Your exploits are the heritage of the Fatherland, and your glory belongs to Russia.
On June 29, 1816, A.P. Ermolov was appointed by the order of Alexander I the commander of the Separate Georgian (from 1820 - Caucasian) corps, that is, the commander in chief of Russian troops in Georgia and the North Caucasus. At the same time, the general was appointed head of the civil department in Georgia, the Astrakhan and Caucasian provinces, and the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Persia. He also obeyed the Caspian Military flotilla, Black Sea and Terek Cossack troops. A “free-thinking” but talented general in the Caucasus received complete freedom of military and administrative actions. Not for nothing that he was already called the "Caucasian proconsul."
Ermolov was a very interesting person. One of his appearances attracted attention, Ermolov gave the impression of a man who was able to lead troops into battle (as it was). High growth, heroic power, something lion appeared in his figure. The soldiers admired him, and the enemies trembled with horror. His personal asceticism aroused respect. Incorruptly honest, simple, though rude in communication, Ermolov led a Spartan lifestyle from his youth (as did Suvorov). Always been at weaponsslept on hikes, wrapped in an overcoat, got up at sunrise.
Yermolov before the Caucasus appointment had time to glorify his name. Ermolov was born in Moscow 24 May 1777 of the year. He came from the poor nobles of the Oryol province. The ancestor of the Yermolov family Araslan-Murza-Yermola, in baptism John, left the Golden Horde and entered the service of Grand Duke Vasily III Ivanovich. The father of the famous commander, Pyotr Alekseevich Yermolov (1747 — 1832), was a landowner who owned a small estate in the Mtsensk district of the Oryol province. Mother - Maria Denisovna of the Davydov family. According to his mother, Yermolov was related to Davydov, Potemkin, Rajewski and Orlov (the famous partisan commander and poet Denis Davydov was brought to Yermolov by a cousin).
Yermolov was educated at the Moscow University pension. This institution was preparing children for military, state, court and diplomatic service. Began service in 1791, a lieutenant of the Guard. As was customary at that time, Yermolov was still a baby, in 1778, he was registered for military service - the captain armus of the Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment. A fifteen-year-old officer refused to serve in the capital garrison, because he wanted to take part in the war with the Turks, and in the 1792 year he received the rank of captain, was transferred to the 44 th Nizhny Novgorod dragoon regiment, which was deployed in Moldova. But when he arrived at the place of service, the war was already over. Yermolov was recalled to the capital and he was appointed senior adjutant to the Prosecutor General A. Samoilov.
However, Alexei Yermolov did not like being an adjutant, he dreamed of becoming an artilleryman. In the spring of 1793, he is appointed quartermaster in the 2 Bombardy battalion to prepare for the exam. He endured the test brilliantly. In August, 1793, he was transferred to the captains of artillery with the assignment as a junior teacher (tutor) to the Artillery and Engineering Cadet Corps.
The first combat experience Yermolov received in 1794 year during the Polish company (suppression of the Polish uprising). With the outbreak of hostilities Ermolov transferred to the army. He received the baptism in battle at the crossing over the Western Bug. When storming the Warsaw suburb of Prague, he was noted by Alexander Suvorov. By his personal order, the 17-year-old captain was awarded the Order of St. George 4 degree. This award, which he received from the hands of the great Russian commander, Yermolov was proud of all his life and wore only George 4 degree in retirement.
After the end of hostilities in Poland, the young officer was returned to the capital and enlisted in the 2 Bombardy battalion. In the same year 1794, under the patronage of Count Samoilov, was sent to Italy, where he was with the Austrian commander-in-chief Davis. On his own initiative, Yermolov took part in several clashes with French troops. In 1796, he was recalled to Petersburg, where he received a new appointment. Yermolov was included in the troops who took part in the Persian campaign under the command of General Valerian Zubov (Punishing non-peaceful Persia - 1796 campaign of the year). Captain Ermolov commanded a battery of 6 guns and for the successful bombardment of the Derbent fortress was awarded the Order of St.. Vladimir 4 degree with a bow. In 1797, he received the rank of major, appointed commander of an artillery company located in Nesvizh in the Minsk province. The very next year he was made a lieutenant colonel.
