up in family of officer, Peter frequently heard the stories of his father about the spent fights and campaigns, about the courageous struggle of the native people against enemies. Maybe for this reason, since early years, he has shown large interest and love to military business, dreaming to devote itself to a trade of the militarian. "With the milk of my mother, I have poured in myself a spirit of dash bravery" - wrote subsequently Peter Bagration.

Soon his dream was fulfilled. On February 21, 1782 17-year's Bagration has started a military service. He was enlisted as the sergeant in Caucasian Musketeer Regiment. His military career of almost 30 years has began.

Caucasian Musketeer Regiment, together with other parts of Russian army, defended southern border of Russian Empire which was taking place on the rivers of Kuban and Terek. Ottoman Empire, holding then in the submission a significant territory of Caucasus, organized continuous attacks on Russian borders. Sometimes it managed to involve in participation in these attacks groups of separate princes ("Knyaz") of Northern Caucasus. To Russian armies, who were deployed on the Caucasian border, it was essential to be constantly in a condition of battle readiness and to reflect to enemy's attacks.

In one of fights with Highlanders (particularly with Chechens), Peter Bagration was wounded and left on a field of fight among the killed and wounded soldiers. Chechens, who were assembling the weapon and accepted young Bagration for one of them, picked him up. They have picked up and relieved him and then having learned who he is, out of respect for his father, who has rendered to them assistance at one time, has allocated without the repayment to military quarters of Russians.

In structure of Caucasian Musketeer Regiment, Bagration participated in campaigns of 1783, 1784, 1785 and 1786, having shown himself as a brave and courageous soldier, prepared to bear all difficulties of military life.

On experience of severe fights with enemies he closely studied military business and gave back it all forces. In 1788 Caucasian Musketeer Regiment was directed to fortress Ochakov, to participate in dashing actions on mastering by this strong Turkish stronghold.

The commander-in-chief of the Russian army was Gregory Potyemkin, at those times, powerful favorite of the Empress Ekaterina. Alexander Suwaroff, the greatest Russian commander, leaded the left wing of the army. Still prior to the beginning battle, he has offered to Potyemkin the courageous plan of mastering fortress by a method of decisive storm. However commander-in-chief has rejected this plan, having ordered to begin a gradual siege of fortress. Owing to the large disagreements with Potyemkin on conducting battle actions, Suwaroff was compelled to leave from under Ochakov. Only after some months, when the siege has not given positive results, Potyemkin was convinced of correctness of the Suwaroff's plan accepted it and has decided to storm Ochakov.

On 6 December (17), 1788 Russians attacked Ochakov and gained a complete victory.

In time of assault, Bagration has shown the large bravery. He battled with a great courage and was among the first, who rushed into a fortress. After a capture of Ochakov, Bagration has come back to Caucasus, where took part in a military campaign of 1790.

Bagration served in Caucasian Musketeer Regiment till June 1792 and consecutively pass all steps of a military service from the sergeant up to the captain.

Since June 1792 till May 1794 he served in Kiev Cavalry Regiment in grades of a second major and premier-major.

On 4 May 1794 he was transferred in Sofia Carabineers Regiment. He participated in structure of this regiment during the Polish campaign of 1794, which was headed by A. Suwaroff.

In fights and campaigns 1783-1794 Bagration has shown himself as a skilful commander. His characteristic features were exclusive calmness and boundless bravery in fight, speed and resoluteness of actions, skill to use the convenient moment for drawing impact on an enemy. The glory about courage and fearlessness of Bagration was widely spread among the soldiers and officers.

A. Suwaroff has paid attention to Bagration. He cordially has grown fond of Bagration and tenderly refer to him - "Prince Peter" ("Knyaz Peter") and did not hide the special respect and trust to him.

On 15 October 1794 Bagration has received a grade of the lieutenant colonel. In 1798 he was already a colonel, commander of the 6-th Regiment, and on next year received grade of general-major and has taken part in famous Italian and Swiss campaigns of Russian army, with which the extremely bright page of his military biography opens.

