MY MILITARY LIFE
An article by Lieutenant General of the Don Host Yakov Petrov Baklanov, written by his own hand.
(Originally published in "RUSSKAYA STARINA", January 1871, Vol. 3.
Translated by Mark Conrad, 1993.)
I was born in 1809 of poor parents and was an only son. My father entered service as a cossack
and worked his way up to the rank of colonel. He was continuously with the regiment so he could not
concern himself with my upbringing. My mother was a simple woman without any means and
gave little thought to my being taught reading and writing. But my dear grandmother one day announced to me
that I must go to learn letters from Kudinovna, an old woman who was literate and accepted children
for schooling. For two years with her I had the church primer notched in my brain -- "A - angel - angelic,
archangel - archangelic" --and from here I was passed on to the parish sexton and learned by heart the
"Chasovnik" prayer-book. Then I was passed on to a church chanter with whom I went through the psalter.
In 1816 my father returned from the Napoleonic Wars in the rank of yesaul [Cossack captain] and in 1817
he was detailed to Bessarabia in Gorbikov's Regiment, taking me with him. On arriving at the duty station
I was given over to the sotnia clerk for further study in reading and writing, and in a year I was turned over to
the regimental clerk.
In 1823 the regiment was discharged back to the Don. From 1823 to 1825 I lived at home and was occupied
in farming. I plowed the earth, reaped hay, grazed the domestic animals, and there was no talk about my education.
My father, himself knowing little in the way of reading and writing, did not consider it necessary to check
my own knowledge and was convinced that his son had achieved literacy, having gone through such renowned
institutions under the care of the above-mentioned wise men,. But things had come out differently: I could not
sign my last name and only read books with the greatest difficulty, since my tutor-clerks had little to do with me
while I myself had little desire to study. Instead I had spent whole days and nights loafing in the barracks
among the cossacks, hungrily listening to stories of the deeds of our ancestors along the Azov and Black Seas,
at the siege of Azov, and of various episodes by new generations in later wars, and it was to this harmony that
I often fell into a sweet sleep.
In 1825 my father was ordered to the Crimea in Popov's Regiment; he took me with him as fully enrolled as
part of the regiment. Being promoted in turn to uryadnik [Cossack noncommissioned officer] and serving in a sotnia
on the march, I was required to write entries for the morning report and sign them, but I was unable to do
either one or the other. My unexpected illiteracy greatly shocked my father.
Upon arriving in the Crimea, he considered it his first priority to go to the town of Feodosia where there was
a district school and hand me over to the director of that institution at that time, Fedor Filippovich Burdunov,
to receive instruction at an agreed tuition. Thanks to this most honorable person, during my year's stay with him
I went through all the studies taught in the district school and was first among the students. Perhaps I would have
stayed a long time with Burdunov, but my mother, left alone at home, kept demanding in her letters that
my father come home on leave and bring me along to get married. Father carried out this request, and with the marriage
my further education came to an end.
In 1828 war with Turkey broke out. By order of the higher command, our regiment was moved to European Turkey.
Before we set off on the march, the Governor-General of New Russia at that time, Prince Vorontsov, arrived in the Crimea.
He ordered the regiment to provide an officer to carry despatches to Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich in Brailov.
My father had taken over the regiment after the death of its commander, and I myself was an officer in the regiment.
For this assignment they nominated me. Having received everything needed for the journey through Moldavia and Walachia,
I arrived in Brailov. After handing in the despatches, I waited ten days for the order to return to the regiment.
One day before evening, I heard them calling for volunteers for an assault. Not thinking what might be the consequences,
I announced that I was willing to be among them. At midnight, the whole detachment of volunteers, supported by closely packed
columns of infantry, moved forward. At dawn we quietly approached the main battery and, shouting "Ura!", threw ourselves
into the assault... What happened next, I cannot say for the following reason: when we ran up to the ditch we were
thrown up into the air; many were buried by earth, several were carried away from the battery, but apparently I had flown
quite a few yards through the air like a feathered bird. The next day I came to consciousness lying in a tent among the wounded.
The assault had been unsuccessful, the losses heavy. After five days I was signed out of the hospital as recovered and
was ordered to get back to my regiment, which was moving to a place called Riiny where the Prut River flows into the Danube.
