It is worth noting that if the Russian troops in numbers did not have a serious superiority, then they were far superior to the enemy in the quality of combat training and fighting spirit. A great advantage was in artillery and cavalry. However, instead of active and swift offensive actions, it was decided to focus on taking Kars, although after the defeat of Mukhtar Pasha's troops, this fortress had no chance of a successful and long-lasting defense. The main forces of the current corps located at Kars were reinforced by the troops of the Akhaltsykh (Ardahan) detachment. A small detachment of Colonel KV Komarov was left in Ardahan.
Meanwhile, the Turkish command skillfully took advantage of the fluctuations of the Russian command and temporary odds. Mukhtar Pasha was able to complete the formation and deployment of his troops in a short time. By the end of May, the Turks had 20 thousand soldiers with 28 guns. In the rear had reserves of about 15 thousand people. The main forces of the Turkish army were located at Zivin (on the Saganlug ridge), the left wing rested on Olta, the right was in the Alashkert area.
After the occupation of Alashkert, the Tervkasov’s Erivan detachment was instructed to: “Immediately energetically produce an active demonstration against the enemy concentrated on Saganluk in order to prevent him from descending to the rescue of Kars. In view of the extreme importance of the case, do not hesitate to be a loss. ” This decision of the command of the current Caucasian corps was not very well-considered. Having advanced far, the relatively weak Erivan detachment was quite distant from its bases. For the protection of messages, the detachment’s combat personnel had to be weakened to 7 thousand bayonets and sabers, but even after that its rear units remained poorly protected. On Van’s side, Faik Pasha’s detachment (4-5 thousand people) was threatened and his roundabout march had nothing to fend off. The garrison in Bayazet was weak and at best could only protect the fortress itself. The enemy could make a deep raid in the Erivan region, she was left without cover. In addition, the isolated Erivan detachment could destroy the main forces of the Turkish army.
The Turkish command immediately responded to the deep advancement of the Russian left flank. The advance of the Erivan detachment created a threat to the right flank of the Turkish army at Zivin. In order to stop the offensive of Russian troops, Mukhtar Pasha sent a detachment under them under the command of Tatyr-Ogly Mehmed Pasha (Magomet Pasha), who numbered 8300 soldiers at 12 guns. The Turkish general was ordered to delay Tergukasov’s further offensive at all costs.
It is worth noting that the commander of the 38 Infantry Division, Lieutenant-General Arzas (Arshak) Artemyevich Tergukasov (Ter-Gukasov), a Russian commander of Armenian origin, had military leadership skills. He went a long way of life, full of sharp turns. Arzas was the 6 of the eight sons of the archpriest of the Armenian Apostolic Church, he studied in a religious school, and apparently could live a life as a church leader. But his brother Solomon took the brothers to Russia for further education. Arzas Artemyevich entered the Institute of the Corps of Railway Engineers, then served on the ways of communication. He was transferred to the Caucasus, to the Directorate of military communications, participated in the construction of the Georgian Military Highway, for which he had a number of awards and promotions. After additional studies he moved to military service. Returning to the Caucasus in 1852, Arzas Artemyevich was enlisted as a major in the Absheron Infantry Regiment, with which he participated in many Caucasian expeditions. He fought bravely. Since February, 1859, commanded the Absheron regiment, 25 August with Absheron moved to the aul Gunib and after a stubborn battle seized enemy rubble in this village. For this case, he was directly on the battlefield, Prince Baryatinsky was awarded the Order of St.. George 4 degree: "Commanding the troops on the southern side of Gunib, he captured the most important point of the enemy position and was the main culprit of the victory, the result of which was captured by Shamil." In 1865, he was promoted to Major General and appointed Assistant Chief of the 19 Infantry Division, from 1869 to the command of the 38 Infantry Division along with production to lieutenant general.
As a result, Tergukasov had a great experience of the Caucasian wars with the Turks, which he skillfully applied. Tergukasov also possessed a number of other qualities that were beneficial and valuable to the commander. “He remained forever close to the troops, was extremely sensitive to their smallest needs and painstakingly cared for everything related to their internal and external well-being. A. A. Tergukasov did not inspire fear to subordinates, did not suppress with his remarkable personality, but, on the contrary, raised and approved, finding for subordinates, especially for soldiers, always a simple, affectionate, approving word that never heard a fake note. Under such conditions, it is quite natural for the troops to gain confidence in him and the ability to generate immense enthusiasm in them ”(Kolyubakin B. The Erivan squad in the campaign 1877-1878).
