(Chapter 5 of Voennaya Odezhda Russkoi Armii.)


Military Uniforms and Material Supply of the Russian Forces

during the Reign of Alexander I


by G.N. Nesterov-Komarov, 1994.


After Emperor Paul’s death his oldest son and heir succeeded to the Russian throne, reigning from 1801 to 1825. Graf N. I. Saltykov was considered Grand Duke Alexander’s teacher - a limited but clever imperial courtier. In actual fact it was the Swiss Lagarp who took care of the upbringing and education of the future emperor. Lagarp was an adherent of republican ideals, and helping him in this was Azbuka izrechenii, a book of dictums especially composed by Catherine II for her grandson. The Azbuka contained such sayings as, "By birth all people are equal". In his youth, therefore, Alexander often expressed to those close to him his hatred of despotism and love of freedom. He was intent on making inviolable laws the foundation of Russia’s well-being and leading the Fatherland onto the path of enlightenment by instituting a liberal constitution. But these were only intentions. In actuality it was the desire to win popularity and play a role in world politics that were the main stimuli that directed Alexander I’s actions.

Alexander’s ascension to the throne was greeted with enthusiasm by society and the nobility. "After the storm, the storm most horrific, today our day becomes beautiful..." ¾ sang the guards.

In his first manifesto Alexander I declared that he would rule his people and government as had been done by Catherine the Great. He expressed his hope to bring Russia to the greatest glory, make law and justice the basis of his governance, and thus provide "imperturbable bliss" to all true believers. According to the statements of those close to the emperor and knew him well, Alexander loved freedom only superficially and did not work for its actual realization. A. S. Pushkin in his novel Evgenii Onegin characterized the Russian tsar’s personality rather accurately: "A weak and cunning ruler... with a hopeless ardor for glory, reigned over us then."

Alexander was convinced that everything left him by his father was in need of reform and improvement. Therefore, the Neglasnyi Committee was set up for the preparation of government reform projects, consisting of the emperor’s closest confidantes.

The universal antipathy toward Paul I’s innovations, their clear obsolescence in comparison with Potemkin’s reforms and the battlefield experience of Suvorov demanded the abolishment of everything in the army that was from Gatchina or Prussia. However, the young emperor and his brother Constantine were under the strong influence of the style created by their father at Gatchina, and they were infected with "uniformania", a passion for the minute regulation of the troops’ clothing and equipment. Alexander I’s contemporary, General S. A. Tuchkov, in his writings gave a very clear picture of the emperor’s proclivity for the barracks. In Tuchkov’s opinion, the tsarist court was similar to an army barracks. Orderlies, messengers, and privates were dressed in clothing patterns for the various arms, and the tsar spent several hours with them making chalk marks on the uniforms. Along with brushes for mustaches and boots, the emperor’s wardrobe was filled with boards for cleaning buttons and other sundries. Alexander I was able to spend whole hours on the drill field, observing the marching, and in this regard he was like his father.

In the beginning of his reign Alexander I designated the reorganization of the ruling administration and the reduction of government expenditures as unavoidable measures. In regard to army administration the tsar was well informed. He was most of all familiar with the commissariat in that when he was still the heir to the throne, he carried out the duties of the St.-Petersburg military governor, was colonel-in-chief of the Semenovskii Regiment, and inspector of infantry and cavalry in the St.-Petersburg and Finland inspectorates. Alexander I also knew that an unavoidable need in the military administration in regard to maintaining the troops was the development of government cloth and leather manufacture, since their current state was not satisfying the needs of the forces.

Still not ready to accept radical governmental decisions, Alexander I’s first legislative acts concerned the military. One of these was an order to return to the system of naming regiments after Russian towns instead of Paul I’s method of naming them after their colonels-in-chief, and another was an ukase of 24 July 1801 dealing with the implementation of army reform. With this ukase the tsar established a special military commission under the chairmanship of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich. The commission’s members included prominent military leaders and influential persons from the military administration: Generals of Infantry Golenishchev-Kutuzov, Lamb, Prozarovskii, and Tatishchev; General-Commissary Svegin; Lieutenant Generals Volkonskii, Dolgorukov, and Arakcheev; Major General Rusanov, and Quartermaster-General von Sukhmelen.

Along with questions regarding the size of the army, unit and sub-unit tables of organization, weapons, and supply, the commission had to examine the matter of soldiers’ clothing. It was given full and far-reaching powers: "To consider everything that it finds useful or necessary to introduce or to abolish". In regard to uniforms, the emperor’s ukase of 24 July 1801 directed "with minimal expense, give the clothing a most martial and durable appearance that is also not only the most generally suitable for all kinds of service and the preservation of the health and morale of the soldier, but is most befitting for each arm of service."

While examining this question fundamental disagreements arose among the members of the commission. Members’ opinions regarding several "items necessary for soldiers’ clothing" had to be referred to the emperor for decision (about hats, combing hair, greatcoats, linings on coats, and boots).

In regard to the hat, Tsesarevich Constantine and General of Infantry Lamb came out for the tricorn while the other commission members preferred round hats, the care of which, in their opinion, did not tire the soldier as much. The round hat would not need to be constantly rebound, frequently cleaned, and preserved its shape better and longer. Regardless of such conclusions, the sovereign set forth his decision: "In agreement with His Majesty the Tsesarevich and General of Infantry Lamb."

As for greatcoats, the commission came to an unanimous decision ¾ in fine weather, or when they were not needed, greatcoats and entrenching tools would not be carried by soldiers on the march, but rather carried on wagons. Cloth for greatcoats was to be of a rough dark or light gray color, but of a single shade in each regiment.

The commission was also of one voice in regard to boots: "Greased boots are more suitable than lacquered, since cleaning them does not require wooden legs and wax polish." In this point the emperor’s decision was that "Boots are to be greased, and so that they do not fall down, two buttons are to be sewn onto each pair of pants in accordance with the pattern which will be made known to His Majesty the Tsesarevich." The buttons referred to by the sovereign were necessary for fastening the shafts of the boots to the pants so that they would always present a correct appearance.

