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 Pavel Pushin

The Diary of the 1812 Campaign

Translated and edited by Alexander Mikaberidze

Note: Pavel Pushin served in the Life Guard Semeyonovskii Regiment throughout the Napoleonic wars. This edition is based on the 1987 edition prepared by the University of Leningrad.


Upon our departure from St. Petersburg, Colonel [Karl Antonovich] Kriedener commanded the Life Guard Semeyonovskii Regiment. Colonel [Fedor Nikolayevich] Posnikov commanded the 1st Battalion while Baron [Maxim Ivanovich] de-Damas (future Minister of Foreign Affairs of France during the reign of Louis XVIII)[1] was a commander of the 2nd Battalion. Colonel [Alexander Alexandrovich] Pisarev led the 3rd Battalion.


Since I served in the 3rd Battalion, I think it will be useful to list company commanders of this battalion: Captain [Sergei Alexandrovich] Kostomarov commanded the 3rd Grenadier Company; Captain [Gavrila Semenovich] Okunev – 7th Company; Captain [Christophor Alexandrovich] Brinken – 8th Company; Captain [Paul] Pushin – 9th Company.

9 [21] March. Saturday

 We had left St. Petersburg. I was the commander of the 9th Company which included 165 privates and 16 non-commissioned officers. Our company included the following officers: me, [Alexander] Chicherin, two Princes Trubetskoy (Sergey and Alexander) - Sergey was eventually exiled to Siberia for events of 14 December [1825],[2] while Chicherin was [seriously] wounded at Kulm [on 30 August 1813] and died several days later in Prague. In addition, two sub-ensigns were assigned to us: [Alexander Zakharovich] Zotov and Prince Dadiani. As soon as we reached Pulkovo, I found there my sisters with Mme B. and spent this last evening amidst my precious and dear family.

 10 [22] March. Sunday

 Alarm woke us up very early in the morning. I bid farewell to my family and, greatly saddened by our separation, I began this march in low spirits. Strong wind was blowing. Our regimental headquarters stopped at Gatchina and my company marched another 10 versts before halting at the village of Chernitsa.

 11 [23] March. Monday

 After departing from Chernitsa, I realized that I left my wallet there and, as soon as we halted at community of Rozhdestvenno, I sent [my people] to find it while I continued to work on correspondence with my relatives. My servant [denshik] returned towards evening and to my great pleasure he brought all my money back.

 12 [24] March. Tuesday

 Bivouac. I mailed my letters today

 13 [25] March. Wednesday

 It was very cold today. We departed at 8:00 a.m. and halted at Sorochkino. My main desire was to write my diary and letters home, but it was impossible to do this here since officers from the two other companies were billeted with us. We played cards and I won.

 14 [26] March. Thursday

The regimental headquarters moved to Dolgovka, while my company advanced further ahead and stopped for the night some three versts from the main road at the village Bolotye; officers of my company, as well those from another company, were billeted at the lodging house next to the road. The mistress of the houses wept incessantly, although everyone behaved very well towards her.

 15 [27] March. Friday.

 At 6:00 a.m. I, accompanied with a non-commissioned officer, went to see my company. This short walk was very unpleasant. It was cold morning and strong wind was blowing. Snow completely covered the road and we had fallen through snow on several occasion. After finally joining my soldiers, I marched with them to catch up with the regiment, which was gathering on the main road on which we marched to Luga; we arrived there in the afternoon. I suffered frostbite on my right ear. The regimental headquarters stopped at Luga. I also rested my company and used that time to run to the post, where, to my great joy, I found letters from home. After a bivouac, I marched with my company for about 10 versts beyond Luga and stopped for the night at Rakovichi. It was a very tiring march.

 16 [28] March. Saturday

 Resting. I personally went to Luga to receive my [special] pay, which the Emperor had granted to us.[3]

 17 [29] March. Sunday

 The regimental headquarters moved to Gorodetz, and my company stopped at Yubra. As a duty officer, I remained at Gorodetz since I had to report [to my superiors] and reached Yubra and joined my company only in the evening

 18 [30] March. Monday

 We are in Zapolye. The peasant, in whose house we stopped, was a 130 years old man.

 19 [31] March. Tuesday

 We are in Veleni, to the right of the main road. Heavy snowfall complicated our advance.

 20 March [1 April]. Wednesday

 Resting. The house, where we were billeted, had a stove without a chimney so the smoke almost suffocated us. The owner of our house was an old man of some 135 years of age and he remembered Peter the Great and told us about his younger brother, who was 100 years old and who, he said, was still young.

