After storming Kars (Russian victories in the Caucasus: the storming of Kars in 1828 year) A separate Caucasian corps was forced to linger to fight the plague. Having overcome the infection, the Russian troops could attack in three directions: on Ardagan - Akhaltsykh, on Akhalkalaki - Akhaltsykh and Sarykamysh - Erzerum. Commander-in-chief Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich decided to move to Akhalkalaki, where it was easier for him to get reinforcements that came from Georgia. After the seizure of Akhalkalaki planned to go to Akhaltsykhu. But before the onset of the offensive, the Russian troops 12 July 1828 of the year made one transition along the Erzerum road in order to mislead the enemy. The equestrian watchdogs of the enemy reported the disturbing news to Erzerum. Having made the transition, the corps embarked on a three-day stand, awaiting part of the garrison from Kars, which received an order to speak to the main forces. The Turkish command, deceived by such a maneuver, hastened to pull the troops to Erzerum. Thus, the Akhalkalaki garrison was left without reinforcements.
While this game was being played on the enemy's nerves, the artillery of the corps and the carts with a small cover were sent to Akhalkalaki. By this time, the pioneers (sappers) had already patched up the road. When Paskevich was convinced that the trick was a success, he turned the body and promptly marched to Akhalkalaki. Under Paskevich, there were 7 infantry battalions, the 2 Regiment of the regular cavalry (the Combined Ulan and Nizhny Novgorod Dragoon Regiments), the 4 Cossack Regiment and the 48 guns. The remaining battalions and artillery, 2 Cossack regiment were left to defend Kars. Hike to Akhalkalaki took 6 days. During this time, Russian troops made the 120-kilometer march along difficult mountain roads. The path through the Chaldyr Range was difficult. The road was narrow, the carts barely passed. For assistance on the ascents and descents, the train and the artillery formations were assigned infantry.
Siege and assault Akhalkalaki
July 22 Russian advanced units went to the Turkish fortress. Akhalkalaki is located between two small rivers of the Kura basin: Tapa-Gavan-chai and Gender-su. The fortress occupied an area of about 300 meters long and about 80-120 meters wide. Fortifications have not been repaired for a long time and were launched. The suburbs were destroyed. The Turkish garrison numbered 1 thousand soldiers with 14 guns.
23 June Paskevich conducted a reconnaissance of the fortress and invited the Ottomans to surrender. The Turkish garrison responded with a categorical refusal and began shelling Russian positions. The Russian command had to think about the assault plan. The fortress decided to attack from the south. At the river Gender-su, in 3,5 versts from the fortress they made a camp. The camp was strengthened in case of an attack of the Muslim cavalry. With the onset of the evening part of the army was sent to build siege batteries. The largest of them was built just 350 meters from Akhalkalaki. Due to the lack of forest, the parapets were built from sacks of earth. In the event of an enemy outing, workers were covered by the 42 th Jäger Regiment, the Dragoon Division, the Cossack Regiment and two companies of pioneers with 8 guns. The noise of the work attracted the attention of the Ottomans, who, awaiting the night assault, opened gun-fire. Russian troops did not respond and continued to work. The Turkish garrison spent the whole night in suspense, awaiting the attack of the Russian troops.
Battery No. 1 was ready for 4 hours of the morning. It had 2 double-torch mortars, 8 battery guns, 2 light guns. Before this battery, another one was installed, a small one - on 6 of cegoric mortars. Cogorn (cegorn) mortars then called small-caliber mortars, intended for shooting at close distances, mainly in serf war. At dawn, the Turks, finding Russian batteries, which surpassed the garrison’s artillery in firepower, opened fire, trying to destroy the positions erected overnight. The Russian batteries responded, a counter-battery struggle ensued. Russian gunners were more experienced, besides their batteries were located more profitably - on the heights that dominated the terrain. Therefore, the fire of Russian cannons soon damaged the main tower, the citadel, the walls and corners of the fortress in some places collapsed. The Ottomans stopped responding to the shelling. The besieged, seeking protection, left the shaft and walls, trying to hide in a stone casemate. But he could not accommodate the entire garrison. Turkish soldiers were confused. An even greater horror at the garrison was caused by the fact that the Russian soldiers put a few cannons on the open space opposite the fortress gates on the eastern face of Akhalkalaki. On the new battery installed 6 guns. Part of the defenders was so scared that she fled from the fortress. The Ottomans descended the ropes from the walls on the opposite side, and fled along the bank of the river.
When the Turkish fortress was thoroughly pogromed, the siege batteries fell silent. Colonel Borodin, who covered the gun positions, demanded surrender. However, the commandant of the fortress, the head of the Akhalkalaki sanjak Muta-bek, again refused, referring to the oath given to the sultan. Borodin took two companies of the Shirvan regiment and personally led them to attack. Russian soldiers used the ropes and quickly climbed the walls on the south side of the fortress. The Turkish garrison was already completely demoralized and did not offer serious resistance. Around 9 hours of the morning Russian fortress developed over the fortress.
