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The Development of Tactics & Training In The Russian Army, 1801 to 1814: Garrison and Fortress Regulations.

The Development of Tactics & Training In The Russian Army, 1801 to 1814: Garrison and Fortress 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.

Garrison and Fortress Regulations.

Regulations post 1796:

1811: The Supreme approved report by the Minister of War on the subordination of the police in the border fortresses, for commandants in the absence of military governors, dated 27th January [8th February] 1811.

1812: The Supreme approved regulations for fortresses located on the basis of military operations, dated 5th [17th] June 1812.

General situation. – Responsibilities of the commandant. – Conclusions.

Regulations for Garrison and Fortress Service.

In the Military Regulations of 1716, the rules for service in garrisons and fortresses were set out almost indistinguishably, moreover, both in peacetime and wartime. In the Military Regulations of 1796 by Emperor Paul I, the garrison rules were set out in three dedicated chapters. In the reign of Emperor Alexander I, an addition to these garrison regulations was published in the Notes on Recent Changes in Training, 1808.[1] These Notes impose mainly the details of the execution of guard mounting, indicating words of command, and so on.

The Supreme approved report by the Minister of War on the subordination of the

police in the border fortresses, for commandants in the absence of military governors,

dated 27th January [8th February] 1811.

Before the impending struggle with Napoleon, we began to draw up regulations on service in fortresses. Corresponding ordinances had previously been issued in the Military Regulations of 1716 and in the Military Regulations of 1796. The first work in this direction was the above-mentioned report by the Minister of War Barclay de Tolly on the subordination of the police in border fortresses to the commandants, in the absence of military governors.[2] The civil police had been extracted from the jurisdiction of commandants in 1803 and handed over to chiefs of police, whereas the commandants were thereafter given control only of the military police.[3]

In his report, Barclay de Tolly wrote, among other things:

Frontier fortresses, especially those on the western frontier, must always be under martial law, during which the commandants, in each of the governorates, control the civil police; during states of blockade of a fortress, commandants must be authorised to wield autocratic powers.

The Supreme approved regulations for fortresses located

on the basis of military operations, dated 5th [17th] June 1812.

These regulations received Supreme approval on 5th [17th] June 1812.[4]

1. Permanent fortress headquarters staff are to be established.

2. In the event of a siege or emergency, the command of a fortress may be entrusted to a dedicated military governor.

16. The commandant of a fortress, being subordinate to the governor, has command over the fortress headquarters staff and the police, and takes the governors place in his absence…

20. The Platz-Major or Platz-Adjutant is to issue orders in the name of the commandant…

23. The Gate-Major is subordinate to the Platz-Major or Platz-Adjutant.

24. Guard Commanders are obliged to satisfy the requirements of the Gate-Major in everything related to the execution of orders issued for the monitoring of the gates and entrances to the fortress.

General regulations:

25. Fortresses, with regard to their structure and administration, are assigned one of three states: at peace, at war, or under siege.

26. A fortress is regarded as at peace, as long as war has not been declared.

27. A fortress is regarded as in a state of war:

a. when it is in the front line during the war or when enemy field forces or occupied positions are less than five days from the fortresses;

b. When it is declared under martial law by order of His Imperial Majesty or the Commander-in-Chief.

In the first instance, the military governor, and where there is none, the commandant has the right to declare the fortress under martial law themselves.

28. A fortress is regarded as being under siege:

a. When a dedicated Supreme command has been issued in this regard;

b. When they are encircled by the enemy;

c. When the enemy has closed in for an assault;

d. When they are attacked by surprise.

e. When civil disturbance arises inside the fortress;

f. When unlawful assemblies take place in the surrounding area.

In all the latter five events, the military governors themselves, and where there are none, the commandants may declare the fortress in a state of siege…

Responsibilities of a commandant in peacetime:

30. A commandant is to issue orders, establish outposts and guards, assign beats and patrols, and make personal inspections of fortifications, buildings, artillery and everything in the fortress…

33. A commandant is to oversee the order and speedy construction of fortification works…

37. The military perimeter of a fortress is determined by the rules explained in the decree by the State Military Collegium dated 20th July [1st August], 1811. The military perimeter of a fortress also includes the entire area occupied by the suburbs.

38. A commandant is obliged to know the features of the ground, its advantages or exploitation in the event of a siege, not only for the entire perimeter, but also of those places that may be convenient for the enemy to establish camps, parks, military and ration stores…

43. A commandant, together with the civil authorities, are to supervise the good order of routine public assemblies around the fortress…

46. A commandant is to place the soldiers assigned to extinguish fires at the disposal of the Chief of Engineers.

The duties of a commandant regarding the defence of a fortress:

47. A commandant must regard the entire fortress as perpetually subject to surprise attack or suddenly passing from state of peace regulations to a state of war or siege.

48. Therefore, a commandant is obliged to have a plan of defence, proceeding on the most probable assumptions for an attack, in order to determine outposts and reserves, troop movements, operations and mutual assistance with the corps and all units, for the most likely events…

51. A commandant is to ensure that garrison troops are kept busy with military exercises, manoeuvres, attack and defence rehearsals.

