Discovering Russian troops, the Turks left the city and took up positions on the right bank of the r. Yantra. Turkish troops tried to stop the Russian offensive, but were hit by a strong artillery strike. Especially distinguished 16-i horse battery under the command of Lieutenant Colonel M. F. Oreus. Our gunners suppressed the enemy battery, and then opened fire on the Turkish infantry. The Turks, having come under artillery shelling and being threatened by a flank bypass of the Cossacks, hastily retreated. With the beginning of the withdrawal, Oreus transferred his battery to the right bank of the Yantra and, with 600, began smashing the retreating Turks. The Turks fled, throwing weapon, ammunition and ammunition. In pursuit of the enemy, the Russian troops liberated Tarnovo. Locals greeted the Russians as their liberators. In the camp abandoned by the Turks, significant stocks of ammunition and food were captured. Russian lost only two gunners wounded.
After the occupation of Turnovo, General Iosif Vladimirovich Gurko began preparations for the seizure of mountain passes. For movement through the Balkan Mountains, it was possible to use passages through four passes - Shipkinsky, Travlensky, Khainokinsky and Tvarditsky. The most convenient of them was Shipkinsky, the most difficult - Hinkoisky. But the Shipka Pass was occupied by the enemy and well fortified. To the south of it, in the area of Kazanlak, there were large reserves of the Turkish army. The Travlensky and Tvardinsky passes are also controlled by the Turks. Only Khainokisky pass was not guarded by them. He was chosen to bypass the Shipka position of the Turkish army.
Gurko sent a forward detachment led by General O. E. Raukh to Khainokisky Pass for detailed reconnaissance of the route. It was found that the road is available for the movement of troops, but bulky carts will not pass. It was decided to replace the horse carriage baggage. Take the crackers for five days, which they considered to be an emergency reserve and could be used only by special order. For horses, there was a three-day supply of grain forage. All that could delay the troops left in Tarnovo. For two days, a hundred Urals and a pioneer (sapper) team tried to correct the path through the passage, except for the last 10 km from the exit (in order to disguise, so as not to attract the attention of the enemy).
After passing the pass Gurko had two options for action. If the forces of the Turkish troops in Zabalkanie were significant, the forward detachment would have limited itself to the defense of the southern exits from the Hainokoya passage. If, on the contrary, the Turkish forces in Zabalkanie would have been insignificant, Gurko proposed to move to Kazanlak, break up Turkish reserves there, and leave the positions of the garrison of Shipka from the rear. The commander in chief agreed with the decision and plan of Gurko and informed him that on June 30 (July XNUM) a regiment of the 12 th infantry division with a battery would arrive in Tyrnov. These troops were to assist from the north the advance detachment in the capture of the Shipka Pass. 9 (2) July, the commander-in-chief rejected Gurko’s request for the advance detachment to go deep south. The Russian command has already received news of the transfer of 14-thousand by sea. Suleiman Pasha’s army of Albania to Bulgaria.
Commander of the Front Squad Joseph Vladimirovich Gurko
June 30 (July 12) Gurko squad continued the offensive. The movement of our troops took place in difficult conditions. On the way to the pass, which had a width of not more than 100 m, there were three very difficult climb. From the pass, a straight descent began along the gorge up to 20 km. The road ran along the banks and the riverbed. Selver. Troops often had to move from one bank to another. Particularly difficult was the section with a length of about 4 km just before the exit from the gorge: the road ran along a precipice and was very narrow. The artillery had to be dragged by hand. The participant of the trip recalled: “The ascents and descents were so steep and narrow that the guns and charging boxes had to be raised and lowered, the turns of the road were unexpected, so it was very difficult to control the course of the guns and boxes; how difficult and dangerous the path was for gunners, it can be judged by the fact that even mountain guns — these miniature guns on two wheels drawn by a pair of horses — and they were often cut off from the road to the abyss. ”
Despite all the difficulties, the Russian troops successfully overcame the pass. As General Gurko reported: "Only a Russian soldier could pass in three days and bring field guns along such a heavy gorge." Together with the Russians, the Bulgarian militia also marched. "Justice demands to say, Gurko noted, - that the Bulgarian militia did not lag behind the rest of the troops in overcoming the difficulty of the movement."
In the morning of July 2 (14), the forward detachment left the gorge and attacked the Turkish battalion located in the village of Hainakoy. The Turks were taken by surprise and fled. Soon another Turkish battalion approached from Tvarditsy. With the help of two battalions, the Turks launched a counterattack, but did not succeed and went to Sliven. The 3 (15) of July, around two Cossack regiments and two members of the Bulgarian militia and artillery, defeated three Turkish battalions, which moved to help their troops. On the same day, the Cossacks damaged the telegraph line on the Nova Zagora (Yeni Zagra) - Stara Zagora (Eski-Zagra) section and captured enemy transport with ammunition. At the same time, our reconnaissance is located in Nova-Zagora there are 5 battalions of Turkish troops, in Kazanlak there are 5-10 battalions and on positions in the Shipka Passage are 8-10 battalions. The active actions of the Russian troops forced the Turkish command to abandon the attacks and go on the defensive. Successes in the first battles and the results of intelligence finally approved Gurko in the decision to move to Kazanlak and seize the Shipka Pass.
Thus, the successful forcing by the Vanguard of General Gurko of the Balkan Range and the actions of our insignificant troops, which forced the enemy to go on the defensive, show that the effect could be much more significant if it were not a small detachment, but a strong strike force. Obviously, in that case, a quick breakthrough of the Russian troops to Adrianople and Constantinople would become a reality and made Porto conclude a world advantageous for Russia, rather than fight back and wait for “help from the West” (England).
Continuing the offensive, on July 4 (16), Gurko’s detachment moved to Kazanlak. On the way, the forward detachment in a few hours crushed three Turkish battalions, which were trying to block the way of the Russians. The next day, the Russian troops again defeated the enemy from Chorganovo, taking only prisoners about 400 people. 5 (17) July Gurko took Kazanlak. Russian troops went to the rear of the enemy, who occupied Shipka under Halussi Pasha. Positions in the Shipka Passage were occupied by seven Turkish battalions (4700 men) with nine guns. Turkish positions on Shipka were built by the front to the north, since it was from the north, from Gabrovo, Halussi Pasha was expecting the Russian offensive. Middle Beckle had two-tier rifle trenches, on the Kadi Wall and Uzun-kush mountains there were rifle trenches, on Shipka mountain there was a battery for three guns and rifle trenches and on the slopes of Mount St. Nicholas - two batteries of three guns and rifle trenches.
At the time when the Vanguard led the battle at Kazanlak, from Gabrovo, the Gabrovsky detachment of Major-General V.F. Derozhinsky, consisting of the Orlovsky 36 Infantry Regiment, the Don Don Cossack 30, and battery approached the Shipkinskaya Pass. The squad was ordered on July 5 (17) to attack Shipka in order to assist the Front Squad. The Russian command planned to seize the Shipka Pass with a simultaneous attack from the south by the detachment of I. V. Gurko and from the north by the Gabrovo detachment of V. F. Derozhinsky.
A squad of Derozhinsky 4 (16) July with small forces (two infantry companies and two hundred Cossacks) shot down three Turkish battalions from Bolshaya Bedek mountain, located east of the Shipka Pass. To divert Halussi-Pasha’s attention from the highway from Gabrovo to Kazanlak, according to him Derozhinsky was going to launch a major attack on the Turkish positions. In addition, Derozhinsky was going along the mountain paths passing through the Balkans in the area of the Bolshaya Bedek mountain to contact the Forward Detachment. Derozhinsky rightly expected that without establishing a connection with Gurko it would be impossible to organize a simultaneous and decisive attack of Shipka from the north and south. However, his commander, Commander-in-Chief of the 4 Infantry Division, Adjutant General Svyatopolk-Mirsky, who arrived in the night of 5 on 16 (17-9) in July in Gabrovsky, did not agree with the proposal of Derozhinsky to wait for communication with Gurko and to nocton. ) July a decisive assault on Shipka.
