Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
Portrait by George Dawe
|Born||27 December 1761|
Pomautsch, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
(present-day Pamis, ?iauliai County, Lithuania)
|Died||24 September [O.S. 12 September] 1818 (aged 56)|
Insterburg, Kingdom of Prussia
(present-day Chernyakhovsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia)
|Service/||Imperial Russian Army|
|Years of service||1776-1818|
|Commands held||Governor-General of Finland|
Minister of War
|Battles/wars||Russo-Turkish War (1787-1792)|
|Awards||Order of St. George|
Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly[nb 1] (German: Fürst Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly; 27 December [O.S. 16 December] 1761 - 26 May [O.S. 14 May] 1818) was a Baltic German field marshal and Minister of War of the Russian Empire during Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and the War of the Sixth Coalition. Barclay implemented a number of reforms during this time that improved supply system in the army, doubled the number of army troops, and implemented new combat training principles. He was also the Governor-General of Finland.
He was born into a German-speaking noble family from Livonia who were members of the Scottish Clan Barclay. His father was the first of his family to be accepted into the Russian nobility. Barclay joined the Imperial Russian Army at a young age in 1776, enlisting in the Pskov Carabineer Regiment. For his role in the capture of Ochakov in 1788 from the Ottomans, he was personally decorated by Grigory Potemkin. Afterwards he participated in Catherine the Great's Swedish War. In 1794, he took part in putting down the Ko?ciuszko Uprising in Poland and was again decorated for role in the capture of Vilnius.
In 1806, Barclay began commanding in the Napoleonic Wars, distinguishing himself at the Battle of Pu?tusk that same year. He was wounded at the Battle of Eylau in 1807 while his troops were covering the retreat of the Russian army. Because of his wounds, he was forced to leave command. The following year, he carried out successful operations in the Finnish War against Sweden. Barclay led a large number of Russian troops approximately 100km across the frozen Gulf of Bothnia in winter during a snowstorm. For his accomplishments, Barclay de Tolly was appointed Governor-General of the Grand Duchy of Finland. From 20 January 1810 to September 1812 he was the Minister of War of the Russian Empire.
When the French invasion of Russia began in 1812, Barclay de Tolly was commander of the 1st Army of the West, the largest Army to face Napoleon. Barclay was appointed Commander-in-Chief and initiated a scorched earth policy from the beginning of the campaign, though this made him unpopular among Russians. After the Battle of Smolensk failed to halt the French and discontent among Russians continued to grow, Alexander I appointed Mikhail Kutuzov as Commander-in-Chief, though Barclay remained in charge of the 1st Army. However, Kutuzov continued the same scorched earth retreat up to Moscow where the Battle of Borodino took place nearby. Barclay commanded the right wing and center of the Russian army for the battle. After Napoleon's retreat, the eventual success of Barclay's tactics made him a hero among Russians. He became Commander-in-Chief once again in 1813 after the death of Kutuzov and led the taking of Paris, for which he was made a Field Marshal. His health later declined and he died on a visit to Germany in 1818.
Barclay de Tolly was a descendant of the Scottish Clan Barclay, with roots in Towie (Towy or Tolly; Scottish Gaelic: Tollaigh) in Aberdeenshire. He was born in Pomautsch,Duchy of Courland and Semigallia (present-day Pamis, ?iauliai County, Lithuania) and raised in Beckhof, Livonia, Russian Empire (now part of Estonia). The commonly accepted birth date of 27 December 1761 is actually the day of his baptism in the Lutheran church of the town Zaumel. He was a German-speaking descendant of a Scottish family, as his ancestor Peter Barclay had settled in Livonia in the 17th century.
From 1765, the young Barclay de Tolly grew up in St. Petersburg and was raised by his aunt. Gregory Fremont-Barnes and Todd Fisher, who are amongst the world's leading Napoleonic-era scholars, state that this was a common occurrence amongst the German Protestants, and it gave the young man an exposure to higher society unavailable in the Baltic provinces. His grandfather Wilhelm Barclay de Tolly served as the mayor of Riga, while his father Bogdan Barclay de Tolly (1734-1781) served in the Russian army before being admitted into the ranks of the Russian nobility by the Tsar.
The future field marshal started his active service in the Imperial Russian Army in 1776, and he would spend the rest of his life with the military.[dead link] He had two brothers who also served in the Russian army, Axel Heinrich Barclay de Tolly, a Major General of Engineers, and Erich Johann Barclay de Tolly, a Major of Artillery.
Barclay was enlisted in the Pskov Carabineer Regiment on 13 May 1776, and he achieved the rank of a cornet by May 1778. In the same year, he joined the Imperial jaeger regiments, and joined alongside the rest of his unit the army of Prince Potemkin. In 1788-1789, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792, Barclay served against the Turks, under the command of Victor Amadeus of Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Hoym. During this campaign, he distinguished himself in the taking of Ochakov and Akkerman.
