General Staff Building, St. Petersburg, Russia
December 8, 2011 by staff
General Staff Building, St. Petersburg, Russia, The situation in St.Petersburg in July, 1812, remained tense, with the evacuation-related issues being permanently on the city government’s table. The State Hermitage Museum’s valuables had already been moved to the Russian city of Kazan. Contemporaries pointed, however, to “people’s great excitement” in St.Petersburg at the time, with the entire families enrolled in the people’s volunteer corps and money and jewelry donated in favor of these troops. An array of plays about Russian heroes of the past, including Alexander Nevsky, Dimitry Donskoy, Kozma Minin and Dimitry Pozharsky, were being staged at St. Petersburf theaters.
French troops’ advance on St.Petersburg was being contained by an army corps under the command of Russian General Pyotr Vitgenstein. Back then, Kutuzov was doing his best to unite field forces and people’s volunteer corps, while Napoleon concentrated on advancing on Moscow. The French’s biting the dust in the battle near the village of Klyasttsy outside St.Petersburg poured cold water on Napoleon. About 1,000 French soldiers were captured as a result of the battle which forced Bonaparte to tread carefully on his St.Petersburg advance drive. For Russian troops, the victory in the Battle of Klyasttsy became a huge moral incentive, something that was a first baptism of fire of the people’s volunteer corps of St.Petersburg. On August 3, volunteers swore the oath on a drill ground of the Semenov Regiment, in a ceremony that was followed by a military march watched by Russian Emperor Alexander I.
The Emperor eventually appreciated General Kutuzov’s merits and appointed him member of the State Council. Kutuzov, however, never commanded St.Petersburg volunteers in action because he was soon promoted to the rank of commander-in-chief of the Russian army. Shortly after, the 67-year-old commander was sent to a main theater of military operations, while the St.Petersburg volunteer corps merged with those of General Vitgenshtein. Subsequent months saw a host of battles where the volunteers proved themselves as intrepid soldiers.
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