Commander-in-chief Nikolai Nikolayevich considered it possible to combine the transition to the defense of the Russian Danube army with private offensive actions. The Russian command planned to eliminate the threat to the right flank of the Danube army from the direction of Pleven, which would allow with the arrival of reinforcements to proceed to major offensive operations against the main forces of the Turkish army.
By the beginning of autumn 1877, the situation on the Balkan front had improved for the Russian army. Despite the failure of two assaults of Plevna, Russian troops repulsed an attempt by the Turkish army to occupy mountain passes on the Balkan Range. The offensive of the Ottoman army against the Ruschuksky detachment failed. What ultimately led to the disruption of the large-scale counterattack planned by the Ottoman high command in order to drive the Russians beyond the Danube. Reinforcements arrived at the theater of operations - 4 Army Corps. The Russian command sent him to Pleven.
In addition, at this time, Romanian troops actively joined the fight along with the Russian army. During the crossing of the Danube, Romanian military vessels supported the Russian flotillaRomanian artillerymen participated in the shelling of Nikopol, medics participated in transporting Russian wounded soldiers to the rear hospitals. However, the further development of Russian-Romanian combat interaction was negatively affected by the absence of an agreement on joint actions of the Russian and Romanian armies. This is largely due to the cowardly position of the Romanian prince Karl, who was the commander of the Romanian army. Karl wanted to become the king of Romania, completely independent from Turkey, but was afraid of strengthening the position of Russia in the Balkans, and listened to the views of Austria and Germany. In the end, Karl resisted the attempts of the Russian command to establish cooperation with the Romanians, fearing that the Russians would get too strong influence in the army and the country. In particular, when, on the eve of the first assault on Plevna, General Kridener asked the commander of the 4th Romanian division to take up the defense of Nikopol, and also to allocate troops for the escort of thousands of Turkish prisoners, which made it possible to free up considerable forces of the Russian army for operations against Plevna, the Romanians refused. The direct appeal of the command of the Russian army to the prince also did not give positive results. It took two weeks to agree on the transfer of Romanian troops to Nikopol, and valuable time was lost. Thus, the Romanian troops as a whole were inactive on the left bank of the Danube, and did not fight the enemy.
The failure in the assault on Plevna forced the Russian emperor Alexander II to change his former negative attitude towards active military cooperation with Romania. It was necessary to use all available forces and resources. 16 (28) in August 1877, the emperor and the romanian prince met in the main apartment (headquarters). A compromise agreement was reached: the Romanians stepped up their actions, while the Romanian prince headed the Western detachment, and the Russian general P. P. Zotov was put at the head of his headquarters. On this occasion, the Russian military minister D. Milyuin wrote: “The bosses over a significant part of the army and on the most important strategic point are assigned to a foreign prince, completely inexperienced in military affairs, surrounded by his petty ambitious ...”.
At the end of August 1877, the Russian army operating in the Balkans, had in its structure more than 210 thousand people. Romanian troops - more than 30 thousand people, concentrated in the lower reaches of the river. Wit, northwest of Pleven. On the left bank of the Danube, at the fortress of Vidin, stood another Romanian corps. The Turks at that time had more than 205 thousand people against the Russian-Romanian troops. Thus, the Allies had superiority over the enemy and the Russian command decided to use the favorable moment and begin offensive operations in the western direction; in other sectors of the front, defense was still envisaged. The goal was to seize Pleven, which was supposed to create the conditions for a transition to a common strategic offensive. The success of this offensive was that the Russian commander-in-chief, Nikolai Nikolayevich, expected to ensure mainly the creation of a significant numerical superiority of the allied Russian-Romanian troops over the Turkish garrison of Pleven.
The Battle for Shipka somewhat distracted the attention of the Russian command from preparing the attack on Pleven. On the other hand, the success of repelling the attacks of Suleiman Pasha even increased the desire of the Russian commander in chief to take Pleven as soon as possible. On August 30, the commander-in-chief of the Danube army made the final decision to launch an offensive on Pleven in the very near future.
The beginning of confrontation
31 August 1877, the Turkish commander Osman Pasha with the 19 battalion stepped out of Pleven in the direction of the positions of the 4 Russian corps. On the one hand, he carried out the instructions of the high command to divert the attention of the Russian troops from the army of Suleiman Pasha (Shipka region), on the other hand, he tried to probe the forces of the Russian troops by reconnaissance in battle. The offensive of the Turkish troops as a result of the carelessness of the Russian command was unexpected for the Russians and they could not use the output of Osman Pasha's troops to impose on him a battle in an open field. Fourteen battalions of the 4 Corps were forced to defend in their positions from Pelishat-Sgalovets against the Turkish battalions 19. The remaining numerous troops of the Western squad, not counting the Romanians, were passive witnesses of this battle. While the 4 Corps fought hard with the enemy, the 9 Corps was inactive.
