A Complete Listing of All Cossack Formations in 1812.

By Dr. Frhr. von Baumgartner

with 8 pictures by Rudolf Trache after contemporary originals.

(Translation of Vollständiges Verzeichnis aller Kosaken-Formationen 1812,” by Dr. Freiherr von Baumgartner, in Zeitschrift für Heeres- und Uniformkunde, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Heereskunde, 1943/II, Nr. 124/125, August 1943, pages 33-55.)

During the campaign year of 1812 there were about three times as many mounted cossack regiments in the Russian army as regular cavalry regiments, and in total they counted twice as many combatants in their ranks. However, nowhere in the sources does one find a detailed or even approximately complete enumeration of all of those forces that at the time were designated as irregular or cossacks. The reasons for that are manifold. Foremost is the fact that what is meant by the terms irregular and cossack is not well defined. That both these designations were treated in the Russian army at the time as synonymous leads to errors, since while all cossacks were irregulars (the small number of guards cossacks excepted), the reverse was not true. Furthermore, at the time a number of completely regular units were counted as irregulars and thus designated cossacks although they were in truth neither. This lack of clarity was also reflected in contemporary Russian troop returns, when many units were sometimes tallied under the heading of regular forces and at other times under that of cossacks.

In the narrow sense of the word, only those troops can claim to be cossacks that were raised by cossack communities. These were given directions as to the number of men to raise as well as their organization. Since cossacks had the privilege of raising their troops, including officers, as they saw fit, which is to say without coordination with the Russian military authorities, and of arming, clothing, and mounting them out of their own resources, they can rightly be termed irregulars.

Yet already during the eighteenth century mounted regiments had been raised from a number of ethnic nations within the Russian empire, whose organization followed that of cossacks. The raising of the men and the formation of these regiments was done, however, through the Russian military authorities (with one exception). Also, they were mainly commanded by Russian officers, although a certain consideration was practiced by also appointing some native princes and nobles. These regiments were thus true regular formations. But given that the ethnic personnel were in their national costume and served with their own arms and horses, in the Russian army they were always and without exception counted as irregulars and sometimes also falsely labeled cossacks. Only the regiment of Stavropol Kalmucks (or Kalmyks)—who since 1803 possessed cossack-style privileges and therefore raised their regiment on a self-determined basis—was in that respect irregular, even if not a true cossack regiment.

The term cossack tended to be used not only for ethnic national regiments, but also for troops of the mass levy raised in 1812. This resulted from their being only partially uniformed and to a great extent armed with lances, which thus gave them an appearance similar to that of cossacks. While the mass levy's foot units were always indicated as such in contemporary reports, the mounted mass-levy regiments were repeatedly placed among the cossacks. Not only did the name mass-levy cossacks become the usual usage, but a number of units were officially titled as cossack regiments. Some were additionally even organized in the cossack manner. Although the mounted mass levies were thoroughly regular troops, one must consider them cossacks in the broad sense of the word.

The last principle also holds for the few small volunteer corps raised against Napoleon, since in contemporary troop reports these were indeed almost exclusively counted alongside the cossacks.

To conclude, in 1812 in the broad sense of the words one included under the names of irregulars or cossacks:

A) Troops raised by cossack communities,
B) Formations raised from ethnic nationalities,
C) Mounted units of the mass levy,
D) Small volunteer corps raised against Napoleon.

In the following, not only are the formations that took the field against Napoleon assigned to these four groups, but also all those which existed in 1812 in both Europe and Asia.

A) Troops raised by cossack communities.

The old cossack communities that had formed during the course of the 16th century were designated in a political sense as hosts (voiska). In contrast, communities that were later artificially created by the Russian regime were called either a host or in many cases simply a regiment. Also, in Siberia since the 16th century there were small independent cossack groups in towns as well as village settlements (stanitsy) that were called town or settlement commands. Each community had a so-called ataman as its chief.

Since 1799 the ranks for cossack officers had been regulated and made equivalent to army ranks. The rank titles for general officers and field-grade officers were the same as in the army except for the field-grade of voiskovoi starshina (literally, the “host elder”), an old cossack rank approximately equal to lieutenant colonel but placed below that grade and above major. Among company-grade officers the yesaul corresponded to captain, the sotnik to first lieutenant, and the khorunzhii (mostly literally translated as ensign) to second lieutenant or cornet. There were also the quartermaster-adjutant in the rank of a sotnik and the polkovoi pisar' (regimental clerk, also called the kaznachei or cashier) who corresponded to a paymaster but was counted as a combatant.

For non-commissioned officers there was only one rank—the uryadnik (corporal). The non-commissioned officer used for administrative work, called a pisar', had the same rank and was also counted as a combatant. A desyatnik (decurion), also called a prikaznyi kazak (command-giving cossack) or simply prikaznik, was between a private soldier and a non-commissioned officer. An officer's servant was called a putzer.

A cossack regiment was normally divided into five sotnias (centuries) with the following regulation strength: 1 general or field-grade officer as commander, 1 quartermaster-adjutant, 1 paymaster, and 2 non-commissioned officers (pisarya) formed the staff. Each of the five sotnias consisted of 1 yesaul, 1 sotnik, 1 khorunzhii, 4 non-commissioned officers (uryadniks), 10 prikazniks, and 100 cossack privates. For the regimental commander 1 putzer was authorized. This was not only the only officer's servant, but also the regiment's sole noncombatant! The entire regiment thus numbered 18 officers, 22 non-commissioned officers, 50 prikazniki, 500 privates, and 1 noncombatant, or 591 persons in all. At the beginning of the year only 10 non-commissioned officers in all had been authorized for each regiment, but around April this number was raised to the 22 indicated above. If a second field-grade officer was assigned to a regiment, which for example was the case for about a third of all Don regiments, then he took the place of a yesaul as commander of the 5th (left-flank) Sotnia, while the 1st (right-flank) Sotnia to a certain extent was the regimental commander's own sotnia.

For armament all cossacks were prescribed: lance (not for non-commissioned officers), saber, and 2 pistols. Furthermore, each sotnia had muskets for 11 cossacks trained as marksmen. In 1812 there were at first not enough firearms, and the shortage was made good during the campaign by using captured weapons. A uniform was at that time prescribed only for hosts (Don, Ural, Orenburg, Bug, and Siberian) but was only partially worn. All other cossacks served in their national dress. Instead of spurs, which no cossack wore (except in the guards), a leather riding whip called a kamchu or nogaika was used, without which no cossack would mount his horse. To be sure, officers could don spurs, but made little use of them. There was no supply train and only the regimental commander had the right to bring a private wagon. For this purpose each cossack could have a second horse as a pack animal. Before the start of the war, however, the number of authorized pack horses for which fodder would be provided was reduced to one for every five riding horses. At that time there were no musicians in any true cossack unit (the guard excepted). The flags which some hosts possessed did not have the character of official army standards apart from a St.-George flag held by the Sysoev 3rd's Don Regiment.

A mounted cossack battery (officially called a horse-artillery company) counted 12 light cannons, the so-called unicorns (6 horses), with 2 ammunition caissons (3 horses) for each gun. Each battery also had 2 reserve gun carriages. There were authorized, in so far as this could be achieved, 8 officers including 1 field-grade officer as commander, 25 non-commissiond officers, 255 privates (75 of whom were riding gunners), and 1 officer's servant. Thus there were 289 men. Twenty train horses were supposed to be on hand, but it is an open question whether these were led as pack animals or in harness. No trumpeters! The rank titles for officers and non-commissioned officers were not in the cossack style, but the same as in the army.