Lieutenant-General A. A. Tergukasov. Engraving by I. Matyushin from the drawing by P. F. Borel
3 (15) June 1877, the Russian intelligence found the enemy. 4 (16) June The Erivan squad attacked the Turkish troops of Mehmed Pasha, who occupied positions on the Dram-Dag ridge. The Turks, for whom this attack was a surprise, could not stand the blow, were completely defeated and scattered. The Turkish cavalry tried to overturn the Russian right flank, but was almost point-blank shot along with its commander. After that, the demoralized Ottomans could no longer offer resistance. Mehmet Pasha himself was killed, more than a hundred Turkish soldiers were killed, more than 1300 were injured and captured, hundreds deserted. The British military agent attached to the Anatolian army under the Turkish detachment, General Arnold Campbell, and his companion, the correspondent of the British newspaper The Times, Captain Norman fled to Erzerum. The Russians in the battle of Drum-Dag lost about 180 people. The Turks were defeated thanks to the skillful interaction of the Russian infantry, cavalry and artillery, as well as good combat skills and discipline of the soldiers. The English journalist Norman wrote: "The Russians moved in a remarkable manner, quickly ran across, using every fold of the terrain, showing that they were well trained and disciplined and that they were being led intelligently and bravely."
Mukhtar Pasha was greatly angered by the outcome of the Dramdag battle so shameful for the Turks, many officers were demoted by him. This battle had a negative effect on the morale of the Turkish troops; excited the Armenian population, hoping for liberation from Ottoman oppression; the situation on the right wing of the Turkish army worsened even more. Therefore, after this defeat, the Turkish command directed even greater forces against the Erivan detachment. In the rear of the Russian detachment, to Bayazet, a significantly strengthened Faik-Pasha detachment of up to 11 thousand men with 16 guns went out. 6 (18) June the Turks laid siege to the fortress, where about 2 thousands of people were located under the command of Lieutenant Colonel G. M. Patsevich. At the same time, Mukhtar Pasha himself concentrated 12,5 thousand infantry and 2 thousand cavalry with 18 guns to attack from the front at Delhi-Bab. The defense of the Zivinsky positions was assigned to the Izmail-Pasha detachment of 10-11 thousands of bayonets and sabers with 18 guns. In addition, there was a reserve in Keprike and Gassan-Kale - 2 thousand detachment under the command of the Hungarian Kaftan-Mohammed Bey.
At this time, the position of the Erivan Detachment deteriorated further. Loris-Melikov reported on the upcoming speech from under Kars on the Saganlug detachment of the Geiman for actions against the main forces of the army of Mukhtar Pasha, who were believed to be in the position of the Saganlug ridge. Tergukasov was tasked with taking action in the rear of the main forces of the Turkish army to help Gaiman master the Passinskaya valley. As a result, if originally the Erivan detachment was supposed to act independently only up to Alashkert, and then could continue the offensive only jointly with the main forces of the acting corps, now Loris-Melikov moved the Erivan detachment further to Drum-Dag. It is clear that Loris-Melikov did not know about the concentration of the main forces of Mukhtar Pasha against the Erivan detachment. 9 (21) June Gayman made from under Kars, which significantly weakened the blockade of the Turkish fortress. As a result, the Turks were able to attack the Russians in parts.
Meanwhile, the Erivan detachment (7 thousand people with 30 guns), seeking to take more advantageous positions for joint operations with the forces of Gaiman, 8 (20) June moved to Dayar. Tergukasov did not allow even the thought that the Turkish troops he had defeated would again go on the offensive, and therefore showed considerable carelessness. The 9 (21) of June, the main forces of the Erivan squad was stationed at the bivouac, people rested, preparing for new battles. In combat readiness there were only two small detachments: the first, consisting of an infantry battalion and two Cossack hundreds under the command of Major Gurov, was intended to cover the foraging scheduled for that day; the second, consisting of two companies and seven hundred with four rocket launchers under the command of Colonel Medvedovsky, for reconnaissance in the direction of Eschak-Elyasi. Russian forward detachments unexpectedly collided with the advancing Turkish troops commanded by Mukhtar Pasha.
