August Counterattack of the Southern Front

Smoot. 1919 year. 100 years ago, in August of 1919, the August counter-offensive of the Southern Front began. The Red Army tried to defeat the main group of the army of Denikin and free the lower reaches of the Don. The main blow from the areas north of Novokhopyorsk and Kamyshin in the general direction to Rostov-on-Don was dealt by the Shorin Special Group, an auxiliary strike from the Liski region to Kupyansk was the Selivyachev strike group.

August Counterattack of the Southern Front

"Red" armored train named after Lenin in the Donbass. 1919 year

Situation at the front

By the beginning of July 1919, the White Guard Armed Forces of the South of Russia, led by Denikin, inflicted a heavy defeat on the red Southern Front. The whites captured most of the Donetsk basin, Crimea, Kharkov, the Don region and Tsaritsyn, and developed an offensive further to the north and in Little Russia. 3 July 1919 Denikin issued the Moscow Directive, where the ultimate goal was the capture of Moscow. The Wrangel’s Caucasian army advanced in the Saratov area; Don army of Sidorin - strike in the Voronezh direction; The May-Mayevsky volunteer army is in the Kursk direction, and part of the forces is to the west.

However, in July 1919, the White Army was not able to achieve significant success. This was due to a number of factors. Military historians note the weak mobilization potential of the All-Union Socialist League, the relatively small number of whites who had to control a huge region, extended communications and an extended front; dispersion of forces when the White Guards advanced in three directions; disagreements within the white command — Denikin, Wrangel and the command of the Don Army had their own vision of the development of the offensive; the Bolsheviks continued to control the most populated and industrially developed provinces of the center of Russia, were able to mobilize countries to repulse the whites - “Everything to fight Denikin!”; the Reds were able by emergency measures to quickly restore the combat capability of the Southern Front, deployed reinforcements from central Russia and the Eastern Front, where Kolchak’s army suffered a heavy defeat and no longer posed a great threat.

On July 15, the Southern Front under the command of Egoriev consisted of about 160 thousand bayonets and sabers, an 541 gun, then its number was brought to 180 thousand people and about 900 guns. In addition, tens of thousands of fighters were in fortified areas and spare parts. The White armies of the All-Union Federal League of Forces totaled about 115 - 120 thousand people and 300 - 350 guns.

The White Army did not have enough forces and means to develop the first success. The first enthusiasm began to fade, numerous internal contradictions and disagreements began to emerge. The resistance of the Red Army increased significantly, hopes for the internal weakness of the Bolshevik regime and the final collapse of the red Southern Front did not materialize. The Bolsheviks and Red commanders quickly studied, and drew many tsarist generals and officers to their side. The Red Army became a real regular army, continuing the traditions of the Russian army.

Therefore, in July, the pace of the offensive of the army of Denikin fell significantly. From the middle of July, the red Southern Front tried to counterattack. These attempts did not lead to success, but suspended the advance of Denikin. On 28 of July, the Wrangel’s Caucasian army took Kamyshin and advanced north. Sidorin’s Don army was not only unable to move forward, but during the stubborn battles that were with varying success, it was pushed aside, lost Liski and Balashov, and left behind Don. As a result, the attempts of the offensive of the Caucasian and Don armies choked.

Only in the west, in Little Russia, did White achieve notable successes. On 31 of July the whites took Poltava, in the southwest they defeated the reds in Northern Tavria and west of Yekaterinoslav. Continuing the offensive, the white 11 of August reached the line Gadyach - Kremenchug - Znamenka - Elizavetgrad. Having discovered a rather low combat efficiency of the Western troops of the Southern Front (12 and 14 Red Army), Denikin adjusted the strategy. Without canceling the previous tasks of the Moscow Directive, on August 12 a new directive was issued. Denikin ordered the May-Mayevsky Volunteer Army to keep the Znamenka area, and the General Staffing 3 Army Corps, with the support of the White Black Sea Fleet, to take control of Kherson, Nikolaev and Odessa. A Bredov group is being formed for an attack on Kiev. The success of the offensive to the west made it possible to create a common anti-Bolshevik front with Poland. On August 18, Denikin’s army broke through the red front in New Russia. 12-I red army was utterly defeated. 23 - On August 24, White took Odessa, on August 31 - Kiev.

