Red cavalry in attack. 1919 (documentary frame)
Smoot. 1919 year. In the new strategic offensive of the Red Southern Front, the main blow from two sides was delivered to the Volunteer Army, which advanced to Orel. The May-Mayevsky strike force advanced very much, the flanks were open. The Red Command planned to defeat the May-Mayevsky strike forces, separate the Volunteer and Don Don armies, and beat them separately.
General situation at the front
The total number of white troops in the Moscow direction was about 100 thousand bayonets and sabers, about 300 guns, over 800 machine guns, 22 armored trains and 12 tanks. The troops of the Kiev region under the command of General Dragomirov were located in front of Kiev and along the Desna River near Chernigov. The volunteer army of General May-Mayevsky (over 22 thousand people) held positions from Chernigov to Orel and to the Don (near Zadonsk). During the Moscow campaign, the main forces of May-Mayevsky achieved maximum success and reached the line Khutor-Mikhailovsky, Sevsk, Dmitrovsk, st. Eropkino, Livny, Borki, r. Ikorets. From October 13 to October 20, 1919, White occupied the Orel. The Don army of General Sidorin (50 thousand people) was located from Zadonsk to the mouth of Ilovli; The Caucasian army of General Wrangel (about 15 thousand people) - in the Tsaritsyn area, having part of the forces against Astrakhan, on both banks of the Volga; The detachment of General Drazenko from the Northern Caucasus troops is against Astrakhan from the south and southwest.
The armed forces of the South of Russia were bloodless and exhausted by a strategic offensive in the Moscow direction. Unlike the Reds, the White Command was unable to provide massive support to the people. The social base was weak, and was already exhausted by previous mobilization. Many anti-Bolshevik forces and groups of the population, after eliminating the direct threat, were occupied by internal swarms and conflicts, opposed the White movement. The existing reserves, new formed units and even part of the forces from the main front were diverted to internal fronts and directions. In particular, to pacify the uprising of Makhno and other chieftains who set fire to large areas in New Russia and Little Russia. Part of the forces of the Kiev region fought against the Petliurists and rebels. The troops of the North Caucasus were engaged in the struggle against the highlanders, the forces of the North Caucasus Emirate, etc.
In early October 1919, the Soviet armies of the South and Southeast Front were put in order and replenished. The southern front under the leadership of Egorov totaled about 115 thousand bayonets and sabers, 500 guns, over 1,9 thousand machine guns. On the right flank was the 12-I Red Army - on both sides of the Dnieper from Mazyr, skirting Zhytomyr, and along the Desna to Chernigov to Sosnitsa. Further, the positions of the 14 Army were located - from Sosnitsy to Krom (in the Orel region). 13-I army occupied the defense from Krom to r. Don (near Zadonsk, near Voronezh). 8-I army was located between Zadonsk and Bobrov. The Voronezh direction also housed the 1th horse corps of Budenny (in November it was deployed to the 1th horse army). Further from Voronezh to Astrakhan, the troops of the Southeast Front were located under the command of Shorin. Only about 50 thousand people. 9-I army stood from Bobrov to the mouth of the Bear; 10-I acted in the Tsaritsyno direction; 11-I was located in the Astrakhan region, with operational directions up the Volga against Tsaritsyn, south and east along the Caspian Sea against the North Caucasus and Guryev (Ural White Cossacks).
South Front Offensive Plan
The forces of the Reds on the South and Southeast Front were constantly growing. In connection with the improvement of the situation on other fronts, in October - November 1919 several more divisions were transferred here. The Soviet command formed two strong strike groups in the Oryol and Voronezh directions. Moreover, in the Oryol-Kursk direction, the Reds managed to achieve 2,5-fold superiority in bayonets, and in the Voronezh-Kastornensky direction - 10-fold.
