Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Russian Pandour and Hussars part three

Regular Hussars (1763-83) By  Vladimar "Gromboy' Velikanov

Officer and enlisted men of the Moldavian Hussars from 1763 to 1776

A new era in the Pandour military development began in 1762. Just ascended, in June 1762, to the Russian throne, the new Russian Empress Catherine the Great began the reforms of the state. She established the Military Commission for reforming the military forces. The Seven Years War had revealed a huge problem in the structure and tactics of the Russian army. The Commission analyzed the Russian military, and twice, in 1763 and 1765, presented reports to bring about reform. In particular, it suggested increasing the amount of regular cavalry by transforming a portion of the Pandour Hussars and the rest of the Slobod settlement Cossacks into regular cavalry. In March 1763 a special commission was formed for this purposes. It was commanded by E. Sherbinin, Major of Leib-Guard Izmailovskiy regiment. The main task of the Commission under Sherbinin was to increase the numbers of the regular light cavalry and to regulate Serbian and Slobodian settlements. But their revision showed the necessity of fundamental reforms.

The Commission suggested radically reforming the Serbian settlements and military. Sherbinin revoked their autonomy and established Russian State legal procedures and administration. This reform of Serbian settlements was a result of their administrative anarchy. These lands had not been managed effectively because of sabotage by Serbian. They ruled these lands like independent Princes, and often refused to submit to Russian officials. In the 1750's the Russian officials shut their eyes to it, because they protected the southern border of Russia from the Turks and Tartars, but by the 1760's Russia felt herself strong enough do it without any help.

Sherbinin also reformed the entire Pandour military. The Seven Years War had revealed a huge problem with their recruitment. The 1760's were the border dates for age categories. The men arrived in Russia in the 1740's at the age of 25-40 had grown old. At the same time the youth, born in Russia, hadn't yet reached recruiting age. The influx of volunteers from abroad couldn't replace losses and the decrease in age. The actual strength of the Pandour units was decreasing every year, and they were losing their military efficiency.

First of all the Commission under Sherbinin disbanded incomplete regiments and completed the rest of them to the full strength. On May 10, 1763 Georgian and Yellow regiments were united in one Georgian (II) field Hussar regiment. Macedonian regiment was disbanded. Serbian, Moldavian, Bulgarian and new Georgian (II) regiments were reduced to 8 companies each. Slodod Hussars stayed in 10 companies. This decreases allowed to complete the full staffs of the rest units and got rid of "death souls". This term meant in Russian army persons available only in payment list, not in field.

On March 22, 1764 New Serbia became Novorossiyskaia (New Russia) province of Russia and lost its special administrative status. New-Serbian Hussars were disbanded and their troops were transformed into 2 new settlement Hussar regiments, Black and Yellow (II), each of 16 companies. These units were formed from Serbs. Personnel of the other nations, most of all Wallachians, were incorporated into the Elizavetgrad Pikinerniy (from the word pike) regiment of 20 companies. This new kind of military force was similar to Cossacks and Pandours, but didn't have a special administrative privilege. AS with the Cossacks and Pandours, the Pikemen had to serve as a light cavalry in the case of hostilities and received lands for their service, but unlike them, this new military didn't have a separate administrative status. The main difference from Pandours was the nationality of the troops. Pandour Hussars were formed from Serbs, but Pikineers were for the most part Wallachian or Moldavian.

In the same way the other Serbian settlements were reformed. On June 9, 1764 Slavian Serbia became the Elizavetgradskaia province of Russia. The Shevich and Preradovich Hussars were reformed into the Bahmut Hussar regiment of 16 companies. In this territory there was also the settlement of the Moldavian Hussar regiment (8 companies), renamed to Samarskiy. Besides this, from non-Serbian inhabitants of Slavian Serbia were formed 3 Pikinerniy regiments, each of 20 companies:

* Luganskiy
* Dneprovskiy
* Donetzkiy

Some sources wrote, that next in the next year, 1765, the Samarskiy Hussar regiment was joined to the Bahmut Hussars, but in OB's of the Russian Army in the war of 1768-74 it was a separate unit. I have to say some words about the organization of the Russian frontier forces at that time. The previous system of patrols and armed settlements was changed to the cordon system. The military settlement troops were bartered for regular troops. On the Russian southern border were stationed forces of the Ukrainian Division. They were placed in the numerous strongholds along the frontier.