Paskevich sent the Cossacks and the Azerbaijani mounted police to chase the Turkish soldiers who had escaped (more than half of the garrison turned out to be such). In the narrow river gorge, they quickly caught up with the foot Ottomans and cut down almost everyone (mercy was alien to the inhabitants of the Caucasus, and the Russian Cossacks were alien, they destroyed the enemy). Few survived, those who were able to climb the coastal cliffs. The Turkish garrison in the battle for Akhalkalaki lost up to 600 people killed and wounded, 300 people laid down weapon in the courtyard. Muta-bek, surrounded by commanders and officials, gave his sword to the Russian commander-in-chief. As trophies, the Russian corps received the 21 banner and 14 guns. In addition, the small Ottoman fortress kept solid stocks of artillery ammunition and various weapons, being the base of the Turkish army. A separate Caucasian corps lost all 13 people in this battle.
At lunchtime, a large Turkish cavalry detachment appeared on the road from Akhaltsikha, he hurried to strengthen the Akhalkalaki garrison. Having found the Russian troops, the Turkish detachment quickly turned around and went into the mountains. At the same time, the news came about the capture of Poti, a seaside fortress by Russian troops - it fell on July 15 after an 7-day siege. Now the Turkish fleet in the South Caucasus could be based only in Batumi.
View of the mosque and the citadel in Akhalkalaki.
Siege of Akhaltsykh
Akhalkalaki stood on the road Akhaltsikh - Kars. With her capture, Russian troops received convenient communication through Tsalka and Gumry with Georgia. Now it was necessary to take a powerful Ahaltsykh fortress. Paskevich-Erivansky had information that 2-thousand. Akhaltsykh garrison under the command of Agmet Pasha has 150 guns (in reality, they were 62). In addition, 30-thousand were sent to Akhaltsykh. army under the command of the very Kios-Mohammed Pasha and Mustafa Pasha. After the capture of Kars by the Russian troops, the Akhaltsykh became the supporting fortress in the South Caucasus for the Turkish army.
From Akhalkalaki, the Caucasian Separate Corps could go to Ardahan, and to Atshur. These fortresses were weaker than Akhaltsykh. However, the commander in chief and the military council decided to direct the main attack on the main point of the enemy. The fortress of the enemy should be mastered before the approach of large enemy forces, or at least get ahead of them. Therefore, we chose the shortest, albeit difficult mountain route - along the bank of the r. Chickens, through the ridge Tsikhidzh-vare and mountains Tskhenis-Tskale. On July 30-31, siege artillery and transports with cover made this route. The avant-garde came out before everyone, who cleared and improved the road. On August 1, the main forces came forward, reinforced by reserves coming from Georgia. 2,3 ths. Squad arrived at Major-General Popov's 4 guns. March on mountain roads was very difficult, often guns and charging boxes had to be dragged manually and with the help of ropes. To overcome the ups and downs on each gun had to allocate a few dozen people. The chief organizer of the march was the Quartermaster, Colonel Walchowski. The commander-in-chief also took care of the state of the troops.
3 August, having passed 55 versts a difficult path, the Russian troops reached the right bank of the Kura. Here the Russian corps tried to stop the Muslim cavalry, but in a short oncoming battle the Ottomans were rejected. By the end of the day, the Russian soldiers were 6,5 versts from Akhaltsykh. Work began on the device fortified camp. On the morning of August 4, a gun firing was heard from the sides of the Ottoman fortress. The Cossacks from the patrol reported that the advanced parts of the Kios-Mohammed Pasha corps were entering the fortress. The garrison greeted them with gunfire. It was unpleasant news. But still, the enemy did not have time to leave the Russian troops from the mountain range in the river valley, blocking the only road.
To secure the left flank of the camp, Paskevich threw one infantry battalion across the river at night. The Russian infantry occupied the dominant height and arranged a small field reinforcement. On the morning of August 5, Paskevich built troops and began to force the river. The Turks tried to prevent this and launched an attack on the left flank of the Russian army, but ran up to the height, where an infantry battalion sat down. Turkish cavalry rolled back. A separate Caucasian corps was 3 miles and stopped on a halt to wait out the midday heat. By 16.00 heat subsided, and the troops continued to move.