The question of the choice of cloth for linings - kersey or linen - was reviewed thoroughly. Linen linings were much cheaper than kersey and somewhat stronger, but kersey (a less common, rough woolen fabric) was a finished product at the same establishments that made cloth for the outside of garments. By reworking the remnants of their production into kersey, the manufactory upheld the profitability and quality of its basic fabrics. If the commissariat decided against kersey, and it had indeed prepared more than three-quarter million yards of it, then a manufactory would have to lower the quality of its cloth. So it was decided to keep kersey as lining.

In their opinions regarding hair and queues, commission members were in favor of cutting the hair and abolishing queues, powder, and tallow: "which above all require large and useless expenditures from the soldier’s pay, and also constantly fatigue the soldier by forcing him to get up early or not go to sleep at all, so that everyone can braid each other’s queue and powder and tallow it." Tsesarevich Constantine and General of Infantry Lamb were of another opinion: "Do not cut the soldier’s hair, but bind or braid it so that it is not in the style peculiar to peasants." The emperor’s decision was fully in favor of the latter recommendation, but with one concession: "...do not use powder except at big parades and holidays." Thus, the braiding of queues was preserved, and the Russian army was only freed from them at the end of 1806, when the Military College received an order from the emperor: "The Sovereign Emperor, to provide relief to the forces, is pleased to direct that all lower ranks, including the guards and hussar regiments, cut their queues to combing length, and that as for generals and field and company-grade officers, they are allowed to make their own decision in this matter." This same order abolished powder and tallow except for "big parades and holidays", but they still burdened the soldier since large-scale parades were constant in the Russian army, especially for units around the court.

Having received the emperor’s opinion, the commission worked out an administrative regulation "On the Cutting and Sewing of Soldiers’ Clothing", in which were established the amounts of materials, costs, and time periods for carrying out these army orders. The release of this document was preceded by much work in producing sketches and models of military clothing items and accouterments, this effort being having been assigned by ukase to a member of the commission Lieutenant General Dolgorukov. When making new items, not only was external appearance and quality taken into account, but also economic factors. Looking for ways and means to possibly reduce military administration costs to the treasury and troops, the commission worked out the prices for all items of clothing and equipment, setting amounts that actually corresponded to the costs of these items. The new accounting of items and materials was supposed to provide a yearly savings to the treasury of over 390 thousand roubles.

Some changes in the patterns of uniforms bypassed the military commission. New patterns for cavalry units were worked out under the direct orders of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, who looked after these forces, and in some corps changes in uniforms were made at the direction of Lieutenant General Dolgorukov, partly by orders from the Commissariat Department, and partly by orders on the part of the corps themselves. The Neglasnyi Committee had no influence on the military commission’s course of business.

The reform of military uniforms began in the form of an experiment in modifying artillery clothing in conformance with the fashion of the time. The experimental military uniform of the artillerymen consisted of a high black tricorn hat, a short dark-green coat cut like a tailed frock with black collar, cuffs, turnbacks and tails, as well as narrow white pants tucked into boots.

The unsuitable lacquered shoes and gaiters that were impractical to wear were replaced by greased boots with high shafts reaching a little higher than halfway up the calf (Illus. 82). Generals and officers in their felt hats were prescribed plumes of cock feathers, with generals distinguished by a white plume. The double-breasted coat (two rows of six brass buttons) with narrow sleeves had a very high collar such that "the head appeared to be in a box and it was hard to turn it."

The coat for the guards artillery was distinguished by black velvet collars and cuffs, and for officers it was decorated with a gold aiguilette on the right shoulder and gold lace buttonholes on the collar and cuffs, which for lower ranks were sewn-on pieces of yellow tape. The edges of the collar, cuffs, bottom of the coat, and turnbacks were red throughout the artillery (Illus. 83). Army artillerymen of the line had coats entirely in cloth without embroidery or taped buttonholes. Officers were distinguished from privates by shoulder straps edged round with gold galloon, a plume of black cock feathers on the hat, and a sash with tassels, as worn by guardsmen. A similar uniform outfit was given to the Emperor’s Suite for Quartermaster Affairs (the General Staff newly reintroduced by Alexander I was called the Suite for Quartermaster Affairs). The distinction of the uniform of an officer of the Suite from that of a guards artillery officer lay in special ornamental gold embroidery on the collar and cuffs (Illus. 84, 85).

Non-commissioned officers and officer candidates ("column leaders") of the Suite did not have embroidery, plumes, or sashes.

Hats, worn with the corner pointed ahead, were worn by members of the Imperial Suite, officers of the General Staff, engineers, and topographers (Illus. 86).

Significant changes in uniforms and military administration under Alexander I began in 1802. For the army infantry (grenadier, musketeer, marine, jäger, and carabinier regiments) there were introduced double-breasted coats cut like frocks with tails, with high standing colored collars and narrow white pants (breeches), as first introduced experimentally for artillerymen. These coats were made from dark-green cloth (except for jägers, who until 1807 wore light-green colored coats), with cuffs the same color as the collar, flat brass buttons, flaps on the cuffs, and red kersey linings. The color of the collar was in accordance with the facing cloth prescribed for the regiment. Pants were made from white cloth (for summer - of Flemish linen) with drop fronts. The headdress in grenadier regiments was a grenadier cap or forage cap.

The grenadier cap was the same as under Paul I, while the forage cap was of dark-green cloth with a band the same color as the collar (or without one), with piping along the seams the same color as the shoulder straps, and a colored tassel. A black neckcloth covered the front of the throat and was tied in the back.

In the Life-Grenadier Regiment an aiguilette was kept on the right shoulder: gold for officers and yellow for lower ranks (Illus. 87).

Greased boots with round toes went halfway up the calf.

For all troops the cloak was ousted by soldier’s greatcoats made of rough, unfinished cloth of a gray color, with a colored standing collar. At first the greatcoat was made to not only fit over the coat, but a warm sheepskin coat as well. In 1806 the sheepskin coat was withdrawn from issue so that the soldiers would look trim. In cold weather the coat was taken off and stowed between the shirt and greatcoat at the waist. The sleeves of the greatcoat were cut long and turned up like cuffs so that in freezing weather they could be unfolded and used to cover the top half of the hands (Illus. 89).