During the Italian campaign of 1799 the general-major Bagration, leading the avant guard of the Russian army, has taken by assault a citadel of Breshia (April 10), attacked and has occupied Lecco and was wounded by a bullet in a leg, but continued fight and supervised over fight. On April 16 the French army was broken by A. Suwaroff on the river Adda, the Milan was engaged, and on turn there was a ferry through the river Po.

Bagration, who headed the avant guard, forwarded through it on April 21 and was set to Tortona. On April 28 Bagration has advanced to a fortress Alessandria and by this movement stopped direct communications of the French with Genoa.

On May 6, according to a disposition of Suwaroff, Bagration hastened to St. Juliano, to make lateral avant guard of army at flank movement to river Cesia. Having heard shots at Marengo, Bagration has turned to support Austrians and magnanimously has conceded general leadership to younger in a grade, general Luiziany, then attached to him from both flanks and has carried away the allies in prompt attack with drum-type fight.

When one of the French columns tried to bypass the right flank of the allies, Bagration with 7th Regiment and Cossacks has beaten off impact. Attempt of the French to break in Genoa has not managed.

On June 6 in the morning, news has come that McDonald attacked Austrians (general Tott) on Tidone. Suwaroff immediately has taken avant guard and together with Bagration hastened to a place of fight.

At three o'clock in the afternoon he was already there and has detained the French by the valiant cavalry attack up to the approach of infantry. When it (infantry) has seemed, Bagration approached to Suwaroff and, probably not understanding the importance of minute, in a low voice asked him to delay with attack, before the infantry will not approach, since in some of battalions there were less than 40 men. Suwaroff answered him: "But McDonald have not even 20 men, attack with the God! Hurrah!"

Bagration immediately obeyed and have struck on the enemy and rejected him in the large disorder for Tidone. McDonald has collected the army on Tidone and made a new attack on Russian army on June 7, during which Bagration was wounded. However, the second wound of Bagration in this campaign has not deduced him out of operation.

On August 4 at Novi, Suwaroff has assigned Bagration to carry out a resolute impact. Then the legendary campaign of Russian army through Alps to Switzerland has followed. Bagration went in the head of the army, first took up all impacts of the opponent, first overcoming all barrier, which were put by a wild nature of mountains; then he led the avant guard constraining attacks of the French; and finally, when at last Russian armies got out safely from that entrapment, in which they were placed not only by opponent, but also by the ally (Austrians), only 16 officers and 300 bottom grades were remained in Bagration's Regiment. He was wounded for third time during this war in battle at Klyontal.

After returning in Russia Bagration was appointed the chief of Jager Regiment.

With the beginning of the war of Russia with Napoleon, in 1805, Bagration was entrusted the avant guard of Russian army, but when the army entered frontiers of Austria, thanking to capitulation of allied Austrian army under Ulm, the 40-thousand Russian Regiment, having in rear Danube, encountered several French armies. Kutusoff began hasty deviation to Russian borders, and the avant guard of Bagration became a rear guard of the army and during 400 miles, by a number of persistent fights (at Laymbakh, Amshteten and Krems) - constrained the opponent and has given Russian army an opportunity to get out of this trap. But hardly it has passed at Krems on the left coast of Danube, as Vienna has surrendered to Napoleon, and last, in turn, passing over Danube, has rushed to Znaim on a way of deviation of Kutusoff from Krems to Brunn, the capital of Moravia.

This time situation of Russian army became even more critical. And second time Bagration rescued it. Kutusoff's men were so weary that they could proceed no farther without a rest, and from Schrattenthal he sent back Bagration, to Hollabrunn, with six thousand of the freshest troops, to check the French advance and to detain the French by all means, even if for this purpose it would be necessary to sacrifice all regiment.