Volunteers entering a given city. Source:

Preparation of the counteroffensive of the Southern Front

In early August 1919, the Reds stopped the White Army's advance to the north. After that, the Red Army began to prepare a counterattack. First, Commander-in-Chief Wacetis proposed delivering the main blow in the Kharkov direction with the forces of the 14, 13 and 8 armies. An auxiliary strike between the Volga and the Don was to be delivered by the 9 and 10 armies. The position of Wacetis was supported by Trotsky. The commander of the Southern Front, Vladimir Yegoryev (former tsarist general), proposed delivering the main blow from the Novokhopyorsk-Kamyshin region in the direction of the lower Khoper and lower Don. And in the Kharkov direction only to conduct defense.

The new commander-in-chief, Kamenev, who replaced Wacetis, proposed delivering the main blow on the left flank of the Southern Front in the direction of the lower reaches of the Don. This decision was associated with the location of the troops, for an attack on Kharkov it was necessary to carry out an additional regrouping of forces. This plan was approved by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, despite Trotsky's objections.

Thus, the general concept of the operation was to advance the troops of the left flank of the Southern Front from the area north of Novokhopyorsk and Kamyshin to Novocherkassk and Rostov-on-Don. For this, on 23 of July, a Special Group was formed in the Don direction under the leadership of Shorin. Vasily Shorin was an experienced commander - a former colonel of the tsarist army, commander of the 2 Army on the Eastern Front of the Northern Group of the Eastern Front, led the Perm and Yekaterinburg operation to defeat the Kolchak troops. The composition of his group included the 9 and 10 armies, the equestrian corps of Budyonny, Penza, Saratov and Tambov fortified areas, reserve units, and the Volga-Caspian flotilla from August 12. Shorin's special group at first consisted of about 45 thousand bayonets and sabers with 200 guns, then its number grew to over 80 thousand people, more than 300 guns and 22 ships.

An auxiliary strike from the Liski area on Kupyansk was to be delivered by the Selivyachev strike group. Vladimir Selivyatchev was also an experienced commander - a participant in the war with Japan and Germany, the tsar general - commanded a brigade, division, corps and 7 army (during the June offensive of 1917). In December 1918 of the year he was drafted into the Red Army, in August 1919 of the year - assistant commander of the Southern Front. The Selivyachev group included the 8 Army, two divisions of the 13 Army, and the Voronezh Fortified Region. The attack group consisted of about 45 thousand bayonets and sabers, about 250 guns. The 14-I red army was to support the advance of the Selivyachev group, to strike at Lozova.

The beginning of the offensive of the Southern Front was scheduled for early August, but by this time they did not have time to complete the preparation of the operation — the transfer of replenishment, reserves, weapons and supplies. In the direction of the main strike, they did not manage to concentrate a powerful shock fist.

Raid Mamontov

The White Command discovered the preparation of the Reds for a counteroffensive. The whites decided to deliver a preemptive strike with the goal of disrupting the enemy’s upcoming offensive, facilitating the advance of the Don army and provoking an uprising of peasants behind the Bolsheviks. On August 10, 1919, the 4th Don Cavalry Corps (9 thousand people) under the command of Mamontov (Mamantov) crossed the Khoper River near the village of Dobrinskaya and struck at the junction of the 9 and 8 red armies. Belokazaki broke through the front and went behind enemy lines, began to move to Tambov. Cossacks smashed the rear units, garrisons, dispersed mobilized peasants, broke communications, destroyed railways, stations, and warehouses of the Southern Front. Panic began in the red rear. Management of the Southern Front was temporarily and partially violated.

Belokazaki on August 18 took Tambov without a fight, the local garrison fled or joined the 4 corps. Then the whites took Kozlov, Lebedyan, Yelets and Voronezh. An infantry division was formed from local volunteers and prisoners. To combat the Mamontov corps, the Red Command had to create a group of Lashevich (over 20 thousand people, armored trains, aircraft), to divert significant forces from the front and rear, including several rifle divisions and Budenny’s horse corps. As a result, the Don Corps on the orders of Denikin on September 19 returned to his own.

