Aleksander Mikhailovich Korsakov, 1753-1840

General Alexander Mikhailovich Korsakov (or Rimsky-Korsakov), 1753-1840, was a Russian general best known for his defeat at the Second battle of Zurich in September 1799, but who went on to serve as governor of Lithuania for thirty years.

Korsakov was a member of a Russian noble family. His military career began in 1768 when he joined the Life Guard Preobrazhensk Regiment. He was promoted to sub-ensign in 1769, sergeant in 1770, ensign in 1774, lieutenant in 1775 and lieutenant-colonel in the Chernigov Infantry Regiment in 1778.

He fought in Poland in 1778-79. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-92 he was attached to an Austrian corps (1788), fighting at Khotin and Galati. He commanded a detachment in 1789, and was promoted to brigadier as a reward for bring news of Russian victories to Catherine II.

In 1789 Korsakov transferred to the Life Guard Semeyonovsk Regiment. He served in the galley flotilla during the Russo-Swedish War.

He was promoted to major general in 1793. He then left Russia, visiting Britain in 1794 before joining the Austrian army to take part in the fighting against the French Republic late in the same year.

In 1795 he returned to Russia and took part in the 1796 war against Persian. He then became infantry inspector for the St. Petersburg Inspection, and was promoted to lieutenant-general in 1798. Later in the same year he became colonel-proprietor of the Rostov Musketeer Regiment.

In the autumn of 1799 he was given command of the Allied forces in Switzerland. The Austro-Russian armies had won a series of victories in Italy, but in the middle of the campaign the command structure was revised and Suvarov was ordered to move from Italy to Switzerland where he was to command against Massena. At the same time the Austrian Archduke Charles was ordered from Switzerland to the Rhine.

With the Archduke out of the way Massena went onto the offensive, defeating Korsakov at the 2nd battle of Zurich (25 26 September 1799). Korsakov's army was almost totally destroyed during this battle.  

In the aftermath of this defeat all of the Allied plans were badly disrupted. Suvarov was dismissed from command for the final time after retreating from Switzerland and early in the following year Tsar Paul withdrew from the Second Coalition. 

In November 1799 Korsakov was discharged from the army, but his disgrace was short-lived and he was back with the rank of General of Infantry in March 1801, although his remaining posts were mainly administrative. He was governor of Byelorussia in 1802, became infantry inspector in Moscow in 1803. He was commander of the reserve forces in the western provinces in 1805-1806, before becoming military governor of Lithuania on 1 October 1806, beginning a relationship that would last for nearly 30 years.

He wasn't directly involved in the Polish campaigns of 1806-7, but was responsible for organising local militias. He was discharged again in 1809, but returned as military governor of Lithuania in 1812. He held this post for eighteen more years, until the start of the Polish insurrection of 1830-31. In 1830 he became a member of the State Council.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 April 2012), Aleksander Mikhailovich Korsakov, 1753-1840,

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