Lower ranks were prescribed a backpack in the form of a round suitcase of black Russian leather 40 cm long and 21 cm in diameter. Inside the backpack one section held rusk for three days, while another section contained two shirts, foot wrappings, wool socks, a warm jacket, summer or winter pants, brushes for mustaches and for cleaning footwear. thread, needles, polish, soap, chalk, blacking for the mustache, and other sundries. The backpack was worn on crossbelts: by privates - over the right shoulder, and by non-commissioned officers - over the left (Illus. 88).

Non-commissioned officers of grenadier battalions had the same uniform as privates, except with one shoulder strap on the right shoulder (from October 1803 - with shoulder straps on both shoulders) and gold galloon sewn around the bottom and sides of the collar and the upper edge of the cuffs. They also wore white chamois gloves with cuffs, and they had canes.

Company-grade officers of grenadier regiments wore the same color and pattern coat, pants, and boots as privates, except that the coat with tails was a little longer and had narrow gold galloon around the edges of the shoulder straps. They also had gloves but without cuffs; they wore hats with black plumes of cock feathers, an officer’s silver gorget, a waist sash, and when in formation ¾ a spontoon.

The greatcoat was introduced for officers at the same time as for lower ranks, and in addition to the standing collar it had a pelerine or cape hanging from the shoulders down to the elbows. Officers wore the greatcoat when not in formation (Illus. 90).

Field-grade officers had gilt officers’ gorgets. In formation they were mounted on horses, wearing jackboots with knee-cuffs and deerskin or chamois breeches. Generals did not wear a gorget; they were distinguished from field-grade officers by their white plume on the hat.

In 1805 all grenadier regiments replaced the grenadier cap with shakos with a thick black plume of horse hair. In 1807 the construction of the shako was altered: it was made with a sewn-on visor, and on the top and sides it was trimmed with leather. The shakos also began to be called kivers (Illus. 92). The plume on non-commissioned officers’ kivers was white on top with a yellow stripe down the middle; for musicians it was red. Spontoons and canes were abolished for officers in 1807, and epaulettes took the place of shoulder straps for officers and generals: company-grade officers - without a fringe; field-grade officers - with a fringe of thin cord; generals - with a fringe of thick cord. In the same year ciphers were introduced on shoulder straps and epaulettes (either the number of the division or the regiment’s initial letter), and from 1809 ¾ the monograms of regimental honorary colonels.

In 1808, for wear by generals on parade and on stipulated days both in peacetime and during war, there was introduced a standard general’s coat of the normal officer’s patter for that time: double-breasted, of dark-green cloth, with a red collar, cuffs and turnback lining, with dark-green cuff flaps edged in red, gold embroidery in the form of oak leaves on the collar, cuffs, cuff flaps, and pockets (Illus. 91), and gold epaulettes on the shoulders. The coat was worn with white pants and jackboots with spurs. Generals in the infantry had infantry rapiers; those in the heavy cavalry ¾ cavalry swords; and in the light cavalry ¾ sabers (Illus. 93). The round backpacks used since 1802 were again replaced by rectangular ones, as under Paul I. For lower ranks it became mandatory in warm weather to carry the greatcoat rolled up across the left shoulder.

From 1809 in grenadier regiments, officers in formation had to replace the hat with the shako with a black plume, silver cords mixed with orange and black silk, and silver chinscales and tassels.

In 1812 new pattern shakos were introduced: a little lower than before, with a more pronounced concavity on top, cords, chinscales, and tassels. Along with these, the high open collar on the coat was replaced by lower ones closed by hooks and eyes. The tops of soldiers’ leather pants reinforcements and officers’ boots were raised to the knee.

Changes in the uniform clothing in grenadier regiments was extended with equal force to musketeer, jäger, marine, and infantry regiments of the army infantry with insignificant differences in color and the decoration of some items. Thus, lower ranks in musketeer regiments (except grenadiers) and marine regiments wore shakos without plumes, and in the Separate Lithuanian Corps jäger regiments had round pompons instead of plumes (Illus. 94). In construction the uniforms of jäger regiments were the same as for grenadiers, except that the coat and pants had the same light-green (from 1807 dark-green) color (Illus. 95). In marine regiments officers wore hats with black plumes of cock feathers, coats and pants of dark-green cloth with white edges and high boots (Illus. 96).

The uniforms for guards heavy infantry, the foremost representatives of which were the Preobrazhenskii, Semenovskii, and Izmailovskii regiments, were distinguished from those for the army by headdress, trim on the coat, and colored collars. In 1802 the headdress for guardsmen was a helmet of black lacquered Russian leather, with a crossways crest of black hair, a high front piece of copper with a double-headed eagle, and a cloth flap hanging down the back ending in a tassel. The coat’s collar (red in the Preobrazhenskii Regiment, light blue edged red in the Semenovskii, and dark green edged red in the Izmailovskii) was decorated with sewn-on yellow wool tape (lace bars), two on each side, while the cuffs had dark-green cuff flaps with three similar sewn-on pieces of tape (lace bars) (Illus. 96). In 1808 helmets in the guards heavy infantry were replaced with shakos with a black, pyramidal-shaped, hair plumes, brass double-headed eagle, round woolen pompon over the eagle, and cords and fittings.

In 1812 the pattern of the shako and construction of the coat collar were again altered, and boots were introduced for officers and pants reinforcements for lower ranks. Both of these latter items reached up to the knee (Illus. 97). As before, officers wore their gorgets (Illus. 98).

Starting in 1817 colored cloth plastrons, cuffs, and cuff flaps appeared on the coats of guards infantry regiments: in the Preobrazhenskii, Semenovskii, Izmailovskii, and Moscow regiments ¾ red with white edging; in the Lithuania Regiment ¾ yellow.

In 1825 officers of the Life-Guards Pavlovskii Regiment had their former shakos with plumes replaced by grenadier caps of the style worn by lower ranks in this regiment, but with gilt chinscales, frontal plate, and grenades, and a silver pompon with the tsar’s monogram (Illus. 99).

In the Life-Guards Jäger Regiment (light infantry), the uniform was the same as in the guards heavy infantry but shakos had no plumes or pompons, and the coat and pants were the same color. The plastron on the coat was dark green, while the collar, cuffs, and edging were orange. From 1817 the collar and cuffs became the same color as the coat (Illus. 100).

Cavalry during the reign of Alexander I basically consisted of cuirassier, dragoon, horse-jäger, hussar, lancer, and cossack units.

A full uniform for army cuirassier regiments included a kolet (coat), pants of deerskin or goatskin leather, riding trousers of gray cloth lined on the inner seam with black leather, and boots or jackboots. Headdress were forage caps (without visors), tricorn, and helmet. When in mounted order cuirassiers wore a metal cuirass over the kolet (over the greatcoat in winter). In external appearance and construction the hat and forage cap of the cuirassier was similar to the same items in the infantry. The helmet had a completely different appearance. It consisted of a high round body (kolpak) of black lacquered leather with a black horsehair plume raising over it, front and rear black lacquered visors edged with metal trim, and gilt plates (front pieces). Musicians had a red plume on the helmet. The kolet was a double-breasted coat cut like a tailed frock from white kersey with flat yellow or white buttons (according to the color of the metal appointments). It had a standing collar in the regiment’s facing color, cuffs, and a shoulder strap on the left shoulder (from 1809 - on both shoulders). Piping around the sleeve holes and trim on the turnbacks were the same color as the collar (Illus. 101).

The style of uniforms for guards cuirassier regiments (Cavalier Guards, Life-Guards Horse, and Life-Guards Cuirassier regiments) underwent the same changes as in army regiments and in general was similar in construction to that of army cuirassier uniforms. Differences consisted of the quality of materials and in decorative details. From 1803 all combatant ranks of the guards, when in formation, began to wear helmets of a new pattern, as in the army but with a St.-Andrew’s star on the front piece instead of an eagle. For lower ranks this was stamped from the back while for officers it was a separate additional silver piece with enamel around and in it.

The kolet for cuirassiers was a white guards cloth, with galloon at the openning of the collar, two shoulder straps, slit cuffs, piping on the shoulder seams, red trim down both sides of the front openning, on which was sewn galloon. Cuffs were of the same color as the collar, and had two lace bars on the buttons. The kolet was fastened with metal hooks and eyes. The officers’ kolets did not have piping around the sleeve holes. Equipment for a guards cuirassier invariably included a sabertache decorated with a St.-Andrew’s star.

Uniform clothing articles for army dragoons were the same in construction as for infantry. Coats (kaftans) cut like frocks were at first made of light-green cloth (as for jägers), but from 1807 they were dark green, with a standing collar in the regiment’s prescribed color and cuffs the same color as the collar (Illus. 102). In 1817 all dragoons were re-clothed in new uniforms. The shako in dragoon regiments was the grenadier patter and had a red pompon, white plume, and metal fittings the same color as the buttons. The coat was a single-breasted frock pattern cut from dark-green cloth, with pants stripes and edging the same color as the collar, with the pants having a button at the bottom along with sewn-on reinforced cuffs (Illus. 103).

At the end of Alexander I’s reign the colors of horses in dragoon regiments were regulated: in the first regiment of each division the horses were chestnuts, in the second ¾ blacks, in the third ¾ grays, and in the fourth ¾ bays.

The Life-Guards Dragoon Regiment which was newly formed in 1809 had coats as in the Life-Guards Lithuania infantry regiment: of dark-green guards cloth, with a red collar, cuffs, and plastron, except that the cuffs were slit without flaps, with two lace bars and buttons. The guards dragoons wore the same helmet as the guards cuirassier regiments (Illus. 104).

In 1812 the horse-jäger regiments that were formed from dragoon regiments were prescribed uniforms: dark-green coat cut like a cuirassier kolet, with dark-green collar, colored edging along the edge of the collar and down the front, shaped (pointed) cuffs in the regimental facing color, and white metal appointments; pants were dark green with stripes and piping the same color as the edging and cuffs on the coat. In its construction the shako was as for grenadier regiments but with white metal fittings and a black cockade with orange stripes. From 1814 officers on campaign were permitted to wear gray riding trousers with the same stripes and piping as on the pants (Illus. 105). Horse colors were the same as in dragoon regiments.

The uniform of the Life-Guards Horse-Jäger Regiment corresponded to that of army horse-jäger regiments, except that the shako had a guards pattern plate, white cords, and a green pompon, while the coat had lace bars on the collar and cuffs.

According to a new table in 1812, army hussar regiments were prescribed the following uniform and accouterment items: shako, pelisse, dolman, chakchiry (breeches), riding trousers, boots (half-boots), neckcloth, forage cap, shirt, cloak, warm jacket, saber with swordknot, swordbelt, sabertache, girdle, and pouch with belt.

The shako was felt made from black lamb’s wool, with a high body and plume on top, trimmed on the top and bottom edges with lace.

The pelisse was of the prescribed regimental color and of the same pattern as under Paul I, but with a high standing collar. The top of the collar, front openning, and lower edge were trimmed with fur (sheep’s fleece) and decorated with gilt or silver (yellow or white for lower ranks) cords and buttons. The pelisse was worn over the dolman. It was held on the left shoulder with the help of the pelisse cords, or it was worn with the arms in the sleeves.

The dolman was decorated like the pelisse, except that it was not trimmed with fur, and it was always worn closed with all buttons fastened.

The chakchiry pants of white cloth were worn with parade or everyday dress, while riding trousers of gray cloth went with campaign uniform. Boots with screwed-in spurs went up halfway up the calf.

The saber and sabertache were fastened to the swordbelt around the waist. The girdle was the same color as the pelisse and tied with a cord and tassels. Officers of hussar regiments had uniforms the same color and pattern as the lower ranks, with the pelisse trimmed in gray Crimean lamb’s fleece, gold or silver galloon and fringes (according to the color of the appointments), while the shako had gold or silver galloon trim and fringes, with a plume of white feathers on top and black and orange on the bottom (Illus. 106). Subsequently the uniforms for hussars remained basically the same. As a rule, changes only affected the shako. In 1803 they were prescribed to be of the pattern for army infantry, with an attached visor and white hair plume, while from 1807 they had pyramidal plumes of cock feathers. In 1812 new shakos were introduced for all hussar regiments, similar to the shakos of horse-jäger regiments. The changes at this time in the construction of collars for coats (kolets), greatcoats, and undress coats in all the arms of service also were applied to the hussar regiments. Hussars began to wear dolmans with collars fastened closely in front (Illus. 107). The color of the pelisse, dolman, and chakchiry, the trim for collars and cuffs, as well as the embroidery on them, plus the color of metal appointments (gold or yellow, silver or white) were unique to each regiment and strictly adhered to the established scheme.