 21 March [2 April]. Thursday

 We are in Opoki, about two versts from Borovichi, where our regimental headquarters is located. In the morning I reproached Chicherin for his discourteous attitude but later I was reprimanded myself by Colonel Kriedener, our regimental commander, who, as he passed our company, found, as usual, some things to criticize.

 22 March [3 April]. Friday

 We are in the town of Porkhov. Our brigade general Baron [Gregory Vladimirovich] Rosen passed us today and ordered us to rest troops tomorrow, although the rest was scheduled for the day after tomorrow. We certainly welcomed this order since it was incomparably more pleasant for us to stay in a town than in a village. For me personally, this rest was also important since I was concerned about my letters since Mme. B. informed me that her husband learned that she accompanied me to Pulkovo.

 23 March [4 April]. Saturday


 24 March [5 April]. Sunday

 We are at Kuznetsovo, while the regimental headquarters is at Golodushki. The land between Porkhovo and Kuznetsova is quite picturesque but a strong wind and bad weather made this march very unpleasant.

 25 March [6 April]. Monday

 At Lipovik, not far from the regimental headquarters which is at Sorokino. [Sub Lieutenant Nikolai] Kashkarev[4] caught up with us today and delivered several letters from Mme B. and several trinkets which she sent for me. Her letters touched me very much as she reproached me for not receiving any letters for over a month, which saddened me as well.

 26 March [7 April]. Tuesday

 At Stega. As soon as we arrived here, I rented a peasant carriage to travel to the regimental headquarters at Ashevo. Being a duty officer for the regiment, I delivered my report to the regimental commander and took advantage of this opportunity to ask him for a furlough of several days to visit my estate which not far from our deployment. The colonel promised to satisfy my request.

 27 March [8 April]. Wednesday

 At my estate in Zhadritsy.[5] The regiment was supposed to gather at Sisino and, since the road from Stega was passing through the village of Ashevo, I asked Chicherin to remind Adjutant [Nikolai] Sipyagin to ask the colonel to approve my furlough. Everything was quickly resolved and Sipyagin gave me my furlough permit for five days. I immediately transferred the command of the company to Chicherin, rented a carriage and an hour later I was already in Novorzhev. I found here [Sub Lieutenant Fedor] Panyutin (who later distinguished himself during the Hungarian Campaign),[6] who was sent to gather bread for the regiment. We had a simple meal and talked for a long time about [Mikhail] Sprenasky and Mikhail Magnitsky, who were accused of treason.[7]

 Following this meeting, I traveled to Zhadritsy, which was some 15 versts away from Novorzhev, amd found my uncle [Mikhail Pushin] already asleep. My uncle was an eccentric man. He was very glad to see me since his only solace was the society of a local priest [Ioan Fedoseev], whom he immediately called. The awkwardly arranged room, eccentric appearance of my uncle and the sycophancy of the priest, who tried to grab and kiss my hand – all of this stunned me at first. As I recovered, I went to the church to pay my respects to my father’s grave.[8] I decided to stay in a small room with a fascinating view through its large Venetian window in a small house that my sister designed for me.

 28 March [9 April]. Thursday

 I woke up with a severe headache and suffered from a gas-poisoning. The Likhachevs – our neighbors and friends – invited me to visit them so I traveled with my uncle to them. Because of my uncle’s mediocre costume, I hoped we would not meet anyone but I was disappointed to find M. Murmotsev, a first-rate dandy, at the Likhachev’s estate. My godparents, despite all of this, welcomed me with open hands. I met them for the first time since my childhood. They were very pleasant people and we stayed with them until 4:00 p.m., before returning to Zhadritsy.

 29 March [10 April]. Friday

 Another neighbor, Neelov, visited me and together we attended a mass.

 30 March [11 April]. Saturday

 I received the sacraments and immediately left the Zhadritsy estate to return to my company, which, marching to Grishino, was supposed to pass one of my estates. I met Chicherin and treated my soldiers to vodka. I spent the evening talking to my uncle about Speransky and Magnitsky.

 31 March [12 April]. Sunday

 Another mass – they are my uncle’s true passion. The decree on the recruitment levy reached our village.[9] I was saddened by the thoughts about the dangers facing our dear Motherland.

 1 [13] April. Monday

 Despite my uncle’s superstition that it was a bad omen to start a trip on Monday, I attended the church with him, listened to a farewell mass, bid goodbye to my uncle and departed the village of Garkushino to visit the Likhachevs. [As I departed], the horses almost smashed me, which only further convinced my uncle that Monday was indeed a grave day. He bitterly cried as he bid farewell to me. Around 7:00 p.m. I finally reached Likhachevs, who welcomed my arrival and laid me into a feather bed [pukhovaya postel] in which I almost completely drowned; despite my protests that I was not accustomed to sleeping in such a soft bed, I had no choice but to do as I was told and, as a result, I slept very poorly that night.

