Patrick Gordon on his Service in Russia and on the Revolt of the Steltsi

[excerpted from Passages from the Diary of General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries in the Years 1635-1699 (London: The Spaulding Club, 1859), pp. 172, 187-193]



P. I. Gordon, by birth a Scottishman, came in the quality of Major to Mosko, in the yeare 7169th [A.D. 1661], and was sent out of the ambassy into the stranger office ; and in the yeare 7171 [A.D. 1663] in September, was preferred, for his comeing into the countrey, to be Lieveterment Colonell ; and was in the yeare 7172 and 3 [A.D. 1664-5] at his Maiesties service in Smolensko ; and in the yeare 7173 [A.D. 1665], the I I th of February, he was preferred, for his services, to be Colonell. In the yeare 7174 [A.D. 1666] he was sent on his Maiesties affaires to England. In the yeare 7176 [A.D. 1668], he was at service in Trubschefsky, Branskoy, and other Ukrainish townes. In the yeare 7179 [A.D. 1671] lie was at Novoskol against the rebellious Cosakes ; and from that yeare to the 7185th yeare [A.D. 1677], he was at service in Skewsky, and from Shewsky in the 71827 71837 7184 yeares [A.D. 1674-A.D. 1679], he was at service at Kaniow, Pereaslaw, and at Czegrin at the takeing of Doroschenko; and in the 7185th yeare [A.D. 1677], at the seige of Czegrin. And in the 7186th yeare [A.D.), 1678], he was in Czegrin at the siege or beleaguering of [it], in which yeare, the 20th of August, for his service at Czegrin, he was preferred to be Major Generall, and was at the marching of from Czegrin, until the army was dismissed the 11th of September, in the 7187 etc. [A.D. 1679]. From this yeare to the 7191 [A.D. 1683], he was at service in Kyow, in which yeare, he was, for his service, preferred to be Livetennent Generall, and was thereafter in Kyow to the 7195 yeare [A.D. 1687], in which yeare, he received the command of the Moskowish Selected Regiments of Sojours, and the same yeare, was at service in the Crimish expedition. In the 7196th yeare [A.D. 1688], the 11th of September, he was, for his services, preferred to be Generall. In the 7197th yeare [A.D. 1689], be was at service in the Crimish expedition ; and in the 7198th yeare [A.D. 1690], in the expedition to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity of Serge.

['His Majesty appointed an army of 12,000 soldiers, of which most of the officers were foreigners, to be quartered in the suburbs of Moscow, to keep the city in awe, commanded by General Gordon, who had entered in the Russian service in the time of his father, and who, by his extraordinary behaviour and success, had acquired both the love of the army and the esteem of the whole nation.'- (Captain John Perry's State of Russia under the present Czar, p. 156.)]


A.D. 1698.

In the end of February, Gordon notes the receipt of a letter from the Czar, written at London February 27. in the middle of January.

A few weeks afterwards his journal begins to be occupied with that mutiny of the Strelitzes, which, but for him, would, in all probability, have issued in the dethronement of the Czar.

April 3. 'This afternoon came the greater part of the Strelitz petitioners, and about a hundred others, who had seceded from the corps of Prince Michael Grigorievich Romodanowski, to the house of their Boyar, Prince Ivan Borisovich Troiekurov, and begged to be heard. They were told to send in four, the most influential, of their number; who accordingly came and declared that they could not take the field by such a bad road; and they begged for delay, representing that they had suffered great privations, and were still suffering. They exaggerated everything excessively. But the Boyar interrupted them, and ordered them to go to their duty, and march off immediately. 'As they declined to do so, he ordered them to be arrested and taken to prison. But their comrades, seeing this, rescued them from the guard that was conducting them, and set them at liberty. This occasioned great consternation among the high authorities. The generalissimo Prince Fedor Iurievich (Romodanowski) sent in great haste for me. When he had told me all the circumstances, with considerable exaggeration, I was of opinion that, considering the weakness of the party, and that they were without leaders, it was hardly worth while to take the matter so seriously, or anticipate great danger. I went, however, to Butirki to obviate all danger, and be ready in case of any tumult or meeting. I made see that all the soldiers were in their quarters, and finding all right, I lay down to get some rest, as it was now late. First, however, I had sent word to the authorities how matters stood.

