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The portion of the Bulgarian plain between Trajan's wall and Bazardjik is quite as desolate, and as destitute of wood and water, so that troops marching through the middle of this desert must contend against the total absence of the necessaries of life during a march of about one hundred and twenty miles. The rest of the Bulgarian plain, between the Danube and the Balkan, is very different. The soil is a rich loam, and in the wet season wellnigh impassable. The roads are bad, and there are no bridges, except such as may have been constructed of late years on the main roads through Shumla and Varna. In the winter there is much snow; the summers are hot, the autumns dry. Until the early summer the ground is everywhere carpeted with verdure; the slopes of the valleys are covered with trees, the streams bordered by green meadows; and wherever cultivation extends there are abundant crops of grain. In the autumn vegetation withers, and water is scarce. The population is crowded into large villages, where there are abundant stores of provisions. The inhabitants are agricultural and pastoral. The towns are either on the Danube or at the foot of the Balkans. In the former the Moslems, in the latter the Christians, predominate. The Bulgarians are industrious; they are inclined towards the Russians by their Sclavonic origin and Greek faith, and hate the Turks, who have so long plundered and oppressed them. The only railways in Bulgaria are the short lines from Kostendji to Rassova, and from Varna to Rustchuk. Once across the Danube, the Russians are masters of Bulgaria to the Balkan range, except the ground covered by the fire of the fortresses and intrenched camps.
To hold Bulgaria the passes of the Balkan must be secured; to dictate peace in Adrianople or Constantinople, these passes must be carried and traversed. So that, when they have overcome the difficulties of the Danube, the Russians next find the Balkan athwart their path. At its western extremity the Balkan unites with the range traversing Albania and Dalmatia, and connects with the mountain system of Herzegovina and Servia; near Sophia it sends out to the north an offshoot which connects it with the Carpathian range, and it is through this offshoot that the Danube forces its way at the Iron Gates. The greatest elevation of the main Balkan range is to the west of the sources of the Jantra and Tundscha, that is, west of Kassanlik and Tirnova, where the summits
are covered with snow until midsummer. Thence to the sources of the Kamtschik the elevation is not over 5,000 feet, and farther east not more than 4,000 feet. The prevailing character of the range is that of richly wooded round hills; it is only in the valleys that masses of rock are found. The southern slope is by far the most steep. On the northern side is a parallel range of foothills, differing much from the main range. These foot-hills are of limestone, with flat tops, often falling off at the sides in perpendicular walls from 100 to 200 feet in height, and forming singular defiles. Towards the bottom of the valleys the face of rock slopes more gradually as it descends. The hill-tops are not easily accessible, and are covered, not with the magnificent trees of the main range, but with dense brushwood. For long distances from the foot of the lower range the plain is covered with an undergrowth of oak, which renders the movements of masses of troops across the country difficult and almost impossible. The idea, in former times, that the Balkan was impassable arose not so much from the height and inherent difficulties of the range as from the fact that no really good roads existed, and that within a distance of five or six marches many small difficulties were accumulated which had to be overcome by all the troops in succession. The space at our disposal will permit only a brief mention of the most important passes across the Balkan range.
The most westward are in the vicinity of Sophia, where two main roads cross the mountains. One comes from Ukschub, where roads unite from Montenegro, Herzgovina, Bosnia, and Servia, and passes through Dubnitza to Tatar-Basardschyk; the other comes from Sophia, where the road from Belgrade and Nisch unites with that from Widdin, and also leads to Tatar-Basardschyk; thence the united roads lead to Adrianople and Constantinople. Sarimbeg, about twelve miles west of Tatar-Basardschyk, is the terminus of a railway through Adrianople to Constantinople, with a branch to Enos on the Ægean Sea. These passes present comparatively few natural difficulties; the roads have been improved and fortified of late years. The next important pass is that through which the road from Tirnova to Kassanlik and Adrianople is constructed. Another road leads from Tirnova by Seldino and Jamboli to Adrianople; this road is connected by a branch with Kasan and Karnabad, as well as with Aidos; the two last being important
strategical points. Karnabad is connected toward the north, by roads through Kasan with Tirnova on the one hand, and through Osmanbasar with Rustchuk to the left, and through Rasgrad with Turtukai on the right; to the south, roads lead to Adrianople, to Bourgas, and to Constantinople. Aidos is connected, towards the north, through Prawady with Shumla and Osmanbasar on the left, with Varna, Bazardjik, and Silistria on the right; while to the south it is also connected with Bourgas, Constantinople, and Adrianople. Most of the roads through Karnabad and Aidos to Varna and Shumla have of late years been made practicable for artillery and fortified in the mountains.
