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The Napoleon Series > Military Information > Organization, Strategy & Tactics


Combat Record


Lithuanian Military under Napoleon in 1812

By Ilya Kudriashov

On 24 June 1812, the French army has invaded the Russian Empire near Kaunas; by midday 28 June the 8th Polish Lancers under the command of Colonel Prince Dominick Radziwill has entered Vilnius, the ancient capital of Lithuania. On 1 July 1812, Napoleon establishes the Great Lithuanian Principality with its own government. The Principality was divided into 4 departments: Vilnius, Grodno, Minsk and Bielostok. Alexander Sapiega is named the Chief of the Military Commission. Napoleon orders the Principality to form its own army on 5 July. The Army is to consist of 5 infantry regiments organized along French lines with 3 battalions of 6 companies each (with a total of 2005 enlisted men) and 4 cavalry regiments each with 4 squadrons with 2 companies in a squadron (940 enlisted men). An additional 500 men were recruited from Lithuania into the 129th Line and the 2nd Illyrian Regiments.

On 5 July, Napoleon signs a decree to form a regiment for the French Imperial Guard from Lithuanian volunteers. This regiment becomes the 3eme Regiment des Chevaulegers Lancier (light horse lancers). The Regiment was to consist of 5 squadrons of 2 companies each for a total of 1280 men (62 officers and 1218 enlisted men), however only 4 squadrons were formed. Major General Konopka of the 1er Regiment des Chevaulegers Lancier de la Garde Imperiale was named colonel of the newly formed regiment.

At the end of August Napoleon assigns the following officers as the high command of the Lithuanian Army:

General Inspector (Commander-in-Chief): Division General Prince Romuald Giedrojc

Infantry Inspector: Brigade General Ksavery Niesiolowski

Cavalry Inspector: Brigade General Joseph Wawrzecki


On 25 July and 1 August 1812 a Lithuanian government orders the departments to provide the following recruits:

Vilnius: 3000 infantry and 1327 cavalrymen

Grodno: 2500 infantry and 996 cavalrymen

Minsk: 3000 infantry and 1307 cavalrymen

Bielostok: 1500 infantry and 370 cavalrymen

Length of military service was established at 6 years. Mobilization began immediately with the last day for accepting recruits being 25 September. Lithuanian regiments were to have the same numeration as the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw, but they were to be independent of it. By the end of September the army was completely formed:

18th Infantry Regiment: Colonel Alexander Chodkiewicz - Vilnius

19th Infantry Regiment: Colonel Konstantin Tizenhaus - Raseinai

20th Infantry Regiment: Colonel Adam Bisping - Slonim

21st Infantry Regiment: Colonel Karol Przezdziecki (at the end of August - Anthony Gielgud) - Bielostok

22nd Infantry Regiment: Colonel Stanislas Czapski - Minsk

17th Lancer Regiment: Colonel Michail Tyszkiewicz - Kupischkis

18th Lancer Regiment: Colonel Joseph Wawrzecki (at the end of August - Karol Przezdziecki) - Nesvizh

19th Lancer Regiment: Colonel Konstantin Rajecki - Novogrudek

20th Lancer Regiment: Colonel Ksaveriy Obuchowicz - Pinsk

Colonels were selected by Napoleon from the rich and nobles families of Lithuania, while majors were Polish officers.

On 2 August, "Litowski Kurrier" published a call to Lithuanian tartars to form a volunteer regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Mirza Achmatovicz, of the Duchy of Warsaw Army was appointed a chief of this regiment, but only one squadron was definitely formed. It was attached to Konopka's 3rd Lancer Regiment of the Imperial Guard.

On 12 August, the government was ordered to form 6 battalions of jagers (strzelcow pieszych litewskich), of whom two-thirds were to be forest-guards. A jager battalion consisted of 6 companies, 9 officers and 130 men in each. Chiefs of Battalions were:

1st Jagers: Kossakowski

2nd Jagers: Rokicki

3rd Jagers: Plater

4th Jagers: Kurczewski

5th Jagers: Obuchowicz

6th Jagers: Loskowski

In November, a decision was made to organise the battalions into 2 regiments, but only the 1st Regiment (consisting of the 1st & 2nd Battalions) under Colonel Kossakowski, was formed in Minsk. By December, the 3rd Battalion was still forming in Vilnius, while the 4th Battalion had only commenced recruiting. The 5th and 6th Battalions remained on paper.