The following formations were raised by individual cossack communities:

1. Don Host (formed about 1550).

a) One Life-Guards Regiment (raised 1798) of 3 squadrons, commander Major General Graf Orlov-Denisov. Counted as part of the regular guards cavalry, and so organized in regard to staff, squadrons, and train, with the men always uniformed and armed according to regulation (at government expense), the rank titles of officers and non-commissioned officers the same as in the army. Also, this was the only true cossack regiment with a trumpeter, and likewise the men wore spurs in accordance with regulations. No flags! The prescribed strength of a squadron was 6 officers (inluding one field-grade officer as commander), 1 sergeant [vakhmistr], 12 non-commissioned officers (including 2 trumpeters), and 160 guard cossacks (including 16 marksmen with muskets). The staff consisted of 4 officers (including 1 major general as commander) and 1 staff-trumpeter (a sergeant). The combat strength of the regiment was thus 542 men. Noncombatants (administration, medical, veterinary, train, and officers' servants) amounted to about 43 men with at least 9 wagons (exclusive of the officers' train!). The total strength was thus some 585 men.

b) 86 mounted regiments of 5 sotnias. Only 60 regiments were required, but in 1812 a further 26 were voluntarily raised (denoted by *) below), of which 2 reached the army at the beginning of the war and the remaining 24 in October.

The regiments were named after their commanders at the time, who were always a general or field-grade officer of the Don Host. When the regimental commander changed, so did the name of the regiment. If for some reason a new commander was not immediately assigned, the regiment in the meantime kept the name of its last commander with addition of the “formerly” or “temporarily.” When the commander was absent for only a short time and the regiment was commanded by another officer (sometimes one from the regular army), it nevertheless retained its name. It was a peculiarity of the Don Host that as each regiment (except for the Guard and Ataman regiments and the artillery) ended the 10 to 12 years of active service that was the norm at that time, it was replaced by a regiment newly raised from men throughout the entire Don territory, and was itself disbanded. Only the officers, insofar as they were not leaving active duty, received reassignments to new units. In this way a commander of a disbanded regiment could later take over a newly raised regiment. The latter carried the same name as the previous regiment, now disbanded, although they were in no way the same units. Since for the most part several members of the same family served as officers at the same time, for the purpose of distinguishing them they were (as in the army) assigned an identifying number. One exception to the regimental naming convention as described was the so-called Ataman Regiment, which formed a guard unit for the chief commander of the Don Host at the time and always kept the designation “Atamanwithout changes.

The regiments in existence on 1 November 1812 were as follows, in alphabetical order (name changes before or after this date are added in parentheses):

Ataman Regiment (raised 1798). Commander – the ataman, General-of-Cavalry Graf Platov, but in practice commanded by Major General Kuteinikov 2. Unlike other regiments, this unit not only continuously received replacements, but was documented as having an increased strength. For each sotnia this appears to be 4 officers, 10 non-commissioned officers (probably only 5 before April), 160 privates (including 16 marksmen with muskets). Total authorized strength with staff and 2(?) servants: 879 men.

Voisk. Starsh. Ageev 2nd's (stationed in Georgia); Voisk. Starsh. Ageev 3rd's (Caucasus); *) Col. Andreyanov 1st's; Lt. Col. Andreyanov 2nd's; *) Voisk. Starsh. Andreyanov 3rd's; Lt. Col. Arakantsov 2nd's (Caucasus); Lt. Col. Astakhov 4th's (Moldavia).

Formerly Lt. Col. Balabin 1st's (commanded by Yesaul Polyakov, in Georgia); Lt. Col. Barabanshchikov 2nd's; *) Col. Bikhalov 1st's (joined the army at the beginning of the war); *) Voisk. Starsh. Belogorodtsev's (by the end of the year commanded by Voisk. Starsh. Gorin 1st).

*) Col. Chernozubov 4th's; (Voisk. Starsh. 5th's – see Grekov 2nd); Lt. Col. Chernozubov 8th's (until 27 June Lt. Col. Gordeev 1st's, then until 5 Sept. Maj. Gen. Krasnov 1st's); Lt. Col. Chikilev's (voisk. starsh. until 12 Oct.).

Maj. Danilov 1st's (Georgia); *) Maj. Danilov 2nd's; (Maj. Gen. Denisov 6th's – see Grekov 18th's!); Maj. Gen. Denisov 7th's; Col. Dyachkin's.

*) Voisk. Starsh. Golitsyn's (from about 27 Dec. Voisk. Starsh. Rebrikov 3rd's); (Lt. Col. Gordeev 1st's – see Chernozubov 8th); (Voisk. Starsh. Gorin 1st – see Belogorodtsev); (Voisk. Starsh. Gorin 2nd – see Melent'ev 3rd); *) Voisk. Starsh. Grebtsov 2nd's; *) Maj. Gen. Grekov 1st's; *) Col. Grekov 2nd's (from about 27 Dec. Voisk. Starsh. Chernozubov 5th); *)Voisk. Starsh. Grekov 3rd's; Col. Grekov 4th's; *) Col. Grekov 5th's; Maj. Gen. Grekov 8th's; Col. Grekov 9th's; *) Voisk. Starsh. Grekov 17th's; Lt. Col. Grekov 18th's (Voisk. Starsh. until about 30 June; titled Maj. Gen. Denisov 6th's until about 27 June); Voisk. Starsh. Grekov 21st's.

Lt. Col. Il'in 1st's (Caucasus); *) Maj. Gen. Ilovaiskii 3rd's; Maj. Gen. Ilovaiskii 4th's; Maj. Gen. Ilovaiskii 5th's; (Lt. Col. Ilovaiskii 8th's – see Zhirov); *) Col. Ilovaiskii 9th's; Col. Ilovaiskii 10th's; Col. Ilovaiskii 11th's; Maj. Gen. Ilovaiskii 12th's (Colonel until 12 Oct.); Col. Isaev 2nd's; Lt. Col. Izvalov's (Caucasus).

Maj. Gen. Karpov 2nd's; Lt. Col. Kharitonov 7th's; Voisk. Starsh. Kireev 2nd's; Voisk. Starsh. Kisel'ev 2nd's (Finland); (Voisk. Starsh. Koshkin's – see Troilin); *) Voisk. Starsh. Komissarov 1st's (joined the army at the beginning of the war); (Maj. Gen. Krasnov 1st's – see the Ataman's); Lt. Col. Kuteinikov 4th's; *) Voisk. Starsh. Kuteinikov 6th's.

Lt. Col. Loshchilin 1st's; Col. Lukovkin 2nd's.

Lt. Col. Melent'ev 2nd's (with the detachment in the Crimea); Formerly Voisk. Starsh. Melent'ev 3rd's (commanded by Voisk. Starsh. Gorin 2nd); Lt. Col. Mel'nikov 3rd's – see Zhirov); Voisk. Starsh. Mel'nikov 4th's (until about 27 June Lt. Col. Slyusarev 2nd's); Col. Mel'nikov 5th's; Voisk. Starsh. Molchanov 2nd's (Caucasus).

Maj. Panteleev 2nd's; Lt. Col. Platov 4th's; Voisk. Starsh. Platov 5th's; (Yesaul Polyakov's – see Balabin 1st); *) Voisk. Starsh. Popov 3rd's; *) Voisk. Starsh. Popov 13th's; Voisk. Starsh. Popov 16th's (Georgia); Voisk. Starsh. Pozdeev 8th's (Georgia).

(Voisk. Starsh. Rebrikov 3rd's – see Golitsyn); Maj. Gen. Rodionov 2nd's (colonel until 12 Oct.); Lt. Col. Rogachev 1st's (Georgia); Voisk. Starsh. Rubashkin's (Caucasus); Maj. Ryabinin's (Caucasus).

Voisk. Starsh. Safonov's (Caucasus); *) Maj. Shamshev 2nd's; Lt. Col. Selivanov 2nd's (major until 12 Oct. ); Voisk. Starsh. Semenchikov's; Voisk. Starsh. Sysoev 2nd's (Derbent, in the Caucasus); Lt. Col. Sysoev 3rd's (had a St.-George flag that the regiment had been awarded in 1807 for a feat of arms at Schöngrabern in 1805); *) Voisk. Starsh. Slyusarev 1st's; (Lt. Col. Slyusarev 2nd's – see Mel'nikov 4th); *) Lt. Col. Sulin 9th's; *) Voisk. Starsh. Suchilin 2nd's.