Medvedovsky correctly assessed the situation and closed the Dayar Gorge. Major Gurov also did not blunder and occupied the heights covering the bivouac of the detachment from Dayar. This initiative of the two commanders rescued the Russian detachment from the unexpected strike of the Turkish forces and made it possible to prepare for battle. Also, the Erivan detachment from the very beginning firmly secured its most vulnerable right flank, which had an extremely positive effect on the entire future course of the battle. The Russian detachment immediately rose and supported the detachments of Medvedovsky and Gurov. Three groups were formed: the right flank under the command of Bronevsky, the center — Shaka and the left flank — Slyusarenko. By 13.30, all the forces of the detachment were brought into battle, all the troops were stretched 6-7-kilometer line, and much mixed.
Despite the double superiority of the enemy and the sudden appearance of the Ottomans, the Russians bravely took the fight. “Officers and soldiers challenged each other’s right to be ahead. Some officers fought with sabers, others worked with bayonets ... Almost all people free from service in the camp, including musicians, non-combatants, after learning about the dangerous position of the troops, took rifles and joined the fighting. ” The battle was stubborn and lasted almost the whole day. The Turks launched a demonstrative attack on the left flank of the Russians and the center. But the main blow fell on the right wing. Positions on the left flank of the Russian several times passed from hand to hand. The troops were mixed, each part acted independently. On the right flank, the Turks initially managed to force the Russian troops to retreat, but a successful counterattack of parts of the Russian center created the conditions for a Russian offensive on the entire front. As a result, the fighting qualities of the Russian troops, especially the junior and middle commanders, were in favor of the Erivan detachment (this battle was called the “battle of the captains”). Our commanders were better able to assess the situation and made the right decisions. The enemy was defeated and fled.
Turkish troops again suffered heavy losses. According to various sources (Turkish, English and Russian), the Turks lost from 2 to 2,5 thousand people (of which from 500 to 1 thousand killed). The loss of Russian troops 455 people, of which killed 74 people. Particularly difficult for the Russians was the loss of the brave and administrative commander of the Crimean Infantry Regiment, Colonel Slyusarenko. The Turkish troops, having experienced the hard blows of Russian soldiers, did not resume the battle the next day. Having received news of the movement of the Geiman's detachment against Zivin, the Turkish commander-in-chief abandoned plans to defeat the Erivan detachment. For his part, Tergukasov departed to Drum-Dag and here he decided to wait for the development of the operation of the Geiman detachment. But the connection with Loris-Melikov through the rear for several days was interrupted by the Turkish Van detachment at Bayazet, and there was no information about the movement of the Heiman troops in the Erivan detachment.
Thus, the Dramdag and Dayarsk battles again showed the combat superiority of the Russian troops, who beat a superior enemy. That is, if the Russian command immediately decided on a rapid offensive, then the Turkish army would be doomed to a decisive defeat. The Russian army missed the chance to win the Caucasian campaign in one swift strike on Erzerum. Now the fighting was delayed, the sides maneuvered, exchanged blows.
Source: Protasov M.D. History 73 of the Crimean Infantry Regiment of His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich Regiment
By June 22, the column of Heiman reached Sarykamysh. The commander of the active corps, Loris-Melikov, who was under the Heman's detachment, had incomplete information about the situation. The general received vague information that the Erivan detachment was surrounded by the army of Mukhtar Pasha, that on June 21 the detachment was fighting, and that both sides maintained their positions. The Xiemman squad arrived on June 12 and stood there until June 23, collecting information about the enemy. It turned out that Zivin's positions were occupied by a detachment of the former Erzurumsky governor, Ismail Pasha (his unit had 25-10 thousand people and 11 guns), and he was waiting for reinforcements from the main forces of Mukhtar Pasha, located at Delhi-Baba. Having received a message from Tergukasov about the dangerous situation of the Erivan Detachment, he gathered a council of veins. Discussed the question of further action. It was proposed to bypass the fortified positions of the enemy from the flank or to postpone the offensive until it finally becomes clear where the main forces of Mukhtar Pasha are located. Gayman did not agree with these proposals and began to insist on an immediate frontal attack of enemy positions. Loris-Melikov agreed to storm the Zivinsky positions.
Thus, instead of the advantageous offensive of Heiman's troops on the main forces of Mukhtar Pasha, located in an open field (with the qualitative superiority of the Russian troops, the enemy who had lost heart after Dayar was doomed to defeat), it was decided to attack the fortified positions of Izmail Pasha, who could soon to support the Turkish commander in chief.