 2 [14] April. Tuesday

 I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and, supplied with a vast number of provisions, reached the village of Bolgotovo by 6:00 a.m. Having changed my horses, I proceeded to the village of Opochka. Strong wind and snow on the road greatly delayed me. I found my regiment on a bivouac at Opochka, where it was awaiting the arrival of the Emperor [Alexander]. Here I received letters from which I learned that my letters had been delivered to their addressees in St. Petersburg. A large crowd of recruits stood in the street in front of my window. They sang joyous songs, while nearby their mothers and wives bitterly cried.

 3 [15] April. Wednesday

 At the village of Ryupigo. A day full of predicaments. The march was unbearably difficult because of constant anticipation that the Emperor would reach us at any moment, but in the end we had only seen his coach while the Emperor himself is expected tomorrow. One NCO from my company had lost his bayonet, while one soldier from the company train [rotnii oboz] stayed behind at Opochka, and was found only some time later. [Lieutenant Gavrila Gavrilovich] Bibkov, this repulsive man, joined us so our peaceful existence comes to an end. Chicherin entertained himself by tormenting Bibikov, but I was fed with all of this.

 4 [16] April. Thursday

 At Sebezh. We are in Byelorussian lands since yesterday. We slept late [today]. The regimental commander [Kriedener] noticed that our company wagon [rotnii furgon] passed too late and a soldier that accompanied it was not dressed as required; the Emperor was expected any moment now and he considered such disorder unpardonable  so I was placed under arrest and released only after the regiment reached its bivouac. I was at least comported by the letters I received that day. M-me B. informed that she recovered from her illness and went out into the city. My cousin Nikolai [Pushin][10] also wrote me a few more details about her.

 5 [17] April. Friday

 Bivouac at Sebezh. Colonel Posnikov and other officers expressed their sympathy regarding my misadventure yesterday, which was very touching. Bibikov, despite all the abuse he was put through, spoke more than anyone else and was distraught that Colonel Kriedener treated me so severely. 

 6 [18] April. Saturday

 At Trushuli, about 2 versts from the regimental headquarters that is set up at the village of Lyakhovo. Spring is already in the air, but a heavy rain soaked us during the entire march. The territory we passed is truly amazing and if I were not soaked to the bone, I would have certainly observed it with much pleasure. We bivouacked in an open field, which is not very pleasant during a heavy rain. At Trushuli, I was given a ghastly room, full of various insects and without flooring, but I still could not enjoy it since I was a duty officer for the regiment and, without any available carriage, I had to travel on horse with a report to Lyakhovo. My meeting with the regimental commander proved to be cold, it seemed he sought to avoid explaining [his actions] and I tried to free myself from him as soon as I could. I informed Colonel Posnikov, our battalion commander, that I take off responsibility for the precision of the movement of the company train with other regimental trains; Colonel Kriedener canceled his earlier order and announced that he was not insisting on having all 12 wagons moving together, and instead was allowing company commanders to act on their own discretion when deciding the time of dispatch for each of their company wagons. Therefore, my arrest had produced some positive results since it affected the order beneficially for all my friends, and I was fully satisfied with this. 

 7 [19] April. Sunday

 At the village of Kashirino. The lands we passed are frightfully deprived. The road is full of the poor and blind. The local landowners are to be blamed for this misery but I wonder who is responsible for such high number of the blind. The rentiers [arendator], desiring to gain as much profit as possible, burden the peasants with such heavy corvee that the latter had no time left to work for themselves. I was told this by a peasant belonding to a certain Shadulskii, who loaned his peasants to a Russian merchant. The populace living in this region is also prone for indolence. Today, Prince Dadiani, who is constantly grumbling, moaning and complaining about the hardships of the campaign, suddenly gathered courage and decided to jump across a stream, but miscalculated and instead of landing on the opposite bank, he found himself up to his neck in the water. I left an NCO to help him, but, to complete the prince’s misery, the regimental commander passed by and, upon seeing the laughable figure of Prince Dadiani, he got furious and punished Prince Dadiani by ordering him to serve as a private for the rest of the campaign.