*) Voisk. Troilin's (from about 22 Dec. Voisk. Starsh. Koshkin's); Maj. Turchaninov's.

Voisk. Starsh. Vlasov 2nd's; Lt. Col. Vlasov 3rd's.

*) Col. Yagodin 2nd's; Lt. Col. Yanov 2nd's (with the detachment in the Crimea); Lt. Col. Yezhov 1st's (Georgia); *) Maj. Yezhov 2nd's.

Voisk. Starsh. Zhirov's (until 27 June Col. Ilovaiskii 8th's, than until 8 Aug. Lt. Col. Mel'nikov 3rd's); Voisk. Starsh. Zhitchov 3rd's (Caucasus).

Of these 86 regiments, on the first day of November there were 10 on the Caucasian front (as indicated in parentheses, and including 1 in Derbent), 8 in Georgia, 2 belonged to the Crimean detachment and formed a cordon along the southern coast of European Russia, 1 was in Moldavia manning a cordon on the Pruth River along what at the time was the border with Turkey, 1 was in Finland, and the remaining 64 were in the field against Napoleon.

Each regiment carried five large flags, or one for each sotnia. These were of various colors painted with religious pictures or martial emblems and were for the most part carried in their cases. Sysoev 3rd's Regiment carried in addition a St.-George flag.

c) 2-1/2 mounted batteries. There were only two permanent batteries (raised in 1797), but in 1812 an additional half-battery was voluntarily raised with guns improvised from captured Turkish cannon barrels which were dismounted from a victory monument in Novocherkask. It reached the army in October but was disbanded before the end of the year. The two authorized batteries, in the field since the start of the war and officially designated No. 1 and No. 2, were usually referred to by the names of their commanders. These were Maj. Tatsin for No. 1 and Maj. Suvorov for No. 2. The commander of the Turkish half-battery remains unknown.

[Further notes by M.C. - In "Zapiski Alekseya Petrovicha Yermolova, chast I 1801-1812" (Moscow, 1865), an order of battle for the 1st Western Army lists Suvorov's Don Horse-Artillery Company as quartered at Belostok (Bialystok) in late 1811 or early 1812. Along with the rest of the 1st Army's irregular troops, the company is not listed as assigned to a particular corps. In Vol. V of "M.I. Kutuzov; Sbornik Dokumentov" (Moscow, 1956), one finds that in January of 1813, Kutuzov reported to Alexander I that on 17 December 1812 the column of General-of-Cavalry Graf Platov included 14 officers, 49 NCOs, and 383 privates as belonging to his irregular artillery (meaning cossack artillery). Later, in April of 1813, Kutuzov reports that his army includes "Don Artillery" numbering 11 officers, 34 NCOs, and 331 privates.

d) Various detachments (as recorded in March of 1812) in Russia outside the Don territory:

1 detachment of 2 sotnias under Yesaul Tatsin in Kazan.

2 detachments each of 1 officer and 40 men in the fortresses of Azov and Taganrog.

10 detachments for conveying recruits in Voronezh Province, totaling 12 officers and 242 men.

Within the Don region:

On post service, at quarantine stations, and as a guard cordon along the Don territory's borders were 9 officers, 33 non-commissioed officers, and 1616 men.

With the host high command (including the ataman's staff!), as police, and at military lazarets were 78 officers, 298 non-commissioned officers, and 943 men.

All together there were thus the following Don formations (with authorized strengths indicated):


1 guard regiment

585 men


1 ataman's regiment

879 men

85 mounted regiments

50,235 men


2-1/2 mounted batteries

723 men

30 guns



2 sotnias under Yesaul Tatsin

234 men


3311 men

Total: 87 regiments, 2 sotnias, 2-1/2 batteries, misc. detachments: 55,967 men, 30 guns

In actuality, at the outbreak of the war the 62 existing regiments (without the guard regiment) averaged about 14 officers and 430 men. By October most of these regiments had received replacements numbering about one sotnia, but on the other hand heavy casualties had been incurred so that at the start of the French army's retreat (about 1 November 1812) they averaged 12 officers and 350 men (with the Ataman Regiment considerably stronger). And as a result of being tasked to provide numerous details for detached duties, the actual number of men present with the regiments was even less. The 24 regiments that reached the army in October each numbered about 15 officers and 500 men actually present.

It must also be mentioned that a number of Nogai Tatars (since 1784) and Dörbet Kalmucks (since 1800) had been incorporated into the Don Host, and they performed service in the regiments just like cossacks. Consequently, in the Don cossack ranks there were approximately 8% Kalmucks and ½% Tatars!

2. Ural Host.

(Formed on the Ural River in 1577, until 1775 called the Yaik Host after the river that at the time was known by that same name.)

a) One Guard Sotnia (raised 1798), commander unknown (a field-grade officer). The unit was part of the Don Guard Regiment and thus counted as part of the regular guard cavalry. The same distinctions that characterized the guard Don cossacks also applied to this guard sotnia, with only the designation of sotnia indicating a lower strength than a Don guard squadron. Nevertheless it had a somewhat larger complement than a normal sotnia, numbering some 5 officers, 120 men, and 6 noncombatants. The total strength was therefore 131 men. No flags, no documented record of a trumpeter! During the whole of 1812 and also in the following two war years the sotnia performed guard duties at the imperial palace in St. Petersburg.

b) Ten mounted regiments, each of 5 sotnias. At the beginning of 1812 Maj. Mikhailov's Regiment No. 3 and Maj. Nazarov's Regiment No. 4 were with the Danube army and then moved with it against Napoleon. Lt. Col. Burenov's Regiment No. 5 left its home territory on 1 November (or perhaps one or two days earlier) to go to Pokrov, east of Moscow. Nos.1, 2, and 6 through 10 remained in their home territory where they covered the Ural Line against the Kirghiz. Flags are not recorded!

3. Orenburg Host.

(Formed in 1755 by combining cossack communities in the Orenburg, Stavropol-on-the-Volga, Ufa, and Iset districts.)

a) One mounted Ataman Regiment (raised 1755 from the cossacks of the town of Orenburg), usually called the Orenburg Ataman Regiment to distinguish it from the Don unit of the same name, commanded by Col. Ugletskii. The regiment had ten sotnias, and the staff was probably larger than that of a normal five-sotnia regiment by the addition of an adjutant and one non-commissioned officer (clerk). It had a prescribed strength of 34 officers, 43 non-commissioned officers (only 20 before April), 100 prikazniks, 1000 privates, and 1 officer's servant, or 1178 men in all.

b) Three mounted regiments, each of 5 sotnias (raised 1777): The commanders of Nos. 1 and 2 are unknown, and that of Regiment No. 3 was Maj. Belyanov. At the beginning of the year Regiments No. 1 and No. 2 were with the Danube army, and as this turned to face Napoleon they (along with Astakhov 4th's Don Regiment) were left behind in Moldavia where in November as part of Maj. Gen. Hartung's force they formed a cordon along the Pruth River. In October the Ataman Regiment and Regiment No. 3 left the home territory for the army and by the end of November had reached Lt. Gen. Tolstoi's Reserve Army at Nizhnii-Novgorod.

c) Four Line Sector Detachments (raised 1798). These had an average strength of 1000 men, of whom about half served on foot and the other half on horseback. They served exclusively on the Orenburg Line, where they protected the frontier against the Kirghiz. Further organizational details are unknown, but they were adapted to the local geography. One figures 3 officers for every 100 men, so all four detachments would total 4120 men, of which half (20 sotnias) were on foot and half were mounted.

No unit is recorded as having flags!

4. Astrakhan Regiment.

(Formed in 1750 from Astrakhan cossacks and baptized Kalmucks; reinforced in 1786 and 1801 by the addition of existing remnants of Volga cossacks in individual settlements along the lower Volga River.) This community was politically designated a “regiment” but in the military sense was required to provide 3 mounted regiments each of 5 sotnias (since 1808), designated Nos. 1 through 3. In 1812 and later they saw service only in their home territory. No flags!

