Participation of the Lithuanian army in the 1812 campaign Cover Image

Udział wojska litewskiego w kampanii 1812 roku
Participation of the Lithuanian army in the 1812 campaign

Author(s): Dariusz Nawrot
Subject(s): History
Published by: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego
Keywords: Duchy of Warsaw; History of Poland 19 century; Napoleonic Wars

Summary/Abstract: When the Great Army crossed the Niemen river taking over the eastern territories of the former Commonwealth of Poland and when in Warsaw the Parliament announced the creation of the Polish Kingdom, Napoleon imposed a new organization upon Lithuania and decided that a Lithuanian army should be created there. The new regiments were to be a proof of Lithuanian involvement on the side of the French emperor and besides, they were to secure and protect the supply lines of the war activities. Apart from the 3rd Chevaux-Légere Regiment of the Imperial Army, work was started on the organization of infantry regiments which received the successive numbers of the regiments of the Warsaw Duchy, from the 18th to the 22nd as well as the Ulhan regiments (light cavalry) with the numbers from the 17th to the 20th. The front line units were supplemented with two regiments consisting of volunteers, namely the 21st regiment of mounted riflemen and a squadron of the Tatars. The formation of the Lithuanian armed forces encountered considerable diffi culties and the lack of funds made it virtually impossible to provide adequate equipment and uniforms to the troops. The ulhan regiments struggled with a lack of horses which the country had earlier on been deprived of by the Russians and the French. In this situation, the Lithuanian troops could achieve full combat efficiency only towards the end of 1812. Yet contrary to the previous opinions, the army had an efficient officer corps and the recruits drafted to the infantry and cavalry regiments were young and healthy individuals, out of which nearly 10% were volunteers. Some of the Lithuanian regiments which had not yet been fully formed and trained confronted the Russians already during the 1812 campaign. This was partly due to the threat which emerged in the south of the Lithuanian territories, together with the arrival of the army of admiral Tschitshagov from the Turkish front; the latter wished to cut off the retreat route of the Napoleonic army. In the article, the author presents the battles which the Lithuanian troops had fought, among others at Slonim, Kojdanov, and ultimately at Berezina and in defense of Vilnius. The analysis allowed the author to assess anew the involvement of Lithuanians in the war of 1812 and to clarify numerous inaccuracies and errors which occurred in the descriptions of the war activity of the Lithuanian regiments. The author also discusses the retreat of the new regiments to the west which, following their reorganization in 1813 and the taking over by the French, allowed them to take part in the defense of Modlin as well as in the campaigns of 1813 and 1814 on the territory of Germany and Denmark.

  • Issue Year: 140/2013
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 45-63
  • Page Count: 19
  • Language: Polish