Military Review

Admiral Chichagov on the sea and on land

Admiral Chichagov on the sea and on landThe 23 (717) of the Independent Military Review published the article The Only Distinguished and Forgotten article about General Tormasov, a little-known hero of the 1812 war of the year. However, there is an even more forgotten military figure from the time of the war with Napoleon, whose image is not present among the portraits of 1812 heroes in the Military Hall of the Hermitage. It is about Admiral Pavel Vasilyevich Chichagov.

Pavel Chichagov was born on June 27 (July 8) 1767 of the year in St. Petersburg. His father, Vasily Yakovlevich Chichagov, was descended from poor nobles, made his way with difficulty and by the end of his life became an admiral, famous for sea victories at Öland, Revel, Vyborg. Because of the distrust of his father to the Marine Corps, Paul studied with various teachers. In 1782, Vasily Chichagov, appointed to command the Mediterranean squadron, took his son as an adjutant. Swimming served the young man a good school.

In the Russian-Swedish war of 1788–1790, the commander of the flagship of Admiral Vasily Chichagov “Rostislav” Pavel cruised into the campaign of 1789 with fleet and participated in the battle of Åland, and in 1790 - in the battles of Revel and Vyborg. Under Revel, Rostislav stood in the center of the battle line, which received the Swedish strike; his commander received the Order of St. George IV degree. In the Vyborg battle, Rostislav was among the advanced ships that drove the enemy to Sveaborg. Delivering the good news of the victory to the sailor, Catherine II promoted to the rank of captain of the 1st rank; Chichagov also received a gold sword with the inscription "For courage" and 1000 chervonets. Later, he commanded a ship in the Baltic, in 1795-1796 he served as commander of the Retvisan ship, went to the British shores and cruised with the English fleet. Pavel Chichagov had the opportunity to learn from his British colleagues, and the English sailors appreciated his skill.

During the reign of Paul I, the sailor was awarded, then subjected to disgrace. The emperor even concluded a sailor in the Peter and Paul Fortress, believing that he was going to leave to serve abroad. However, at the suggestion of the British, Pavel I returned Chichagov to the service of rear admiral and sent to command the squadron. The squadron successfully delivered troops to Holland, which were to liberate the country from the French. Rear Admiral was awarded the Order of St. Anne I degree.


The change of power at the beginning of the XIX century completely changed the life of Pavel Chichagov. Alexander I, who ascended to the throne and was educated in a liberal shade as a child, needed comrades to carry out reforms. 12 May 1801 Alexander appointed Pavel Chichagov to his retinue, and 24 August 1802 - a member of the Committee on the Education of the Fleet and a rapporteur on the affairs of the Committee. In the same year, the collective board of the fleet was replaced by the Ministry of the Military Maritime Forces of Russia. The first minister of 9 September 1802 of the year was Admiral Nikolai Semenovich Mordvinov; however, December 28 was replaced by Vice-Admiral Pavel Chichagov in the rank of Comrade Minister. For several years, the Vice Admiral was at the head of the country's naval department. In July, 1807, the emperor granted him the rank of admiral with the appointment of the Minister.

Sailor almost independently managed the ministry. Alexander I usually agreed with the innovations he proposed. The contemporaries considered Chichagov to be a capable and active person, on which the naval department of Russia was kept. He contributed a lot to improving the state of affairs in the department. The reforms in the fleet, thanks to which Chichagov wanted to combine the spirit of Catherine's era with the discipline and order of the new time, had just begun, much remained to be done and improved. But with 1804, a continuous series of wars began in which the fleet participated. The fighting unfolded on the Black, Mediterranean, Baltic and Caspian Seas.

Chichagov did much to ensure that the Russian fleets and flotillas successfully repel the onslaught from all sides. However, in matters of strategy, Alexander I had his position, and not all of Chichagov's proposals were carried out. Tilsit peace with Napoleon made impossible the successful actions of Admiral Dmitry Senyavin on the Mediterranean Sea and caused the war with England.

