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Military Training in The Reign of Tsar Paul I (Part Three): Principles of Garrison Service

Military Training in The Reign of Tsar Paul I (Part Three): Principles of Garrison Service

A Century of The Russian Ministry of War 1802-1902

General Staff Historical Department

Translated from the Russian by Peter Phillips


Military Training in The Reign of Tsar Paul I (Part Three)

Principles of Garrison Service

Muster parades. The genesis of Paul’s muster parades can be seen in the following brief description from Peter’s Military Regulations of 1716, as follows (p. 33): “And in order for the garrison to be well-skilled in the exercises, for their own sake, as a rule, they are not to go from the parade ground to their posts, until they have been tested in the exercises of musket drill by the adjutant.” It should be explained that such exercises in the days of Peter the Great were needed as townspeople were allowed to fill some posts due to a lack of soldiers (“… soldiers, or on occasion peasants,” p. 32). Paul’s regulations raised the muster parade to the heights of a formal ceremony, and the practice of Paul’s reign lifted it to the heights of the main directive for the entire garrison service.

Peter’s regulations, “so that men should not stand on parade in vain and the main square might be used for better things (p. 32),” appointed three timings in large cities for the daily changing of the guard; Paul’s regulations reversed this decision. “In large and small garrisons, the divisions should be at 11 o’clock in the evening[1], both in autumn and in winter. From all companies, the muster parade is to assemble in front of the captain’s or commander’s quarters quite early so that the divisions can be kept at the appointed hour in front of the regimental commander’s quarters… The company parade must always be mustered half an hour before the time they are to assemble in front of the quarters of the regimental commander…”

In front of the captain’s quarters, the company commander was to make a preliminary inspection of the parade to make sure that the soldiers were properly dressed and that the muskets were in good order, and to check their ability to execute the following musket drills: ‘attention, change arms to the left, draw bayonets, present bayonets, fix bayonets, shoulder arms.’ “If there was still sufficient time, then the captain or company commander may still do some drill from the general commands and loading. Once this is complete, then he is to march with the parade to the parade ground…

All muster parades are to form up like a battalion. Depending on their numbers, they should be formed up in four, six or eight platoons; and whenever the Colours are on guard, then always form the battalion up in eight platoons.

Wherever the regiment is garrisoned, the grenadiers always take pride of place, and stand on the flank of the parade, and when a battalion is formed up for the parade, the grenadiers always take post as the first platoon.

Upon the arrival of the parade on the parade ground, the major who is leading the parade, forms the battalion up…” (In line abreast, officers carrying spontoons in their right hands, and non-commissioned officers with halberds in the shoulder). “… Once the battalion has been formed up, the major corrects their dressing and commands: ‘listen in, attention!’ and rides up to the governor, commandant or to the field officer in command, salutes with his sword and asks for permission to continue. If the parade is ordered to march past in ceremonial order, or to practice drill, then the major will ride back, order ‘shoulder arms’ and complete the instructions given to him.

Once the exercise is over and the parade has been formed up again, the major will be ordered to dismount…”

Only after all this did the execution of what actually constituted the ultimate objective for the mustering of the parade begin, i.e., the assignment of men to their duties and mounting guard.

Regimental and company commanders are to strictly observe that all subalterns and non-commissioned officers who are not on essential duty are with their companies on parade and on the main parade ground, and do not leave until the parade is complete. All officers are to stand in front of the parade in a single rank, while the non-commissioned officers form a similar rank behind the officers. They are not to speak and are to stand still and observe the soldiers until such time as the parade has been formed up.”

The principle under Peter’s regulations, that the less important guard posts were allocated by drawing lots, was not continued in Paul’s regulations.

Sentry duties. “Sentries are not to do any of the following while on watch, do not put down their musket, do not sit down, do not drink alcohol, do not sleep, do not leave their post; at night, they are to challenge anyone within 50 paces, otherwise they must run the gauntlet through the ranks.

