90 years ago, 25 April 1928, the “black baron” Peter Nikolayevich Wrangel died. He became famous as a talented officer and cavalryman during the First World War and one of the greatest leaders of the White Army and the Russian white emigration.
Origin and Education
Petr Nikolaevich Wrangel was born on 15 (27) in August 1878 in a family that belonged to the old Baltic noble family, who led their history from the XIII century by Henrikus de Wrangel, knight of the Teutonic Order. The motto of the Wrangel family was: "Frangas, non flectes" (from the Latin. - "Break, but you will not bend"). Wrangel himself was a direct descendant of the Swedish field marshal Hermann the Elder (17th century), his great-grandson George Gustav was a colonel with Charles XII, and his son Georg Hans became a major in the Russian army. Being in the Russian service, Wrangel were members of almost all the wars that Russia waged in the XVIII-XIX centuries., Held high positions in the civil service, and some became well-known public figures. Thus, the famous explorer and polar explorer was Ferdinand Wrangel - his name is Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean, as well as other geographical features in the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. In addition, the Wrangel genus managed to intermarry with many noble families, so AP Hannibal (A. Pushkin's great-grandfather) was among Peter Nikolaevich's ancestors.
Thus, Peter Nikolaevich inherited the baronial title and inclination to military affairs. However, his father, Nikolai Egorovich, preferred entrepreneurship. He worked in the Russian Society of Shipping and Trade (the largest shipping company in the country), and also served on the board of several coal-mining joint-stock companies in Rostov. In addition, family income provided the estate in the Minsk province. Peter spent his childhood in this estate. From an early age, he was distinguished from his peers by his tall height, strength, dexterity, and extraordinary mobility. His father loved the hunt for which he took his sons. He noted that “to their great pride and my confusion, they soon put me in my belt, especially Peter.”
In 1896, Peter Nikolayevich graduated from the Rostov real school. After the tragic death of the youngest son of Vladimir, the Wrangel family moved to Petersburg. The father managed to find his place in the financial circles due to his connections with the Minister of Finance S. Yu. Vitte and the director of the St. Petersburg International Commercial Bank A. Yu. Rotshtein. Petr Nikolaevich entered the Mining Institute, the leading educational institution of the empire for the preparation of engineering personnel. Having shown brilliant results in school, in 1901, he graduated from college with a gold medal.
Peter Nikolayevich as a “volunteer” was called in the Life Guards Horse Regiment, where Wrangel traditionally served. It was one of the elite regiments of the Guards cavalry, which was part of the 1-th Guards Cavalry Division. The honorary commander of horse guards was the king himself. One year later, having passed the 1 examination in the Nikolaevsky Cavalry School, Peter received the first cornet officer rank. However, the young and violent temper of the hereditary nobleman played a bad joke with him: because of the drunken antics witnessed by the regimental commander Trubetskoy, the candidacy of Pyotr Nikolayevich was harassed during the officer's vote, which determined the possibility of further service in the regiment.
Leaving military service, Wrangel went to the disposal of the Irkutsk Governor-General as an official on special assignments. When the Russian-Japanese war began, Peter Nikolaevich voluntarily joined the Manchurian army, where he served in two Cossack regiments. He was part of the detachment of General Rennenkampf, one of the best cavalry commanders of the time. Wrangel became the participant of numerous transitions and skirmishes with the opponent. As PN, who served with him, wrote Shatilov: “In the Manchu war, Wrangel instinctively felt that the struggle was his element, and his work was his vocation.” In December 1904 of the year he was promoted to centurion "for distinguishing himself in cases against the Japanese" and was awarded the Order of St. Anna 4 of the 13th degree with the inscription "For Bravery" and St. Stanislav of 3 of the 13th degree with swords and a bow. The period of the war with Japan gave the young man useful contacts that helped him in his future career.
After the end of the war, he was assigned to the 55 th Dragoon Finnish Regiment and promoted to the rank of captain. From there, he was soon seconded to the Northern squad of Major-General Orlov, who was engaged in the suppression of revolutionary demonstrations in the Baltic States. During the revolution, loyalty to the throne was rewarded generously. As early as May 1906, Tsar Nicholas II personally deigned to welcome Peter Nikolaevich the Order of St. Anne 3 st. And in March, 1907, again received an appointment in the Life Guards Horse Regiment with the rank of lieutenant. At one of the parades he was noted by the sovereign. In the future, Peter Nikolaevich will meet with the sovereign more than once. He was a staunch monarchist, Wrangel spoke positively about the last sovereign, but was extremely dissatisfied with the king's entourage.
Coming from a noble and wealthy family, a Guards officer, Wrangell quickly became his highest class. He married the daughter of a chamberlain of the Highest Court and a large landowner Olga Mikhailovna Ivanenko, the maid of honor of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. They had four children: Elena, Peter, Natalya and Alexey (they lived a long life, they passed away in our modern era). Judging by Wrangel’s “Notes” and his letters to his wife, they had a very warm relationship. Olga Mikhailovna actually saved her husband during the revolutionary terror, nursed typhus during the epidemic, and helped settle abroad.