Believing the main army of Kutusoff to be before him, Murat felt unable to engage. Accordingly he dispatched a messenger under a flag of truce with the statement, purely fictitious, though speciously based on certain irrelevant facts, that negotiations had been opened for a general armistice. Kutusoff, pretending to be familiar with the details of the falsehood, heartily entered into a proposition to negotiate, using the time thus gained to prepare his further retreat. A paper was duly drawn up, signed, and sent to Napoleon at Schonbrunn. The Emperor, seeing how Murat had been outwitted, immediately sent off an adjutant to him with peremptory orders to attack at once. When this command arrived at Hollabrunn, Soult had come in with three divisions, but Kutusoff with his army was far away on the highroad to Znaim.

On November 4, near Hollabrunn, Bagration has sustained furious assaults of two French armies within 8 hours. He has not abandoned a position even when Division of Legran has gone to his rear.

When Bagration received news that Kutusoff passed Znaim with the main forces and was outside of danger, Bagration leaded his Regiment and laid by bayonets a way through a ring of the French armies and burning settlements of Hollabrunn and Grund and has joined army.

Napoleon had by this time come up to take charge in person, but it was too late: Murat had "destroyed the fruits of a campaign." Near Brunn, Kutusoff met the Vienna garrison, and at Wischau the united force of forty-five thousand men joined the first detachment, fourteen thousand strong, of a second Russian army, which was advancing under Buxhowden.

For this brilliant feat Bagration was made in the general-lieutenant, and the 6-th Jager Regiment, first among others in Russian army, has received as an award silver trumpets with stripes of St. George.

After connection of Kutusoff with the column of Buxhowden, Bagration again became on the head of avant guard. On ways to Austerlitz, Bagration break the French at Wischau and Raustnitsa.

On December 2, 1805 on Austerlitz field, the avant guard of Bagration has made extreme right flank of a battle arrangement of allied army and when the columns of its center were beaten, has undergone severe assaults of the victorious opponent, but has resisted and covered deviation of the broken army. For Austerlitz, Bagration was awarded with order of St. George of 2 class.

In campaign 1806-1807 Bagration again was the chief of avant guard or rear guar of Russian army, depending on the success of Russians.

Thus, with continuous within 3 days battle, Bagration covered deviation of Russian army from Jashma to Preussisch-Eylau during 70 miles, and took part in battle at Preussisch-Eylau (26 and January 27), on 27-th he supervised over actions not only of his guard, but also of Dokhturov's Regiment, who was wounded and left out of operation.

Having received an order of the commander-in-chief general Benningsen, to beat out the French from Preussisch-Eylau by all means, Bagration, having hastened, with a banner in a hand leaded an assault and took into possession that location.

However Russian army nevertheless was compelled to recede to Konigsberg and this movement was made under covering of Bagration's group. As Napoleon, not having developed the success, also has departed for Paarga, Benningsen again passes in approach. Bagration, mastering the avant guard, occupied Gulshtadt and, continuing a march further, attacked on May 24 enemy at Altkirkhen, forced down them after six-hour fight with rather favorable positions, pursued and completed a victory by a new defeat the next day at village Ankerdorf.

Attacked on May 28 by the opponent's cavarly, Bagration persistently defended at Gutshtadt, then detained a ferry of the French through Alle and gave to Russian army time to strengthen positions at Gelsberg.

Then Bagration has covered the withdrawal of Russian army as well as its deviation to Bartenshtein, remaining in Gelsberg till morning of May 31.

In battle at Fridland the group of Bagration was deployed on the left flank of an arrangement of Russian army.

When Russians have not sustained and in frustration have begun to recede, Bagration with a sword in hands began to encourage soldiers of the Moscow Grenadier Regiments, which rests have surrounded his horse, reminding the soldiers their feats in Italy with Suwaroff . . . But all was vain.

For 16 hours has stayed Bagration in this severe fight and then for 5 day constrained of the opponent pursuing Russian broken army, gone to Tilsit.