After the failure of the August offensive (), the Soviet command changed the direction of the main attacks. The troops of the 13 and 14 armies were to advance in the Oryol direction: in all 10 divisions, 2 separate brigades, 4 cavalry brigades and 2 separate groups (62 thousand bayonets and sabers, over 170 guns and over 1110 machine guns. The main role in the offensive was to be played by the strike group under the command of the commander of the Latvian division A. A. Martusevich, at first it was part of the 13-th Red Army, then the 14-th Army. The group included: Latvian Rifle Division (10 regiments and 40 guns), Separate cavalry brigade of the Red Cossacks (soon deployed to the division), Separate rifle brigade. The group consisted of about 20 thousand fighters, over 50 guns and more than 100 machine guns. The idea of the Red Command was to force Martusevich’s group to strike at the flank and rear of the units of the 1 Army Corps Kutepov advancing on Moscow (the main striking force of the Volunteer Army, forcing White to stop the attack and then encircle and destroy the enemy. The attack group was to strike from the Krom region in the direction of the Kursk-Oryol railway.The 55th Infantry Division of the 13th Army set the task to defeat the enemy advancing on Orel.
The Red Command formed the second strike group east of Voronezh. The strike group included the 42th Infantry Division of Spider, the cavalry brigade of the 13th Army, Budenny Corps, the 12th Infantry Division of the Roar of the 8th Army. The group was to strike at the right flank of the Moscow group of the Denikin’s army, defeat the enemy in the Voronezh direction (the 4th Don and 3th Kuban corps of Mamontov and Shkuro acted here), liberate Voronezh and strike the enemy’s Orel group in the direction of Kastornaya. Also, the defeat of the White Guards near Voronezh created the conditions for the access of the 8 Red Army to the Don.
Thus, in the new strategic offensive of the Southern Front, the main blow from two sides was delivered to the Volunteer Army, which advanced to Orel. The May-Mayevsky strike force advanced very much, the flanks were open. The white command did not have the strength to simultaneously advance and firmly secure the occupied territories. Therefore, the Reds planned to defeat the May-Mayevsky strike forces, separate the Volunteer and Don Don armies, and beat them separately.
White Command Plans
The White Command had information about the concentration of enemy forces for a counterattack. However, there were no reserves to parry these blows. One could only regroup the available forces. The onset of the Oryol group from the beginning of concern did not arouse. Strong Drozdov and Kornilov divisions operated here. Kutepov received an order from General Mai-Mayevsky without stopping to step on the Eagle and not pay attention to the flanks. As the commander of the 1 Army Corps noted: “I’ll take the Eagle, but my front will advance like a sugar head. When the enemy strike group goes on the offensive and hits my flanks, I will not be able to maneuver. Nevertheless, I was ordered to take the Eagle! ”
The threat on the Voronezh direction to the left flank of the Don army was considered more serious. Therefore, Denikin, not stopping the offensive on the Bryansk-Orel-Yelets line, ordered the Don Army to confine himself to defense in the center and on the right flank, and focus on his left flank, against Liska and Voronezh. The corps of General Shkuro, located in the Voronezh region, was transferred to the Don Army.
Thus, the implementation of the plans of the red and white command led to stubborn oncoming battles, which resulted in a general battle. The battle began, which decided the outcome of the entire campaign.
Subsequently, the VSYUR command tried to form a strong strike force in the Voronezh direction in order to break up the strike group of the 8 Red Army and the Budenny corps, which again made it possible to intercept the strategic initiative and resume the offensive. It was possible to collect a strong shock fist only by weakening the Don and Caucasian armies. Here again, the fact of the lack of unity of the white command and anti-Bolshevik forces played a negative role. Denikin demanded that the left flank of the Don army be strengthened by weakening the center and the right wing. These requirements crashed on the passive resistance of the Don command, which sought to cover the Don region as much as possible. As Denikin recalled, the command of the Don Army “was heavily pressed by the psychology of the Don Cossack mass, gravitating toward their own huts.” As a result, the Don command allocated only the 4 corps of General Mamontov, which was half-decomposed and weakened after the raid on the red rear, in which 3,5 thousand sabers remained. At the end of November, after the insistent demands of the Denikin Headquarters, the 4 Corps received replenishment, the Plastun brigade and the weak cavalry division were included in the strike group. The commander of the Don army, General Sidorin did not want to weaken the defense of the Don region.
