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Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics


General Situation

Composition and Strength of the Russian Armies at the Beginning of 1812

By Alexander Mikaberidze, Chairman of the Napoleonic Society of Georgia

The strength of Russian armies in 1812 still raises disputes, since Russian and Western historians used to bring up the different sources. As a rule major attention is paid to two major armies - 1st and 2nd Western Armies, not mentioning the 3rd Western Army and the Reserve Corps. Even in Russian historiography the question of the strength of the armies is still unclear. The following is a diagram of the differences among major Russian historians in respect to the strength of Russian armies prior to June, 1812.


1st Western Army

2nd Western Army

N. Muratov



Lt. Col. Oboleshev



V. Voronovsky



A. Levitsky



E. Tarle



N. Garnich



P. Zhilin



S. Shvedov



L. Beskrovny



I. Rostunov



This paper tries to reconcile those differences and provides a detail look at the armies.

 The General Situation

According to the reports of the Commanders of 1st, 2nd and 3rd armies (Generals Barclay de Tolly, Bagration and Tormasov) written in June-July 1812, the Russian armies had the following composition and strength:

The 1st Western Army, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Infantry Corps, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Cavalry and Cossacks Corps, numbered 120,210 men and 580 guns . It was deployed on a 100 miles front from Rossyena up to Lyda, covering direction in St. Petersburg, with the Cossack Corps deployed along its front in the vicinity of Grodno.

The 2nd Western Army consisted of the 7th and 8th Infantry Corps, the 4th Cavalry Corps, nine Cossack regiments and 27th Infantry Division and amounted to 49,423 men with 180 cannons. It was assembled along a 50 miles front in the area of Wolkovysk and Belostock, covering the direction on Moscow.

The 3rd Western Army under command of General A. P. Tormasov, had a strength of 44,180 men and 168 cannons and was located in the vicinity of Lunk, covering direction on Kiev. Besides these three major armies, at the first line of defense there also was a separate Corps under command of General I. N. Essen counting 38,077 soldiers and assembled at Riga.

The second line of defense was composed of the two Reserve Corps - 1st Corps at Toropetz under General Aide-de-camp E.I. Meller-Zakomel'sky (27,473 men) , and 2nd Corps at Mozyr' under F.F. Ertel' (37 539 men) .

The flanks of the main Russian forces were covered from north - by Corps in Finland under command of Governor General of Finland General Lieutenant Baron F.F. Steinheil (19,000 men); from south - the Army of the Danube in Wallachia under Admiral P.V. Tchichagov (57,526 men)


Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2000


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