 8 [20] April. Monday

 At the village of Shavelki. The regimental headquarters at Rositsy. The area is indeed wonderful. Passing through Rositsy,  stopped for a few minutes to warm myself and saw my company pass by me, with none of platoons [vzvod] falling behind each other.Chicherin took advantage of my absence and ordered a rest. I was displeased with Chicherin acting without my knowledge, immediately ordered the company to continue marching, and then reprimanded Chicherin, who, in turn, responded with impudence and told me that he refuses to share quarters with my anymore. I eagerly agreed with him and told him that he would now be quartered with Bibikov, whom he could not bear. The very idea of putting them together appealed to me and, although our conversation soon became friendly, I made a firm decision to remove Chicherin from our quarters. He began to tease Bibikov and, as a joke, he told him that although they would share quarters, they would need to eat separately.

 9 [21] April. Tuesday

 The order to halt at Shavelky disappointed us since we had poor quarters there. This was caused by the leading column that got hold up at Druya and could not cross the Dvina River due to the floating ice.

 10 [22] April. Wednesday

 At the village of Druya. The march was quite pleasant, and weather was wonderful. Until now, the weather was quite bad which only complicated the marching; we still could not get accustomed to such changing weather. Our battalion had difficulties in crossing the Dvina because the ice began to float again. I had a minor argument with Sipyagin, with whom I shared a breakfast during the crossing. We received the order to set up quarters and to not march to Vilna. Druya itself is located in a beautiful area.

 11 [23] April. Thursday

 Bivouac at Druya. A torrential rain kept pouring and the resulting mud prevented us from getting out for the entire day. A Jew named Movsha carried out all our instructions, received three rubles and left quite satisfied and happy.

 12 [24] April. Friday

 At the village of Salki. Prior to our departure from Druya, our regimental commander gathered us on the bank of the Dvina to meet the Emperor, who, according to him, was expected any minute. The heavy rain had no mercy on us and, to complete our misery, a feld-jager delivered the news that his Majesty, whom we were awaiting for so long, had not yet left the Tsarskoye Selo.[11] So we returned to our quarters without any results to show except for getting soaked to our bones so that we did not break this habit. [Later that day] an alarm call was not heard in my company, which was located at the end of the village, and I was unpleasantly surprised upon being told that the entire regiment was assembled for an hour and was delayed by my company alone. We rushed at once but Colonel Kriedener, naturally, did not miss this opportunity to reprimand me. The regimental headquarters moved to the village of Ikazni, while my company, upon approaching this village, turned left and occupied nine nearby settlements; I stopped at Salki, and my host was a small rentier by the name of Salmanovich, an 80-year old man, with two daughters, one of whom is not so bad looking.

 13 [25] April. Saturday

 Chicherin spent the night with us but this morning he was assigned to new quarters in another village, so he moved there.

 14 [26] April. Sunday

 All captains (company commanders) were ordered to arrive to the regiment commander at Ikazn’ at 10:00 a.m. I was among those who arrived. We were ordered to gather most detailed information on the amount of supplies that can be obtained in the villages occupied by our troops. The reports were supposed to specify precisely how much grain, forage and cattle, belonging either to peasant communities or to landowners, was available. The poles were quite bewildered by this order. I was very disappointed to cause so much problems to the poor Salmanovich, who had very few belongings and he proved to be a very good man.

 15 [27] April. Monday

 The Emperor had traveled through Druya three days ago. Bibikov arrived this evening and, as an ill-omened bird, he brought the news that officers were prohibited from using carriages anymore.

 16 [28] April. Tuesday

 One of our officers, [Nikolai Nikolayevich] Khrushev arrived tonight. He traveled for provisions to Druya and took a NCO from my company as an escort.

 17 [29] April. Wednesday

 I received an order to obtain from my host a declaration (notice) listing his entire property. The declaration form was sent from the regiment. This news anguished the entire Salmanovich family. Bibikov was right and we were allowed to keep only transport horses, not even the riding horses.  I did not dare to leave my village. Meantime, orders were rapidly changing one after another. I ordered Zotov to deliver my letter to the post office in Druya. He traveled with A. Trubetskoy and his brother Sergei also departed, leaving me alone; to be precise, almost alone since Prince Dadiani also stayed at home. He is a simpleton [prostofilya] who either sleeps or sits mum. Tonight he suddenly jumped up after being frightened my a small dog, who had unnoticeably crawled under his bed, and began shouting at full strength, swearing that he felt as the devil himself strolled over him.

 19 April [1 May] Friday

 This morning all company quartermaster were ordered to arrive to Ikazn’. We were guessing reasons for the entire day before learning from an order, which was received in the evening, that three companies, including mine, had to change their quarters in the morning. This removed us further from Druya, which was not particularly pleasing for me since I began to court one of Salmanovich’s daughters; they were indeed very good people.