Mamantov’s equestrian raid weakened the striking power of the Southern Front, which at that time was trying to defeat the main group of the All-Union Union of Liberal Forces. Part of the forces of the Red Front was diverted to the fight against the White Cossacks, the rear was partially destroyed and disorganized. On the other hand, the raid of the Cossack corps did not fulfill the main task - the peasantry did not revolt in the rear of the Southern Front. Moreover, the actions of the Cossacks pushed peasants and citizens of the central part of Russia from the White movement. They acted as robbers and marauders, as in foreign territory. No wonder the white command - Denikin and Wrangel, was annoyed by the actions of the Don Cossacks. Mamontov’s corps clearly avoided the battle, but did not forget to rob everything, including even churches. Cossack regiments returned to the Don with enormous booty as if they were marching on enemy lands — with herds of pedigree cattle and various goods. Not surprisingly, Wrangel considered such a campaign a crime and demanded the removal of Mamontov from command.

On the left flank, the White Army dealt another blow to disrupt the advance of the Southern Front. On August 12, the 1th Army Corps of General Kutepov struck the right wing of the 13th Red Army. White advanced on the Kursk and Rylsky directions. This operation disrupted the connection between the 13 and 14 red armies.

Commander of the 4 th Cavalry Corps of the Don Army, Lieutenant General K. K. Mamontov

Counterattack of the Red Army

On 14 of August 1919, the Shorin Special Group launched an offensive. She was supported by the ships of the Volga flotilla. The troops of the 10 Army under the command of Klyuyev and the Budenny corps conducted an offensive in the Tsaritsyno direction. 9-I army under the command of Stepin attacked Ust-Khoperskaya. On 22 of August the Reds recaptured Kamyshin. At the end of August, Budenny’s equestrian corps defeated the White Cossacks in the area of ​​Ostrovskaya stanitsa and, together with the 10 Army, delivered a strong blow to the enemy’s troops at Serebryakovo-Zelenovskaya stanitsa. In early September, the Red Army reached Tsaritsyn. Fierce battles fought outside the city. The forces of the 28 and 38 divisions, and the landing detachment of the sailors Kozhanov were not enough to take a well-fortified city on the move. So, they decided to withdraw the Budenny corps to the rear for the fight against the white Cossacks of Mamontov. On September 9, White went on a counterattack and squeezed out units of the 10 Red Army. By September 11, the situation in the Tsaritsyno direction had stabilized.

The offensive of the red 9 Army developed slowly, whites showed strong resistance. Only by the 21 of August in the battle a turning point occurred and the Reds began to push the Don army to the Khoper and Don rivers. On 12 of September the red forces crossed Khoper and advanced on 150 - 180 km, but there was no further offensive.

Selivyatchev’s group launched an attack on August 15, striking at the junction of the Don Army and the right wing of the Volunteer Army. For ten days of fighting, the Reds occupied the Kupyansk region. However, White concentrated large forces on the flanks of the Selivyachev group and on August 26 launched strong counterattacks. On the right flank of the Volunteer Army, from the Belgorod region to Korocha, Novy Oskol was hit by the 1th Army Corps of Kutepov and the 3th Kuban Horse Corps of Shkuro. On the left flank of the Don army, from the Karpenkov, Krasnoye, Samoteevka districts, the 8-I Plastun and 2-I Don divisions attacked Biryuch. The whites tried to surround and destroy the group of Selivyachev. With the heavy battles of 3 on September, the Reds began to retreat and, after suffering heavy losses, were able to avoid the "cauldron" and complete destruction. On September 12, Selivyachev's group restrained the enemy on the outskirts of Voronezh. On September 17, Selivyachev, who was suspected of betrayal, suddenly died (or was killed).

Thus, the counterattack of the Southern Front did not lead to the rout of the main forces of Denikin’s army and the White’s refusal to march on Moscow. In September, VSYUR continued the offensive in the Moscow direction. This is due to a lack of forces, especially cavalry in the shock groups of Shorin and Selivyachev. The Reds were able to break through the enemy’s front and enter the operational space. However, they did not have strong mobile units to go through the rear of the enemy, to disorganize the white and strategic reserves for the development of their first success. Part of the troops was withdrawn to the rear to fight the Cossacks of Mamontov. In addition, the advance of the two groups of the Southern Front was carried out independently, without communication with each other. This allowed the enemy to fight with them separately. However, the advance of the Red Army delayed the movement of the White Guards to the north.

Soviet military leader Vasily Ivanovich Shorin
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