In January — February, 1918, the counter-revolutionary forces in the Don Region, Kaledinians and Alekseevts (Kornilovs), suffered a crushing defeat. The Cossacks, capable of setting up an entire army, well-armed and prepared, were for the most part indifferent to the white (counter-revolutionary) movement and did not want to fight. Many sympathized with the Soviet authorities. Novocherkassk fell. Kaledin committed suicide. The remaining White Cossacks fled.
The leaders of the Volunteer Army (YES), Alekseev and Kornilov, decided that it was necessary to leave the Don in order to preserve the backbone of the army. Rostov besieged from all sides. 1 (14) February The volunteer army was deprived of the possibility of withdrawing to the Kuban by rail: volunteers were forced to leave the station and the village of Bataysk. They were occupied by detachments of the commander of the Southeast revolutionary army Avtonomov, they were supported by local railway workers. However, Kornilov managed to keep the left bank of the Don, and Avtonomov’s attempts to break through to Rostov were also repulsed. At the same time, Sivers detachments were approaching Rostov from the other side - from Matveyev Kurgan and Taganrog.
Further stay in Rostov led to the death of DA. We decided to go to the Kuban or Salsk steppe. In Ekaterinodar Kuban Rada was hostile to the Bolsheviks, it had its own “army” under the command of the former pilot, Pokrovsky. Volunteers hoped to get the support of the Kuban Cossacks and take advantage of the anti-Soviet sentiments of the Caucasian peoples. The area of the Kuban Cossack troops could become a base for the deployment of the army and further hostilities. And in the Salsk steppes, at the winter houses, one could sit out.
It is worth noting that the campaign on the Kuban was dangerous. The Caucasus was in total chaos. Turkish troops attacked the Transcaucasus, supported by Azerbaijani nationalists. Armenians retreated, bleeding profusely. The Georgians decided to go under Germany, to avoid the Turkish occupation. The North Caucasus, previously pacified by the royal power, army and Cossack troops, in the conditions of the Russian Troubles simply exploded. Dagestan began to look towards Turkey, the guerrilla war began, gangs bred. In Chechnya, clans quarreled among themselves, but all the gangs solidly slaughtered the Russians, attacked Cossack villages, plundered Grozny (then a completely Russian city) and oil fields. The Ingush gangs acted in a similar way - they were at enmity with the Cossacks, the Ossetians, the Bolsheviks. They attacked Vladikavkaz and united with the Chechens against the Cossacks. The Ossetians united with the Cossacks against the Ingush and the Bolsheviks. Kabardians tried to maintain neutrality, the Circassians sat in their mountain villages. The small Terek Cossack army fell, unable to withstand the attacks of the Chechen-Ingush gangs and the red detachments. Kuban army still held, but the disaster was inevitable. The Caucasus has become a real "meat grinder".
The Combined-Officer Regiment of Dobrommia performs in the Ice campaign. February 1918
There remained a narrow corridor through which volunteers could retreat. 9 (22) February 1918, the Volunteer Army crossed over to the left bank of the Don. General Kornilov walked in the convoy, an elderly General Alekseev rode on a trolley, the whole army treasury was in the trunk. Kornilov appointed Denikin as his assistant to replace him if necessary. However, Denikin was the first to leave - he caught a bad cold and fell down. “Army” in terms of the number of fighters was equal to a regiment - about 2,5 thousand people. Behind the volunteers luggage and numerous refugees.
The first stop was the village of Olginskaya. All the troops scattered after the defeat on the Don gathered here. A Markov detachment approached, cut off from the main forces and making its way past Bataysk. A few Cossack detachments joined. Officers came, previously neutral and fled from Novocherkassk and Rostov, where outbreaks of red terror began. Retrieved recovered and lightly wounded. As a result, about 4 thousand bayonets and sabers have already gathered. YES was reorganized into three infantry regiments, which would later become divisions: the Combined Officer under the command of General Markov, the Kornilov strike of Colonel Nezhentsev, and Guerrilla (from foot Don) of General Bogayevsky. Also, the DA included the Cadet Battalion of General Borovsky, consolidated from the Cadet Battalion and the Rostov Volunteer "Regiment"; The Czechoslovak Engineering Battalion, cavalry divisions and one artillery division. A huge refugee convoy was ordered to leave the army. Now they could disperse across the villages or make their way further. But there were still a lot of civilians, including the chairman of the former State Duma Rodzianko.
