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Military Training in The Reign of Tsar Paul I (Part Two): Field Service Regulations in Peacetime

Military Training in The Reign of Tsar Paul I (Part Two): Field Service Regulations in Peacetime

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 Two)

Field Service Regulations in Peacetime

Part 11, consisting of six chapters, is devoted to this element of service in the regulations of 1796, and only campaign service is described in them. From a reading of the regulations, it can be understood that platoon columns and squads were considered marching formations. “The regiment always marches in companies of two platoons and the Colours always remain with the third company, in front of the second platoon. As the ground does not always permit marching in full platoons, it is usually more convenient for soldiers to march in squads.” From this one could infer that platoon columns were indicated at full interval; however, in part 12, chapter 21: “To be observed by regiments on campaign, in permanent quarters and posts” it states: “The platoons of a battalion on campaign are to march very close one after the other.”

The vanguard and rear guard in peacetime is composed of one lieutenant, two non-commissioned officers, a drummer and 36 privates, while in wartime, it is dependent on the situation. The vanguard and rear guard must always be divided into two platoons… The vanguard is to march no more than 1,000 paces ahead… The transport is to follows closely behind the regiment behind the last platoon, while the rear guard is to be behind the last of the regiment’s vehicles.” There are no instructions in the regulations about the order of march of regimental artillery in the marching columns.

Field Service Regulations in Wartime

Campaign service. “If the leading regiment in a column has been ordered to deploy, then the commanding general of that column is ordered to inform the other regiments of that column whether or not to do likewise[1]. When battalions pass through a defile, it is not enough to line up in the order in which they began to arrive at the defile, as in the place where the leading battalion started. When in contact with the enemy, every battalion is to deploy at once, from column, by divisions and battalions, in order to be ready the sooner.”

The regulations of 1796 indicate measures for the security of campaign movements, which the regulations of 1716 did not mention: this mission was assigned to the light cavalry. This will be discussed later on. The regulations do not say anything about the size, composition or mission of a vanguard for an army beyond the above-mentioned resolution that: “in wartime, the composition of the vanguard is dependent upon the situation.”

Camp routine. “Before the army marches, the quartermaster is to go ahead with couriers to designate a new camp[2]. By command and at the designated hour, the quartermasters will summon the fouriers to the indicated place and see that they march together, and none of them is absent… The regimental quartermasters and fouriers are to go together and in the same precedence as their regiments, one by one, as the regiments are stationed one next to the other… The fouriers are to receive fodder, firewood, and other necessities for the battalion, mark out lines for the camp, help set up tents and not carry out any other duty, outside of their business, or until the battalions are in the trenches.”

From a reading of the regulations, it can be inferred that the army was intended to be deployed in one or two echelons. “The headquarters is to be between both echelons in the midst of the infantry, with which there should be the general staff, aides de camp, duty majors and other ranks belonging thereto[3].

All generals are to be encamped in the locations assigned to them in the ordre de bataille: lieutenant generals and major generals with their divisions and brigades.

In the evening, at sunset, in the artillery camp as at dawn, a cannon is to be fired, from which the drummers of the whole army are to beat reveille…” These words in the regulations contain the only reference to an artillery camp in the camp location of the army.

Guards. The camp was guarded by field guards and sentries [palochnymi karaulami]. “The field guards are to be 300 paces from the tents, in front of the tents of the 3rd company… The field guards and sentries of the first echelon are to go 300 paces forwards, while of the second echelon 300 paces backwards; and both should be opposite the centre of the first battalion of their regiments and remain facing the field[4].

Field guards are to march 300 paces forwards, and be opposite the centre of their battalions; while the sentries move back, through the intervals. When the army is in two echelons, then the second line of field guards and sentries should be 300 paces behind their battalions opposite the centre, facing out, which makes up the screen of the second line. When in the screen, then must always be two sentries in a guard post.

From each battalion, two non-commissioned officers, one drummer and 39 privates should be assigned as field guards.[5] The sentries are selected from the entire regiment, and it should consist of two non-commissioned officers and 39 privates… Three double guard posts and one single guard post form the screen for each field guard… The sentries are to have ten guard posts behind the frontage… The guard posts that make up the screen of the regiment must always be doubled, while the others are single. The field guards are to construct redoubts at the entrances to the camp; and when time does not permit this, they are to erect cheval de frise to their front. When a camp is to be occupied for some time, then the aforementioned redoubts are to be linked by communication works.

The sentinels of the field guard are to call out every ¼ hour: ‘who goes there?’ and issue a suitable challenge; while the internal sentries do not call out and do not require a challenge…”

Outpost duty. In the infantry regulations of 1796, there are no instructions on the performance of outpost duty by the infantry. This task was assigned to the light cavalry, namely to the hussars, which will be discussed below in due course.

Pickets. “Whenever the army is in contact with the enemy or contact is expected, then there should be a picket for every regiment[6]; the strength of each depends on the situation and is at the Commander-in-Chief’s discretion; these, i.e., officers, non-commissioned officers and privates sent to the picket, are to be fully equipped with a full ammunition allocation at all times, so that they are always at immediate readiness. And unless otherwise ordered by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, pickets are to be formed up an hour before sunset and marched to their appointed places…”

Reserves. “Whenever the army or corps is close to the enemy and in such a manner that attacks on them or on outposts may be expected[7]; then in this event, in addition to the picket, depending on the situation, a reserve is to be detailed, which also needs to be in fighting order throughout the day.”