A landowner, Ignace Moniuczko, had received permission to raise at his own expense the 21st Chasseurs a cheval Regiment. Moniuczko became its colonel. However, only one squadron was formed. Rudolph Tisenhaus also formed at his own expense a horse artillery battery. In Minsk another infantry regiment - the 23rd - was being raised, because the number of recruits and volunteers exceeded the numbers needed for the other regiments. A Guard of Honor was was formed of 20 young men under the command of Prince Gavrila Oginski was formed for Napoleon . This detachment accompanied Napoleon to Moscow.

On 1 July, Napoleon ordered the formation of the National Guard of Vilnius, consisting of 2 battalions of 6 companies each, with a total of 1450 men. Kozielski was named its colonel, while Francezon and Zakrzhevski became chiefs of battalion. One-third of the troops were armed and equipped by the city's authorities, while the rest were equipped at the individual's own expense. Every Sunday, they were trained by Polish officers. Like Vilnius, other departments also formed a National Guard, but with less success. By the end of November, in Vilnius only 826 men had been recruited, while in Grodno 290 men. In Minsk, the National Guard was in name only.

On 1 July, a gendarmerie (military police) was established. Each department was assigned a colonel:

Vilnius: Anthony Chrapowicki

Grodno: Michail Radziwill

Minsk: Lew Ocztorp

Bielostok: Franz Orsetty

Each department was divided into districts and each of the 33 districts had a company of gendarmes, For a total of 3541 men. By mid-November, the gendarmerie had only 1800 men, with 608 men in Vilnius, 856 in Grodno, about 250 men in Bielostok, and while Minsk had only 71 men with 19 horses.

At the end of November the main party of Lithuanian troops were assembled in Vilnius: the 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st Infantry Regiments; the17th, 19th, and 20th (only 2 squadrons mounted) Lancer Regiments; the 21st Chasseurs a cheval Regiment; the 3rd Jager Battalion; and the horse artillery battery. The 22nd and a weak 23th Infantry Regiments; the 1st Jager Battalion; and the 18th Lancers were in Minsk under the command of General Kossecki. General Konopka's 3rd Guard Lancer Regiment and the Tartar Squadron remained in Warsaw. Not counting the Guard and Tartar cavalry, the Lithuanian army numbered 18 infantry battalions, 15 cavalry squadrons, 1 artillery battery for about 16,000 men. Additionally the National Guard and the Gendarmerie number around 3000 men.

Combat Record

Kossecki's troops (5 battalions, 4 squadrons - about 3500 men) were directed by Minsk's governor general Bronikowski to Novosverzhen for defend the Niemen crossing. On 13 November, the Lithuanians were defeated by Russian infantry under General Lambert and were forced to retreat. The next day Kossecki's troops was completely destroyed, with the 18th Lancers being overcomed by Zhitomir Dragoons Regiment. The Russians took about 2000 prisoners.

The 3rd Guard Lancers were attached to VII Corps (Saxon) which fought at Wolynie. On 19 October, the regiment was suddenly attacked in Slonim by Russian General Chaplitz and was completely destroyed. General Konopka, 13 officers, and 253 men were captured. On 22 March 1813, the 3rd Guard Light Horse was disbanded and the remnants became the 7th Squadron of the famous 1st Chevaulegers Lanciers Polonais of a Napoleon's Imperial Guard. The Tartars became the 15th Company (French squadrons consisted of a 2 companies), but on the 9 December 1813 it was attached to form the new 3rd Eclaireurs (Scouts) Regiment.

The 18th and 19th Lancers fought at the Beresina River on 26-28 Novemberr, and then took part in the defense of their capital - Vilnius.

By January 1813 Lithuanian army number about 6000 men and 2000 horses. The infantry regiments were ordered to garrison Fortress Modlin near Warsaw and successfully defended it until 25 December 1813. The 20th Lancers, along with a small number of the 19th Lancers became part of the Dantzig garrison and were incorporated into the 9th Polish Lancers. The 21st Lancers (Moniuczco's regiment) were incorporated into the 5th Poish Cheavaulegers, while Tisenhaus' battery was taken into the Polish artillery. The 17th and 19th Lancers, under command of Colonel Rajecki (Michail Tyszkiewicz was sick and rested in Lithuania) took part in the campaign of 1813-1814 in Germany. On 12 February 1813, the 17th Lancers were attacked at Zircke and defeated. In this clash, the commander-in-chief of the Lithuanian troops, General Romuald Giedrojc, was captured. The 17th and 19th regiments continue to fight near Hamburg as part of the XIII Corps under the command of the famous Marshall Davout until April 1814.


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