Dedicated to Don Horses
photo Svetlana Petrova
Don Horse in the Domestic War 1812. The first stud on Don was founded almost half-a-century before the war – in 1770. It was leaded by ataman (Kozak leader) Matvey Platov who later became the Hero of the Domestic war 1812. He was one of the brightest persons not only of his time but also in the whole Russian history.
His military career began when he was just a child. Following his active insists his father puts him to the State Military Office, and three yers late the young man already tares part in the First Turkish war of 1768-1774. He becomes an officer in 1771 as soon as he gets 20. Russian Empress ekaterina the Great personally signs the order. 14 years later Colonel Platov leads the Kozak regiment “of Ekaterina’s Glory2 during the other Turkish war and returns home being the major general.
He falls from grace after the death of Ekaterina the Great and is expelled for 4 years to Kostroma, thousand kilometres away from his home steppes. In 1801 the court acquits him, the Emperor Pavel receives him personally and appoints to head the Don Army. Auxiliary Kozak regiments are acknowledged and reorganized to the regular military structures.
As the war against Napoleon begins in Europe, Platov and his army joins Russian regiments in Prussia. He leads several successful military operations that put to flight “the whole French cavalry”, as the contemporaries describe.
His talent of a military showed itself with its strength during the Domestic war of 1812 against Napoleon. Russian Commander in Chief Mikhail Kutuzov knew Platov since 1773 and used skilfully the whole power of don army. In the end of July 1812 Napoleon’s army counting half-a-million soldiers crossed Neman River. Its vanguards were met and weakened by Don regiments at once, but still Russian army had to retreat, protested by 14 Kozak regiments lead by ataman Platov. On September, 7 the key battle of that war – in Borodino – took place. Don regiments still lead by Platov took Napoleon’s army in the rear, seizing the main French unit transport. Napoleon continued to attack and the Russians had to give up Moscow (in that time Moscow was not the capital city). Before leaving they’ve burned the whole city so that the enemy had no chance to reinforce. Without the main unit transport the situation for the French was even worse. As Napoleon and his starving army were getting disappointed of their victory in Moscow, Platov went back to don to remand his army with 22.000 Kozaks and 44.000 horses. They pursued retreating French army till Paris, and Napoleon used to say that it were Don Kozaks who conquered his whole cavalry and artillery.
In October 1812 Matvey Platov gets honoured with the Duke’s title. Together with the Russian army Kozak regiments leaded by their ataman were liberating European towns one after another. In Leipzig Battle that determined Napoleon’s future fate Platov got the highest Russian military award right on battleground.