As General P.N. recalled about Peter Nikolaevich. Shatilov: “It was a secular man who loved society, a beautiful dancer and conductor at balls and an indispensable participant in officer-friendly meetings. Already in his early years, he had an amazing ability to express his judgment unusually vividly, figuratively, and briefly on all sorts of questions. It made him an extremely interesting conversationalist. ” However, he also had disadvantages characteristic of the aristocracy of that time. Thus, his contemporaries noted his aristocratic arrogance, quick temper (nervous character). Not left in the past and addiction to drinking. For his love of Piper Heidsick champagne, he received the nickname "Piper."
Wrangel entered the elite Nicholas Academy of the General Staff, where he showed good academic results. In 1910, Mr. Petr Nikolayevich graduated from the Academy one of the best, but he did not want to leave for the headquarters position. As Wrangel himself noted: “I am not a good officer for the General Staff officers. Their task is to advise the superiors and put up with the fact that the council will not accept. I love too much to carry out my own opinion. ” Then he was sent to the Officer Cavalry School, after which in 1912 he returned to his regiment. Here Wrangel was given command of a squadron, in 1913, the rank of captain.
World War I
From the very beginning of the First World War, Peter Wrangel was at the front. His regiment was part of the equestrian corps of Khan Nakhichevan, who acted on the right flank of the 1 of the Russian army, General von Rennenkampf. Already 16 August 1914, the cavalry crossed the border of East Prussia. Before the Russian troops stood 8-I German army. After crossing the border, Russian troops of Rennenkampf moved forward with the battles. The commander decided to send the cavalry corps around the enemy’s left flank in the direction of Insterburg.
In the area of the village of Kaushen, the Russian cavalry unexpectedly collided with the German 2 Land Brigade. Despite the maneuverability advantage, the cavalry dismounted and were drawn into a protracted battle. Several attempts to go on the attack were repulsed. However, the advantage was on the side of our troops: training (compared with the German storekeepers), as well as numerical and fire superiority. The Germans began to retreat, leaving as a cover two guns, whose front were lined with our artillery fire. It was at this time that the famous feat of Wrangel took place, which, together with his squadron, was in reserve. As commander of the Life Guards of the Horse Regiment noted, General B. E. Hartman: “Wrangel did not find a place for himself with impatience. News of the losses, of the murdered comrades reached him and only intensified his protest against the fact that he had to remain in the rear when his comrades were fighting. Finally, he could not stand it. By this time, General Kaznakov, the commander of the 1 Guards Cavalry Division, was approached from His Majesty's battery 1 observation post by Lieutenant Gershelman and reported that the enemy’s weapons were in a difficult situation and that if they were to help dispersed units with fresh forces, they could be seized. Hearing this, Wrangel literally begged to allow him to attack ... ". After receiving permission, he led a decisive attack in the equestrian ranks. The Germans gave a few volleys, our troops suffered significant losses (a horse was killed near Wrangel). As a result, the Russian guards reached the guns and captured them. In the future, they were exhibited as trophies in Petrograd.
It was this Causeni battle that was repeatedly described in various articles and memoirs of white emigres. After all, it was the first and in fact, the only one of its kind, cavalry attack of world war, the first serious combat episode of the Russian Guards cavalry. And the actual victory, as the German troops retreated. Russian cavalry showed courage, among the dead and distinguished were representatives of many noble families. Thus, this fight (in fact, one of the many skirmishes and battles in this war) became known in high society and at court. The dissemination of information was also facilitated by Nakhichevan, apparently intriguing against Rennenkampf. This caused a flood of rewards. Wrangel received the Order of St. George 4 degree, becoming, thus, perhaps the first officer - George Knight of the First World War. However, in general, it was a mistake of the Russian command. Nakhichevan did not use the mobility of cavalry, did not pursue the enemy and, justifying the high losses and expenditure of ammunition, he took the troops to the rear and did not complete the task. As a result, due to the lack of cavalry on the right wing during the Gumbinnen battle, the 1 army was almost completely defeated. Therefore, Rennenkampf negatively evaluated the actions of the Nakhichevan cavalry in this battle.
Later, together with his regiment, Wrangel participated in advancing deep into East Prussia. At the beginning of September, the 1 Brigade of the 1 Guards Cavalry Division was withdrawn from the front and entered at the disposal of the commandant of the fortress of Kovno. When, after the defeat of the 2 of the Russian army, the hasty retreat of the 1 of the army began to the border, and then beyond the r. Neman, unrest began in the rear. Two squadrons of the Life Guards Horse Regiment (including Wrangel's squadron) were sent to the area of Mariampol, where they restored order in the rear of the 20 corps.
