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Extracts from Patrick Gordon's diary were edited by Joseph Robertson for the Spalding Club and published in 1859 as "Passages from the Diary of General Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries, Aberdeen, Scotland." The abstract that follows was prepared by Managing Editor John Sloan. and appeared in Gorget and Sash.
During the time your editors were preparing this article for publication NBC Television showed a "docudrama" version of the life of Russian Tsar Peter the Great. Patrick Gordon figured prominently in the show, but much of the activity attributed to him was erroneous. As this article, based on his diaries, will reveal, he was indeed Peter's principal teacher of military art, but he did not accompany Peter on his embassy to the West, did not have liaisons with any women sent by Swedish King Charles XII, was in fact the leader of the action against the Streltsi (instead of Peter), and died peacefully in bed long before the Battle of Narva.
Patrick Gordon was one of the most successful and influential of the host of Scottish military adventurers who sought their fortunes on the continent in the 17th century. He was the principal instructor of Peter the Great of Russia in military subjects and was a senior general in the Muscovite service during the critical years of the transition from a medieval to a modern-style military establishment. Gordon entered the Muscovite service in 1661 during the reign of Tsar Alexis. He remained on active duty, serving faithfully throughout the turbulent period following the Tsar's death. He died in 1699 with Tsar Peter keeping vigil at his bedside.
Gordon was the second son of a scion of the house of Gordon of Haddo. His mother was Mary Ogilvie, heiress of Auchleuchries in Buchan. He was educated in the classics in Scotland and sought further education at age 16 by traveling to Danzig. He faithfully recorded his further adventures in a diary that was preserved, along with some of his extensive correspondence. In these articles we give summaries of the diaries as reproduced in "Passages from the Diary of General Patrick Gordon," edited by Joseph Robertson in 1859.

Early Service in Poland

Gordon records his passage to Danzig, then to Braunsberg, a suburb of Koenigsberg, where he entered the Jesuit college. He left school to return home, but could find no passage, so he stayed the winter in Poland. In 1653 he stayed with Scotsmen whom he had met in many locations in Poland. He decided to enter the service of Duke Ian Radzewill but was unable to find him. He finally reached Hamburg by way of Warsaw and Poznan in 1655. There, he enlisted in the Swedish service and was mustered in at Stettin. There were 10,000 foot and 7,000 reiters in the army of Swedish King Charles X Gustavus (reigned 1654-1660), who was taking advantage of the Polish wars with the Cossacks, Tatars, and Russians to seize part of Poland and Lithuania.
Cromwell sent Charles money to raise four regiments in Germany, thinking to keep his potential enemies busy. On 16 July the army left Stettin with Field Marshal Wittenberg as commander. They had great kettledrums mounted on wagons drawn by six horses. The drums could be heard for two German miles. Gordon was in the rearguard as a trooper. The guard was surprised by Polish cavalry on 11 September. Only nine men escaped, and Gordon was seriously wounded. He arrived in Cracow on 25 September and was nearly captured during the Siege of Cracow. In October he entered the command of General Robert Douglas (whose father had served Gustavus Adolphus and whose three brothers all served Sweden). Gordon was again wounded in a skirmish. He obtained his discharge from one unit and joined another. In January 1656 he was captured by the Poles and forced to enter their service under Constantine Lubomirski. They marched on Warsaw, which was held by the Swedes and besieged by the Lithuanians. The Swedes surrendered. In July 1656 the Swedes won a major battle [Battle of Warsaw], and Gordon was captured and taken before General Douglas, who took him back when he explained that he had been forced to serve the Poles. They formed a special Scottish unit that trained officers for the army. He served three years and had many adventures. There were several thousand Scots in the Swedish army.
Then, when Alexis of Moscow switched enemies and attacked the Swedes at Riga, the Scots were ordered there to relieve the place. Gordon gives a description of the Muscovite army at the siege. All the chief officers were foreign. The commander in chief was Sir Alexander Leslie, who died in 1663 as governor of Smolensk. The Tsar felt that the foreign officers refused to take Riga because they did not want the Swedes to lose too badly. Nevertheless, he agreed to raise the siege. Gordon's regiment then returned to Danzig. The troops lived on plunder and were not paid much, if anything. Gordon was wounded again.
On 5 January 1657 he was captured by the Poles and taken to Danzig, where he was later exchanged and then nearly captured again. Then there was a major battle in which they fought the Imperial troops, and Gordon was twice wounded and again captured. He escaped and made it back to the Swedish camp, where he obtained an honorable discharge and a recommendation. He writes that he never received any pay while in the Swedish service. While on a plundering expedition his feet became frozen, but luckily, he recovered. He and 18 other Scots captured a village containing 23 gendarmes, 35 dragoons, and 40 horses and took them all to the general. There were also Scots in the Imperial service. With the victory of Cromwell in England many Royalist officers sought their fortunes in Europe.
Gordon again was captured by the Poles and was offered a dragoon company by Jan Sobieski, but he declined as it seemed to offer little chance of promotion. The field marshal, Lubomirski, offered him the rank of ensign in the foot bodyguard, but he declared that, as he had already held that rank, he would never serve again at that level. After 11 weeks of imprisonment he accepted the appointment of quartermaster in 1659. He had decided that the Swedes had too many enemies for him to make his fortune in their service. Further, he had discovered that one could starve in the Swedish service.
One of Gordon's first duties in his second campaign with the Poles was to protect the Staroste of Libush with a party of seven dragoons--not from the enemy, but from other Polish troops as they marched past. This task occupied him for six weeks. He was warm in his praise of the kind and friendly Podstaroste and records that, such were the gains of this service, that they supplied him with a new uniform, two horses, a carriage, and a couple of servants, besides a parting gift of 100 gulders and an old but serviceable Turkish steed. He had several affairs with the daughters of the people in whose homes he stayed.
The Polish Army now sat down before Graudenz. Gordon had often been in the place while he was in the Swedish ranks, and the field marshal consulted with him as to the best point of attack. His counsel was followed, with successful issue. The town was taken by storm, but, although the mutinous garrison capitulated, the commandant retreated into the citadel and declared that he would rather die than give himself up to the Poles. Gordon was sent to parley with him and succeeded in persuading him to surrender to the Imperial auxiliaries of the Polish army. Meanwhile, the soldiers pillaged his belongings, and Gordon himself took some books. The captured garrison immediately took service with the Poles.
Gordon records about this time the arrival of a letter from his father at Auchleuchries. He was soon given a company in a newly-raised regiment of dragoons. They marched and countermarched about the country in order to subsist off the people. It was the "custom of the country" that recruiting parties and troops on the march should be supported by the districts through which they passed; but this privilege had been so much abused by self-constituted bands that Gordon was received very much as if he had been invading a hostile country. His entrance into towns and villages was opposed by the inhabitants in arms, and his men often had to march with matches lit.
Field Marshal Lubomirski proposed that Gordon's company should be merged into his own bodyguard and that the whole should be under Gordon's command. In this capacity he served in the campaign of the Poles and Crim Tatars against the Cossacks of the Ukraine and the Muscovites, which terminated in the disastrous rout of the Muscovites at Czudno (or Slobodischtsche) in June 1660. In this battle the Russians lost 115 standards, 67 guns, and 36,000 men killed or taken prisoner, and Gordon greatly distinguished himself, receiving several wounds. His friend, Thomas Menzies, was a lieutenant colonel who fought in the Muscovite ranks and was taken prisoner by Lord Henry Gordon, then a colonel in the Polish army. But Menzies died of his wounds a few days later. In 1661, peace being concluded, the Polish army took up winter quarters in the Ukraine. Here Gordon, hearing of the restoration of King Charles II, resolved to return home. He asked for his discharge. He was easily persuaded to keep his command until the spring, when he conducted his company to Warsaw, where Lubomirski was in attendance at the Diet. Meanwhile, the army in the Ukraine mutinied and, choosing leaders for itself, began to march toward Warsaw in order to obtain redress of its grievances.
Gordon secured his discharge from the Polish service and prepared to go to Prussia to raise a regiment for the Imperial service, but on 12 July, word came from Vienna that the emperor had decided not to hire troops. The ambassador told Lieutenant Colonel "Steelhand" Gordon and Patrick Gordon that their services were not needed after all. Gordon was upset because he had already quit the Polish service. He considered going to Vienna as a free lance, but his friends persuaded him not to go by explaining to him that a foreigner could not expect advancement there.
At this juncture the Russian ambassador persuaded him to enter the Muscovite service. He prepared to go with Colonel Crawfuird and a certain Captain Paul Menzies, who became a major in 1663.

