On August 24, the Bulgarian squads were replaced in position, only the 4 squad stayed on it until August 31. “The Bulgarian squads, tired after four days of fighting,” read the countdown of the 14 Infantry Division, “without food and almost without water, were withdrawn under enemy fire and sent to the village of Green-Hole to reinforce units on the right flank.” Some parts of the militia, with the permission of General F. F. Radetsky, descended for two days in Gabrovo. Here, the brave militias received uniforms and new weapon (Shaspo guns were replaced by a Russian rifle).
Although Russian troops repelled all enemy attacks, the situation was difficult. The heights of Lysaya, Lesnoy kurgan from the west, Maly Bedek, Demir-Tepe and Demijevits from the east remained in the hands of the Turkish army and hung over the flanks of the Shipka position. They allowed to keep the Russian position under attack, including the approaches to it from the rear. According to the defenders themselves, "all the favorable chances, which fate ever gave in the war, on Shipka were on the side of the Turks."
In addition, the Turkish command, having no information about the approach of significant reinforcements to the Russian detachment, continued to attack until the middle of August 24, when Radetzky himself launched a counter-offensive, trying to occupy flank heights reinforced by the enemy. Three days were stubborn battles with varying success. Forest mound three times passed from hand to hand.
13 (25) August Russian troops as a result of a rapid attack, supported by the fire of the Central, Round and Big batteries, knocked down the enemy from the Forest mound and came very close to Mount Lysa. However, here the artillery could not reliably support infantry advancing beyond the range of its firing. Encountered by strong rifle-artillery fire and enemy counterattacks from Lysaya Mountain, the Russians were forced first to retreat to Lesnoy Kurgan, and then to Volynskaya Mountain, where they entrenched themselves. While repelling one of the enemy attacks, Major General Valerian Fyodovich Derozhinsky was mortally wounded. The day before, the commander of the 14 division, Mikhail Ivanovich Dragomirov, was seriously wounded.
Thus, the six-day Battle of Shipka is over. As a result, the Turks did not manage to knock the Russians off the Shipka Pass, although the battle assumed an extremely fierce and stubborn character. So for the 6 days of fighting, the Russians and Bulgarians lost two generals at Shipka, 108 officers, 3338 lower ranks. Turkish losses were higher in 2-4: according to Turkish data, 233 officer and 6527 lower ranks, according to Russian data, from more than 8 thousand people to 12 thousand people. The losses of the Russian troops amounted to 24% of the total number of participants in the battles, and the Turks - 46,5% of the present composition of the army of Suleiman Pasha.
Great help to the Russian troops during the fighting was provided by the locals. They carried the wounded from the battlefield, delivered water and food to the position. The participants of the battles recalled: “From afar, for several tens of miles they came with mules or donkeys to serve as waterbirds ... In jugs and barrels attached to seine, these volunteers spent whole days in going down with their donkeys and mules down into the valleys where there were clean and cold keys, and again returned to the mountain peaks, to the positions. However, with all the desire, each of them could make no more than two ascents during the day. But even under these conditions, they delivered more than 6000 buckets of clean and cold water every day. The Bulgarians did not pay the slightest attention to the bullets with which the Turks showered them on the open road. They calmly stopped to give rest to animals, smoked, talked ... Russian soldiers strongly attached to these glorious people and tried their best to express to them their gratitude. ” Another participant in the events wrote: “During all the time of the Suleimanov attacks, they carried water and wounded and served the troops in whatever way they could, despite the danger. A lot of them died here. ”
At the height of the fighting at Shipka, the East Danube Army of Mehmet-Ali-Pasha did not show any activity. She waited for Suleiman Pasha's troops to break through the pass, then to take part in the general offensive against the Russian army, as envisaged by the plan of the High Command. When Suleiman Pasha’s attack on Shipka failed, Mehmet Pasha on August 24 (September 5) independently launched an offensive against the Ruschuksky detachment. The Turks managed to press the advanced parts of the Russians, but they could not build on their success. 10 (22) September, the Turks retreated to their original positions.
