Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Russian Pandours and Hussars 1707- 1783

Currently working on some Russian Pandours and Hussars and I thought I would post up my collected notes here after someone on TMP was looking for some Russian Hussar and Pandour sources, these are taken from several sources but mostly from Vladimar "Gromboy' Velikanov, other notes are in Italics.




Baron Franz von der Trenck (Jan 1st 1711- 0ctober 4 1749)
Probaly the most famous of Pandour/Hussar officers,  A Prussian Noble he served in both the Austrian and Russian armies during his military career. 


In 1728 he held a commission in the Austrain Imperial Army  but resigned in disgrace in 1731. Upon the death of his wife and four children who had perished in the black plague of 1737, he offered to raise an irregular corps of pandours for Imperial service against the Turks, but this offer was refused, after which he entered the Russian army and bought and held a commission as a officer in a irregular unit of hussars (which in 1741 became the Serbskiy Hussars). He served in the Austro-Russian Turkish campaign of 1737-39 as a company captain and major of cavalry. In 1741 he was accused of bad conduct, brutality and disobedience and condemned to death. Despite showing insubordination he had gained popularity for defying an order to retreat that turned a battle around. His sentence was commuted by Field Marschal Münnich to degradation and imprisonment.


Baron Franz von der Trenck in Russian Hussars 1737-41
note the Tricorne with green laced yellow cockade and white mink fur lining.
Baron Franz von der Trenck in Russian Hussars 1737-41
note the Tricorne with green laced yellow cockade and white mink fur lining.


After he served his jail sentence Trenck returned to Austria in April 1741,  he obtained  an amnesty from Maria Theresa and by May 1741 raised a corps of 1030 irregular pandours from his homelands in Serbia. The unit was arranged

  • One commander, Major (oberstwachtmeister Trenk)
  • Two Captains (Captain)
  • One Lieutenant (Oberleutnant)
  • Fri Lieutenant (Leutnant)
  • One quartermaster (kvartira)
  • One adjutant
  • Two chaplains
  • Five writers
  • Two surgeons
  • 40 platoon leader (harambaša)
  • Cheif corporal (vakhmeister) 
  •  80 commander of the tenth (corporal)
  • 890 soldiers
By 1743 the unit consisted of 3200 pandours and 100 hussars, 1744  an extra 2500 pandours and 130 hussars and in 1745 another 800 pandours bringing the total corps to 7500 men. The pandours were to be armed with a brace of pistols a Yatagan (large Turkish knife) and a musket. The hussars needed to supply a horse and trappings and a sabre also, the hussars were generally nobility. Clothing was very similar to Turkish dress.

Trenck was promoted to lieutenant-colonel (1743) and colonel (1744). He 

Trenck survived 102 duels, was wounded 14 times and sentenced to death twice, ahhh the life of a hussar!


I  cannot take responsibility for this next effort it belongs to Vlad Gromoboy,  I have broken this into four parts so it can be read in parts, just use the labels below to find them, I also have added a few notes in Italics from other sources and suitable drawings and paintings as references in the next four parts.





The First Pandours in Russian service (1707-41) By  Vladimar "Gromboy' Velikanov

The history of Pandours in Russian service constitutes one of the gaps in the military history of Russia. Their golden age was the period of the 1740's - 60's. All their history is filled with countless actions with Crimean Tartars and Turks on the southern borders of the Russian Empire. They also took part in all the main wars Russia engaged in. They fought in the Swedish war (1741-43), Seven Years War, all hostilities between Russia and Turkey and actions in Poland.

In Russia during the 18th century, Pandours referred to any of the Balkan Slavic military. They joined the Russian army in its fight against Turkey. Later many of them settlement in the southern regions of the Russian State in the separate national settlements or entered Russian military service. Most of them were Serbs, but Moldavians, Wallachians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Albanians and others were also available. The main reason they arrived in Russia was religion. Russia was the only Orthodox Great Power; other states of this faith were under the domination of Catholic Austria or Muslim Turkey. The Orthodox populations were often oppressed because of their religion. The First Pandours in Russian service (1707-41)