The Russian command did not even attempt to organize a flank attack against Osman Pasha's troops. The actual head of the Western detachment, commander of the 4 Corps, Lieutenant General Zotov, was afraid to throw the 9 Corps into the counterattack, as he was covering the main imperial apartment in Gorny Gild. During this battle, Russian troops lost 1 thousand people, Turks 1,3 thousand people. Having failed to achieve success, the troops of Osman Pasha turned back and calmly went under the cover of the Plevenna fortified area. “Thus,” D. Milutin noted, “and this time, when the enemy dared to stumble upon 25 with thousands on our two corps, our strategists failed to take advantage of a favorable opportunity to beat the enemy, and were content to repulse his attack.”
Forces of the parties. Attack plan
This Turkish attack did not change the plans of the Russian command. However, before starting the third assault on Plevna, the Russian command decided to take the Lovcha, on the river. Osma It was an important road junction leading to Pleven, Selvi and Troyan. Through Lovcha, the Osman Pasha troops maintained contact with the Suleiman Pasha army and received reinforcements. The capture of Lovcha was to ensure the attack of Plevna from the south.
Turkish positions at Lovcha were located on the elevations of both banks of the river. Osma The first line of Turkish fortifications stretched along the heights no. 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the eastern bank of the river. Before it flowed Prisyaksky stream. The Turkish fortifications were trenches with a front to the north and east, occupied by the 3,5 battalions, half of the battalions were located in the city itself. The main stronghold was on Mount Redhead. The fortifications of the second Turkish line were located at heights No. 6, 7, 8 and 9 on the west bank of the river. The main reinforcement of the second line was Zarechny redoubt with a number of trenches located at the height of number 6; at heights number 7, 8 and 9 only trenches were arranged. The redoubt was occupied by three battalions with three guns, one battalion with two guns occupied trenches at heights number 7, 8 and 9. Fortifications were prepared for all-round defense. Lovcha was defended by a Turkish detachment under the command of Rifata Pasha as part of the 8 battalion, 1 platoon cavalry and 6 guns. The total number of Turkish troops in the Lovci area reached 8 thousand people, part of the detachment consisted of irregular troops - Circassians and bashi-bazouks.
To capture the Lovchi 30 of August, a special detachment was formed under the command of the Chief of the 2 Infantry Division, Major General A. Imeretinsky. The squad included 2 Division, 2 Brigade of the 3 Infantry Division, 64 of the Kazan Regiment, battalion of the 118 Shui Regiment, Caucasian Cossack Brigade, 92 guns. On August 31, the 3 Rifle Brigade was additionally introduced into the squad. The squadron consisted of 25 battalions, 1 squadrons and 14 hundreds, 2 platoon sappers and 98 guns. The total number of troops reached 27 thousand people. The detachment was supposed to take Lovchu 1-3 September, leave to protect the area near the brigade and move to Pleven. Thus, the Russian troops were significantly superior to the enemy in manpower and had an overwhelming advantage in artillery.
M. Skobelev in August spent considerable time observing and reconnoitating Lovcha, so Imeretinsky pushed him forward with a detachment from the 64 Kazan Regiment, a battalion of the Shuisky Regiment, the Caucasian Cossack Brigade and 14 guns. The Skobelev heights A, B, C and D, occupied by the Russian detachment, commanded the Turkish fortifications over the entire first line.
They decided to deliver the main attack in the direction of the Red Mountain (height No. 1), take it and, acting in the right flank of the Turkish troops defending east of Lovcha, cut off their escape routes beyond Osma. A diverting attack was planned on the left flank of the Turkish position (heights no. 4 and 5). To suppress enemy defenses and demoralize them, a strong artillery preparation had to precede the attack. For the distracting attack, the right column was commanded under the command of Major General Dobrovolsky - the 3 Infantry Brigade (4 battalion and 20 guns), which, advancing on the left flank of the enemy, was to divert his attention from the main direction of the blow - Ginger Mountain. The left column under the command of Major General Skobelev - the Kazan regiment, the battalion of the Shuya regiment, the 1 brigade of the 2 division (10 battalions, 1 squadron, 2 hundreds and 56 guns) delivered the main blow. For Skobelev’s convoy, there was a general reserve of Major General Engman — the second brigades of the 2 and 3 divisions (11 battalions and 16 guns). The Caucasian Cossack brigade under the command of Tutolmin had to cover the flanks of the detachment, maintain contact between the troops located under Lovcha and Plevna and block the Turks from retreating from Lovchinsky positions. The first was to start the offensive left column Skobelev. Dobrovolsky's right column could launch an attack after occupying the Red Mountain.