A similar situation was with the command of the Caucasian Army. In October 1919, Wrangel inflicted heavy blows on the southern and northern groups of the enemy in the Tsaritsyn area. After that, the commander informed Stavka that this success was gained “at the cost of completely bleeding the army and the last strain of the moral strength of those chiefs who had not yet gone out of action”. On October 29, Denikin’s headquarters invited the command of the Caucasian Army to allocate forces for the strike group in the center or to launch its own offensive operation in the north to divert the forces of the Red Army and reduce the front of the Don Army, allowing it to focus on its left wing. General Wrangel replied that the development of the operation of the Caucasian army to the north is impossible "in the absence of railways and lack of water communication." And the transfer of troops to the west will not change the general situation due to the small number of horse units and will lead to the loss of Tsaritsyn. Denikin removed from the Caucasus Army only the 2th Kuban Corps.
October 13 1919 began the offensive of the Voronezh Red Group. The horse-drawn corps of Budenny, reinforced by the infantry division of the 8 army, struck the 4-th Don corps of Mamontov near the village of Moskovskoye. Until October 19 there were stubborn battles, settlements several times passed from hand to hand. On October 19, the Kuban and Don Shkuro and Mamantova attacked at the junction of the 4 and 6 cavalry divisions in the direction of the village of Khrenovoye. Budyonny’s corps part of the forces went on the defensive and at the same time launched strong counterattacks on the enemy from the north and south. Belokazaki were driven back to the south and east, to Voronezh.
On October 23, the Budenovites, with the support of the rifle divisions of the 8 Army, launched an assault on Voronezh. On October 24, the Reds liberated the city from the Shkuro troops, who retreated to the right bank of the Don. Having crossed the Don, Budyonny fought out to Nizhnedevitsk, threatening Kastornaya and the rear of the 1 Army Corps of the Volunteer Army. At the same time, units of the 8 Army developed an offensive to the south, occupied Liski Station, and drove the 3 Army Don beyond.
On October 31 the Budyonny corps was reinforced by the reserve 11 Cavalry Division. On November 2, the Mamontov donors launched a counterattack in the Klevna-Shumeyka region, but suffered heavy losses and retreated. On November 3 the 42 I rifle division of the 13 Army occupied Livny and began to advance towards Kastorny. On November 5 Budyonny’s corps, troops of the 8 and 13 armies reached the Kastornaya station. Here the Reds met strong resistance from the cavalry of Shkuro and the Markov Regiment. From November 5 to November 15 there were battles for Kastornaya. The 42 I rifle and 11 I cavalry divisions advanced from the north, 12 I rifle and 6 I cavalry divisions from the south, 4 I cavalry division from the east. As a result, the Reds took Kastornaya. By the end of November 16, White was defeated. On November 19 Budyonny’s corps was deployed to the 1-th Cavalry Army.
At the same time there were stubborn counter fights with varying success on the front of the Don Army. The Cossacks defeated the left flank of the 8-th Red Army near Bobrov and Talova and units of the 9-th Soviet Army on the shore of Khopr. Donets again occupied Liski, Talovaya, Novokhopyorsk and Bobrov. There was a threat that White would again occupy Voronezh. However, in the end, the Don Army withdrew on the right flank beyond the Don and the center behind Khoper, holding on to these rivers and on the Liski-Uryupino line.
Thus, the Voronezh group advanced 250 km, liberated Voronezh, inflicted a heavy defeat on the main forces of the white cavalry, the left flank of the Don Army and posed a threat to the flank and rear of the Volunteer Army, contributing to the victory of the Red Army in the Oryol-Kromsky battle.
To be continued ...