The most important Turkish fortresses in this region are Widdin, Rustchuk, Silistria, Shumla, and Varna. Were the Turks in condition to assume the offensive, Widdin would be of great importance as facilitating their crossing the Danube, and gaining the rear of the Russian positions north of that river. Rustchuk and Silistria have already been alluded to; they were originally imperfect works of masonry, which have from time to time been extended and strengthened by the addition of numerous earthworks. They are too strong to be taken by direct assault, unless by surprise, and must be attacked with heavy artillery, or masked by corps of observation. If simply held by garrisons, they can produce little effect upon the general result of the campaign, except in rendering the passage of the Danube difficult in their vicinity. It can probably be assumed with safety that the Russians have sufficient force to mask them while operating elsewhere. Shumla is at the northern base of the foot-hills of the Balkan. The town is in a horseshoe, formed by projecting spurs of the hills, and the fortress has gradually assumed the dimensions of an intrenched camp. It does not directly close, or command by its fire, any pass over the Balkans, for troops in mass can march around and behind it in every direction. It is of great importance only when the strength of the army encamped within its lines is so great in relation to the active columns of an enemy that the latter cannot leave a sufficient force to mask it, while pursuing the chief objects of his operations. Varna is strong by its situation and by its exterior defences. It is important as controlling the terminus of a railway, as enabling the Turks to land troops and supplies in the rear of an enemy seeking to cross the Balkan from the north, and as being
the best harbor between the Balkans and the Danube. We shall have occasion to return to the subject of military operations in this quarter; for the present it will suffice to say that the first object of the Russians must be to obtain a secure footing south of the Danube, their second object must be to carry and securely hold a sufficient number of the Balkan passes. We must now turn to the more distant, but not less interesting theatre of operations in the direction of the Erzeroum.
The main chain of the Caucasus Mountains, separating Europe from Asia, extends from Anapa, near the entrance to the Sea of Azof, in a southeasterly direction to Baku, in the Caspian Sea.
It is with the country between this chain on the one hand, and the Murad branch of the Euphrates and Lake Van on the other, that we are now concerned. This is so completely a region of mountains and valleys that it would carry us far beyond our limits to attempt a detailed description; it will only be practicable to give a clear idea of its main features, so that the general movements of the campaign may be understood. From a point on the Black Sea just south of Poti commences a range which extends a little south of east to the vicinity of Akhaltzik, and thence keeps on northeast until it unites with the main Caucasus range at Mount Velicti. The principal river of the basin thus formed is the Rion, which empties into the Black Sea at or very near Poti, where the railway to Tiflis commences and extends up the valley of the river, crossing the range just described near a little place called Suram. Kutais is the principal town in this basin, and is on a branch of the Rion. North of the latter is the Ingour River, and still farther north the Kodor, which may play important parts should the Turks be able to move in force from Sugkhum-Kalé. Near where the range last described turns to the northeast in the vicinity of Akhaltzik, and separated from it by the valley of the Kur, the Allaghez range commences, and extends southeast to the Blue Lake and beyond, uniting finally with the Ararat chain south of the Araxes. Between the Caucasus range and that of Allaghez is the great valley of the Kur, in which Tiflis is situated. The railway alluded to as extending from Poti up the Rion valley enters that of the Kur, after passing the mountains at Suram, and follows it to Tiflis. The chain of Ararat begins on the Black Sea near Fort St. Nicholas, and extends nearly east until it reaches a point
some twenty miles west of Akhaltzik, and thus far its crest forms the boundary line between Russia and Turkey. Thence the range turns west of south until it reaches a point some forty miles south of Erzeroum, where it turns nearly northeast to the vicinity of Kagazmin, thence south of east to Mount Ararat, whence it follows the right bank of the Araxes for some distance, and then on to the Caspian. The region between the Allaghez and Ararat ranges, together with the western and southern slopes of the latter, make up the theatre of the operations now in progress. The northern part of the former region drains into the valley of the Kur, the southern portion into the valley of the Araxes, which finally unites with the Kur not far from where it empties into the Caspiaņ. The Kur rises about thirty miles west of Kars; its course is northeast, but very circuitous, through Ardahan, near Akhaltzik, around the northern end of the Allaghez, through Atshur to Gori, whence it turns southeast to the Caspian. Akhaltzik is about seven miles from the Kur, on the Poskow, a branch coming in from the west. Ahalkalaki is about thirty-five miles southeast of Akhaltzik, on the Toparawan, a branch coming in from the southeast.
Some thirty miles or so northeast of Erzeroum a chain breaks off from the Ararat range, and extends northeast to the Allaghez; this separates the upper waters of the Kur from those of the Araxes.
The latter river rises some thirty miles south of Erzeroum, and follows the northern base of the east branch of the Ararat range, passing through Hassan-Kalé, Korassan, Kagizman, and near Erivan, until it finally unites with the Kur. The principal branches which interest us are the Arpa, which rises where the lateral chain dividing the Kur from the head-waters of the Araxes and the Allaghez come together, and pursues a southerly course through Alexandropol, uniting with the Araxes about twenty miles east of Kagizman. The Kars River rises about twenty-five miles northeast of Hassan-Kalé, runs northeast through and about eighteen miles beyond Kars, then turns to the southeast and unites with the Arpa about twelve miles below Alexandropol.
The Tscorokh River rises in the Dumli-Dagh, in the Pashalic of Erzeroum, flows northeast through Baiburt, and finally north along the western base of the Ararat range, past Artwin, until it enters the Black Sea at Gunieh, a short distance west of Batoum. A branch of this river rises in the Ararat range, opposite the head of