The apparent failure of the Baltic Fleet actions against the Swedes in the 1808 – 1809 war worsened Chichagov’s reputation in the world. He ruined relations with the heads of departments, sending naval officers to verify the information of other ministers. Inside his own ministry, Chichagov acquired enemies, not allowing officials to profit from the treasury.

In 1809, Pavel Vasilievich and his wife went to France. Officially, he took sick leave. Documents suggest that Chichagov carried out in France a special assignment of the emperor. After returning, the admiral buried his spouse. The emperor in 1811, granted his request for resignation from the post of naval minister, but he was appointed to serve with his person as an advisor until the time of the next responsible assignment arrived.


By the spring of 1812 in St. Petersburg, it became known that Napoleon had prepared a gigantic army to invade Russia. In order to distract the attention of the French, they planned to conduct sabotage: by the Swedish-Russian troops in Germany and by the Russian-Slavic troops in the south. Last proposed 5 April Chichagov. The next day, the emperor appointed the admiral governor-general of the Danube principalities, commander of the Danube army and the Black Sea Fleet to organize an attack on France from the south with the support of Slavic peoples. The instruction from 7 of April 1812 of the year granted Chichagov wide rights.

Chichagov left the capital 20 on April, 6 reached Bucharest in May and took command from Mikhail Kutuzov, who on the eve signed the preconditions of the Bucharest peace treaty between the Russian and Ottoman Empire, which ended the Russian-Turkish war of 1806 – 1812.

The emperor of 2, in a letter to the admiral in May, proposed, without changing the preconditions of peace, to seek an offensive and defensive alliance from Turkey in order to use the peoples subject to it against France. Going to the Danube, Pavel Chichagov himself considered the world valuable only in the case of an alliance with Turkey. Without a sanction from the capital, he began negotiations with the British ambassador Canning about a common plan of action in the south. Chichagov in a short time brought the forces of the Danube army to 28 thousand infantry, 7,2 thousand cavalry, 3,5 thousand Cossacks and 220 guns; of these, he was going to form a 20-thousandth corps, which he intended to strengthen with local formations while moving on Slavic lands. However, the Russian plans of the expedition to Dalmatia and Croatia (Croatia) contradicted the views of the British government; Ambassador Canning refused to promote the conclusion of a Russian-Turkish alliance.

All the more aware that it was useless to count on an alliance, the admiral began to lean toward the idea that the war with Turkey was inevitable. Since the sultan did not approve some points of the Bucharest peace, Chichagov expected that Alexander I would not sign the agreement. In a letter to the king, the admiral said that he was ready to start the expedition through the fertile lands of Serbia and Slavonia to Dalmatia; this way he preferred mountain roads. Resolute Chichagov suggested Alexander not to reckon with the Austrians during the passage of Slavonia, nor with the Turks, and not to fear a war with them. He showed readiness in the resumption of hostilities to use the army and the Black Sea Fleet to march over the Danube against Constantinople, the Admiral counted on the disintegration of the Turkish empire and the uprising of its peoples.

Napoleonic invasion has changed the situation. 13 June from Vilna, reporting the start of the war with Napoleon, Alexander I proposed to maintain peaceful relations with Austria, to move the troops closer to Tormasov’s army (to Mogilyov or Kamenets-Podolsk), but did not cancel the expedition to Dalmatia, but tied Porta to the problematic agreement.

Chichagov was still under the influence of plans, which he and the emperor discussed in April. Admiral in a letter to Alexander I from 29 June, proceeding from the convenience of the road from Constantinople through Adrianople to interact with the Greeks and Slavic peoples, developed the idea of ​​seizing Turkish possessions all the way to Albania, which opened the way for an offensive in the heart of Europe; he believed that to take the Turkish capital enough 40 thousands of people. The fleet had to make landings, threatening various places, so that the Turks would lose their head. It is worth noting that Chichagov’s plans were understood by a staunch frankofil, a supporter of friendly relations with Napoleon — the State Chancellor and at the same time Foreign Minister Count Nikolai Rumyantsev.


