(“Doklad general-auditoriata po delu o knyaze Gorchakove 2-om (1809 g.),” from Mikhail Sokolovskii. Russkaya Starina, 1905, Vol. 122. Pgs. 690-95.)

The General-Auditoriat’s Report on the Case of Prince Gorchakov 2nd (18 September 1809)

Lieutenant-General Prince Gorchakov 2nd was arrested and through the court process the following was determined:

In the signed Highest ukases of Your Imperial Majesty, issued 8 July of this year to General and Commander-in-Chief Prince Golitsyn and the Military Governor of Lithuania Golenishchev-Kutuzov, it was related: in the first, to General Prince Golitsyn:

“...from the copy you sent of Lieutenant General Gorchakov 2nd’s reply to a letter he received from Archduke Ferdinand, you saw his own very clear statements concerning his wish to see a union of our forces with the Austrians, when not only according to all existing laws, but also by common understanding, no serving general can possibly allow himself to make any answer in similar situations to an official of a foreign power other than to acknowledge receipt and that the letter would be forwarded in the original to higher authority. Considering this violation to be one of those most seriously inimical to good order in the service, I direct you to arrest Prince Gorchakov 2nd and send him to Vilna to the Lithuania military governor, General-of-Infantry Golenishchev-Kutuzov, who is given the order to try him by court-martial.”

In the second ukase, to General Golinishchev-Kutuzov:

“The minister of war will deliver to you all papers relating to Lieutenant General Prince Gorchakov 2nd receiving a letter from Archduke Ferdinand and sending a reply that is not allowed without government permission, all the more so since its sense is a declaration to him of his desire to join together with the corps of troops under his command. In accordance with the seriousness of this transgression I ordered you as the commander-in-chief of the army General-of-Infantry Golenishchev-Kutuzov to arrest him and send him to Vilna. You yourself I direct to put Lieutenant-General Prince Gorchakov 2nd to a court-martial, with you as court president. I await the most speedy conclusion to this affair.”

Subsequently the aforementioned minister of war sent to this general by special register the papers comprising the correspondence of this case. It was also stated that by Highest direction there was included in this file (to be shown as an example to the person under trial) a report by General Rimskii-Korsakov for the Emperor’s attention, dated 10 March last, in which he directly presented to Your Imperial Majesty a letter from Archduke Ferdinand which he also received, without making any kind of answer, which report along with the referenced letter was in copy delivered to the aforementioned General-of-Infantry Golenishchev-Kutuzov, and added to the file. Meanwhile on 1 August Lieutenant General Gorchakov 2nd was delivered under arrest to Vilna.

The abovementioned letters that comprise this correspondence read as follows:

In the letter of His Royal Highness Archduke Ferdinand from Warsaw, dated 30 April new style, to Lieutenant General Prince Gorchakov:

Taking advantage of a courier passing through Brest, I wish to inform you of the successes Emperor Francis’ armies in Italy and Germany, the details of which you will find in the accompanying bulletins. Knowing your frame of mind when considering events that concern the whole of Europe, for which the Russian army recently fought so bravely, I am confident that you will take part in events that must, I hope, have an influence upon the opinions of governments. I am very glad to be in your proximity and with impatience await the time when our brave troops will again join together on the field of glory.

Accept, Prince, my assurance of the respect with which I favorably regard you,


In Lieutenant General Prince Gorchakov’s letter from Brest dated 21 April (3 May) or 22 April (4 May), addressed to His Royal Highness Archduke Ferdinand:

“With the greatest zeal I hurry to thank Your Imperial Highness for the flattering message with which you deigned to honor me, and I congratulate you for the glorious successes obtained by the army of His Imperial Highness your Most August brother-in-law, and most especially for your own successes. And in regard to myself, showered with the favors of Emperor Francis and His Highness the Palantine of Hungary, I pray for the well-being (je fais des voeux) of your Most August House.

It would be desired that our brave troops join together on the field of honor. Impatiently I wish for and await the time I join Your Highness with the corps I have the honor to command.

Please accept as you well deserve the feelings of utmost respect and deep esteem with which I have the honor to be Your Imperial Highness’s most humble and and most obedient servant,

Prince Andrei Gorchakov.”

