Zhomini Heinrich Veniaminovich. Swiss from Napoleon’s army in Russian service

Portrait of Heinrich Veniaminovich Jomini, military gallery of the Winter Palace

The history of Russia is amazing. Moreover, in some aspects it is a mirror image of the history of “sworn friends” – the United States. Two countries, which have never fought each other, look at themselves as in a mirror for several centuries. Like the United States, the Russian Empire welcomed foreigners. At the same time, immigration to Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries was not as massive as in the United States; only highly qualified specialists came to the empire. If now the problem of our country is that brains are constantly draining from it, then in the past they, on the contrary, only arrived. Peter I gave a large-scale start to the influx of foreigners, after which military specialists, industrialists, inventors, scientists, doctors, representatives of technical professions flocked to Russia.

The British, French, Germans, Swedes, Italians, inhabitants of almost all European nationalities arrived in the empire and became its subjects. Many of them have finally become Russified and took root in our country. One of these representatives was the prominent military theorist Jomini Heinrich Veniaminovich, born in Switzerland, Antoine Henri. The history of this military leader, who stood at the origins of the opening of the General Staff Academy in our country in 1832, is truly amazing. He managed to fight both for Napoleon I, being a participant in the war of 1812, and against the emperor of France, joining the Russian service in 1813. In Russia, Antoine Henri Jomini spent most of his military career serving in the military until 1855.

Antoine Henri Jomini

Antoine Henri Jomini was born in the small Swiss town of Peierne in the Canton of Vaud on March 6, 1779, in the family of the local mayor Benjamin Jomini. In 1796, at the age of 17, he moved to Paris, where he worked for a time as a bank clerk until he returned home in 1798. At this time in Switzerland, which was dependent on revolutionary France, the Helvetic Republic was proclaimed. Returning to Switzerland, Antoine Henri joined the War Office, receiving the rank of lieutenant. A year later, the young officer commanded a battalion, but the beginning of his military career was overshadowed by a corruption scandal. After being accused of bribery, Antoine Henri Jomini was forced to leave Switzerland for Paris.

In France, Jomini returned to commerce and for some time worked for the famous Dupont company, which at that time was a major supplier of various equipment to the French army. While in the civil service, Jomini did not cease to be interested in military affairs, studied military sciences, read a lot of thematic literature and as a result wrote and published his own book in 1804. Antoine Henri’s work was entitled A Treatise on Major Military Operations and was a study of the military campaigns of Bonaparte and Frederick the Great.

In the same 1804, Jomini again voluntarily entered the French army. At the same time, his work did not go unnoticed, it was appreciated by Napoleon himself. The future Marshal of France Michel Ney also provided protection to the young military theorist. At the same time, the first edition of the “Treatise on Major Military Operations” was published in three volumes at once and was a great work that marked the birth of a new military theoretician.

Antoine Henri Jomini in the Napoleonic Wars

Antoine Henri Jomini took a direct part in the Napoleonic Wars, fighting in all major campaigns since 1805. So he took part in the Austro-Russian-French war and accompanied Marshal Ney during the defeat of the Austrian army at Ulm. Shortly thereafter, Jomini received a post at the headquarters of the 6th Army Corps, and already in 1806 he became the first adjutant of the marshal. For the valor that Jomini displayed in the 1805 campaign, Napoleon promoted him to colonel.

Capitulation of Ulm, October 20, 1805, painting in 1815

Antoine Henri Jomini also took part in the Russian-Prussian-French war of 1806-1807. Even before the outbreak of hostilities in 1806, Jomini published a new essay, “Memo on the Probability of War with Prussia,” outlining his own views on a future war. Napoleon also got acquainted with this work of Jomini and appreciated it at its true worth. The French emperor took a promising officer into his staff.

The young Swiss followed Napoleon everywhere, taking a direct part in two significant battles of the campaign: October 14, 1806 at Jena and February 7-8, 1807 at Preussisch-Eylau. At the Battle of Jena, Antoine Henri was in the battle formations of the 25th Line Regiment, which attacked the positions of the Russian army near Iserstadt. For this episode, he was noted in the report of the corps commander, and for the 1806-1807 campaign, Napoleon granted Jominey the baronial title and awarded France’s highest award – the Order of the Legion of Honor.

At the same time, Antoine Henri became chief of staff of the 6th Army Corps, commanded by his patron Marshal Ney. Henri was in this position during the campaign of Napoleon I to Spain in 1808. However, he did not stay in Spain for long, and already in 1809 he was seconded to Vienna. By that time, he had already been awarded the rank of brigadier general, and the young officer himself prepared another job, which Napoleon personally asked him for. Initially, Jomini was supposed to prepare a historical description of the Italian campaigns of the Napoleonic army in 1796-1800, but rather quickly a much more extensive work came out from under his pen, covering the events from 1792 to 1801. The work was titled “Critical and Military History of the Revolutionary Wars”. And already in 1811 Jomini prepared a new complete edition of the “Treatise on Great Military Operations” – a large-scale scientific work of 8 volumes, the publication of which lasted until 1816.

War of 1812 and the transition to Russian service

Together with the army of Napoleon I, Antoine Henri Jomini took part in the Russian campaign of 1812, which marked the beginning of the downfall of the French Empire created by Bonaparte. At the same time, Jomini did not take part in the hostilities. At first he was the governor of Vilna, and later the commandant of Smolensk taken by the French. Despite the rear positions, Antoine Henri provided invaluable assistance to the retreating remnants of the Great Army. Thanks to the information he had collected in advance, it was possible to ferry the remnants of the army and Napoleon across the Berezina. The crossing of the river was carried out above Borisov, which was firmly held by the units of Marshal Oudinot. Thanks to this decision, part of the French army was able to avoid complete defeat and captivity, while Jomini himself almost drowned and became seriously ill with a fever.