In 1798, Yermolov fell into disgrace. In Smolensk province there was a secret officer circle "Freethinkers." French educational ideas gradually penetrated into Russia, organizations emerged that were close in spirit to future “Decembrists”. Its head was a former Suvorov adjutant, a retired colonel A. M. Kakhovsky, Yermolov’s brother by his mother. Naturally, Yermolov took an active part in this circle, from his youth he was distinguished by free-thinking. Circle opened. In the papers of Kakhovsky they found a letter to Yermolov, where he, in very sharp expressions, walked through his superiors. On suspicion of participating in a plot against Emperor Paul, he was taken to the capital and imprisoned in the Alekseevsky district of the Peter and Paul Fortress. True, there is a version that Yermolov was detained by mistake. And exiled for impudent behavior before the investigators. In addition, the leniency of the sentence indicates that Emperor Paul did not see danger in the artilleryman. Two months later he was released and sent to settle in Kostroma. Here he became friends with the disgraced Major General M. Platov. Yermolov was engaged in self-education, he learned Latin, read Roman classics in Latin - Caesar, Tacitus, Titus Libya, etc. I must say that after a few years before his death, Yermolov handed over his book collection to Moscow University - about 7800 volumes of books on stories, philosophy, art, military affairs; mostly books were in French, Italian, English and German.
It seemed that the career was ruined. However, the death of Paul and the accession of Alexander caused an amnesty. Yermolov, not without difficulty, secured the appointment to the post of commander of a horse-artillery company, which was located in the Vilna province. At the same time, it was an honor, in the Russian army then there was only one battalion of horse artillery of five companies. He was directly subordinate to the artillery inspector Count A. A. Arakcheev. Soon there was a conflict between them. During a review in Vilna, Arakcheev made a comment about the exhausted appearance of the horses of the Yermolov company and said that the reputation of an officer in artillery depends on the condition of the horses. Quickly, Yermolov immediately replied: "It is a pity, Your Excellency, that in artillery the reputation of the officers depends on the cattle." Yermolov resigned, but the inspector general did not accept her. Arakcheev began to impede the rise of Yermolov. Yermolov’s career could only be saved by war. It should be noted that in the future the differences between Arakcheev and Yermolov were forgotten and the future Minister of War became the patron of a talented officer.
The war was not long in coming. In 1805, the next coalition war with Napoleonic France began. Yermolov showed personal stewardship and courage in the battles of Amshtten and Krems. Under Amshtten, the battery of Yermolov stopped the enemy and allowed the grenadier battalions of the Absheron and Smolensk regiments to form themselves in battle order and reject the French with a bayonet attack. The commander of the brigade, General Mikhail Miloradovich, who personally led the soldiers into battle, expressed gratitude to the artillery officer. In the battle of Austerlitz, the gunners of the battery covered the withdrawal of their troops to the last, the battery was captured by the enemy, and Yermolov was taken prisoner. But during the Russian counterattack, the battery was beaten off. For the 1805 campaign of the year Ermolov received the rank of colonel and the Order of St. Anna 2 degree.
In the course of the Russian-Prussian-French war 1806 — 1807, Yermolov continued to faithfully serve his homeland. For the difference in the battle under Godimyn, he was awarded the Golden Sword with the inscription "For Bravery". In the Battle of Preissisch-Eylau in February 1807, Yermolov became famous throughout the army. The actions of the guns of the cavalry-artillery company Yermolov stopped the French offensive under the command of Davout and saved the army. In this battle, Yermolov sent the horses and limbs of the guns to the rear, stating that "there should be no thought to retreat." For the battle of Guttstatt Ermolov submitted to the Order of St.. George 3 degree. In the affairs of Heilsberg and Friedland Ermolov successfully manages the artillery of the left flank. His ability to organize fire was appreciated not only by the Russian, but also by the French command.