Thus, the Russian troops decided an important strategic task - they kept the Shipka Pass. The offensive of the best enemy forces repelled the heroic small Russian-Bulgarian detachment of Stoletov. The plan of concentric offensive against the Russian Danube army, developed by the supreme Turkish command, failed. This failure again demoralized the Turkish troops, who abandoned a decisive offensive against the Danube army. Further confrontation in the area of Shipka did not bring success to the Turks.
V.V. Vereshchagin. Russian positions on Shipka
From this time begins "shipkinskoye seat" - one of the most serious episodes of the war with Turkey. Both sides went on the defensive. The defenders of Shipka, doomed to passive defense, took care mainly of strengthening their positions and of organizing, if possible, closed communications with the rear. The Turks also strengthened and expanded their fortification work and continuously bombarded the Russian position with bullets and artillery shells (they had no problems with ammunition).
By early September, the 1877 consisted of the Shipkinsk detachment had 27 battalions (including 7 squads from the Bulgarian militia), 13 squadrons and hundreds, 10 batteries. The total number of Russian troops reached 19,6 thousand people with 79 guns. At the end of October, the 24-I Infantry Division was incorporated into the Shipka unit. The Turkish army had here 55 battalions, 19 squadrons and hundreds, 8 batteries, more than 26,2 thousand people with 51 guns. The army of Suleiman Pasha did not receive reinforcements, so the forces were approximately equal.
The Russian-Bulgarian detachment had the task to firmly hold the pass. For this great work has been done on the development of defense. New batteries were erected, trenches, trenches, and message trenches were being dug. On the most dangerous areas built various obstacles. At the same time dugouts, dugouts and other shelters for soldiers were built. To improve troop management, the position was divided into four districts; each was divided into sections. The district was designed for the 1-2 regiment, the sector for the infantry battalion. The head of the position was General F. F. Radetsky. In early September, positions for the mortar battery No. 1 on the northern slopes of Mount Nicholas and the mortar battery No. 2 on the northern slopes of Shipka were equipped. Each had two 6-inch (152-mm) rifled mortars. By the end of December, 1877 had 45 guns in position.
A big disadvantage of the Shipkinskaya position was that the Turks covered it in a semicircle. The Ottomans occupied many of the dominant heights, which allowed them to fire at all positions. “We had no rear ... no flank, there was almost no front,” said military engineer Ts. A. Cui (the future famous composer), who participated in the defense of Shipka. The Turkish command decided, using the advantageous location of its troops, to shoot down the enemy with continuous shelling. First of all, they fired on Russian batteries.
5 (17) September, at 3 hours of the night, Turkish troops again launched an attack from the southern and western sides. A sudden blow, they managed to seize the Eagle's nest - a rocky and steep cape, outstanding in front of Mount St. Nicholas, from where they were knocked out only after a desperate hand-to-hand fight. The column, advancing from the west (from the Forest mound), was reflected by fire. After that, the Turks continued shelling Russian positions and tried to catch the Russians off guard. The attacks of September 30 (October 12) and 9 (21) of November were especially strong. But the enemy’s plans were promptly disclosed, and he was unable to achieve the task. Turkish attacks repelled. A major role in the defense of Shipka was played by Russian gunners. At first they fired only direct fire. But it soon became clear that this was not enough. Then other methods began to be used: shooting at an invisible target from a battery, shooting at night.
With the onset of winter in the second half of November, the fighting almost stopped. Most of the Turkish troops was assigned to Sheinovo for winter apartments. At the same time, the position of our troops on Shipka became extremely difficult: the frosts and snowstorms on the tops of the mountains were especially sensitive. The locals spoke earlier about the impossibility of wintering on the pass, told about the autumn and winter storms, which often lasted for weeks. At first, the troops treated these stories with distrust, considering the difficulties exaggerated, but soon they had to be convinced of their fairness.