The Russian command planned to occupy the height dominating the fortress - Mount Taushan-Pasha. Kios Mohammed Pasha, being an experienced commander, decided to prevent the enemy. He brought out his huge masses of cavalry - about 25 thousand people, towards Russian troops. Paskevich bet on superiority in artillery: the 16 guns of the 21 and 22 artillery brigades were put in the first line. At the command of the guns pushed forward to the skyscrapers in front of the mountain Taushan Pasha. The gun crews quickly deployed, and they opened fire on the enemy's cavalry. Under the fire of Russian artillery, the Turkish cavalry began to turn around. Paskevich immediately attacked - sending a battle to the Cossack regiments and the Don light artillery. Taushan Pasha Mountain and a number of heights, located at an artillery shot distance from the fortress, were occupied by Russian troops. In the evening, they began to translate the wagon train to the site of the new camp. The Turkish cavalry attacked again, trying to crush the wagon train and force the Russian command to abandon the siege of Akhaltsykh. On the flanks of the convoy rushed to 10 thousand riders. Russian infantry repulsed, covering the wagon train, repulsed the attack. The attack of the enemy cavalry helped repel the artillery of the Don Cossacks. The Donets quickly changed positions and grappled with Turkish cavalry. In this battle, Cossack officers distinguished themselves - the centurions of Shumkov, Polyakov and the cornet of Krasnyansky. By the evening the battle subsided. The Turks could not prevent the Russian troops from reaching the near approaches to the Akhaltsykh fortress.
Akhaltsykh at that time was a large city with 50-thousand. by the population. It was located on the left bank of the Poskhov Chai River, not far from its confluence with the Kura. The defense of the city consisted of three lines: the citadel dominating the city, the fortress itself with a high, sometimes in two tiers, a wall and external fortifications. In addition, the city itself had many stone buildings that could be used as strong points for 20-100 soldiers. The fortress was located on a high cliff and was surrounded by suburbs from three sides. The fortress had a length of about 1200 meters and a width of 800 meters. The outer defensive perimeter consisted of a strong palisade that connected the 4 bastion and one tower. The bastions were made of unbaked bricks. Each bastion and tower had 3 guns. Total on the outer defensive line was the 22 cannon. The fortress with the citadel were armed with about 40 guns. The garrison, together with the local militias, not distinguished by high combat capability, totaled up to 10 thousands of soldiers. The Kios-Mohammed Pasha corps, which came to the aid of the fortress, numbered 30 thousand people, it was mainly cavalry, with 15 field guns. It is also necessary to take into account the natural "fortifications" - the numerous ravines and the altitude of the defenses of the city, which made it possible to bombard the enemy from most of the guns.
At the time of the Separate Caucasus Corps there were about 13 thousand soldiers. And the Turkish command was about 40 thousand people, the whole army. This forced Paskevich to gather a military council, where one issue was discussed - to remain under Akhaltsykh and prepare an assault, joining the battle with a more numerous enemy, or retreat through the Borzhomi gorge (it was famous for mineral springs) to Georgia and wait there for the enemy army. Opinion was one - assault, quick and decisive. The first, according to the established tradition, was the junior commander - Ensign Mikhail Pushchin. He offered all the power to go out into the field and give battle to the Ottoman army, which could not withstand the strength of the Russian artillery and infantry. After the defeat of the body of Kios-Mohammed Pasha, the fall of the fortress will be inevitable. The opinion of Pushchino was supported by all senior commanders.
The regular siege of the Akhaltsykh fortress began. Russian camp surrounded by a line of trenches. Under the shelling of the Ottomans began to build several siege batteries. By the evening of August 5, a redoubt No. 1 was erected on 200 people on Mount Taushan-Tapa with 4 guns. The commander of the battery was Captain Brimmer from the Caucasian Grenadier Artillery Brigade. At the height of the right bank of the Proskhov Tea, they put a redoubt number 2 on 400 people with 4 guns. The battery was headed by the lieutenant Cherenevitsky. Another redoubt was erected in the rear of the camp, and the fourth was built to protect the right flank of the fortified camp. These fortifications completely deprived the Turkish cavalry of room for maneuver, now any attack of the Russian camp would lead to serious losses. On the night of August 8, the battery on the 9 guns was built at a height of 600 meters ahead of the redoubt number 1. The commander of the 20 artillery brigade, Colonel Tsvilenev, became its chief. In the morning, the battery opened fire on the enemy fortifications. Soon, the Russian gunners forced the enemy to remove the guns from the southern fortifications and remove them to cover.
I must say that after the failure of the cavalry attack, the Turkish command passed to passive defense. The activity of the Russians in the siege works convinced the Ottomans that a long siege was beginning. Their main task was to retain the city, and not a field battle with the Russian corps. Therefore, Paskevich decided to deliver a sudden night strike against Turkish troops located in field fortified camps. The Russian commander-in-chief could not lead the siege of Akhaltsy for a long time: the intelligence reported that 10-thousand were about to arrive in Akhaltsykh soon. Corps Maidan Pasha. In addition, with each passing day it became increasingly difficult to get forage for horses.
To be continued ...