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The Development of Tactics & Training In The Russian Army, 1801 to 1814: Field Service Regulations

The Development of Tactics & Training In The Russian Army, 1801 to 1814: Field Service Regulations

A Century of The Russian Ministry of War


General Staff Historical Department

(Translated into English from the original Russian by Peter Phillips)

The Development of Tactics & Training In The Russian Army, 1801 to 1814.



1812: Principles for the management of a large operational army, dated 27th January [8th February] 1812.

Most obedient report by the Minister of War, dated 27th Jan [8th Feb] 1812. – A summary of information about the management of the army in the field. – Rules for the duties of captains of guides. – General rules for military police in the field. – Passwords, challenges, responses, signals, signal phrases, sentries. – Regarding guarantees. – Conclusions.

Field Service Regulations.

By the beginning of the reign of Emperor Alexander I, the regulations by Emperor Paul I, the contents of which have been set out previously, remained for guidance on service in the field. The fact of issuing these regulations, of course, cancelled the earlier respective provisions of our regulations, namely the Military Regulations by Peter the Great of 1716 and the Additional Chapters for that of 1765; however, it must be assumed that these latter regulations had not completely lost their relevance. The reign of Emperor Paul I was too short, and during that four-year period the main personalities of Alexander’s reign, especially the commanders of the Patriotic War, who had come of age in Catherine’s century under the operation of Peter’s Military Regulations, had not lost their earlier stock of understanding and adopted new concepts, completely different from the former. In addition, all of Paul’s regulations were lop-sided in the sense that they clearly tended to acknowledge the cavalry as the pre-eminent combat arm, which did not correspond to Russian reality. It should also be taken into account that there was also no codification of field service regulations in the reign of Emperor Alexander I, while multiple editions of the Military Regulations of 1716 were especially frequent in this reign (1804, 1808, 1810, and 1814, etc.), evidence that the field service regulations by Peter the Great were well known at that time, although such frequent re-prints of it, perhaps, were undertaken in the first place due to a lack of Military Articles, which were part of the Military Regulations of 1716.

As regards field service in the reign of Alexander I, no completely new regulations were issued. Some provisions in Principles for the Management of a Large Operational Army, published in 1812, also apply to field service, but are not presented systematically and are limited to discrete instructions on camp and guard service in wartime. When presenting the content of Principles for the Management of a Large Operational Army, 1812, we will confine ourselves to a very brief indication of the reorganisation of army administration and extracts related to the subject of this work.

Principles for the Management of a Large Operational Army, 1812.

The Report by the Minister of War dated 27th January [8th February], 1812.[1]

By Your Supreme Imperial Majesty’s command, the commission for drafting military regulations has drawn up principles for a large operational army.

Since it was drawn up, processed and amended under the direct guidance of Your Majesty, from the very first outline to the final finishing of each of its parts, then I shall not state either the reasons or the purpose of its generation, which are completely familiar to Your Majesty; rather, I shall confine myself to presenting it for Supreme approval.

Administration of the army: A commander-in-chief was the head of an army. Under him was the main field headquarters, divided into four main departments:

  1. Chiefs of staff.
  2. Engineering.
  3. Artillery.
  4. Intendant’s.

The office of the chief of staff was divided into two sections:

  1. Quartermaster’s.
  2. Army duty staff.

Regarding the commander-in-chief:

1. The commander-in-chief of a large operational army represents the emperor by proxy and is endowed with the authority of His Majesty.

2. The commander-in-chief of a large operational army is assigned for the army by order of His Majesty and together by decree to the Governing Senate.

3. The commanders of subordinate armies are determined in the same manner; but in the decrees of their assignment, the extent of the powers conferred upon them is indicated…

18. The presence of the emperor relieves a commander-in-chief of command over the army, unless it has been decreed that the commander-in-chief be left with full freedom of action.

19. The responsibility of a commander-in-chief is proportionate to his authority.

20. He is responsible for the precise execution of the general plan of operations issued to him…

It was the duty of the quartermaster-general to compose detailed instructions and plans for combat; to select camp sites and determine in what order the troops should occupy them; to work out the movements of troops and draw up march-routes, etc. Subordinate to the quartermaster general was the captain of guides, the regulations for their operations are set out below.

The duty general was to issue password, challenges, responses, signals, orders of dress, daily orders and dispositions for battle to the troops; to have supervision over the condition and vigilance of external and internal guards, to observe the proper performance of their duties of roving, static and clearance patrols etc. He also supervised the issuance of protection lists and the provision of so-called guarantors for keeping the peace of the population.

Regulations for the appointment of captain of guides:

  1. The captain of guides is to be selected from the subalterns of the quartermaster’s section, on the basis of outstanding ability.
  2. His detachment is to consist of two column leaders and a mounted squad with a non-commissioned officer, both in order to find and recruit guides, and to protect them.
  3. The captain of guides is to receive in advance information about the assignment of routes that the troops are to follow, about the number of columns, detachments and convoys from the quartermaster section, and briefs the guides for this purpose.
  4. In order to show the way to the troops, the inhabitants from the surrounding area are to be used as guides or directors, in particular those who are familiar with the roads and locations, such as: gamekeepers, foresters and itinerant traders who go from village to village to buy supplies.
  5. When leading the troops into contact with the enemy and in order to launch raids, ambushes, retreats, and other tactical movements, officers of the quartermaster’s section are to be used as column leaders for the force…
  6. He is obliged to interrogate guides about the places and roads in every detail, in isolation, and brings them together only in cases of disagreement.
  7. As they enter hostile territory, the captain of guides will be obliged to change the guides over often, since most of them will know only the areas close to their villages…
  8. He is to dispatch several guides to each column, who must proceed in isolation from each other and are to be placed under the supervision of the quartermaster’s officers leading the column on the march…

