It’s been a challenging time here at Suburban Militarism. The painting has been going just fine – however my mouth has been having a tougher time. An abcess has sprung up and a subsequent trip to the dentist saw him mention the terms “root canal” and “extraction” to me; neither of which sounded particularly nice!
So, as I brace myself for going under the fearful butchery of the field surgeon’s knife next week, I can at least find solace in the thought I’ve now despatched my 11th regiment in the project; the Lifeguard Cossacks!
Biography: Lifeguard Cossacks [Russia]
Cossacks owed allegiance to the Tsar and were composed of a number of regional groups or ‘hosts’, the Russian Don, Ural and Terek Cossacks being amongst the most notable of these. The red-uniformed Lifeguard Cossack Regiment was the most famous and prestigious of all the Tsar’s Cossack cavalry. Men were specially selected to join the Lifeguard, being chosen from regular cavalry regiments for their imposing height and strength.
Four squadrons from this regiment took part in the campaign of 1812, following Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. It took part in the very first battle of the campaign, contesting the French crossing on the River Neimen, later covering the subsequent retreat of the Russian army.
In July 1812, at the Battle of Vitebsk, the regiment captured a French battery right under the nose of Napoleon himself, momentarily causing some alarm in the French headquarters. Thereafter, the Lifeguard Cossacks took part in the following battles of both Smolensk and Valutino Gora. These were just the precursors to the great battle of Borodino on 7th September 1812, which would prove to be the most bloodiest day’s fighting of the entire Napoleonic wars. The regiment was a part of General Platov and General Uvarov’s cavalry attack on the left flank and rear of the French. This attack, totalling 8000 cavalry, proved crucial in at least winning the Russian army some valuable time at a crucial moment in the battle and, it is said by some, contributed to Napoleon not committing his Imperial Guard to the fray for fear of further cossack attacks.
The Lifeguard Cossacks covered the retreat to Moscow and later joined the long pursuit of the embattled and weary French Grande Army right up to Vilnius in the Baltic. Thereafter, it accompanied the Russian Emperor in all the campaigns and battles of 1813-1814, including the battles of Bautzen and Leipzig. At the latter action, the Lifeguard Cossacks distinguished themselves in a notable action whereby they gallantly counterattacked the French and Saxon cuirassiers.
By 1814, Napoleon had been forced back to defend France. The Lifeguard Cossacks charged at Fère-Champenoise, the last major battle before the fall of Paris on March 30, 1814. The regiment finally entered Paris in triumph and bivouacked on the Champs Elysees. They had come a long way from their homelands near the river Don and the Black Sea coast. In respect for the prowess, Napoleon is credited with declaring, “Cossacks are the finest light troops among all that exist. If I had them in my army, I would go through all the world with them.”
Notable Battles: Vitebsk, Smolensk, Borodino, Bautzen, Leipzig, Fere-Champenoise.