Bagration twice represented Ermolov to the rank of general. He was supported in this matter by the brother of the emperor, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich. However, Arakcheev was against it. Only in 1808, the commander of the 7 artillery brigade was promoted to major general. At about the same time, the relationship between Arakcheyev and Yermolov is leveling off. Yermolov was appointed inspector of all cavalry-artillery companies. In order to spread and secure horse tactical successes of the campaign 1806-1807. Then Yermolov was appointed commander of 14-thousand. reserve in Volyn and Podolia. Soon his headquarters was moved to Kiev, where Yermolov formed two regiments of Tatar cavalry and supervised the construction of fortifications on the Animal Mountain. The young general asked to be sent to war with Turkey (1806-1812), but he did not receive permission.
In 1811, Yermolov became the commander of the Guards Artillery Brigade, then the Guards Infantry Brigade, which included Life Guards Izmailovsky and Lithuanian regiments. Yermolov received a high status - as the commander of the guards units, he entered the emperor's inner circle. Alexander Pavlovich, although he did not “love” Yermolov, but respected him for his personal qualities. In the spring of 1812, he was appointed commander of the Guards Infantry Division, which included the Preobrazhensky, Semenovsky, Izmaylovsky, Egersky, Finnish, Lithuanian regiments, as well as the Guards naval crew. The Guards Division was located in Sventsiany, covering the state border of the empire, and was part of the 1-th Western Army under the command of Barclay de Tolly.
July 1 1812 35-year-old Major General Yermolov was appointed Chief of Staff of the 1 Russian Army. This did not make him very happy, Yermolov was friends with Bagration (commander of the 2-th Western Army), and with Barclay de Tolly he had purely business, cold relations. Yermolov asked the emperor to appoint a more experienced officer in his place, but Alexander upheld his decision, promising to return him later to the Guards Division. Yermolov considered himself a combatant commander, but he did not flinch at the new position either. He tried to push through the strategy of active war, the supporter of which was Bagration. However, Barclay followed a different strategy.
The 1812 campaign of the year glorified Yermolov as a major military leader, one of the heroes of the Patriotic War. For the Battle of Smolensk (the battle at Valutina Gora) he received the rank of lieutenant general. Yermolov largely praises the clear order of withdrawal of the Russian troops, which surprised the enemies. 1-I army retreated in order. After combining the 1 and 2 army, it was Ermolov who was able to reconcile Barclay and Bagration. He wrote to Bagration: “When everything dies, when the Fatherland is threatened not only with shame, but also the greatest danger, there is neither private life nor personal benefits ... Bring your pride as a sacrifice to the perishing Fatherland and give it to the other and wait until they appoint the person they are demanded circumstances".
Yermolov wrote several letters to the monarch, where he frankly wrote: “We need unity of command!” He also noted the harmful effects of a long retreat on the army morale. He reported that the troops did not trust Barclay de Tolly. Yermolov personally walked among the soldiers, listened to their conversations, asked. Yermolov wrote: “Moscow is not far, it is necessary to fight! Every Russian can die! ... ”. It is believed that precisely the messages of Yermolov pushed the emperor to designate the famous winner of Turkey, Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, as commander-in-chief of the Russian army. After Kutuzov arrived in the army, Yermolov actually became the head of the marching headquarters.
During the Borodino battle, Yermolov was with Mikhail Kutuzov. When the French troops, at the cost of huge losses, took Kurgan height - the “key of the Borodino position”, General Yermolov led a counterattack of various broken units and the 3 battalion of the Ufa infantry regiment. Yermolov ordered the drummer to hit the bayonets and, exposing his saber, shouted: “Guys! Give back the honor you dropped! Let your bayonet know no mercy! Sweep the enemy! In Russian! ... I added a couple of strong words and led the national team to storm. The French just wanted to take away the surviving guns when the Russians struck. The battle was bloody, the French resisted desperately, fighting almost exclusively in hand-to-hand combat. The French killed all, Yermolov forbade taking prisoners. In the same battle, General Kutaisov died, helping Yermolov organize a counterattack. For three hours, Yermolov remained on the Raevsky battery, organizing its defense and directing it, until it was contused by the enemy core in the neck and carried off from the battlefield (according to other sources, wounded by a bullet). For the Battle of Borodino Yermolov was awarded the Order of St. Anna 1 degree. Later, the hero of the Patriotic War, in his “Notes”, noted that on this day “the French army was hurt about the Russian”.