After awaiting the regiment there, I considered it my first priority to tell my father about my bravery, expecting to receive praise.
But alas! Instead of praise my father beat me with his nagaika whip, saying, "Don't descend into the whirlpool when you are
away from your unit, but when with it go through fire and water."
The regiment crossed the Danube to Isakchi. On 22 October 1828 it arrived at the Kostendzh Fortress. From here it manned
an observation line along the Troyanov escarpment to Chernovody, on the Danube above Girsov. Here we stayed through
the winter since our forces which had been in front of Shumla and Silistria returned for the winter to Moldavia and Walachia,
leaving strong garrisons in the fortresses we had occupied.
The winter was very severe so it passed peacefully. With the coming of spring in 1829 the troops wintering along the left bank
of the Danube moved on Shumla and Silistria. Our regiment joined the main forces going to Shumla and in the course of a whole year
it took part in many battles. In this regard I can relate the following event which concerned me personally. In July the army moved
from near Shumla to cross the Balkans. On the 7th as part of a group of volunteers I threw myself into the Kamchik River
to swim my horse across. Its width was no more than twenty yards, and we threw ourselves into the water under canister fire
from twelve Turkish guns located on the river's right bank. Many of the volunteers were killed or drowned, but four-fifths of them,
numbering two thousand, crossed successfully and forced the Turks from their position, thus making it possible for our columns to cross.
For that daring I received from my father an encouraging reward: several blows on the back with his nagaika, supposedly because
I allowed myself to take a black horse and not my white one which was strong and reliable, and I could have drowned with the black.
But this is what came out: may father did not want me to rashly hurl myself into all the difficult tasks. Finally understanding him and
valuing my back, I no longer allowed myself such daring feats.
From Kamchik we moved forward. Crossing the Balkans, on 11 July, 1829, we occupied the towns of Misevriya and Akhiol after a fight.
On 12 July my father's regiment was sent to reconnoiter towards the fortified city of Burgas. Near there our regiment met with Turkish cavalry
some 700 strong and engaged them in battle. We broke through them and pressing hard on them forced our way into the city and
pushed out the garrison. The town was occupied with little loss and trophies consisted of several fortress guns and mortars.
For this bravery my father received the Order of St. George, 4th Class. My own horse was killed under me and I was the last to enter the fortress.
On 8 August the army occupied the Turks' second capital, Adrianople, without a fight, and with the conclusion of peace on 8 January, 1830,
the regiment entered winter quarters in Rumelia. On 21 April it set off on the march for the Bessarabia District to take up border guard duties
along the Prut River. On 14 August, 1831, the regiment was released back to the Don.
From 1831 to 1834 I lived at home.
In the spring of 1834 I was detailed to the right flank of the Caucasian Line in Zhirov's Regiment, where I stayed until it came back
to the Don in 1837. While in the Caucasus, I took part in many affairs with the mountaineers. For my part, none were especially distinctive
so that they stood out from the regular series of cossack activities, unless it is the following.
The regiment was deployed along the Kuban River. In the spring of 1836, at the order of the commander of the Kuban Line,
Major General Zass, the regiment with its full strength moved across the Kuban to the Chamlyk River. Upon arriving, we began to build
a fortification, and in a month it was finished. The regiment took up quarters in it. While it was being built, the horses were pastured upriver
under the protection of one sotnia. Seeing this mistake, the mountaineers decided that they would go to any length to drive off
the whole horse herd from the covering sotnia. With this in mind the mountaineers gathered 360 men, picking the best riders
from their princes and warriors. In the night before 4 July this band crossed the Laba River and secretly moved across to the Chamlyk,
halting below the fort about a mile away in a forest. Their intention was that when the horses were let out to pasture, they would come
whooping out of ambush and drive away the whole prize at no cost, since there was no one to pursue them. By their reckoning,
the whole regiment would be left on foot except for the mounted covering sotnia, but they were bitterly mistaken since after the regiment
occupied the fort, the horses were no longer let out to pasture.
