Peter Bagration: The Best Georgian General of the Napoleonic Wars
By Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS, Chairman of the Napoleonic Society of Georgia
Chapter I: The Early Years
Soldiers called him "The Eagle," while among the population he was
known as "Bog-rati-on" ? "The God of the Army." Disciple of the legendary
Peter (Ivanovich) Bagration descended from an ancient Georgian royal
dynasty of Bagrations. The Bagrations came from Tao-Klarjeti region
in the south-west Georgia. In second half of the 10th Century, during
the rule of the distinguished political figure David Kuropalates, the
great-great forefather of Peter Bagration. ("kuropalates" - a honor
title conferred by the Byzantine Emperor), Tao-Klarjeti became a large
David Kuropalates initiated the political unification of Georgia. Supported by Joané Marushisdze, his contemporary Kartlian (Iberia) eristavi and active political figure, David Kuropalates raised his adopted son Bagrat Bagration to the throne of Kartli (Iberia) (in 975) and Abkhazia (in 978), thereby actually uniting Eastern and Western Georgia into a single state. The Bagration Dynasty governed Georgia for almost 900 years.
Among the ancestors of P. Bagration were many prominent kings and statesmen: the greatest of Georgian kings, David IV the Builder, who liberated the country from the Turk Seljuks, defeating a Muslim coalition in the Didgori Valley on 12 August, 1121; legendary Empress Tamar, whose reign was called "the Golden Century" in Georgian history; King George VI the Brilliant, who liberated Georgia from the Mongols in 1330s and restored Georgian monasteries in the Holy Land; King George VII, who fought with the most fearsome enemy of Georgia, Timur (Tamerlan) who invaded Georgia for eight times in 14 years; Kings Bagrat V, Luarsab, Simon, and others, who are the Glory of the Georgia.
By 18th century the Bagrations became prominent in Persia as well. King Giorgi XI (Gurji Khan) became the commander-in-chief of the Persian Army, his brother Kaikhosro (Kusrow Khan) - Governor of the Persian capital, and another brother, Levan - Chief Justice of Persia. In 1700-1709, King Giorgi conquered and governed Afghanistan. However, he and his Georgian troops were murdered by the Afghans during the uprising in 1709. Kaikhsoro succeeded Giorgi as king of eastern Georgia, but also perished in a battle with Afghans in 1711. They were succeeded by Vakhtang IV, who brought prosperity and peace to Georgia. He attempted to oppose to the Persian and Ottoman designs, but, in 1723, after several years of struggle Vakhtang VI was compelled to flee to Russia together with retinue of 1200 men. The nephew of King Vakhtang VI, Alexander Bagration (son of Vakhtang's brother - Jese), stayed in Georgia until 1757 when he also moved to Russia. There he continued his military service in the Russian army.
As a lieutenant colonel, Alexander Bagration participated in the battles
in the northern Caucasus, in a defense of southeast borders of the Russian
Empire. He passed his military service on to his son Ivan Bagration,
who became a colonel. He resigned and moved to the city of Kizlyar with
his family. His son Peter, the future commander, was born in 1765, prior
to the move, in Georgia.
Unfortunately, little information is available about the early period of Bagration's life. He himself recalled that the parents often told him stories of his ancestors and their struggle. Perhaps for this reason, he showed great interest in and a love of military life. "With the milk of my mother, I have poured in myself a spirit of dash bravery" - wrote later Peter Bagration. Soon his dream was fulfilled. On February 21, 1782, at the age of 17 he enlisted as a sergeant in Astrakhan Infantry Regiment and, thus, his military career of almost 30 years had began.
Bagration's regiment was assigned to defend the southern border of
the Russian Empire,- near the Kuban and Terek Rivers. The Ottoman Sultan
held in the submission a significant territory of the Caucasus and organized
continuous attacks along the Russian border. Occasionally, these attacks
were coordinated with local princes, in particular with Circassians
and Chechens. In one of battles with the Chechens, the Russian troops
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