The emperor did not agree with the opinion of Chichagov and Rumyantsev, because the avalanche of Napoleon's troops rolling from the west threatened the existence of Russia; exchanging ratifications, he ordered to be content with peace and move troops through Khotin and Kamenets-Podolsky to Dubno, where the admiral was to join the army of Tormasov and act against the enemy at Warsaw; He considered the second option to be a diversion to Dalmatia, and postponed the march on Constantinople until the case against Napoleon went well. However, Western armies under pressure from Napoleon retreated. On July 18, Alexander I ordered Chichagov to go to Dubno with the army of Tormasov and the corps of the Duke of Richelieu to attack Pinsk or Lublin and Warsaw, threatening the rear of Napoleon.

The admiral hurried to execute the command. Parts went on the road by readiness. Vanguard was formed mainly from cavalry with a small number of infantry. Chichagov intended to reform the army across the Dniester, to save time to join the troops to the army of Tormasov in parts, and hoped that the final connection would happen on September 7. River flooding delayed movement for several days; Nevertheless, 18 August Army began crossing the Dniester.

Chichagov himself, although he did not abandon his previous plans, was already preparing for future actions. In a letter from 22 July, he asked the emperor what the Poles could offer as opposed to Napoleon’s promises if the war went to the lands of the Duchy of Warsaw. The admiral recommended that the emperor organize the exchange of information between the armies, establishing special officers at their headquarters to coordinate operations, and wrote that he had already appealed to Bagration with such a proposal. A sailor in a letter from 2 of August strongly supported the intention to turn the war into a popular one.

To reinforce the troops, Chichagov summoned the 12 battalions from Odessa and the naval crew from Sevastopol, and then the regiment of the Black Sea Cossacks who served in the flotilla in Galati; he believed that they would be useful in crossings and in battle.

The admiral suggested not to waste forces in battles if they did not provide strategic success. Mikhail Golenishchev-Kutuzov adhered to the same plan. The new commander-in-chief initially took up the replenishment and strengthening of the main forces. But already 14 August Kutuzov, carrying out a plan of joint actions of all armies to destroy the enemy, wrote from the road to Chichagov about the need to bring the Danube army closer to the main forces in order to act in the flank of the enemy.


The exit of Kutuzov south of Moscow after the Battle of Borodino opened up new opportunities for communication with the 3 and Danube armies. On September 6, Kutuzov instructed Tormasov to defend Volyn, Podolia and especially Kiev, providing for the actions of Chichagov, who was to go to Mogilyov and further to threaten the enemy's rear. Similar instructions received Wittgenstein.

All Russian forces were pulled closer to each other, closing the enemy in a ring far from his supply bases. There was a real opportunity to defeat Napoleon’s army, part of which had already been demoralized. However, Alexander I decided to put another plan into practice. The corps of Wittgenstein and Chichagov’s army were to oust the opposing enemy forces and leaving part of the forces to cover the rear, unite on the Berezina and cut off the route of retreat of the French. The forces of the two groups made 140 thousands on paper. However, part of them was required to neutralize Schwarzenberg and other individual enemy corps. The plan did not provide for general command on the Berezina; obviously, the king left the honor of victory behind him. Kutuzov, forced to submit to the highest will, September 10 accordingly changed the instructions Chichagovu.

7 September The Danube army arrived in Volyn, and on September 17 the troops Tormasov and Chichagov were united under the command of the last 3 th Western army of 80 thousand, located at Lyuboml.

Having instructions to push the Schwarzenberg behind the Bug, Chichagov acted in accordance with it. Having ousted the enemy abroad and holding him there by the actions of light forces, Chichagov could start the main task, although Wittgenstein and Kutuzov were far away from him. On October 16, leaving Saken’s corps (about 26 thousand people) against Schwarzenberg and Rainier, the admiral with 32 thousand people marched from Brest-Litovsk to Minsk. 4 November, its avant-garde occupied the city, where large reserves of food, medicine and other supplies of the French army were taken.

