Some Information Concerning Markov’s Horse-Artillery Company


(In 1812 in Diaries, Notes, and Memoirs of Contemporaries; Material of the Military Archive of the Main Staff. Series III. Wittgenstein’s Corps. Compiled by V. Kharkevich.)

The short notes printed here concerning the activities of Markov’s Horse-Artillery Company during the Patriotic War are among the papers of A. I. Mikhailovskii-Danielskii. The author, one the officers who served with this company, is unidentified.


In the spring of 1812, before the outbreak of the Patriotic War, Staff-Captain Markov received an order to form Horse Company No. 23 in the town of Pskov in the shortest possible time for operations in the campaign against the French. To this end he was given young officers, a small cadre of old soldiers, and recruits, some from Pskov province but the remaining and greater portion were Latvians and Estonians who did not understand Russian. And almost all the horses were from the steppe and half wild. Not an easy assignment. But this was the monarch’s will, and since to every Russian his will was sacred it was met in the most satisfactory way. In a little over four months the company was trained and ready for campaigning.

The company commander was a most religious man and always inculcated this spirit among all his subordinates. Before setting out, in his own name as well as that of his officers and lower ranks, he asked the Pskov governor, Prince Petr Ivanovich Shakhovskii, to allow us to provide funds to establish a chapel in Pskov to mark our happiness in having the good fortune to be carrying out the sovereign’s orders. (It is still there, opposite the government offices in the square, and in front of the company’s icon image of St. Michael Archistratig there burns an eternal lamp.) Permission was granted, services were celebrated, the young soldiers were sprinkled with holy water and blessed with signs of the cross, and with the best wishes and prayers of the citizens, they left to join Graf Wittgenstein’s separate corps.

The company arrived at the army just when it was getting ready to storm Polotsk, and in its first battle it was under such terrible fire that even an old soldier looked to God to save them. Young, inexperienced troops need special encouragement every minute, and the example of their officers and company commander. And in such situations he was unique; he was always the first to be himself an example in everything anywhere he went, and the whole company’s trust in him and its desire to imitate him were incredible.

The company acted gloriously and was one of the first to enter Polotsk. For this, from that day onward Markov’s recruits were gladly and unreservedly accepted into the ranks of Graf Wittgenstein’s courageous fighters, in the vanguard of which the company served for the entire war until the taking of Paris itself. It was only withdrawn from the forefront of the forces for that time necessary to reform it after its very frequent, shocking, and unheard-of replenishments of officers, lower ranks, and horses, and as necessitated by damage to the artillery ordnance itself.

Inside Russia, among other battles after Polotsk and Chashniki, the company especially distinguished itself at Borisov. It is well known with what desperation Napoleon repulsed our attacks, hoping to save the remnants of his forces. He had to show Europe at least a fragment of the massive horde which had been flung into Russia.

In contradiction to the old legend of a golden bridge being laid for a fleeing enemy, Markov’s company was making such an exemplary bombardment on the crossing that they drew upon themselves all the fire of the enemy batteries, which here caused the loss of about one hundred men and even more horses.

Graf Wittgenstein mourned such losses in his beloved company and ordered that it be rebuilt immediately. Since there were no other soldiers, the company was given naval gunners and even captured Spaniards, Germans, and others who were turned into gantlangery (unskilled crew members). Almost all of them were in peasant shoes made of bast along with their tail coats, but in Russian helmets. It is noteworthy that not one of them deserted. Horses were taken from the enemy. In this form the company returned to the vanguard in three days and then became part of General Shepelev’s flying column.

End of translation.


Translated by Mark Conrad, 1996.