General rules for military police in the field:

  1. In order to identify all those approaching the forward screen at night, a password, challenge and response are issued to the army; which must be transmitted and kept securely.
  2. The password, challenge and response are announced in the camp through aides de camp only to generals, guard commanders and those duty officers who must walk the rounds.
  3. Guard commanders are to announce the challenge to guard non-commissioned officers, while the response is issued to all sentries.
  4. To all those who approach the camp screen at night, the sentry asks for the response, and if it is given correctly, then he allows the newcomer to proceed along the screen to the first guard post, who sends for a non-commissioned officer to ask for the challenge, which upon being verified the person is then brought to the guard commander, who asks him for the password.
  5. No-one should leave the camp, nor be allowed into the camp without observing this order…
  6. In the event of compromise or suspicion that the enemy has learned the password, challenge and response, the senior camp duty officer must immediately change these and report it to the duty general…
  7. In addition to the password, challenge and response, signals are given in the camp.
  8. Sentries stationed around the camp sound out signals every quarter of an hour, receiving one after the other from the left side; which then proceed from the left flank to the right flank.
  9. The signal starts from the sentry standing in the line of the senior guard post, to whom it is given by the guard officer.
  10. The signal consist of:
  11. The phrase ‘listen in,’ sustained and pronounced loudly.
  12. A phrase selected in order to be instructive, to stimulate continuous attention and confirms the diligence of the sentries.
  13. These signal phrases are compiled by the main orderly room and are sent, with the approval of the commander in chief, in the required number of copies according to their requirements.
  14. In the morning before dawn, the signal consists of the phrase: ‘listen in,’ spoken briefly and abruptly, and repeated every five minutes or more frequently.
  15. This signal announces to the whole camp the rising of the sun and the time of reveille.
  16. Sentries at inlying posts inside the camp do not ask for responses, they do not sound signals, and they challenge those passing by in a low voice.
  17. Sentries and vedettes in the forward line of the vanguard, or placed covertly, not only do not sound out signals, but observe perfect silence and no talking…
  18. Field guards outside and inside the camp are to be in full dress for guarding and maintaining order in the camp.
  19. Field guards are those who are placed in front of the camp and form its forward screen.
  20. The internal field guards are of two kinds: the first are those that hitherto have been called cane guards, and which form a screen behind and to the sides of the camp. The second, are placed as honour guards at general’s tents and are referred to as the general’s.
  21. Moreover, for continuous supervision of high standards for the troops in the camp, the following are to be in full dress daily:
  22. Camp duty general.
  23. Duty field officers in the forward screen from the cavalry and from the infantry.
  24. Corps and divisional duty field officers.
  25. Regimental orderly captains.
  26. Battalion and squadron orderly officers.
  27. Company orderly non-commissioned officers…
  28. During the day, duty officers are to inspect the guards, and at night they are to walk their rounds in the established order…
  29. The army duty general may inspect the troops in his role as an inspector at any time.
  30. The duty general may send senior aides de camp instead of himself to inspect the troops and guards.
  31. Notwithstanding those on duty in the camp and with the forward screens, the duty general may send senior aides de camp to inspect the guards day or night, at his discretion…

Regarding guarantees:

  1. Non-commissioned officers and privates are to be assigned as guarantors for the protection of noble persons in places occupied by the army, large institutions, wealthy houses, some cities and villages, and so on.
  2. In places more than 30 versts [20 miles] distant from the army or close to the enemy, they are placed on a protection list instead of assigning guarantors.
  3. Non-commissioned officers and privates, placed as guarantors, are regarded as being sentries at those places.
  4. Protection lists have the force of guarantees.
  5. In the event of disturbances or violence in those villages where guarantors have been placed, they may, with the help of the townsfolk, take the guilty into custody and send them to the main orderly room…
  6. Any violence against a guaranteed or protection listed subject is to be punished as deliberate disobedience to the authority of the commander-in-chief…
  7. The duration for which they are valid is to be indicated on the protection list and guarantee vouchers…
  8. Non-commissioned officers and privates, placed as guarantors, are to receive specific rations and a portion of wine from the townsfolk…
  9. If a guarantor does not receive the agreed rations, they may leave their post and return to the main orderly room…


In Principles for the Management of a Large Operational Army, 1812 there is a noticeable desire to separate the regulatory parts from the instructional. As a result, the articles on the commander-in-chief and other senior commanders do not indicate the regulations on their duties in field service, as was indicated in the Military Regulations of 1716. This mode of presentation, however, is not entirely consistent, since such rules are given for the appointment of captain of guides.

Guard service: the term ‘cane guards,’ which was in all our previous regulations, was replaced by the term ‘internal guard.’

A response was added to the password and challenge, formerly also in our previous regulations. Signal phrases were added to the signals of Paul’s regulations.

The rules for the appointment of captain of guides are merely a detailed development of the same concept from the Military Regulations of 1716, from which the name itself has been borrowed.[2]


[1]    Complete Collection of Laws, Vol. XXXII, No. 24975.

[2]    Military Regulations, 1716, Chapter XXXI.