Minikh, leaving the Don Army near Azov, to 7 (18) in April 1736 reached Tsaritsinka, where he found that the troops were not ready to march on the Crimea. However, the war was also not yet declared, and the non-warring powers formally began fighting near Azov. Even when in early April news of the siege of the Azov fortress reached Constantinople, the Russian envoy Veshnyakov continued to be treated politely and, contrary to custom, was not thrown into the Seven Towers. The reason for such “politeness” was the extremely unpleasant situation for the Ottomans on the Persian front. There, Turkey continued to suffer defeat and officially the head of Persia became the belligerent and energetic Kuli Khan, who finally removed Shah Tahmasp and his young son Abbas from power and began to rule under the name Nadir Shah.
Veshnyakov, seeing the weakness of the Ottoman Empire, continued to encourage Petersburg to act decisively. “I’m boldly and truly reporting,” he wrote to the capital, “that there are neither political leaders nor military leaders in Turkey .... Everything is in terrible frustration and will be on the edge of the abyss at the slightest distress. Fear of the Turks rests on one tradition, for now the Turks are completely different than they were before: as before they were inspired by the spirit of glory and ferocity, so much are cowardly and fearful, all seem to anticipate the end of their illegal power .... Tatars, knowing everything that, now, as they say here, in Porte's fidelity begin to waver. As for the Christian subjects, the Turks fear that everyone will rebel as soon as the Russian troops approach the borders. The local Greeks of Constantinople are mostly idlers, neither faith nor lawless, their main interest is money, and they hate us more than the Turks themselves, but the Greeks are regional and even more Bulgarians, Volokhs, Moldovans and others care so much about getting rid of their Turkish tyranny and so much devoted to Russia, that in the first case of life they will not regret for your Imperial Majesty, as a trusted deliverer. The Turks know all this. ”
In early April, Minikh sent a small detachment of infantry led by Second Lieutenant Bolotov from Tsarichanka to the Samara River for reconnaissance. The same order was received by the cavalry unit of Colonel Lesevitsky. The reconnaissance detachments also had to establish “flying post posts” and constantly report to Tsarichanka about possible enemy movements. Hurrying with the start of the march, the field marshal decided to lead troops to Samara in five columns, sending them as soon as they were ready. The time factor played a big role, it was impossible to give the enemy to strengthen the position and transfer reinforcements to the Crimea.
The 11 (22) of April from Tsarichanka was the first column commanded by Major General Spiegel, it consisted of four infantry and two dragoon regiments. The next day, 12 (23) on April 1736, Mr. Osterman sent a letter to the Turkish vizier, saying: "... Russia's desire to find satisfaction for the insult and damage caused by the Porto peace-breaking enterprises, and to establish peace, under conditions that can guarantee a stronger way the security of the state and the subjects force them to move their troops against the Turks ". The war was finally declared.
13 on April began the movement of the Maiden column with one infantry and three dragoon regiments. On April 14, the convoy of Lieutenant General Leontiev set out on a campaign: six regular regiments and 10 thousands of landmine forces. The 17 of April launched a convoy of the Prince of Hessen-Gomburg: one infantry, three dragoon regiments, field artillery, Chuguev and Little Russian Cossacks. On April 19, a column of Major General Repnin came out: four infantry and one dragoon regiments. All other regiments of the Dnieper army also had to be attached to Tsarichanka, they were charged with protecting communications and transports with provisions and other supplies. The shelves that stood on the Don and the Donets were ordered to go independently to the Samara River. The four thousand Don Cossacks, marching in the march, also marched from the Don separately from the other troops, with whom they were to meet already at the Stone Backwater.
