Georgians in the Napoleonic Wars
The sons of a small nation in the mountains of the Caucasus, the Georgians participated in the Napoleonic Wars both as the allies and foes of Napoleon. They fought the French in Egypt, where many Mamluks were of Georgian descent. The famous Mamluk leaders, Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey were ethnic Georgians, kidnapped and sold into slavery in their childhood; Napoleon’s famous Mamluk bodyguard, Rustam, was an Armenian from Tbilisi. On his return to France, Napoleon created a Mamluk company of the Imperial Guard, where several Georgians served throughout the Napoleonic Wars.
At the same time, after Russia annexed Georgia in 1800-1801, many Georgian nobles served in the Russian military, and Georgian units participated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1806–1812. Some Georgian officers eventually achieved prominent positions in Russian army and society. Prince Bagrat, son of King Giorgi XII, was the first to study the Georgian participation in the Napoleonic Wars, and in his 1823 work, he identified 49 Georgian officers serving in the Russian army during the Napoleonic Wars. However, this study is far from complete and overlooks some prominent Georgians; the total number of Georgian officers who participated in the Napoleonic Wars is now estimated at 70–80 men, including 12 generals.
Prince Peter Bagration was undoubtedly the most distinguished Georgian commander of the Napoleonic Wars. The descendant of King Iese of Kartli, he rose through the ranks to command the Russian troops in every war that Russia waged between 1794 and 1812. He was considered one of the best tactical commanders of his time, but his career was cut short when he was mortally wounded at the battle of Borodino in September 1812.
Two Yashvil (Iashvili) brothers also rose to the top of the Russian army. Major General Vladimir Iashvili distinguished himself during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–1791 but later participated in the conspiracy against Emperor Paul I and was among the officers who murdered the tsar on 23 March 1801; however, Paul’s son and successor, Emperor Alexander, had Iashvili exiled and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. General Leo Iashvili’s career was more successful as he commanded the Russian artillery throughout the Napoleonic Wars.
The Panchulidze brothers also enjoyed successful careers, serving under the famous Generals Alexander Suvorov and Mikhail Kutuzov; Lieutenant General Ivan Panchulidze commanded the Chernigov Dragoon Regiment throughout the wars while his brother, Major General Semen Panchulidze led the Pavlograd Hussars in 1803–1806 and the Ingermanland Dragoons in 1806–1815.
Major General Anton Chalikov (Shalikashvili) served with the Sumsk Hussars at the decisive battles of Austerlitz, Heilsberg, and Friedland in 1805–1807 before he took command of the Life Guard Uhlan Regiment and fought in Russia, Germany, and France in 1812–1814.
His comrade-in-arms, Major General Semen Gangeblov (Gangeblishvili), served in Poland, Italy, and Switzerland from 1794–1799, and commanded a jager regiment in the Crimea, Caucasus, and Germany from 1803–1813.
Major General Pavel Bibiluri, serving under the name of Loshkarev, commanded the Volhynia Infantry regiment from 1806–1811 and the Siberia Infantry Regiment from 1811–1814 but was severely wounded at Borodino, where he partially lost his vision.
The Javakhishvili family produced several notable military figures—Major General Ivan Zhevakhov (Javakhishvili) distinguished himself leading the Akhtyrsk Hussars from 1808–1811 and the Serpukhov Draggons from 1811–1815. His cousin, Major General Spiridon Zhevakhov, served with the Pavlograd Hussars for almost two decades, commanding it from 1810–1814. Philip Javakhishvili commanded the Ukrainian militias in 1812, while Nikolay Javakhishvili distinguished himself at the battles of Borodino and Leipzig, where he was mortally wounded.