Companeiskiy Cossacks

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Russian Army >> Companeiskiy Cossacks

Origin and History

Cossacks having fun, the Cossack to the right is probably a Companeyskiy Cossack – Source: Painting by Tymofiy Kalynskyi in the 1770s

The creation of Companeyskiy regiments dates back to 1669, at the time of the hetmanate of Demian Mnohohrishny, who, in his articles of agreement with the Moscow Tsardom, stipulated to have a Companeyskiy (volunteer) regiment of 1,000 men. Therefore, the birth of these regiments is officially established to August 30, 1668.

The Companeyskiy Cossacks had to "calm down self-willed" people who, "forgetting fear of God and every promise, started quarrels and troubles and made all sorts of messes." Thus, the original purpose of the Companeyskiy regiments was to carry out police duties. Companeyskiy or Volunteer regiments, so called because people joined their ranks voluntarily and served on horseback, should in no way be confused with ordinary Malorussian Cossacks regiments: they were recruited by the Hetman himself from volunteers, were not associated to a specific territory and were maintained at the expense of the entire Hetmanate; while ordinary Malorussian regiments were attached to a known territory, receiving their name from it (for example, Chernigovskiy, Lubenskiy regiments, etc.), were maintained at the expense of the population of this particular region and had their own regimental rada.

When Hetman Ivan Samoylovych was elected, the Hetmanate officers submitted a petition to the Muscovite Tsar in 1672 that there should be no more Companeyskiy regiments, since "they cause all sorts of devastation and resentment to residents of Malorussian cities and towns and villages". However, the Companeyskiy regiments were not abolished, and document confirming the promise of Hetman Mazepa, at his election, was signed by two Companeyskiy colonels: Pashkovskiy and Novitsky. When this hetman was elected, the existence of Companeyskiy regiments was secured by a special article. The time of Mazepa's hetmanate was the heyday of the Companeyskiy Regiments. In addition to the mounted regiments, a Serdyuk regiment was created for the personal protection of the hetman, the Court Companeyskiy Chorągiew, a kind of hetman's guard.

Under the rule of Mazepa, the Companeyskiy regiments began for the first time to be used for purely military purposes. In 1688, clashes of the Company regiments with the Tatars were reported for the first time, when a battle took place at the mouth of the Tiasmyn River. In 1689, appreciating the military abilities of the Companeyskiy Colonel Ilya Novitsky, Mazepa entrusted him with the overall command of the Companeyskiy regiments. Despite the recent conflict, the sociable Cossacks continued to do business with the Tatars.

By the end of the 17th century, there was a total of seven Companeyskiy and Serdyuk regiments.

During the Great Northern War (1700-21), the Companeyskiy regiments participated in the battles of Ryasina Manor and Erastfer (1701), Kletsk (1706) and Poltava (1709). A part of the Companeyskiy regiments also fought under Mazepa against Russia. Only the Companeyskiy regiments of colonels Chyugin, Kolbasin and Khvedkov and the Serdyuks of Burlyaev remained loyal to Tsar Peter I. After these events, Peter the Great began to treat the Companeyskiy cossacks unfavourably, and when Hetman Ivan Skoropadsky was elected, their number was reduced to three regiments, whereas before 1709 there were five Companeyskiy and five Serdyuks regiments.

In 1726, the Serdyuk regiments were completely disbanded, and three Companeyskiy (mounted) regiments were combined into the regiments. The service of the Companeyskiy cossacks is very clearly expressed in the articles of Hetman Danylo Apostol from 1727: "Since the time of the former Hetmans, volunteer Cossack regiments have been kept in Malorussia to use them in all military actions, for as long as the advanced and registered Cossacks regiments get out of their duties, voluntary regiments are always ready for quick incursions to get the enemy’s "tongue" for the advance guard and, in the hour of battle, to maintain the first front against the enemy."

From 1736 to 1739, during the Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739), the Companeyskiy regiments of Pavlov and Karp Chesnok participated in the Crimean campaigns of Russian General Burkhard Christoph von Münnich. In 1739, an important change in the organization of the Companeyskiy regiments followed: until this year, colonels were appointed by the hetman, but from 1739, the Companeyskiy Cossacks elected three candidates by "free votes" and submitted them for approval by the Russian Senate. The regiments continued to be called by the last names of their colonel and were not associated to any territory.

In 1746, the Companeyskiy regiments were attributed numbers from the 1st to the 3rd (probably due to the fact that two regiments were led by two sons of Karp Сhesnok). Each of these regiments had the following officers:

  • Regimental Staff
    • 1 colonel
    • 1 quartermaster
    • 1 standard-bearer
    • 1 clerk
    • 1 podesaul
  • Each company (sotnya) consisted of:
    • 1 sotnik
    • 1 clerk
    • 1 standard-bearer
    • 1 esaul

Sometimes there were rotmistr officers at the head of regiments and sotnyas.