Also, they must not smoke tobacco at the internal posts, put their musket down, nor move more than 10 paces from their post. If they see an officer, a commander or a noble person, they are immediately to stand at attention, either with shouldered of ordered arms, as is their due; while respects are to be paid to whomever respects are due…

The sentries are initially to challenge three times; upon not receiving an answer, they are to shout ‘halt’; if they do not stop, to move towards them with musket in hand. If the sentry discovers that the person walking is insensible or drunk, they should be detained until they can be placed under guard; otherwise, if the sentry notes that this person intended to harm the sentry, then he must drive them off… In wartime, sentries on the ramparts at night are not to allow anyone in, except for [friendly] reconnaissance and fighting patrols. Challenges, calling ‘halt,’ and ‘who goes there?’ they are not to let them move forward or back, but detain them by shouting to the sentry on guard, in order for them to be taken under guard…

So that every man knows what he should and should not do at his post, the non-commissioned offers are to repeat their orders every time the sentries are relieved; if they are a foreigner, then it must be translated for them. Officers and non-commissioned officers must respond so that the men at their posts know their business, and everyone should only talk about this in front of the captain’s quarters.”

In the above statement of a sentry’s duties, attention is drawn to the absence of any indication of which of these duties was essential and which was not so important: one might infer that the obligation to do nothing wrong, not to leave one’s posts, and not to smoke tobacco were equally important. Equally, the limits of a sentry’s authority are not clearly indicated. If we compare these indecisive and vague definitions with the corresponding definitions under Peter the Great’s regulations, then it seems strange how we could come to the conclusion that the regulations of Peter the Great needed to be re-written.

Issue the watchword throughout the garrison immediately after divisions[2]. The captain of the guardroom is to send one non-commissioned officer and four privates to the parade ground for the watchword… The parade major or adjutant issues the watchword and orders regarding the guard… When the watchword is issued, it is for all the officers of the garrison; and once the majors have received it, then they should take the watchword to their Colonel in Chief and regimental commander, informing them of these orders… In peacetime, the watchword should be the name of some or other town, while challenges should not be issued at all…”

Regarding rounds, checks and patrols. “In large garrisons, the duty major is to inspect all the guards, in wartime as soon as it gets dark, while in peacetime at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The duty captain is to walk the first or main rounds… In large garrisons, checks are to be detailed, in addition to the guards, two officers in turn, and the duty major assign the posts that they are to pass at night. In small garrisons, one officer is detailed for this. Each of these officers is to go around at random times, starting after the main rounds, five times during long nights, and three times during short ones. Such patrols are used for inspections and to issue the watchword to the guard, but not to ask for it. The captain of the guard is to carry out the main patrol as he pleases, before or after midnight, and receives the watchword from every guard… As soon as it gets dark and the sentries begin to call out, then patrols are to be sent out throughout the night, in all directions from the guardroom to the closest one. Then, once a patrol has been released from the nearest guard, it returns to its own, and that guard sends a patrol to its neighbour, and so on from post to post; and the latter reports to the guardroom that everything is in order, or that there has been some kind of incident. Patrols are to be sent from the guardroom every half an hour…

Each patrol in every garrison should be in charge of several streets, along which patrols should be sent from 8 o’clock to 5 o’clock in the morning continuously; while the patrol was to have a non-commissioned officer with two privates to maintain good order…”

The garrison regulations of 1796 make no mention of guards of honour.

Twilight. Instead of the former terms of “reveille” and “taps” that we had been using, the regulations introduced the terms of morning and evening twilight.  “Evening twilight is to be beaten at all guard posts at 8 o’clock from mid-September to mid-March, it is to be beaten in other months, depending on the time, but not before 9 o’clock and no later than 10 o’clock…”

Locking and unlocking the gates. “In wartime, the gates to a fortress are to be secured before it gets dark, and are not to be opened in the morning until it is fully light… The Major at the gates is always to lock and unlock the gates…”

It was at this time that the term “Major at the gates” or “Gate Major” entered our military lexicon; it is mentioned in the regulations on fortresses, published in 1812, which will be discussed in a subsequent publication.

