Slobodian Cossacks

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Russian Army >> Slobodian Cossacks

Origin and History

Slobodian Cossacks settled in the land between Don and Donets rivers called Slobozhanshina or Sloboda land (a sloboda being a kind of settlement, bigger than a village but smaller than a town). Originally, they were the cossacks who had to escape from religious oppression by the Polish Catholics, leaving their homeland on the right bank of the Dnieper River. The first 865 cossacks appeared in this area in 1638 and settled in the Chuguev Fortress until 1641, when due to internal strife they killed their ataman and returned back. Between 1641 and 1647 about 10,000 Cossacks migrated from Poland-Lithuania and most of them settled along the Donets River to the south of the Russian Belgorod frontier defence line.

Map of the territories of the Slobodian Cossacks regiments
Wikimedia Commons proposed a map illustrating the territories of each Slobodian Cossack regiment

In 1651 during the Khmelnitskiy Uprising after the defeat in the Battle of Berestechko and the humiliating conditions imposed by the Treaty of Belaya Tserkov, a few more thousands Cossacks migrated to Slobozhanshina and took Russian allegiance. Between 1651 and 1656 the major slobodas in Kharkov (promoted to the status of town in 1656), Sumy, Izyum and Akhtyrka were established. In 1652, the Russian government built the fortress of Ostrogozhsk. These settlements became the centres of the Slobodian Cossack regiments. [2,3,4]

To do: campaigns before the SYW

Unlike the other cossacks, who used the sotnia (hundred) as their main tactical unit, the Slobodian Cossack regiments used the polusotnia (half-hundred). By 1756, the regiment consisted of [1]:

  • Sumskoy regiment:
    • staff
      • 1 colonel
      • 6 staff-officers
      • 92 men of junior regimental staff
    • 26 half-sotnias:
      • 26 sotniks
      • 1,300 Cossacks
  • Akhtyrskiy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 1 colonel
      • 5 staff-officers
      • 100 men of junior regimental staff
    • 25 half-sotnias:
      • 25 sotniks
      • 1,250 Cossacks
  • Kharkovskiy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 1 colonel
      • 6 staff-officers
      • 134 men of junior regimental staff
    • 17 half-sotnias:
      • 18 sotniks
      • 850 Cossacks
  • Ostrogozhskiy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 1 colonel
      • 5 staff-officers
      • 100 men of junior regimental staff
    • 18 half-sotnias:
      • 18 sotniks
      • 900 Cossacks
  • Izyumskiy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 1 colonel
      • 6 staff-officers
      • 124 men of junior regimental staff
    • 14 half-sotnias:
      • 16 sotniks
      • 700 Cossacks

Each regiment was equipped with 2 cannon, each served by 15 artillerymen with 5 horses and 1 cannonballs box and 1 powder box.

During the Seven Years' War, for the campaign of 1757, all 5 regiments were converged together into a brigade under the command of:

  • in 1757: Vasiliy Petrovich Kapnist

Service during the War

The effective strength of the regiments mobilized for the campaign of 1757 was as follows [1]:

  • Sumskoy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 1 colonel
      • 4 staff-officers
      • 44 men of the regimental junior staff
    • half-sotnias:
      • 21 sotniks
      • 1,300 Cossacks
  • Akhtyrskiy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 1 colonel
      • 3 staff-officers
      • 48 men of the regimental junior staff
    • half-sotnias:
      • 26 sotniks
      • 1,193 Cossacks
  • Kharkovskiy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 2 staff-officers
      • 32 men of the regimental junior staff
    • half-sotnias:
      • 13 sotniks
      • 823 Cossacks
  • Ostrogozhskiy regiment:
    • staff:
      • 1 staff-officer
      • 26 men of the regimental junior staff
    • half-sotnias:
      • 13 sotniks
      • 775 Cossacks
  • Izyumskiy regiment:
    • staff:
    • 42 men of the regimental junior staff
    • half-sotnias:
      • 8 sotniks
      • 740 Cossacks

On August 30, 1757, the Slobodian Cossacks Brigade fought in the Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf where it was deployed on the extreme left wing of the Russian army. At the beginning of the battle, after the fog had dissipated and the enemy was discovered, together with the Don Cossacks they attacked the Prussian right wing cavalry but, seeing that the enemy did not retreat as Crimean Tartars used to do when facing their charge, they turned back and retired to the Russian infantry positions, pursued by the Prussian cavalry. Cossacks leaked through the intervals between infantry battalions and the infantry's musket fire and the flanking fire of the artillery stopped the Prussian attack. Although one Prussian squadron passed the Russian first line, pursuing the cossacks, it was soon surrounded behind the Russian first line and totally destroyed. During this action, Brigadier Kapnist was killed. The total losses of the Slobodian Cossacks in this battle are unknown, except for the Kharkovskiy Regiment which lost 1 sotnik, 4 cossacks and 1 gunner.

On October 2, the Slobodian Cossacks were ordered to return to their homeland for winter, to the exception of a few commands who remained in Poland-Lithuania for outpost service and garrisoning the magazines.

Throughout the campaign, the Slobodian Cossacks assumed their own supply – having two horses per man they did not receive forage, because the Army command thought that they would get some pasture. This would have been true for an usual campaign in the steppes but not in East Prussia. Thus, the cossacks lost almost half of their horses and, by the end of the campaign, the rest were too weak. Consequently, all Slobodian Cossacks had to be totally remounted to resume their operations in that war.

Throughout the winter of 1757-58, Cossacks made great expenses for remounts. Nevertheless, in the spring of 1758, it became clear that they would not took part in future campaigns. Selected men from the Slobodian Cossack regiments were incorporated into the new Slobodskiy Hussars (Slobodian Hussars) for which the best horses were requisitioned.

Uniform

Being a kind of "regular" cossacks, the Slobodian Cossacks had a uniform:

  • circassian caftan – blue in all regiments
  • a chekmen (short coat) and sharovary (large trousers):
    • Sumskoy regiment – light blue
    • Akhtyrskiy regiment – green
    • Kharkovskiy regiment – yellow
    • Ostrogozhskiy regiment – orange
    • Izyumskiy regiment – red

Troopers were armed with a lance, a sabre and a musket, some had a pistol. Each trooper had 18 cartridges in a lyadunka (cartridge leather pouch) and 50 more bullets and 1 pound of powder in baggage. For each 100 men, a regiment had a box with 3 pounds of powder in baggage, and 80 bullets and 28 buckshots per man. [1]

Musicians

no information found

Colours

Each regiment had its own colours. During the campaign of 1757, the Kharkovskiy regiment had 1 white regimental colour and 4 yellow sotnia colours.

References

[1] Maslovskiy, Dmitrij Fedorovich: Russkaia armija w siemieletnjuju wojnu, Vol. 1

[2] Golovin, Pyotr: Slobodian Cossack regiments

[3] Albovskiy, E.A.: [https://www.runivers.ru/lib/book4624/56868/ History of Kharkov Slobodian cossack regiment

[4] Izyumskiy: Slobodian cossak regiment 1651-1765]

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, p. 21 and appendix 1

Acknowledgements

Roman Shlygin for the section "Origin and History" of this article