Kornilov offered to go to the Salsk steppes, where there were large stocks of food, fodder and of course a lot of horses in the zimovniki (camps of tribal herds). Spring thaw came nearer, spilling rivers, which prevented large forces from moving and allowed White to gain time, wait for an opportune moment for a counterattack. Alekseev opposed. Zimovniki suitable for small teams, as they were scattered at considerable distances from each other. There were few estates for living and fuel. The troops would have to be sprayed into small units and the red troops would be able to easily destroy them YES in parts. The army was sandwiched between the Don and the iron roads. It could have been deprived of the flow of reinforcements, supplies, and organized blockade. In addition, the volunteers were forced to stand idle, turning off from the events in Russia. Therefore, the majority, including Denikin and Romanovsky, offered to go to the Kuban. There were more opportunities. And in case of a complete failure, one could run to the mountains or Georgia.
However, a case intervened here. The news came that a volunteer detachment led by the marching chieftain of the Don General’s Major General P. Kh. Popov (about 1600 fighters with 5 guns and 39 machine guns) left Novocherkassk for the Salsk steppes - so-called. Steppe campaign. Don Cossacks did not want to leave the Don and break away from their homes, they were going to start a guerrilla war and again raise the Don region against the Bolsheviks. General Popov, with his chief of staff, Colonel V. Sidorin, came to the volunteers. Volunteers decided that it would be beneficial to unite with a strong detachment of Cossacks, and changed the original decision. The army received orders to go east.
Meanwhile, the Kuban Council, which on January 28 of 1918 on the lands of the former Kuban Region proclaimed an independent Kuban People’s Republic with its capital in Ekaterinodar, was on the verge of collapse. Against the Kuban center of counter-revolution, the Reds concentrated serious forces. By rail, through Azerbaijan and Georgia, we drove along passes and marched with regiments from the Caucasian front. All junctions were packed with soldiers. The Red commanders of Avtonomov, Sorokin and Sivers received a powerful resource base, forming their own "army". The soldiers were told that counter-revolutionaries were blocking their way home. The Caucasus had serious front stocks, that is, problems with weapons, ammunition and equipment was not.
Kuban Cossack, Red Commander Ivan Lukich Sorokin
The Kuban Rada repeated the fate of all provisional and "democratic" governments that emerged after February (for example, the Don government or the Central Rada). Rada is mired in boltology and debates, working out “the most democratic constitution in the world”. The Cossacks themselves then joined the detachments, then went home. Non-Kazakhs sympathized with the Soviet authorities. On behalf of the Kuban Rada, Pokrovsky formed the Kuban army, which initially numbered about 3000 fighters. He was able to repel the first attacks of the red troops. A young, energetic and brutal commander, a typical promoted in troubled times, he himself claimed the sovereignty. A. I. Denikin gave him the following description: “Pokrovsky was young, of small rank and military experience and unknown to anyone. But he showed vigorous energy, was bold, cruel, overbearing and did not really reckon with "moral prejudices." ... Be that as it may, he did what more solid and bureaucratic people failed to do: he assembled a detachment that was only an actual force, capable of fighting and beating the Bolsheviks ”(A. Denikin. Essays on Russian Troubles) .
1 (14) Mata 1918, the red squad under the command of the Kuban Cossack and military paramedic Ivan Sorokin, occupied Ekaterinodar without a fight. Pokrovsky led his forces in the direction of Maykop. However, the position of the Kuban "army" was hopeless. Without a connection with the Volunteer Army, she was waiting for a rout.
Volunteers moved east. We moved slowly, sending intelligence and creating a wagon train. Generals of Lukomskiy and Ronzhin left for communication with Kuban. On the way we went through a lot of adventures. They were arrested, but managed to wriggle out, wandered, moved from place to place, eventually ended up in Ekaterinodar in Kharkov. Meanwhile, it became clear that it was dangerous to go east. The Reds discovered YES, began to disturb her by small steps. Information collected in the area of wintering people intelligence did not promise anything good. It remained to turn south to the Kuban.
February 25 volunteers moved to Yekaterinodar bypassing the Kuban steppe. Alekseevtsy and Kornilovtsy passed through the villages of Khomutovskaya, Kagalnitskaya, and Yegorlykskaya, entered the limits of the Stavropol province (Lezhanka) and re-entered the Kuban region, crossed the Rostov-Tikhoretskaya railway line, and descended to the village of Ust-Labinsk, where they forced the Kuban.