And in Prince Gorchakov’s report to General-of-Infantry Prince Golitsyn, which by Highest direction was presented to the commander-in-chief of the army along with the concerned letters, and whose subject was the contents of the letter from Archduke Ferdinand, were only copies because at the time he considered this correspondence to be a transitory affair and not for the permanent record. He recalled all that he wrote, which closely corresponds to the original version presented above, and if there was any omission, it does not subtract in the least bit from an exact presentation of intent. He really only disremembers the exact wording, but in regard to meaning and presentation of thoughts he maintains then as they were exaclty as in the original. The only misremembered item was the actual date of his answer, which he could not confidently recall, but that it was written on one of two days, as set forth in the answering letter he presented. It was additionally made clear that he is a bit fatigued by a perceived insult. By his patriotic spirit he is unshakeable in the conviction that he did not even for a moment deviate from Highest Will, and pointed out the entire 18th Division that was under his command, in that after the publicized rupture with the Austrians, he personally impressed upon the soldiers and indeed all its military personnel that the Your Imperial Majesty’s glory of arms would gleam over the Austrians the same as it has everywhere else.

To the court-martial’s commission he gave responses as follows: that his correspondence with the commander of the Austrian corps, Archduke Ferdinand, was his only reply to the letter he had received; that he decided to write this reply because the break between Russian and Austria was not known to him, and because he considered himself obliged to write a suitable respectful answer to a personnage of a power that was friendly to Russia. In regard to the matter of Austria at that time being considered a power friendly to Russia, he offered to the court-martial commission the following in evidence: a letter from the archduke received on the 20th, and his answer to it sent 21 April our style. The breaking of diplomatic relations between the Russian Empire and Austria was announced in the S.-Peterburgskiya Vedomosti only on the 22nd of that same month of April, which he read in Brest-Litovsk two weeks later. He did not report to his superior the receipt of the above-mentioned letter because he considered it unofficial and personal, as could be seen from its delivery being not by special intent, but by a courier who happened to be passing. Regarding his inclusion of words describing his impatience while waiting for the time his entrusted command could join the archduke, that expression was chosen solely as a means of address while he was keeping in mind that he was writing a reply to a subject of a power friendly to Russia, without any suspician that it could be detrimental to the fatherland or his personal honor. As proof of this he stated that as soon as he found out about the break in dipolmatic relations with Austria, and when the 18th Division, which he had the honor to command at the time, was ordered to enter Austria territory, he sought to inspire soldiers and and all other ranks of the division to perform the feats of arms against the Austrians that were characteristic of Russians, and this makes it a certainty that not even for a moment did he even think of deviating from the will of Your Imperial Majesty. In 1799, during the Russian forces’ campaign in Italy as allies of Austria, he received the order of Maria Theresa 3rd class, and from His Highness the Palantine of Hungary—favorable mentions, personally in St. Petersburg that same year and when traveling through Moscow in 1803 during maneuvers. Besides the letter set forth above he has had no similar correspondence of any kind and never received anything from any Austrian subject. All that is written above he declared upon his honor to be the very essense of truth.

To discover anything in contradiction to this, regarding his, Prince Gorchakov’s announcements to the division he commanded, the court-martial commission determined to contact the army command-in-chief, General-of-Infantry Prince Golitsyn, so that he might order the deposition of evidence from Major General Graf Lambert regarding the words he said, but because in the meanwhile the commission on 27 August received a Highest Order through the minister of war to its president General-of-Infantry Golenishchev-Kutuzov that laid down that no certifications of any kind were necessary in the trial of Lieutenant General Prince Gorchakov 2nd, and that the Sovereign deigned to order that he, the general-of-infantry, be told that the case should be brought to the most rapid close. So based on this, the commission decided to close the investigation without waiting for confirmatory information from the army commander-in-chief. When it is received, it will be the task of the commission’s president to send it to the General-Auditoriat for examination, but it has still not yet been received.

The personal service record obtained by the state military commission through the inspection office shows: entered service in 1781 and promoted through the ranks in regular sequence, in current rank since 1800, was in campaigns and battles under the command of the late Generalissimus The Prince of Italy, Graf Suvorov-Rymnikskii, never sentenced to punishments, for feats in the face of the enemy has the orders of St. Alexander Nevsky and St. Anne 1st class, decorated with diamonds (as could be seen when he was questioned), and St. John of Jerusalem; foreign awards: from the Austrian emperor – Maria Theresa 3rd class, from the king of Sardinia – the order of Maurice and Lazarus 1st class, from the king of Bavaria – the order of St. Hubert and the Golden Lion, from the king of Prussia – the order of Merit; age 30.