Zivin's positions were already strong by natural data, and they were also well strengthened. Fortifications consisted of several lines of trenches, approaches were shot through with artillery. The terrain was difficult for infantry, artillery and cavalry operations. However, the Russian command did not conduct thorough reconnaissance and knew little about the nature of the defense of the Turkish army. General Geiman did not consider it necessary to conduct a thorough reconnaissance of enemy fortifications. He believed that it was enough to launch an attack so that the enemy ran, then numerous Russian cavalry would complete the Ottomans' defeat. “The decision to storm Zivin,” wrote war veteran KV Komarov, “followed without preliminary study of the area by reconnaissance, without a plan.” General Geiman was so confident in the easy and quick victory of the Russian troops that he presented the direct command of the battle to other commanders. "I do not lead the columns today," he said, "here are already quite generals, you need to give them a chance to distinguish themselves." Heiman himself, who received great experience in the Caucasian War and fought well against the highlanders, was decisive, brave, but showed himself to be a weak commander in organizing a major battle against the Turkish forces, who had not yet lost their morale and held strong positions.
13 (25) of June, Geiman's troops, numbering 17,5 thousand people with 64 guns (12 thousand infantry and 5,5 thousand cavalry), attacked Zivinsky positions. The plan of the operation was simple: the infantry went into a frontal attack, bypassing the right flank of the Turkish army was sent cavalry. The success of the raid depended on the ability to quickly go through the only mountain road and go out on level ground, to the rear of the enemy. But the road was not previously reconnoitered. And it was dug up by ravines and difficult for cavalry and artillery. Guns and charging boxes often had to be carried on hand. Artillery-ridden cavalry reached the goal only for 18.00. But in the rear of the Zivinsky positions there were very high steps, and therefore the attempt to drag them into artillery ended in failure. Cossacks and dragoons dismounted, climbed the mountains and tied up with a long firefight with the Turkish infantry. In the evening, the head of the column, Major General Chavchavadze, was informed that the “masses” of the Turkish troops appeared from Kepreekei. Fearing to be between two fires, Chavchavadze decided to start the withdrawal. As a result, a workaround did not lead to success.
No better things were at the front. Russian artillery was superior to Turkish, but because of the very rugged terrain, it was not possible to follow the attacking orders of infantry, and the fire at long distances was ineffective. Russian soldiers bravely went to enemy positions, scrambling hard on steep slopes. By 17 hours were taken the advanced positions of the Turkish army. It remains to take the main battle line of the enemy with two batteries in the center and two on the right flank. Due to the difficult terrain conditions, the assault columns were isolated from each other. The troops of the right flank and center encountered impassable gorges and were forced to stop the movement. They were exhausted from heat and thirst, fell from exhaustion, but the battle continued. Our troops suffered unjustified losses from the enemy’s strong gun and artillery fire. As a result, the Turkish army retained its position.
Loris-Melikov, having received news of the approach of Mukhatra Pasha's troops to Zivin, decided to abandon the continuation of the battle and withdraw the troops back to Kars. Although there was an alternative: to reconnoiter the approaches to the Turkish positions, to bring fresh reserves into battle in the morning and to attack the enemy again. In this case, the historian of the Russian-Turkish war N. Belyaev notes, "there were chances for success, since the Turkish troops were physically and morally exhausted by more Russians, and the Turkish reserves were spent." Also, the Russian army could attack the main forces of Mukhtar Pasha. However, Loris-Melikov, confused by failure, decided to withdraw his troops back.
Thus, the Russian offensive did not receive any success. The losses of the Geiman detachment reached 900 people. Turkish losses ranged, according to various sources, from 650 to 1300 people. Despite the serious losses and extreme fatigue of the troops, the withdrawal was orderly. The Russian troops, wrote the military correspondent A. N. Maslov, "did not leave a single trophy and not a single prisoner in the hands of the enemy."
Arriving at Kars 5 in July, Loris-Melikov decided to lift the siege from Kars and retreat directly to the Russian border. The Russian army was to go there to the defense in anticipation of reinforcements from the depths of Russia. The commander immediately asked for reinforcements. July 9 main forces of the Russian corps left from Kars. Mukhtar Pasha, surprised by the departure of the Russian troops from Zivin, and fearing a trap, moved with great caution to the Russian troops. On July 7, Turkish troops reached the approaches to Kars and on July 9, the Turks could observe how the Russians were leaving.
The failure of the attack on the Zivinsky positions and the retreat from Kars made a painful impression in Russia - this was the first major failure of the Russian army in both theaters of operations.
The first offensive stage of the war in the Caucasian theater of operations from April 24 to July 10 1877. Source: N. I. Belyaev. Russian-Turkish war 1877-1878
To be continued ...