Слике страница
PDF
ePub

nearly forty miles south of the Danube. The first occupation of these places was only temporary, but on the 5th Biela was occupied by the head of General Gourkha's column, which was at once relieved by other troops, while the general moved on to Tirnova, which he occupied with dragoons, on the 7th driving out a considerable force of Turkish infantry and artillery; he was reinforced by infantry and artillery within a day or two. Meanwhile troops and supplies were constantly passing over the river, and massing in readiness for an advance. On the 2d July the army in the Dobrudscha had come in contact with the Turks along the line of the Kostendgi and Tschernavoda railway.

Kostendgi appears to have been occupied by the Russians on the 15th.

While Gourkha undertook the movements which will presently be described, a column moved from Sistova upon Nikopoli, and at once attacked it from the south, assisted by the batteries at Turna on the north bank. The result was, that after some hard fighting the place and the remains of its garrison,- some two thousand regulars and forty guns, — together with two gunboats, surrendered on the morning of the 16th. This success was of very great importance to the Russians, as giving them a second and excellent crossing of the middle Danube, and greatly facilitating their operation against the force moving down upon their right from the direction of Widdin and Plevna. Soon after the occupation of Tirnova the movement upon the Balkans commenced. The ninth division marched through Dranova upon Gabrova at the foot of the Shipka Pass, while General Gourkha, covered by this advance, turned off at Tirnova and moved to Elena, whence he made a reconnoissance to Osmanbasar in order to satisfy himself whether the Turkish left extended beyond that point, and covered the portion of the Balkans he intended to cross. After some fighting he ascertained that his projected route was clear, and drew off, leaving the Turks under the impression that they had repulsed a serious attack, for they did not suspect his real motive. Conducted by Bulgarian guides, he now moved rapidly towards the Hanskoi Pass, about midway between Slivno and the Shipka Pass. The Hanskoi seems to be one of the unused passes, known to few beyond the Bulgarian Christian refugees who for generations have made their homes in the midst of the fastnesses of the Balkans. No full and satisfactory accounts of the composition of Gourkha's force have reached us, but it is known to have comprised one rifle brigade, probably the fourth, some Cossack infantry and cavalry, a Bulgarian legion, regular cavalry, and some artillery, - probably mountain guns. This force, which appears to have done all the fighting, may have been only the advanced guard of the command, but it probably constituted the whole column. On the 14th Gourkha seized the pass, and on the 15th his advanced guard was attacked near Kanaro, but repulsed the enemy and occupied the place. On the same day the Cossack cavalry moved down the Tundscha Valley, and at Jeni Saghra cut the railway and telegraph connecting Jamboli with the Adrianople Railway. On the 16th Gourkha marched towards Kassanlik, but on his way encountered Turkish troops of all arms in a strong position at Uplami. He promptly attacked and completely routed this force, inflicting heavy losses upon them. On the 17th he continued his march on Kassanlik, skirmishing all day, and occupied the place late in the afternoon, thus closing the southern outlet of the Shipka Pass, which was still held by the Turks. On the same day detachments from the ninth division attacked the pass from the north, and after very severe fighting carried the outer line of intrenchments, where they remained during the night. On the 18th Gourkha advanced into the pass from Kassanlik. The Turks now offered to surrender, but availed themselves of the time occupied in negotiating to escape during the night in a thoroughly disorganized condition. The Russians captured all their guns and material. Gourkha's movements were characterized by very great energy and skill, and he fully deserved the success which crowned his efforts. While these occurrences were in progress, a brigade of the ninth corps was sent against Plevna, held by a Turkish force, from the direction of Widdin. This brigade sustained a severe defeat, explained by the Russians as caused by lack of skill and caution on the part of the commander.

It would appear that when Baron Krudener, in command of the ninth corps, advanced upon Nikopoli, he neglected to occupy, with his cavalry, Plevna, which controls the important line of the river Wid, and which ought to have been promptly secured. In order to retrieve this error he despatched three regiments of infantry, which, after severe fighting, gained possession of the town; thinking that their work was done, the men were permitted to throw aside their accoutrements for rest, when suddenly a very heavy fire was opened upon them from all sides, and before they could recover

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

their formation they were driven out with heavy loss. A strong Turkish column from Widdin, which had arrived too late to throw itself into Nikopoli, had taken possession of Plevna, and inflicted this disaster upon the Russians. Smarting under this check, and aware of the importance of preventing the accumulation of a heavy force in a strong position on his right flank, the Russian commanderin-chief took steps to gain possession of Plevna; but, underrating the strength of the enemy, his preparations were not in accordance with the magnitude of the task, and consequently failed entirely.

The vital necessity of driving the Turks from Plevna was apparent, and the opportunity of striking a heavy blow should have been welcomed by the Russian; but he should have concentrated every available man for the operation, so as to make the result certain and complete, that he might dispose of the force on his right flank once and forever. By drawing in his left temporarily to the line of the Lom, or even that of the Jantra, it would seem to have been in his power to concentrate at least four corps upon Plevna, while the possession of Nikopoli rendered it possible to turn the line of the Wid.