This was the same in other branches of service, too.

The uniform of guards hussars differed from those in the army by the presence of the sovereign’s arms on the shako, embroidery on the collar, cuffs, and chakchiry pants, and the cord trim on pelisses and dolmans (Illus. 108, 109). Later, in 1820, in all hussar regiments shako plumes were replaced by round pompons (Illus. 110).

Lancers, a kind of light cavalry, had their origins in Lithuanian forces and the Polish army. At the beginning of Alexander I’s reign there were two light cavalry regiments in the Russian forces: the Lithuanian-Tatar and the Polish. In 1803 the uniform of these regiments consisted of lancer caps, jackets, pants, boots, girdle, neckcloth, gloves, and accouterments.

The jacket was a double-breasted frock style, made from dark-blue cloth, with short tails and turnbacks, and at first had a high colored standing collar, colored cuffs, colored lapels and edging around the collar, on the seams of the back, sleeves, and turnbacks, white worsted epaulettes on both shoulders, and tinned brass buttons.

Pants were of dark-blue cloth with stripes and piping on the side seams, and were lined on the inner seam with black leather.

The lancer caps were of a new pattern with a black leather band and high four-cornered crown, chinstrap, and cords and tassels. The cords were fastened on top at the right corner of the cap, and down below were passed under the right epaulette, then around the neck, ending in two tassels coming out from under the left epaulette. Additionally, the cap had two leather visors: the front one descended in front, the rear one was raised up against the rear of the head.

The girdle (sash) of dark-blue cloth had two colored stripes along its edges. The neckcloth with shirt-front was made from black cloth. Lancers carried a saber with swordknot on a swordbelt around the waist, and a black leather pouch on a white deerskin crossbelt (Illus. 111).

On their collars and cuffs, officers had lace bars, gold embroidery, gold epaulettes, silver cap cords mixed with black and orange, white plume with black and orange below, and gold galloon around the lower edge of the cap, along the straps of the swordbelt, and on the crossbelt. The lancer cap in the Life-Guards Lancer Regiment had a double-headed eagle on the crown, and decorative cord on the lower band. The front of the collar had lace bars sewn on (Illus. 112).

In cut, coat color, facing cloth, and metal appointments, the uniforms in military educational institutions corresponded to the uniform of that branch of service for which the military educational institution prepared specialists. Distinctions basically consisted of rank insignia, decorative trim, and details in trim. Changes in uniform in the forces likewise applied to uniforms of the educational institutions, and they adopted the same outlines as established for the whole army. For example, junkers and officers of the artillery school at its formation (1820) were prescribed the uniform of field foot artillery, but with those distinctions which were used by all military educational institutions: the special shako plate with an appropriate emblem (in this case one for the artillery), gold or silver galloon trim on the collar and cuffs, and for officers ¾ embroidery on the collar and cuffs according to the pattern established for educational institutions (Illus. 113, 114).

Military reforms did not bypass the navy, either. Despite the fact that Alexander I had no liking for the fleet and gave it little attention, in the Patriotic War of 1812 the navy played its prescribed role. The presence of a strong Russian fleet in the Baltic forced Napoleon to reject planning to support his army’s left flank from the sea. The Baltic Fleet reliably protected the sea approaches to the Russian capital of St. Petersburg.

Under Alexander I the uniforms of the navy underwent the same changes as for land forces. There appeared coats that were analogous to army uniforms, of dark-green cloth styled like frocks with high standing collars, except that the collar, cuffs, cuff flaps, turnback lining, and lining were the same color as the coat with white edging. Winter pants were sewn from dark-green cloth, and summer pants from Flemish linen. Boots and neckcloths were as in the infantry. There was a round black hat with a guards pattern plate to which were added crossed anchors; the infantry greatcoat was of gray cloth with collar and shoulder straps the same color as on the dress coat, with brass buttons. In summer when not in formation a there was worn a jacket and pants of striped (white and dark blue) ticking. The jacket had no shoulder straps , cuffs, or cuff flaps, and had covered buttons (Illus. 115).

Non-commissioned officers distinguished their uniforms from those of privates with gold galloon on the collar and cuffs (Illus. 116).

Company-grade officers wore a dark-green coat with gold embroidery on the collar and cuffs in the form of anchors intertwined with cables. For winter uniform dark-green pants were prescribed, while for summer there were white linen pants. As headwear they used a triangular hat of infantry pattern. Field-grade officers were distinguished from company-grade officers by fringes on their epaulettes.

The question of army uniforms was an important matter, but for cossack forces it was all the more significant since cossacks procured their uniforms at their own expense and every change and innovation in clothing affected their own pocket. Until the nineteenth century the central military administration made no special demands in regard to clothing for the cossack hosts, and in fact these very administrators were unfamiliar with the details of cossack uniforms and everything concerning these was left to the host atamans and host officials. Thus, for example, at the end of the eighteenth century the Orenburg cossacks wore the most varied clothing, and when in formation appeared in long coarse caftans. Sometimes they wore dark-blue peasant smocks, and for headdress ¾ a round hat with a fur brim. Rich cossacks wore taffeta half-caftans, trimmed with gold lace, with silver buttons. With the formation in 1803 of an Orenburg Thousand Regiment for the active army, and the introduction of new organization tables for it, the cossacks in this regiment were left with their previous caftans but in dark blue with raspberry collars and piping. The headdress was a cap with a raspberry top and black fur brim. The caftan was bound around the waist with a white girdle. When in 1807 two more Orenburg regiments were formed for operations against the French and later the Turks, these received new uniforms of the pattern confirmed by the emperor for the Don Host. According to this the cossacks were to have a chekmen or caftan of dark-blue cloth with red piping on the collar and cuffs and wear it from September through May, and during the rest of the year they were to wear a jacket tucked into wide sharovary trousers with red stripes. The hat was prescribed to be of black sheep’s fleece. Officers were supposed to have spurs on their boots, and on their hats ¾ silk cords of silver mixed with gold and black, and white plumes with orange feathers on the bottom. Officers wore silver sashes of army pattern, and lower ranks ¾ a girdle.