According to standard procedure, at sunrise the regiment's sotnia commanders assigned to duty that day had to send out mounted patrols
up and down the river for about two miles, and if after looking over the area there did not appear to be anything suspicious, the patrol leaders
left pickets at suitable places and returned to the fort with the remaining personnel. On the 4th I was the duty officer; my sotnia
had its horses saddled, the men were wearing their accouterments. The sun rose. The patrols were sent out. Going out to a battery position,
I was following behind them. Sent out down river, they crossed the Gryaznushka Stream, ascended the heights, and descended toward the Chamlyk.
Because of the woods I could not see the catastrophe that was befalling the patrol. After a quarter of an hour a galloping rider appeared,
left alive out of fifteen in the patrol; the other fourteen were killed. Behind him was a huge line of cavalry. I immediately ordered my sotnia
to mount their horses and went out toward the mountaineers. About a quarter of a mile from the fort I met with them but did not engage them,
considering myself too weak in numbers as there were no more than one hundred men in the sotnia. So I withdrew towards the walls of the fort,
waiting for the regiment to sally forth. The mountaineers, seeing their failure, turned around and slowly went back.
Inside the fort there was terrible disorder; everyone was running back and forth, not knowing what to do. The regimental adjutant came up to me
and transmitted an order to go after the band. I moved out following them but at a good distance, at every step choosing an advantageous position
--this was a protective measure used throughout the Caucasus. The mountaineers crossed the Chamlyk and were moving toward the Laba.
Between these rivers, for about fifteen miles, there were no trees, just a plain, and in sight of the fort they rushed at me with their shashka swords.
Being ready for such an action, the sotnia dismounted and met the mountaineers with battle fire. I fought off the attack for half an hour;
I had no killed or wounded, and the men remained firm in spirit, but the mountaineers left twenty bodies behind. The band withdrew.
I also set off behind them at a respectful distance. I went about a mile; the fort could no longer be seen. Over the course of six miles I withstood
twelve attacks and suffered twenty casualties.
After the seventh attack I sent Uryadnik Nikredin to the regimental commander to ask for reinforcements and to say that the sotnia
had no more cartridges. After the tenth attack Nikredin appeared and in a hoarse voice relayed the commander's answer: "Tell that cutthroat
that if he doesn't have ammunition, there are still lances, and not to rely on me."
To my asking whether the regiment was far from us came the answer, "As of yet, Your Honor, it still has not left the fort."
I was devastated by this news. Rain began to pour down. The eleventh attack followed. After the first shots the muskets were soaked,
and the moment became critical; fortunately the attack only lasted about five minutes. The band withdrew. I also came after them.
Summoning Subaltern-Officer Polyakov (later killed in action), I explained to him our situation, adding that I as well as himself had good horses
and we would be able to gallop away but in that case our little brothers would be sacrificed, so would he give me his word of honor to die together
with his brothers with glory, not considering disgrace? The answer: "I want to die honorably, and do not desire to survive disgrace."
After thanking him, I laid out my following instructions: "The mountaineers are still attacking us and, if they find us steadfast, they withdraw;
we need to use that moment. Listen, the second half-sotnia will remain under your command. With the first, I will charge with lances,
and if you see that the mountaineers are pressed in the least, in that same moment reinforce us with your lances. But if they turn me back,
dismount and take up a defensive position on foot. I will join you and we will fight hand to hand as long as we are still alive."
I was not mistaken. The twelfth attack came. Meeting our unyielding resistance, the mountaineers turned away from us, going slowly.
The sotnia mounted its horses. Thunder rolled in the distance and its sound was much like the rumble of cannon wheels. I turned to the sotnia
with the following words: "Comrades! Do you hear the rumble of the cannon wheels? It's the regiment hurrying toward us; the mountaineers are powerless;
their muskets and pistols are also soaked like ours. The regiment will appear suddenly and scatter them like chickens! But that doesn't matter,
all glory will be ascribed to us. You yourselves have all day presented your mighty chest and will hold on no matter what. Fellow cossack villagers!
We will not let them appropriate our work. Lances level! With God! Forward!"
The first half-sotnia tore into the center. Every cossack ran his lance through his victim. This-our unexpected and daring sally-shattered the mountaineers;
instead of repelling us, no one lifted his sword. Polyakov did not lose a moment and reinforced me with his half-sotnia. The knocked-over mountaineers
threw themselves into disordered flight. We followed them for ten miles to the Laba River. Some three hundred bodies were left behind;
no more than sixty men got away. To this day this affair is remembered in the line cossack villages on the right flank of the Caucasian Line.