The first unit formed from Slavs (not Russians or Ukrainians) was formed in 1707. Preparing to repel the Swedish invasion, Peter I strengthened his military forces. In the beginning of 1707, he ordered Colonel Kigich to enlist a Wallakhskaia (Wallachian) Khorugv (Banner) of about 300 men. I believe it was recruited from ex-Polish troops. There were some reasons for this. By the end of 1706 the regular Polish-Lithuanian army practically had ceased to exist and its regiments were disbanded. Among the discharged soldiers were many Wallachians. From the middle of the 17th Century Polish light cavalry was made up for the most part of natives from this country and Hungary. Its organizational form - Khorugv, also indicates the Polish roots of the first Russian Pandours. At the same time Peter's opponent, Carl XII, enlisted his light cavalry for the Russian campaign from ex-Polish troops also. He formed an irregular Wallachian regiment under command of Sandul Koltz, consisting of 2,000 men in 12 Khorugvies. So, it is possible that the enlistment of Wallachian troops by Russia prevented their use by Sweden. Unfortunately, there is no further information on the Russian Khorugv because the Russian archives were lost in the Prut Campaign. But their commander colonel Kigich didn't disappear, he remained in Russian service and in 1727 still was a commander of the infantry regiment on Ukraine.

The next Pandour units in Russian service appeared in the winter of 1710- 11. In November of 1710 Turkey, under pressure from Carl XII, declared war on Russia. Peter the Great was allied with Poland under Augustus, Moldavian Gospodar (King) Kantemir and Wallachian Gospodar Brankovan. Kantemir promised about 10,000 men, and Brankovan promised 50,000 (including 20,000 Serbs). The Russian Army of about 50,000 men advanced to the River Dnestr. By the time it reached the River Prut, it suffered from a lack of supplies and was hindered by water in that area. On June 20 Peter the Great gathered a Military Council which decided to advance farther against the Turkish Army. The Russian General Galard noticed that the Russians risked encountering the same difficulties as Carl XII had encountered during his advance to Moscow, but his warning was ignored.

In June 1711 a Turkish-Tartar Army under Baltadjy-Pasha of about 300,000 approached the Danube, and the Wallachian Gospodar, Brankovan, rapidly changed sides; but many of his troops, who were of the Orthodox faith, deserted Wallachian service for the Russians. In the summer of 1711, 6 Wallachian Hussar regiments, 1 Serbian and 1 Polish Khorugv (Banner) were formed in Russian service. Unfortunately, this war was unsuccessful for Peter the Great. About 38,000 Russians were surrounded in the steppe by 170,000 Turks and Crimean Tartars.

The Russian Army suffered heavily from the heat and lack of water. Their situation was hopeless, and Peter ordered the burning of all the Tsars' and military archives, and began preparations to break through the Turkish lines. Fortunately, the Turks agreed to peace negotiations. The Russian Army was saved, but most of the state and military archives from before 1711 had been burned to avoid capture by the Turks. As a result there are gaps in Russian military history from the first decade of the 18th Century. I also have some words to say about the other Russian ally - Moldavia. In June 1711 Gospodar Kantemir took an active part in this war on the Russian side and even tried to form a regular Moldavian army under Russian instructors. For the 17 regiments organizing according to the Russian pattern, only about 7000 men had been conscripted by the end of 1711, and they did not take part in this war. After the end of hostilities between Turkey and Moldavia these units were disbanded. By the peace terms Russia lost this war and Moldavia fell into Turkish hands. In spite of this, the Russians and Moldavians remained friends, and every time Russia fought against Turkey, the Moldavian volunteers joined them.

By the end of 1711 all of the Pandour units (6 Wallachian Hussar regiments, 1 Serbian and 1 Polish Khorugv) were disbanded because the Russian government could not maintain so many enlisted troops in peacetime. The dismissed soldiers were allowed to settle on the Southern border of Russia in separate national settlements (they were given a plot of land to settle on that was worth 38 Ruples a year so they could supply weapons clothing and horses) or to enlist in Russian regular service. The available Pandour units were reduced to 3 Kommanda (detachments):

* Vengerskaya (Hungarian)
* Wallakhskaya Wallachian)
* Kazachiaya (Cossacks) 

Each of these was about 500 men. In 1721 the Great Northern War ended and these 3 units were disbanded also. Some of the discharged soldiers returned home, some (mostly Serbs) settlement in Ukraine.


On Oct. 27, 1723 Major Albanez (a Serb) was ordered to raise a Hussar regiment from Serbs settlement in Ukraine. By 1724, 324 men were enlisted, but by the following year there were only 94 men. I believe that this was a result of arrears in pay. After the death of Peter the Great, there was a period (1724-25) when the Russian army did not receive any pay for 16 months. This was possible only in an army formed from national conscripts. Enlisted troops as a rule disbanded in this situation. The same happened with the Serbian Hussars.

So, as a result of its low strength the Hussar regiment was reduced in 1725 to a Kommanda (detachment) of Serbian Hussars. This unit was on the rolls of the Russian Army until 1741, but it did not have a fixed strength or organization. Viskovatov wrote, that the "staff of Kommanda Serbian Hussars was not fixed." The Kommanda of Serbian Hussars was part of the Russian frontier forces and, I'm sure, it took part in countless actions against Tartar raiding parties. Unfortunately, available sources remain silent about the details of this uninterrupted bloody struggle in the boundless steppes of the Southern Ukraine.


In 1736 the next War (1736-39) between Russia and Turkey began. Many Orthodox volunteers (Serbs, Georgians, Moldavians, Hungarians etc.) joined the Russian Army. They were formed from several separate volunteer companies of light cavalry. I believe the Kommanda of Serbian Hussars expanded to several companies thanks to the influx of Serbs from abroad. Some of the newly formed troops were later enlisted into the regular Russian army, but this situation isn't clear.

The list of the Russian field army under command of Field Marshal Minikh in 1736 included:

* 12 Dragoon regiments (60 sq.),
* 15 Infantry regiments (30 bat.),
* 10 Land militia regiments
* 10 Hussar squadrons,
* 12 000 Cossacks
Total: about 50-54 000 active troops.

The nationality of these Hussars is unknown. Their formation and recruitment were done by local Russian military officials, and state archives remain silent about them. Probably they formed under the command of the Serbian Hussars. I believe these companies were for the most part volunteer.

Next year, in 1737, these 10 squadrons are shown as a single Hussar regiment under command of Stoianov (Bulgarian). Its staff is unknown, but the total number was about 1500. The list of the Russian field army in 1739 gives the following changes:

* 3 battalions of the Guard
* 23 Infantry regiments (46 bat.)
* 3 squadrons of the Horse Guard
* 20 Dragoon regiments (100 squadrons)
* 6 Hussar squadrons
* 6 Wallachian squadrons
* 4 Georgian squadrons
* 13 000 Cossacks
* Artillery (62 siege guns, 11 mortars, 16 howitzers, 176 field pieces, total: about 3 000 men)
Total: about 60-65 000 men.

As you can see, two more kinds of irregular cavalry were added: Wallachians and Georgians.

Manstein wrote in his Notes about Russia (1727-44), that when the Russian army entered Wallachia and Moldavia, native military troops joined the Russian army daily. During the 1739 campaign all Wallachian troops formed a single Wallachian Hussar regiment under command of Kniaz (Prince) Kantemir (nephew of the Gospodar Kantemir, who moved to Russia after the Prut campaign). This regiment was irregular, and its backbone was Wallachian auxiliary forces in Turkish service. Kantemir's Hussars wore Wallachian native dress and military accoutrements without any distinguishing marks of the Russian military forces. This was the reason for one interesting episode of that war. Kantemir's family hated the family of Polish Crown Marshal Pototskiy.

Their inheritable lands bordered upon each other, and their forefathers had differed over some frontier lands. This antagonism had its roots from the Middle ages but was perpetuated in the 1739 campaign. When the forming of the Hussar regiment was completed, Kantemir moved it not against the Turks, but into the neutral Polish lands. His soldiers pillaged and ruined Pototskiy's domain and then returned to Wallachia. Polish officials protested against this raid, but couldn't demonstrate any evidence of connection with Kantemir's regiment, because his soldiers wore the same dress as the Wallachians on Turkish pay.

The official Russian historian Viskovatov didn't give any information about this Wallachian regiment, but mentioned companies of Georgian Hussars. I believe, that Georgian troops mentioned in 1739 List were irregular, but later some of them were transformed to Russian regular service. Viskovatov wrote, that the first separate Hussar Company of Georgians was formed on March 5, 1737 and the other two companies were added only on April 14, 1740. Probably these dates are the dates these units were taken into the Russian State payment. Nevertheless, in 1736-39 only these 3 volunteer companies were enlisted into state service, other irregular units were disbanded, when the hostilities between Turkey and Russia had ended.

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