In 1789, he was transferred to the Finnish front during the Russo-Swedish War of 1788-1790, and four years later, he fought against the Poles. He was a lieutenant colonel by 1794 after serving as aide-de-camp to various senior officers in several campaigns. In that year, he was appointed commander of the Estland Jaeger Corps, and three years later commander of the 4th Jaeger Regiment, becoming its chief in 1799, soon after being promoted to general major for his service in the Polish Campaign of 1794.
In the war of 1806 against Napoleon, Barclay took a distinguished part in the Battle of Pultusk (December 1806) and was wounded at the Battle of Eylau (7 February 1807), where his conduct won him promotion to the rank of lieutenant general. After a period of convalescence, Barclay returned to the army and in 1808 commanded operations against the Swedes during the Finnish War. In 1809, he successfully marched over the frozen Gulf of Bothnia, which allowed him to surprise the enemy and seize Umeå in Sweden. For this exploit, immortalized by the Russian poet Baratynsky, he was made full general and Governor-General of Finland. A year later, he became Minister of War, retaining the post until 1813.
During Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, Barclay assumed the supreme command of the 1st Army of the West, the largest of the Russian armies facing Napoleon. He used a strategy of retreat leaving behind scorched earth from the beginning of the campaign in order to draw the French supply lines deep into Russian territory and retreated to the village of Tsaryovo-Zaimishche between Moscow and Smolensk, although some consider the strategy merely an confluence of diverse circumstances and not attributable to the will of one man.
Nevertheless, the Russians keenly opposed the appointment of a foreigner as commander-in-chief. His rivals spread rumors of his being Napoleon's agent, and the populace condemned him as a coward. Barclay was forced by his subordinates and the Tsar to engage Napoleon at Smolensk (17-18 August 1812). Napoleon forced Barclay to retreat when he threatened Barclay's only escape route. After losing the Holy City of Smolensk, the outcry of officers and civilians grew to a point where the Tsar could no longer ignore it. He appointed Kutuzov, previously a general at the battle of Austerlitz, as the over-all commander of the Russian forces. Barclay remained General of the 1st Army of the West.
Barclay commanded the right flank at the Battle of Borodino (7 September 1812) with great valour and presence of mind and during the celebrated council at Fili advised Kutuzov to surrender unfortified Moscow to the enemy. His illness made itself known at that time and he was forced to leave the army soon afterwards.
After Napoleon was driven from Russia, the eventual success of Barclay's tactics made him a romantic hero, misunderstood by his contemporaries and rejected by the court. His popularity soared, and his honour was restored by the tsar.
Barclay was re-employed in the field and took part in the German Campaign of 1813 and the French Campaign of 1814, which ended the War of the Sixth Coalition (1812-1814). After Kutuzov's death, he once again became commander-in-chief of the Russian forces at the Battle of Bautzen (21 May 1813), and in this capacity he served at Dresden (26-27 August 1813), Kulm (29-30 August 1813) and Leipzig (16-19 October 1813). In the latter battle, he commanded a central part of the Allied forces so effectively that the tsar bestowed upon him the title of count.
Barclay took part in the invasion of France in 1814 and commanded the taking of Paris, receiving the baton of a Field Marshal in reward. In 1815 he again served as commander-in-chief of the Russian army, which after the Hundred Days occupied France, and he was created a prince at the close of the war.
As his health grew worse, he left the military and settled down in his Jõgeveste manor (German exonym: Beckhof, Polish: Tepelshof) (nowadays Southern Estonia). Barclay de Tolly died at Insterburg (Chernyakhovsk), East Prussia, on 26 May 1818 (14 May, Old Style) on his way from his Livonian manor to Germany, where he wanted to renew his health. His and his wife Helene Auguste Eleonore von Smitten's remains were embalmed and put into the mausoleum built to a design by Apollon Shchedrin and Vasily Demut-Malinovsky in 1832 in Jõgeveste (in Helme, Estonia).
A grand statue of him was erected in front of the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg at the behest of Emperor Nicholas I. He is also commemorated by a modern statue in Riga, a full-size bronze-mounted statue by Vladimir Surovtsev in Chernyakhovsk, a bust monument in Tartu, and the so-called "Barclay's leaning house" in Tartu (which was acquired by his widow after his death).
After the extinction of the Barclay de Tolly princely line with his son Magnus on 29 October 1871 (17 October, Old Style), Alexander II allowed the field marshal's sister's grandson through female lineage, Alexander von Weymarn, to assume the title of Prince Barclay de Tolly-Weymarn on 12 June 1872 (31 May, Old Style).
The story of the family is this. They came to Russia during the times of the Revolution of 1688, from Towy (Tolly) in Aberdeenshire.[permanent dead link]
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