During the time of the Patriotic War of 1812, the outer uniform of Don, Ural, and Orenburg cossacks was the jacket. In spite of several of its shortcomings (when moving on horseback it worked its way up, revealing the lower part of the shirt), the jacket continued until 1845 when it was replaced by a chekmen-coat with a sewn-on skirt.

Cossack as a rule wore silver (white) appointments, but at their request cossack artillerymen were authorized gold (yellow) appointments.

In guards cossack regiments, in particular the Life-Guards Cossack Regiment, cossacks were clothed in caftans (chekmens) and half-caftans (jackets). The caftan (chekmen) was sewn from dark-blue cloth, while the half-caftan (jacket) was of red guards cloth. Both the one and the other had a standing collar, epaulettes of guards lancer pattern, and slit cuffs with colored (red and yellow) tracings and trim. Sharovary pants were dark-blue, the girdle white, and the headdress of black fleece with a red top (bag), cords, white plume, tassels, and chin strap (Illus. 117).

As a temporary armed force for the war with Napoleon there was raised the mass levy (opolchenie), numbering more than 300,000 men. This mass levy formed three districts: the 1st ¾ to protect Moscow; the 2nd ¾ to defend St. Petersburg; and the 3rd ¾ as a reserve. Serf peasantry made of the bulk of the mass levy and were sent by landowners on the basis of 4-5 men from every 100 healthy male peasants aged 17 to 45. Petty free-holders, craftsmen, the intelligentsia, and clergy enlisted in the mass levy voluntarily. The command cadre was selected by the nobility from retired officers and officials.

By the sovereign’s order offices were supposed to appear in dress coats or frock coats. Horse and foot cossack and jägers were to be dressed in Russian caftans of loose cut reaching to the knees, sharovary pants (both of the pants and caftans being of peasant cloth), and peasant shirts with neck openings set to the side. On the head was to be worn a cloth or fur cap or hat with a cross (instead of a cockade) and the tsar’s monogram underneath. Each foot soldier was to have a backpack, and each mounted man ¾ a valise and sack for oats. In the backpack (valise) there were to be an undershirt, spare boots, two pairs of summer and one pair of winter foot wraps, two pairs of drawers, mittens, and three days reserve of rusk. A rolled-up sheepskin coat was put on top of the backpack, to be worn in freezing weather underneath the caftan (Illus. 118).

These requirements could not all be carried out due to the lack of time and difficult situation at the front.

In practice the mass levies were clothed in an extremely variegated manner: some in peasant caftans, others in smock-frocks or smocks, and still others in sheepskin coats. Some covered their heads with round lamb’s fleece hats, others had tricorns, and the majority of the levies had round gray caps.

Ten years before the war there was published a fundamental reform of the government’s administration of the country.

In place of administration by colleges there was established ministries. "Following the great inspiration of Russia’s reformer - Peter the Great," said the tsar in his manifesto, "who left us the results of his wise intentions, for which we strive to be his worthy successors, We considered it just and good to divide government business into various parts according to their natural relationship with each other, and for successful results to entrust them to the hands of our chosen ministers, having set forth for them the main principles by which they must act, what their duties will demand of them, and what We expect from their loyalty, assiduousness, and zeal for the general good."*

Eight ministries were established, including two for defense: for land forces and for naval forces, at the head of which were placed General of Infantry S. K. Vyaz’mitinov and Admiral N. S. Mordvinov, respectively, the latter soon being replaced by Vice-Admiral P. V. Chichagov. The Military College and the Admiralty College were left in their current form, under the authority of the ministers.

Serious measures were taken to develop state production of items and materiel needed by the army. The Irkutsk State Factory was significantly expanded and the production of cloth, kersey, and hats increased. The Commissariat Department, worried about providing the forces with material for uniforms and accouterments, prepared proposals to make foreign purchases for the guards for 28 thousand yards of cloth, but these proposals did not receive Alexander I’s approval. The sovereign ordered that fabric be made only inside his country, and to satisfy this demand the production of cloth at the Pavlovsk Cloth Factory was increased. The tsar also issued an ukase calling for the Commissariat Department to set up a state linen factory capable of producing up to 1 1/2 million yards of cloth a year.

In 1803 the commissariat in St. Petersburg built a special factory to make officers’ uniforms and equipment. The sovereign ordered that items from this factory be issued at the same price which they cost the treasury. In 1804 the state Yekaterinoslav Cloth and Stocking Factory and Irkutsk Cloth Factory were turned over to the sole control of the Commissariat Department.

In July of 1805 Alexander I found it fitting for their better coordination that the Commissariat and Provisioning departments to be united under the control of the General-Intendant of the army.

Alexander I conducted his foreign policy at a time when the revolutionary wars in France were succeeded by the aggressive wars of Napoleon, and antagonism between France and England was intensifying over the division of markets. Alexander I tacked between these two governments, which resulted in simultaneous peace treaties with them. However, relations with France worsened beginning in the first half of 1804, and war with that country began to be a question of the near future. In 1805 to 1807 Alexander I entered the 3rd and 4th coalitions against Napoleonic France. Defeats at Austerlitz (1805) and Friedland (1807), where Russian forces hurrying to help Prussia were beaten by Napoleon due to General L.L. Benningsen’s lack of ability, led to the demise of the coalition. Austria fell away, England refused to subsidize the military expenditures of the coalition, and Russia was forced to sign the Tilsit peace treaty with France (1807), by which she agreed to the creation of the Duchy of Warsaw and joined the blockade conducted by Napoleon against Great Britain.

The period from 1801 through 1811, regardless of wars with Turkey, Persia, and Sweden, leading to the acquisition by Russia of Georgia (1801), Finland (1809), Bessarabia (1812), Azerbaijan (1813), were nevertheless dedicated to reform activities, while all of Alexander I’s subsequent reign was occupied mainly by the struggle with Napoleon and Russian interference in western Europe. From 1808 Alexander I’s closet advisor became M. M. Speranskii, to whom the tsar entrusted the working out of a general plan for government reform, but the basic proposals of this planning were not realized. Only a Government Council was established (1810) and the ministries were reorganized.