The Staff of the Ukrainian Division on September 24, 1768


* Borisoglebsk Dragoon
* Rostov Carabineer
* Yamburg Carabineer
* Pskov Carabineer
* Perm Carabineer
* Izym Hussars


* Starooskol
* Belevsk
* Riazsk
* Eletsk
* Kursk
* Briansk
* Orel
* Tambov
* Sevsk


Carabineer - a type of Russian heavy cavalry, armed with sword, a pair of pistols and carbine.

The Izym Hussar regiment was formed on March 3, 1765 from Izym Slobod Cossack regiment.

As you can see, the Ukrainian division consisted for most part of the infantry and heavy cavalry and couldn't react to the rapid Tartar raids. This task was entrusted to the military settlements. But coordination between garrisons of the strongholds and armed settlements was not established. The first were submitted to the Commander of the Ukrainian Division, while the military settlements were submitted to the General-Gubernator (military and civil governor) of the province. The lack of coordination resulted in poor efforts in the struggle against enemy raiding parties. For example, on January 27, 1769 10 000 Crimean Tartars broke through Russian frontier cordons and approached settlements. Settlement forces didn't react immediately and gathered very slowly. Russian Commander-in-Chief Rumiantsev wrote, that:

"The leaders of the military settlements didn't think about defending their settlements. As soon as the first news about the Tartars had appeared they moved their valuables and families to the other side of the Dnepr and later followed them".

Only the arrival of the Russian regular cavalry saved the province from pillage. The Tartars were repelled into southern Poland. It was the last Crimean raid into Russia. It showed a poor administration and organization of the military settlements. Having been protected by the regular army they had gradually lost their combat efficiency.

Settlement regiments were gathered for training only once a year for some weeks. Frontier cordons easily repelled small raiding parties, and the Pandours gradually forgot the military sciences.

In 1768 the next war (1768-74) between Russia and Turkey began. By this time the total population of the Pandour military settlements numbered about 75,000. The troop strength was about 12-14,000. In 1768 the following Pandour units were in the rolls of the Russian army:

Field regiments
Georgian Hussars 8 companies in Moscow
Serbian Hussars 8 companies in Poland
Hungarian Hussars 10 companies in Poland
Bulgarian Hussars 8 companies in Central Russia
Settlement Regiments
Bahmut Hussars 16 companies in settlements
Samarian Hussars 8? companies in settlements
Black Hussars 16 companies in settlements
Yellow Hussars 16 companies in settlements
Luganskiy Pikinerniy 20 companies in settlements
Dneprovskiy Pikinerniy 20 companies in settlements
Donetzkiy Pikinerniy 20 companies in settlements
Elizavetgrad Pikinerniy 20 companies in settlements

Each company had a field strength of about 100 men in the field regiments, and 70-120 in the settlement ones.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and Turkey were broken in September 1768, but active actions began only in the spring of 1769. This time was used by both sides for the mobilization of their military forces. The Serbian Hussars and other 8-company Hussar regiments were increased to 10 companies (5 squadrons). All settlement regiments were mobilized up to the full field strength. Unfortunately they again showed their poor organization and administration. First of all, there was a shortage of officers in the settlement regiments. Many of them tried to find any excuse to stay at home. Too, soldiers arrived with bad horses and incomplete ammunition. Thus, the Russian command did not use settlement regiments for field service, only for vanguard and guard duties.

There was another situation with the field regiments; all field Hussars except the Bulgarian and Georgian took an active part in actions during this war. Serbian and Hungarian Hussars were moved from Poland to the frontier with Turkey. They joined the main Russian field army under Rumiantsev and fought in all major battles such as Ryabaia Mogila, Larga, Kagul and numberless actions in Moldavia and Wallachia.

The Bulgarian Hussars were incomplete throughout the war and didn't take part in any actions. The Georgian Hussars fought in detachments. On October 3, 1769 3 squadrons (6 companies) of Georgian Hussars were sent to form the Moscow Legion. In reforming Russian army, the Military Commission tried to form a unit consisted of all kinds of troops. The staff of this Legion included 1 Grenadier and 4 Musketeer battalions, each of 6 companies, 3 squadrons of Carabiniers and 3 of Hussars, a detachment of Cossacks and an artillery battery; total of 5,757 men. Battle experience in the war against the Polish rebels showed their logistical problems and these units were disbanded in 1775.