Governors and Commandants. In the Regulations of Peter the Great, the subordination of the commandant to the governor was expressed quite clearly; in the regulations of 1796, the hierarchy of service is not clarified, although it may be inferred that the status of the governor was higher. “The governor is to inspect all posts every week, while the commandant will do this twice weekly; in wartime, the patrols themselves may occasionally do this… Everything that happens in a fortress, also in a garrison, is to be reported to the governor, to the Tsar Himself, and in the absence of both, to the commandant… The governor and commandant are always to be present during the divisions of the guard, also to ensure that the divisions are in order, and the men are presentable, and all their officers are present; and if anything is seen to be out of order, then the captains and regimental and battalion commanders should be ordered to correct it in advance in front of their quarters. They are answerable to governors and commandants such that service in the garrisons is carried out with precision, equally everything that an officer is required to do in accordance with these regulations, is to be executed with precision; they are also supervise the officers, non-commissioned officers and privates, so that they are all on duty and always presentable, as the regulations prescribe. Governors and commandants are to maintain subordination between officers, and discipline between non-commissioned officers and privates…

Regimental commanders have no authority over the comings and goings of the peasants or residents of the place, which is exclusively the remit of the governor or commandant[3]. All those arriving and departing are to be reported to the governor and commandant, and every visitor, including those of low status, must report to the commandant. Before divisions, the duty colonel, lieutenant colonel and major are to report to the governor and commandant, as is the captain of the guardroom at every changing of the guard; after which, if they wish to issue instructions to the officers of the guard on anything, then they are to tell them, while the parade major is to inform the non-commissioned officers…

Regarding subordination between officers. The ordinary courts demonstrate the disorder that often arises in the regiments from disagreements between the officers, and the evil that occurs when hostility and enmity are allowed to fester between them. All this cannot help but tend to the destruction of subordination, and, consequently, of the service itself; which can be exemplified by debauchery, dereliction of duty and reluctant obedience in officers, extending even to resistance to an order, and disputing and arguing against it. And to that end, you are reminded here in this event of everything that has been stated in the Articles of War regarding subordination and preferences between the various ranks, to maintain proper subordination, on pain of severe punishment, starting with the generals and ending with the most junior officers. Here, also, you are reminded of the strict execution, by virtue of the regulations, concerning discipline between non-commissioned officers and soldiers.”

In the above statement, one can discern some degree of irritation with the officers. In a similar vein, chapter 27, part 12 of the regulations was drafted, entitled “on officer’ debts.” “The dishonourable behaviour of many officers has plunged them into debt…” The same attitude towards officers is seen in the regulations in part 9, chapter 6 “regarding desertion.” “It has been noted, with extreme regret, that desertions are multiplying, and this cannot be due to anything other than abuse and evil deeds by commanders; equally also from not allowing the men to go on leave. As a disincentive, it is announced that for every fugitive, the direct and indirect costs to the state treasury will be deducted from the captains and officers of that company and the regimental commander, not only of the full upkeep of the soldier, but also of his uniform, equipment and each of his weapons…”

Actions on the event of a fire[4]. The main difference between the instructions in the regulations of 1796 in the event of fire from the corresponding instructions in the regulations of 1716 is that firefighting was not the soldiers’ responsibility, but that of the town’s residents under orders of the town’s authorities, while the military authorities only took counter-measures (providing a cordon in  the streets with men from the guard, sending a sufficient number of men from the garrison to the location of the fire as a reaction force, preventing disorder, and attending to the delivery of firefighting equipment from the nearest guard post). “Each governor, commandant or commanding officer in the garrison is to draft standing orders for fires, communicating and agreeing with the town’s authorities such that the townspeople know what to do in such an event. If there was no help from them, extract the soldiers’ wages from all the townspeople who failed to attend; and in such cases, the governor, commandant or commander is to augment them with soldiers, while those sent from the guard posts are to return. If there are sufficient townspeople on their own, the companies are to be dismissed…”

Aid to the civil powers. “If the governor or commandant discovers the whereabouts of bandits or outlaws, then he is to send sub-units immediately to those places, to apprehend them and, until further orders are received, keep them under guard.”

That is all that can be found on this subject in the regulations of 1796. As can be seen, in the business of firefighting, just as in the business of catching bandits, the instructions in the regulations of 1796 diverge from the instructions in Peter’s regulations of 1716: in the first case, the military authorities retained only overall command, surrendering the executive control to the jurisdiction of the town authorities; in the second case, the initiative and execution were transferred to the military authorities, but the regulations of 1796 make no mention of the “Salvogvardiya” of Peter’s regulations.