14 (25) April Spiegel's avant-garde reached the Samara River and brought through two wooden and two pontoon bridges. Crossing the river, two days later, the detachment stopped, and the soldiers began building two strongholds. One of them was erected at the confluence of Samara in the Dnieper, and the other - at Samara itself, on the site of the ancient Mother of God Fortress. For the construction of the first, Ust-Samara fortifications, an older fortress located here was used. She was surrounded by a vast earthen fence, under the protection of which the barracks, officers' apartments and the infirmary were located. Two more fortifications at a height to the east of the fortress. This whole defensive system, with the side open from enemy cavalry from the river Samara to the Dnieper, had additional protection in the form of a line of slingshots and a paling. Colonel Chicherin was appointed commandant of the Ust-Samara fortification. The Mother of God fortress was surrounded on all sides with a high earthen rampart, and on the old, proper rampart, set up slingshots.
On April 19, Spiegel’s convoy proceeded further, and in its stead, Leontiev’s columns arrived at Samara and, a day later, the Prince of Hesse-Homburg. 22 April, Repnina's column approached the river. So the columns replaced each other and smoothly moved forward, creating strongholds and warehouses-shops along the way. With the passage through Samara, the Dnieper army entered the enemy’s territory, so Minikh increased the precautionary measures. Each column had the opportunity to support the next one, on slides it was necessary to put out slingshots or to build a wenburg from carts. However, initially there was no news about the enemy. The main concern of the soldiers were marches and the construction of fortifications. Major General Spiegel reported on April 20: “Both in considerable marches, it is very difficult for people to work and cross, because they are marching during the day, and they have such work at night that the infantry regiments can barely walk.”
26 April 1736 Mr. Minich personally arrived at the vanguard of Spiegel, which was three days from the Stone Backwater. Gradually tightened and other units. By 4 May under the command of Field Marshal on the right bank Belozerka River gathered 10 dragoon and 15 infantry regiments (more than 28 thousand. People), 10 thousand. Man landmilitsii, 3 thousand. Cossacks, 13 thousand. Little Russian Cossacks, hussars, suburban and Chuguev Cossacks . Total over 58 thousand people. In Kamenny Zaton, a military council was held, which had to decide which way to go to the Crimea: right across the steppe or along the bank of the Dnieper through Kyzy-Kermen. Chose the second option.
4 (15) May, the vanguard of the Russian army marched off the Belozerka River on a further march. The vanguard commander was still General Spiegel. The next day, the main forces moved forward under the command of the Prince of Hesse-Homburg. Field Marshal Munnich was also riding with them. In addition, a rearguard under the command of Major-General Heine was set aside to protect the rear. For the delivery of supplies to the army, a train was formed, and a large detachment of Lieutenant Colonel Frint was assigned to protect it.
7 (18) May Russian avant-garde reached Kyzy-Kermen. A strong stronghold was also built here. The soldiers built a powerful retrospective, reinforced from the steppe by six redoubts, which stretched for 33 km. Ten more redoubts were built between the Belozersky and Kyzy-Kermen strongholds. Each redoubt housed a small garrison in the 40-50 man of sick and weakened soldiers and Cossacks who were unable to march. On the way to the Kyzy-Kermen small Tatar detachments began to appear, but they still did not join the battle. For reconnaissance of the area, Spiegel singled out a cavalry detachment under the command of Colonel Krechetnikov (400 dragoons, 150 hussars, one hundred Cossacks of the Izyumsky Slobodsky Regiment, Little Russian Zaporozhye Cossacks). Along the detachment, Colonels Witten (500 people) and Tyutchev (1200 people) sent Leontyev and Prince of Hessen-Gomburg on reconnaissance. For communication between reconnaissance detachments, two separate, small detachments were assigned under the general command of Lieutenant Colonel Fermor.
Crimean Tatar archer
Witten's scouts defeated a detachment of the Nogai Tatars. Prisoners reported that in twenty versts, near the Black Valley valley tract, there was an 100-thousandth Tatar army led by the khan himself. After informing the commander, Witten joined all the reconnaissance detachments together and continued to move forward to check the words "tongues." In total, 3800 cavalrymen and Cossacks were at his disposal.
