Military Review

“It’s necessary to wage such a war against Napoleon, to which he was not used yet”


At the beginning of the nineteenth century. it became obvious that Russia would be forced to fight against Napoleonic France, which established control over practically all of Western Europe and threatened the interests of the Russian empire. Therefore, Emperor Alexander I ordered to strengthen the military administration and centralize efforts to collect information about the enemy.

In 1810, the Minister of War, Infantry General Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly reported to the Russian emperor on the need for increased efforts to gather information about the French army. For these purposes, it was proposed in the Military Ministry to create a department that would organize this work, supervise the activities of the Russian officers who were part of the embassies, and determine the tasks for collecting information about the French army. The proposals of Barclay de Tolly were approved. A secret expedition was created at the Ministry of War, whose employees were responsible for sending out instructions and requests from the Minister of War to the commanders of the Russian armies and heads of diplomatic missions.

“It’s necessary to wage such a war against Napoleon, to which he was not used yet”

General of infantry MB Barclay de Tolly

Officers of the Russian army, military agents, were sent to the foreign representative offices of the Russian Empire. In particular, Major V.A. was sent to Dresden. Prendel, in Munich - Lieutenant P.Kh. Grabbe, to Madrid - Lieutenant P.I. Brozin. Colonel A.I. acted in Paris. Chernyshev. In Vienna and Berlin - Colonels F.V. Teil von Saraskerken and R.E. Rennie. These officers were experienced commanders, knew military and foreign languages, were inquisitive and observant military agents.

In the diplomatic missions, they were officially adjutants of ambassadors who had the rank of general. Kharkiv Dragoon Regiment, Major V.A. Prendel, for example, was appointed adjutant to the envoy in Saxony, Lieutenant General V.V. Hanykov. Adjutant agents acted under the envoy in Spain, Major General N.G. Repnin and envoy to Prussia Lieutenant General Kh.A. Livene.

In an effort to step up the collection of military information, mainly on the Napoleonic army, Barclay de Tolly personally sent letters to the Russian ambassadors operating in the countries of Western Europe. In particular, 26 of August (7 of September) 1810 in a letter to the envoy of Russia in Prussia, Count Kh.A. Liven Barclay de Tolly sent a detailed list of intelligence information to be obtained. Proceeding from the fact that Prussia and the neighboring powers, including France, “in mutual relations conclude all kinds of our attention,” the Minister of War expressed interest in obtaining information “on the number of troops, especially in each power, on the device, education and their armament and location in apartments, on the state of the fortresses, abilities and virtues of the best generals and the disposition of the spirit of the troops. "

The Minister of War also asked ambassadors and agents to “buy maps and essays in the military field published in the country” and promised: “How much money will be needed for this, I will not fail to send in due time”.

Barclay de Tolly was interested in obtaining other intelligence information. Thus, he asked ambassadors “it is not less desirable to have enough information about the number, wealth, character and spirit of the people, the locations and works of the land, the internal sources of this empire or the means to continue the war.” Convincing the envoys of the need for obtaining military information, MB Barclay de Tolly wrote: “Present your stay is an opportunity to get secret essays and plans.”

At the end of 1810, similar messages were sent to Austria to Count P.A. Shuvalov, in Saxony - Lieutenant-General V.V. Khanykov, in Bavaria - Prince I.I. Baryatinsky, to Sweden - to colonel von Sukhtelin and to France - to prince AB Kurakin.

“Why I don’t have more ministers like this young man ...”

In Paris, Prince Col. AI Chernyshev, who at that time was 25 years old, managed to make good business and personal contacts among French nobility. Napoleon invited Chernyshev to hunt, Queen of Naples, sister of Napoleon, also often invited the Russian prince to his house to participate in various festivals. In Paris, it was even rumored that Chernyshev had an affair with another sister of Napoleon, Pauline Borghese. Whether it was so or not, it is important that the reputation of the young Russian prince in the Parisian high society as a brilliant, but frivolous person, allowed him to cover his other activity - collecting information about Napoleon’s plans and the state of the French army.

Prince Col. AI Chernyshev

At the beginning of April, 1811, Colonel Chernyshev, sent Alexander I a message in which he concluded that "Napoleon had already decided on a war against Russia, but for now he is gaining time because of the unsatisfactory state of his affairs in Spain and Portugal." Then Chernyshev offered options for possible actions that would be beneficial for Russia. On this report, the Russian emperor made a note: "Why do not I have more ministers like this young man ...".

Col. AI Chernyshev in the capital of France obtained important information. Rotating in the highest circles of the Parisian nobility, he learned about the plans of Napoleon. He also found several sources that mined for him reliable information about the state of the Napoleonic army. One of these informants was Michel, an employee of the French military ministry. He had access to secret documents of the French military department. In particular, at the disposal of Michel was the combat schedule of the French army. This document was drafted in the military ministry in a single copy every 15 days. The document was intended only for Napoleon. Michel rewrote this document and gave it to Colonel Chernyshev, who generously presented the French informer.

Chernyshev often accompanied a copy of the secret report on the state of the French army with a note in which he set forth his own observations and conclusions. He was an observant person and gave fairly accurate characteristics of the highest ranks of the French army. Here is one of the characteristics prepared by Colonel Chernyshev: “Oudinot, Duke of Reggio. Noted throughout the French army as possessing the most brilliant courage and personal courage, most capable of producing a rush and generating enthusiasm in those troops that will be under his command. Of all the marshals of France, he alone can be used with the greatest success in cases where you need to perform an assignment that requires accuracy and fearlessness. Its distinctive features are common sense, great frankness, honesty ... ”.

Barclay de Tolly, reporting to Alexander I reconnaissance information on the state and disposition of units of the French army, informed him of the detailed characteristics of French military leaders, prepared by Colonel Chernyshev.

Information that Prince A.I. Chernyshev sent to St. Petersburg, were of exceptional interest to the Russian emperor. In one of his secret reports, Chernyshev 23 of December 1810 reported that Napoleon was expanding his army, he plans to create a mobile national guard of 300 thousand people.

Another valuable Russian agent in Paris was Prince Charles Maurice Talleyrand, a former French foreign minister. For a considerable monetary reward, Talleyrand did not only report on the state of the French army, but conveyed information about Napoleon’s military plans. In December 1810, he informed Alexander I that Napoleon was preparing for an attack on Russia, which was to occur in April, 1812.

All reports of military agents and informers were collected in the Special Office created at the beginning of 1812, systematized and studied. On their basis, the forces of the French army were counted, who could take part in the war against Russia.

At the direction of the Director of the Special Office of Colonel A.V. Voeikov in January 1812 was made a map on which the movements of Napoleon's troops were recorded. The number of the French army, which could take part in the war against Russia, was determined in 400-500 thousand people. French historians have identified the first echelon of Napoleon's troops in 450 thousand people. Therefore, it can be argued that information about the French army, obtained by Colonel A.I. Chernyshev, were accurate and reliable.

Director of the Special Office of the Colonel A.V. Voyeikov

It was not easy for Russian intelligence officers to extract reliable information about Napoleon’s intentions. In preparation for the war against Russia, Napoleon took strengthened measures to disguise his plans and misinformation Alexander I. At the direction of Napoleon, false rumors were spread in the French troops, and measures were being taken to convince the Russian agents and spies that the main forces of the French army were concentrated in district of Warsaw, which was even visited by the French Emperor. As it turned out, the double of Napoleon visited Warsaw.

Misinformational goals were pursued by Napoleon’s envoy Count L. Narbonne, who arrived in Russia with a proposal to establish good-neighborly relations between Paris and St. Petersburg. In fact, Narbonne was supposed to divert the attention of the Russian emperor from the military preparations of Napoleon with proposals for peace.

"Patriotic thoughts, or political and military discourse on the upcoming war between Russia and France"

Relations between France and Russia continued to deteriorate. In the middle of March, 1812, director of the Special Office, Colonel Arseny Andreyevich Zakrevsky, ordered Lieutenant Colonel Pyotr Andreyevich Chuykevich, the only officer who started his military service in 1810 by a member of the Secret Expedition, to write an analytical note on the upcoming war with Napoleon with detailed and frequent advice to the command. Chuykevich completed this task. He prepared a note entitled “Patriotic Thoughts, or Political and Military Discourses on the Upcoming War between Russia and France.” This document has the following sections:

Ҥ 1. The importance of the upcoming war between Russia and Francia.
§ 2. The reasons for this war.
§ 3. The methods used by Napoleon to compel peoples to raise weapons.
§ 4. Does Russia have reliable allies and who should it most rely on?
§ 5. Forces gathered by Napoleon for the upcoming war with Russia.
§ 6. Genus and causes used by Napoleon's war.
§ 7. The forces that opposes Napoleon Russia.
§ 8. A kind of war that should lead Russia against Napoleon. "

Director of Special Chancellery Colonel A. A. Zakrevsky

In general, Lieutenant Colonel Chuykevich analyzed intelligence information from Russian military agents and formulated recommendations to the Russian command. Chuykevich not only carefully studied the composition of the French army, but also appreciated the strategy of Napoleon, which allowed him to substantiate the rule according to which it is necessary "to undertake and do completely contrary to what the enemy wants." Chuykevich came to the conclusion that Napoleon, imposing a general battle on the enemy, uses the power of his army, inflicts a significant defeat on him and seeks victory. In his note, Chuykevich suggested avoiding a general battle, which would save the Russian army, and impose battle upon Napoleon when it would be unprofitable for him.

In the opinion of Lieutenant Colonel Chuikevich, “the death of Russian armies in the general battle against the French could have disastrous consequences for the whole fatherland. The loss of several areas should not frighten us, for the integrity of the state consists in the integrity of its army. ”

Then Chuykevich farsightedly wrote: “Evasion from general battles, guerrilla warfare by volatile detachments, especially in the rear of the enemy’s operating line, prevention of foraging and decisiveness in continuing the war: the essence of the measures for Napoleon are new, tiresome for the French and their allies are intolerable”.

The value of the note of Lieutenant Colonel P.A. Chuykevich was convincingly justifying the need for the Russian army to retreat until the equality of forces was achieved. According to Chuikevich, the retreat of the Russian army was to be accompanied by the active guerrilla war. Under the guerrilla war, Lieutenant Colonel Chuykevich understood not only the actions of armed groups of the population in the territories occupied by French troops, but also, and that is extremely important, vigorous actions in the rear of the enemy sabotage detachments, which included Russian officers and soldiers.

Lt. Col. PA Chuykevich

Chuykevich advised the Minister of War: “It is necessary to wage such a war against Napoleon, to which he has not yet become accustomed,” to lure the enemy into the depths of the country and give battle “with fresh and superior forces”, “then it will be possible to compensate in excess all loss, especially when pursuing will be fast and tireless. "

Mb Barclay de Tolly carefully studied the note by P.A. Chuykevich. Soon, some of his proposals were implemented during the outbreak of the war of France against Russia.

In the spring of 1812, the Minister of War traveled to Vilno with an inspection task. On this trip, he invited Lieutenant Colonel Chuykevich, who was later sent to Prussia with a military diplomatic mission, under the guise of which the officer solved reconnaissance tasks.

Information about the approach of the Napoleonic armies to the borders of the Russian Empire was received almost daily.

The military minister of Russia paid constant attention to tactical intelligence, the organization of which the corps commanders were to deal with. This is evidenced by the surviving letters, which in January 1812, MB. Barclay de Tolly sent the commander of the 1 Infantry Corps, Lieutenant-General Peter Christian Wittgenstein, with a request to "deliver information about the Prussian government's intentions and the number of troops deployed."