Entering Muscovite Service

Gordon set out on 25 July 1661. Colonel Crawfuird had been a prisoner of Colonel Lord Henry Gordon, who released him with a pass for a captain of horse. On the way to Russia they lodged with various countrymen and discussed the prospects of Russian service. In Riga Gordon missed General Douglas by a few hours and thus lost a last chance not to enter Russian service. They met Scots lately dismissed by the Swedes who also were looking for work. They arrived at Moscow on 2 September 1661 and were allowed an audience with the Tsar. The Tsar thanked Gordon for his kindness to Russian prisoners in Poland. On 6 September the boyar, Elia Danielovich Miloslavski, took Gordon and his comrades to a field. He was the Tsar's father-in-law and in charge of the "Stranger" Prikaz. At the field the boyar ordered the officers to demonstrate their skill with the musket and pike. This Gordon did not consider proper, as an officer's job did not include such menial tasks. Gordon related:
"Wee found the Boyar there before us, who ordered us to take up pike and musquets (being there ready) and show how wee could handle our armes; wherewith being surprized, I told him, that if I had knowne of this, I should have brought forth one of my boyes, who perhaps could handle armes better as I myself; adding, that it was the least part of an officer to know how to handle armes, conduct being the most materiall. Whereat, he, takeing me up short, told me, that the best colonell coming into this countrey must do so; to which I replyed, Seeing it is the fashion, I am content. And so haveing handled the pike and musket, with all their postures, to his great satisfaction, I returned."
On 9 September Gordon was enrolled as a major, with Paul Menzies as captain, William Hay as lieutenant, and John Hamilton as ensign, all in the regiment of Colonel Daniel Crawfuird. The gratuity for coming to the country was 25 rubles cash, 25 rubles worth of sables, four ells of cloth, and eight ells of damask. And they were to receive monthly pay. But the dyak was corrupt and tried to extort a bribe for the pay, so Gordon repeatedly complained about him. Things were so bad that Gordon began to think of leaving immediately without accepting any pay. He quickly found (as did so many others) that getting into the Muscovite service was much easier than getting out and was threatened with exile to Siberia. Finally he was offered a regiment, which he officered with his countrymen, including those mentioned, plus William Guild, George Keith, Andrew Burnet, Andrew Calderwood, Robert Stuart, and others, a total of about 30 Scots. In 1662 Gordon was given the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was 27 years old. (To be continued).