On the morning of May 8 (19), Witten's cavalry detachment reached the large Tatar camp. These were the advanced forces of the Crimean army under the authority of the heir to the Khan's throne, Kalgi-Sultan. Seeing the Russians, the Tatar cavalry immediately rushed to the attack. Russian commanders began to quickly build dragoons in the square, and Zaporizhzhya and Little Russian Cossacks were ordered to cover the flanks. However, at the very first onslaught of the enemy, the Cossacks ran. Tatars collapsed on the unfinished car. The dragoons had to work hard: in a hurry, they only managed to put one line of soldiers on their rear face. Spiegel, who was moving to help Witten with a detachment of cavalry, was stopped by the 15-thousand-strong Tatar army and he almost got surrounded.
Seeing that a big battle was beginning, Minich with a small convoy rushed to Spiegel. He made his way to the column, which stood in the square. Then, having studied the situation, he, accompanied by only eighty dragoons and hundreds of Cossacks, went back to the main forces. On the way, the escort of Minikh was attacked by a Tatar detachment, and barely escaped death. Tatar cavalry was pressing all day, trying to overthrow the Russians. In the evening, Leontiev’s detachment approached and opened artillery fire. The Tatars, having heard the roar of the cannonade, immediately retreated, leaving more than two hundred people dead on the battlefield. Russian casualties were about 50 people killed and wounded, General Spiegel and Colonel Weisbach were injured.
The first encounter with the Crimean horde showed the effectiveness of the dragoon regiments, their stamina and good preparation. All day they held back the onslaught of the superior forces of the Tatar cavalry. Minich showed personal courage, but showed disbelief in the ability of his commanders, preferring to do everything himself. The Little Russian Cossacks who fled from the battlefield were brought to justice.
Captive Tatars told the commander that the main forces of the Crimean horde were eighty miles from the battlefield. In addition, the Cossacks captured several Turkish messengers and found letters from them, from which they found out that the Turks would not send troops to the aid of the Khan. Therefore, the army continued to hike. 11 (22) in May the army continued on its way; moreover, in view of the proximity of the Tatar cavalry, all the detachments formed into one common square. The sides (faces) of the giant rectangle formed regular shelves that stood in four rows. The dragoons walked on foot, giving their horses to the Cossacks, who formed the fifth (inner) line. Artillery was located in front and at the corners of the square, and irregular troops - in the center. The movement of the square required a clear coordination of actions of all military units, and it was very tedious for the soldiers and officers, but this did not embarrass Minich.
14 (25) May, the army of Munnich approached the Kalanchik River, where they again built a fortification. Here 4-thousand joined the army. detachment of the Don Cossacks. The next day, the Tatars attacked the Russian army. Kare met the enemy with heavy artillery and rifle fire. Minikh ordered to bring the carts inside the square and place Cossacks on them, who fired rifles through the heads of soldiers standing in ranks. A. Bayov wrote: “Tatars with wild cries and bare sabers attacked the army from all sides. As soon as they approached, they were met by strong gun and shot fire. The repulsed attack was repeated several more times within two hours. To put an end to these attacks, Minich moved his army forward, after which the Tatars retreated, leaving a significant number of dead in place. The Russian had no casualties. ” Thus, the Russian army broke the resistance of the enemy. Tatar cavalry went for the fortifications of Perekop.
Fortifications of Perekop
17 (28) in May, Munnich’s army approached Perekop and camped on the shores of the Rotten Sea (Sivash). For the first time since the times of Vasily Golitsyn, Russian regiments came close to the gates of the Crimean Khanate. The Perekop isthmus, which connects the Crimean peninsula with the mainland, has been of strategic importance for centuries, and therefore was equipped with a powerful system of fortifications. It consisted of an 8-kilometer shaft about 20 meters in height, stretching from the Black Sea to Lake Sivash. In front of the shaft there was a wide ditch. Seven stone towers armed with artillery stood around the shaft. They served as additional defense units and were able to fire flanking along the moat. The only passage beyond the line was defended by a stone gate, located three kilometers from Sivash and seven kilometers from the Black Sea coast. These gates were armed with artillery, and immediately behind them stood the fortress Op-Kap. It had the appearance of an oblong quadrilateral with stone walls and loopholes at the outgoing corners of the bastions. The garrison of the fortress consisted of four thousand janissaries and sipahs. There was a small village in front of the gate, covered by another, low shaft. On the fortified line 84 guns were set up, concentrated mainly in the towers and fortresses. The Turkish garrison was supported by numerous Tatar cavalry.
