20 June 2012, 15:42

Commander in Chief Mikhail Kutuzov. Part III

Commander in Chief Mikhail Kutuzov. Part III
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When he took command of the Russian armies in August of 1812, Kutuzov was not told any plan to stick to during a war. The burden of responsibility was all his, and he understood that the nation and the army expected him to be decisive and stop the enemy from advancing deeper into the country.

When he took command of the Russian armies in August of 1812, Kutuzov was not told any plan to stick to during a war. The burden of responsibility was all his, and he understood that the nation and the army expected him to be decisive and stop the enemy from advancing deeper into the country.

But neither the nation nor the army knew that Russia was not strong enough to succeed. As he reflected on the situation Kutuzov concluded that the army needed to be urgently reinforced. Being a very experienced field commander, Kutuzov understood that human resources were crucial for the outcome of the war. He contacted the Ministry of War to find out the situation with the resources in Russia at the time. Kutuzov wanted to reinforce the army by attracting reserve troops and volunteers in order to prevent Napoleon from approaching Moscow.

What was the potential of the Russian army? How vast were the reserves? It was too late when Emperor Alexander I and the War Ministry rushed to correct their mistakes. The problem was that prior to the Napoleonic invasion Russia had made no steps to have vast military reserves. What Russia did have at the time could in no way be a source of fresh human resources to the army. Russia overestimated the might of its army and knew too little about that of the enemy. Only after the invasion took place it became clear how greatly the French army outnumbered the Russian one.

A first decree to form rear forces was issued on June 25, 1812, two weeks after Napoleon had invaded Russia. Addressing Governor-General of Little Russia Yakov Lobanov-Rostovsky the Emperor urged several Cossack troops to be brought together and be dispatched to Kaluga and Tula. On June 27 Alexander I ordered Lieutenant General Aleksey Gorchakov to make up six infantry regiments and place them in Saint Petersburg, Novgorod, Tver, Moscow, Tula and Kaluga.

All those difficulties and the fact the enemy had a much bigger army forced Alexander I to take action. In early July, 1812, he ordered the troops stationed in Starodub, Novgorod-Seversky, Konotopa, Romny, Sumy, Izyum, Glukhov, Roslavl and Troitsa to arrive in Kaluga. The War Ministry expected all the troops to make up a single corps of 55 battalions, 26 squadrons and 14 artillery companies. Mikhail Miloradovich was dismissed as Kiev military governor and was appointed to take a general command of the infantry.

In theory everything seemed to be running quite smoothly but in practice things turned out to be much more complicated. The lack of weaponry and uniform, poor logistics impeded the army reinforcement. In other words, chief field commander Mikhail Kutuzov understood that he could in no way rely on effective army reinforcement to take place promptly.

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