Initially, Russian troops stationed in Bucharest and its surroundings. A small detachment was sent to Mala Wallachia, its headquarters was located in Craiova. Initially, the forward detachment was commanded by General Fischbach, then he was replaced by General Anrep-Almpt. In the Russian avant-garde there were about 10 thousand people.
The Danube army had no luck with the commander. Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov successfully fought in the Patriotic War of 1812, took part in foreign campaigns of the Russian army 1813 — 1814, in the Russian-Turkish war 1828 — 1829. Participated in the suppression of the uprisings in Poland and Hungary. However, Gorchakov by nature was not a decisive and independent person. For 22 years he served as chief of staff at Paskevich in Warsaw and completely lost the habit of responsibility for his actions and ability for independent thinking. He completely plunged into administrative work and became an unquestioning executor of Paskevich’s will. Gorchakov was deprived of his leadership abilities and Paskevich’s ambivalence toward the war and the Danube campaign finally confused him.
Gorchakov was a stupid man and a good performer, but not a commander who could independently solve strategic-level tasks. The general constantly looked back on Petersburg and Warsaw. Tsar Nicholas wanted a decisive offensive, but did not know whether it was possible and expected a clear opinion of Paskevich. The Polish governor, Field Marshal Paskevich, believed that Austria’s intervention in the war was inevitable, and this would lead the Danube army to the brink of disaster. Therefore, he believed that it was impossible to attack, it was better to withdraw the troops back to Russia. However, he did not want to tell Nicholas directly that the war was already lost on the diplomatic front and that Russia would have to fight a coalition of European powers. At the same time, Paskevich did not want him, but Gorchakov himself, impressed on the tsar and would suggest evacuating the troops of their Danube principalities or even stopping at Prut. In such a situation, Gorchakov was completely taken aback and was confused. This confusion and indecision spread to the headquarters, and after the first failures to the whole army.
The doubts of the high command had an extremely negative effect on the army. The Turks had already begun to move, occupied an island on the Danube, crossed the river, and calmly captured Calafat, strengthened it. This Turkish bridgehead subsequently became a source of problems. And the Russian command still doubted. Although it was too late to retreat. The Western powers have already decided to fight with Russia. In such a situation, it was necessary to act as Napoleon said: “We must first get involved in the battle, and then we'll see.”
Oltenitsky fight. October 20 (November 1) the Ottomans crossed from Turtukai to a large wooded island and began to threaten the village of Oltenitsa. A report on this was sent to the commander of the 4 Corps, General P.A. Dannenberg However, he considered that there was no threat from the crossing of the “twenty Turks”. On October 21, the Ottomans crossed over with large forces (8 thousand soldiers) and captured the Ol'enitsa quarantine (port facility), began to erect fortifications. In addition, Turtukay Omer Pasha had a large reserve - 16 thousand people. Cossack picket could not resist the crossing of the enemy.
October 22 Russian detachment under the command of General F.I. Soymonov (one infantry brigade, 9 squadrons and hundreds with 18 guns) from the 4 corps took up a position near Old Oltenitsa. Russian warriors were inspired, finally the first real thing. One of the participants in the battle recalled that the night had passed noisily: “... loud chatter, laughter, inspired screams, native distant songs — everything merged into a common hum that stood over our bivouac.” In the morning of October 23, the Russian brigade, despite the superiority of the enemy in numbers, launched an assault on the Turkish fortifications.
The beginning of the battle was difficult: the Turks managed to build field fortifications with batteries. They also had artillery on the sublime right bank of the Danube and could simply shoot Russian troops as if they were training exercises. The terrain was open. In addition, the Turks also located a battery on the island and could beat the Russian positions on the flank. However, the Russian soldiers were not embarrassed. They behaved like battle-hardened veterans. Russian troops attacked several times, although the enemy simply bombarded them with shells and bullets. As a result, the Ottomans fluttered and began to leave the quarantine, bring the guns off the shaft, and board the boats. Russian soldiers broke into the first enemy trench. And then came the unexpected order of General Dannenberg to retreat.