 20 April [2 May]. Saturday

At Ukla, at a local estate. This was the first march that I made on foot. We arrived at Ukla around noon. Local rentier is a certain Rodzevich. It seems that he is richer than our Salmanovich, but, despite his courteousness, we still noticed certain hostility which the Poles often demonstrate towards the Russians. This was enough for us to regret leaving our old quarters. [At Ukla] we found the Izmailovtsy [troops from the Life Guad izmailovskii Regiment] who had previously occupied our new quarters, so we had to share quarters awaiting their departure. These minor troubles were eclipsed by the joy brought to me by the letters of M-me B. that I received here. She has not written to me in a long time.

 21 April [3 May]. Sunday

It is Easter. On such days the Poles only eat. Table is constantly set but the locals sit around on usual time only to eat some soup. I traveled to Colonel Pisarev, who was entertaining a female society.  We learned that the day after tomorrow we are departing for Komai, a village located near Sventsyan, close to Vilna.

 22 April [4 May]. Monday

 I again traveled to Colonel Pisarev. They arranged dances tonight.

 23 April [5 May]. Tuesday

 At Oksyutovichi. The regimental headquarters is at Zamoshye. Despite the permission for captains to ride their horses, I decided not to use this right and marched on foot the entire march of 24 versts. After reaching Zamoshye, we turned right. Bidding farewell to Rodzevich was not as touching as with Salmanovich. The residents of Oksyutovichi are all Russians.

[1] Editor: Ange Hyacinthe Maxence, baron de Damas (1785-1862) was born into a French noble family, which fled the turmoil of the Revolution in the 1790s. He later enlisted in the Russian army, served in the Life Guard Semeyonovskii Regiment and later commanded the Astrakhanskii Grendier Regiment in 1812-1814, reaching the rank of major general. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he returned to France, where he served as the Minister of War in 1823-1824 and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1824-1828.

[2] Editor: Pushin refers to the Decembrist Uprising of 1825. Sergey Trubetskoy (1790-1860) was one of the leaders of the Northern Society and was court-martialed and sentences to 20 years of labor in Siberia.

[3] Editor: Pushin refers to a special payment, in the amount of one third of annual salary, issues to the troops of the Life Guard Semeyonovskii Regiments in order to facilitate their campaign preparations.

[4] Editor: After the Napoleonic Wars ended, Kashkarev eventually commanded the 1st Grenadier Company and became known for starting the Life Guard Semeyonovskii Regiment’s famed uprising in 1820, for which he was court-martialed, deprived of his awards and demoted to rank-and-file.

[5] Editor: The Pushin family estate of Zhadritsy was located about 25 versts away from Mikhailovskoye in the Novorzhervskii uezd (district) of the Pskov gubernia (province). The famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was exiled to Mikhailovskoye in the 1820s and Pushin established good relations with him.

[6] Editor: Pushin added this note years later and it refers to the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1849, when Emperor Nicholas I dispatched his troops to assist the Austrians in suppressing the Hungarian Revolt.

[7] Editor: Mikhail Speransky was Emperor Alexander’s close advisor, who proposed a series of liberal reforms to modernize empire but faced increasing opposition and was disgraced and exiled in mid March 1812. Sparensky’s dismissal effectively meant the end of liberal changes in Russia. Mikhail Magnitsky, Speransky’s supporter, was also exiled, but later emerged as one of the leading reactionaries

[8] Editor: Pushin’s father, Sergey Pushin, died in 1811.

[9] Editor: Pushin refers to Emperor Alexander’s manifesto of 23 March 1812 that required recruitment of 2 men per every 500 souls.

[10] Editor: In 1812, Nikolai Nikolayevich Pushin served as an ensign in the Life Guard Litovskii [Lithuanian] Regiment. After the Napoleonic Wars, he became a member in secret societies and became close to the future Decembrists, including A. Pestel. In 1822, he publicly confronted Grand Duke Constantine for abusive treatment of officers of the Life Guard Litovskii Regiment, for which he was court martialed and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to reduction in ranks and loss of nobility and all awards. Despite such harsh punishment, Pushin stoically endured his hardships as a private in the regiment, refusing offers from his former comrades to continue living in officer quarters. In late 1823, he was restored in the rank of 1823, and after five years of exemplary service, he was promoted to a colonel. By 1834, his past misdeed was forgotten and he was appointed to lead the Noble Regiment, promoted to a major general in 1836 and to lieutenant general in 1847.

[11] Editor: Alexander departed from St. Petersburg on 21 April and reached Vilna on 26 April.

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