Kutuzovs secret weapon

Unusual adventures of the inventor Franz Leppiha in Russia

On this day, Pierre, in order to have fun, went to the village to look Vorontsovo big balloon, which Leppihom built for the death of the enemy, and a trial balloon, which was due to be launched tomorrow. This ball was not yet ready, but as vyznat Pierre, it was built at the request of the emperor.
Sir Rostopchin wrote about this ball followed: "Only just Lepp will be ready, make up the crew of the boat to its loyal and intelligent people and send a courier to General Kutuzov to warn him. I told him about it. Instill please Leppihu, so he sent a good attention to the place where he will go down the first time, so as not to make a mistake and do not get into the hands of the enemy. necessary, that he was thinking his movements with the movements in chief.

Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace.

It is not clear what would be the course of the Napoleonic wars, if governor France led the way with the introduction of the submarine fleet and air force. This assumption is not fiction. Prior to 1804, the future founder of the French steamship Robert Fulton had a submarine "Nautilus". Napoleon abandoned the project, saying that "such a method is dishonest acts against the enemy" — and the engineer was lured away by the British. In about 1811, the German engineer Franz Lepp Napoleon offered to supply the army controlled weapon balloon, able not only to conduct reconnaissance, and on top of hitting the enemy troops.

Napoleon declined the tempting offer Leppiha — apparently he knew about a similar (unsuccessful) project, the French general Meunier, proposed back in 1783. But fearing even attempts to make a similar offer Leppiha opponents, Napoleon gave the order to detain and deliver Leppiha in Paris. Hold your Leppiha failed: he managed to escape in one of the numerous Germanic countries. In the spring of 1812, he appealed to the Russian ambassador in Stuttgart, and through it — the Emperor Alexander I with a proposal to build a controllable balloon for Russia. Within 3 months — developed his plans Lepp — Russian army will be provided with air about fifty ships, each of which will be a crew of forty men and 12,000 pounds of cargo combat, first boxes of gunpowder. These boxes are dropped from a height, its explosions could "upset the whole squads."

Alexander, getting ready for the inevitable confrontation with Napoleon decided to try to implement the project Leppiha. Immediately followed by the decision to classify all the information about the development of the balloon. The best officers are the guardians of secrecy Courier housing. Of them was created by a special group headed by Lt. Nicholas Kastorskim1, then head of the Courier body. In addition, specifically Kastorsky been charged for the transfer of control of all the money coming from the Russian Federation for the construction of the balloon.

But first it was necessary to take out of the slave Leppiha Napoleon in Europe, with the same roads on which was put forward in the spring of 1812 to the border of Russia Napoleon's army. Courier Ensign Adolf Jordan changed his name to the name of Courland Fechter and shaped uniform for civilian clothes clothes. In May kurlyandets Feyhner and follow him Dr. Schmidt to get out of Germany, crossed Poland, the western province of Russia and moved to Moscow. Only on arrival (May 14) Courier Ensign gave a civilian governor of the capital Obreskova command of the governor on ensuring leppihovskogo project.

May 27, 1812 Obreskov reported to the Emperor Alexander, a mechanic Lepp and his ensign Jordan arrived in Moscow under false names, that "all the movements are performed according to this case with great care, and … present the case to the very end will remain in complete secrecy" that works "look out for a" comfortable place just 6 miles from the capital, and for them to begin allotted 8,000 rubles.

Lepp was located in the estate Raven and inquisitive, it was announced that there will be building or agricultural machines or cannon carriages …

Curiosity Muscovites and residents of country villages grew by the day or. Whole families were walking them to the secluded country house mystery, but beheld nothing, apart from the highest fence. And the fence worked 14 carpenters, plumbers 8, 3 tailors, 24, seamstress, laundress, and 2 more service personnel. After a few weeks, the number of workers was increased to 100.

The workers tried to embody several processes at once: they did shell bonded frame and collected gondola. The most difficult and unsafe process was filled with hydrogen shell: This explosive gas was moving the sleeves of a large number of barrels, in what was continually chemical reaction (sulfuric acid corroded iron). Was spent on the construction of increasingly and more materials to an ever greater degree of public funds, and new technological difficulties pushed away and pushed away time of the first balloon ascent.
On one of the steps Lepp requested skilled workers from Germany or Austria. Risking their lives (a war!) Courier Winberg was able to find in Austria (at that time an ally of Napoleon) and bring those professionals to Moscow, in what needed Lepp. How unfortunate it did not sound, and these workers were unable to turn the tide: a hydrogen-filled balloon could not get off the ground: taftyanaya shell poorly kept gas.

Then during the test burst iron springs by which the crew could manage balloon. Handy-quality tool steel, which is not produced in Russia. Lt. Col. Kastorsky gave the order to urgently find a courier and deliver Leppihu all the necessary materials. Found a courier and delivered an English steel top properties, but it is not moved forward. Especially since we went torrential rains and disrupted the process of producing hydrogen.