Returning to the regiment, I collected the horses scattered across the plain and took the weapons off the dead. None of the mountaineers
were taken prisoner since it was difficult to demand of the cossacks, men enraged like lions, that they spare their enemies. Going toward the fort,
after about three miles I met the regiment coming toward us with two field guns. What the reason was on the part of the commander of the regiment
for tossing me and the sotnia to our doom--I am unable to explain. For this action I received the Order of St. Vladimir, 4th Class; Polyakov --
the Order of St. Anna, 3rd Class.
During the time from 1837 through 1845 I was in the Instructional Regiment in Novocherkassk, and in Poland for three years in Radionov's Regiment.
In 1845 I was specially assigned to the Left Flank of the Caucasian Line in Shramkov's Regiment. From here, on the personal orders
of the Viceroy of the Caucasus, Prince Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov, I received the command of No. 20 Regiment, being a major at the time.
The headquarters of the regiment was at the Kurinsk fortification. In 1850 the regiment was released back to the Don, but I myself, at Vorontsov's request,
remained in the Caucasus and took over the command of No. 17 Regiment which had arrived to relieve No. 20.
I commanded the 17th Regiment until 1853 when I handed it over to Lieutenant Colonel Polyakov (a relative of my former subaltern-officer
in Zhirov's Regiment). I myself was named commander of all the cavalry of the Left Flank, for which reason I moved to the Groznaya Fortress.
In April of 1855 I was summoned to Kars, in Turkey, at the order of Commander-in-Chief Muravev. A detailed account of my participation
in the siege of Kars as well as its storming was printed in Russkaya Starina, 1870, Vol. II, pp. 567-610. As there were numerous incidents
during my service on the Left Flank, I refrain from a complete description, but I will point out a few of the more interesting events.
From 1845 to 1853 I and my regiment drove off from the mountaineers about 12,000 large livestock and 40,000 sheep. Not one raiding party
that came down from the mountains to the Kumyksk Plain returned without being punished; they were always destroyed and it was
a rare man from among them who managed to get back safe and sound. Having the most loyal scouts and paying them well, I was also warned in time
of mountaineer movements. With my regiment I fell upon them and annihilated so many that by the end of 1853 the mountaineers ceased their raids
within our borders. The mountaineers called me "dadzhal," which translated means a devil, or one who has turned away from God.
In December of 1851, the then commander of the Left Flank, Prince Baryatinskii, called me to Groznaya where he gave me the order
that starting in January I was to undertake the completion of the clear-cutting, already begun, from the Kurinsk fortification to
the Michuk River, and then regardless of cost cross over and clear the forest along the left bank as much as possible. I had to hurry
to begin carrying out these tasks because he, Prince Baryatinskii, was going to march out of Groznaya to Shalinsk Meadow to
continue the clear-cut toward Avtury, from where he would move through Greater Chechnya and Maior-Tup to Kurinsk, and he would notify me
in time of his movement to battle so that I could move out towards him with my forces.
On 5 April, 1852, from the fortifications in the Kumyksk Plain I gathered three battalions of infantry, my 17th Regiment,
a composite line cossack regiment, and eight field guns. I set to chopping down the forest; in the course of a month I reached the Michuk
and after a two-hour battle crossed to the left bank. By 16 February, 1852, the woods had been cleared for 200 yards back from the bank
for a distance of 700 yards. On the 17th I was letting the troops stay in the forts for a four-day rest, but at noon on that same day
word came from a tower standing a half mile from the fortifications that from beyond the Michuk in the direction of Avtury there could be heard
not only cannon shots but even battlefield musket fire. Taking the four sotnias of my regiment, I rode out using the clear-cut to
Kochkolykovsk Ridge, from where a heavy exchange of fire was heard in Maior-Tup. I knew that Baryatinskii was going to Kurinsk,
and since Maior-Tup was ten miles from Kurinsk, I would that night surely receive a message from the scouts telling me
to march out to join forces. At that moment, because the troops had been dispersed, only three companies of infantry, four sotnias of cossacks,
and one gun were left with me. So at that moment, from the heights I wrote a message in pencil to the fortification at Gerzel-Aul ten miles away,
to Colonel Ktitorev, telling him to leave one company in the fort and to march out to me with two companies and a gun.
