There was no stronger fortress ...
Walked around the world ...
I saw a marvel, a marvel,
The miracle is wonderful, the miracle is wonderful:
As our father Suvorov-graph
With a little power of their falcons
Smashed the shelves
Polonil pasha and viziers,
He took Ishmael, a strong fortress
The fortress is strong, treasured.
Many soldiers fell there
For Holy Russia-fatherland
And for the Christian faith.
The 1790 campaign of the year (the Russian-Turkish war of 1787 — 1791) was marked by a new brilliant victory of the Russian army - siege, assault and capture of the Turkish stronghold on the Danube - Izmail fortress. Ottoman sultan Selim III and his military leaders connected with this powerful fortress great hopes, not without reason believing that Ishmael would stop the advance of the Russian army and change the course of the war unfavorable for Istanbul. The capture of Ishmael gave the Russian army the opportunity to break through to the Balkans, to Bulgaria. There was an opportunity to realize the most daring plans of St. Petersburg - to free Constantinople-Tsargrad from the Turks (there was an idea of restoring the Byzantine Empire, one of the members of the Romanov dynasty had to become its head).
Ishmael was not just a big fortress that stood on the left (northern) bank of the Kiliya arm of the Danube. It was an "army fortress" - a fortress gathering army, i.e., it could accommodate an entire army. Since 1774, the fortress has been modernized under the guidance of experienced French and German fortifiers. As a result, Ishmael became a first-class European fortress, which was considered impregnable (with the presence of adequate reserves and a sufficient garrison). The Turkish stronghold resembled a triangle, which adjoined the south side to the river. The top of the "triangle" lay in the north, and the western and northeastern walls were almost at a right angle against the Danube. Ishmael was located on the slopes of the coastal heights. A wide hollow divided the city into two parts: the Old City - the western, most of the city blocks, the New Fortress - the eastern part. The total length of the walls along the outer contour was about 6,5 km: the western front - about 1,5 km, the northeast - more than 2,5 km, the southern 2 km. Beyond the moat, 12 meters wide, 6-10 meters deep and filled with 2 meters of water, was an earth mound with seven bastions protecting the city from land. In front of the moat, wolf pits and other traps were made. The bastions were also earthen, only two managed to revet stone. The height of the shaft was 6-8 meters, it was notable for its considerable steepness. The height of the bastions reached 20-24 meters. From the north, Ishmael was additionally protected by a citadel, here at the top of the triangle was located the Bendery bastion, lined with stone. From the west of the citadel was located Lake Brosko, marshland reached the very moat. The fortress had several well-fortified gates: Brossky (Tsargrad) and Khotyn from the west, Kiliya - from the east, Bendery - from the west. The approaches and the roads to them were well shot by artillery.
There were no bastions on the Danube side. Initially, the Turkish command relied on the power of its river flotilla and the steepness of the coast. However, after the Russians almost completely destroyed the Turkish Danube flotilla on November 20, the Turks began to urgently strengthen the riverine side of Izmail, which had become vulnerable. The Turks placed ten artillery batteries with large-caliber guns on the southern face of the defensive line, which could shoot through the river and even enemy positions on the other side. At the same time, positions were also equipped for infantry.
Along with the citadel, the southwest corner of the serfdom was additionally strengthened. Here, at about 100 meters from the river, the shaft ended with the stone tower Tabia (also called the bastion or redoubt) with a three-tier cannon defense. The gap between the tower and the water was covered by a moat and palisade. The guns from Tabiya flanked this site. It should also be noted that in the city itself there were many sturdy stone buildings - mosques, commercial buildings, private houses, some of which were prepared in advance for defense, in case of street fighting.
The defense of the fortress was strengthened by natural obstacles. The Danube covered the city from the south, the lakes Kuchurluy and Alapuh from the west, and the lake Katabuh from the east. These natural objects limited the maneuver of the Russian troops, narrowed offensive capabilities. Yes, and the area in front of Ishmael was largely swamped, in the spring and autumn this fact was aggravated by the constant rains.
The garrison of the fortress was 35 thousand soldiers, almost half of them were janissaries (17 thousand), the selective part of the Sultan's infantry. The rest of the garrison is the sipahi (Turkish cavalry), the Crimean Tatars, the cannon maid and the city militia. In addition, the garrison was replenished with soldiers of the defeated garrisons of the fortresses of Kiliya, Tulci and Isacchi, and the crews of the destroyed Danube flotilla. The garrison was commanded by one of the most experienced Turkish commanders, serasker Aydozly-Muhammad Pasha (Aidos Mehmed Pasha). One of the main commanders was the brother of the Crimean Khan Kaplan Girey. The armament of the fortress was 265 guns. Of these, 85 guns and 15 mortars were located in riverine batteries. Sultan ordered the death penalty for those who surrender, which increased the tenacity of the garrison. Among the warriors there were many fanatically minded people who were ready to fight the "infidels" to the last drop of blood.
Ishmael was well prepared for the siege, having huge reserves of supplies and ammunition. The supply of supplies on the river was stopped only with the beginning of the blockade of the fortress. In addition, there were many thousands of horses of the Turkish and Crimean cavalry in the fortress, which could be slaughtered for meat. A large number of livestock were driven from the neighboring villages.
The siege of the fortress of Izmail began in November 1790. After taking possession of the fortresses of Kiliya, Tulcea and Isakcha, the commander-in-chief of the Russian army, Prince G. A. Potemkin-Tavrichesky, ordered the troops of generals I. V. Gudovich, P. S. Potemkin and the flotilla of General de Ribas to capture Ishmael.
The first to come to the fortress ships of the river flotilla, Major-General Joseph Mikhailovich de Ribas. First of all, he decided to seize the island of Chatal, which was located opposite the fortress, in order to equip artillery batteries on it. The Turks tried to trick the Russian command to lure the Russian ships under the fire of serf batteries. Part of the Turkish-Tatar cavalry moved along the bank of the Rapid River (Rapid), and 5 Turkish Lanson sailboats approached its mouth. However, the ruse failed, a landing party from the 200 grenadiers and 300 Black Sea Cossacks with two guns was landed on the left bank of the Danube. They forced the enemy to retreat. A detachment of ships under the command of Lieutenant Colonel de Ribas Jr. was sent against the Turkish ships. During the battle, one Turkish ship was destroyed, the others retreated under the protection of the artillery of the fortress.
A landing party under the command of Major-General Nikolai Arsenyev was landed on Chatal. Began battery device. At the same time, the flotilla blocked the Danube and began shelling the fortress, an artillery duel ensued. By the morning of November 20, three positions were built on Chatal. They began shelling the inside of the city and enemy ships. Ribas tried to destroy the enemy ships with the help of firefighters, but the strong barrage of Turkish batteries prevented the realization of this idea. However, part of the Turkish crews in a panic escaped from the ships. The Russian desire to destroy the enemy ships was so strong that the detachment of the captain of the 1 rank F. Akhmatov bravely moved to Tabiya, under the cover of the guns of which there were many Turkish ships, including the 18-gun ship. The battle began, the barges and small ships under the command of lieutenants Pokochin and Kuznetsov joined Akhmatov. As a result of the battle, a large enemy ship and 7 Lansons were burned.
At the same time there was a battle below Ishmael. There, Russian nuns 12 and Black Sea Cossack oaks (seagoing boats) under heavy enemy fire approached the fortress and destroyed 4 Lanson and 17 transporters. This success inspired the Russian warriors, landing troops from the ships to the coast in the city. The paratroopers captured Tabia with a decisive blow. The Turks realized it and went to the counterattack, but the Russian soldiers fought off two attacks with fire and bayonets. Ribas realizing that his forces were not enough to capture the city, he took the forward detachment. The Turkish command decided to respond and landed its landing force on Chatal. But numerous Turkish troops were thrown into the water, while many enemy ships were destroyed. As a result of the November 20 battle, the Turks suffered heavy casualties, were burned or sunk: one large three-masted sailboat, 12 lanns, 32 transporter and more 40 rowboats. The Turkish river flotilla as a combat unit ceased to exist. The Russian flotilla has lost three lansons.
After this battle, there was no active fighting. On the island of Chatal, 29 battery was built for November 8. From time to time Russian artillery (there was little ammunition) fired at the fortress and the remnants of the enemy flotilla. By the end of November, Russian troops had set up a siege camp under the walls of Ishmael, four miles from the city. They did not take any active actions, except for the skirmishes of the patrols. There were several reasons for the inaction of the Russian army. The regiments were not prepared for the siege of a powerful enemy fortress, they did not have heavy siege artillery, and the field guns had only one ammunition. Almost half of the siege troops were Cossacks, most of whom lost horses and armed mostly with only shortened variant peaks. The weather was cold, there was no fuel except reed. Food had to be carried from afar. Diseases that caused a great mortality under these conditions began. In addition, there was no single command. Potyomkin did not appoint the commander in chief of the siege of Ishmael. Neither Lieutenant-General Pavel Potemkin (cousin of the Most High Prince), nor General-in-Chief Ivan Gudovich, nor Major-General Mikhail Kutuzov depended on each other in their official position, as did the leader of the flotilla de Ribas. The commanders not only did not depend on each other, but did not want to help their neighbors.
"Danube Hero" Joseph M. de Ribas.
In the end, the military council decided to lift the siege and move to winter apartments. The first regiments began to leave the camp. Alarmed Potemkin, I realized that it was time to take drastic measures. It became clear that the "grandiose feat of mastering Ishmael" was on the shoulder of only one single person. Potemkin knew Suvorov well and was sure that he would do everything possible and impossible to win. The Commander-in-Chief of the order 1336 No. 25 of November 1790, signed in Bender, appointed the chief-general of Count Suvorov-Rymniki commander of all troops under Ismail. He received the right to determine the need for an assault or retreat. At the same time, under the pretext of having a capable commander in the Kuban, Potemkin withdrew General Gudovich, who presided over the military council, which decided to retreat. It should be noted that the direction of Gudovich to the Caucasian direction was very true. It was Gudovich who in the summer of 1791 took the “Caucasian Ishmael” - the powerful fortress of Anapa.
In the army, the appointment of Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov was greeted with great joy. With him tied fast and quick victory. On November 30, having surrendered the army corps in Galati, Suvorov rode off towards Ishmael. Before that, he ordered his beloved Fanagoriysky grenadier regiment under the command of Colonel Vasily Zolotukhin to go to the Turkish fortress. On the way, the commander met the already withdrawn units of the siege army and ordered to return immediately. Early in the morning of December 2, Suvorov arrived at the siege camp, where he found 20 thousand troops, mostly Don Cossacks. Potemkin tried to render all possible assistance to Suvorov: regiments who had gone to winter apartments were returned to Izmail, and all the cavalry and part of the infantry were transferred from the corps in Galati. She was transported by river.
V.I. Surikov. Portrait of the commander AV Suvorov. 1907.
The commander, with his characteristic swiftness, conducted a review of the troops and a reconnaissance of the enemy fortifications. There was a difficult choice in front of Alexander: there was no material means to besiege the fortress (siege artillery, ammunition in the right quantity for field guns, problems with provisions, fuel), weather conditions interfered, it was necessary to immediately go to storm or leave. Suvorov decided to prepare for the assault within 5 days. During this time, reinforcements from the Galati detachment, the Fanagori Grenadier Regiment, were to arrive, and to bring ammunition for field artillery. Began preparations for the assault. Everything was done at a fast pace, because there was no time, any delay played into the hands of the enemy. Fashinas were being prepared for ditches, assault ladders, and entrenching tools. The commanders carried out reconnaissance fortifications of the enemy. Equipped firing positions for field artillery, which should suppress enemy batteries, just before the assault. The soldiers were trained in a specially built training campus (erected out of sight from the enemy walls), a section of the moat and shaft of the Turkish fortress was copied there, and stuffed janissaries were put. Company after company, one hundred after one hundred, learned to overcome fortifications, practicing methods of bayonet fighting. Suvorov spent psychological preparation of troops, setting them up for a decisive battle. Every day he toured the troops, talked with soldiers, officers, Cossacks, gunners. Much of the work had to be done at night, so as not to disturb the Turkish soldiers, not to be subjected to artillery shelling. Much attention was paid to the training of sappers (pioneers), a lot depended on them, since they were ahead of the assault columns. Two more batteries were built, more powerful than the early ones. One battery was erected in front of the Brossky Gate, the other - of Kiliya.
Soon the training was completed, reinforcements arrived, Suvorov's forces increased to 31 thousand fighters (28,5 thousand infantry and 2,5 thousand cavalry). Suvorov had a total of 33 battalions of regular infantry (14,5 thousand soldiers), 8 thousand dismounted Don Cossacks, 4 thousand Black Cossacks, 2 thousand arnouts (Moldovans and Valahs), 11 of cavalry squadrons and 4 of the Siekhovs of the Siekhov. The weakness of the infantry was the presence of a significant number of dismounted Cossacks, armed mainly with short pikes and sabers, not having guns with bayonets. Thus, the assault troops were numerically inferior to the besieged. The siege corps artillery was seemingly powerful: until the 560 guns were only in the river flotilla. But there was no powerful siege artillery capable of breaking through gaps in the ramparts and bastions. Most of the naval artillery was small caliber, suitable only for close combat. Moreover, the limited ammunition made it impossible to conduct proper preparation for the assault. In the field and regimental artillery Suvorov had about three times less guns than the Turks. He concentrated it against the eastern and western sides of the fortress, not far from the bank of the Danube (Lassi, Lvov and Kutuzov columns), there were 20 guns here. The remaining guns were installed on the island against the south side of the fortress; other parts of the siege troops received a fairly small amount of artillery. As a result, most of the field and all the ship's artillery was concentrated against the southern part of the fortress. Thus, Alexander Suvorov carried out the concentration of artillery on the direction of the main attack, even before Napoleon, whom Western researchers consider to be a pioneer in this field.
On December 7, the commander sent an envoer with two letters to the fortress: from Suvorov and Potemkin, both messages in the ultimatum form suggested that Muhammad Pasha capitulate to prevent "bloodshed and cruelty." The Turkish military leaders were given the opportunity to save face, the soldiers could leave the fortress with personal weapons, and the townspeople with the property. The deadline for reflection was given one day. Suvorov was laconic: "The 24 hours of thinking for the task and will, my first shots are already bondage, the assault is death." In the evening, Seraskir gave a lengthy answer, asking for a truce on 10 days to ask for the Grand Vizier’s permission to surrender. The Turkish commander cunningly pulled out time, hoping to get help from the Sultan's army from the Danube's right bank. Suvorov gave more time to think - until the morning. When the 9 of December came from a seraskir a parliamentarian for further negotiations, Suvorov conveyed that it was too late and everyone in Izmail was doomed to death.
Suvorov gathered the last military council and addressed his comrades with a brief but succinct speech: “The Russians approached Ishmael twice and they retreated twice. Now, for the third time, it remains for us only to take the city or die. True, the difficulties are great: the garrison is a whole army, but nothing can stand against Russian weapons. We are strong and confident. I decided to take possession of this fortress or die under its walls. ” Looking around the crowd, the commander offered to speak, relying on "God and conscience." The decision was the same: “Storm!” It was announced by Matvey Platov.
The assault was scheduled for the night from 10 to December 11 (December 21-22). Preliminary events started on the evening of December 8. Supervised by artillery Major General Peter Rtishchev. 4 batteries were erected against the riverine fashi of the fortress, just before the assault itself, a thousand people worked on their construction in two shifts. At dawn 9 December, all siege batteries and ships of the Danube Flotilla began bombardment of the fortress. The last shelling of the fortress was scheduled to take place at midnight on the eve of the attack, it should have been waged until 6 in the morning, and then fired at idle, so as not to hit its troops and frighten the enemy. The 8 Bombardier ships received a special task, they should approach the fortress as close as possible and launch several important Turkish fortifications as soon as the offensive began. The remaining ships of the flotilla at the beginning of the assault received the task of embarking on two lines in about 20 fathoms from the coast and firing direct fire, clearing the coast from the Turks. The flotilla carried 2-thousand. landing squad, which was a reserve. In case of enemy attacks, doubled the hourly posts and identified additional Cossack horse pickets. Every day and night the battery was protected by an infantry battalion and cavalry reserves.
Suvorov planned a simultaneous attack on all three faces of the fortress, including a blow across the river. The attack had to be carried out by 9 assault columns, three for each face of Ishmael. The offensive was divided into two stages: the first - the seizure of the external fortification, the second - the destruction of the enemy's internal strongholds, the elimination of the garrison in street battles or its capture. Each group of troops and a convoy had its own task.
The western front attacked 7,5 ths. Detachment (6, 5 ths. Infantry and 1 th. Arnouts), Lieutenant-General Pavel Potemkin. The 1 th assault column of Major-General Sergei Lvov had the task of advancing along the left bank of the Danube on the most powerful fortification of Izmail, the Tabiya Tower. They had to overcome the mouth of the Cast, to break through the passage in the palisade and break into the city. The structure of the shock column included: a battalion of Belarusian rangers, 4 battalion of the Fanagori grenadier regiment (two battalions in reserve), a company of musketeers-Absheron. To crack the palisade, the column was given 50 "workers" with axes, crowbars and other tools. The 2-I column under the command of Major General Lassi was to storm the fortifications of the Old Fortress north of the Bross Gate. The soldiers carried 8 assault ladders with them. It consisted of the 4 battalion of the Yekaterinoslav Jaeger Corps (one in reserve) and 128 shooters. In addition to the rangers, a battalion of Belarusian rangers was in reserve. The 3 th assault convoy of Major General Fyodor Meknob had the task of taking the Khotyn gates and carrying the 8 assault ladders. It consisted of the 3 battalion of Livonian rangers, the 2 battalion of the Trinity Musketeer Regiment (in reserve). In addition to the reserves of the columns, there was a general reserve: Seversky karabinerny, Voronezh hussarsky and Don Cossack Colonel Sychev. The cavalry was to develop an offensive when the enemy defenses were breached, after taking the Brossky and Khotyn gates. In extreme cases, cavalry could be sent to assist the assault columns at the first stage of the attack, on foot.
The northeast front of the fortress attacked the left-flank 12-thousand. detachment (3 thousand regular infantry, 8 thousand Don Cossacks and 1 thousand arnauts) under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Alexander Nikolayevich Samoilov. The 4-I assault column of brigadier Vasily Orlov struck in the area of the Bender Gate. It included 2 thousand Cossacks, 500 was in reserve. The 5-th column of the brigadier Matvey Platov had the task of attacking the enemy in a wide hollow between the Old and New Fortresses. The column consisted of 5 thousand Don Cossacks and 2 Musketeer battalions of the Polotsk Regiment (reserve). The general leadership of the 4 and 5 columns was carried out by Major General Ilya Bezborodko. 6-I column under the command of Mikhail Kutuzov struck a blow at the New Fortress in the area of the Kiliya Gate. The shock column consisted of the 3 battalion of the Bug Jaeger Corps and 120 shooters from the same corps. Kutuzov had a strong reserve: the 2 battalion of the Kherson Grenadier Regiment and the 1 thousand Cossacks. The arrows in each column had the task of firing white at the crest of the shaft and the loopholes of the bastions, not allowing the enemy to conduct aimed cannon-rifle fire at the storming columns. Reserve columns immediately followed her in the square and, if necessary, immediately entered into battle.
The southern coastal fort of the fortress attacked 9-thousand. detachment (5 thousand regular infantry and 4 thousand Cossacks), Major General Ribas. Three columns landed from Chatal island. The 1 column was commanded by Major General Nikolai Arsenyev. The column struck at the hollow that divided the entire city into the Old and New Fortresses (as well as the Platov column, but on the other side), assisting the 5 st column. The shock column consisted of the Primorsky Nikolaev Grenadier Regiment, the battalion of the Livonia Yeger Corps and the 2 of thousands of Black Sea Cossacks. Three Cossack hundreds led by Colonel A. Golovaty walked in the vanguard. The 2-th column of brigadier Z. Chepiga struck at the center of the enemy position. It included the Alexopol Infantry Regiment, the 200 Grenadier of the Dnieper Primorsky Regiment and the 1 Thousands of Cossacks. The 3-th column of the second-major of the Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment I. Markov had the task of supporting the 1-th column, which stormed Tabia. It included the 800 grenadier of the Dnieper regiment, the battalion of the Bug and 2 battalions of the Belarusian rangers, 1 thousand Cossacks.
The flotilla supported 1 and 3 landing columns from Chatala with its fire. The ships were built in two battle lines. In the first, there were 145 small vessels (mainly Cossack boats) with a landing force on board. In the second more 50 larger ships, she had to implement the main fire support. According to the plan of Suvorov, in areas that stormed the columns of Lviv, Kutuzov, Arsenyev and Markov, was concentrated most of the artillery of the ground forces and the river flotilla. These directions were decisive. It should be noted that the actions of the attackers almost did not affect one of the most powerful Turkish fortified areas - the citadel. The cavalry was in general reserve to support the storming columns at the second stage of the offensive, when the gates were captured and it would be possible to break into the city.
Suvorov envisaged the case that at the first stage one of the columns could be the first to break through the external fortifications and, continuing the offensive, break into the city’s quarters. In this case, the Turkish command received a chance to concentrate the reserves, surround and destroy the Russian troops that had broken through. Therefore, Suvorov forbidden to enter the fortress without permission, before orders from the command. At the same time, the column commanders had great independence in their speeches, in particular, they had the right to send a reserve to help their neighbors. The observation post of Suvorov was located on a small mound approximately around the 3 of the Meknob column.
To be continued ...
Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.