5. Bug Host.

(Formed in 1803 from former Bug cossacks.) It was required to provide 3 mounted regiments each of 5 sotnias, and in the fall of 1812 an additional fourth regiment was raised. The commander of No. 1 was Guards Captain Chechenskii, No. 3 – Maj. Selistrinov, and for Nos. 2 and 4 – unknown. Regiments Nos. 1-3 had one flag for each sotnia, which were white for the first sotnia and black for the others, decorated with emblems. These three regiments took part in the campaign against Napoleon from the very start of the war, while Regiment No. 4 either remained in its home region or was used to occupy neighboring Moldavia.

6. Danube-Mouth Host.

(Formed in 1807 from a part of the Zaporozhians who had accepted Turkish sovereignty and been settled by them at the mouth of the Danube.) These cossacks went over to the Russians at the beginning of the 1806 Turkish war and were settled in the region around Akkerman. They were about 500 strong and by 1812 still had no organized units. Apparently they were only used for occupation duties in newly acquired Moldovia.

Following below are the cossack communities that were on the so-called Caucasian Line, being from west to east:

7. Black-Sea Host (raised 1792 from former Zaporozhians).

a) 1 Guard Sotnia (raised 1811), commander Colonel Bursak. Organization, etc., the same as for the Guard Ural Sotnia. It took part in the campaign against Napoleon from the very beginning, being a sub-unit of the Don Guard Regiment.

b) 10 mounted regiments, each of 5 sotnias, designated by No. 1 through No. 10. At least regiments Nos. 1 though 6 each had a regimental flag whose top half was orange and the lower half blue. In 1812 all the regiments performed service and the lower Kuban River against the mountain tribesmen. (Only in the fall campaign of 1813 did Regiment No. 1 under Maj. Pouchi appear with the army facing Napoleon.

c) 10 foot regiments, each of 5 sotnias, also called druzhinas or plastun battalions, designated from No. 1 to No. 10. They had the same organization and strength as the mounted regiments. The foot regiments—or at least Nos. 1 through 6—each had a regimental flag whose upper half was blue and lower half orange. At the beginning of the year, Regiment No. 9, commander unknown, was with the Danube army and moved with that formation to face Napoleon, but then was detached to Dubno in order to cover transport moving to the army. Later it went to Vladimir and before the end of the year to Lutsk. The other regiments manned the Caucasian Line.

The remaining Caucasian cossack communities on the Caucasian Line, which went along the Kuban River and then the Terek, were lumped together under the designation of Caucasian Line Cossacks. Their combat units were not specially organized, but rather covered the line against the mountaineers in detachments of various sizes according to local geography and terrain. Only the total number of fighting men from each community was laid down, being 100 men and 3 officers. To the east and ending on the shore of the Black Sea were:

8. Caucasian Regiment (raised 1801 from former Ukrainian cossacks), 515 men.

9. Kuban Regiment (raised 1774 from Don cossacks), 1236 men.

10. Khoper Regiment (raised 1777 from parts of what was then the Volga Host), 618 men.

11. Volga Regiment (raised 1777 from parts of what was then the Volga Host), 824 men.

12. Mozdok Regiment (raised 1770 from part of what was then the Volga Host), 824 men.

13. Greben Cossack Host (formed about 1555), 412 men.

14. Terek-Family Cossack Host (formed in 1736 by splitting off from the rest of the Terek cossacks), 515 men.

15. Terek-Kizlyar Cossack Host (formed in 1577 as the Terek Host but since 1736 called the Terek-Kizlyar Host after the detachment of the Terek Family cossacks), 206 men.

Out of the above strengths, the Caucasian Line Cossacks (but not the Black-Sea Cossacks) also jointly formed:

a) 1 mounted regiment of 5 sotnias, about 515 men (raised 1812), stationed in Georgia.

b) 2 mounted batteries of 12 guns each (raised 1808), distributed along the line.

Each contingent provided by a Caucasian Line community was designated a mounted regiment (they always served on horseback), so to begin with there were 8 regiments with a strength of 4841 men, from which were formed 1 more mounted regiment as well as 2 mounted batteries. Thus there were a total of 9 mounted regiments and 2 mounted batteries with a strength of 4841 men and 24 guns.

The Caucasian Line Cossacks had no flags. They also had no prescribed uniform, but rather wore their national dress, as did the Black-Sea Cossacks. This was distinguished by cartridge holders sewn onto the chest, and for the Black-Sea Cossacks also by a pair of false sleeves. Their armament was completed by a dagger.

In West Siberia there were the following formations:

16. (West) Siberian Line Cossack Host (raised 1808 from line or border cossacks on the Ishim, Biya, and Bukhtarma rivers).

a) 10 mounted regiments, each of 5 sotnias, designated as Nos. 1 through 10. The authorized strength was five more than normal (presumably one non-commissioned officer for each sotnia), to each regiment had 596 men. These regiments had a prescribed uniform and since 1812 even lance pennants, unique for a cossack formation! It is not recorded how much of these regulations were actually implemented. Each regiment had a flag whose upper half was green and lower half raspberry colored. Regiment No. 4 was the ataman's.

b) 2 mounted batteries, each of 12 guns.

17-26. Ten West Siberian town commands. Each of these independent commands provided a detachment of 50 to 200 men on foot, namely the detachments of Beresovo, Pelym, Turinsk, Tyumen, Tobolsk, Tara, and Surgut numbering 500 men all together, and the three detachments of Tomsk, Kuznetsk, and Narym also 500 men all together. In total there were 1000 men on foot and about 30 officers.

In East Siberia there were:

27-32. Six Abakan and Sayansk border settlement detachments in the villages of Arbati, Tashtyp, Abakan, Shadask, Sayansk, and Kobash. Each of these independent commands provided 50 to 100 horsemen, or about 500 in all.

33-35. Three town commands of Krasnoyarsk, Yeniseisk, and Turukhansk (the last with Mangas). Each provided 150 to 200 horsemen, or about 500 total.

36-39. Four Tunginsk border settlement detachments at the village of Tunginsk and presumably three other places, each of from 50 to 100 horsemen, or a total of about 300.

40. Irkutsk Town Regiment (with Kirensk), provided 500 horsemen.

41-52. Tweleve Trans-Baikal border settlement detachments in the villages of Kharazaisk, Troitskosavsk, Aksha, Tsurukhaitu, Bakalnova, and about seven others (the exact number cannot be determined). Each command provided a detachment of from 50 to 100 horsemen, giving 900 men all together. These were combined into five line sector commands along the Chinese border between Lake Baikal and the Amur River, each averaging 180 horsemen, so that these cossacks were also called East-Siberian line cossacks.

53. Verkhne-Udinsk Town Command (with Selenginsk), provided 150 horsemen. These should have worn the same uniform clothing.

54. Nerchinsk Town Command, provided 100 horsemen.

55. Yakutsk Town Regiment (also called Command), including the town cossacks of Yakutsk. Olkeminsk, Okhotsk, Udsk, and Gishiginsk. Provided 500 men on foot.

56. Kamchatka Town Command, provided 100 horsemen.

In total the border and line cossacks in East Siberia thus provided 1700 horsemen, and the town cossacks 1350 horsemen and 500 men on foot. Reckoning 3 officers for every 100 men gives a grand total of 3656 personnel.

All the East Siberian cossacks with the possible exception of the Verkhne-Udinsk Command, as well as the West Siberian town cossacks, wore national dress. Flags and standards appear not to have been on hand. Since the regular troops were withdrawn from Siberia for the struggle against Napoleon, border defense lay entirely with the cossacks. For this reason all Siberian cossack formations remained in their home territories, though town cossacks were sent out to reinforce the border cossacks.