I directed another message to the post at Karagand twelve miles away demanding two sotnias of cossacks from there. Each message was entrusted
to three cossacks on good horses, proven by brave deeds, with orders to deliver them to their destinations at all costs.
The requested units arrived by midnight. Right after them came a scout from Baryatinskii with a message telling me to be between the Michuk
and another river at dawn and await his column. Ten minutes later my own scout appeared and announced that Shamil with all his
bands of followers, some 25,000 men, was across the Michuk opposite my clear-cut and had reinforced a line of pickets.
The imam was sure that I would set out to unite with the column and that he would be able to prevent my moving in time.
A local naib accompanied by venerable elders--as I learned through my scouts-appeared before Shamil with the following words:
"Imam! In vain thou art guarding against the old vixen on this path; she is not so foolish as thou thinketh she is. She will not crawl
into thy mouth, but will go around by paths that not even a fly could get through on!" But Shamil rejected their advice and
took no precautions on the side trails.
At two o'clock in the morning, with four companies, six sotnias of cossacks, and two guns, I moved across the Kochkolykovsk Ridge
to the right of the clear-cut, through a virgin forest and off any road so that the guns and caissons were carried by hand over stumps and logs.
Overcoming all obstacles, by sunrise I was at the designated place. Upon joining with the column I marched in the vanguard with my regiment.
Reinforced with four batteries and eight guns, I took control of the enemy's breastworks after a fight. Deploying among them,
I let the whole column pass through and was the last to move away across the Michuk, and it was only at midnight that we arrived at Kurinsk.
For occupying the enemy's field fortifications I received the St.-George Medal in 4th class, but this award was bought at the cost of
the spilled blood of my brothers. My regiment lost as killed Major Bannikov and about seventy cossacks; wounded were two officers and
about fifty cossacks. Three horses were killed under me.
While the forest was being felled from 5 January to 17 February, 1852, there was the following occurrence. One evening the
battalion commanders and officers joined me to drink tea together. In the middle of this appeared my famed scout, Alibei. When he came in,
I greeted him in the native tongue, "Marshudyu." The answer: "Marshi Khyil'li." My question: "Ne kabar? Mot Ali." ("Be well."
"I give thanks for my well-being." "What is new? Tell me.") Suddenly the whole of the honored company turned to me asking that
the scout be questioned not by me who understood the native tongue, but through an interpreter because his news interested them all,
and I might hide it from them. Not suspecting what Alibei came to tell me, I ordered an interpreter to translate into Russian:
"I came to tell thee: Shamil has sent from the mountains a marksman who with the bullet from a rifle can hit an egg placed upright at 120 yards.
Tomorrow thou goeth to cut the forest, and hath the habit of riding straight out to a mound opposite the battery we abandoned
on the other side of the Michuk. In it will sit this marksman and as soon as thou rideth out to the mound, he will kill thee. I considered it necessary
to give warning of this and I advise-do not ride out to that mound."
After thanking my Alibei, I gave him a beshket as a present and withdrew. At sunrise the troops stood to arms. I moved them to the Michuk.
It must be said that every soldier already knew about Alibei's message. My situation was unpleasant. Not to ride to the mound would
clearly show myself to be a coward, but to go and stand on the mound was to be killed. Some kind of desire to show off welled up inside me;
I decided to ride to the mound. The distance across the Michuk River from the mound to the battery was about 350 yards. After covering
no more than 700 yards, I halted the column. With five orderlies I rode to the exposed place. I halted them at the foot of the mound and
took my rifle from an orderly. I rode up on the mound and stood facing the battery. I cannot hide what I felt; now fever, now chills seized me,
and a myriad of shivers crawled down by spine. Then a rifle flashed in the breastworks. The sound of a shot followed. The bullet flew by
on my left without hitting me. The smoke cleared. The marksman, seeing me sitting on my horse, lowered himself down into the battery.