Meanwhile, November 2 Kutuzov ordered Wittgenstein, and then Chichagov, to go to Berezina. He intended to smash the enemy, who retreated after the unsuccessful battle of Maloyaroslavets along the old Smolensk road. The main forces of the Russian army, moving in parallel with the retreating French, delivered blow after blow to the enemy. There were circumstances that would allow the Chichagov, Wittgenstein and Kutuzov troops to completely defeat the French at Berezina. However, due to the inconsistency of action, the admiral had to play a major and tragic role in the battle.

On November 9, after several assaults, the vanguard of the 3 Army took Borisov. November 10 arrived, took the ferry, the city and the right bank from Zembin to Ushi main force. Chichagov sent cavalry detachments on all roads for reconnaissance and sent the vanguard of Pavel Palen to the east with orders to move towards Beaver, take a defile, prevent the enemy from advancing and establish connection with Wittgenstein. But on November 11, Napoleon with the main forces crossed the Beaver. Therefore, in the morning, the three-thousand detachment of Palen faced the 10-thousandth vanguard of Oudinot, to whom the emperor ordered to take the ferry from Borisov by any means. After an unexpected strike, Palen's detachment, moving without sufficient security, retreated to the city, losing 600 people and almost the entire wagon train, and the French occupied the city. The admiral covered the waste with artillery fire, ordered to remove half of the bridge, preparing the destruction of the rest, and strengthened on the heights against the city. This ordinary combat episode was bloated in the capital. Information about the failure created public opinion is not in favor of the admiral.

According to various estimates, the enemy had 40 – 45 thousand combat-ready troops. Chichagov after the separation of troops and losses from diseases and combat possessed only 20 thousand, including 9 thousand cavalry, of little use in the forests and swamps. Even having collected all the troops in one place, the admiral had against him superior forces. The weather conditions and the actions of the enemy further complicated his position. Chichagov had to hold a position with a length of 50 miles, not allowing the enemy to Minsk and Vilna shops. If we consider that there were fords on the river, and its width did not impede the construction of a bridge quickly, it was not clear where the enemy would start the crossing.


The concept of Napoleon’s entourage demanded joint action by several groups of troops. But the troops of Steingel (35 thousand) and Ertel (15 thousand) promised to Chichagov did not fit. Wittgenstein and Steingel moved along the left bank of the Berezina instead of connecting with Chichagov, while Ertel stood in Mazyr, referring to the death of cattle. Should only count on themselves. The admiral decided to retain Borisov’s bridgehead reinforcement and thereby enable Kutuzov to arrive at the crossing simultaneously with Napoleon; Chichagov did not yet know that the main forces of Kutuzov were far, in 175 versts, for the field marshal reported that he was following the heels of the enemy. On November 11, the admiral observed movement of masses of troops on the opposite shore; smoke from fires prevented them from determining their numbers.

The admiral initially left the main forces at the bridgehead, put the division of Major General Chaplits on the left flank, defending the road through Zembin on Vilna. The right flank to Berezov was covered by cavalry detachments; Chichagov believed that Napoleon would not go in this direction under the threat of a collision with the main forces of Kutuzov. But the message about the appearance of Schwarzenberg troops in the rear and Kutuzov’s order to take precautions in case Napoleon went to Bobruisk along the coast created fear for the safety of stores in Minsk.

The tombstone on the tomb of Pavel Chichagov in the city of Sao Paris.

Chichagov assumed that Napoleon could evade Minsk to feed the troops. He left Borisov Lanzheron in the bridgehead and covered the direction to Zembin from the north by Chaplits detachment at Veselov, and himself, following Kutuzov's order, with the Voinov division headed 12 November to the town of Shebashevichi south of Borisov. Six hours the admiral went to the goal, hiding in mountainous and wooded terrain. In the evening of November 12 in Shebashevichi he received a letter from Wittgenstein about his intention to follow the French and unite with the main forces, that is, the prescribed over plan to block the path to Napoleon was violated. Chichagov sent Wittgenstein an offer to fulfill the previous plan, but his courier was delayed. The beginning of the lack of a common command.

On November 13, a Cossack message about the construction of a bridge by the French in the Uholod area, south of Borisov, seemed to confirm Kutuzov’s fears. Chichagov sent General Rudziewicz to reinforce the detachment that was stationed at this point, and although soon there was a message about the termination of the building, the reinforcements continued to move to the Suppressors, because there was also a ford at that point.

But 14 November Langeron reported that the French are trying to cross from the position of Chaplitsa on the extreme left flank, and Chichagov was on the right. He immediately sent an order to Lanzheron to redeploy all the troops that were possible to help Czaplitsa, and Rudziewicz sent a detachment to replace the withdrawing troops; when the courier arrived from Chaplitsa, the admiral himself went to Borisov.

The coming frosts covered the river with ice and bound the swamps along the sides of the only road to Zembin, which ruled out the possibility of protecting defile with small forces. Therefore, Chaplitz pulled a detachment from Zembin to him and did not destroy the gati, which could easily be walked around the frozen marshes. By the morning of November 14, he deployed a detachment and, with artillery fire, prevented him from constructing the crossing, and the infantry repulsed the enemy’s attempt to attack. But 30 heavy shells forced Chaplitsa to withdraw into the forest to save the soldiers; until the evening, his detachment held back the body of Udino and took 380 prisoners.

On November 15, Chichagov, arriving at Chaplitsa, assembled and reformed the corps. Unable to use numerous cavalry and artillery on rough terrain, Chichagov decided to hold out in the hope of approaching Wittgenstein or Kutuzov. He ordered Chaplitsa 16 November to attack, and he drove off to Borisov for support. On November 15, a messenger from Chichagov arrived at Yermolov and offered to join in Borisov with his detachment, about the movement of which the admiral learned from Platov. Yermolov promised, after giving the 4-hour rest to the troops, to continue the pursuit and promise fulfilled: on November 16 his detachment arrived in Borisov and passed the Berezina along a temporary bridge.

Shooting from behind the French army testified about Wittgenstein approaching, and Chichagov sent several detachments to establish contact with him, and one of his regiments drove Partuno's division from Borisov, which during the withdrawal was between the troops of Wittgenstein and Platov and surrendered. But from the conversation with the partisan Seslavin who arrived around 22.00, it became clear that Wittgenstein intended to act independently. The admiral suggested Wittgenstein to attack in concert on the right and left banks and asked to send a division to reinforcements. The prince did not give reinforcements, but about 23.00 promised to attack at dawn; however, he did not fulfill this promise, launching an offensive four hours later. Kutuzov reported that his troops in six transitions. In fact, the admiral's small forces alone had to deal with the remnants of the French Great Army.

The decisive blow failed. Chaplits offensive delayed due to the intervention of the chief of staff of the army Sabaneeva. Wittgenstein, who arrived around 14.00 without troops, did not help; against Victor he sent only the 14-thousandth detachment, and all the other troops at Borisov calmly crossed the river and drove the French to the west, although the prince had orders to prevent the crossing. Yermolov, whose 4-thousand squad had nothing to feed Chichagov, did not participate in the battle, and the Cossacks Platov were useless in a wooded area. As a result, instead of 140 thousand, planned by Alexander I, Napoleon was constrained by less than 20 thousand by Chichagov.

November 16 on the east bank, Victor held Wittgenstein until the evening and left the river at night; On the morning of November 17, the bridges at Studenka were lit by order of the emperor, and the French troops left on the left bank surrendered. The losses of the French were up to 50 thousand people, Russians - up to 8 thousand. On the same day Napoleon with guards went to Zembin, followed by the 9-thousandth French army. Chichagov's troops pursued her, defeated the rearguard and occupied Vilna; the admiral stopped in the city, and his army, in which there were thousands of 15 people, went to the border.


