Monday, 13 August 2007

Rogues' Gallery

I have added a link to a pdf showing the commanders of my Russian force (where pictures are known). The pictures are from the collection of portraits of many of the higher-ranking officers who fought in the 1812 campaign at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, via my copy of "The Russian Officer Corps of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars" by Alexander Mikaberidze.

This is one of the best and most enlightening books out there on the Russian army of the time. The best thing about the book is the human "face" it gives to an army still pretty much seen as one of automatons. Recommended!

I had run into a hitch when researching the officers. There is no doubt that the commander of the IXth Corps was Generallieutenant Olsuvief. However, I found to my surprise that there were two of them in the Russian army of the time, and my question was, which one commanded the corps up to and including the Battle of Champaubert? Okay, I confess I can be pretty anal, but as I wanted to identify the commanders appropriately I may as well get it right- and I do love a mystery!

The candidates were: 
 Zakhar Dmitrevitch Olsufiev I (1772- 1835), and his younger brother, Nikolai Dmitrevitch Olsuvief III (1779-1817).

Any cross-referencing or web searching was not made easier by about the half-dozen variations in the spelling of "Olsuvief" that I have mentioned earlier. A picture accompanying Tranie/ Carmigniani's description of Champaubert in "Napoleon 1814- La Campaign de France" showed a portrait of Nikolai Dmitrevitch.

The entry for Zakhar Dmitrevitch Olsufiev in "The Russian Officer Corps in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars" has him as the one who was captured at Chaumpaubert following the steamrolling IXth Corps received at the hands of the Corsican General. However, his biography of Nikolai Dmitrevitch Olsuviev has the younger brother leading the IXth Corps at Brienne up to Vauchamps and Paris- clearly not the same general who would have been captured, and furthermore Nikolai is mentioned as serving at Kulm and Dresden in 1813. Yet the IXth Corps was not present at these battles, being with the Army of Silesia north of Leipzig at the time.

Although I suspected the correct entry was for Olsuvief the Older, I wasn’t yet convinced. Finally I sent off an inquiry to the Napoleonic forum on the web, and Mr. Mikaberidze was kind enough to reply that it was, in fact, big brother Zakhar who commanded the IXth Corps. He had noted the inconsistency in the text, and had earlier sent a correction to the publishers- who then failed to include it in the final version. He also provided further information on who commanded what was left of the IXth Corps after Champaubert (General Kornilov). Case closed, and a big “dostevedanya” to Alexander Mikaberidze!

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