Approaching Perekop, Minikh demanded that the Crimean leadership capitulate and recognize the empress's dominion. Khan, in response, began to take time, citing peace with Russia and assuring that all the raids were done not by the Crimean, but by the Nogai Tatars. Not wanting to hesitate, the Russian field marshal began to prepare for the attack. Already on the day of the army’s arrival opposite the Op-Kap fortress, a redoubt was erected on five cannons and one mortar, which at dawn 18 in May opened fire on the gates and the fortress itself.
The assault was scheduled for May 20. For its implementation, Minich divided the troops into three large columns (each of five plutongal columns) under the command of Generals Leontiev, Spiegel and Izmailov. They were supposed to strike at the gap between the fortress Op-Cap and the Black Sea. At the same time, the Cossacks had to make a distracting attack on the fortress itself. The dragoons dismounted and joined the infantry regiments. In each attacking column, the soldiers of the third plutonga carried with them axes and comforter spears. All soldiers were given 30 cartridges, and the grenadiers, moreover, two hand grenades. Minikh also ordered to supply with a grenade some of the fusiliers (one grenade per person). Artillery, both regimental and field, was ordered to follow the columns, and the guns mounted on redoubts - to cover the offensive with their own fire. In total, 15 infantry and 11 dragoon regiments, totaling about 30 thousands, were assigned to the assault.
On May 19, General Shtofeln made a reconnaissance of the fortification site that was to be attacked. In the evening of the same day, Russian troops began to move to their initial positions. 20 May (1 June) 1736, the assault began. At the signal, field artillery opened fire. Then the front column gave a rifle salvo and quickly rushed forward. The soldiers descended into the ditch, and then began to climb the shaft. At the same time, the slingshots, which the soldiers stuck into the slope and climbed upwards, were very useful to them. The bayonets were also involved. Soon the marines not only climbed the crest of the rampart, but also pulled several guns along the ropes. The Tatars, who did not expect the appearance of Russians on this sector of defense, panicked and ran. Stepnyak did not expect that such a deep and wide ditch so quickly and at night can be forced. Half an hour after the start of the assault, the Russian flag was flying over Perekop.
After that, the Russian troops began to storm the towers, which housed the Turkish garrisons. The tower closest to the Russian army opened artillery fire. Munnich ordered a team of sixty infantrymen led by the captain of the Petersburg infantry regiment Manstein to attack the tower. After a fierce battle, part of the garrison was slaughtered, part surrendered to captivity. After that, the defenders of all the other towers hastily capitulated.
Plan №10. Attack of the Perekop line to the 1736 campaign. Source: Bayov A.K. The Russian army in the reign of Empress Anna Ioannovna. War of Russia with Turkey in 1736-1739
On May 22, the Turkish garrison of the Op-Kap fortress, with the permission of Minich, left the line to return home, and the Russian garrison took his place - eight hundred grenadiers under the command of Colonel Witten. 2,5 more thousands of Turks and Tatars were captured. A fortified camp was erected near the walls of the Perekop fortress. According to the official report of Minikh, for the entire assault of Perekop, the Russian army lost 6 people killed and 177 wounded. Manstein writes in his memoirs that the 30 soldier and the 1 officer died. As a result, the path to the Crimea was opened at the cost of minimal losses.
Perekop, a strategic Turkish-Tatar fortress, which closed the only land passage to the Crimea through the Perekop Isthmus, was taken. