In the St. Petersburg story The Bronze Horseman, A. S. Pushkin mentions some mysterious bullet-pierced copper caps:
"I love warlike liveliness
Fun Mars fields,
Infantry raty and horses
In their slender and unstable ranks
Flaps of these banners of victory,
The radiance of these copper caps,
Shot through and through in combat. ”
What is this copper cap? Why have attracted the attention of the poet? Finally, in which battle were they shot, and why were they shot? Not for the sake of saving, really?
Alexander Sergeevich writes about the ceremonial system of the Pavlovsky Life Guards Grenadier Regiment. It was their polished hats that glittered in the sun, hitting the secular public.
As representatives of a special military specialty, hand grenade throwers (or grenades, as they were then called), grenadiers first appeared in the mouths of the English infantry at the end of the 17th century.
At that time, infantry soldiers were wearing cocked heads on their heads. From the modern point of view, hats are not the most comfortable, but they did not interfere with the shooting of muskets. It is quite another thing the grenadiers, who have every now and then to throw small arms behind his back, so as not to interfere with throwing grenades. At the same time, the long musket strove to hook the three-cornered hat and throw it to the ground. Sheer inconvenience.
There was no clue about ergonomics in the 17th century, but there was someone clever among the English who had figured out how to save the grenadiers from annoying and dangerous inconvenience in battle. Soldiers sewed special hats, conical and completely borderless.
Following the British, having appreciated the effectiveness of the new military specialty, the grenadiers (and with them the grenadier caps) were introduced into the infantry divisions of the French. Behind them - all European armies.
In Russia, the grenadiers appeared by the will of Peter I. By the way, it was the “grenadiers” from the French “grenadier”, and not the “grenadiers”, as some believe.
Copper chased heads to the grenadiers came up in Prussia during the reign of Frederick the Great. In the second half of the 18th century, almost all European armies, including the Russian, adopted this style.
Formed in 1796, the Pavlovsky Grenadier Regiment, not yet a Guards Regiment, distinguished itself in the Battle of Friedland. There, forty kilometers south-east of Königsberg, at dawn on June 14, 1807, the Russian regiments of General Bennigssen and the French divisions, commanded by Napoleon himself, collided.
In the hardest battle hundreds of grenadiers of the Pavlovsky regiment fell. Despite the crushing defeat of the Russian army, the emperor appreciated the selfless heroism of the enemy soldiers. Delighted with their courage, Napoleon ordered to collect the shot Grenadiers and transfer to the Russian command.
On January 20, 1808, the Russian emperor Alexander I commanded: "For excellent courage, bravery and fearlessness in battles with the French of 1806 and 1807 to honor the regiment, leaving their caps in the form in which he left the battlefield."
“These copper caps, shot through in battle” with the names of the lower ranks, on which the grenadiers were in the Battle of Friedland, were not stored anywhere in the regimental museum, but from a call to an appeal were transferred from soldier to soldier.
In the 19th century, the European armies, except for the Prussian, gradually abandoned high, shiny copper armrests.
They have become obsolete in Russia. However, the guardsmen of the Pavlovsky regiment went to parades in the award grenadiers until 1914.
What else to read on the topic
Life campaign. Why did the "children" of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna give her so much trouble?
What are the emblems of the Russian infantry?
How did Peter I “dress up” the Russian army?