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naval control of the Black Sea. This enabled them to land troops at Sugkhum-Kalé, to stir up insurrections in the Caucasus, to hold Batoum, and to send supplies and reinforcements into Armenia by way of Trebizond. On the other hand, the Russians were obliged to divert large forces to act against the insurgents, to watch SugkhumKalé and other points on the coast, and to mask Batoum ; it also obliged them to use a long land-route for supplies.
Had the Russians possessed the naval control of the Black Sea, their successes in Armenia would have been prompt and complete. Many months ago, while negotiations were pending for the solu
, tion of the vexed question of the East, Russia, in order to be prepared for any eventuality, quietly commenced the concentration of troops and supplies in Bessarabia, the province adjacent to the Danubian Principalities. The point chosen for the headquarters was Kischenev, on the railroad leading from Jassy in Moldavia to the Odessa Railway, and thus connected with the entire system of Russian railroads. Here the work of concentration and preparation was unremittingly urged, until the fruitlessness of negotiations was universally admitted, and the season for operations approached. War was formally declared on the 24th of April, and on the preceding day the advanced guards crossed the frontier into Roumania.
By a rapid and well-conducted march of about forty miles in thirty-six hours, the advanced guard of the fourteenth corps occupied Galatz and Brailov, and secured possession of the very important railroad bridge over the Sereth at Barboschi, between the last-named cities, while the rest of the army proceeded to the occupation of the Principalities.
To form an idea of the magnitude of this work, it must be remembered that the distance from the point of crossing the frontier near Kischeney to Bucharest is more than three hundred and thirty miles by the circuitous railway, and more than two hundred and fifty by the common roads. From Bucharest to Sistova is about sixty-five miles, and to Kalafat nearly two hundred miles; while, following the roads along the northern bank of the Danube, it is more than four hundred miles from Kalafat to Isatchki, where the Russians first crossed in 1828. The first task of the Russians was the solid occupation of the Principalities and the left bank of the Danube, the accumulation of men, material, and supplies, the isolation or destruction of the Turkish gunboats in the river, by means of batteries and torpedoes, and the preparation of means for crossing the river. In the campaigns of Wittgenstein and Diebitsch, and at the commencement of the Crimean War, before the Allies intervened, the Russians enjoyed the great advantage of the control of the Black Sea, which sinplified the question of reinforcement and supplies, and made it advantageous to rest their left on the Black Sea during the advance to and beyond the Balkans.
At present the Turkish fleet commands the Euxine, which forces the Russians to adopt an interior line of communication As there is only one railway from Bessarabia into the Principalities, and because for many weeks after the first advance the rains and floods rendered the common roads wellnigh impassable, the work of accumulation and preparation was difficult in the extreme, and required much time. On the other hand, the waters of the Danube were long so high that a crossing could not be effected, so that the time spent in waiting for the supplies required for an advance in force was by no means wasted.
Thus far the Russians have succeeded admirably in concealing their strength. Eight army corps have been mentioned by their distinguishing numbers as being on the Danube, and statements have been made that there are eleven corps on and near the Danube, with others en route. The number of the troops have been variously given as from 270,000 to more than 400,000 men.
It appears that the organization of the army corps in the field is two divisions of infantry and one of cavalry, with the corresponding artillery; some corps, as, for example, the sixth, have three divisions of infantry. The rifle brigades, of which there are eight in the whole army, each of four battalions, are probably not permanently assigned to any corps, but act with those having most need of their services; for example, in the recent movement of General Gourkha across the Balkans, he was accompanied by at least one of these rifle brigades, and it may prove to be the case that his force consisted chiefly of these troops and cavalry.
It is clear, from all the accounts that reach us, that the Russian force in the field is large; the nature and extent of their movements would prove this to be the case, were it not that the insufficiency of the forces with which the Armenian campaign was undertaken would justify us in suggesting the possibility, but not the probability, of a similar mistake on the Danube.
We shall probably be safe in estimating the Russian force in the European field of war at eleven army corps, which, with the rifle brigades, reserve artillery and cavalry, engineer troops, etc., would give something like 325,000 effective combatants, in addition to the Roumanian army, and such troops as may be procured for police duty, etc., from among the inhabitants of Bulgaria. To what extent these troops can be reinforced depends upon questions of communication and supplies, – really the most
difficult part of the Russian task.
About the middle of June the waters of the Danube had fallen so much as to indicate that the crossing would soon be practicable, while the preparations for an advance were nearly complete. On the 20th of June the crossing commenced at Galatz, where ten companies of infantry crossed in boats, and gallantly attacked the heights in rear, held by troops of all arms; they carried the position, and held it until reinforced on the return of the boats.
As soon as the crossing at Galatz was successfully accomplished, a bridge was built at Brailov, and the troops poured rapidly into the Dobrudscha. On the 25th some 18,000 crossed at Hirsova, and effected their junction with those who had crossed below. As far as can be ascertained the sixth and fourteenth corps, five divisions of infantry, were engaged in the movement, and numbered at least 60,000 men. Matchin and the other fortified towns of the Upper Dobrudscha promptly fell into their hands, and it is to be assumed that steps were taken at once to perfect and secure the means of crossing the river, to bring up ample supplies for further movements, and to clear the banks of the Danube as far up as Silistria, and the shores of the Euxine north of Varna.
The foothold in the Dobrudscha, the cannonading of Rustchuk, Nikopoli, and other fortresses, and feints at various points so completely distracted the attention of the Turks that the passaye of the Danube was forced at Simnitza early in the morning of the 27th of June.
A day or two previously four pontoon trains, of fifty-two boats each, were quietly collected in Simnitza. The eighth corps, under General Ravetsky, had the honor of leading the way in this very