Alexander Suvorov – The Great Generalissimo Who Never Lost a Battle

History knows Alexander  Vasiliyevich Suvorov as the Russian military general, who fought in 60 battles and won all of them with his brilliant tactics. King Lois XVII describes him as the new Attila, the sword of the Russians, the nightmare for the Poles and the scourge of the Turks. In his 58 years in the military, he manages to win an unparalleled amount of battles even when the enemy was superior in numbers.

His achievements on the battlefield made him a national hero for the Russians and mark him as their most brilliant military leader and tactician. During his years of service, he was promoted to Count of Rymnik and Count of the Holy Roman Empire, a Prince of Italy, and the last Generalissimo of the Russian Empire and a cavalier of numerous Russian and foreign Orders.

Suvorov – the boy who’s dream was to be in the army

Born on November 13, 1729, in Moscow, Suvorov WAS from a child fascinated by everything military. Abram Hannibal, the general of the Russian emperor Peter the Great noticed the love and hidden abilities of the young Suvorov and convinced his father Vasiliy Suvorov to let him develop his potential. At the age of 13 Suvorov enters the “Semyonovskiya Life Guards Regiment”, lying about his age claiming to be 15. In the cadet corps, he studies French, German, Polish,and  Italian languages and also reads the works of great tacticians.

The Seven Years War

In 1759, after his first war – “The Seven Years War”, at the age of 28 he is already a major and commander of his own reconnaissance squad of 100 Cossacks.  In this first war, he claims victory against a garrison of Prussian hussars. Before the attack when he was advised to wait for the count of the enemies by one of his officers  he responded “We are here to fight, not to count” and led the attack, annihilating the foreign garrison.

The fall of Kolberg in 1761
The fall of Kolberg in 1761

At the age of 33, in 1762, he is now a colonel after repeatedly proving himself in the field of battle. During the years 1764-1765 he also writes his first work “Polkovoe Uchrejdenie” ( “Suzdal Regulations”) where he explains his vision of educating and training soldiers. He wrote the book while he was a commander of the “Suzdal Infantry Regiment” in Novaya Ladoga.

In 1769, Suvorov is appointed a commander of three regiments and sent to Poland. In this march, he demonstrates his undeniable abilities to train and lead his troops. Following his own vision on how troops should be disciplined and trained, he manages to create a powerful army that makes a 900km journey in only 30 days, constantly pushing back the attacking French and Polish soldiers, even when his own men were outnumbered 5:1. Thus, only 40 years of age in 1770 he is promoted to a general.

The I Russian-Turkish War

The Battle for Kozludzha
The Battle for Kozludzha

A significant role in his military career has the Russian-Turkish war from 1768 to 1774. There he serves under the field marshal Rumiantsev in April 1773. In the beginning, May, on his own initiative Suvorov captures a key Turkish stronghold near the Danube. Since he did not wait for an approval from the commanders to lead that attack, he is sentenced to death by the military court. However, his sentence is immediately rejected by Her Majesty Empress Catherine the Great. A month after she rejects the death penalty, Suvorov once again captures the stronghold, this time by the orders of the commanders. A year later he is promoted to a general-lieutenant.

On June 19, 1774, General Suvorov and his men with the help of Bulgarian volunteers, destroys and army of forty thousand Turkish soldiers under the command of Abdur Rezak. The battle is near the village Kozludzha, Varna, Bulgaria. This battle decided the outcome of the Russian-Turkish war and a month after it on July 10, the Küçük Kaynarci peace treaty is signed.

The Battle itself was started when Russian troops advance to Shumen. A 10 thousand men division under Mihail Kamenski joins the battle on the second of June, and six days later Suvorov, leading 14 thousand men attacks the Turkish forces. A Russian cavalry unit of Cossacks is sent to attack the Turkish forces from the Deliormanskiya forest, but they manage to repel them, sending part of their men to attack them from behind.