Meanwhile, the Muscovites were already aware of the ball, and walked to the masses Vorontsov on trips without reason Madame de Stael noticed at the time: "In Russia, all kept secret and nothing is secret." By the way, in Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" Pierre went "comfort stations" to look at the bizarre ball. Vyznat about the project and Napoleon. At first, as he recalled Caulaincourt, "the Emperor said … on Incendiary balloon, on which he worked for a long time under the cover of some lurking Briton or a Dutchman named Schmidt. This ball is urged, was to kill the French army, bringing its ranks mess and destruction" . Later followed by refinement, which said in his memoirs Count Segur, saying that on the orders of Alexander himself not far from Moscow, under the supervision of the German pyrotechnics, built Straseni size bowl; primary purpose of this winged balloon is to hover over the French army, to find her head and kill him, hit the top a rain of fire and metal.

Some hope for the use of military balloon in the battle of Borodino Kutuzov had. After the middle of August, Lepp has promised to fly on your own machine directly to the headquarters of the Russian Army. He was even able to run the "small ball", has not risen, however, and 2 persons. August 22, the eve of the Battle of Borodino, Kutuzov wrote to the Governor-General Rostopchina, "Sir I read the governor of the balloon, which secretly preparing near Moscow.
Is it possible they will use it, please tell me and how to use it more convenient. "How unfortunate it did not sound, he lost faith in the project Rostopchin Leppiha (in his memoirs he would call general mechanics villain) and decided to use it at least in order to support the spirit of the Muscovites. At the same time, on August 22, he reported to urban residents, that they would not be put off if the city proparhaet balloon, because it is not "from the villain" (in other words, Napoleon), but on the contrary, "wonder weapon" made " to his injury and death. "Similarly, Emperor Alexander was disappointed with the project, but in an interview with Arakcheyev spoke about his ideological values:" For the people of these measures in recognizable, if necessary; such inventions soothe the gullible masses even for small time no other means to avert failure. "

Napoleon was coming to Moscow, and all attempts to fly remained poor because the spring is constantly broken wings. There was a danger of losing even a little hope for the implementation of the project. By order of the Rostopchina Lepp turned work, loaded balloon property at 130 carts and moved to Nizhny Novgorod. Evacuation provide Courier Service, which were required to pay for public funds post runs. Courier away (it was the lieutenant Stoss) encouraged Leppiha the last time he brought order Arakcheeva, then was in charge of the affairs of supply and reserves under the Emperor (with the right ads of imperial decrees). It said: "Send … Leppiha city, all the necessities of the people and things in St. Petersburg." When Lepp arrived in St. Petersburg, it is expected to shop at Oranienbaum: its temporary commander courier Winberg cleared from the side of the property room infirmary.

Meanwhile, Napoleon entered Moscow in September 3, had already given orders to track down the studio, "Dr. Schmidt." Lauer found a detachment of General construction place the ball, but it was already ashes. Everything seen Frenchmen carefully recorded under the heading "Detailed description of different things, found near the village of Vorontsovo, near Moscow, belonging to the balloon or the infernal machine which had to serve … as if for the extermination of the French army." And they saw the "boat", "which was to be suspended from the ball, but that was burnt to the days of the entry of the French troops in Moscow … a distance of about 100 paces from pomjanutogo structure, there was plenty of leftovers screws, nuts, nails, hooks , springs and a huge amount of steel shells (detaley. — Ed.) of any kind. Nearby is the large shield of wood in the shape of a ball, that's right, had to serve as a reference. At 2-Svetlitsa pomjanutogo structure is still a huge 180 bottles vitriol; in excess thereof, the rear and front of the house is 70 barrels and 6 new tanks unusual addition. At the house has a carpentry and metal workshops and some necessary tools for that meter. Note the small white houses, standing far off and in front of a huge, scattered traces of gunpowder and the downtrodden … ".

According to one rumor, in the basement workshop of "German pyrotechnics" were found torches or even a "rocket" to set fire to Moscow. Because soon the trial over the "offenders", caught near the house, and 10 people of those arrested were shot.

A Lepp has tried to raise his child in the air over the Oranienbaum. To illumine 1813 Leppiha ball a couple of times was rising by 5-6 yards above the ground, but to fly, and even more to fly against the wind, I could not. Alexander lost patience and gave the order Artillery Committee to form an opinion about the experiments Leppiha. Lepp, Understand that this is the end of a dream, as he could turn aside from considering their own experiences in the military and the academic committee, much less that they spent 320 thousand rubles of public funds!

In the end, the accident-prone inventor went to Germany. As Russia began to hear that Lepp began to advertise his idea in the middle of merchants, telling that balloon will be able to transport by air, the wind and against the wind, and their products.

But all courier Kastorsky providing work on the project combat air balloon, were encouraged in the name of the Emperor Alexander (most elevated in rank). His puzzle they performed adequately.

1. Kastorsky Zhukovsky (1775-1814) began his service with the ordinary courier and during 1797-1812 years was all the stairs to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1812, for his signature were given to all orders by courier body, and this means almost exactly what Kastorsky was the first commander of the corps, although officially this position has not been established.

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