Peter von Hess. Crossing the Berezina

It is curious that Antoine Henri Jomini became the only participant in the Patriotic War of 1812 who fought on the side of the enemy – the French, but his portrait was subsequently placed on the walls of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, in the famous military gallery.

During the 1813 campaign, Jomini fully recovered from his illness and returned to duty. He greeted the New Year of the Napoleonic Wars with the Chief of Staff of the 3rd Army Corps, commanded by Marshal Michel Ney. It is believed that Jomini’s talent, knowledge of strategy and tactics were of decisive importance in the victory of the French army over the combined Russian-Prussian army at Bautzen on May 20-21, 1813. After the retreat of the Allied army to Silesia, the parties signed an armistice agreement until August 1813. At the same time, for this battle, Jomini was promoted to the rank of divisional general, but for some reason he never received it. It is believed that this was due to the strained relations between Antoine Henri and the chief of the General Staff of Napoleon Louis Alexander Berthier, with whom Jomini had been in conflict since 1810.

Insulted by the non-appropriation of the next rank on the day of the end of the armistice, Antoine Henri Jomini went over to the side of the anti-French coalition. In Prague, Jomini was accepted into service by the Russian Emperor Alexander I and promoted to lieutenant general. The newly minted Russian general was included in the suite of His Imperial Majesty for the quartermaster part (the prototype of the future General Staff). Together with the Russian troops, Jomini took part in the battles near Kulm on August 29-30, 1813, participated in the “Battle of the Nations” near Leipzig on October 16-19 of the same year. And in the campaign of the next year he took part in the battle of Brienne on January 29, 1814 and in the storming of Bar-sur-Sainte on March 2, 1814. After the end of the war in Europe and the victory of the forces of the 6th anti-French coalition, Antoine Henri Jomini accompanied the Russian Emperor Alexander I to the Congress of Vienna.

Creation of the Academy of the General Staff

Until 1824, Antoine Henri Jomini visited his new homeland on short visits, continuing to work on various military theoretical works. Finally, the officer moved to St. Petersburg only in the summer of 1824. After the accession to the throne of Emperor Nicholas I in 1825, Jomini began to live continuously in Russia, finally becoming Heinrich Veniaminovich. In 1826, the emperor granted the Swiss the rank of general from infantry. In Russia, his military theoretical activity did not stop. Jomini continued to write books, so, in 1830, the “Analytical Review of the Art of War” was published. And in 1838 from the pen of the now Russian general came his second most important military work – “Essays on Military Art”. The author put this work as the basis for a new course in strategy, which, among other things, he read for the heir to the Russian throne – the future Emperor Alexander II.

The building of the Imperial Nicholas Military Academy in St. Petersburg

While in the Russian military service, Heinrich Veniaminovich Jomini was involved as an advisor in planning military operations during the Russian-Turkish War of 1828-1829 and the Crimean War of 1853-1856. At the same time, during the war with Turkey, Jomini accompanied the emperor on a military campaign and was subsequently awarded the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky. During his service, Jomini was awarded many state orders, including the Order of St. Anne of the 1st degree and the highest award of the Russian Empire – the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called.

The most important achievement of Jomini in the Russian military service was the creation in St. Petersburg of the Military Academy of the General Staff, which was opened in 1832. This was an invaluable contribution to the development of Russian military education. Heinrich Veniaminovich Jomini promoted this project since 1826, when for the first time, on behalf of Nicholas I, he substantiated the idea of ​​creating a Central Strategic School in our country, which was supposed to lead to the unity of principles and methods of teaching tactics and strategy to officers. The grand opening of the Imperial Military Academy took place in St. Petersburg on November 26, 1832 (December 8 in a new style). Thus, Baron Heinrich Veniaminovich Jomini entered Russian military history forever as a major military theorist, historian, infantry general, who was one of the authors of the project to create a general staff academy.

Jomini remained in the Russian army until 1855, having managed to receive the Order of St. George, 4th degree for 25 years of continuous service. Being already at a venerable age, Heinrich Veniaminovich left the country, which became his second homeland, and returned to Switzerland, and then moved to France in the town of Passy, ​​where he died at the age of 90 at the end of March 1869. At the same time, his son, Russian diplomat Alexander Zhomini, who worked for many years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in 1879-1880, held the post of Comrade (Assistant) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, continued to work in Russia all these years. The famous Russian diplomat died on December 5, 1888 in St. Petersburg.

Heinrich Veniaminovich Jomini

At the same time, the contribution that Jomini made to the military-historical cause was appreciated by his descendants. Among other things, the outstanding military theorist was the first to single out another one from the concept of “theater of war” – “theater of military operations.” Jomini was also the first military researcher to demonstrate to everyone the difference between the concepts of the operational direction and the operational line. Formed by a military researcher, the provisions on the concentration of the main forces on the direction of the main attack and close interaction in the battle of artillery, cavalry and infantry had a very serious impact on the development of all Western European and Russian military thought in the 19th century. At the same time, the works of Antoine Henri Jomini made a huge contribution to the formation and development of the entire Russian school of military strategy, especially in the 19th century. One of his most famous students was General Henrikh Antonovich Leer, who headed the Nikolaev Academy of the General Staff in 1889-1898.

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