In January of 1808 General of Artillery Graf Arakcheev was appointed Minister of Military Land Forces, by which the sovereign proposed to rein in the shameless plundering by commissariat and provisioning officials. Alexander I was not satisfied with the intendance’s administration of the army.

By the end of the Russo-Austro-French war (1805), the supplying of uniforms and equipment to the army was in an unsatisfactory state. Troops needed footwear, coats, and greatcoats. At first the tsar ordered that the army only be supplied with uniform items "of the first category", but as this would greatly strain the commissariat administration which was still occupied with the hurried clothing of 17 thousand recruits to fill up the units, the sovereign changed this decision and ordered that only those item were to be replaced which wore out before their regulation period of wear.

In May of 1806 the tsar confirmed regulations for the military administration’s acceptance of cloth and kersey from private manufacturers. It was permitted to only accept those pieces which were in accordance with the pattern confirmed for government cloth factories. The regulations made allowances for the width of material, listed the discounts for cloth and kersey found defective on receipt, and set forth the method of sorting received products.

From the very first days that supplies of finished clothing were being built up it was found that there was a shortage of fabric. In order to guarantee the military administration its needed quantities it was decided to pay prices for soldier’s cloth that were higher than set by regulation: instead of 1 rouble 20 kopecks for a yard they paid 1 rouble 30 kopecks. It was also permitted to accept for the army cloth fabrics that differed from the patterns in color and width, as long as they were "of good quality."

In all, in 1807 the intendance had to outfit some 120 thousand men. There were no kinds of material supplies kept in peacetime. Under Catherine II there had been a proposal to create half a year’s reserve of cloth, but this intention was unfulfilled mainly because all the cloth output of all the factories in the empire just barely met the normal needs of the military administration. Efforts to create new reserves of materiel went slowly, and the tsar considered that the reason was the idleness of the intendance and an aimless, inefficient carrying out of its duties on the part of the commissariat. He reproached the intendance when supplies did not arrive at the troops in full sets: when there were coats but no pants it was impossible to efficiently clothe the recruits arriving at collection points. Such a system delayed the final readiness of reinforcements.

In the emperor’s ukase of 28 July 1807, it was written, "During the war between the Russian empire and France the Commissariat and Provisions departments did not carry out their duties in supplying and provisioning the army. Our brave troops often suffered a shortage or lack of one thing and another." Those officials who were personally caught in wrongdoing were ordered to be "punished as examples". All the rest of those serving in the Commissariat and Provisions departments, in view of the fact that similar offenses irretrievably destroyed the dignity of their rank, were forbidden to wear the standard army uniform. This prohibition continued to 1812 when the commissariat officials under investigation were vindicated and the tsar restored their right to wear army uniform.

In 1807 the sewing of clothing for lower ranks was mainly the responsibility of the military units, but this did not free the Commissariat Department from the obligation to furnish the units with material for sewing uniforms, the procurement of which was as difficult as before. Because of a shortage of cloth it was decided that all cavalry, infantry, and artillery regiments, and all garrison units, would extend the period of wear for their coats and greatcoats for one year. It was also permitted for use peasants’ homespun cloth to sew soldiers’ greatcoats.

At the end of 1809 the commissariat administration had not received almost 35% of the year’s requirement for cloth. In order to make sure the army would receive its needed quantities of uniform clothing and equipment, it was decided to establish reserves of cloth and leather by expanding the production of the existing government cloth and deerskin factories. A special committee was organized for the preparation of materiel for the army, and measures were taken to create reserve supplies of finished items in St. Petersburg and Moscow, enough to outfit one quarter of the army.

With the organization in 1812 of the War Ministry in place of the Military College the Commissariat and Provisions officers were made into independent departments of the Ministry. The director of the Provisions Department was given the rank of General-Provisions Master, while that of the Commissariat was given the rank of General-War Commissioner. A special Regulation was confirmed for the administration of the main active army. This statutory act defined the organization of the army’s field administration and the sphere of activity for each section and individual higher administrator in them.

The obtaining of everything needed by the troops was the responsibility of the commander-in-chief of the army, who was accountable for organizing the provisioning of the units entrusted to him. In regard to the army’s economy the commander-in-chief was given wide rights and powers. In the economic sphere he was given the emperor’s powers and if necessary he could dispose of all material and monetary resources entrusted to him. An order by the commander-in-chief to disburse or spend monetary resources took away any responsibility from the one who carried it out. The main field staff of the army served as the commander-in-chief’s instrument for administering the army, and it included the administrative staff of the chief of the army’s main staff, and the staff of the army’s general-intendant. The chiefs of these administrative staffs were directly under the commander-in-chief.

Legal responsibility for crimes committed by officials was in the sphere of military justice: every excess requisition was considered theft; theft, when proven, was punished by restitution of double the worth of the stolen items and the expulsion of the guilty from the army. The wasting of army moneys was punished by restitution and the reduction of the squanderer to the rank of private soldier for ten years. For selling provisions prepared for the army, intendance, commissariat, and provisions officials suffered permanent reduction to private soldier. The punishment for incorrect measuring or weighing was to make good twice the shorted amount and transportation of the guilty to Siberia. Demonstrated corruption was punished by depriving the guilty of all rank and expulsion from the army.

In view of the inevitability of war the preparation of items and material was intensified. Beginning in February of 1812 the commissariat section in Moscow started obtaining reserves of hospital supplies for 20 thousand men. Imperial permission to order cloth from outside the country was petitioned for, production of military goods at state factories was increased, and contracts were concluded with reliable purveyors. By 1812 the Pavlovsk factory produced some 45 thousand yards of army cloth, and the Yekaterinoslav factory, making only guards cloth, outfitted the entire guard.

The Patriotic War of 1812 was a significant event of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Emperor Napoleon occupied Prussia, Austria, and Italy, and dreamed of becoming "master of the world." In 1812 he ordered his army, numbering some 600 thousand men, into Russia without any other goals than naked aggression, plunder, and the enslavement of the Russian people. But he did not consider that his army would have to fight not only the Russian army, but also the people of Russia. The people’s participation in this war was direct armed combat with the enemy. Everywhere peasants and the civil population of the towns took up arms and organized themselves into units. Supported by the strength of the people, the Russian army defeated Napoleon’s "invincible army" and in a short time freed the country from the invaders. More than 550 thousand men and all the enemy’s cavalry and artillery were lost in the course of the six-month war with Russia.