Two squadrons of hussars and one squadron of spearmen come to their aid and together they successfully retake the forest and fend off the Turkish soldiers. Suvorov chases them to the lowlands and commands the artillery to bombard their strongholds in the valley. On June 9th, the Turkish forces abandon their camp. According to some calculations, the Turkish forces lose almost 4 time more men than the Russians.

The II Russian-Turkish War

The Rymnik Battle
The Rymnik Battle

Thirteen years later, in 1787 another war against the Ottoman Empire starts. Suvorov, leading 25 000 Russian to the Rymnik River, Romania manages to cover the distance of 100km for just about 2 and half days. On September 22nd, 1789, for only 12 hours he completely destroys the Turkish army. The loss is a devastating blow for the Ottomans and their dead are about 20 000 men while the Russian lose no more than 600.

For his outstanding and complete victory he is pronounced Count Rymnik and receives Order of St. George the Bringer of Victory First Class. A year later he captures another Turkish stronghold – Izmail after he has used its architectural plan to train his men to capture Turkish fortresses daily. In 1794, he is sent to Poland to quell an uprising, and Warsaw capitulates.

After the death of Catherine in 1796, the new emperor Pavel I (Paul I) exiles Suvorov in the province. The new emperor was not a big fan of the training methods of the great general and reforms the military system in the Prussian manner. However, less than 2 years later, England and the rest of the European allies insist Suvorov takes command of the allied forces and stops Napoleon.

The Anti-French Coalition

The Battle of Novi, 15 August 1799
The Battle of Novi, 15 August 1799

Reinstated as a field marshal, Suvorov is sent to drive the forces of Napoleon out of Italian lands, leading the Austro-Russian army. He defeats all generals of Napoleon, who at that time is in Egypt. He wins against the GeneralS Moreau, MacDonald, and Joubert. He frees a number of Italian cities, leading 3 successful battles in Trebia, Novi, Cassano and a the Swiss Expedition. After he captures Milan the French forces are in full retreat.  The King of Sardinia gives him the rank Prince of the House of Savoy and he also becomes a celebrated hero of the opposers of the French revolution.   Yet, the European forces scared about the influence of the Russians on the continent, end the coalition against Napoleon and abandon them.

The Russian Hannibal – “If a deer can pass, a Russian can pass too. If a Deer can’t pass, a Russian still can.”

Suvorov crossing the Alps
Suvorov crossing the Alps

After his astounding victories against Napoleon’s general, Suvorov is ordered to join the Russians in Switzerland and help them against the French. The Russian forces under general Korsakov are defeated shortly before Suvorov could reach his destination and unite with them. The French commander Massena surrounds Suvorov and his men with his 80 000 men army.  At that time, 1799,  Suvorov only has 23 000 soldiers and almost no supplies.  His strategy is to lead a withdrawal, crossing the Alps and fight the French in the process.

The march through the snowy Alps takes 2 weeks and the life of only one-fourth of the Russian soldiers, and Suvorov also manages to capture and take 2778 French soldiers alive to Austria. For his strategic withdrawal and performance during his service, he is titled the fourth Generalissimo of the Russian Empire.

Alexander Suvorov dies on May 6, 1800, at the age of 69, a hero to his subordinates and fellow countrymen. On his own will, his grave is only marked with the words “Here lies Suvorov”.

Suvorov’s   ranks and awards were:

 Prince of Italy, Count of Rymnik, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Sardinia, Generalissimo of Russia’s Ground and Naval forces, Field Marshal of the Austrian and Sardinian armies.

 Alexander Suvorov was also the recipient of the following orders:

 Order of St. Andrew the First Called Apostle, Order of St. George the Bringer of Victory First Class, Order of St. Vladimir First Class, Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, Order of St. Anna First Class, Grand Cross of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Order of Maria Teresa First Class, Order of the Black Eagle, Order of the Red Eagle, the Pour le Merite; Order of the Revered Saints Maurice and Lazarus, Order of St. Gubert, the Golden Lioness, United Orders of the Carmelite Virgin Mary and St. Lazarus, Order of the White Eagle, and Order of Saint Stanislaus.

Julia Dzhak

Julia Dzhak is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE