Victor Arseni. Russian Tsar Peter I and the ruler of Moldova Dmitry Cantemir in the battle with the Turks and Crimean Tatars, 1711.
Preparation of the Danube Campaign
During the long journey from Moscow to the active army (from March 6 to June 12, 1711), Tsar Peter Alekseevich worked hard. Also, Peter "from the cold air and from the difficult path" fell seriously ill. The disease confined him to bed, and he was so weak that he had to learn to walk.
The tsar's primary task was to concentrate troops on the two flanks of the theater of operations: at Azov in the east, and at the Dniester in the west. The Baltic front also remained against the Swedes, weakened by the withdrawal of the best army forces to the south. Here it was necessary to fortify the occupied fortresses, replenish units and garrisons with recruits. It was necessary to strengthen relations with the allies - the Commonwealth and Denmark, seeking from them a significant contribution to the war with Sweden. With the Polish king Augustus II, they concluded an agreement on military operations against the Swedes of Pomerania. The Polish-Saxon army was reinforced by a 15-strong Russian corps. It was not possible to draw Poland into the war with Turkey.
Back in 1709, the Wallachian ruler Konstantin Brankovyan promised Peter to send an army to help the Russians and provide them with food in the event of a war with Turkey. Wallachian and Moldavian boyars asked for protection from Russia. But in June, the Turkish army had already occupied Wallachia, and Brynkovianu did not dare to revolt (in 1714, the Wallachian ruler and his four sons were tortured to death and executed in Constantinople).
On April 2 (13), 1711, a secret treaty was concluded in Slutsk with the Moldovan ruler Dmitry Cantemir. The Moldavian principality recognized the supreme power of the Russian kingdom, while maintaining internal autonomy. Kantemir promised to send a light cavalry corps to help the Russian army and help with food.
In Slutsk, on April 12-13, 1711, a military conference was held, which was attended in addition to Peter - Sheremetev, General Allart, Chancellor Golovkin and Ambassador to Poland Grigory Dolgoruky. Peter ordered Sheremetev to be on the Dniester by May 20, having a 3-month supply of food.
The field marshal immediately raised a number of objections: by the 20th, the army would not have time to arrive at the Dniester due to poor crossings, delayed artillery and recruiting reinforcements. Sheremetev also noted that the army, after the battles in Ukraine, in the Baltic States and a heavy and prolonged march, is exhausted, is in great need of weapons, uniforms, horses, carts and especially in provisions. Usually food and fodder were obtained in areas where the army was located, where the fighting was conducted. In this case, the rear base was Ukraine. But its resources were undermined by previous hostilities and have not yet recovered, and there was also a crop failure and a massive death of livestock in 1710.
The Tsar was in a hurry, urging Sheremetev on. He strove to reach the Danube before the Ottoman army. In this case, the troops of the Wallachian and Moldavian rulers joined the Russian army, one could count on the support of the local Orthodox population. The army received a food base (Moldavia and Wallachia). Then the Russian sovereign hoped that not only the Vlachs, but also the Bulgarians, Serbs and other Christian peoples would revolt against the Ottomans. In this case, the Turks will not be able to go beyond the Danube.
Portrait of Dmitry Kantemir. Unknown artist. XVIII century
Russian army hike
The Russian army included 4 infantry divisions and 2 dragoon divisions. The infantry divisions were commanded by Generals Weide, Repnin, Allart and Entsberg, the dragoon divisions were commanded by Rennes and Eberstedt. There was also Mikhail Golitsyn's guards brigade (Preobrazhensky, Semenovsky, Ingermanland and Astrakhan regiments). The artillery was commanded by General Jacob Bruce - about 60 heavy guns and up to 100 regimental guns. The staff size of the army was up to 80 thousand people, in each infantry division there were more than 11 thousand people, in the dragoon division - 8 thousand each, 6 separate regiments - about 18 thousand, a separate dragoon regiment - 2 thousand Plus about 10 thousand. Cossacks.
But during the long transition from Livonia to the Dniester and the Prut, the size of the Russian army was practically halved. So, even during the 6-day march from the Dniester to the Prut with exhausting heat during the day and cold nights, with a lack of food and drinking water, many soldiers died or fell ill.
Sheremetev was late, Russian troops reached the Dniester only by May 30, 1711. The Russian cavalry crossed the Dniester and moved to the Danube to occupy the crossings at Isakchi. On June 12, the Ottoman army built bridges across the Danube and was ready to cross the river, while Russian troops were just building a crossing over the Dniester.
The Turkish army under the command of the Grand Vizier Bataldzhi Pasha (about 120 thousand people, more than 440 guns) crossed the Danube at Isakchi on June 18. The Ottomans went along the left bank of the Prut, where they united with the 70-thousandth cavalry army of the Crimean Khan Devlet-Girey.
As a result, what Peter feared happened - the Ottoman army crossed the Danube and went towards the Russians. Sheremetev turned to Yassy, where Peter approached with the main forces on June 25.
Now it is difficult to judge who is to blame.
Did Peter demand the impossible from Sheremetev, or could the old field marshal add?
It is also difficult to answer another question: could the relatively small Russian army, having reached the Danube near Isakchi before the Ottomans, resist the superior forces of the Turks and Crimeans near the Danube? Perhaps the Danube's trap would be worse and more dangerous than the Prut's?
Peter's hopes to occupy the Danube line were dashed. Hopes for the effective help of the Wallachian and Moldavian rulers also dashed. The Moldavian ruler organized a solemn meeting in Iasi, went over to the side of Russia with several thousand soldiers, but his contribution to the war was modest. The Moldovan detachments were weak, the food base in Iasi was not prepared. A severe crop failure befell the country, it was hard to get food. And the Wallachian ruler Brynkovianu, as a subject of the Port, was forced to side with the Ottomans, who had come to Wallachia before the Russians.
The war of liberation of the Slavic, Christian peoples in the Balkans did not take on a large scale that could have an impact on the campaign.
The supply problem has become almost the main one. On June 12, 1711, Tsar Peter wrote to Sheremetev:
“At this moment we came with shelves to the Dniester ... Only there is no bread. Allart has already had 5 days of no bread or meat ... Let us know for sure: when we get to you, will the soldiers have anything to eat? "
On June 16, Sheremetev wrote to the tsar:
"I have had and still have labor in provisions with contrition of my heart, for this is the main thing."
All hope was in the Moldovan ruler. But he had no bread either. Kantemir handed over to the Russian army only meat, 15 thousand sheep and 4 thousand oxen.
There was another problem as well. The heat burned out the grass, and the horses had no food. What the burning southern sun did not manage to do was completed by the locusts. As a result - the death of horses, a slowdown in the march of the army. Also, the troops suffered from a lack of drinking water. There was water, but it was thin, and not only people, but also horses and dogs, ached and died from it.
Continuation of the hike
What was to be done? Come back or continue the hike?
Most of the commanders were in favor of continuing the campaign. They counted on provisions in Wallachia, they wanted to seize the enemy's reserves. There was also a rumor that the grand vizier allegedly had an order from the sultan to enter into negotiations with the Russians. Since the enemy is looking for a truce, it means that he is weak.
Peter, intending to go to the Prut, counted on success. However, this was a mistake.
On June 30, 1711, Peter set out from Yassy, a 7-thousandth cavalry detachment of General Rennes was sent to Brailov to create a threat from the rear and capture enemy reserves. On July 8, the Russian cavalry occupied Fokshany, on July 12 they reached Brailov. For two days the Russians successfully attacked the Turkish garrison, on the 14th the Ottomans capitulated. About 9 thousand soldiers were left in Iasi and on the Dniester to guard communications and rear.
At the council of war, they decided to go down along the Prut and not move away. Sheremetev correctly decided that it was dangerous to move towards an enemy with numerous cavalry. Tatar detachments were already looming around, disturbing carts and foragers. In addition, under Sheremetev there was only a third of the army. The divisions of Weide, Repnin, and the Guards were in different places due to problems with provisions.
On July 7 (18), the Russians reached Stanileshti. Here the news was received that the Ottoman troops were already 6 miles from the Sheremetev camp and that the cavalry of the Crimean Khan had joined up with the vizier. All troops were ordered to link up with Sheremetev. The Russian vanguard of General von Eberstedt (6 thousand dragoons) was surrounded by enemy cavalry. The Russians, lining up in a square and firing back from their cannons, retreated on foot to the main forces. The Russian troops were saved by the lack of artillery among the Ottomans, their weak weapons (mainly edged weapons).
The council of war decided to retreat in order to fight in a convenient place. The Russian army occupied an unsuccessful position, it was convenient to attack it from the surrounding heights. Under cover of the night on July 8 (19), the Russians retreated. The troops marched in 6 parallel columns: 4 infantry divisions, guards and dragoons of Eberstedt. In the intervals between the columns - artillery and a train. The guard covered the left flank, the Renne division - the right (at the Prut).
The Ottomans and Crimeans perceived this retreat as a flight and began to make raids, which were fought back with rifle and cannon fire. The Russians stopped at a camp near Novy Stanileshti.
On July 9 (20), 1711, the Turkish-Crimean troops surrounded the Russian camp, pressed against the river. In the morning, the Preobrazhensky regiment led rearguard battles for 5 hours. Light artillery approached the Turks, which began shelling the Russian positions.
On the eve of the battle, Generals Shpar and Poniatovsky arrived at the vizier from Bender. They asked the vizier about his plans. Mehmed Pasha said they would attack the Russians. Swedish generals began to dissuade the vizier. They believed that it was not necessary to give the Russians a battle, they had a regular army and would repel all attacks with fire, the Ottomans would suffer heavy losses. The Turkish-Crimean cavalry had to constantly harass the enemy, make sorties, interfere with the crossings. As a result, the hungry and tired Russian troops surrender. The vizier did not heed this sensible advice. He believed that there were few Russians and they could be defeated.
At 7 pm the Janissaries attacked the divisions of Allart and Eberstedt. All attacks of the Turks were repulsed by fire, as the Swedes had warned. General Ponyatovsky noted:
“The Janissaries ... continued to advance, not waiting for orders. Emitting wild screams, calling out to God by their custom with repeated shouts of "Alla", "Alla", they rushed to the enemy with sabers in their hands and, of course, would have broken through the front in this first powerful attack, if not for the slingshots that the enemy threw in front of them. At the same time, the strong fire almost point-blank not only cooled the ardor of the Janissaries, but also confused them and forced them to a hasty retreat. "
During the battle, the Russians lost over 2600 people, the Ottomans - 7-8 thousand people.
On July 10 (21), the battle was continued. The Ottomans completely surrounded the Russian camp with field fortifications and artillery batteries. Turkish artillery continuously fired at the Russian camp. The Turks stormed the camp again, but were repelled.
The position of the Russian army was becoming desperate. The troops were threatened with starvation, ammunition could soon run out. The military council decided to offer the Ottomans a truce. In case of refusal to burn the baggage train and break through with a fight: "not to the stomach, but to death, without mercy on anyone and not asking for mercy."
Mehmed Pasha did not respond to the peace proposal. The Crimean Khan took an irreconcilable position, no negotiations, only an attack. He was supported by General Poniatowski, who represented the Swedish king.
The Turks renewed their attacks, they were repelled again. The Janissaries, having suffered heavy losses, began to worry and refused to continue their attacks. They declared that they could not stand against Russian fire and demanded to conclude an armistice. Sheremetev again proposed an armistice. The Grand Vizier received him. Vice-Chancellor Pyotr Shafirov was sent to the Ottoman camp. Negotiations have begun.
It is worth noting that the position of the Russian army was not as hopeless as it seemed. In the rear, Renne took Brailov quite easily, intercepting enemy communications. There was anxiety in the Turks' camp. The Russians were standing, the losses of the Turks were serious. The Janissaries didn't want to fight anymore. With a decisive onslaught in the Suvorov style, the Russian army could disperse the enemy. This was also noted by the British ambassador to Constantinople Sutton:
"Eyewitnesses to this battle said that if the Russians knew about the horror and stupor that gripped the Turks, and could take advantage of the continued shelling and sortie, the Turks, of course, would have been defeated."
Further, it was possible to conclude peace on favorable terms, to save Azov. However, there was not enough determination. In the Russian army, foreigners predominated in the highest command posts, for them the numerical superiority of the enemy was a decisive factor. Therefore, after the Prut campaign, Peter will arrange a "purge" of the army from foreign personnel.
P. Stroli. Catherine persuades Peter the Great to conclude a peace treaty with the Turkish vizier. Around 1800-1802
On July 11 (22), 1711, no hostilities took place. On this day, two military councils were held. At the first, it was decided that if the vizier demands surrender, the army will go for a breakthrough. On the second stage, private measures were outlined to overcome the blockade: to get rid of excess property in order to increase the mobility of troops; because of the lack of bullets, to chop iron into shot; beat thin horses for meat, take others with you; divide all provisions equally.
Peter allowed Shafirov to accept any conditions, except captivity. The vizier could bargain for more. The Russian tsar believed that the Ottomans would put forward not only their own conditions (Azov and Taganrog), but also represent the interests of the Swedes. Therefore, he was ready to give up everything that he seized from the Swedes, except for the exit to the Baltic and St. Petersburg. That is, Pyotr Alekseevich was ready to sacrifice all the fruits of previous victories - two campaigns to Azov, two Narva, Lesnoy, Poltava, to give up almost the entire Baltic.
But the Ottomans did not know about it. They saw that the Russians stood firm, it was dangerous to continue the battle and were content with little. In addition, a large sum was allocated to bribe the vizier (but he never took it, he was afraid that his own or the Swedes would hand over).
As a result, Shafirov returned with good news. Peace was made.
On July 12 (23), 1711, the Prut Treaty was signed by Shafirov, Sheremetev and Baltaji Mehmed Pasha.
Russia yielded to Azov, destroyed Taganrog. That is, the Azov fleet was doomed to destruction. Peter promised not to interfere in the affairs of Poland and the Zaporozhye Cossacks. The Russian army freely went into their possessions.
The interests of Sweden and the Swedish king were practically ignored by this agreement. Unsurprisingly, King Charles XII of Sweden went berserk. He galloped to the headquarters of the vizier and demanded troops from him in order to catch up with the Russians and capture Peter. The vizier hinted to Karl about the defeat at Poltava and refused to attack the Russians. The enraged king turned to the Crimean Khan, but he did not dare to break the truce.
On July 12, the Russian troops moved back, taking precautions in case of treachery by the Ottomans. We moved very slowly, 2-3 miles a day, partly because of the death and exhaustion of the horses, partly because of the need to remain on alert. The Russian army was followed by the Crimean cavalry, ready to attack at any moment. On July 22, the Russians crossed the Prut, on August 1, the Dniester.
Peter went to Warsaw to meet with the Polish king, then to Karlsbad and Torgau for the wedding of his son Alexei.
The Moldavian ruler Cantemir fled to Russia with his family and boyars. He received the title of prince, a pension, a number of estates and power over the Moldovans in Russia. He became a statesman of the Russian Empire.
The state of war continued until 1713, as the Sultan demanded new concessions. However, there were no active hostilities. The Adrianople Peace Treaty of 1713 confirmed the terms of the Prut Peace Treaty.
In general, the failure of the Prut campaign was associated with the mistakes of the Russian command. The campaign was poorly prepared, the army had a weakened composition, and a rear base was not created. The bet on foreign military specialists let down. Too high hopes were pinned on potential allies. They overestimated their strength, underestimated the enemy.
Russian diplomat, Vice-Chancellor Pyotr Pavlovich Shafirov