April 4. 'On the fourth, at daybreak, I sent to learn how things were in the city. Learning that all was quiet, I repaired to Generals Alexei Semënovich and Prince Fedor Iurievich (Romodanowski), who had been attending an imperial council. I found every body in anxiety about the impending danger. which I tried to allay. But many persons, who are inclined by nature to anticipate dangers, have, in such cases, yet another object; they magnify the circumstances in order that their own zeal and services may appear the more signal in quelling the dangers, and that they may thus extract merit and consideration from them, After calling at my own house, I went back to Butirki. Having had all the officers present at the exercising of the regiment, I dismissed two-thirds of them, and with the other part remained all night at Butirki, in deference to the alarm of the other Generals. Some hundred men of the Semënov regiment were sent to expedite the march of the Strelitzes. These made no resistance, but marched off at midnight, after delivering up the ringleaders of the insurrection.

April 8. 'On the eighth, I wrote to his Majesty, giving him an account of the occurrences of the last week.' These were the first distant mutterings of the tempest. There was to be a lull of two months before it broke.

June 8. 'A report spread that the four Strelitz regiments at Toropetz were disposed to insurrection and disobedience. An equerry was, therefore, sent to get information of their doings.

June 9. 'An order was issued to detach four officers and forty men of the Butirki regiment, to be sent against the Strelitz regiments; the same numbers were detached from the other regiments in Moscow. One hundred and forty Strelitz deserters were ordered to be arrested, and sent to the cities of the Ukraine.

June 10. 'Accounts were received of the four Strelitz regiments that bad been stationed in the camp at Veliki Luki, and were then in Toropetz, that they were discontented at the dismissal of the rest of the army, and the orders given to them to go to various towns, and were inclined to disturbance.

June 11. 'Two captains returned from Toropetz, and reported that the Strelitzes, after repeated secret consultations, had resolved not to march to the stations appointed for them, but to go straight to Moscow and that they had required their officers to lead them thither. On their refusing, they had deposed them, and had chosen four men from every regiment to lead them; they were firmly resolved on coming to Moscow. This news caused no little consternation among the high authorities. In a council hastily called together, it was resolved to send against them an army corps composed both of infantry and cavalry; and I was to go before with the infantry, till the cavalry were collected. I was, therefore, sent for and informed of the matter. After it had been fixed that five hundred men of my regiment, and a like number of each of the three regiments stationed in Moscow, should go, I selected the officers and men that should be used.

June 12. 'I attended a sitting of council at court, in which the former resolutions were affirmed. There were no more news of the insurrectionists. I dined with the Polish Ambassador, In company with the other Ambassadors, and a number of friends. Twenty-seven equerries were sent to me, to be used in carrying orders and despatches to Moscow.

June 13. 'Another council was held, and I received orders to march with the infantry and artillery for the river Khodinka, and there wait further orders. After making the soldiers get a month's pay, sending on five cannon to Butirki, and getting a hundred and fifty waggons, I set out from the Sloboda in the afternoon. After an hour's stay in Butirki, I marched out and pitched camp on the little river Khodinka. The other three regiments arrived at midnight.

June 14. 'The Polish Ambassador came to the camp. I sent and received several messengers, but no further accounts of any certainty.
June 16. 'I broke up in the morning, and pitched camp again on the Swidja (Svidnia), a verst from Tuschina (Tuchino). At midnight, the Boyar came, and brought the orders on all the points that we had laid before the council to have instruction and full authority upon.