In addition, the Russian commissariat badly took care of the supply of troops. There was a shortage of food and feed supplies. Usually, food was brought in boilers installed on front of food carts. The food cooled, it happened to completely freeze. When the sleet coppers could not be delivered to the position, then brought the same meat and water on packs. “In the dark, along slippery, steep paths, climbing on rocks, people fell, overturned food, and even lost kettles. In due course of the settled glaze, any possibility of bringing food was stopped, and therefore, from the middle of November, it was recognized that people could be satisfied with canned goods.
As early as the beginning of November, the commander of the Shipka position, General Radetsky, informed the commander-in-chief: “There are no crackers in Tarnovo and Gabrovo; communication between these cities and Shipka may soon cease altogether. If a two-month supply of crackers, cereals and alcohol is not immediately sent to Gabrovo, then the Shipka detachment ... is threatened with hunger ... I have repeatedly dealt with all this with the field quartermaster, but there is no reserve anyway. ”
The situation was bad with the supply of shoes and uniforms. In winter, the troops needed boots and coats. They were taken to Shipka with a great delay - only in the spring, moreover, not all the troops were provided with them. As a result, “The clothes of the lower ranks began to freeze to the body, forming a solid ice crust, so that the sick and wounded had to be cut with a knife not only overcoats, but also pants; the overcoats froze so hard that without help it was impossible to turn the floors away: they did not bend, but broke; only with great effort could the arm bend. When the snowstorm was rising, a thick layer of ice was growing so fast from the wind side that it was barely possible to move, the person who fell down was unable to get up without assistance, then in a few minutes it was snowing and it was necessary to dig it out. ”
Due to the difficulties in transporting materials and fuel, it was not possible to build comfortable dugouts on the stony surface. “These dugouts, dug along the mountain slopes, were something awful,” recalled Borozdin. - When people were huddled in them (usually as much as could fit on the floor, the body was close to the body), it was done quite warmly. Then the walls and the ceiling began to "move away", moisture was leaking from everywhere, and after two or three hours, people lay in the water. Drenched to the bone, they went out into the cold, and ... you can imagine that they had to feel during this time. It happened that thawed layers of the earth fell on the sleeping, and then people had to dig out, and often turned blue bodies "(N. Borozdin. Shipka - Pleven (1877-1878)). In another document it was noted: "The dugouts of the regiments are cold ... They are uninhabited due to snow drifts, so people spend days and nights under the open sky."
War veteran L.N Sobolev wrote: “It is impossible to make a fire in any trench; the clothes of all the officers and soldiers represent themselves as solid ice crust (for example, one cannot untie the towers; when trying to do this, pieces of it fall off) ”. During blizzards, the wind blew people off their feet. Such snowstorms have been at Shipka quite often. During blizzards and blizzards guns refused. The subunit commanders reported: “With these severe frosts, it is difficult to shoot Berdan’s guns; the trigger does not descend and misfires; the oil hardens, the closures have to be taken out and kept in pockets. ”
The hardest conditions of life at Shipka led to a huge increase in diseases, frequent frostbite, which significantly reduced the combat capability of the troops. For example, in the 24 Infantry Division, during the two-month "shipkinskogo seat," the regiments lost (not counting combat losses): the Irkutsk regiment - 46,3% of personnel, the Yenisei regiment - 65%, the Krasnoyarsk regiment - 59%. In general, the division lost 56% of its composition. The division had to be recognized as incompetent, taken to the rear for re-formation, and until the end of the war she did not take part in the hostilities.