The rest of Georgian Hussars (2 squadrons) were sent to Caucus in Corps under GM Demedev. They fought in the steppes near the river Kuban and in foothills of the Caucuses. They conquered the Nogai nomads and moved the Russian frontier to the river Terek. These were Chechin lands. The first skirmishes between them and the Russians began in 1770. It was a beginning of a Caucuses war lasting for a whole century; indeed, the Chechnian conflict still continues

When the war began refugees from Moldavia and Wallachia fled to Russia. Most of them moved to the southern regions of Ukraine, where they were under the protection of the Russian army. In 1769 they were allowed to settle in Elizavetgradskaia province. Russian officials planed to raise the Moldavian (II) settlement Hussar regiment from them like the other Pandour military settlements. But the completing of this unit was not finished. Initial actions against the Turks resulted in an advance of the Russian army, and by 1770 it controlled half of Moldavia and Wallachia. Thus the refugees moved back to the Motherland. Only some of them settlement on lands given to them, and their numbers were not enough to complete a separate settlement regiment.

At the same time many volunteers from these areas joined the Russian field army. By the end of 1769 they were organized in the irregular Hussar regiment of unknown strength under the command of Wallachian Kniaz (Prince) Kantakuzen. Later this unit was transformed to the regular Russian service as the Wallachian Hussar regiment. I believe it had a staff of 10 companies in 5 squadrons.

The War with Turkey ended in 1774. Russia gained new lands near the Dnepr and in the foothills of the Caucus. The Crimean Khanate became independent from the Turkish Empire. It was bled white in the long war and couldn't again threaten the Russian settlements. Later, in 1783, Crimea was conquered by Russia without any serious resistance. The availability of the settlement forces for frontier protection ceased to have significance, so the Military Commission prepared suggestions for converting all Pandour Hussars to the regular cavalry. The Commission also suggested on October 3, 1775 a new uniform for forming regiments. But this pattern wasn't accepted because of its high cost.

Later these suggestions were resubmitted, and on December 24, 1776 all

Pandour Hussars:

* Black
* Yellow
* Bahmut
* Moldavian
* Serbian
* Bulgarian
* Wallachian
* the rest of Georgian
* Hungarian,

Were converted to 9 regular Hussar regiments:

Officers and enlisted men of the Black and Yellow Georgian Hussar Reg

* Slavian
* Illirian
* Serbian (II)
* Bulgarian (II)
* Dalmatian
* Wallachian (II)
* Moldavian (II)
* Macedonian
* Hungarian (II)

These new regiments received a staff of 8 companies, but conversion to regular cavalry resulted in the discharging of old soldiers and actual strength was less then the authorized one. Russian officials again tried to complete these regiments from titled nations. They recruited the youth of ex-Serbian settlements and native volunteers from over strength regiments. Ex-Pandours tried to get out of regular service at any price. The number of national volunteers during peacetime was small, and, as a result, the forming of new regiments proceeded very low.

The procedure of completing the new Hussar regiments stretched on for years and at last on June 28, 1783 Pandour Hussars vanished as separate units.

The next reorganization of light cavalry resulted in the converting of all available Hussar regiments to Light Horse regiments:

* Macedonian and Dalmatian Hussars became Alexanderiyskiy Light Horse
* Illirian and Wallachian - Constantinopolskiy Light Horse
* Serbian and Bulgarian - Olviopolskiy Light Horse
* Hungarian and Moldavian - Khersonskiy Light Horse
* Slavian - Tavricheskiy Light Horse

The personnel of the title nations were diluted with Russian and Ukrainian recruits, and these regiments lost their national status. These regiments became a part of a corps, called Ekaterinoslavskaia Cavalry. It consisted of the light cavalry and was garrisoned on the southern border of Ekaterinoslavskaia province. It was not a continuation of the previous frontier service. Crimea had already been conquered, and the main duty of these units was garrison duty and observation of the frontier.

These regiments took an active part in the next war with Turkey of 1787-91. They fought at Rymnyk (11.09.1789), Fokshany (24.07.1789), sieges of Ochakov, Bendery, Izmail, etc. Their main work was as the vanguard and in the reconnaissance service, and regiments of Light Horse took part in countless skirmishes and small actions in the steppes of Moldavia and Wallachia. Till the 1790's these regiments preserved their national body and roots, for the most part because of the influx of new volunteers during the war with Turkey 1787-91.

But by the middle of the 1790's they became typical regiments of Russian regular cavalry, and only some veterans remembered the age of the Russian Pandours.

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