52. A commandant, being personally responsible for the integrity of the fortress and the security of the garrison and the population, cannot spend even one night outside the fortress in peacetime or move further than cannon range away from it during the day, without the permission of the authorities…

The duties of a commandant in wartime:

54. Civil authorities in a fortress under martial law cannot issue any orders without the consent of the commandant, nor reject those which the commandant deems necessary for the safety of the fortress or the security of the population…

56. In a fortress under martial law, the commandant is to establish a fire brigade, also from freemen craftsmen, carpenters, labourers, is to form companies and detachments (under) the control of their seniors; they are to be used to extinguish fires, during a siege, and to carry out military works; actions on the event of a fire and works are to be ordered by the commandant jointly with the chief of engineers and civilian authorities.

57. If the enemy is less than three days away from a fortress, then the commandant is authorised to:…

c. Destroy and demolish anything inside the fortress that could impede the operations of artillery and troops, and outside the fortress anything that could give the enemy cover or facilitate a covert approach in accordance with the plans and dispositions adopted for attack and defence.

58. The commanding general of the force to which the garrison of a fortress belongs, is to ensure that in the event of escalating danger, a garrison remains in the fortress which is sufficient for its protection and adequate in case of a siege, and therefore is to collect information about the strength of the garrison and munitions; while the commandant is obliged to demand execution of this article from him in advance…

The duties of a commandant during a siege or blockade:

62. In the event of a siege or blockade, the entire civilian police force passes under the direct authority of the governor and commandant.

63. The governor or commandant, in their own name supervises operations by the civil police within the perimeter of the fortress and its surrounding area…

65. During a siege, the governor or commandant determines military operations by all military and civilian units solely in accordance with the orders issued to him and dependant on the movements and works of the besiegers.

66. The governor or commandant is to consult with the commanders of artillery and engineers, individually or collectively, regarding defensive measures.

67. Their discussions are to be recorded in a dedicated log; in the event of disagreement, the decision rests solely with the governor or commandant…

71. The governor or commandant, to whom a fortress is entrusted, must remember that he has been appointed the guardian of one of the strongholds of the Empire, and that the surrender of it a day earlier or later, may have the most important consequences for the state and for the entire army.

72. Therefore, he must not heed any propaganda or news spread by the enemy. If the enemy claims that the army has been defeated and the state conquered, he must reject these suggestions as firmly as an assault itself. He is obliged to strive by all means to maintain the morale and courage of the garrison.

73. He should remember that the military criminal code condemns to death every commandant who surrenders a fortress without having first withstood three assaults or before a practicable breach has been made in the main inner ramparts, or before the complete exhaustion of the absolutely essential supplies of bread and water, or fortress munitions.

74. When a commandant no longer has the means to defend himself further, he is to assemble a council to discuss ways to continue the siege.

75. The discussions by the council and the votes of each of its members are to be recorded in the minutes. The commandant’s word decides all questions. He is obliged to give preference to those opinions which he finds the most courageous even if they are the least convenient to execute.

76. Before surrendering, a commandant must make it an indispensable principle for himself to have as little communication with the enemy as possible, and not to tolerate communications from the enemy.

77. A commandant may not under any circumstances have personal interactions with the enemy and their parlementaires, but is obliged to conduct them through officers, whose resolve, courage, devotion to the fatherland are personally known to him.

78. When surrendering a fortress, the fate of the governor or commandant is not to differ from his garrison and he is to bear the same consequences with them even after the siege. He is obliged to try to negotiate the most favourable conditions for the soldiers, the sick and the wounded as are possible. Any personal rewards or indulgences, articulated to the commandant or the officers of the garrison, are to be regarded as treasonous by the commandant.

79. A governor or commandant who has surrendered a fortress is obliged to prove to a commission of inquiry the solidity of the reasoning that prompted him so to do.

80. If this commission finds him guilty, he is to be brought before a court martial by the main operational army and shall be judged according to the Criminal Code.

If the commission vindicates him and declares that he has used all possible means for the longest possible defence, then the decision of the commission is to be made public to the armies and fortresses of the Empire.


Regulations for Fortresses Based on Military Operations, published on the eve of the impending struggle against Napoleon, are fully imbued with an awareness of the importance of the mission that falls to commandants in wartime. How well and expediently these Regulations were drafted is demonstrated by the fact that 75 years later, when (in 1886) we drafted new Regulations on the Administration of Fortresses, all the main concepts of the Regulations of 1812 remained extant in these new Regulations, while the most important part of the earlier Regulations, specifically on the duties of a commandants during a state of siege of a fortress, entered the new Regulations almost verbatim and without significant amendment.

[1]    See The Development of Tactics & Training in the Russian Army, 1801 to 1814: The Practice of Higher Tactics, 1810

[2]    Complete Collection of Laws, Vol. XXXI, No. 24499.

[3]    Complete Collection of Laws, Vol. XXVII, No. 21007.

[4]    Complete Collection of Laws, Vol. XXXII, No. 25130.