Counterattack Alexei Yermolov captured battery Rajewski during the Borodino battle. Chromolithograph A. Safonov. The beginning of the XX century.
At the military council in Fili, where the fate of Moscow was decided, Yermolov offered to strike at the enemy, suggesting that the offensive of the Russian army, which was unexpected for the French, would cause confusion in its ranks. He called for a new general battle, under the walls of the ancient Russian capital. However, Kutuzov said that only a person who is not responsible for the army and the country can reason like this. It was decided to leave Moscow without a fight. Yermolov was one of the last to leave Moscow.
In the Tarutino camp, Alexey Petrovich continued to lead the army headquarters. In the battle of Maloyaroslavets Yermolov fell "an enviable lot to render the Fatherland the greatest service." The head of staff, having learned that the French troops had left Moscow and were walking along the Borovskoy road, on their own initiative, on the behalf of the commander-in-chief, changed the route of the Dokhturov corps, directing him to Maloyaroslavets. As a result, the Great Army of Napoleon closed the way to Kaluga and the South of Russia. Ermolov himself immediately went to Maloyaroslavets and led the battle in the city. 6 and 19 chasseur regiments with a company of light artillery were subordinated to him. Then Dokhturov sent reinforcements - the Sofia, Libau and Vilmanstrand infantry regiments, the 11 th jäger regiment and corps artillery. The fight was extremely fierce and hard. The city changed hands several times. Alexey Ermolov in “Notes” noted: “... I was ousted four times from the city and more than once lost all hope of returning to that.” The onslaught of the French was stopped by Russian artillery. On the outskirts of Maloyaroslavets installed 40 guns, which opened a deadly fire on the enemy troops. The French were forced to stop the attacks and move away. After some thought, the French command did not dare to enter into a new decisive battle and began a retreat along the Old Smolensk road. During the pursuit of the French troops, Yermolov was at the forefront. He became one of the organizers of the persecution of the Great Army. Alexey Petrovich took part in the encirclement of the troops Davu near Vyazma, in the battle near Krasny and on the banks of the Berezina.
With the start of foreign campaigns, General Yermolov led the artillery in all armies. "Together with the sonorous name of this, I received," Yermolov noted, "part of the vast, upset and confused, especially since in each of the armies there were special chiefs of artillery and there was nothing in common." He took part in the most important battles of the campaign: under Lutzen, Bautzen, Dresden. Kulme and Leipzig. After the defeat at Lütsen, army commander P. Kh. Wittgenstein said that the defeat was caused by a shortage of artillery charges. Yermolov was deprived of his post and appointed commander of the 2 Guards Division.
Guardsmen Yermolov especially distinguished in the battle of Bautsen, when they held their positions for several hours and then formed the rearguard of the retreating Allied forces. For Bautzen Yermolov awarded the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky. In the battle of Kulm, held on 29-30 in August 1813, Alexey Petrovich helped Osterman-Tolstoy, and when he was wounded, he led the troops. In this battle, the Russian Guard found immortal glory, enduring the onslaught of the superior forces of the enemy, before the approach of the main forces of the allied army (The feat of the Russian Guard under Kulm). After this battle, Yermolov once again gave free rein to his language. Emperor Alexander Pavlovich asked the general what kind of award he wanted. Alexey Petrovich, hinting at the monarch’s excessive favor for foreigners in the Russian service, said: “Produce me to the Germans, Sovereign!”