In 1812 autonomous cossack communities this made up 10 hosts, 8 regiments, and about 38 Siberian commands. From these 56 communities the following formations were provided:

Cossack community



Prescribed Strength






Don Cossacks





Ural Cossacks




Orenburg Cossacks





Astrakhan Cossacks



Bug Cossacks



Danube-Mouth Cossacks



Black-Sea Cossacks





Caucasian Line Cossacks




West Siberian Line Cossacks




West Siberian Town Cossacks



East Siberian Border Cossacks



East Siberian Town Cossacks





Total Formations:






In this summary the Caucasian Line Cossack communities are each considered equivalent to a regiment plus one joint regiment, and the Orenburg Line Cossacks, Danube-Mouth Cossacks, and the Siberian commands are reckoned in sotnias. Furthermore, the smaller detachments of less than 50 men as well as the various local small commands of which every large cossack group had some, are not considered. If included, the grand total would be over 100,000 men.

Actual strength was nevertheless considerably less. As already mentioned in regard to the Don cossacks, by 1 November regiments that had been in the field since the beginning of the war had been reduced by an average of 40%, and this held true for other cossacks as well. Units not deployed against Napoleon may be assumed to be 30% under prescribed strengths. Only the regiments sent to the army in the fall were to some extent complete, being nonetheless still 10-15% understrength. However, for Caucasian Line cossacks, West Siberian town cossacks, and all East Siberian cossacks no reduction need be made, since for these the absence of authorized strengths per se means that actual strengths are given. Taking everything into consideration in this way, by 1 November 1812 about 30% of the prescribed strength for all cossacks was absent, so that 70,000 cossacks were actually in service. With insignificant exceptions these were all combatants.

In regard to larger formations for cossacks there was only the Cossack Corps under the command of Don Ataman General-of-Cavalry Platov, organized before the war. This possessed a regular corps staff and besides Don units was composed of elements of other cossack communities as well as ethnic national regiments. During the course of the campaign the corps repeatedly had regular troops from every branch temporarily assigned to it. On 9 September the corps was for all practical purposes disbanded, but on 6 October reconstituted in the form it maintained until January of 1813. (It was then formed once more in September 1813, although on 12 March 1814 Platov had to turn over command to Major General Kaisarov of the Russian army.)

There was no official organization of the corps into divisions or brigades. For most of the time two or three regiments under the command of the senior regimental commander were brought together as the situation required, and the resulting grouping called a brigade. The compositions of these so-called brigades changed continuously, and there were no permanently designated brigade commanders nor any brigade staffs.

Besides the Cossack Corps there were likewise only unofficial brigades formed in a similar manner as circumstances demanded. These were under the command of the most senior officer at the time and had no brigade staffs. If more than three regiments were grouped together—when assigned to an army, for example—then these were likewise commanded by the most senior regimental commander available, or in rare cases by an especially assigned officer (Don general), although for such large groupings there was never any special designation in contemporary orders, reports, etc. In general one can only refer to them as a group specified by the name of their leader. During this time the designation of division is never encountered in regard to a cossack formation!

B) Troops from ethnic nations and peoples.

For these troops the organization of sotnias into regiments was the same as for true cossacks. In general the regiments were commanded by army officers, but there were exceptions. Other army officers were likewise incorporated along with ethnic officers. The former naturally carried army rank titles while the latter those for cossacks. Weapons were basically the same as for cossacks, but there were significant deviations. In place of spurs all ethnic personnel used the nogaika. There were no trumpeters except for the Teptyars. Only mounted troops were raised, namely by the following nationalities:

1. Kalmucks.

a) Stavropol Kalmucks, from the middle Volga, also called baptized Kalmucks (from the former Torghut Horde). In 1803 these received cossack privileges and henceforth were required to provide 1 mounted regiment of 10 sotnias. Since May of 1812 the prescribed strength was to be 1178 men, analogous to that of the Orenburg Ataman Regiment. The commander is unknown, but as all the regiment's officers must have been a Kalmuck. [The commander was Sublieutenant Baryshevskii 1st, a baptized Kalmuck, succeeded by Captain Diomidii from the Orenburg Garrison Regiment – M.C.] Presumably the regiment wore a blue cossack-style uniform. No flags are documented. The unit was in the field since the beginning of the war against Napoleon.

b) Kalmucks of the lower Volga (from the former Khoshut Horde). From these were raised one 5-sotnia regiment each from Astrakhan and Samara provinces. The commander of No. 1 is unknown [Tundutov – M.C.] but that of No. 2 was Captain Prince Tyumen. No uniform was worn in 1812. During the campaign Regiment No. 2 carried an old Kalmuck flag of straw-yellow background with colored painting, while the 1st Regiment may not have carried any flag. Both regiments were in the field since the outbreak of the war against Napoleon.

2. Crimean Tatars.

These had provided men since 1783, which in 1811 were organized into 4 regiments each of 5 sotnias. They were named after the main towns of their recruiting districts in the Crimea: Perekop Regiment – Maj. Khunkalov, Eupatoria Regiment – commander unknown, Simferopol Regiment – Lt. Col. Prince Balatuk, Feodosia Regiment – Captain Shirinskii. National dress was probably mixed with pieces of cossack uniforms. Each regiment had five flags, of which the 1st Sotnia's was plain white and the others of plain black. The first three regiments listed took part in the campaign against Napoleon. Of these the Eupatoria Regiment was joined to Col. Knorring's Tatar Lancer Regiment and remained so until the end of the war in 1814. The Feodosia Regiment was at first on cordon service on the Dniester, but about 1 November it went to Dubno to join Maj. Gen. Komnen's force in order to escort transports to the army, and thus to a small extent took part in the field campaign.

3. Teptyars (in the Ural Mountains, Orenberg Province).

They provided 2 mounted regiments each of 5 sotnias: No. 1 (raised 1790) – Maj. Temirov, and No. 2 (raised 1798) – Lt. Col. Strukov. In regard to their organization they had the distinction of having musicians, of whom two for each sotnia are recorded, and furthermore they could have 8 non-commissioned officers for each sotnia (in addition to 2 on the regimental staff), as well as 1 staff-trumpeter. The prescribed strength of a regiment would thus be 622 men. They were uniformed like the Orenburg cossacks. Both regiments were in the field since the beginning of the war against Napoleon.

4. Bashkirs (in the Ural Mountains, Orenberg Province).

In 1811 2 mounted regiments each of 5 sotnias were raised from them. No. 1 – commander unknown, and No. 2 – Maj. Lachinov. Both were in the field since the beginning of the war.

In 1812 a further 18 regiments were levied: No. 3 – commander unknown, No. 4 – Lt. Col. Tikhanovich, Nos. 5 and 6 – commanders unknown, No. 7 – Maj. Vilchik, No. 8 – Capt. Kleshivtsev, No. 9 – Staff-Capt. Popov, No. 10 – Capt. Matsepanov, No. 11 – Maj. Makovskii, No. 12 – Maj. Chokov, No. 13 – Staff-Capt. Shulgin, No. 14 – Maj. Selesnev, No. 15 – Capt. Kondrat'ev, No. 16 – Capt. Trunov, No. 17 – Maj. Ovdinitskii, No. 18 – Capt. Tikhanovskii, No. 19 – Maj. Serebrenikov, and No. 20 – Maj. Rudnev. Of these regiments Nos. 3 to 5 wre already with the field army by 1 November, or on the march there. No. 6 was in Nizhnii-Novgorod under Lt. Gen. Graf Tolstoi, from where it then was sent to Ustyushnu. Nos. 7 to 20 at the time were still just leaving the home territory for Nizhnii-Novgorod, which they reached in December.

The organization of the Bashkir regiments was the same as for cossacks, but it appears that the increase in non-commissioned officers from 10 to 22 that was ordered in the spring of 1812 was either not carried out by the Bashkirs or not ordered for them. The prescribed strength of a regiment was therefore only 579 men. Weapons consisted only of a lance, saber, and bow, and the regiments raised in 1812 set out without even the lance, being provided with them only when they had reached the army. Firearms were first obtained by using captured weapons taken during the campaign itself. All Bashkirs wore their national dress, characterized by a tall, pointed fur cap with broad fold-down edges (see the accompanying illustration). No flags.