June 17. 'On Friday, at six o'clock, I marched with the infantry, and came to Tschernewa (Chernevo), ten versts. Here I found a nobleman's servant, who said that he had spent the previous night with the Strelitzes, and that they were marching with all speed to reach the convent of Woskressensk (Voskressensk) that night. This news made me hasten on to get there before them. After advancing five versts farther, I rested a little, and sent a report to the Boyar, requesting him, at the same time, to send me some cavalry. I then crossed the river, and, lest the mutineers should reach the convent before me, I pushed on before with what horsemen I could muster. Two versts from the convent, the scouts brought to me four Strelitzes, who said that they were sent, one man from each regiment, to take a petition to the Boyar, Reading it, I found In it nothing but a catalogue of their services, with exaggeration of their grievances, and a prayer for leave to come to Moscow to visit their homes, wives, and children, as well as to petition for their necessities. I sent them on to the Generalissimo; and having learned from these deputies that the Strelitzes were still fifteen versts off, and could not reach the convent that night, I gave orders to mark off a camp near the convent, as the most convenient place. I arrived at the place fixed upon about sunset, and immediately received information from my scouts that the Strelitzes had reached the river, and were crossing at a shallow place. Hearing this, I hastened thither with what horsemen I had with me. I spoke to them in a calm tone, and advised them to return across the river, and encamp on the other side. Not heeding this, they turned into a line, and remained stationed on a meadow beside the river, outside the village. I returned as quickly as possible to bring up our infantry. I made the first two regiments march through the village, and take post in the best position, while the other two were stationed on the fields by the Moscow road. I then rode down to the Strelitzes, and had a conversation with them; but I found them very refractory in all that we required of them. However, I persuaded them to send two other deputies to the Generalissimo, which they did. After a mutual promise that no movement should take place that night, they returned to their camp, leaving a strong guard in the lane. I made a battalion keep guard not far from them, and stationed another near for relief. I then went to the other regiments, and ordered strong guards and detachments in various places in sight of their camp, to observe them. Having reconnoitred their camp at a little distance, and found no stirring among them, and having also visited our own guards, I went back to the camp at the time of reveille, which I did not allow to be beat, and rested an hour. After which I went to the Generalissimo, and consulted with him what was to be done. After mature deliberation, it was resolved that I should repair to their camp and intimate to them: 1, That they should turn back and repair to the places assigned them; 2, That they should give. up one hundred and forty deserters who had run away from Velikie Luki to Moscow, as well as the ringleaders of the present insurrection. and disobedience to the commands of his Majesty; 3, That in the appointed places his Majesty should give them the usual pay, and either bread or money, according to the local prices; 4, That the present fault should be forgiven them; and, 6, That even the others, who were more guilty, should riot suffer severe punishment,
' Taking the six deputies with me, I went to their camp, where I communicated the orders to assemble and hear the gracious concessions of his Majesty. When about two hundred had come together, I let the deputies communicate the orders given, and then employed all the rhetoric I was master of to induce them to return to obedience, and give In a petition, confessing their guilt in having transgressed his Majesty's orders. Bat they answered that they were all determined to die or else go to Moscow, though it were only for eight or three days; after that they would go wherever his Majesty should order. When I told them that they would not be permitted to go to Moscow, and that they must not think of it, they replied that they wouId rather die than not get to Moscow. With that began two old fellows among them to aggravate their privations, and half a dozen confirmed what they said, and kept up the disturbance. I advised that each regiment should hold a consultation apart, and that they should consider well what they did, and what they were refusing. But they rejected all advice, and declared that they were all of one mind. I then intimated that I would withdraw from the camp and wait an answer outside, adding the threat, that if they did not embrace the gracious offers of his Majesty now, they needed not expect such conditions again, when once we should be obliged to use compulsion to bring them to obedience. But to all this they paid no heed. I then rode out of their camp, and waited at some distance for a quarter of an hour; after which I sent to ask their final answer. Finding no alteration of their mind, I took my departure with an indication of sorrow. After inspecting the best approaches to the rebels, and holding a consultation with the Generalissimo and others, it was resolved to draw up the army, and plant the cannon, and use force. l brougbt up the infantry and twenty-five cannon to a fit position, surrounded their camp on the other side with cavalry, and then sent an officer to summon and exhort them once more to submit. As they again declined, I sent yet another to demand a categorical decision. But they rejected all proposals of compromise, and boasted that they were as ready to defend themselves by force as we were to attack. Seeing that all hope of their submission was vain, I made around of the cannon be fired. But as we fired over their heads, this only emboldened them more, so that they began to wave their colours and throw up their caps, and prepare for resistance. At the next discharge of the cannon, however, seeing their comrades fall on all sides, they began to waver. Out of despair, or to protect themselves from the cannon, they made a sally by a lane, which, however, we had occupied with a strong body. To make yet surer, I brought up several detachments to the spot, so as to command the hollow way along which they were issuing. Seeing this, they returned to their camp, and some of them betook themselves to the barns and outhouses of the adjoining Tillage. At the third discharge of the guns, many of them rushed out of the camp towards the infantry and cavalry. After the fourth round of fire, very few of them remained in their waggon rampart; and I moved down with two battalions to their camp, and posted guards round it. During this affair, which lasted about an hour, a few of our men were wounded. The rebels had twenty-two killed on the spot, and about forty wounded, mostly mortally. We had all the prisoners brought to the convent, and shut up in vaulted houses and other places. A list of their horses was then made, and orders given not to touch their property ; only the ammunition and the regimental waggons were brought to head quarters, and
an account of them taken. The next thing was to send an officer to Moscow with an account of the business, The whole afternoon we were occupied collecting the arms scattered about on the camp and fields.

