Military Review

As a Russian officer beat Napoleon himself

The fate of this man is amazing. Handsome, heartbreaker and mot, but at the same time the bravest officer, a brilliant intelligence officer, the commander of a partisan detachment, and by the end of his life - the Most Serene Prince and the highest dignitary of Russia.

Alexander Ivanovich Chernyshev was born on January 10 1786 of the year (30.12.1785 by art. Style) in a well-known but not rich noble family. His father, who distinguished himself in many wars, at that time was already a lieutenant-general and a senator. Since childhood, Alexander has been distinguished by his liveliness, sharp mind and ingenuity. Following the example of his father, he did not see any other destiny for himself, except for military service; since childhood, he was recorded as a sergeant in the Life Guards Mounted Regiment.

As a Russian officer beat Napoleon himself

In 1801, the youngest Chernyshev, during the coronation celebrations in Moscow, was presented to Alexander I. Apparently, the emperor liked the handsome and not for years smart young man. Alexander was summoned to Petersburg and appointed to the chamber-pages. But Chernyshev did not want to make a court career and achieved the transfer by a cornet to the Cavalry Regiment. In 1804, he received the rank of lieutenant and was appointed adjutant to Lieutenant-General F.P. Uvarov.

Peaceful life in the capital, despite the success of the ladies, Alexander. He longed for military glory and rewards. And the case was soon presented, the next war with Napoleon began. The baptism of fire Chernyshev received 16 November 1805, in the battle of Visau. Then there was Austerlitz, in which the lieutenant first participated in three cavalry attacks, managing to get out of them without a single scratch, although the notches on his sword showed that he was not hiding behind the backs of his comrades. By the end of the battle, he was already carrying out the orders of the emperor, delivering his orders to the troops that continued to fight under fire.

For Austerlitz, Chernyshev received the first military award - the Order of Saint Vladimir of the 4 degree with a bow. By the end of his life he had so many awards that they didn’t fit on his uniform, and then he was really happy. In addition, soon followed another rank of captain.

Glory loves the brave, and the courage he did not hold. But his courage combined with a clear military talent and the ability to make the right decisions in the most difficult situations. And the new battles confirmed this, as evidenced by the golden sword received by the officer with the inscription "For courage" and the most honorable military award - the Order of St. George 4 degree.

The war ended with the Tilsit world, which led to serious changes in the fate of Chernyshev. The emperor, who clearly favored the brave and successful officer in battles, began to send him with important assignments to Napoleon. The very first audience of Chernyshev with the French emperor showed that the choice of Alexander I was correct. The young Russian officer surprised and interested Napoleon with solid and precocious in-depth discussions about past military campaigns.

With the following letter from Alexander I, Chernyshev had to go to Napoleon in Spain, where the French were then hard fights. He managed to organize the return trip in such a way that he drove through the main rear areas of the French army, collecting important intelligence information. Moreover, it was the initiative of Chernyshev, because such a task was not set for him. Chernyshev's detailed report made a good impression on Alexander I, he even promised to make an officer in the aide-de-camp. And in the next trip to Napoleon he sent him not only with a letter, but also with an assignment to consist at the headquarters of the French army.

And this time, Napoleon favorably received the Russian officer and left him not at the headquarters, but at the time of the emperor. Chernyshev's mission was announced in the regular bulletin on the French army. It is curious that in the bulletin Chernyshev called the count and colonel. To the perplexity of the officer, transmitted to Napoleon through Count Duroc, the answer was that the emperor was sure that the rank and title for Chernyshev was not far off. With the rite, Bonaparte turned out to be right, unwittingly contributing to this himself, giving the Russian scout the opportunity to launch a stormy activity surrounded by the emperor.

Accompanying Napoleon during the Austrian campaign, Chernyshev had the opportunity to study the French army well, to witness its victories and defeats, to make connections among generals and officers. Napoleon’s confidence in him was strengthened. This was facilitated, oddly enough, unfortunate for the French Aspern battle. After the battle, Napoleon told Chernyshev, who accompanied him, that he sent a courier to the Russian emperor, who could take his letter to Alexander I with a description of everything he had seen.

Chernyshev understood that his letter would be read carefully by Napoleon, who was painfully concerned with his failures, but found the original way out. Describing the actions of the emperor of France and the grace with which he showered the Russian representative in ecstatic tones, Chernyshev ended the description of the unsuccessful battle with a genius phrase: “If Napoleon commanded the Austrians at that time, the perfect death of the French was inevitable.” The next morning’s invitation to Napoleon for breakfast showed that the emperor appreciated Chernyshev’s diplomatic tact, which was then only 23 of the year.

After this incident, Napoleon even began giving Chernyshev confidential instructions, which greatly strengthened the position of the latter in the eyes of the imperial entourage. After the Battle of Wagram, which triumphantly ended the campaign, Chernyshev was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor and sent to St. Petersburg with a report to Alexander I about the successful end of the war.

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In 1809, the attitude of France and Russia remained extremely difficult, but Chernyshev continued to ply between their capitals, invariably meeting Napoleon’s warm welcome regardless of the content of the messages he brought to him. The scale of his activities expanded significantly, being only a captain, and since November 1810, a colonel, he on behalf of Alexander I met with the emperor of Austria, the king of Sweden and the hereditary Swedish prince (former Napoleonic marshal Bernadotte). Surprisingly, he was truly the favorite of Fortune, in all the most difficult diplomatic affairs he was a success.

