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Military Training in The Reign of Tsar Paul I (Part Six): Artillery

Military Training in The Reign of Tsar Paul I (Part Six): Artillery

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 Six)


Artillery. The reign of Emperor Paul, and in particular the activities of Count Arakcheev, were most significant in the history of the development of the artillery arm: the organisation of the artillery and its materiel underwent remarkable improvements; but at that time, we did not have Supreme Approved Artillery Regulations, and not even single established, uniform rules for the execution of artillery training for artillery units. The development of gun and battery training, not only during the reign of Emperor Paul, but also in the subsequent reign, proceeded under the direct initiative of some of the highest commanding officials, initially in Lifeguard units, from where the rules developed through practice were trickled down to line units. In this regard, our artillery remembers with gratitude the names of: Bazin, Prince Iashvili, Yermolov.


Bombardier and Feuerwerker Foot Artillery 1796-1801


But the absence of any Supreme approved rules or regulations for artillery training does not mean, of course, that there were no government orders on the actual development of training: such orders had to have been based on the fact that artillery training already required expenditure for the preparation of gunpowder and shells. Before pointing out such orders, we will briefly outline the organisation of the artillery during the reign of Emperor Paul and at the beginning of the reign of Emperor Alexander I.

Artillery Establishments.

During the reign of Emperor Paul, our artillery consisted of regimental, field foot, field horse and siege and was formed according to the establishments dated 30th December 1796 [10th January 1797], 12th [23rd] March 1798, 10th [21st] July 1798 and 15th [26th] April 1799[1].

According to the establishment dated 12th [23rd] March 1798, our line artillery consisted in total of three siege battalions, one horse battalion and ten field battalions, with the number of guns assigned to them, and in addition, artillery sub-units were entrusted with their guns to line grenadier and musketeer regiments. Such artillery sub-units were attached to all 75 line infantry regiments. Each artillery battalion was divided into five companies, and each company had 12 guns.

On 15th [26th] April 1799, the Lifeguard Artillery Battalion was reorganised, somewhat differently from field artillery battalions, and which had consisted of three companies of foot and one company of horse under the establishment of 10th [21st] July 1798. Namely[2], in addition to a sub-unit of drivers, this battalion would henceforth consist of one company with the Preobrazhensky Regiment; one company with the Semenovsky and Izmailovsky Regiments; a third battery with the Preobrazhensky Regiment; a fourth battery with the Semenovsky and Izmailovsky Regiments; a fifth siege company; a sixth horse company.

On 6th [18th] March 1800, the following Supreme Command was issued[3]. “The line artillery, which is currently attached to all line grenadier and musketeer regiments, is to be withdrawn from them and transferred to the artillery department; the men are to be used to staff artillery battalions, and henceforth, whenever artillery is needed by regiments, it will be under the command of artillery battalions.”

This measure, however, was not brought to completion during the reign of Emperor Paul.

Instructions for Artillery Training.

Siege artillery. “The following artillerymen are to be trained annually in artillery exercises[4]: Junkers [Ensigns], Feuerwerkers [non-commissioned officers], Bombardiers, Gunners, Handlangers [ammunition numbers], with live ammunition; shell from a two-pound mortar, shell from a 24-pounder Licorne [gun-howitzer], round shot from a 12-pounder cannon, one round from each gun type, and selected privates with blanks, each of six rounds… Take the artillery for training from the field artillery battalions.”

Field artillery. The same instructions were given word for word for field artillery.

Horse artillery. “From a 12 pounder Licorne and a 6-pounder cannon with live ammunition: one shell each from the Licorne, two round shot each from the cannon. Equally, blank rounds by the privates alone… allocating six rounds each.” In addition, Junkers, Feuerwerkers, Bombardiers and Gunners are to be trained to shoot pistols at a target, for which three rounds per man are to be allocated.

Regimental artillery. “The artillery crewmen should be trained annually in the artillery exercises with live ammunition; two round shot each from a 6-pounder cannon, one shell each from a 12 pounder Licorne for Junkers, Feuerwerkers, Bombardiers and Gunners, for a total of 60 men, in addition, 50 blanks for selected privates, six rounds each…”

The artillery sub-unit with the Leib Grenadier Regiment was in a unique situation. According to decrees relating to this period[5], the aforementioned artillerymen were to be trained annually with live ammunition, three rounds each of shell and round shot from a 12 pounder Licorne, for Feuerwerkers and Bombardiers totalling 96 men, while selected privates each fired six rounds of blank…”

Finally, in October 1799, a decree was issued from the Military Collegium[6]at the suggestion of the former inspector of all artillery, Lt Gen and chevalier Ct Arakcheev, and according to a certificate issued by the Artillery Expedition, it is decided: for all garrison artillery sub-units, by decree, to carry out training in cannon exercises annually for all combatants, with those sub-units consisting of lower ranks to allocate… one live round per man from a cannon or mortar, while selected Bombardiers, Gunners and Handlangers, three blank rounds each, using 6 pounder and 3 pounder cannon, and  2 pound mortars for live fire, and 3 pounder cannon for blanks, while where such calibres are not available, then others may be substituted, but such that, of the missing calibres these would not be larger, rather smaller than those indicated above, in order to thus reduce the consumption of gunpowder…”

Conclusions. The above orders, apparently, relate to considerations of a more economic nature, and by their indications of the size of the artillery practices approved by the government, of course, they could not predetermine the method of conducting such practices. But from the further presentation of the rules for artillery practices, already published, in development of the foundations laid down by Arakcheev, in the subsequent reign, it will be clear that the method of conducting practical exercises in artillery fire really boiled down to giving everyone the opportunity to fire a shot from a pre-measured range, so that gun-laying was not the subject of peacetime exercises at that time.

[1]             See respectively in the establishment books: Nos 17699, 18430, 18577 and 18937.

[2]             Establishment book No 18937.

[3]             Complete Collection of Laws, Vol XXVI, No 19312.

[4]             Establishment book dated 12th [23rd] March 1798, No 18430.

[5]             Establishment Book No 18430.

[6]             Complete Collection of Laws, Vol XXV, No 19176.