As a result, at the last moment the Russian victory turned into defeat. In the battle near Oltenitsa, Russian troops lost about 1 thousand people, Turks - 2 thousand people. The Ottomans did not develop their success, burned quarantine and returned to the right bank of the Danube. In this battle, the Russian command made all the possible mistakes. The officers of the General Staff made a mistake in assessing the forces of the enemy, saying that two battalions were enough to throw the enemy back into the river. The Russian detachment had to attack a strong fortification occupied by superior enemy forces. The enemy was not immediately thrown into the river, but given the opportunity to gain a foothold. Russian artillery fired an hour and a quarter, and then fell silent, although it could continue firing. Moreover, precisely those positions that were attacked by infantry were not shelled. There was no reserve to complete a successful attack.
Despite all the mistakes of command, the Russian troops were already winning up, and there was an order to retreat. At the decisive moment, when it was possible to throw all the available forces into battle and turn the enemy’s withdrawal, which had begun, into a complete rout, seize its artillery and sink the boats. The Turks, who had already been defeated and began to retreat, were struck by the withdrawal of Russian troops no less than our soldiers and officers, and at first even considered this to be some kind of military cunning. In essence, Dannenberg stole the victory from the Russian army. Gorchakov not only did not punish the worthless general, but also covered him. According to him, Dannenberg "ordered to stop the case, so that without further benefit not to increase the damage is already very significant." But why then went on the offensive? If they wanted to save the soldiers, then there was no need to attack at all.
Joseph Romanovich Anrep-Elmpt.
After Oltenitsa, the Russian army finally lost its understanding of what it was doing in the Danube principalities. Gorchakov continued to send ambiguous and vague orders, like: "Kill, but do not allow yourself to kill, shoot at the enemy, but do not subject him to fire ...". The commander of the advanced detachment, General Fischbach, turned out to be even more “talented” than Dannenberg, and he was eventually removed due to his incompetence, replacing by Count Anrep-Elmpt. However, it did not get better. Anrep-Elmpt, who during the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829, the Polish uprising of 1831 and the Caucasian war, proved to be a good commander, did not show his previous talents in the Eastern war. A relatively small detachment of Anrep-Elmpt was dispersed at a distance of 30 versts and completely lost its strike power.
A part of this detachment was located near the village of Cheti. Here, the commander of the Tobolsk is the Col. In total, the Russian detachment consisted of 3 thousand people. 6 (1) December Baumgarten forces of one battalion and a platoon of hussars with two guns repulsed the attack of 10 thousand enemy cavalry detachment. It must be said that Alexander Karlovich Baumgarten was a real military officer who had service in the Caucasus, where he was awarded the Order of St. Anne 1 degree with the inscription “for bravery”.
December 25 1853 (January 6 1854) The commander of the Tobolsk Regiment received news of the advance of large enemy forces. As it turned out, the Ottomans were attacking with large forces - 18 thousand soldiers. A fierce battle ensued. The detachment of Baumgarten repulsed several enemy attacks. But the forces were unequal and reserves quickly depleted. The situation has become critical. In addition, the Ottomans occupied the road that led to Mozzetse, where another Russian detachment was located, under the command of the brigade commander Belgard.
Baumgarten, not seeing the possibility of keeping Cetiat behind him, began to retreat. But the road was closed by enemy cavalry, which advanced 6 horse guns, opened fire on the Russian troops. The brave regimental commander headed the 3 th battalion and overturned the Turkish cavalry with a bayonet attack. The offensive was carried out with such decisiveness and speed that the Ottomans lost two guns.
However, the Turks quickly recovered and began to press against the Russian detachment again. Baumgarten behind the village of Chetati took a new position and began to repel the attacks of the enemy. Russian infantry at a distance of 50 footsteps fired volleys at enemy forces. The Ottomans fought bravely and broke through to the Russian order. Hand-to-hand fight began. But the Turks were again thrown away, while taking over the 4 guns and the charging box. The Turkish cavalry during the retreat fell into a ravine and the Russians, pursuing the enemy, rushed there too. Baumgarten decided to occupy a ravine in order to improve its defense capabilities. Before him was a moat and a rampart that hampered the movement of the infantry. There was no bridge and descent, it was far to go around. Rescued Russian ingenuity and self-sacrifice. Private 12 Company Nikifor Dvornik jumped into the ditch, stood across and, bending down, making himself like a bridge, shouted to his friends: “Go through me guys! The case will be soon! ”So he let through about forty people. Then they pulled him out. Russian soldiers rushed to the Ottomans and occupied a ravine. Turkish guns were riveted, gun carriages chopped up.