Instead of doing this, and not even bringing up the Roumanian troops to aid in the attack, the Grand Duke assigned to the task the ninth corps, much weakened by the affairs of Nikopoli and Plevna, aided by the thirtieth division and one brigade of the thirtysecond division; a force of six brigades in all. The conduct of the operation was assigned to General Krudener. The Turkish position extended over the hills around Plevna, was strongly intrenched, and held by about 50,000 men with ample artillery. The attacking force numbered not more than 32,000 infantry, three brigades of cavalry, and some 160 guns. The attack was made on the 31st.

On the Russian right was General Krudener with the thirty-first division, supported by three regiments of the fifth division. On the left General Schackoskoy, with a brigade of the thirtieth division and one of the thirty-second, supported by a brigade of the thirtieth division in reserve. A brigade of cavalry and a battalion of infantry belonging to one of the three brigades covered Schackoskoy's left, and a similar force covered Krudener's right.

Krudener seems to have maintained an artillery combat all day, which made no impression on the Turkish line, and made no attack with his infantry. Schackoskoy moved from his bivouac about six in the morning and soon became engaged. Under cover of a hot artillery fire his infantry carried a village in front of the first line of Turkish intrenchments. The Russian guns soon silenced and drove off the Turkish batteries on a ridge in rear of this village, and then crossed the valley and occupied the vacated ridge; the infantry in support behind the hill. Krudener having made no progress, Schackoskoy now determined to bring his infantry into action. At half past ten he ordered the advance, which was covered by the artillery ; under a very severe fire the gallant infantry advanced, and finally entered the first line of the intrenchments, where the Turks as gallantly met them, but were pretty thoroughly exterininated in the hand-to-hand conflict which ensued. Without pausing the Russians advanced against the second and much stronger line; the fire was very heavy until they made their last rush, which the Turks did not wait to meet, but fled in disorder. So far all had gone well, and had the Russian general been content to hold what he had gained the subsequent disaster would have been avoided; for with his reserve brigade, which had not yet been brought into action, he might have held this position until reinforcements reached him. But, dazzled by the success which had thus far attended his bold movements, he now became rash, and ordered an advance upon the last and still stronger position of the Turks, held by largely superior numbers. The attack was made, but before reaching the goal the overtasked and exhausted troops hesitated, whereupon he threw his reserve into action and carried the works. But his men were now. thoroughly worn out, and had suffered most severely; moreover, he had not a fresh man in reserve.

The Turks, finding that Krudener's infantry did not attack, now advanced large masses of fresh troops from their left, who drove out the exhausted Russians, and by nightfall they were in full retreat, a disorganized mass. A fresh division, perhaps even a fresh brigade, would have saved the day, but it was not at hand, for Krudener did nothing to support Schackoskoy. The remnants of Schackoskoy's command fell back upon the Osma, on which Krudener also took position. If the accounts which have reached us be correct, nothing could exceed the courage and devotion of the Russian troops; the disastrous result was due entirely to the fact that the attack was made with entirely insufficient forces, and the responsibility rests partly with Schackoskoy, who should have halted when he carried the second line of defence, partly upon

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Krudener, who did nothing to support him, but chiefly with the commander-in-chief, who failed to provide means adequate to the end to be achieved. This battle, then, reflects great glory upon the troops, but discredit upon those responsible for the general movements of the campaign.

The Turks fought well, and should receive much praise for their conduct in the affair. The Russian loss at Plevna is officially stated as less than five thousand ; that of the Turks was also heavy. Unless, as proved to be the case in Armenia, the Russian force is much less than is generally believed, the battle of Plevna cannot be regarded as a fatal disaster; it is doubtless a serious check, but should be repaired in a few days if the Russians have anything like the available force represented to be on the European field of war. They can still do what was in their power before the last battle, that is, draw in their left to the Lom or the Jantra, hold the southern outlets of the Shipka and Hanskoi passes, and throw all their available troops upon the front of the Turkish army at Plevna, while their reserves move from Nikopoli and turn the line of the Wid. There seems to be no good reason why the disaster of Plevna should not be more than compensated by the complete destruction of Osman Pasha's

army. According to the last advices, Osman Pasha had occupied Selvi, Suleiman Pasha was in front of or in possession of Kissanlik, Mehemet Ali was advancing from Shumla towards Tirnova, reinforcements were being pushed up from Constantinople to Adrianople, and considerable bodies were being brought from Batoum and its vicinity to Varna. On the other hand, we hear that the Russian Imperial Guard has been ordered to the Danube, and a division ordered up from each corps not yet mobilized, — the latter partly to the Caucasus and partly to the Danube. The two corps which were charged with the siege of Rustchuk under the Czarowitch, have been drawn in. Gourkha is strongly intrenched in the Shipka Pass. It is also stated that Krudener and Schackoskoy remain within six miles of Plevna, and are so strongly reinforced as to defy attack. If, as we suppose, the first object of the Russians is to concentrate upon and crush Osman Pasha, the advance of a portion of his force to Selvi will facilitate their purpose, and we may soon expect to hear that Osman Pasha has at least been driven from the chess-board. We have no news from Zimmerman in the Dobrudscha; if affairs are very grave near Tirnova he can be

« ПретходнаНастави »