At the same time, he found time for active social life, making extensive acquaintances in French society and conquering loving French women. It was rumored that the Emperor's sister, Pauline Borghese, had not resisted the emperor’s sister before his spell. Perhaps this is just a rumor, but even their presence shows a lot.

Very few people knew about Chernyshev's secret affairs in France, and he managed in a short time to create an extensive reconnaissance network, receiving secret information from the highest echelons of French power. His informant was Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, who supplied Chernyshev with not only secret information about France’s foreign policy, but also essential military information, including mobilization plans and preparations for war.

Chernyshev’s undoubted success was also the recruitment of an official of the Ministry of War, who, for considerable remuneration, supplied him with copies of secret military documents. Moreover, often the Russian intelligence officer acquainted with the documents before they fell on the table to Napoleon. Naturally, the whole course of preparing France for the war, including the deployment of troops to specific regiments, was well known to Alexander I and the Russian military minister Barclay de Tolly.

After 1810, Napoleon’s attitude to Chernyshev began to change. To emphasize the displeasure with the position of Russia, the emperor even sometimes ignored Chernyshev at official receptions, without greeting and not honoring the conversation. Finally, the clouds thickened to the beginning of 1812 year. Chernyshev was already looking for a plausible excuse for leaving Paris, when 13 February 1812, he was invited to an audience with Napoleon.

The French emperor met Chernyshev coldly, expressed regular reproaches about the position of Russia and handed a letter to Alexander I, noting that "sovereigns should not write extensive letters in such circumstances when they cannot say anything pleasant to one another." In fact, it was a harbinger of a complete break.

Chernyshev did not stay long in St. Petersburg, soon leaving for Alexander I's retinue to Vilna, where the headquarters of the 1 of the Russian army was located. After examining the state and disposition of Russian troops, he presented the emperor with a “Note on the means of preventing the invasion of the enemy in 1812.” Before the war. In the Note, he made a number of sensible proposals, including the need for an urgent connection of the 1 and 2 armies. The outbreak of hostilities confirmed the correctness of Chernyshev.

In the initial period of the war, Chernyshev carried out various orders of the emperor, including accompanied him in Abo for negotiations with the hereditary Swedish prince Bernadot. The Russian army continued to retreat, and in these conditions it was extremely important to secure the neutrality of Sweden, especially since just a few years ago, Russia won back Finland from it. The negotiations ended with the signing of a lucrative Russian treaty, which was also facilitated by Chernyshev’s personal meetings with Bernadot, who sympathized with him.

At the last stage of the war, Alexander Chernyshev managed to remember his youth in battle. Sent on assignment to Kutuzov and Chichagov, who commanded the Danube army, he carried out the mission entrusted to him, received a command of a cavalry flying detachment and went on a raid on the rear of the Schwarzenberg corps. And here Chernyshev succeeded, his squad acted boldly and decisively. During the defeat of one of the French columns, he managed to free General FF. Wintsentgerode, who was taken prisoner, when he went as a truce to Marshal Mortier, who intended to blow up the Kremlin during a retreat from Moscow.

Having received the rank of major general in November 1812, Chernyshev continued to fight successfully, distinguishing himself in a series of battles. So, it was his detachment who made a decisive contribution to the rout of the French under Marienwerder and Berlin, for which the young general was awarded the Order of Saint George of the 3 degree. New successful battles followed, already in France. Chernyshev ended the war in defeated Paris, becoming by this time a lieutenant-general and a gentleman of many orders of Russia and allied powers.

After the war, Chernyshev’s diplomatic experience was again in demand, he accompanied the emperor on a trip to England, and then stayed with him during the Vienna and Verona congresses. New responsible appointments followed, Chernyshev became a member of the Committee on the Wounded and the Committee on the Don Army, commander of the Guards Cavalry Division, and was also periodically involved in the execution of confidential assignments and duties of the adjutant general of the emperor.

In 1825, Chernyshev accompanied the emperor on a trip to Taganrog, where Alexander I literally fled from the capital after learning of a ripening conspiracy. By the will of fate, he witnessed the death of the emperor. I had to do the necessary sorrowful things in this case as part of a specially created committee.

As a confidant of Alexander I, Chernyshev knew about the existence of the conspiracy and was familiar with the latest denunciations from the 2 Army, in which many members of the Southern Society were listed. Even before the Decembrist uprising in the capital, he was entrusted with conducting investigations in the troops in the south of the country. He also swore the 2 th army under oath to Nicholas I.

Apparently, the new emperor, like his elder brother, felt complete confidence in Chernyshev, as he included him in the Investigation Commission on the Decembrists' case, in honor of his coronation, conferred on him the title of count (albeit with a delay, but Napoleon’s prediction came true), a year later he appointed Alexander Ivanovich a senator and military minister. This was followed by the construction of a princely dignity, the appointment of chairman of the State Council and the Committee of Ministers.

Chernyshev served conscientiously in new posts, and he headed the War Ministry for as many 25 years, but did not win any special laurels. Squeezed by a rigid bureaucratic framework, he quickly lost the improvisation and audacity inherent in his activities in his youth. Unfortunately, a similar fate befell not only him, Nicholas I needed not talented associates, but conscientious performers.

The peak of glory of Alexander Ivanovich Chernyshev fell on the period of the Napoleonic wars, so he remained in stories as a brave military officer and general, a talented diplomat and a brilliant intelligence officer, who managed to outplay Napoleon himself.
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