This local success temporarily improved the position of the Russian squad. However, the Turkish troops, which had a huge numerical superiority, continued to attack. The Turks installed several batteries and began heavy shelling. Russian artillery was already exhausted in this unequal struggle. Baumgarten was wounded, but continued to lead the squad. The Turkish command began to advance several fresh battalions in order to put an end to the resistance of a small Russian detachment in one decisive blow. And at that moment, when the hopes were almost gone, salvation came. The Ottomans were suddenly confused. They stopped artillery fire and began to depart. In the Turkish rear rang out the sounds of battle. This came to the rescue of the Odessa regiment from the detachment of Carl Belgard. The Odessa regiment entered the battle on the move and, breaking through the Turkish trenches, suffered significant losses. However, at the cost of heavy losses, he broke through the Turkish defense and rescued the dying squad of Baumgarten. Towards evening, when the Ottomans received news of the approach of the general forces of General Anrep-Elmpt, they hurriedly retreated from Cheti to Calafat. For some time the Russian forces pursued the enemy and many people. Russian troops (in the detachments of Baumgarten and Belgard were up to 7 thousand) in this battle lost more than 2 thousand people. Turkish losses were higher.
Russian army won. However, the battle at Chetati left many questions behind. None of the participants in the battle did not doubt that Gorchakov and Anrep-Elmpt made a big mistake by scattering their forces at a great distance. In addition, the detachment of Baumgarten did not have cavalry, which the command sprayed on completely unnecessary guard posts, where there was no enemy. But there was no cavalry in the threatened sector. Anrep was very late with help, and the possibility of a complete defeat of the enemy troops was lost, the Ottomans retreated to Calafat. The sounds of battle came to the location of the forces of Anrep, but he hesitated for hours. He decided to celebrate Christmas. A long prayer service detained all the authorities in the church. At this time, the soldiers toiled and did not understand what was happening. The soldiers said among themselves: “Ours are beaten, and we pray like old women, instead of helping our own! It’s not good, brothers, God will not forgive us for this! ”And even after the troops had advanced, Anrep-Almpt did not do anything with fresh forces to turn the battle into a complete rout of the enemy. The defeated enemy retreated rather calmly. Although the Chetat business could be turned into a great success in this area. Anrep detachment stood on the spot when discordant mobs of Ottomans fled to Calafat.
This criminal inaction and negligence has once again undermined the confidence of ordinary commanders and soldiers in command. Everyone was sure that if, at the first shots, the Anrep-Elmpt detachment came out to Cetati, then by 12 hours the Russian troops could reach the rear of the Ottomans and intercepting Turkish messages would lead to the complete defeat of the enemy. In addition, on the shoulders of a defeated enemy, Russian troops could break into Calafat. The Russian cavalry could have ripened to the place of the desperate battle of the Baumgarten detachment by the 11 watch. The officers also accused Gorchakov, as a result of whose actions the small Malo-Valakhsky detachment was to confront the main forces of the Turkish army.
Thus, the first period of the Danube campaign ended pitifully. He showed how even a good army, which at the beginning of the war was ready to smash the enemy, absolutely cannot do anything (except to die heroically), if the high command is not confident, does not show will and is not ready to solve strategic tasks. Russian troops engaged in battle with superior enemy forces, and in one case were deprived of victory, which they turned into defeat. In another case, the victory was incomplete, because of the mistakes of the command, the Russian troops missed the opportunity to inflict a decisive defeat on the enemy, which would have far-reaching consequences. Ordinary soldiers and officers again showed resilience and courage in the battles of Oltenitsa and Chetati, reaffirming their highest fighting qualities. However, with the command of the situation was very bad.
Alexander Karlovich Baumgarten
The mission of Count Alexei Orlov and the position of Austria
December 22 1853 (January 4 1854) British and French squadrons entered the Black Sea. 17 (29) January, the French emperor presented an ultimatum to the Russian Empire: withdraw troops from the Danube principalities and begin negotiations with Porto. It became obvious to Petersburg that the matter was going to war with England and France. Black Sea passed under the control of the enemy. The Balkans remained the only theater of operations where Russia could inflict a decisive defeat on the enemy (the Caucasian front was considered secondary). And here the decisive word was Austria. Paskevich believed that as soon as the Russian army began a decisive movement towards the Balkan Mountains, Austria would strike with all the might of its still untouched and well-armed army along the right flank of the Russian troops.
