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"The role of Field Marshal Prince Michael Andreas Barclay" Topic

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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2018 2:55 p.m. PST

… de Tolly in the Russo-French War of 1812. On the question of a national Russian legend.

"In the first quarter of the 19th Century, Field-Marshal Prince Michael Barclay de Tolly (17611818) held an exceptional position among the Russian generals. Without doubt he can be called the architect of the victory over Napoleon. However, in his own country Barclay de Tolly was shown enmity, and consequently he was always thrust into the background by Kutusov no doubt very unjustly. Barclay had a very solid military career. Born of Livonian parents in 1761, he attained the rank of a Major-General up to 1807, in 1809 the Tsar confided to him the newly conquered Grand Duchy of Finland, in 1810 he became Minister of War. Barclay's strategy of orderly retreat led to animosities and intrigues against him, but after Kutusov's death (spring 1813) the Tsar conferred upon him the command of the Russian troops in the campaign from Leipzig to France; in 1814 Barclay was appointed Field-Marshal, in 1815 he received the title of a prince.
As early as 1807 Barclay developed his theory of military strategy in case of a conflict with France and pointed it out to the historian Niebuhr, whom he met in Memel: Orderly retreat into the depth of the Russian area, until the initial superiority of the French would shrink by combats, illness, difficulties in maintenance and supply as well as by climatic conditions to such a degree, that the risk of a battle could be taken.
The measures he later took as Minister of War are mainly to be seen in the light of the menacing war with France. Besides the completion of the defence line Dvina Dnepr, it was mainly the increase of the forces, which was due to Barclay. From the day he became Minister of War the army's strength was raised from 200 000 to 490 000 men, of whom 200 000 men (3 armies) were transferred to the west frontier. In the left flank Barclay's main concern was to end the war with Turkey, which bound strong forces for nothing. By increasing the daily rations and by introducing a stronger survey of the regimental Commanders by demanding monthly reports, Barclay fundamentally raised the fighting strength of the forces.
In the beginning Barclay could not carry through his ideas. But with the opening of hostilities the insufficient plans of Tsar Alexander's Prussian counsellor Phull were notorious. Consequently Barclay could take the liberty of realizing his old idea of contained retreat. The French admired his leadership at that time, and the British military strategist Lidell Hart called it an example of successful indirect approach. Contrary to this, Clausewitz gave an unfavourable description of Barclay, and Tolstoj, who obviously read Clausewitz, presented a real caricature of Barclay in "War and Peace" the lasting traces of it can still be seen in our days. The facts, however, contradict this theory, as it was Barclay and not Kutusov, who prevented a devastating defeat of the Russians at Borodino and furthermore saved the army from total dissolution during the following retreat through Moscow."
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