Count Alexander Petrovich Tormasov was a prominent Russian cavalryman during the Napoleonic Wars. He was born into a noble Russian family on 22 August, 1752, and in February 1762 he started out as a page at the Imperial Court. At the age of 20 he enlisted in the Vyatka Infantry as Lieutenant. He became Captain in May 1772, before being promoted to lieutenant colonel and commander of the Finland Jaeger Battalion 5 years later. He served briefly in the Crimea from 1782 to 1783 and he participated in the Russo-Turkish War, notably taking part in the storming of Ochakov, in the mouth of the Danube, under the command of Prince Grigori Potemkin. Tormasov was successively promoted to brigadier and major general in April 1789 and 1791 respectively. Along with an impressive performance at Babadag, he led the left-flank cavalry at the storming of Macin, after which he earned the Order of St. George, 3rd class on 29 March, 1792.
Tormasov fought against the Polish insurgents from 1792-1794, serving at Vishnepol, Mobar, Warsaw, Maciejowice and Praga, where he commanded one of the seven columns that stormed the bridgehead of Praga on 4 November, 1794. During this campaign, as with the Russo-Turkish War, there were numerous atrocities committed that were attributed to the Russian armies.
In 1799 Tormasov had an argument with Emperor Paul and was discharged from the army for just over a year. He was then restored as chef of the Life Guard Horse Regiment on 18 December, 1800, before being promoted to general of cavalry on 27 September, 1801, under Tsar Alexander I. Tormasov retired twice briefly from 1802 to 1808, and in that time he occupied posts such as military governor of Kiev and later military governor of Riga. He returned to military service on 21 June, 1808, serving in the Caucasus as Russian commander-in-chief in Georgia until 1812. He was successful in preventing Turkish invasions of Georgia, and was appointed commander-in-chief of the 3rd Reserve Army of Observation in Volhynia on 27 March 1812 having being recalled from the Caucasus.
Tormasov was active in the 1812 Campaign against Napoleon and fought against the Saxons, Austrians and French at Brest-Litovsk, Kobryn and Goodechnya. His cavalry raid into Poland in July 1812 caused panic and disruptions and prevented Schwarzenberg from joining up with Davout. It also meant that large numbers of Polish troops had to be garrisoned in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw instead of aiding Napoleon in Russia. For his actions he earned the Order of St. George, 2nd class on 9 August, 1812.
Following the death of Peter Bagration, Tormasov took command of 2nd Army in late September 1812. He fought at Maloyaroslavets and Krasnyi in November 1812 and pursued the French to Vilnius. After Kutuzov's death in early 1813 Tormasov briefly took command of the Russian Army and participated in the Battle of Lutzen before poor health caused him to resign and retire to Russia. He served on the Council of State for a time and became Governor of Moscow in 1814, in charge of rebuilding the ruined city. His successful efforts in this immense task were rewarded with the title of count of the Russian Empire on 11 September, 1814. He died on 25 November, 1819 after his illness suddenly worsened.
Alexander Mikaberidze, The Russian Officer Corps in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1792-1815, New York: Savas Beatie, 2005, pp. 401-2, s.v. “Tormasov, Alexander Petrovich”
“Meet the Leaders: General of Cavalry Count Alexander Petrovich Tormassov”, seen on 10 November, 2011
Ed. AM PH