June 19. Information having been got as to a few of the ringleaders, from some who thought to gain favour for themselves, several influential Individuals were called up and examined. One of the regiments was then mustered. The greater part of the influential men and others being examined, it was frankly confessed that some had been the ringleaders and guilty rebels. Those that were found good we put on the one side, and the bad on the other. In the afternoon, another regiment was proceeded with in the same way.

June 20.' We removed our camp to beside the convent, to be out of the dust of the field where we were.

June 21. 'We mustered another regiment of the Strelitzes, and examined various individuals, putting them to the torture; whereon they confessed the wicked designs they had meant to carry out when they got to Moscow. Word was despatched to Moscow twice or thrice of all that was going on.

June 22. 'Twenty-four individuals were found guilty, on their own confession, of the most shocking crimes, and of having designed, when they got to Moscow, to massacre certain Boyars, and to extort an increase of-pay, and a new regulation of their services. On these we pronounced sentence of death, to consist in beheading. They were confined apart, and directed to confess, receive the eucharist, and prepare for death.

June 23. 'Those condemned yesterday were beheaded. The fourth regiment was mustered in the same way.

June 24. 'I wrote to his Majesty, giving a short account of the previous events.

June 25. 'On this and following days, we were engaged from morning to night in hearing cases; many were put to the torture, of whom a few confessed.

June 27. 'An order arrived to send the less guilty Strelitzes to the various convents, and there keep them closely imprisoned.

June 28. 'Some Strelitzes that had confessed themselves guilty were hanged.

June 29. 'His Majesty's birthday was celebrated, first by divine service, and then by a feast, at which his health was drunk, with discharge of cannon. A great many Strelitzes were sent under strong guard to various convents.

June 30. 'Many rebels of the regiment of Colonel Hundertmark were interrogated and put to the torture; but none would confess himself guiltier than the others. They were therefore informed that they must cast lots, as the tenth man must die, which they did. About two hundred persons were knouted in the afternoon.

July 1. 'Forty-five men of Hundertmark's regiment, on whom the lot had fallen, were brought out. They were told that if they would only name the ringleaders of the rising, the rest should go free. After a pause, they began to mutter and to name one or two, who, being tortured, without much ado pled guilty; three or four more were then named, who were also tortured, and confessed after a few strokes. They were then set apart and bid prepare for death; and the others, on whom the lot had fallen, were set free.

July 2. ' To-day, seventy men were hanged by fives and threes on one gallows. Numbers more were sent away to confinement.

July 3. 'An order came for the army to be dismissed. We were all thanked for our services. Three regiments went off immediately. The Generalissimo and we, his assessors or aids, with the Butirki regiment, remained all night.

July 4. 'In the morning, the four Strelitzes condemned last Saturday were brought out and beheaded. With few exceptions, all those executed submitted to their fate with great indifference, without saying a word, only crossing themselves; some took leave of the lookers-on, One hundred and thirty had been executed, about seventy had been killed in the engagement or died of their wounds, eighteen hundred and forty-five been sent to various convents and prisons, and twenty-five remained in this convent.

