Research Subjects: Biographies

Russian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars: General Karl Ivanovich Bistrom

By Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS

(13 May 1770, Estland gubernia - 28 June 1838, Kissingen, Bavaria)

General Karl Ivanovich  Bistrom

General Karl Ivanovich Bistrom

Karl Ivanovich Bistrom was born to a noble family in Estland gubernia; he was brother of Adam Bistrom. Karl Bistrom enlisted as a corporal in the Life Guard Izmailovsky Regiment on 19 June 1784, where he passed through ranks, and in 1787 was promoted to sergeant. He participated in the 1788 war against Sweden and was transferred as captain to the Neva Musketeer Regiment (12 January 1790). He was appointed commander of the 1st Jager Regiment on 29 May 1797 and promoted to lieutenant colonel on 29 January 1799. He was also awarded Commandor Order of the St. John of Jerusalem. He was given command of the 20th Jagers on 19 March 1805 and promoted to colonel on 22 July 1805. He participated in the 1806-1807 Campaigns, fought at Czarkowo (received the Order of St. George, 4th Class, 10 February 1807); He also fought at Pultusk (wounded to left foot, awarded the Prussian “Pour le Merit”), Eylau (wounded to left shoulder, awarded a golden sword for courage.). He distinguished himself in minor actions at Zecher, Peterswald, Altkirchen, and on the Passarga River and was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir (3rd Class.) Bistrom further distinguished himself at Guttstadt, where his regiment covered the retreat of the Russian forces for almost fourteen hours. He was seriously wounded in his right cheek by a musket ball that damaged his jaw. As a result of this wound, Bistrom had difficulty speaking for the rest of his life. As a reward for his courage in this battle, Emperor Alexander personally awarded him with the Order of St. Anne (2nd Class) with diamond signs. After Tilsit, Bistrom was named a battalion commander in the Life Guard Jager Battalion, and on 31 December 1809 - commander of the entire regiment; he served in this regiment throughout the 1812-1814 Campaigns. In 1812, he was attached to the 3rd Brigade of the Guard Infantry Division of the 5th Reserve (Guard) Corps of the 1st Western Army. He fought at Smolensk in August 1812 and then at Borodino in September. For his bravery at Borodino, he was promoted to major general on 2 December 1812, but rank seniority date since 7 September 1812. He fought at Tarutino, Maloyaroslavets, and Klementino, and particularly distinguished himself in the fighting at Dobraya, near Krasnyi, where his troops captured Marshal Davout’s correspondence and baton. For his actions, Bistrom received the Order of St. George (3rd Class, received on 15 June 1813). In 1813, Bistrom fought at Lutzen, Bautzen, Kulm, and Leipzig, and in 1814 – at Brienne, Arsi-sur-Aube, La Fere Champenoise, and Paris. On the conclusion of peace, Bistrom returned to St. Petersburg. In June 1821, he received command of the 2nd Guard Infantry Division and was promoted to lieutenant general on 24 December 1824. In March 1825, he was given command of the infantry of the Separate Guards Corps; he was promoted to general-adjutant for suppressing the Decembrist uprising in St. Petersburg in December 1825. During Russo-Turkish War of 1828-29, Bistrom commanded the Guard Corps and invested the fortress of Varna in August. On 16-18 September, he fought a major battle there against a coordinated assault of the Turkish forces. He captured Varna on 29 September and was awarded the Order of Alexander of Neva. In 1830, Bistrom took leave because of poor health, however he returned to the army during the Polish Uprising. He commanded the advance guard during the campaign and fought at Ostrolenko, where he received a serious contusion by a cannonball to his right thigh. For his actions, Bistrom received the Order of St. George (2nd Class, 11 June 1831). Bistrom took part in the assault on Warsaw and was promoted to general of infantry (3 September 1831) and commanded the Russian forces in the Polish capital after Field Marshal Paskevich departed. Bistrom returned to Russia in 1832 and took extended leave to recuperate. In December 1835, he was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir (1st Class) and, in July 1837, he was appointed deputy commander of the Separate Guard Corps, commanded by Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich. However, his health rapidly deteriorated and traveled to Kissingen in Bavaria to recuperate. He died there on 28 June 1838. Bistrom was buried at his estate at Yamburg. In addition to mentioned awards, Bistrom also had the Prussian “Pour Merite,” Order of the Red Eagle (2nd Class), medals “For Military Merit” (1st Class) and “Twenty Four Years of Distinguish Service.”

Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2003; updated November 2003.


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