5. Meshcheryaks (in the Ural Mountains, Orenberg Province).

From them 2 regiments of 5 sotnias each were raised: No. 1 – commander unknown, and No. 2 – Maj. Butler. By 1 November the first regiment was already at Nizhnii-Novgorod while the second was still on the march from the homeland. In regard to organization and other matters they were the same as the Bashkirs. The prescribed strength of each regiment was thus 579 men.

6. Caucasians.

In 1764 a so-called Mozdok Mountaineer Command had been raised in the city of that name from Ossetians and Kabardans who had gone over to the Russians. Its strength was about 3 officers and 100 horsemen. National costume, weapons included a dagger. Stationed on the Caucasian Line near Mozdok.

7. Isker Tatars (in West Siberia).

These formed 3 mounted town commands each of 100-200 men in the towns of Tobolsk, Tyumen, and Tomsk (raised in the 17th century), 500 horsemen all together with about 15 officers. National costume. They remained in their home territory, where they reinforced the West-Siberian Line.

8. Buryats (in the Trans-Baikal).

Since 1764 4 regiments each of 600 men were levied from this people. Each regiment was presumably of 5 sotnias each of 120 men and 18 officers, and they were designated as Nos. 1 to 4. Weapons were sabers and bows and presumably also lances. National costume, no flags. They saw service on the East-Siberian Line.

9. Tungus (in the Trans-Baikal).

Since 1761 1 regiment of 5 sotnias with 500 men and about 15 officers was levied from these. In other regards they were as the Buryats.

(Kirghiz: although part of this nation was already official under Russian sovereignty, no troops were levied from them. It is nonetheless possible that some baptized Kirghiz took part in the campaign in units of the neighboring Ural or Orenburg cossacks. From other ethnic nationalities in Russia drafts were taken only for regular formation, and no special units were raised.)

Therefore in 1812 nine ethnic peoples raised troops, namely:



Prescribed Strength






Crimean Tatars















Siberian Tatars









Total formations:




That actual strengths were under the prescribed numbers also held true for ethnic native formations. For calculation purposes one may make a 50% reduction under authorizations for regiments in the field (they received no replacements), and 10-15% for regiments newly raised in 1812. Siberian units, however, can presumed to be at almost full strength. Thus by 1 November 1812 the total number of men on hand would be about 17,000. As for cossacks, the only higher formations were provisional brigades.

C) Mounted Mass-Levy Formations.

A general call-up of a mass-levy (opolchenie) was made in the months of August and September at the provincial level, which led to individual mass-levy regiments being named after the particular province. At the same time there arose a small number of units that were raised by either government officials or private persons at their own expense. Officers were mostly retired army officers or government officials, the latter with ranks equivalent to their civil-service grade. Non-commissioned officers were often called uryadniks as in the cossacks, and likewise privates were titled cossacks.

The regiments were variously organized and could be 5, 8, or 10 squadrons, also called sotnias. The fighting strength of a squadron wavered between 100 and 150 privates. Combatants in a regimental staff were 1 commander, 1 or 2 adjutants depending on the number of squadrons, 1 quartermaster, and if musicians were planned for—also a staff trumpeter (sergeant). In each regiment there were 2 more field-grade officers besides the commander, assigned as either battalion (half-regiment) or squadron commander, depending on the regimental organization. The number of noncombatants ran to about 5% of the fighting strength. The mounted mass levy also had a supply train, but for most regiments this consisted only of country wagons.

The weapons of a mass-levy horseman always included a lance or spear (not for non-commissioned officers), and every man was supposed to have a saber, but that was carried out to only a limited extent. Firearms were even more rarely available. Except for the officers and apart from a few units the mass levy wore their peasant dress with a yellow metal mass-levy cross affixed to the headdress as the sole piece of uniform insignia. In place of the often unavailable spurs many mass-levy cavalrymen had a riding whip although none—unlike for cossacks—was prescribed. Flags are recorded for only two formations, and otherwise none seem to have been carried.

All mounted mass-levy units took part in the campaign against Napoleon after they were raised, although some set forth only in December.

Provinces succeeded in raising the following formations:

1. Moscow Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 10 squadrons. Commanded by Maj. Gen. Prince Svechin. A division into two battalions was not planned. According to regulations the combatant strength of a squadron consisted of 1 captain (or in 2 squadrons a field-grade officer), 2 subaltern officers, 12 non-commissioned officers, 120 privates (no musicians!). The total authorized strength with staff (4 officers) was thus 1354 combatants.

The regiment was plainly still being formed and not yet complete when the main army's retreat through Moscow forced it to leave along with it. On 14 October the commander, Maj. Gen. Svechin, was appointed to the regular cavalry, a sign that only elements of his mass-levy regiment were on hand. Furthermore, at this time mass-levy horses with the main army were requisitioned for regular troops, and the present elements of the Moscow Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment would henceforth have found employment on foot guarding supply transports or performing similar duties. In any case the regiment was not mentioned any further.

2. Tula, 2 mass-levy cavalry regiments and 1 mounted battery. Like the Moscow Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, both cavalry regiments were of 10 squadrons: No. 1 – Maj. Gen. Prince Shcherbatov, and No. 2 – Lt. Col. Beklemishev. They were in service in 1812.

The battery commanded by Maj. Kuchin should have been raised at a full strength 8 officers and 280 men (exclusive of noncombatants) with 12 guns. At the turn of the year, however, only a half-battery set forth, while the other half, perhaps never being completed, in any case even later never went into action. Trumpeters seem not to have been present!

As a kind of substitute for the lack of uniforms all units of the Tula mass levy appear even as they were raised to have been distinguished by variously colored shoulder straps that the men affixed to their civilian coats.

3. Kaluga Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 10 squadrons, Col. Shepelev. Organized like the Moscow Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment. Set forth in September.

4. Ryazan Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 10 squadrons, Col. Maslov. Organized like the Moscow Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment. Set forth in September.

5. Smolensk, 6 mass-levy squadrons, organized like the Moscow regiment, each of 135 combatants. Raising a complete regiment did not happen due to the swift enemy advance into this province. Insofar as circumstances permitted, the districts of Beloe, Sichevka, Yukhnov, Roslavl, and Smolensk, plus the districts of Dorogobuzh, Vyazma, and Gzhatsk, all had to each raise an approximately squadron-sized mounted detachment. Because the district mass levies of this province had to operate separately and large distances were involved, their mounted detachments were never combined into a regiment. The mass-levy cavalrymen of the town of Smolensk were the first mass-levy formation to join the army, doing so on 28 July!

6. Tver Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 5 squadrons, Col. Boltin. A prescribed strength like that of the Moscow Regiment but for only 5 squadrons and with one less adjutant on the staff, thus 678 combatants. Set forth in September.

7. Yaroslav Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 5 squadrons. Commander unknown. Organized like the Tver Regiment. Set forth in September.

8. Kostroma Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 5 squadrons, Col. Nebol'sin.

9. Nizhnii-Novgorod Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 5 squadrons, Guards Capt. Koslov.

10. Simbirsk Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 5 squadrons, Guards Staff-Captain Tret'yakov.

11. Penza Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment, of 5 squadrons, Col. Bezobrazov. Exceptionally, this unit carried standards, one for each squadron, with a green background.

All four regiments under entries 8. through 11. were organized like the Tver Regiment. They set forth for the front in December.

12. Kazan mass-levy cavalry, as an exception only 3 squadrons were formed, commander unknown. In other details formed like the Tver Regiment. Set forth in December.

13. St. Petersburg, 2 mass-levy cavalry regiments, each of 5 squadrons: No. 1 – Col. Yakhontov, and No. 2 – Baron Bode. These regiments were also called the Petersburg Volunteer Cossacks since many men joined voluntarily. They were also referred to by their commanders' names. The men were all uniformed, with each regiment being prescribed a special uniform, and they were fully armed like regular troops. The lances had pennants in squadron colors. The supply train was also regularly organized, so this mass-levy regiment differed from a regular unit only in the number of subunits and smaller number of privates that were appropriate for irregulars. The prescribed combatant strength of a squadron consisted of 6 officers, 1 squadron sergeant, 9 non-commissioned officers, 2 trumpeters (non-commissioned officers), and 100 privates, the last also being called cossacks. In total the regiment's authorized strength was 594 combatants (including 3 officers and 1 staff-trumpeter in the regimental staff), and when noncombatants were included—634 persons with 575 lower ranks' riding horses, 32 draft horses, and 11 wagons (excluding the officers' supply train). In November both regiments were located in Riga.

