Michail Fedotovich Kamensky
( 1738 - 1809 )

Count (Graf), General Field-Marshal

Count Michail Fedotovich Kamensky was descended from an old noble family. His father served at the court of Tsar Peter the Great.
In 1751 in the age of 13 Michail Kamesky was enlisted to the Land Military School and in 1756 he finished it with the rank of poruchik (lieutenant) and then he was transferred to artillery.

In 1757 in the beginng of the Seven Years War Kamensky entered to the French army as a volunteer. He was in the French army till 1759 and participated in several battles with Prussians. After it he returned to the Russian army and served in the Moscow Artillery company till 1761. In 1761 he asked to transfer him to infantry because, as he wrote in his report he "suffered from frequent headache and deafness" and he feared he might "become ineligible for military service at all".

Kamensky's application was complied and he was transferred to infantry in the rank of premier-major. In 1762 Kamensky was promoted to the rank of colonel and was appointed General-Quartermaster-Lieutenant of Count Rumiantsev's Corps.

After the end of the Seven Years War Kamensky was appointed the commander of the 1st Moscow regiment. At this time he met Great Prince Paul Petrovich with whom he kept the very warm friendly relations for many years.

In August of 1765 Kamesky was sent to the military camp of Prussian King Frederick II as a military agent to study the Prussian system of troops training. The Prussian King-Commander paid attention to the curious Russian colonel, he called him "a young Canadian", but found him a rather "educated person".

A ceremonial parade in St.Petersbourg under Paul I (picture by A.Benua)

In the beginning of the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774 Kamensky had the rank of major-general and commanded a brigade. He participated in many battles. In the assault of the Turkish fortress of Benderi he personally led jagers to the attack and became a bearer of the order of St.George. For the campaign of 1773 he was decorated with the order of St.George of the 3rd class and promoted to the rank of general-poruchik (lieutenant general). In 1774 he commanded a corps and won the battle at Bazargik and together with Alexander Suvorov he defeated Turks at Kozludga.
For these victories he was decorated with his highest military award - the order of St.Geogre of the 2nd class.

During the war for the Bavarian heritage (1778-1779) Kamensky was the Russian military attache in the Prussian army.
In 1783-1785 Kamensky was the general-governor of Ryazan and Tambov.

In the Russian-Turkish war of 1787-1791 he commanded a division, a corps and took part in the Russian army offensive to Yassi, Benderi and Kalia. Afther the death of Prince Potemkin he was the Russian commander-in-chief for some time. But Empress Catherine II did not like Kamensky, so he had to retire and after his dismissal Kamensky was out of business.

New Emperor Paul I at first regarded Kamensky with favour, appointed him the commander of the Finland division and promoted to the rank of general-anchef (full general) and then general-field-marshal. But soon the Emperor grew cold to him and Kamensky had to go to his estate in the Orel gubervia (province).
In this period of disgrace Kamensky was occupied with his household, tried to write verses and studied mathematics.

When Alexander became the Emperor, he returned Kamensky to his service and appointed him the general-governor of St.Petersburg, but very soon Kamensky showed himself as a person quite unsuitable for this post and a short time after the Emperor dismissed him.
Kamensky came back to his estate again and lived there till 1806. This year became the last in his military career.
The new war with Napoleon began and the Russian army needed the commander-in-chief. After the Austrlitz battle Kutuzov fell into disgrace and nobody at Alexander's court wanted even to speak about him. And Kamensky was one of the very few of the Russian generals that had a high post during the Russian-Turkish wars and gained some victories. But the rumors about his military talent were very exaggerated.

Alexander I appointed him the commander-in-chief, Kamensky left St.Petersburg on November,10,1806 but he came to the main forces of the Russian army only on December,7, when he was still in the city of Vilno he wrote a rather strange report to Alexander:

I have nearly lost my last vision. I cannot ride for a long time, please send me a person, a good commander to whom I would be able to hand over the command and stay in the army together with him. I feel I cannot command such big army.

And after he had came to the army he continued sending the same applications to Alexander. But at the same time he must give orders to the army because Napoleon came to Warsaw and military actions began.
Kamensky rejected the plan of Corps Commander General Bennigsen and ordered to act according to his own plan, he ordered General Bennigsen to begin retreat to the Russian border. The generals in the Russian staff tried to convince Kamensky not to do this, but he did not want to hear anybody. Suddendly he went to a hospital in the Ostrolenka village that was located in the rear of the Russian army.

From this hospital he wrote to Alexander again and asked him again to dismiss him. When Alexander got to know about Kamensky's leaving the army he was very angry and said the field-marshal deserted from the army, he even wanted to prosecute the old field-marshal. And also in the army and at the court there were rumours Kamensky has gone out of his mind.
Being in the military hospital in Ostrolenka Kamensky still tried to give orders to his subordinates but the generals very often ignored them and acted on their own initiative. At last in the end of December Kamensky decided to come back to the army but just before his departure he received Alexander's order about his resignation from the post of commander-in-chief. Kamensky was ordered to stay in the town of Grodno and be there until the special Empreror's order.

At last on February,21,1807 he got the Emperor's order to go to his estate. He went to his village in the Orel gubernia (province) and lived there without quitting the place. In this village he lived as a Turkish sultan and have a kind of his own harem.
And just this way of life became the cause of his death. One of his young paramours that was tired of being a concubine of the old "sultan" and her young boyfriend bribed her brother of 15 years old, who was a "cossachok" (servant) of Kamensky.
On August,15,1809 this boy hit Kamensky with an axe and slashed his skull.
So suddenly the old field-marshal's life came to the end.

Kamensky was buried in the church of the village of Saburovo, and two years after next to him his younger son was buried. He was a prominent Russian general too, Nickolay Kamensky.

Historical Russian Translations