Map source: N. I. Belyaev. Russian-Turkish war 1877 — 1878
By 5 o'clock in the morning of September 3, columns of Skobelev and Dobrovolsky lined up in battle order. Artillery preparation from 68 guns began. From the outset, difficulties began and a coherent plan of attack was foiled. The terrain and enemy positions have not been adequately studied. In the right pillar, only 2 of September was erected, and the shelters for the infantry were not prepared at all. As a result, they could not prepare artillery preparation from “short distances”, which did not allow to thoroughly destroy the fortifications of the first line and suppress the rifle fire of the Turkish infantry. The fortifications of the second Turkish line of defense were completely beyond the limit of the fire of the Russian artillery.
Turkish troops, armed with shotguns with good aiming firing range, inflicted considerable losses on the Russian soldiers, who did not even dig in. In 7 hours 30 minutes, the Turks counterattacked, trying to cover the right flank of Dobrovolsky. The attack was repelled by the Russian bayonet. Dobrovolsky was confused and asked for reinforcements. Imeretinsky sent him one regiment. As a result, Dobrovolsky, in order not to subject the troops to vain losses from enemy rifle fire, decided to launch an offensive himself, without waiting for an order before the main forces. Thereby finally broke the plan of the operation. In 8 hours 30 minutes our troops went on the offensive and with a swift blow occupied the fortifications No. 4 and No. 5. Turkish troops were driven back to the left bank of the Osma River and into Lovcha. An unexpected attack for the enemy, launched without the necessary artillery preparation, was worth serious losses, but led to a decisive success. Then Dobrovolsky took his brigade to the valley Prisyaksky stream to clean up. The Revel regiment that had come from the reserve occupied the occupied positions.
Around 12 hours with music and loose banners and with the support of artillery fire, Skobelev's left column attacked. So before this, a significant part of the Turkish infantry in the first line of defense moved north to act against the Dobrovolsky column, here the Russians met with weak resistance. After a short bout and with minor losses, our troops took up the fortifications on the Red Mountain and the height No. 2 and, developing success, rushed at Lovcha. The fortress also quickly fell. Thus, the Turkish defense on the right bank of the Osma was defeated. Turkish troops retreated to the second position north of Lovcha.
After a short pause, our troops continued the offensive. It was decided to strike the main blow against the fortification No. 6 - a strong redoubt, which was called Zarechny. In Zarechny redoubt, at this time, about 5 enemy battalions with 4 guns. The artillery was transported to Red Mountain, and it opened fire on Zarechnoye redoubt from the 1800-2500 distance. Skobelev's column, reinforced by four battalions, was to attack from the south, delivering the main attack on the right flank of the enemy. The right column of Dobrovolsky and part of the troops of the Skobelev detachment attacked the left flank; Tutolmin Cossacks were supposed to act from the rear.
After 14 hours, the attack began on the second position of the enemy. On the right wing of the Skobelev detachment, the Kaluga and Libavsky regiments were the first to start. Following them, a ledge back over the right flank of the Kaluzh people, the Revel regiment advanced. The main forces of the left column at that time were still in place. It is clear that the Turks directed the entire fire on Kaluzhs and Libauans, who, after crossing the river, suffered heavy losses. The terrain was open. The initiative of the company commanders, which violates the generally accepted methods of attack, helped, as it was already before more than once. From a distance of 2000 steps, the soldiers moved to the offensive with chains, and then, on the initiative of the soldiers, began to run across the heaps in groups and one by one from cover to cover. The troops began to suffer significantly smaller losses. Coming out to the enemy fortification, our troops went on the attack. At the same time, the Revel regiment entered the flank of the enemy. Under the onslaught of the Russians, the Turkish troops cleared the advanced trenches and retreated to the very redoubt.
As a result, the main forces of the left column emerged from the city around the 17 30 hours of minutes again with music and loose flags only after the Kaluzhs had already stormed the redoubt from the southeast, and the Revels from the northeast. Skobelev's troops drove the Turkish infantry out of the fortifications of the right flank; they retreated to the west and to the redoubt. At this time, the Kaluga, Libavsky and Revel regiments took Zarechny redoubt during a brutal bayonet battle. The Turks fled. The left column, which was late with the beginning of the offensive, did not manage to cut off the Turkish infantry from the Zarechny redoubt. The Caucasian Cossack Brigade was unable to completely surround and finish off the enemy - it was detained by two Turkish battalions covering the withdrawal.
The battle of Lovcha ended in complete victory for the Russian army. The entire Rifat Pasha squad was crushed and scattered. The fight was fierce. The losses of the Turks killed exceeded 2 thousand people. Russian casualties - 1700 people killed and wounded.
"General MD D. Skobelev on a horse." N. D. Dmitriev-Orenburg, (1883)