The motion of hands could be seen--he was ramming home a charge. The rifle appeared for a second time; a shot followed. The bullet went to the right,
passing through my paletot. Dumbfounded by the errancy of his shots, the marksman jumped up onto the breastwork and looked at me
in astonishment. At that moment I took my left leg out of the stirrup and laid it on my horse's mane. Resting my left elbow on my leg,
I laid the rifle and fired a shot, and my rival flew backwards into the battery. The bullet had hit him in the forehead and passed on through.
The troops, who had been standing silently, erupted into an "Ura", and the Chechens across the river jumped out from behind the low earthen walls
and in broken Russian intermixed with their own language began to shout through cupped hands, "Yakshi Boklu! Well done, Boklu!"
For the wildness of the marksman's shots I was obliged to the hostile Chechens. For when the marksman appeared before them and
began to boast that he would kill "Boklu" (in the Chechen language, "Lion"), then in response they told him the following: "We have heard about thee;
thou lets fly with a bullet from a rifle to hit an egg. But doth thou knoweth that we ourselves have seen what kind of marksman is the one whom
thou boasts of slaying. Firing from a rifle he kills a fly. Yea, in this we must tell thee: a bullet will not take him; he is acquainted with shaitany (demons).
Know that if thou misses he will immediately kill thee."
"Now, well," said the marksman, "I will roll a brass bullet. His shaitany will not save him from that!"
This was the whole reason for his erratic shots; when he was aiming at me, the stress on his nerves widened his eyes and ruined his accuracy.
On 29 January, 1853, Prince Baryatinskii came with his force from Groznaya to Kurinsk and began clear-cutting the forest
on the Kobi-Shavdonsk heights, intending to build a fortification. From 6 to 17 February the woods on the heights and
on the slope towards the Michuk were leveled. It was necessary to cross the Michuk but the banks on both sides where
it was joined by the Ganzovka River were steep drops of some fifty feet. On the left side were Shamil and a horde of 40,000 with 10 guns
placed over the bank in a battery made from fascines. Crossing in the open was unthinkable as troop losses could amount to half the column,
and success would be doubtful. What was required was a concealed roundabout movement.
On the evening of 16 February Baryatinskii summoned me to his tent and said, "Granddad," which is what he always called me,
"the route across the Michuk is in the open-it would mean terrible losses. You know this whole region. Couldn't you get around Shamil's flank?"
I asked for a delay of two days for my regiment's cossack plastun infantry to find a place either up or down river that was
unknown to the enemy. In reply he said, "Time does not wait. Find out this very night, and at dawn you, Granddad, will be the one
who has to go across!"
Returning to my command post, I summoned the plastun section's well-known leader, Uryadnik Skopin (later yesaul), and ordered him
to right away go out himself to scout the area for about five miles upriver and return at dawn to report whether the crossing was suitable
and if the Chechens were on guard there.
Skopin returned and announced, "The crossing is satisfactory; there are no guards." That same minute I was off to Baryatinskii and
woke him with the good news.
"And how many troops do you need, Granddad?" asked the prince.
I said, "Let me take three battalions of the Kura Regiment, my regiment, a double squadron of dragoons--the Nizhnii-Novgorod men,
the Composite Line Cossack Regiment, and eight guns."
"Take them and God help you. I'm depending on you. If you carry out my order, I then will right away move to the Michuk
and open up with artillery fire to mask your movement."
As I was leaving Prince Baryatinskii, I asked that if contrary to hope I was discovered by the enemy and became engaged in a fight with them,
then not to send a single man to my rescue, since that would be a useless effort. No amount of reinforcements could save my force,
and it would only increase casualties.
At sunrise a thick fog covered the whole area and at the same time covered my movement. My force moved along
the north slope of the Kochkolykovsk Ridge. Passing the Kurinsk fortification, I turned sharply to the left and
through dense forest and ravines reached the Michuk. I crossed without being noticed by anyone and set off down the Michuk.
By the noon hour the fog dispersed; Shamil saw me approaching his right flank. Surprised by such an unexpected guest,
the imam withdrew from Michuk, and Baryatinskii with all his forces moved across the river under my cover. Casualties,
instead of being several thousand, were limited to ten or fifteen lower ranks killed or wounded.
Incidentally I will note one thing. The commander of the Kabarda Infantry Regiment, Colonel Baron Nikolai, received
the George Cross, 4th Class for the brave(!) feat of being the first to let himself down a rope to the Michuk at the flank of my column.