Despite these successes, in the eyes of public opinion Chichagov was responsible for Napoleon's flight; the basis of the charges was created by Kutuzov, who informed the emperor:

“This army, one might say, 12, 13 and 14 of November, was surrounded from all sides. The Berezina River, which represents a natural barrier, was dominated by Admiral Chichagov’s army, since it was enough to take a post at Zembin and Borisov (18 versts miles) to prevent any enemy crossing. The army of Wittgenstein from Lepel bowed to Borisov and prevented the enemy from leaving this side. The main avant-garde of Platov’s army and my partisans pressed the enemy from the rear, while the main army marched in the direction between Borisov and Mal Berezin in order to prevent the enemy if he would have liked to go to Igumen. From this position of our armies in relation to the enemy, one would have to assume the inevitable death of the enemy; the unoccupied post at Zembine and the empty march of Chichagov’s army gave the Zabashevichs the enemy the convenience of passing at Studenka. ”

Of course, the savior of Russia Kutuzov believed. Krylov even wrote a fable about a pike, which undertook to be a watchman and her rats ate their tails. He hinted that the admiral did not take over his business.

General Alexei Yermolov, chief of staff of the 1 of the Western Army, and then the commander of the detachment in the vanguard of Platov, on the contrary, condemned the slowness of Kutuzov, because of which Napoleon's troops freely crossed the Dnieper; he believed that the field marshal restrained forward detachments until the main forces approached.

Soviet historian, academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1927) Eugene Tarle made the assumption that Chichagov, Kutuzov and Wittgenstein did not want to meet with Napoleon and did not meet with him. It is obvious to the reader that Chichagov met with the main forces of the Great Army.

Chichagov, offended by the opinion of the world, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, gave up command of the army besieging Thorn and left Russia. The emperor, knowing the truth, left him a member of the Council of State. The admiral traveled abroad in 1814, first to England, then he lived in Italy and France. Abroad, he was preparing "Notes by Admiral Chichagov, concluding what he saw and what he thought he knew." In the notes, Pavel Vasilyevich not only recalled his life course and his father, but also expressed interesting opinions. Chichagov paid much attention to Catherine II, whose rule was considered an example. He died 20 August 1849 of the year. The admiral left the archive of his daughter, Countess Catherine du Bouzet, the wife of a French sailor, with the ban on transferring it to other family members. But that note was given to Leonid Chichagov (later known as St. Seraphim), thanks to whom some of them reached our days.

Differently evaluated contemporaries of man of complex fate and difficult nature. Some contemporaries accused Chichagov of lack of patriotism, others believed that the best in the fleet was introduced to them. In 1831, Rear Admiral Mikhail Lazarev wrote to a friend: “The more I look at everything, the more I certify that the fleet will not reach the degree of perfection in which it was under Chichagov. Do not listen to you of those fairy tales that we now have many ships, and meanwhile there is neither spirit nor ambition that was then ... ”

In conclusion, the words of Peter Bartenev, a famous historian, archeographer, publisher and editor of the Russian Archive historical journal, should be quoted: "Chichagov belongs to the sorrowful list of Russian people who have accomplished far less of what they were capable of and what they were called for".

Nowadays they begin to officially recognize the merits of Pavel Chichagov. Publications appear. Thanks to the efforts of the Chichagovs Charitable Foundation near Paris, Pavel Vasilyevich’s grave is being repaired and the installation of the monument to the first naval minister and hero of the 1812 war of the year is being decided.
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  1. Ilyukha
    Ilyukha 22 October 2012 12: 10
    Nothing has changed in 200 years.
    The hero of the war in Russia is only a general (to the extreme colonel))
    Soviet films about the war - the generals above the map anxiously wrinkle their foreheads, and the soldiers in the background are somewhere far boogging and falling.
    So flies, meat.
    We have a monument to the soldier, and that one to the Unknown)).
    I think non-patriotic and non-state-can a monument to a concrete soldier put?
    Oh no, he's not a hero ..
  2. white_f
    white_f 23 October 2012 17: 01
    The soldier is definitely a hero. But in order to organize the correct actions of such a number of people and anticipate the actions of the enemy, a person must be literate and make the right decisions depending on the situation on the battlefield. IMHO if a person is illiterate, be he even three times a general and having a well-organized army, he will "put it down" in a matter of hours.