Not considered very favourably by the population, the Companeyskiy regiments often took undue advantage of their power and often carried out riots and even murders. However, militarily they were much appreciated, especially in small wars.

By 1756, there were three Companeyskiy regiments:

  • 1st Companeyskiy Regiment (492 cossacks) under Colonel Anton Krzyzhanovskiy
  • 2nd Companeyskiy Regiment (238 cossacks) under Сolonel Vasiliy Karpovich Chesnok
  • 3rd Companeyskiy Regiment (227 cossacks) under Colonel Igantiy Karpovich Chesnok, who, during the Seven Years, War was colonel of the “One-Thousand Companeyskiy Regiment”

Service during the War

1756

At the end of March 1756, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna approved a mobilisation plan for the upcoming war. This plan also covered the mobilisation of irregular troops: Malorussian was asked to supply 5,000 men. The 1st Companeyskiy regiment had to be strengthened to a total of 1,000 men and placed under the command of Ignatiy Chesnok (formerly commanding the 3rd Companeyskiy regiment). For this reason the unit was now designated as the “One-Thousand Companeyskiy Regiment”.

According to the hetman, Companeyskiy regiments were located on the southern border, covering the territory of New Serbia. At the same time, 214 men of these regiments were posted at the General Military Chancellery of the Hetmanate (the highest governing body of Malorussia) "as messengers and guards".

On December 31, the hetman instructed Chesnok to review all regiments and to select 1,000 people "the best and with good horses." During the inspection, it turned out that there was a total of only 957 men in all three Companeyskiy regiments, and only 885 were considered as fit for duty. There were doubts about the combat readiness of 150 men (they were considered "defective"), and 41 men did not show up for the review at all.

1757

At the beginning of 1757, the missing places had to be to be filled by cossacks of the Hetman's guard, the Court Companeyskiy Chorągiew, whose number at the beginning of 1757 was 215 men.

Around the second half of January, the enlarged Companeyskiy regiment was subordinated to Brigadier Vasiliy Kapnist, commander of the Slobodian Cossacks. Kapnist was entrusted with a far from ideal force, which was experiencing serious problems with ammunition and with provision for its horses.

Later during the year, Ignatiy Chesnok noted that some of the 1,000 cossacks assigned to him were not adequately armed and dressed: there were not enough sabres, muskets, clothes and shoes, which all had to be urgently bought. What was purchased was only enough for the campaign.

On August 18, 1757, on the eve of the Battle of Gross-Jägersdorf, Major General Petr Panin, who was on duty, gave the regiments their orders of march. According to these, the Companeyskiy Regiment (without wagons) was planned to be allocated to the vanguard of the Russian army, along with the Don Cossacks of Colonel Sidor Sebryakov, 1,000 Slobodian Cossacks and Kalmyks. The trains of the One-Thousand Companeyskiy Regiment and of the Slobodian Cossacks were to follow in the rearguard of the 3rd Division. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the role the regiment in this battle.

At the end of the campaign, 6 officers and 7 cossacks were reported dead. The One-Thousand Companeyskiy Regiment was sent back to Malorussia, where it was inspected and 23 men were excluded.

At the request of Ignatiy Chesnok, the process of rearmament of the regiment was to begin. It was planned that the regiment would receive 500 sabres of the required model, as well as 1,000 light rifles (of hussar type) instead of the old ones, which were unsuitable for mounted service due to their weight and length, which reduced the speed of loading and firing.

1758

Finally, in mid-December 1758, the Hetman agreed to supply the necessary weapons and ammunition. Their arrival was expected approximately at the beginning of 1760.

1760

In 1760, the One-Thousand Companeyskiy Regiment was supposed to return to the battlefields of the Seven Years' War. As far as can be judged, the Malorussian Cossacks were planned to be used exclusively as auxiliary troops and messengers.

1761

According to the Military College, it was only by the beginning of April 1761 that it became possible to assemble the planned force of 2,000 cossacks. However, nothing is known about the combat use of the Companeyskiy Regiment on the battlefields of the Seven Years' War, but we can assume that it played an important role for other missions.

Uniform

The historian Vasily Lomikovsky, in his Dictionary of Malorussian Antiquity, compiled in 1808, describes the uniform of the Companeyskiy Cossacks as follows: "their uniform was a green kontusz with red cuffs and a red żupan undergarment; for the most part they wore narrow sharovary, and sometimes trousers called golantsy; their caps were round, <....> they wore short boots".

A kontusz coat was a cloth caftan with a turn-down collar and narrow sleeves with small cuffs. A cloth belt was worn over it. The round magierka hat, described by Lomikovsky, had a sheepskin band and a cloth crown, lined inside with cotton. The crown was decorated with cross-stitched braid. Golantsy were narrow trousers that were tucked into short boots, probably similar to hussar boots. However, the Companeyskiy Cossacks also wore “German boots”. In cold weather, Companeyskiy Cossacks wore cloaks, burkas, and kobeniaks, which were transported rolled up under the saddle in cylindrical bags.

The Ukrainian historian Mikhail Chapala mentions that the uniform described by Lomikovsky was introduced under the influence of “regularity” under Hetman Kirill Razumovsky in the 1750s. Until that moment, there was no uniform of the Companeyskiy regiments: everyone wore what they could afford. According to another Ukrainian historian, Yevgen Slavutych, Lomikovskiy’s description of Companeyskiy Regiments uniform can be associated only to later post-reform time, at the beginning of the 1760s. Afanasiy Shafonskiy in his work “Chernihiv viceroyalty topographical description” written in 1784-1786, without specifying details and time, also confirms the existence of a green Cossack uniform among the Companeyskiy regiments. In the uniform report cards, the red colour is specified only in relation to hats while only the size of the kontuszs and żupans is mentioned – which may advocate in favour of the monotony of both caftans. Moreover, in the 1750s, the uniform (kontusz and żupan) of the registered Cossacks was also mostly the same colour. A weighty confirmation in favour of this may be the description of the outfit from the fugitive soldier of the Hetmans’s Court Companeyskiy Chorągiew, who fled from service in 1759: "the green cloth caftans (both clothes, żupan and kontusz, are named the same, probably because of the similarity of the cut - Slavutych's comment), a round hat with a black border and a green top, the belt is made of linen, the boots are black." The green coloured cloth top mentioned in the document may indicate the existence of a cap of a different colour (green) among Hetman’s Court Companeyskiy rankers, differing from the other Companeyskiy regiments. Furthermore, Slavutych gives a different description of the round hat (with a high fur border and a low cloth top without a criss-cross lace) and the kontusz (without cuffs). Judging by the available report cards, the colour of the kontuszs and hats were regulated, but other things, such as sharovary, żupan and belt, probably did not fall under any regulation. Some of the company members registered for service in the regiments had their own, more expensive pants (and some even żupans). This is also confirmed by detective info, which gives data only on hats, żupans and kontuszs of fugitives. According to Slavutych, this is due to the fact that the pants were almost invisible from under the outer clothing.

The Companeyskiy rankers wore, like other cossacks, a Polish "Sarmatian" hairstyle: a high-shaven forelock and a hanging moustache.

Uniform of the Companeyskiy Cossacks - Copyright: Daniel Milekhin
Uniform Details
according to Slavutych (and Chapala in brackets)
Headgear round hat with a black high border and a low red top (according to Chapala – low hat with a criss-cross lace)
Overcoat green kontusz without cuffs (with cuffs according to Chapala)
Coat żupan of various colours (red according to Chapala)
Breeches narrow sharovary pants of any colour
Footgear black low calfskin boots


Troopers were usually armed with a lance, a sabre and a pistol. They could also carry a knife and a musket.

Officers

Officers did not have a regulated uniform due to their privileged official position. They wore kontuszs and żupans sewn from more expensive materials, decorated with silver and silk braid, buttonholes and laces, and also lined with fur in winter. Their richly decorated clothes testified more to the adherence to the then szlachta fashion than to a military uniform. The colonel was clearly better dressed than the other officers. His symbol of power was the mace.

Musicians

Kettle-drummers are sometimes mentioned with Cossack units.

Colours

In 1758, new colonel and regimental colours were made for the Companeyskiy regiments.

The colonel colour was made of white silk with a woven pattern.

The regimental colours were made of blue fabric.

On the obverse was depicted the coat of arms of the Zaporozhian Army (i.e., a Cossack in a caftan and hat, with a sabre on the side and a gun on his shoulder) in the baroque shield surrounded of weapons, standards and musical instruments; and on the reverse there were crosswise Hetman's kleinodes (a mace and a bunchuk) in a baroque shield surrounded with weapons, standards and musical instruments. The image of the baroque shield and surrounding objects was painted with gold paint, and the Cossack was also painted with ultramarine and carmine ones.

References

Lazarev, Yakov: article “And these troops were at the battle of Jägersdorf and other battles...": the Malorussian Cossacks in the context of military mobilizations and plans of the Russian government during the Seven Years' War in Russia in the global conflict of the XVIII century. The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and Russian society, 2023

Slavutych, Yevgen: Uniform of the Court Companeiskiy Chorągiew of Hetman Kirill Razumovsky, 2004

Novitskiy, Vasiliy: Companeiskiy regiments in Military Encyclopedia by Ivan Sytin

Chapala, Mikhail: Three Companeiskiy regiments should be established completely regular... in The history of the 9th Kiev Hussar Regiment, 2018

Oleksiy, Sokyrko: On guard of the mace. Court troops of Ukrainian hetmans from the middle of the XVII to the second half of the XVIII century, 2018

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, Appendix 1

Acknowledgements

Daniel Milekhin for a major update of the article