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 Michael Barclay de Tolly

Born:   December 27, 1761
Deceased:   May 26, 1818

Russian military commander, hero of Patriotic War 1812


As a commander Barclay de Tolly belonged to the school of advanced military art of the early 19th century. Having served in the army in the bottom ranks for a few years, he brought up officers to have respect for soldiers, their human dignity and military rank. He was strict to himself and his subordinates. In the military history of Russia Barclay-de-Tolly’s personality is remarkable also due to the fact that he was one of the few commanders favored with all Russian awards of the first degrees.

Michael Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly, Field-Marshal-General, the Minister of War, and a duke, was born on December (16) 27, 1761. He descended from an old Scottish noble family, the ancestors of which moved to Riga in the 17th century. According to the spirit of the age, Michael was in early childhood signed up for military service in the Novotroitsk carabineer regiment. By the age of 15 Michael already had a ten-year experience, and started his active duty as a cavalry sergeant of the Pskov carabineer regiment. In two years, in 1778, he was promoted to the first cavalry officer rank of a cornet.

Michael got baptism of fire during the Russian-Turkish War (1787-1791). He happened to participate in the siege and storm of the Ottoman fortress Ochakov. During the Russian-Swedish War (1788-1790) Barclay-de-Tolly revealed himself as a capable commander. He proved to be a master of maneuvers during operations in the Polish War, which he finished as a lieutenant colonel. Having passed through the crucible of three wars, Barclay-de-Tolly became a skilled military man with a good service record. He was already a holder of the Cross of St. George, and fine characteristics testified to his battle services. The perspective officer quickly moved up the promotion ladder. Having few patronages, he achieved everything with his persistent work and conscientious service. In the Patriotic war of 1812 he especially caused a stir in the Borodino Battle. In 1815 Barclay de Tolly got a princely title and a rank of the general field marshal and after that departed from military and public affairs. In three years, on May (14) 26, 1818, he died and was buried in his estate of Insterburg (Chernyakhovsk) in East Prussia (nowadays Jogeveste, Estonia).


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