Imagens das páginas

Treatment of Officers and Privates.


about 3007. a year. No officer is admitted into the guards unless he can prove that he has enough to maintain himself independently of his pay. Many officers of the guards hardly ever touch their miserable stipend, as it is mostly expended in treating their men whenever they are on duty, and what remains is swallowed up in regimental expenses, including the doctor!! chaplain! band, and the better equipment of the soldiers, especially those promoted to

be officers.

In the cavalry they send their richest subs for remounts. They are allowed 360 roubles for each animal, but they seldom get any horses at a cost below 1500 to 1000. This charge they pay out of their own pockets. Surprising as it may appear, this is an appointment eagerly sought for by the subs. Promotions are made by seniority and service, and the rank of two of the same class depends, as with us, on the date of their commission. Most of these officers are in debt, but they have every facility for raising money from there being no majorats, or entails, in the country, all the children sharing alike.

The privates of the guard are all picked men, selected from all the regiments, and if not approved they are exchanged at the expense of the colonel who sent them, for formerly, indeed, not twenty years ago, the colonels were, naturally, anxious to keep their best men, and, in order to do so, made them personal servants, or sent them for a pretence into hospitals, or made them affect lameness, &c.

Each recruit is obliged to learn some trade. By this means he earns sufficient for his private comforts; but, though an artisan, he must always be in uniform. The same strict rule applies to his officer. If the latter were ever seen by his colonel or by any of superior rank in the army, out of uniform, he would be degraded by a court-martial to the rank of a private. If the recruits are quartered in the provinces living is cheap to them, especially at Tobolsk in Siberia, where the soil is fertile, and the climate mild and equal. They receive rations of black bread, of rye, barley, lard, pork, rice, and salt, much of which is withheld from them by their officers, who billet them in towns, and force the landlords to feed them. Once a year each man gets cloth for two shirts and white trousers, with leather for their boots; but so great is their management, that by dint of patching, they contrive to make the old boots last a long time, and dispose of most of their leather. If a button, or any part of his metal appointments is lost, the soldier is obliged to replace it. He has also to furnish himself with pipe-clay, blacking, and pumice-stone. They are allowed two suits a year in the guards, while one in the line is made to last two years; and the colonel receives a sum of

money instead from the contractor, as well as for the hay and corn provided for his men. Each regiment has what is called an economy-chest, made up of the savings of rations, forage, appointments, and plunder in the field of battle, and this also is robbed by their colonels, who, with fraudulent contracts, false musterrolls, &c., make up for the original scantiness of their pay, and are thus enabled to keep up the appearance of men of fortune. This is no exaggeration, but is proved daily. It were needless to dilate upon the well-known case of General Gendre in 1821, who kept back the money given him to furnish horses for the light cavalry; but it may be allowed to us to bring forward two cases that occurred, the one during the grand review at Kaliscz, in1835, the other at the cavalry review at Vosnosensk, two years later. In the former, the emperor happened to be passing down the encampment, when two soldiers presented themselves before him, and in the name of their regiment complained that they got only bread for their rations, and that of an inferior quality. They were ordered to prove the charge the next day on parade. When the time came they were not forthcoming, and could not be found. The emperor was furious, ordered any one in the ranks who could give evidence to come forward, and declared that he would protect him. Two soldiers at once stepped out, and repeated the charge. They were given over to the especial charge of one of the czar's own aides-de-camp, who was to answer with his person for their safety. On examination their statement was found to be perfectly correct. The colonels of that and of some other regiments were degraded and sent off to Siberia. The same thing happened to three general officers at Vosnosensk, who underwent the same punishment. It is, however, it appears, a dangerous game to play, for the weaker is sure to suffer, while the more powerful have sufficient interest to prevent any charge being brought before the emperor against themselves.


The leading principle of Russian military justice is, as we learn from the Revelations of Russia,' that the superior officer can never be in the wrong. An instance of this was shown in the case of Major-General Timofieff, who was notorious not only for his cruelties, but for his gambling propensities. Timofieff used to compel the officers of his brigade to pay him for his losses. Colonel Descours, and some others, remonstrated. An inquiry was ordered, and the infamous conduct of Timofieff clearly proved. But the minister of war decided, that military discipline did not allow of a superior officer's being punished for his conduct to those under him. Descours and his party were, therefore, all cashiered, and some of them degraded, while Timofieff was made a lieutenant-general. The respect and adulation paid by scions of the

Rewards and Punishments.


highest families to their superior officers, even in the salons and ball-rooms, would scarcely be credited. Subalterns assume the parade attitude on being addressed by a superior officer. Indeed, so much are the minutiae of the service looked to, even in society, that between the quadrilles the officers are frequently seen to buckle on their swords again, and hold their hats by their sides in military precision. This respect or fear towards superiors is carried throughout the whole service. The life of a military man is one long perpetual drill. No private dares to be covered within the sight of an officer, though the street may be a mile long. After the bell hung in front of every corps de garde has rung, the guard on duty is obliged to turn out at a moment's notice, and salute his superior. The common military punishment inflicted on the soldier, independent of the blows or kicks he may get from his officers, is by blows of the sabre, by the 'verges,' or switches, or by the baton, stripped to his shirt. The rewards are distributed in the shape of medals, orders, and ribbons, which though common to a proverb, are yet eagerly sought for by all. The miniature of the emperor, set in diamonds, takes precedence over all orders. It is only worn by Marshal Paskewitz, Prince of Erivan and Warsaw, and Prince Pierre Volkonski, chamberlain of the imperial household. Volkonski commands a company of grenadiers who have served without fault for twenty-five years; and none of whom have less than six medals, commemorating their campaigns in France, Paris, Finland, Poland, Turkey, and Persia. They are a remarkably fine body of veterans.