14. Four Ukrainian cossack regiments, each of 8 squadrons in 2 battalions: No. 1 – Col. Graf Witte with Maj. Pichelstein as deputy and later successor, No. 2 – Col. Prince Shcherbatov, No. 3 – Col. Prince Obolenskii, and No. 4 – Col. Minitskii. The raising of these regiments was ordered by the czar a month earlier than the rest of the mass levy, with the first three regiments being from Kiev Province and No. 4 from Podolia Province. Despite an official designation as cossacks they were in all ways mass-levy formations whose officers and men were enrolled in the same way as the rest of the mass levy. They had nothing in common with real cossack except for the name (the last remnants of the Ukrainian Cossack Host had already been disbanded in 1784!). To distinguish them from true cossacks they were ofter referred to as regular cossacks. All regiments were uniformed alike, being distinguished by various regimental colors, and were armed with regulation weapons. The lances had pennants in regimental colors. The supply train was presumably organized as in the regular cavalry. Besides the commander each regimental staff had two other field-grade officers who served as battalion (half-regiment) commanders, but they were not given an adjutant or staff-trumpeter. The fighting strength of a squadron comprised 4 officers, 1 squadron sergeant, 10 non-commissioned officers, 2 trumpeters (non-commissioned officers), and 150 privates, the last being called cossacks. The combatants in the regimental staff consisted of 3 field-grade officers, 2 adjutants, 1 quartermaster, and 1 staff-trumpeter. The fighting strength of a regiment therefore came to 1342 men. In October all four regiments went to Brest-Litovsk to Lt. Gen. Sacken's corps.

15. Fifteen Little-Russian cossack regiments, each of 8 squadrons in 2 battalions. These were 10 regiments from Poltava Province and 5 regiments from Chernigov Province. The commanders were: Little-Russian Poltava Cossack Regiment No. 1 – Maj. Kuklyarskii, No. - Maj. Dagarn, No. 3 – Staff-Capt. Obernyi, No. 4 – unknown, No. 5 – Lt. Col. Sankovskii, No. 6 – Court Councilor Svetskii, No. 7 – Maj. Aleksandrovich, No. 8 – Col. Dekonnor, No. 9 – Maj. Tolbich, No. 10 – unknown; Little-Russian Chernigov Cossack Regiment No. 1 – unknown, No. 2 - Col. Potryasov, Nos. 3 and 4 – unknown, and No. 5 – Col. von Schönert. The lower ranks were drawn from descendants of the former Ukrainian cossacks of these provinces and who at the time for that reason were excepted from general conscription. In all other regards these cossack regiments were plain mass-levy formations that were commanded exclusively by Russian officers. The men marched out in their peasant dress, and arms were lacking. The prescribed strength for combatants was the same as laid down for the Ukrainian cossacks. All regiments took the field in October.

16. Livonia Cossack Regiment, of 8 sotnias (squadrons), presumably in 2 battalions. Commanded by Privy Councilor Sievers. This was another regiment that had nothing in common with cossacks besides the name! The men wore a cossack-style uniform and were supposed to be armed like them, except for having firearms. Little more is known about this regiment, which in 1812 served for only a short time in the Riga garrison. Presumably the sotnias counted a fighting strength of 3 officers, 10 non-commissioned officers, and 100 privates who were called cossacks. The total prescribed strength of the regiment would amount to 910 combatants.

From persons in state service there were formed:

17. Coachmen's Mass-Levy Regiment (stage and relay drivers), of 10 squadrons (sotnias), commanded by Col. Beshentsov. This regiment was raised on the czar's orders in the month of October separately from the normal mass levy by General-Adjutant Kutuzov in Tver Province from government stage and relay drivers. It therefore appears under the names Tver Train Personnel, Tver Postmen, Beshentsov's Regiment, and in 1813—simply (and not entirely accurately) Tver Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment. Nothing is known about its organizational details. It may have been organized into 10 squadrons (sotnias) like the Moscow Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment but with each squadron having under its 3 officers only 10 non-commissioned officers and 100 privates. The total prescribed strength including the staff (4 officers) would thus be 1134 men. The regiment took up duties at the beginning of October.

18. Two squadrons of mounted forestry personnel, one each from Volhynia and Minsk. The commander of a reserve corps, von Mosyr, caused these to be raised and as early as August they had joined that formation. Upon examination of the actual strength raised one can assume for the Volhynia squadron a prescribed strength of 165 men, and for the Minsk squadron 113.

The following were raised by private persons at their own cost:

19. Graf Saltykov's Hussar Regiment, raised in Moscow Province. It was to be organized in 10 squadrons, with regulation uniforms and equipment. However, Napoleon's swift advance on Moscow interrupted the unit's formation. The personnel on hand, about the strength of one squadron of 150 men (the regiment is therefore in many source called only Saltykov's Squadron), first joined the main army as it retreated through Moscow but then on an order from Kutuzov of 23 September moved to Kazan for further organization. Apparently the strength could not be appreciably increased there, since in January 1813 its incorporation into the Irkutsk Dragoon Regiment was ordered, that unit at the time being converted into an hussar regiment.

20. Maj. Gen. Graf Mamonov's Lancer Regiment, raised in Moscow Province. It was to be 5 squadrons, with regulation uniforms and equipment. But the formation of this Moscow cavalry regiment was also interrupted by the loss of the city. The men on hand, 150 at most, joined the main army. On 4 October Kutuzov ordered the transfer of Maj. Gen. Graf Mamonov to the regular cavalry. At this time the regiments few men were sent to the cavalry reserve where the unit could be filled out. At the end of 1813 the regiment with 600 horsemen again reached the army.

21. von Skarzinski's Cossack Squadron, raised in Kherson Province. It was planned to be raised after the model of a cossack squadron in the neighboring Ukraine but with 6 officers, so that the authorized strength was 169 combatants. This mass-levy squadron was another unit whose only thing in common with cossacks was the name. It was uniformed and carried a standard with a white unicorn on a light-blue background. The squadron first saw active service in 1813.

It must yet be mentioned that individual provinces also raised mass-levy reserve troops, including Simbirsk, Kostroma, and Penza which each formed a mass-levy reserve cavalry regiment (of 5 squadrons for Simbirsk Province and 3 squadrons for both of the others). None of the mass-levy reserve ever went into service, no more so than the voluntarily raised mass-levy of some other provinces such as Kharkov with one cavalry regiment possibly formed and Kursk with seven, each of to have been of ten squadrons. Since none of these formations appear anytime during the entire campaign against France into 1814, and their actual raising (not just on paper) cannot be documented and is thus doubtful, we do not consider them here.

Therefore in 1812 the following mounted mass-levy formations were raised:





Prescribed Combatant Strength

Raised by provinces:

Moscow, Kaluga, Ryazan – 1 regiment each










Tver, Yaroslav, Kostroma, Nizhnii-Novgorod, Simbirsk, Penza – 1 regiment each






St. Petersburg



Ukrainian cossacks (3 Kiev, 1 Podolia)



Little-Russian cossacks (10 Poltava, 5 Chernigov)



Livonia cossacks



Raised from government personnel:

Coachmen's (postmen from Tver Province)



Forestry personnel (1 squadron each from Volhynia and Minsk)


Raised by private citizens:

Graf Saltykov's Hussar Regiment



Maj. Gen. Graf Mamonov's Lancer Regiment



von Skarzinski's Cossack Regiment







In regard to actual strengths it must be noted that with the exception of Moscow regiments (of which Saltykov's and Mamonov's are entered in the table only with their achieved numbers) and the Tula battery, all formations nearly reached their prescribed strengths for privates. On the other hand, there was a great lack of officers and non-commissioned officers. In this regard only the St.-Petersburg and Ukrainian regiments as well as Skarzinskii's squadron were approximately complete. In general one may therefore assume that the shortfall from prescribed strength was about 15%. Since on 1 November 1812 almost all the mounted mass-levy units were already formed and until then there were no significant losses, their actual total numbers at that time amounted to about 35,000 combatants (besides 200 noncombatants).