July 6. 'This day, after devotion, I, with many more, were confirmed by the Archbishop of Anura [Ancyra], called Petrus Paulus de St. Joseph, of the Carmelite order; I takeing the name of Leopoldus, and my son Theodorus that of Joseph.

July 19. 'I was called to Preobraschensk. The gracious letter of his Majesty was read, in which our services were commended. The same was read to the soldiers, who were promised a ruble a piece, besides that they were all to be treated at his Majesty's table. We also were sumptuously treated, especially in drink. August 23. 1 Gott this account of my mothers father. The Laird of Petlurg married Janet Ogilby, daughter to the Laird of Cullen, and was soone after killed at the battel of Pinky, leaving him who succeeded unborne, or in the cradle. She was afterwards maryed to one Olgilby of Blarak, her cousin, a cadet of the house of Cullen, and of 3000 merks in the Boyne. By him she had a son called James, brother uterine to Sir John Gordon of Petlurge, and ankle to Mr Robert. This James marryed Marjery Gordon, daughter to Georg Gordon of Coclaraghy. These were my grandfather and grandmother.' July. The tidings of the formidable revolt of the Strelitzes reached the Czar at Vienna, towards the end of July, and hastened his journey homewards.

September 2. On the second of September, Gordon, who had gone, with his eldest son and his family, to visit his estate in the country, writes : 'I received a letter saying that the Czar had arrived in Moscow, and had been at my house to enquire for me.' Gordon returned in a few days, and was immediately sent for by the Czar, who received him very graciously, and thanked him in the heartiest way for his faithful services, and the great things he had done.

September 17. 'Many Strelitzes were brought up and put to the torture, his Majesty being desirous to institute a stricter examination than ours.

September 19. 1 was unwell and kept the house. A sharp enquiry was made into the Strelitz business. September 20. More Strelitzes put to the question. A number were directed to prepare for death. September 23. In the afternoon, I went to Preobraschensk, but in vain: every body about the court was engaged in arresting more of the adherents of the Princess Sophia, and putting the Zarina (Tsarina) in the convent. [The widow of the late Czar Ivan, Proskovia, daughter of Feodor Soltykof. She survived her husband twenty-seven years, dying in 1723.]

September 30. 'A number of Strelitzes were executed.

October 3. 'I was at Preobraschensk, and saw the crocodile, swordfish, and other curiosities, which his Majesty had brought from England and Holland.

November 14. 'Orders were issued not to give support to any of the wives or children of the executed Strelitzes.

The Diary closes on the last day of this year, with these devout aspirations :--' Almighty December al. God be praised for his gracious long suffering towards me in sparing my life so long. Grant, gracious God, that I may make a good use of the time that thou mayest be pleased yet to grant me for repentance. This year I have felt a sensible decrease of health and strength. Yet thy will be done, gracious God!'

These were the last words that Gordon was to enter in his journal of many years. His strength was now fast failing, and during the following summer he became so weak that he was unable to leave his bed. He died at seven o'clock in the morning of the twenty-ninth of November, 1699. The Czar, who had visited him five times in his illness, and had been twice with him during the night, stood weeping by his bed as he drew his last breath; and the eyes of him who had left Scotland a poor unfriended wanderer, were closed by the hands of an Emperor.

Peter himself ordered the funeral procession, and took his place in its long line, accompanied by all the pomp of his empire, and followed by the representatives of most of the great powers of Europe. The body was carried on the shoulders of twenty-eight colonels; two generals supported the footsteps of his widow, and twenty ladies, the wives of high Muscovite dignitaries, walked in her train. The religious obsequies were performed by the priests of the church which he loved, in the first chapel of stone which the Roman Catholics were suffered to raise in Moscow. It was built chiefly by his bounty, and his tomb was dug before its high altar, in a vault, where this inscription may still be read :

SACRAE TZAREAE MAJESTATIS MILITIAE GENERALIS PATRICIUS LEOPOLDUS GORDON NATUS ANNO DOMINI 1635 DIE 31 MARTII DENATUS ANNO DOMINI 1699 DIE 29 NOVEMBRIS REQUIESCAT IN PACE