SENTENCE. The court-martical commission, after considering all the circumstances detailed above, finds that in this correspondence there was not the slightest thought inclined toward treason and that it was in actuality written before publication of the severance of diplomatic relations with Austria, as seen in Sanktpeterburgskiya Vedomosti No. 33 of 22 April. However, Article 128 of Army Regulations states: “and do not venture to write on military affairs, on troops or fortresses, nor correspond with others,” but the meaning of these words as contained in this article relates to the circumstance of an army’s military operations when it is facing the enemy, and the above referenced correspondence originated in peacetime, so that the accused is not subject to this law. But in the same regulations in Chapter 10, it is written, inter alia, “a commander in the army may not act without the permission and orders of his superior commanding general.” The accused violated this law by not reporting on these events to his commander-in-chief, but in this case the laws do not define a precise punishment, and the commission was guided by Naval Regulations Book 5 Article 145, in which it is stated: “all violations of this kind that are committed but which have no exact examples given in the articles, and which by general counsel are found beneficial to create and define, will be taken in hand and punished.” On this basis the members’ opinions are in agreement in finding that the accused Lieutenant General Prince Gorchakov 2nd, in spite of his high rank, committed an error in judgment regarding correspondence with the commander of Austria forces and included inappropriate expressions in his letter, which he originated, albeit unwittingly and without intent to harm, but nevertheless in contradiction to Military Regulations Chapter 10, quoted above, an is sentenced to remain under arrest until such time as Highest Authority sees fit, with the fact of his trial and arrest to be entered into his service record. However, all this is submitted to Your Imperial Majesty’s Highest Will in regard to whether or not after such a lapse the guilty party can be entrusted again with a position in the army that demands exceptional reliability, the determination of which is not the business of this commission.

The General-Auditoriat concludes that in this case Lieutenant General Prince Gorchakov 2nd, received a letter to him from the commander of an Austrian corps, Archduke Ferdinand, and although he considered it personal, the fact is that a general officer, especially with troops, is not under any circumstances allowed to state his personal desire that there be an alliance with one or the other of two sides engaged in hostilities, so that in this regard no one may venture to express a preference in a matter that is the perogative of the Sovereign alone. However, every general must be informed that in the army any action similar to that described is strictly prohibited. In regard to what he wrote being before the publication of the severance of diplomation relations with Austria, since both combatant sides were at that time in equal degree of friendship to Russia, it follows that all the more so it should not have been written, as not only did it clearly favor one side over the other in stating a desire to act together, such a reply with such expressions, although of course without any suspicious motive, could sometimes very well have a damaging effect on state affairs, thus such an answer in his letter was unallowable, all the more so since he knew that the power that was at war with the Austrians was in a state of friendly alliance with Russia. Therefore it is determined that because the actions of the guilty lieutenant general were careless of his responsibilities and inappropriate to his rank, and in equal measure clearly in violation of military regulations wherein it is stated: “as a high commanding general is like a human soul in a body, in which nothing moves without the soul, so it is in the army, where it is not permitted for a commander to act without the direction and order of his higher commanding general.” It is with this in mind that we find that although the court-martial on the basis of Naval Regulations Book 5 Article 145 sentenced him, Prince Gorchakov, after general consultation, to arrest for as long as Highest Authority sees fit, Article 35 contains the legal principle: “if no punishment for the violator is found in the laws, yet laws have been issued without it, then the judge is to proceed to punish the violation as stated in Articles 27 and 28.” On this basis the recommendation is that he, Prince Gorchakov, be sentenced for his erroroneous judgment to enlistment as a private, but since in Paragraph 22 of General-Auditoriat regulations it is stated: “The General-Auditorat, in issuing an opinion regarding punishment for a guilty person, shall not diminish the force of the law, but rather, in examining the reasons that led to the crime, be it intentional or unintentional, shall take into consideration previous service, a reproachless life, and good behavior, and in less serious violations where it finds that the severity of the punishment provided by the law might be ameliorated, it is to submit the fate of the guilty person to the mercy of the Imperial Majesty.” Guided by this and taking account his, Prince Gorchakov’s, previous excellent service, which merited the award of various Russian and foreign orders, and of the wounds he received in battle, we venture to humbly submit: might it not be good that there be a Highest Order to entirely release him from the service, not to be appointed to any position in the future, and to prohibit him from traveling to the two capitals. In the contrary case we submit to Your Imperial Majesty’s Highest Will.

(On the report is the handwritten resolution of Emperor Alexander I: “To be according to the judgment of the General-Auditoriat.”)

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Translated by Mark Conrad, 2010.

Note by the translator: Gorchakov was indeed separated from the service in 1809, but was rehabilitated in 1812 and played a distinguished part in the Battle of Borodino and later at Bautzen. His latter career included membership in the State Council.

Additional Note: The reader might notice variances in the wording of the letters quoted herein compared to the same letters as presented in the Notes section of Bogdanovich’s account of the 1809 war. I believe the discrepencies to be due to the letters probably being written in French, and Bogdanovich and the General-Auditoriat (or perhaps Sokolovskii) each made their independent translations into Russian.