Volunteers were constantly in contact with the superior numbers of the red units, whose numbers were constantly growing. But success was behind them: “The small number and impossibility of retreat, which would be tantamount to death, have developed their own tactics among the volunteers. It was based on the conviction that with the numerical superiority of the enemy and the scarcity of their own ammunition, it is necessary to attack and only to attack. This, undeniable during a war of maneuver, the truth entered the flesh and blood of the volunteers of the White Army. They always came. In addition, their tactics always included a blow to the enemy’s flanks. The battle began with a frontal attack of one or two infantry units. Infantry attacked a rare chain, from time to time lying down to give the opportunity to work machine guns. ... In one or two places, a "fist" was going to ram the front. Volunteer artillery hit only important targets, spending several rounds to support infantry in exceptional cases. When the infantry rose to dislodge the enemy, then the stop could not be. Whatever the numerical superiority of the enemy, he never withstood the onslaught of the first-comers ”(Trushnovich A. R. Kornilov’s Memoirs). It is worth noting that white prisoners did not take, who surrendered were shot. There were no "noble knights" in the bloody civil massacre.
At first, everything was fine in the Kuban. Rich stanitsy met with bread and salt. But it quickly ended. The resistance of the red units intensified. But the Kornilovists were rushing forward, every fight for them was a matter of life. Victory is life, defeat is death in the cold steppe. 2 (15) in March a heavy fight was going on for Vyselki station. The station changed hands several times. Here, the volunteers learned the first rumors about the capture of Ekaterinodar by the Reds, but there was no exact data yet. In addition, at the next station, Korenovskaya, there was a strong detachment of Sorokin with armored trains and numerous artillery. 4 (17) March began a heavy battle. Junkers and students of Borovsky went to the forehead, and the Officer and Kornilov regiments struck on the flanks. Bypassing the Kornilov threw Partisan regiment and the Czechoslovakia. They spent the last ammunition. Kornilov personally stopped the fivefold chains. As a result, the Reds quivered and the volunteers won.
However, Korenovskaya finally confirmed that Ekaterinodar fell. Pokrovsky, learning about the battles of 2 - 4 (15 - 17) of March, went on the offensive, seized the crossing of the Kuban near Ekaterinodar. He wanted to connect with YES. Kornilov, having learned about the fall of Ekaterinodar, turned his troops southward, with the aim of crossing the Kuban, to rest the troops in the mountain Cossack villages and Circassian auls. The strategic idea of the campaign on the Kuban collapsed, the army was extremely tired, lost hundreds of soldiers killed and wounded. It was necessary to rest, wait for more favorable circumstances.
Alekseev was disappointed with the turn of the army into Zakubanie, but did not insist on revising and changing Kornilov’s decision. General Denikin considered the order to turn to the south as a “fatal mistake” and was more determined. He was supported by General Romanovsky. The motives of Denikin and Romanovsky were that when the main goal of the hike, Ekaterinodar, was left, only a couple of crossings remained and morally the whole army was aimed precisely at the Kuban capital as the final point of the whole hike. Therefore, any delay, and even more so a deviation from movement towards the goal, is threatened with a “heavy blow to the morale of the army,” and high fighting spirit is the only advantage of YES. However, Denikin and Romanovsky could not convince Kornilov. The commander-in-chief remained unconvinced: “If Ekaterinodar had held out, then there would have been no two decisions. But now you can not take risks. "
On the night of 5 - 6 (18 - 19) of March, the Volunteer Army moved towards Ust-Labinsk, turning south. Sorokin, who was defeated, but not defeated, immediately began the pursuit. Volunteers pressed to the Kuban. And ahead, in the village of Ust-Labinsk, the Red troops also waited, trains with soldiers from Kavkazskaya and Tikhoretskaya were waiting there. While Bogayevsky and the Guerrilla Regiment led a heavy rearguard battle, holding back Sorokin, the Kornilov and Junker men broke through the Reds' defense, took the bridge over the river and escaped from the ring of encirclement.
General L. G. Kornilov with officers of the Kornilov regiment. To the right of Kornilov - M. O. Nezhentsev. Novocherkassk. 1918
To be continued ...