Largely in this "defeat" of the division were the "fathers-commanders". The division commander, General K. I. Gershelman, demanded that the soldiers look “smart” as in peacetime. The division commander was close to the court, and the 24-division was considered to be almost equal to the guard in its position. The soldiers of the 24 Division arrived at Shipka, dressed in smart uniforms, and thin, almost lacquered boots. The officers looked contemptuously at the old defenders of the pass, dressed awkwardly, often funny, dirty. But when the heavy autumn-winter season began, the “Guardsmen” already caused general pity. The officers forbade them to wrap themselves up, they allowed them to wear only during the guards, to wrap themselves in extra clothes, to wrap their legs was considered a crime, to gather at kitchens was forbidden, etc. In the positions occupied by the “guardsmen” real tragedies occurred when soldiers froze to death and wringing the non-commander -The officer with the change of "changed" only the corpses. V.I. Nemirovich-Danchenko, who was a war correspondent in the war, wrote: “In the wretched cathedral of Gabrovo ... lay the ranks of the soldiers of the 24 division. They were the frozen martyrs of Shipka ... Frozen because nobody thought of them, because their lives were not dear to anyone. Sharqunas, phrase-mongers, careerists did not care for these hundreds of our ... workers. ”
A similar picture was observed in other parts of the Shipka unit. From September 5 (17) to December 24 (January 5 1878) in the Shipka unit, only about 700 people were killed and wounded, and up to 9,5 thousand (according to other data, up to 11 thousand). person). The main reasons for such high losses were associated with the indifference of high leaders. At the headquarters of the Danube army there was little interest in the life of ordinary soldiers. With the timely delivery of stocks of provisions, firewood, warm clothing and the normal arrangement of housing losses would be much less. The Minister of War D. Milutin could only write with bitterness in his diary about the plight of our troops in the Shipka position: "... there was already snow in the mountains, and our poor soldiers were completely torn off."
And although our soldiers experienced incredible hardships in order to keep the Shipka position behind the Danube army, in the reports of Radetsky to the commander-in-chief one phrase was invariably repeated: “Everything is calm on Shipka”. She brought the battle-artist V. V. Vereshchagin to the idea of painting a picture. The painter depicted the lonely figure of a sentinel in his overcoat and hood, freezing under a snowstorm. "On Shipka, everything is calm ...".
The defense of the Shipka Pass lasted about six months - from 7 (19) in July to 28 in December of 1877 (11 in January of 1878). The Russian-Bulgarian detachment repelled numerous attacks by the superior forces of the enemy, withstood intense shelling and suffered a harsh mountain winter, eventually holding back the pass. The defense of Shipka bound the considerable forces of the Turkish army of Suleiman Pasha, preventing the Turks from breaking through into northern Bulgaria and disrupting the Turkish command's plan for a powerful offensive with the aim of returning the Danube frontier. This created favorable conditions for the siege of Pleven. In addition, the preservation of the Shipkinskaya position provided the Russian troops with the shortest offensive path beyond the Balkans, against Constantinople.
General F. F. Radetsky subsequently gave the following assessment of the five-month heroic defense of the Shipka Pass. “Shipka is locked doors: in August they withstood a heavy blow, with which Suleiman Pasha wanted to pierce them in order to enter the expanses of Northern Bulgaria, unite with Mehmed Pasha and with Osman Pasha and thus break the Russian army into two parts, after Why inflict her a decisive defeat. Over the next four months, Shipka chained the 40-thousandth Turkish army to itself, distracting it from other points of the theater of operations, thereby facilitating the success of our two other fronts. Finally, the same Shipka prepared for the surrender of another enemy army, and in January part of our army passed through its open doors in its victorious march to Constantinople. ”
The defense of Shipka has become one of the symbols of the military community of two Slavic peoples - Russians and Bulgarians. Shipka is one of the most famous names in stories Bulgaria, the shrine of the Bulgarian patriots. To commemorate the Shipki defense near the pass in 1928 -1930. a monument was erected. The most ambitious and solemn events are held here on March 3 - this is the day of the signing of the San Stefano peace treaty, which brought the freedom of Bulgaria after the five-century Ottoman yoke.
Bulgaria. National Park Museum at the Shipka Pass. Sculptural composition "Russian soldiers on the Shipka Pass in winter 1877"