In the Leipzig “Battle of the Nations”, the Yermolov Guards were again in the heat of the moment. 2-I Guards Infantry Division decisive attack seized the village of Hesse - the center of the French positions. Stone fences and houses turned the village into a real fortress. The Frenchman fought hard and skillfully, but the Ermolov regiments in a fierce hand-to-hand battle forced out the enemy. Alexey Petrovich led the Russian, Prussian, and Baden guards in the battle under the walls of Paris in 1814. The emperor instructed him to write a manifesto on the capture of Paris. When the Allied forces entered the French capital, Yermolov was already in the post of commander of the Grenadier Corps. For the capture of Paris he was awarded the Order of St.. George 2 degree. At the same time, Alexey Petrovich refused to count dignity.
During the Vienna Congress 1815, Yermolov commanded 80-thousand. subsidiary army, which was located in the Krakow region near the Austrian border. Austria’s disagreement was expected in defining new frontiers and dividing the Duchy of Warsaw, and the Yermolov army was a strong argument for convincing Vienna. 3 January 1815 England, Austria and France entered into a military alliance against Prussia and Russia. Europe was threatened by a long protracted war. From a big new war, Europe unwillingly saved Napoleon. He escaped from the island of Elba, occupied Paris. Began the famous "hundred days of Napoleon." The opponents of Napoleon formed a new anti-French coalition. Russia, Prussia and Austria, under the pressure of new circumstances, signed an agreement on the division of the Duchy of Warsaw. Ermolov led the Russian troops, who moved to France. But, during this second campaign in France, the battles of the Russian army with the French troops did not occur. Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. Russian troops occupied Paris for the second time.
Here between the emperor, Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich (the future emperor) and Yermolov a conflict occurred. In honor of the victory over Napoleon 28 July 1815, in the suburbs of Paris, a parade of Allied forces. During the march, because of the “wrong music,” three platoons of the 3 Grenadier Division lost their legs. Emperor Alexander Pavlovich was greatly dissatisfied with the division’s “front-line education” and ordered to take three combat colonels into custody for the “bad parade”. On the town guardhouse that day, English guard was on duty. Yermolov interceded for his commanders and did not fulfill the order of arrest. The next day the emperor had to repeat the order. Yermolov told Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich, the sovereign of the right to arrest him, exile in Siberia, but in front of foreigners it is impossible to “drop the brave Russian army. Grenadiers came here not for parades, but for the salvation of the Fatherland and Europe. ” When the grand duke tried to rationalize the general, he replied: “Unless, Higher Highness, do you think that the Russian military serve the Sovereign, and not the Motherland? You are still young enough to learn, and not old enough to teach others ... ”
It must be said that the military general strongly opposed the “front-line” (front-line) drill, which was introduced into the Russian army immediately after the 1813-1814 campaign. He constantly made fun of her. In particular, such a case is known. In Warsaw, the vicar of the Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich showed Yermolov a battalion of Guards infantry, outfitted according to the latest pattern. The soldiers stood in the ranks, tightly wrapped in narrow uniforms with high collars, tied with ties and sash, in narrow trousers. The grand duke asked the general how he liked the new uniform. Yermolov dropped the glove and ordered the nearest soldier to pick it up. He could not, because he was severely constrained in his movements. Yermolov himself raised his glove and ironically said to the prince: "It is exquisitely beautiful and convenient form ...".
After the return of the Russian troops to Russia, Yermolov surrendered the Grenadier Corps to Paskevich, and went on leave to his parents in Oryol. While he was on vacation at the estate of his parents, his fate was decided in the capital. Count Arakcheev recommended that the emperor appoint Yermolov as Minister of War of Russia. According to him, this appointment will be unpleasant to many, Yermolov initially gnawed with everyone, but his activity, intelligence, firmness of character, disinterestedness and frugality, will justify this appointment. However, the emperor decided otherwise. He decided to use the talents of Yermolov in the “hot spot” of the empire - in the Caucasus.
Portrait of Alexei Petrovich Ermolov by George Doe. Military Gallery of the Winter Palace, the State Hermitage Museum.
To be continued ...