The great cross of St. Andrew gives you a right to wear all the orders, except the first class of St. George, which is only given to a commander-in-chief who has won a battle over another of the same rank. These honours ascend in this succession, the first and lowest being the ribbon, the next above the star, the third, the cross around the neck, and the fourth, the highest, being the star on the left breast. The nationality of the Polish order has been done away with since the last struggle. It is now conferred on all Russians who have served in the campaign of 1831 against the Poles, and consists of a medal with a blue and black ribbon and a cross. There is, also, a separate medal for those who were present at the surrender of Warsaw.


The privates wear gallons,' or stripes on their arms, denoting the period of their service after five years, and, as well as their officers, have medals with their number marked on it. So great is the value of military rank, and so numerous are those who bear it, that the wives of none beneath the rank of general officers can be presented at court, though they may have been there before


marriage from the hereditary rank of their family. There is an instance of this mentioned in the Revelations of Russia,' in the person of Mademoiselle Kikine, at Moscow, a daughter of Sir R. K. Porter, who as Princess Scherbatof, had always been received, but could not be so any longer after her marriage with a captain of the guard. A straw flung up (to use the words of Lord Bacon) will serve to indicate which way the wind blows, and so this anecdote, trifling in itself, may serve to indicate how the institution and usages of private society are formed in Russia to react on the army. It is military rank which obtains for the officer or wife the entrée at court-it is military rank which gives you the privilege of buying and selling serfs-it is military rank which allows you to transfer or dispose of property-it is military rank which gives you even civil station-for the civil service itself is distinguished by, and has a hierarchy, of military titles. Without military rank you are below zero-a cypher-a nonentity. The Russians themselves consider you as regards every social advantage, in a helpless state of infancy, a nedorostok, or one who has not done growing.

Whatever may be the character of the Russian soldier of the present day as an aggressive engine beyond his own frontier, there can be no doubt of his steadiness, patriotism, and devotion, as portion of a defensive force within the limits of his fatherland. Though his country, considering its extent, is comparatively bare of fortresses, yet perhaps its very extension is its security against an invading enemy. The Russians can always lay waste all the approaches to their own territory, and then fall back on their own resources. The courage of the Russian soldier was heretofore at least stern and steady. They distinguished themselves under Suwarof against the Poles and Turks, and also in Italy and Switzerland. Friedland, Eylau, and Borodino are almost within our own memory. The conduct of the Russian troops on these occasions requires no eulogium, though it certainly does not justify the character of them given by Frederick the Great, who used to say that to conquer a Russian you must first kill him. We are, however, inclined to think that the character of the Russian as a soldier has greatly degenerated since the days of Frederick, and the author of the Revelations in Russia' maintains with great show of reason that it has woefully deteriorated within the last twenty or thirty years. But however opinions may differ as to the value and valour of the Russian soldier abroad, all agree in thinking that he would bravely and successfully defend his Hyperborean frontier against any invader. There is a great hatred of foreigners in Russia, and should a foreign army ever march over its frontiers the whole of Russia Proper would rise as a man to



repel the invaders.' But, notwithstanding this prevalent national spirit, it is remarkable that the Russians have been mainly indebted for their military successes to the talent and energy of strangers. From the time of Peter the Great to the present day Russia can only count seven natives who rank even respectably as generals, namely, Galitzin, Dolgorucki, Romanzof, Suwarof, Kutusof, Yermoloff, and Paskewitz. Of the Russian marshals now living, the names of Wittgenstein, Sacken, Paskewitz, stand prominent, the two former for their services against Napoleon. Yermoloff and Schakowski are, however, the favourite generals of the Russian army. Yermoloff is thoroughly national. He governed Georgia with absolute power, and was the most successful general against the Georgians and Circassians.

But he was considered too formidable to be left there by the present emperor, and was replaced by Paskewitz. His disgrace was nominally owing to his allowing his soldiers to wear, because of the heat, the peculiar costume of the country, with sheepskins to protect them from the thick nightly dews, instead of the stiff buckled-up uniform. Paskewitz was sent to bring back things to accordance with the regulations prescribed at St. Petersburg. A great mortality, ensued which obliged him to try the effect of the two plans; when it was found that those who were clothed after Yermoloff's system stood the climate, while the others died off. Three years after Yermoloff had been recalled, his costume was readopted. His character stands high as a soldier, though his fame is tarnished by many cruel and oppressive acts. Like all the Russians, when in military possession of a country, he was not over particular about the conduct of his soldiers. The women of Georgia and the religious prejudices of the people were insulted and set at nought. On one or two occasions a Russian battalion was fired at on their march. In the first instance he cut off the right hand of the males in a whole village; in another he put them to the sword. Some idea of his power may be formed when it is stated that orders were sent to him from the Emperor Alexander to raise the price of posting, which he refused to execute, considering the measure to be impolitic. No notice was taken of this refusal in a country where the orders of the emperor must be obeyed like those of God. In another instance, according to the author of the Revelations,' after he had won an engagement, he wrote to the emperor, demanding certain orders and rewards.for his men, and one of the first class for his own aide-de-camp. They were sent in due course of time, but an inferior order to the one asked for was forwarded instead for the aide-de-camp, the emperor's order being destined for another, who happened to be of high family. Yermoloff, however, disposed of the order according


« AnteriorContinuar »