In mid-September, the Combined Cavalry Division was formed on the basis of the Guards Cavalry Brigade, General P.P. Skoropadsky (the future puppet hetman of Ukraine) became its commander, and Wrangel became the head of the headquarters. At first, the division was intended for the defense of Warsaw, but then it was transferred to the 10 Army and participated in the battles for the August forests. In October, the Combined Division was reformed into Guards Cuirassier, which was taken to rest and rebuild in the Baranavichy district, where the Supreme Commander’s Headquarters was located. Here horse guards took part in guarding the headquarters. Wrangell was appointed deputy commander of the Life Guards of the Horse Regiment for the combat unit. In October, the King visited the headquarters. By his order, Wrangel was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir IV degree with swords and bow. In December, Wrangel was appointed to the retinue of the emperor (aide-de-camp), which indicated a special proximity to the sovereign. He also received the rank of colonel.
Wrangel returned to the front in January 1915 g. His division was located on the river. Pilica, and a month later was transferred to the 10 th army. In late February, an offensive was launched by the armies of the North-Western Front, which went down in history as the Prasnysh operation. On March 2, in the area of Mariampol, the 3 corps went on the offensive, and the 1 cavalry brigade of the 1 guards cavalry division was sent to the guard of its right flank. 5 in March Wrangel with two squadrons went against the enemy departing from the village of Dauksha. Horse guardsmen managed to overturn two enemy companies, they captured 12 prisoners, four charging boxes and a wagon train. For this case, Wrangel was awarded the St. George weapons.
Later horse guards remained in the area, mainly engaged in reconnaissance. In May 1915, the Germans broke through the Russian front near Gorlitsy, our armies began to retreat. In early June, Wrangel, as part of his division, fought on the Kozlov-Rudsk positions, on the approaches to the strategic fortress of Kovno. He personally supervised the actions of various squadrons, which had to be especially hard because of the low morale of some infantry units. By mid-June, the Kozlovo-Rudsky positions were finally abandoned, and horse guards retreated to the Neman. 1-I Guards Cavalry Division became part of the cavalry corps of General Kaznakov (5-I army). In July, the 5 Army conducted defensive battles, and gradually receded under the onslaught of the enemy. Cavalry was covering her left flank. Only by the end of the month did the Russian troops break away from the enemy, entrenched, and the cavalry withdrew to the r. Sventa. In the future, Wrangel along with his regiment participated in the battles on the river. Svente, and in September - in the elimination of the Sventsian breakthrough, when the German cavalry plunged into our rear.
In October, Wrangel 1915 was transferred to the South-Western Front and appointed commander of the 1 Nerchinsk regiment of the Ussurian horse brigade (later deployed to the division), commanded by General A. Krymov. When translating, Wrangel gave the following description to his former commander: “Outstanding courage. Understands the situation beautifully and quickly, very resourceful in difficult conditions. " The Ussuriisk division took part in the Lutsk breakthrough. In mid-August, the Nerchintsy sustained a heavy battle with the 43 German Regiment, and in mid-September, 118 prisoners and a large number of weapons and ammunition were captured during the fighting in the Carpathians. For this, the Nerchinsky regiment received thanks from the sovereign, and the crown prince Alexey was appointed his chief.
At the end of the 1916, the Ussurian division was deployed on the Romanian front. New steps in the military career of Peter Nikolaevich became the rank of Major General, “for military distinction,” in January 1917 and his appointment as commander of the 2 brigade of the Ussurian horse division, then in July 1917 - commander of the 7 th cavalry division, and after - Commander of the Consolidated Cavalry Corps. For a successful operation on the Zbruch River in the summer of 1917, General Wrangel was awarded a fourth-degree St. George soldier’s cross.
Attitude to the Revolution
Wrangel’s attitude to February and October was negative. Of course, he saw the difficulties that Russia faced during the war. Wrangel noticed and gradually growing discontent and decomposition of the troops. In his "Notes" a lot is said about the collapse of the army and the front, about unacceptable interference in the affairs of the army of soldiers' committees, about harmful flirting with the people. On the one hand, the general clearly believed that the soldier and Cossack element is not reliable enough - it is easily amenable to propaganda, it requires a strong hand. On the other hand, he attached great importance to the feeling of unity of the soldiers and the commander. Several times in The Notes, Wrangel describes a situation where he was able to "take possession of the troops," that is, to achieve sincere love and obedience to the soldiers. When the manifesto of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich about the unwillingness to take the throne was read, Pyotr Nikolayevich said: "This is the end, this is anarchy." As the general quite rightly noted: “With the fall of the tsar, the very idea of power fell, in the concept of the Russian people all binding obligations disappeared, and the power and these obligations could not be replaced by the corresponding ones”. The general condemned his fellow servicemen who “walked in the wake of” liberals and democrats. Wrangel was ready to support the Kornilov coup, and towards the end of the Provisional Government, he insisted on his resignation.
After October Wrangel went to Crimea with his family. Here in February 1918, he was arrested by revolutionary sailors, but escaped execution thanks to the intercession of local residents and his wife.
To be continued ...