In the meantime, the situation continued to deteriorate, it was no longer possible to pull with the offensive in the Balkans. Emperor Nikolai Pavlovich wanted to transfer the army to the right bank of the Danube and launch an offensive on Varna and Silistra. It was necessary to clarify the situation with Austria. Therefore, the sovereign sent Count Alexei Orlov to Vienna for talks with the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph. The count had to pass the letter of Nicholas and in a personal conversation with the Austrian emperor to find out how Vienna would react to the offensive of the Russian army.
Alexey Fyodorovich Orlov was one of the favorites of Nikolay and the chief commander of the III department of his own E. I. V. Office, chief of gendarmes. Orlov was a clever and experienced diplomat, and it was in Eastern affairs. He signed the Andriapolsky Treaty of 1829. The signing of the Unkar-Iskelesi Treaty of 1833, beneficial for Russia, when Turkey became an ally of Russia, was connected with his name. Orlov was, when necessary, amiable, clever, and instantly grasped the essence of any situation. Orlov understood well that Petersburg should not believe in the solidarity of three dynasties: the Romanovs, the Hohenzollerns and the Habsburgs. Prussia and especially Austria were not worth believing. There could not be permanent friends and allies in big European politics. Neither Austria nor Prussia, no matter how much they now recall the principles of the Holy Alliance, were not going to help Russia against Turkey. The best that Russia could count on if they did not come out against the Russians along with the British and the French.
Orlov did not believe in the success of the mission, but still tried to fulfill the will of the king. In Vienna, they waited for the arrival of Orlov with great emotion. At the Viennese court there were two parties. The Russian Party, which included many generals, aristocrats, and representatives of the highest bureaucracy, advocated an alliance with Russia. Pro-Russian leaders considered it a matter of honor to support Russia at a difficult moment, since it was Nikolai who saved the Hapsburg dynasty from the Hungarian rebels and the “damned democrats” (supporters of the constitutional structure of Austria). They said that because of the Turkish possessions you should not quarrel with a trusted friend and a powerful monarch. These people simply refused to understand how to betray an old friend and move away from the old union, which brought only good to Austria. So, it was St. Petersburg that forced Berlin to abandon the attempt to become a rallying center for Northern and Central Germany and retained the leading role for Vienna in the German Alliance. They rightly pointed out that those who oppose Nikolay (Russia) undermine the work of the monarchy and the nobility, that is, strike the Habsburg monarchy.
The “Russian Party” had very strong positions in the Austrian Empire and was able to prevent the Austrian army from launching against Russia, but could not prevent Vienna’s decisive diplomatic action against St. Petersburg. Ever since the days of Metternich, in Austria, there was a strong fear of Austria being surrounded by the Slavic-Russian sea, the decisive consolidation of the Russian positions on the Danube and the Balkans, the establishment of Austria’s vassal relations with the great Russian Empire. In addition, Vienna feared Paris. Napoleon III hinted at the possibility of the appearance of French troops in Northern Italy, if Austria chooses the wrong allies. The "Anti-Russian Party" gradually took up in Austria, and Austria gradually turned from a traditional ally of Russia into its enemy. Metternich and after the resignation supported the anti-Russian course of Vienna. In 1854, he announced that Austria should oppose Russia and seek the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Danube principalities. If necessary, enter the war, but it is better to force Russia to leave by diplomatic means. Franz-Joseph, who feared France more than trapped Russia, supported the anti-Russian policy.
Orlov arrived in Vienna on 28 on January 1854 and handed the king a proposal to Franz Joseph. Austria had to maintain friendly neutrality in the war between Russia and Porto, and in a possible war between Russia and England and France. In response, Russia guaranteed the inviolability of the Austrian possessions. In the event of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Russia and Austria were to jointly establish a protectorate over those states (Moldova, Wallachia, Bulgaria and Serbia) that will appear on the Balkan Peninsula.
Orlova was received in Vienna with great honor, but with restraint. Franz-Joseph expressed concern about the overall situation and spoke about anything other than real affairs. During the new meeting, the Austrian emperor declared that he considered dangerous for Austria the change in the political situation of the border Turkish provinces. Neutrality Declaration Franz Joseph did not want to give. As a result, Orlov’s mission, as he thought, failed.
Alexey Fedorovich Orlov
To be continued ...