Regarding duty personnel. “Every army is to have two Brigade Majors, one from the infantry and the other from the cavalry[8]. Brigade Majors are to have detailed information about the army or corps, are to brief the generals and field officers on duty, and each of the guards, pickets, reserves and sub-units, both officers and non-commissioned officers, drummers and privates, and those that hold appointments within the army, and to adjutants with regiments, and are to be appointed permanently in this duty. A lieutenant general, a major general, a colonel and a major from each service are to be assigned for duty each day. In each regiment, there is to be one major on duty with the regiment.”

From further rules in the regulations, it can be ascertained that there was still a specific Duty General for the entire army, from the Tsar’s equerries, which would correspond to the main duty of the “Additional Chapters of 1765.”

The issuing of watchwords and challenges. “Every morning at 11 o’clock a watchword is to be selected by the sovereign, or by the Commander-in-Chief in his absence; it is not to be with the regiments before 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The Tsar and Commander-in-Chief issue the watchword and the challenge to the Duty General, who routinely writes down all orders, submits daily reports, and provides briefings about what was reported to him from the regiments. The Duty General then issues the watchword to field marshals, infantry generals and Tsar’s equerries, duty majors, brigade majors and general’s aides de camp. The Duty General writes everything down correctly and reads out clearly what he has written down, so that there can be no mistakes… Upon issuing the watchword, challenge and orders to the generals on duty, field officers and adjutants, the brigade major announces to the majors and adjutants the details of the general guards, as well as pickets, and details the generals on duty and field officers in the same group.”

Supervision of the appropriate execution by the guard of guard duties was assigned to the main rounds, to reconnaissance and fighting patrols.

Regarding general guarding. Honour Guards were only assigned to generals in camp[9]: for field marshals it was one lieutenant, two non-commissioned officers, one drummer and 40 privates; “who are simultaneously to serve as his guard and escort… The General in Chief is to have one ensign, one non-commissioned officer, one drummer and 15 privates; if this general is in command of an independent corps, he is to have a lieutenant, two non-commissioned officers, 30 privates and a drummer… Major generals are to have one non-commissioned officer and 12 privates.” The regulations of 1796 do not indicate any restrictions, as there were in Peter’s regulations, in the event of an alarm or combat.

Regarding orderlies. “One officer is to be sent to the Tsar from each regiment as orderlies[10], who must always attend at the headquarters, ensigns from the infantry, and cornets from the cavalry, they are to be relieved every morning at 9 o’clock.

In the absence of the Tsar, a similar order is to be observed for the commander of the army…

Field marshals and other generals should not take orderlies, but general field marshals and chiefs may only have two each, lieutenant generals and major generals one each.”

Combat duty. “… Battalion commanders are responsible for ensuring that on the eve of battle, each man has 59 rounds in his pouch, and a 60th in the musket[11].

There is to be a 300-pace interval between the echelons… Advance on the enemy in line, drums beating, music playing, Colours unfurled and keeping the muskets in the shoulder…

It is desirable that the alignment of the platoons is not lost, but that at least four platoons at any time have their muskets in the shoulder.

If when advancing they are obstructed by the narrowness of the ground, then order the battalion commanders to double up several platoons, depending on the situation…

Officers and non-commissioned officers are to encourage the men, while coercing the cowardly, threatening them with death…

Officers from the rear are to replace those officers killed or seriously wounded, while in their absence, non-commissioned officers may be used; but three officers are always to remain behind each battalion.

In the event of the death of a field of officer, they are to be replaced like for like; anyone who replaces a major must be mounted on horseback.

Any soldier who captures an enemy Colour, standard or kettledrum is to receive a cash reward, while officers or non-commissioned officers are to be promoted…

Before going into action, if time permits, the men are to shed their knapsacks and anything that weighs them down.

Before going into action, the men are to have their duty to obey the law and act honourably instilled in them.

If an officer happens to forget both, then he should be expelled from the service, and be deprived of his rank…

Any officer stationed within entrenchments or protected by walls or a parapet cannot surrender unless and until he has done that which is respectable for a brave officer[12], even if the enemy is a hundred times stronger; otherwise, such an officer shall be subject to being stripped of rank. This is understood to mean where the entrenchments or post has been prepared for defence; without which, if a seconded officer happened, through his own precautions, were to settle down in a cemetery or behind vegetable gardens and be attacked by such an overwhelming enemy, while not warning others by his repulse, what else could he do, except to expose himself to total danger, and hope to be offered capitulation; in such an event and situation, he may surrender. If the enemy does not want to offer terms, then the officer should not surrender at his own discretion but must hold on as long as he can.

The rules for foragers, placed in the regulations[13], are much less complete than in the regulations of 1716, and there is nothing new in them, such that a reading of the regulations leaves one wondering why the old rules were not preserved[14].