In the beginning and in the course of this war the commissariat administration was able to supply the army’s needs in material goods and even create necessary reserves. The War Ministry paid especial attention to the uniforming and equipping of reserve troops. The sovereign demanded that all newly formed troops be provided with clothing and equipment in the shortest possible time. Priority in supplies was given to guards units, to which the tsar ordered that all items be issued "without substitutions and without delays".

But "the interests of Russia were not always the interests of Alexander: nationalistic politics was alien to him; the affairs of Europe attracted him more than those of Russia, and without reflecting on it, he decided on war out of kindly feelings for the Prussian royal couple, sacrificing Russian blood."* Alexander I headed the anti-French coalition of European governments, and in January of 1813 the main body of the Russian army crossed the border in moved west, liberating Europe from Napoleon’s soldiers.

The supplying of the Russian army at this time with material goods was very satisfactorily organized. In order to make good losses in materiel during the war, more than 54 thousand coats and greatcoats were delivered to the army from St. Petersburg. During this same time, purchases of raw materials were made in the liberated territories. About 550 thousand yards of cloth were acquired in Poland, Silesia, and Saxony. Tailor establishments were set up in the rear but their work did not progress very quickly, so many orders for preparing pieces of military clothing were placed with German craftsmen. Great attention was paid to the production of footwear. It was with this in mind that in Saxony enough leather goods were bought to make 100 thousand pairs of boots. Much footgear was captured from the French, but they turned out to be too narrow for Russian soldiers. Additionally, clothing and footwear were obtained through requisitions.

According to the General-Intendant of the 1st Army, Kankrin, the troops setting off for war were provided ahead of time with everything they needed in regard to material goods. The Russian army started the war with Napoleon with significantly better logistical preparation than had ever been the case before. Clothing and equipment for the troops marching off on campaign were in good condition and in the required quantities, so that lower ranks each received a additional unworn pair of boots. In case reserve forces were formed, the commissariat administration had at its disposal material supplies sufficient for a quarter of the army, and hospitals were provided with the regulation stocks of medical stores in their full amount.

During Alexander I’s reign there were important changes in the area of military logistics, one of which was the creation of a supply administration down the chain of command, in the form of provisions and commissariat commissions in the divisions, all subordinate to the army’s general-intendant. The force’s military logistical structure, born in the course of military operations, continued after the war into peacetime.

In regard to the commissariat, changes mainly dealt with problems in producing material goods (cloth in particular) and in procedures for accepting and sorting items presented to the army in their finished state. Prices were changed and new wear-out periods were established for individual pieces of military clothing. Thus, for example, by the end of Alexander I’s reign the lower ranks in the army infantry were wearing: a coat that cost 2 rouble 40 3/4 kopecks ¾ to last 2 years; a greatcoat worth 2 roubles 90 5/8 kopecks ¾ 3 years; pants costing 2 roubles 5 1/2 kopecks ¾ 1 year; a shako costing 1 rouble 60 kopecks ¾ 2 years, and so on.

The military operations undertaken by Russia from 1805 through 1814 convincingly showed the importance of creating material resources in the country during the period preceding the beginning of hostile actions. In spite of this, the military administration did not consider it mandatory to create and maintain reserves that were not to be touched.

In summary, it can be nevertheless concluded that Alexander I left a better legacy after himself than did his father.

Illus. 82. Cannoneers of foot artillery.

Illus. 83. Company-grade officer and cannoneer of guards foot artillery.

Illus. 84. General and company-grade officer of the General Staff.

Illus. 85. Coat embroidery for generals of the General Staff: a - on collar; b - on cuffs.

Illus. 86. Field-grade officer of the General Staff.

Illus. 87. Grenadiers of the Life-Grenadier Regiment.

Illus. 88. Backpack-valise and officer’s backpack.

Illus. 89. Grenadier of the Taurica Grenadier Regiment.

Illus. 90. Company-grade officers of the Siberia Grenadier Regiment.

Illus. 91. General officers’ embroidery on collar, cuffs, cuff flaps, and pocket flaps.

Illus. 92. Grenadier in shako.

Illus. 93. Infantry general.

Illus. 94. Company-grade officer and non-commissioned officer of grenadier regiments and private of the Lithuania Regiment.

Illus. 95. Private and company-grade officer of a jäger regiment.

Illus. 96. Officer of a marine regiment and private of the Life-Guards Preobrazhenskii Regiment.

Illus. 97. Field-grade officer of the Life-Guards Preobrazhenskii Regiment.

Illus. 98. Officer’s gorget.

Illus. 99. Officer’s cap of the Life-Guards Pavlovskii Regiment.

Illus. 100. Field-grade officer and privates of the Life-Guards Jäger Regiment.

Illus. 101. Non-commissioned officer of the Pavlovsk [sic ¾ Pskov] Cuirassier Regiment and private of the Life-Guards Cuirassier Regiment.

Illus. 102. Company-grade officers of dragoon regiments.

Illus. 103. Privates of the Moscow and Kargopol dragoon regiments.

Illus. 104. Private of the Life-Guards Dragoon Regiment.

Illus. 105. Private and company-grade officer of the Life-Guards Horse-Jäger Regiment.

Illus. 106. Officer of an hussar regiment.

Illus. 107. Officer and non-commissioned officer of the Irkutsk Hussar Regiment.

Illus. 108. Embroidered decoration ("hussar knot") on the chakchiry pants of hussar officers.

Illus. 109. Field-grade officer of the Life-Guards Hussar Regiment.

Illus. 110. Private of the Life-Guards Grodno Hussar Regiment.

Illus. 111. Private of a lancer regiment.

Illus. 112. Field-grade officer and private of the Life-Guards Lancer Regiment.

Illus. 113. Shako plate of the Artillery School.

Illus. 114. Junker and company-grade officer of the Artillery School.

Illus. 115. Sailors of the Guards Équipage in winter and summer formation uniform and summer everyday uniform.

Illus. 116. Non-commissioned officer, company-grade officer, and field-grade officer of the Guards Équipage.

Illus. 117. Non-commissioned officers of the Life-Guards Cossack Regiment.

Illus. 118. Jäger of the Moscow mass levy.