For the battle at Fridland, Bagration was awarded with a gold sword decorated with diamonds, with an inscription "For brave".

Despite of an extreme pressure of the forces during campaign 1805-1807 Bagration has accepted appointment on theatre of war with Sweden (1808-1809) and become the Hero of this war.

Nominated as a commander of 21st Infantry Regiment, he has broken in night with 15 on February 16 of the general Adlerkreits at Artchio, 28-th - has occupied Tamerfor, on March 4 has put a defeat to the Swedish commander -in-chief to the general Klingspor at Biernerborg and, pursuing him within 8 days for 200 miles on disgusting roads, has occupied on 10 of March Abo, on 12 - Khristianshtadt, 26th - Vase, on March 31 - Aland islands.

Disease caused by the amplified continuous works, compelled Bagration to leave temporarily army. Having restored the forces, he has returned to Finland in the autumn of 1808 and on September 16 defeated generals Boye and Lanshtisgauzen at Gelsing.

To put to the Swedes resolute impact, the emperor Alexander has made the plan of a winter campaign of Russian army on ice a Botnic gulf to Stockholm. Not only majority of the generals in army, but also commanders-in-chief spoke against such operation and hesitated with the beginning. And only Bagration, not reasoning in essence, has answered the count Arakcheev, sent by the Emperor to organize this campaign: "Let's order - shall go"'.

Nominated by the chief of one of three columns, Bagration should proceed from Abo to Sweden through Aland islands. The last were engaged within 6 day, and the avant guard under Kulnev has reached the Swedish coast and grasped Grisselgam in vicinities of Stockholm.

In the beginning of August 1809 Bagration was nominated as a commander of the Moldavian army acting against Turkey.

The historian of epoch of the end 18th and beginning 19th E. Shumigorsky believes that such fast moving Bagration from Finland, where the war was already terminated, to Turkey, where it lasted without results for third year, was, in effect, for him (Bagration) the honourable disgrace. The Royal Court in St.-Petersburg did not wish more to see him in capital, due to intimate issues.

Of average growth, thin, brawny brunette with the typical Georgian hooked nose, that gave occasion to a number of witticisms and jokes (Once, Denis Davidov came to Bagration and told him that an enemy is very close - already "on their nose". Bagration calmly replied - "on whose nose? If mine, we have enough time to have a breakfast. If yours, we have to hurry!"), Bagration was ill-looking, but all figure made strong impression: the soldiers called him "the Eagle". But the glory and reputation of Suwaroff's disciple made stronger impression.

On this ground, probably, there was devotion by him of great princess Ekaterina Pavlovna, who was at the age of 18-20 years. To put the end, great princess was give out in marriage for Prince George of Oldenburg in April 1809. But as Bagration did not want to reconcile to this fact, he was promoted to the General of Infantry and directed to Moldavia.

Having arrived here, Bagration carried out the military actions with usual speed and resoluteness. Having in army only 20 thousand man, he, not removing blockade Ismail, has taken on August 18 Machin, on 22 - Fursov, on 29th - Kustenji., on the 4th of September, defeated at the Rossevat the perfect turkish armies, the on 11 - has besieged Silistria, on 14th - has taken Ismail, and on 27th - Brailov.

Great Vezir with armies equal to force Russian troops, has hurried to Silistria. Bagration has met and defeated him on October 10 at Tataritsa.

But when it became known, that other armies of the great Vezir rushed to Silistria, Bagration has decided to remove the siege and on October 14 has allocated the armies on the left coast of Danube, intending to renew military actions in the spring and with more significant forces.

But the Royal Court in St.-Petersburg remained very dissatisfied, and in March, 1810, Count H. Kamensky was sent to substitute Bagration.

Awarded for turkish war by an order of St. Andrew, Bagration was appointed as a the commander-in-chief of the 2nd Western Army.


© 2000, Alexander Mikaberidze. Design by Logunov Eugene. Creative artel of the Project «1812 year».