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BAGRATION, Peter, Prince

Russian general

Born into a noble Georgian family, he began his military career in 1782. He fought in the campaigns of 1792 and 1794 against the Poles. He found favour with Suvarov and was chosen as one of the latter's lieutenants for the Swiss and Italian campaigns of 1799. Here again he showed great bravery and intelligence, particularly at the Adda (April 1799) and at the Trebbia (17-19 June 1799). He was then in 1805 put in command of one of the first Russian corps which came to the aid of the Austrians (Kutusov's army). At Hollabrünn (16 November, 1805), leading the troops which formed Kutusov's protecting flank, he was able to resist Murat's attacks long enough to allow the main body of the Russian troops to retreat without loss. He performed with ability at Austerlitz where, at the head of a column on the allied right he managed to advance against the French infantry. It took the cavalry charges of Treilhard and Milhaud and the artillery barrage fired from the Santon to make him pull back. He also distinguished himself at Eylau (8 February, 1807), Heilsberg (10 June, 1807) and Friedland (14 June, 1807). In 1807, he was made commander of a Russian army (as a replacement for Buxhoewden) with a mission to fight the Swedes. In 1809 he was appointed head of the army of Moldavia. In 1812 he was commander of the 2nd Russian army fighting against the French invasion. He was beaten at Mohilev (23 July, 1812), but managed both to elude French attempts to surround him and to bring his army to join that of Barclay de Tolly (1st Russian army) at Smolensk. Kutuzov made him commander of the Russian left wing at the battle of Borodino (7 September, 1812) where he was mortally wounded. In Langeron's memoirs, he was described as follows: "Nature had given a great deal to Prince Bagration, but education had added nothing. He was born with great bravery and a good military eye; great energy and was instinctively a good soldier. He had acquired the habit of war. [...] Bagration knew only one language, Russian, and even then he could write neither a report nor dispatch without grammatical faults. He had never read a book in his life, but he had a talent for consulting others, and his unerring, canny intelligence always lead him to choose the best path from amongst those suggested to him. [...] He also had one other very valuable talent, that of being able to inspire the adoration of all those who served under him. [...] He was a very precious man for Russia."

Jacques GARNIER B.: Golubov, Bagration, Moscou, 1945.
(c) Fayard, with permission, trans. P.H.


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