Conclusions. The military regulations for line infantry service of 1796 enacted the rules for almost all the same aspects of service as the military regulations of 1716; but they were far from clear. This happened, in addition to being a much worse redaction of them, also, presumably, for the following reasons.

Both regulations contain provisions of both a legislative and an instructive nature. But while the regulations of Peter the Great put forward the essentials of each case with unusual clarity and at the same time treat the executors with respect and with great trust in their good will and ability to understand the requirements of each case and to make this assessment, without making a distinction in this respect between a Commander-in-Chief, a “gentleman” colonel or a private, when they are entrusted with responsible duties on watch, while refraining from expressing suspicion of laziness or obstinacy even in a failing recruit; the regulations of 1796 consider all things to be equally important, sometimes revealing great strictness of requirements for trivia and evading clear and precise definitions in matters of great importance, regarding the skills of the executors with distrust and, moreover, not hesitating, on the basis of alleged ordinary courts, to highlight idleness and obstinacy even in officers. Due to this difference in the basic views on the methods of education and training in the army and on the question: to what extent is initiative by the executors permissible or desirable in military matters; the military regulations of Peter the Great seem clear and concise, despite their relative brevity, while the regulations of 1796 seem ambiguous: as legislation they are in places unnecessarily verbose, while as doctrine they are not comprehensive enough.

The fundamental difference in assessing the importance of trust in the executors and initiative on their part should have been, in terms of the consequences in the practice of their duties, much more important in field and garrison regulations than in drill regulations, where, however, for the first time, almost since the death of Peter I, we begin to find instructions based on various doctrinal concepts borrowed from Western Europe. Completely based on such concepts, the combat infantry regulations of 1763 did not prevent the flourishing of Russian military art during the reign of Catherine, of course, simply because in our army the field and garrison regulations of Peter the Great remained extant, with which neither the Additional Chapters of 1765, nor the Rites of Service by Count Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky 1769 – 1774, nor the most humble report of 1765 on the establishment of the Jäger Corps, significantly correcting the shortcomings in the practice of duties, which stemmed from the somewhat one-sided nature of the combat infantry regulations of 1763, was, in spirit, simply a development of Peter’s field regulations.

Compared with the combat infantry regulations of 1763, the regulations of 1796 do not contain any significantly new ideas: linear formations were preserved, but their predominant importance was brought to the fore by the fact that the columns and squares in the regulations of 1763 are not mentioned in those of 1796. In addition, great importance was attached to dressing, the rules of the pace, and had been developed from the existing and previous rules for platoon volleys during the advance and retreat. The concept of open formations, which was included, although in a revised form, in the report on the establishment of the Jäger Corps, can be said to have been smothered by the spirit of the rules of the drill regulations of 1796.

From the field regulations of 1796 and from the tactical rules contained therein, we mention here the order of battle for an army, which was described in the form of two echelons with battalions in line abreast, with a distance of 300 paces between the echelons. The regulations of 1796 do not continue the concept from the regulations of Peter the Great regarding a general reserve for the army.

In the garrison regulations, the muster parade is predominant; the duties of a sentry are set out in a resolute manner.

Tactical rules or instructions for military evolutions, with plans, 1797.

On 15th [26th] December 1796, by Supreme decree a tactical class for field officers and subalterns was held in the palace, the supervision of which was entrusted to Maj Gen Arakcheev, and the delivery of lessons to Artillery Lieutenant Colonel Kannabikh[5].