July 5-6 (17-18) were stubborn battles for Shipka. 5 (17) in July, a detachment of General Svyatopolk-Mirsky attacked Shipka from the north. The offensive of Gabrovsky detachment led by three columns, the middle in the forehead, and the flanking bypass. The interaction of the columns was not well organized, and in general the operation resulted in a series of separate and unsuccessful actions of all three columns. The central column could not frontally overcome the powerful resistance of the main Turkish positions and withdrew. A round of the flank columns also failed. In this inconclusive offensive, the Gabrovsky squad lost around 200 people killed and wounded. Mirsky, in his report to the commander-in-chief, saw the main reasons for the failure in the absence of the offensive of the Gurko detachment, in the great superiority of the Turkish forces and in the power of the enemy fortifications. In the detachment Gurko there was a noise of battle on the pass, but the infantry only approached Darkness to Shipka, and therefore the Vanguard could not go on the offensive of July 5 (17).
6 (18) in July, General Gurko launched an attack on the pass from the south and also failed. Gurko repeated Mirsky’s mistake: he launched the offensive without agreeing to cooperate with the Gabrovsky detachment. The offensive plan was as follows: two Plastun Cossack hundreds were tasked to attract the enemy’s attention by moving straight along the highway from south to north, while the 13 and 15 rifle battalions had to go around the Turkish positions from the east and strike them wing. The molesters distracted the enemy’s attention with their movement. At this time, the arrows secretly, on the mountain paths known only to the conductors of the Bulgarians, reached the highway in the interval between the mountain of Nikolay and the mountain Shipka. Here was the newly built Turkish fortification. The arrows came out of the forest, turned around and went on the attack. At that moment, the Turks suddenly ceased firing, threw out a white flag and sent envoys with a proposal to surrender. After the agreement was reached and the Turkish parliamentarians withdrew as if to prepare for the surrender, the Turkish infantry suddenly opened fire and began to bypass the flanks of the Russian riflemen. Colonel Klimantovich, who commanded the shooters, understood too much that the enemy went to military cunning with the expulsion of parliamentarians to scout the forces of the Russians and gain time to pull up reinforcements and organize countermeasures. During the battle, the Russian soldiers took the mount off the highway, but could not hold it. The Turks pulled up reinforcements and rejected our troops. Halussi Pasha concentrated his forces on the mountain of Nicholas and from there, because of the reliable shelters, the Turks hit our soldiers with concentrated fire. Having lost over 150 people killed and wounded, Klimantovich was forced to give the order to withdraw. Klimantovich himself died. Here another Gurko's mistake was evident - the lack of a strong reserve. Gurko, because of his previous easy successes, underestimated his opponent. Therefore, of the five battalions for the offensive Gurko sent only two.
As a result, the first attacks of the Russian troops Turkish garrison Shipki successfully repelled. However, the Turks, considering further resistance impossible, on the night of 7 (19) in July, left their positions, abandoned their wounded, guns, all supplies, and retreated to Philippopol (Plovdiv). At the same time, the Ottomans covered their withdrawal with negotiations with Gurko on the surrender of the entire Shipka garrison. On the same day, the Shipka Pass was occupied by Russian troops. The Orlovsky regiment with the battery assumed the defense of the Shipka Pass after his occupation. The forward detachment concentrated at Kazanlak.
Thus, the Vanguard fulfilled its main task. The capture of Shipka was of great importance for the whole subsequent course of the war. As will be seen from further events, the Shipka Pass occupied by the Russian troops at the second stage of the war will cover the Danube Bulgaria from the invasion of the Turkish army, and at the third stage it will facilitate the transition of the Russian forces to Adrianople.
Battle of the Front and Gabrovsky detachments for Shipka. Source: N. I. Belyaev. Russian-Turkish war 1877-1878
Battle of Stara Zagora
The onset of Russian troops caused great concern to the Turkish command. To cover the Turkish capital, the troops of Suleiman Pasha was hurriedly transferred from Montenegro. This commander was assigned the task of repelling Shipka, and then, together with the flank Turkish groups, to develop the offensive from three sides on Sistovo. Turkish troops stepped up their actions. The mass invasion of Turkish troops led to a new ruin of Bulgaria. Thousands of Bulgarian families fled north under the protection of Russian troops.