Regimental artillery. “On the march, the guns issued to each battalion are to be driven in front of them[15]; and whenever the army is stationed in camp, they are placed in dedicated fortifications, in front of the pickets and Colour guards. In the ordre de bataille they are stationed opposite the enemy on the right flank of their battalions. Each battalion is issued two such guns from those belonging to the main artillery.”

These decrees are of interest, both in themselves and because they are the first in our regulations to indicate precisely the locations of regimental artillery in all events under wartime field service.

Finally, as was the custom in all our former regulations, the following were taught in the regulations of 1798:

Tactical principles. In this regard, the Regulations of 1796, like the Regulations of 1716, give only the most general instructions, in contrast to the Regulations of 1763, and in particular in the Regulations of 1755, which required the execution of certain movements and even indicated command words depending on one or another characteristic of the ground (“passing through a narrow defile” and “passing through a very narrow defile”).

An officer, being sent with a small escort, must arrange his escort so that one platoon is in front of him, while the other is behind him[16]. A forest must never be crossed without sending a vanguard forward, in the appropriate proportion to his command. If a village needs to be crossed, then send a reconnaissance ahead. When coming under enemy attack, then seek, as far as possible, to keep the rear clear; the wagons should be directed to a convenient place until the enemy has been driven away through a brave rebuff, and until it is possible to see to continue on this route.

An officer, sent with a numerous escort, is to send forward a vanguard, consisting of hussars or dragoons from among his escort, who are to inspect the road taking notes and are to send fighting patrols equally on either side, which are to clear the bushes, forests and villages lying on the sides, and if they notice any sign of the enemy, are to notify the officer immediately. Behind the detachment there is to be a rear guard of dragoons or hussars. Send men up onto high ground, who are to observe all around to see if the enemy is present, such that they can never achieve surprise. Men should never be sent out one by one, but by sub-unit, thus in a battalion, such that a pair of platoons [division] goes in front of the wagons, three pairs of platoons make up the centre, and one pair brings up the rear. If they have cavalry with them, then several men may be detached between the pairs of platoons, relative to the size of the unit. Send an officer to watch that the wagons do not cause delay and that the tail does not lag behind.

If the detachment may be enlarged, it may be possible to send wagons between two pairs of platoons, with the cavalry between the pairs of platoons.

If you must pass down a ravine, always send a vanguard forward through such a defile, and occupy both sides along the top with platoons, singly or in pairs, depending on the strength of the unit. After that, the carts are to pass through the defile.

The platoons, singly or in pairs, are to remain on both sides of the ravine until the entire convoy has passed, in order to prevent the enemy from attacking. Once everyone has passed, the platoons, singly or in pairs rejoin at the rear of the convoy…”

Conduct during sieges[17]. “During a siege, deploy regiments by battalions, and not as whole regiments; and when one such goes into the trenches, the one next to them provides the field guard and sentries in their place.”

In order to execute an assault, it was directed to draw up regular lists of officers and non-commissioned officers, where the names of officers were to be entered in order of seniority.

Regarding the procedure for occupying trenches, as they were completed, the following instructions were to be issued: “… The sergeant and soldiers assigned to the front line are to lie face down until the trench is waist deep, and then the outposts and those sent to protect the trench may enter… Reliefs in the trenches are to be at dawn, where the battalions enter with Colours, but without fighting…”

The regulations give the following instructions about sorties and assaults. “During an enemy sortie[18], the position of the commanding officer is to immediately jump from his bed with the soldiers, meet the enemy with courage and good order, and try to drive them back into the city; but do not to pursue them far, but to return in good order to the trenches in which they are stationed.

When assaulting the counterscarp, confirm, both to officers and non-commissioned officers, that they should not shoot until they have reached its palisade, and, after a volley, they should jump into it in order to drive away the enemy who is protecting it.”

Supreme Command of the Army. When comparing the “Military regulations on the field infantry service of 1796” with the “Military regulations of 1716,” which Emperor Paul apparently marked to be superseded, at least in part, one should pay attention to the fact that artillery, the significance of which in wartime was put forward by Peter the Great assigned a dedicated Chief of Artillery to the army, the general feldzeugmeister, who had exactly the same relation to the Commander-in-Chief and to the army as the generals of infantry and cavalry, was, according to the regulations of 1796, as if it had lost its former significance, and the regulations of 1796 do not mention any such dedicated Chief of Artillery at all. However, the regulations of 1796 do not touch upon the issue of directing the army.

[1]    Part 12, chapter 1.

[2]    Part 12, chapter 3.

[3]    Chapter 4.

[4]    Chapter 3.

[5]    Chapter 5.

[6]    Chapter 3.

[7]    Chapter 12.

[8]    Chapter 11.

[9]    Chapter 8.

[10]  Chapter 9.

[11]  Chapter 23.

[12]  Chapter 20.

[13]  Chapter 18.

[14]  This is the effect of the influence of Frederick the Great’s regulations, which tried to avoid foraging due to the criminal nature of the army. N. Mikhnevich.

[15]  Chapter 21.

[16]  Chapter 22.

[17]  Chapter 24.

[18]  Ibid.