Prior to this, “Tactical Rules or Instructions for Military Evolutions” had been published in 1794. This same book came out in a second edition in 1797, i.e., simultaneously with the first[6] edition of the Military Regulations of Emperor Paul I, and both this book and the charter were printed in the same printing house of the Naval Noble Cadet Corps; and the third edition in 1798 in Smolensk[7]. This book is set out in authoritative regulatory language and in places is very reminiscent of the methods propounded in Paul’s regulations (namely “Rules regarding cavalry service”). Although we have not been able to find evidence of a direct link between the above-mentioned tactical class in the Palace and said book, such a link is likely. In any case, appearing simultaneously with the introduction of new regulations, the “Tactical rules” are of interest in the sense of highlighting those concepts with which Paul’s regulations were in agreement. Moreover, given the well-known nature of Paul’s regime, it is impossible to accept the possibility of the appearance in print of this edition at the same time as the regulations, and written in regulatory language, without having been endorsed by the Tsar. Therefore, it may be accepted that the “Tactical rules” serve not only as an explanation of the ethos of Paul’s regulations (namely, for the infantry), but also as a direct supplement to these regulations. To this it should also be added that in the text itself, the “Tactical Rules or instructions for military evolutions” are even directly called “these instructions”, although in terms of meaning and method of presentation these are not instructions: more correctly, this book should be titled lectures on the infantry drill regulations and infantry tactics.

For all these reasons, the main content of this instruction is summarised below.

Soldier training. “… It would be unusual and inhumane to deal severely with recruits, however, excluding for dumb insolence; but have patience, through which their confidence will grow, and in this way they will learn more quickly than proceeding with the musket in terror. Severity in training should be used only for the idle and disobedient, but even here proceed with caution; while keeping them in fear, there will no longer be a need for severity…

… A soldier should always be treated as a human being; as almost everything can be achieved with kindness, and they will do more for an officer who treats them well and has earned their respect than for one who is feared.”

The rules of the pace. With the exception of the statement above, which encourages attention to the quality of life and morale side of military matters, the rest of the “Tactical Rules” is presented as if everything were a question of some particular skill of applied geometry. Here whole pages are devoted to examples of why “a line consisting of 20 battalions,” must be dressed by their company sergeants-major before moving forward, having previously set off along a perpendicular alignment to the intended line.

“… The company sergeants-major, and especially the one on the right flank, must march perpendicular to the main line on which the battalion is to stand. Although this seems to be essential and quite obvious, and that it would not be possible for the battalion to advance well otherwise; on the contrary, it is nevertheless true that a company sergeant-major not only might not be able to find a perpendicular route, but even if he is shown it, he might by no means be able to remain on it; as it has been shown previously that officers marching onto their alignment cannot  keep themselves in a straight line without assistance: therefore, how can this be demanded from a company sergeant-major, who is not expected to have as much knowledge as an officer…”

Of course, greater precision and accuracy of the pace were required in order to precisely maintain the direction of alignment, ranges, intervals and angles. “The most important thing for a soldier is to be able to march well.[8] As a rule, it is accepted that when advancing, take 75 paces per minute, and 70 paces when withdrawing… Similarly, show the soldiers the pace used when firing and moving by platoons and battalions, whose cadence is the same as that used in the advance; the only difference being that it shortens such that the heel of the leading foot comes to ground alongside the pad of the big toe of the trailing foot… During the execution of a counter march… the right flank file is to turn about to the right and move close behind their third rank, deploying at pace (which… should be twice as fast as usual, but in contrast, somewhat shorter) to the actual location where their left flank file is standing…”

The foreign origin of all these nuances of the art of the pace betrays itself by the fact that the compilers of the “Tactical Rules,” evidently found it difficult even to find words in the Russian language of the time in order to express themselves. The necessary foreign words: point de vu, point d’appui, alignement, flottement, echequer, que, cadance, etc. when written in Russian characters often cannot immediately be understood.

Types of formation, firing and manoeuvres. The “Tactical Rules” indicate the same formations as in Paul’s Infantry Regulations and similar volley firing on advancing and retreating by platoons, and special attention is only drawn to the fact that during its regular execution by platoons, “the heel of the leading foot comes to ground alongside the pad of the big toe of the trailing foot.” The only addition was:

  1. The square, whose formation is not mentioned at all in Paul’s Infantry Regulations; here it also mentions the formation of a battalion square in three ways, and about forming square from several battalions; also about marching in square, about movements thereof, about circumstances for forming square, about doubling the square.
  2. The attack en echelon and the retreat en echequer.
  3. The passage of lines.

Below we will only quote from the sections “on the attack en echelon” and “the retreat en echequer.”

