Page images

honour, to be addressed, in future, in speaking or writing to him, in the third personal pronoun He, instead of the second You; and in designating him, the word Witsch was to be added to his father's name John, in Russian Ivan, so that in future he was to be called Patrick Ivanowitsch, instead of, or in addition to, the surname of Gordon.

There were, during these transactions, two Czars, nominally, on the Russian throne, viz., Peter Alexiowitsch, better known to us as Peter the Great, and Ivan his elder brother by a prior marriage of their father. They were both crowned, in 1682, joint Czars of all the Russias. Ivan was in a state of confirmed idiotcy, and Peter, at that time, was only ten years of age. The Princess Sophia, the full sister of Ivan, and half sister of Peter, was nominated their guardian and co-partner in the government, and, with her favourite and prime-minister, Prince Golitzin, ruled in all affairs as sole Regent, although the names of Ivan and Peter were annexed to all decrees. A strong and increasing party, however, among the nobility was secretly opposed to the weak, yet despotic rule of the Princess and her favourite. In August 1689, Gordon writes in his Diary,' there are rumours abroad not safe to be uttered.' The rupture between the young Czar Peter and the Princess Sophia had come to a crisis. The Czar Peter unexpectedly left his residence in Moscow, and retired to the monastery of Troitzka, a few miles distant, and issued an order to the commanding officers of the Strelitzer, and of the other regiments of the garrison of Moscow, of which General Gordon was Commander-in-chief, to join him there, with their troops. The Princess Sophia forbade them to obey this order, and issued a special instruction to General Gordon to the same effect. On the 4th of September, however, a second order from the young Czar Peter was received by the foreign officers in command of regiments at Moscow, to appear immediately with their forces at Troitzka. These officers, and Gordon as their Commander-in-chief, were masters of the situation, for they alone had disciplined troops at their command ready to act. General Gordon and the foreign officers under him represented to the Princess Sophia that they would be guilty of treason, and would deserve to lose their heads, if they disobeyed so positive an order from the Czar Peter, and they marched at once, General Gordon with his own regiment the first, to Troitzka. This movement of Gordon, with the troops under his command, decided the struggle for power between the Princess Sophia with her favourite Golitzin, and the young Czar Peter.

It is not improbable that, on taking his side on this occasion,

Gordon may have remembered that he was threatened with being reduced to the ranks, and banished to Siberia, by the Princess and her insolent favourite, and may not have been sorry that his revenge followed the simple discharge of his duty to the Czar. The game was unquestionably in his hands, and the Czar appears to have always remembered his obligation to General Gordon at that important crisis. It was not merely esteem and regard, but the sentiment of friendship, as between equals, that Peter the Great showed, on many occasions, towards General Gordon. The editor of the Diary gives us, as an entry in it of the 26th July 1690,—

This morning at six o'clock, Gordon had a severe colic which continued for four hours, with violent retching and diarrhoea. The Czar himself came to the room where Gordon lay, and promised to send him some medicine as soon as he could ride back to Kolomenskay, and which came about one o'clock, and relieved Gordon so much that at three o'clock he was able to mount his horse, and ride to Kolomenskay, a distance of fourteen wersts.'

On many other occasions, we find notices of the same personal interest and intimacy. There are almost daily entries in Gordon's Diary of the Czar Peter dining with him, or with General Le Fort, or of those two friends and favourites being sent for to dine with his Majesty. Le Fort, by whom many of the Czar's plans were executed, had married a sister of General Gordon's wife, and the two brothers in law acted together, with great cordiality, in promoting the schemes of their sovereign.

The Czar appears to have made his first essay in ship-building and navigation, in the year 1690, on a lake at Perislav, about sixty miles from Moscow, where he had built some yachts, and cruised about with Generals Gordon, Le Fort, and some of his nobles, in an ocean of his own, of about six leagues in length, by about three in breadth. In 1694, the naval equipment was so far augmented, that General Gordon was appointed Rear-Admiral of the fleet, and was ordered to proceed to Archangel, and provide all naval requisites, vessels included, for a cruise on salt-water. He writes to his correspondent in London to send a ship with a 'jovial captain,' and a cargo of naval stores, to meet the Czar and the Russian fleet at Archangel. This naval expedition consisted of twenty-two river barges, one for the Great Skipper (the Czar), one for each of the Admirals, and the others for the mess, the kitchen, the servants, and the provisions and set out from Wologda, a town upon a branch of the Dwina, which falls into that great river at a distance of about 200 miles. The junction of the two rivers is about the same distance from the port of Arch

angel near the mouth of the Dwina. In ten days of river navigation down the stream, through a country in general cultivated, and thickly studded with villages, the expedition arrived at Archangel, and was reshipped into sea-going vessels, which the Czar had ordered to be built at that port. The 'jovial English captains' of the store-ships from London had arrived. Some weeks were passed by the little squadron in cruising, running aground, drinking and feasting, among the islands and sand-banks at the mouths of the Dwina, and in the White Sea. The Czar Peter acquired, on this excursion, his first knowledge of, and taste for, ships and ship-building, which were afterwards more fully developed in Holland. In September, the expedition returned, by the same river navigation, to Wologda and Moscow.