No higher formations were envisaged for mass-levy cavalry. During the campaign years of 1813-14, however, mass-levy cavalry brigades as well as divisions were formed. These higher formations were still never more than provisional, and brigade and division commanders were always the highest ranking or most senior of the regimental commanders.

D) Volunteer corps raised against Napoleon.

1. Lt. Col. von Diebitsch 1st's corps, raised in September and October of 1812 in Beloe District from deserters of various nationalities who voluntarily declared themselves willing to serve against Napoleon. The corps would be almost entirely mounted and it reached a strength of over 300 men, or 3 sotnias (squadrons). At the beginning of November it was disbanded by General-Adjutant Volkonskii, but as a result of a petition by Lt. Col. Diebitsch to the czar the volunteers of German nationality were placed back under his command. Once again without taking part in any fighting as a unit, in 1813 the corps was incorporated into the Russo-German Legion being raised at that time.

2. Schmidt's Volunteer Horse-Jäger Corps, mostly called just Schmidt's Volunteer Regiment or Freikorps, was raised in the fall of 1812 from Livonians and reached a strength of 3 sotnias each of 10 non-commissioned officers and 100 privates, there being a total of about 15 officers. No trumpeters! The corps (regiment), which was presumably uniformed, thus had a strength of 345 men. At the end of November it joined the Riga garrison.

(Col. Figner's corps was initially raised during the 1813 truce at Fraustadt near Glogau in Silesia from Italian and Spanish deserters, achieving a strength of 150 mounted men. It was recorded as uniformed. The Russo-German Legion, likewise first raised in 1813, and which included two hussar regiments, was never classed with the cossacks!)

All together the small volunteer corps raised in 1812 provided 1 regiment and 4 squadrons (sotnias) with 750 combatants, who were in fact present in that number on 1 November 1812.

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

The following summary shows the total numbers provided by “cossacks” in the broad sense of the word:



Prescribed Strength (approx.)












Ethnic Peoples




Mounted Mass Levy





Volunteer Corps











Calculating 5 sotnias per regiment and leaving out artillery and foot troops, on obtains 225 mounted regiments with a prescribed strength of 151,000 with the actual number of combatants present on 1 November 1812 being 113,000. Of these, true cossacks and ethnic peoples alone provided 186 regiments with109,000 and 77,000 combatants, respectively.

In contrast, the regular cavalry (less the guard cossacks) consisted of 65 regiments (include 5 in the guards) that had an authorized strength of 69,000 combatants, including the depot squadrons which for the most part took the field. Even at the beginning of the war, however, actual strength was 25% less than authorized, and 50% less by 1 November 1812, so that only about 35,000 combatants were in the ranks.

Of cossack formations in the wider sense of the word, there were in the field against Napoleon in 1812 or sent out at the end of the year:

A) True cossacks: from the Don Host – the Guards Regiment, Ataman Regiment, and 63 other regiments as well as 2½ mounted batteries; 3 Ural, 2 Orenburg, and 3 Bug regiments; from the Black-Sea Cossacks – 1 Guard Sotnia (with the Don Guards Regiment) and 1 foot druzhina.
B) Ethnic peoples: 3 Kalmuck, 4 Tatar, 2 Teptyar, 20 Bashkir, and 2 Meshcheryak regiments.
C) Mass-levy cavalry: all 35 regiments and 11 sotnias, as well as ½ mounted battery.
D) Volunteer corps: all, namely 1 regiment and 4 squadrons.

Thus a total of 140 mounted regiments, 16 mounted sotnias (squadrons), 1 foot druzhina, 2 full and 2 half batteries.

Though cossacks were not the kind of troops that decided battles, in 1812 the special skills in hit-and-run warfare of the true cossacks along with a some of the ethnic peoples' formations were not negligible in contributing to the success of the campaign against Napoleon. Furthermore, at the same time they alone (apart from some garrison battalions) protected Russia's borders from the mouth of the Kuban to the Amur, and from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

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1 cossack Schadow don 1813

Illus. 1. “Cossack,” drawing by Schadow. This depicts a Don cossack as seen and sketched by Schadow in Berlin in February or March of 1813. He still wears the uniform of 1812.

Horseman Cotta Don cossack 1813 Russian army

Illus. 2. “Horseman,” engraving by Cotta. A Don cossack from the fall campaign of 1813. His regiment had been issued new uniforms during the truce.

Ural cossack 1812 Elberfeld manuscript Russian army Peasant cossack mass-levy 1812 opolchenie Yaroslavl mounted cavalry

Illus. 3. “Ural Cossack,” from the Elberfeld manuscript, datd 13 November 1813. This must be a private from the 4th Ural Cossack Regiment who received new clothing after 1812. In any case, that is what the beige-colored summer pants indicate. (For more about the three manuscripts referenced for the drawings see Knötel in Uniformekunde, vols. XI, XII, and XVII, and in Das Kasket, 1925, vols. 1 and 2.)

Illus. 4. “Peasant Cossack,” Elberfeld manuscript, dated 9 November 1813. From this date it can only be a trooper from the Yaroslav Mass-Levy Cavalry Regiment. This member of the mass-levy must have acquired his cap and patched pants from a Don cossack who perhaps in the meantime had found better ones. Most striking is the sling of the firearm, consisting only of a rope knotted in front. The coat and footwear show how the mass levy must have appeared in general.

Bashkir 1813 1812 1814 Berlin bow Wittgenstein regiment Freiberg manuscript fur capBashkir 1813 1812 1814 Berlin bow Wittgenstein regiment Freiberg manuscript fur capBashkir 1813 1812 1814 Berlin bow Wittgenstein regiment Freiberg manuscript fur capBashkir 1813 1812 1814 Berlin bow Wittgenstein regiment Freiberg manuscript fur cap

Illus. 5-8. Noteworthy are the Bashkirs' head coverings and weapons. The head covering was an ample fur cap, worn with the fleece on the inside. It had a brim made up of four flaps. The front flap was always worn folded upward while both sides and the back flap hung down for protection against the cold in winter as well as against sword cuts in battle. Otherwise these three flaps were also tied up or rolled up. For weapons Bashkirs added to their swords a king of bow and arrow with quiver and bow case. Regiments Nos. 1 and 2, which were in existence since 1811 and thus before the beginning of the war, also had since 1812 lances and pistols. On the other hand, regiments Nos. 3 to 20 which were first raised in 1812 started with neither lance nor firearms but received these only when they had joined the army.

Illus. 5. Kuhbeil: a Bashkir—Unter den Linden, 11 March 1813, on the day the “imperial Russian army under General Graf Wittgenstein” entered the city. Wittgenstein marched into Berlin on 11 March 1813. According to Berlinischen Nachrichten No. 31 of 31 March 1813, a picket of cossacks and Bashkirs brought up the rear of the column. This must have been Bashkir Regiment No. 1 commanded by Major Lachinov, since this was the only regiment with Wittgenstein at the time. This Bashkir has his cap flaps turned down. Since he comes from Regiment No. 1, in 1813—really, since 1812—he has a very regulation-looking saber and a pistol on a cord. Of the pistol's cartridge pouch, only its belt is visible.

Illus. 6. Dresden manuscript. Bashkir with folded-down fur cap whose outer side, as often depicted elsewhere, is colored red or is covered with red felt.

Illus. 7. Contemporary copper etching. Bashkir with cap cap, as often described.

Illus. 8. Freiberg manuscript. Bashkir in summer dress. The cap flaps are rolled up. Noteworthy are the overlong sleeves which are also reported in written descriptions. This must be a drawing from 1814 during the march homewards.

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Translated by Mark Conrad, 2007.