The attack en echelon. “… An oblique attack on the enemy is advantageous because the left flank can be held back, and by this means the entire army will not be exposed to enemy fire all at once; but at the same time it has also been shown that, advancing in this manner, it may be impossible to go into action with the enemy without exposing the right flank to them, also if they have been deployed first, except only when the lines are being extended out at the same time. This movement, especially in important actions, may be subject to very dangerous disorder, in order then to avoid this the attack en echelon may be adopted, with the help of which it is possible, not only to avoid all of this and to avoid accepting the coming errors, but also the advantages obtained from the oblique advance will not be lost through this either. And so, if the line… must attack the enemy in an oblique formation, then to that end the number of battalions comprising each attack must be designated. Assuming then that the nine battalions would be divided into four waves, then the first would consist of three, and the remainder of two battalions each. Once this is done, then the first platoon of the right flank battalion is to move out to the right until it stands parallel to the enemy; and if only two paces are now necessary for this, then immediately notify all the other battalions via adjutants both about this occurrence, and how many paces the move will consist of. The flanking battalions of each of the other waves, having received their appui, should equally move their first platoons two paces; and thus the origins for four lines will be obtained, which will be parallel both to each other and to the first…

And so, if the flank platoon advances two paces to its flank, then the second platoon, in order to form a line extended from the flank platoon, advance two paces to its right flank, while the left takes four paces; hence the progression of origin will consist of two paces from platoon to platoon. While in order to assign a point de vu for each wave, then taking the number of platoons that make up this wave, and double the intervals between its battalions, assuming one platoon frontage for each; and the total resulting from that will show how many paces the left flanks of each wave will have to take to form one alignement with the flank platoon… In this way we will now obtain a staggered line parallel to the enemy, which the left flank, had they advanced to form a continuous line, would have taken 162 paces, but now only takes 34; consequently, we will gain, firstly, that we will be 128 paces further from the enemy, and secondly, we will save our line from that time consuming movement that we would have to make if moving as a continuous line. While how this  holding back of the flank benefits us by being shorter still, as the range from the second wave to the first will be only 52 paces, the remainder have only 34 paces between their successive waves; then to that end, the number of paces to be assigned to the waves, and how far they should stand one from the other is determined, which is rarely less than a hundred paces, but almost always more. And so, if the waves are to be one hundred paces from one another, as the first one sets off, then the second at 54 paces from it, lets it go another 46 paces before moving off. The third, and all the remainder, let the preceding waves already separated from them by 34 paces go another 66 paces before they proceed. Consequently, the 4th wave will reach the enemy 300 paces later than the first, and this is already quite enough to refuse the flank in a line of nine battalions.[9]

The retreat en echequer. “… In order… to perform this manoeuvre with a corps composed of nine battalions, then begin by turning about to the right by battalion, for example the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and such that these retreat to musket range… But if, while retreating, they find themselves on high ground, or some other advantageous location that may be of use, then it would be inexcusable if in these cases, in spite of everything, they shackled themselves to the alignment of intervals… and, keeping to the prescribed 150 or 200 paces, did not hold the 30 or 40 paces… distant high ground and would gift it to the enemy.[10]

This was followed by “the retreat en echequer with a refused flank,” and furthermore:

Retreat en echequer in two echelons. When a corps of 18 battalions… is to form in two echelons en echequer, then they form with each echelon especially as is prescribed in § 51; that is, each orders their second detachments to retreat, and if the second echelon is 300 paces distant, then assign 150 paces to these detachments for the retreat.”

The attack en echelon, the retreat en echequer and the passage of lines also remained in our infantry regulations in Alexander’s reign.


[1]             Part 8, chapter 4.

[2]             Part 8, chapter 8.

[3]             Chapter 3.

[4]             Chapter 11.

[5]             Complete Collection of Laws, Vol XXIV, Ser. 17650.

[6]             Actually the second; the first edition came out in 1792.

[7]             All three editions are stocked in the Imperial Public Library.

[8]             Part 1, para. 37.

[9]             § 45. Of the three copies of this book available in the Imperial Public Library, one has been preserved with drawings.

[10]           § 51.