Fearing information leaks, Barclay de Tolly recommended “correspondence under a fictitious address and delivering letters through our consul in Koenigsberg.” “He must have,” he wrote further, “a great precaution so as not to expose ourselves and none of us, and our military uniform, to the dangers in case of detection”.

Quartermaster 2 of the Western Army, commanded by Infantry General Peter Bagration, was also engaged in extracting information about Russia's western neighbors. In a memorandum to the Minister of War he wrote: “But as I intend to make parcels for dubious secret investigations on any other pretext of deserving power of attorney and reliable people, then your Excellency will not want to send me a few blank passports for free travel abroad the signatures of Mr. Chancellor, in order to ... remove the suspicion that might fall. ”

Bagration took care of the free passage of his proxies across the border to carry out secret tasks. Barclay de Tolly fulfilled the request of Bagration.

The information that came from the Russian spies to the commander of the 2 of the Western Army was noteworthy. September 19 1811, for example, Bagration reported to the Minister of War: “From a person worthy of confidence who received equally from reliable people, I have the information: Napoleon is the only thing busy and everything is straining his strength to incline the Prussian king to join the Rhine Union ... ".

The agents in the Baltics were led by Lieutenant Colonel M.L. de Leser, major A.Vrangel, captain I.V. Wulfert, in Bialystok - Colonels I.I. Tours and K.P. Shchits, in Brest - V.A. Anokhin.

In Prussia, Russian intelligence managed to create an extensive intelligence network, which was led by Eustace Gruner, a retired Prussia police minister, who moved to Austria and supervised the work of his informants.

The reports of Russian military agents from European capitals, the generalized notes of the officers of the Special Chancellery convinced the Minister of War: Napoleon cannot be fought with the same military techniques that the French emperor brilliantly owned. The main weapon of Napoleon - the general battle. In it, he struck a blow, from which the opposing side was losing everything: the troops, the territory and, ultimately, the victory. In the case of Napoleon’s attack on Russia, he decided to Barclay de Tolly, the general battle should be avoided, lure the French into the interior of the country, stretch his wagons along endless roads and, choosing a favorable moment, crush. So Russian military agents colonel A.I. Chernyshev, F.V. Teil von Saraskerken, lieutenant P.Kh. Grabbe, P.I. Brozin and others provided the command of the Russian army with information about Napoleon and his army, on the basis of which the situation was assessed and the prospects for the war against Napoleon were predicted.

Information about the approach of Napoleon’s armies to the borders of the Russian Empire was regularly reported to the Office of the Special, commander of the 1 and 2 of the Western armies. They received almost daily news and reports on the movement of various enemy corps. Among these reports were reports of the concentration of the main grouping of Napoleon’s troops in the Elbing, Torun and Danzig area. It also became known that the French army 14 (26) in June plans to cross the border of the Russian Empire. This is what happened. On the night of 14 (26) June 1812, the French army began crossing the Neman. However, despite the high activity of the Russian intelligence service, she still failed to establish the place where the French troops were crossing the Neman.

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  1. sdf344esdf
    sdf344esdf 8 September 2012 08: 48
    Have you heard the news? A personal information search site has appeared. Now everything became known, all the information about every resident of Ukraine, Russia and other CIS countries
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  2. sergey32
    sergey32 8 September 2012 13: 25
    Our victory was not accidental, we have someone to be proud of.
  3. lars
    lars 9 September 2012 11: 58
    Thanks so much for such historical articles. We have something to be proud of and something to learn !!! drinks
  4. haron
    haron 9 September 2012 16: 37
    Great stuff!

    It would be interesting here to consider strategy and tactics in the attack on Russia by the current NATO. How is it most beneficial for them to attack and, accordingly, how best to defend themselves (of course, given the absolute realities of the state of affairs in the troops and the people).
  5. Sasha 19871987
    Sasha 19871987 10 September 2012 22: 04
    you need to know the story, so that on the mistakes and achievements of the past to be better and more prepared in the future