Before the detachment Gurko faced the task of closing the path of the enemy, not to let him to the mountain passes. It was decided to advance to Nova Zagora and Stara Zagora, to take up defensive positions on this frontier, safely covering the approaches to the Shipka and Hinkoi passes. Solving this problem, our troops 11 (23) in July liberated Stara Zagora, and 18 (30) in July - Nova Zagora. 19 (31) July 1877, the enemy struck from the south, simultaneously covering the positions of Russian troops from both flanks. At about 9 hours artillery preparation began, which lasted two hours, then the Turkish infantry went on the attack.
The city was defended by a small detachment of Russian and Bulgarian troops led by Major General N. G. Stoletov. The defensive position was divided into two sections: Colonel F.M. Depreradovich commanded the right flank, Colonel M.P. Tolstoy commanded the left flank. Stoletov himself with headquarters was located behind the center of the position. The Russian-Bulgarian forces fought back the attacks of the Turkish army with gunfire and artillery fire. The situation was especially complicated on the left flank, where the Turks continuously threw fresh reinforcements into battle. Russian and Bulgarian soldiers repeatedly counterattacked and, heroically fighting off, disrupted the Turkish offensive. The local Bulgarian population actively supported our troops. On the initiative of the national poet P. Slaveikov, the people's militia was organized (600 fighters). Armed townspeople joined the ranks of the Bulgarian militia. The teams from the Bulgarians gathered the dead and cared for the wounded. The battle lasted more than five hours. The Turks had superiority in forces, our troops were melting. There was a threat of encirclement. Stoletov was forced to give the order to leave the city and retreat. Bashibuzuki rushed into the city and began to plunder and massacre. They exterminated about 20 thousand civilians.
During this battle, the main forces of Gurko could not provide support to the Stoletov detachment. Having taken Nova Zagora on the eve, they moved to Stara Zagora in 6 hours of July 19 (31), but were confronted with the detachment of Reuf Pasha, who was walking there too. Turkish troops were defeated and fled. The cavalry of the Forward Detachment with one rifle battalion at 14 hours resumed movement to Stara Zagora. Intelligence discovered the location north and south of the city of large forces of the Turkish army. The troops that Gurko had were not enough to attack. After clarifying the situation, he decided that further movement forward was dangerous. The detachment retreated to the passes, where it became part of the troops of Lieutenant-General F. F. Radetsky, who defended the southern sector of the front. Gurko went to Petersburg to bring the 2 Guards Cavalry Division from there.
Thus, the battle near Stara Zagora allowed to reveal the plans of the enemy and gain time to strengthen the defense of Shipka. The Turkish army lost about 1,5 thousand people in this battle. The losses of the Russian and Bulgarian troops amounted to 567 people. The offensive of the Suleiman Pasha grouping was foiled: he had to stop and start putting his troops in order. Almost three weeks stood Turkish troops in the valley. Tundji.
General Gurko praised the fighting qualities of the Bulgarian troops. In an order from 11 (23) of August 1877, it was said: “... this was the first case in which you fought the enemy. And in this case you immediately showed yourself to be such heroes that the entire Russian army can be proud of you and say that it was not mistaken to send your best officers to your ranks. You are the core of the future Bulgarian army. Years will pass, and this future Bulgarian army will proudly say: "We are descendants of the glorious defenders of Eski-Zagry." The commander-in-chief of the Danube army informed the sovereign that “the Bulgarian militia fought with brilliant bravery”.
After the retreat of General Gurko’s Vanguard from Zabalkania, Shipka entered the southern front of the Russian army entrusted to the defense of General Radetzky’s troops (8 Corps, part of 2, 4 Infantry Brigade and Bulgarian militia), which had to be stretched by more than 100 versts The general reserve is located at Tyrnov.