Truly, as the saying goes, "Don't be born beautiful, be born lucky."
But here is a real and genuine example not only of courage but of the truest selflessness. On 25 February, 1853,
in the heavy fighting at the destruction of the villages of Dengi-Yurt and Ali-Yurt, being the column commander at that time
and directing the troops, I did not pay attention to the Shavdonka, a marshy stream. To cross it without a bridge-inconceivable;
it was 50 feet wide. On the left side were logs and stumps from the felled forest, from the cover of which several tens of rifles
were directed at me. Skopin, my famous plastun, was behind me and saw my grave danger. He galloped forward and
stopped in front of me, shots followed, bullets hit him in the right shoulder. Skopin did not fall from his horse, but turned to me
and said, "Your Honor, this was meant for you, but out of jealousy I took them myself. I hope you will not be severe with me for this."
Such an event impressed the entire force.
Skopin has three St.-George medals.
In 1857 I was named the field ataman of the Don regiments in the Army of the Caucasus. At the end of 1859 I was reassigned
to the Don Host where in 1861, as the choice of the nobility, I was elected district general of the Second Military District.
Ya. P. Baklanov
Note. There are many stories about Baklanov's numerous feats during his military life in the Caucasus. Old cossack warriors
relate them with special fondness. Of the many episodes of which we heard, we allow ourselves to relate one from our notebook.
In this one there especially stands out a characteristic trait of the Caucasus veteran. Namely, his devotion to duty
with the utmost selflessness. On 19 December, 1853, Baklanov marched his column out of Groznaya Fortress to fell the woods
on the nearby heights. From here Yakov Petrovich heard heavy cannon fire taking place six miles away between the Sunzhaya and Argun rivers
at the Chortugaev crossing. Leaving the infantry to continue working, Baklanov with 2500 men from one line cossack and
two Don cossack regiments and a double squadron from the Danube Host all went through the woods at a half gallop. After going
along the left side of the Argun for about four miles, the force encountered the mountaineers.
Numbering some 4000 horsemen, they were moving from the Sunzha toward the Argun. Battle commenced. After a short resistance
the entire enemy mass was overthrown and they threw themselves into flight, littering the ground with their corpses.
At the very beginning of the fight Baklanov's eldest son, Nikolai Yakovlevich, was seriously wounded by a bullet in the left leg.
His father did not see him as he fell since he himself was far off at the head of the reserve moving up behind the cossacks
who were rushing on the enemy with lances and shashkas, and was ready to support those bold men at any moment.
Suddenly the elder Baklanov came across the commander of one of the Don regiments, Colonel (now Major General) Yezhov,
the bravest of the brave. The colonel was on foot and weeping. Baklanov asked him in reproach, "What's the meaning of this?"
"You really don't see the blood of your brave son?" answered Yezhov.
The old warrior did not glance at his son but angrily turned to Colonel Yezhov. "So then, so a good cossack has fallen.
He was in the front, but you now, Mister Yezhov, by what right do you remain beside one wounded man, leaving to the whim of fate
your regiment's eight hundred sons entrusted to you? On your horse! To your own brave sons! Otherwise I will cut you into pieces!"
The astonished Yezhov jumped onto his horse and like an arrow rushed forward. The wounded young Baklanov remained in place,
unconscious. The father had no time for his son. The general feared that ahead in the woods there might appear yet more
fresh mountaineer forces which would strike the cossacks, dispersed by their own charge, and victory would be exchanged for defeat.
Intent on preventing such an occurrence, General Baklanov was moving forward with the reserve and not only did not pause
for a minute over the son, but also did not consider it possible to leave a cossack beside him.
The mountaineers were decisively crushed. On the cossacks' way back, the wounded son was placed on a stretcher made from lances
and brought to Groznaya Fortress. From this wound, the young Baklanov (now lieutenant colonel) lay for almost a year unable to walk.
For his many actions against the mountaineers from 1845 to 1853, the fame of which will long live on in the Caucasus,
Ya. P. Baklanov was promoted to lieutenant colonel, colonel, and major general, and awarded a gold saber, the Orders of Vladimir 3rd Class,
Anna 2nd Class, George 4th Class, and Stanislaus 1st Class. - Ed.