In the following year, viz., in February 1695, we find Gordon in consultation about the routes of the army to the Don and the Sea of Asof, and, in March, he was on his way to Tambov, in command of one of the three divisions of the Russian army. The details of every day's march, halt, and encampment, of the impediments from rivers, marshes, wants of food, forage, and water, are given in the original Diary. Want of horses for the transport service in the months of April and May, was the principal impediments to the advance of the army. Horses were not scarce, but, so early in spring, there was no grass for them on the steppes, and they were weak and totally useless from starvation during the winter. Out of 400 horses brought in by the peasantry, scarcely four, he says, were fit for service; and, by another entry, we find that out of 180 horses, only thirty-two were serviceable. The transport service for his division of 10,000 men required 3,722 waggons, although he had reduced to the lowest scale all that were merely for accommodation of the staff and officers, and this number did not include the waggons of sutlers and campfollowers. The waggons had to keep up with the troops on the march, because the cavalry of the Turks and Tartars were superior to the Cossacks of the Russian army, and commanded the steppes. In the 160 years which have elapsed since this Russian army marched from Moscow to Asof, the routes, no doubt, have been explored, the troops have no longer to be guided in their line of march by the points of the compass, the Reppes are no longer swept by hostile and superior cavalry, wargon-ramparts are not required, and bridges or ferry-boats are provided; but the transport service, owing to the heavier matériel of modern warfare, the greater amount and weight of artillery and ammunition, cannot be less than in General Gor

don's time, and the physical difficulties of want of forage in spring, and want of effective condition of the winter-starved horses, until grass clothes the steppes, must now, as in General Gordon's campaign, be the great and insurmountable impediment to military movement. In the campaign of 1855 the Russians are said, on high authority, to have sacrificed 250,000 oxen and horses, chiefly taken from the peasantry. General Gordon's march from Kiew and Tambov, where the troops were assembled, to Tscherkask or Asof, on the Don, was not accomplished until the 21st of June. The daily record of this campaign affords much instruction, or matter for reflection, to the military Some of the circumstances are almost identical with those of the late campaigns. The conduct of the Turks at Asof was similar to their defence of Silistria and of Kars. The Turkish garrison consisted only of 3000 men, the Russian army of three divisions, each of 10,000 men, besides 3000 Cossacks; yet the garrison maintained their fortress. The measures of the Russian army in the attack were remarkably similar to the measures of the English army in the attack of the Redan at Sebastopol. It was resolved to storm the city. General Gordon in vain protested that the trenches were not carried near enough to the enemy's defences - being from forty or fifty fathoms distant to give shelter to the storming party in advancing, or cover if they should be forced to retreat. The result was the same as at the Redan of Se


bastopol repulse and slaughter. The Russian army had to raise the siege of Asof, and retreat in the beginning of October. The Commander-in-Chief, or Generalissimo, of this army was Alexis Semonowitsch Schein, who was also commander of one division of it. General Gordon, who acted as the Quartermaster-General of the army, commanded another division, and General Le Fort appears to have been the chief engineer, and commanded a third division. The result of this campaign of 1695 was not encouraging; but, both on the advance and on the retreat, General Gordon established fortified posts in commanding positions, to serve as a base of future operations. In the campaign of the following year, the army was reassembled in March, and in June renewed the siege of Asof. General Gordon's measures in this campaign of 1696 were so successful, that, in a few days, the Turks capitulated, and old Asof or Tscherkask was surrendered to the Russian army, and a new fortress was constructed in a more favourable position. In 1697, Peter the Great began his travels to the European courts, and left General Schein and General Gordon joint administrators of all the military affairs of the empire. Soon

[ocr errors]

after the Czar's departure, Gordon set out for Asof with a strong division of the army, to place the fortresses on the Don and the Sea of Asof, which he had planned and commenced the year before, out of all danger from any attack of the Turks. He proceeded to Taganrog, which, by special order from the Czar, he fortified strongly. In the course of this campaign, he relieved the troops on the Dnieper and in the Ukraine from a threatened attack by the Turks and Tartars; and, by his science and skill, he laid the foundation of that maritime supremacy of Russia in the Euxine and the Sea of Asof, which the arms of the Western Powers and the victorious conditions of the Peace of Paris have just wrested from the Russian Empire. General Gordon's services at home were not less important. In 1698, he quelled the insurrection of the Strelitzer troops. They appear to have been equivalent to the Janissaries of the Turkish empire, a kind of Pretorian band with peculiar rights and privileges, as the body-guards of the Czars, brave, but with lax discipline, formidable to the government, and jealous of the regular troops formed by Gordon and other foreign officers, and under his command. They had marched from the frontier of Lithuania, where they had been quartered in consequence of apprehended disturbance from Poland, and had approached, on the 17th of June, within forty or fifty wersts of Moscow. Generals Schein and Gordon met them with a considerable force of regiments which Gordon had been forming at Moscow. Gordon went alone to the lines of the rebels, expostulated with them, and tried to persuade them to return to their duty, but without success. Next day he repeated the attempt, but it was equally unavailing. He returned, held a council of war, and without more delay, attacked the insurgents at the head of his own regiment, and, before evening, the Strelitzers were annihilated, and the absolute power of the Russian Czars was established. The Sieur de Villebois in his most curious Memoirs says, 'Sur l'avis qu'il 'avait eu des Strélitz, Gordon, se mit à la tête de 12,000 'étrangers ou réputés tels, avec lesquels il alla audevant d'un detachement de 10,000 hommes, qu'il surprit, battit, et dont il fit un tel carnage que 7000 restèrent sur la place et les 3000 'autres se sauvèrent dans differentes provinces.' Gordon then surrounded and decimated a second body of the Strelitz; but Peter thinking their sentence too mild, ordered 2000 of the survivors to be hung and the other 5000 to be beheaded, which was done in his Majesty's presence. General Gordon enjoyed but for a few months the honour of the achievement. He died after a short illness, in November 1699, the Emperor of all the



« PreviousContinue »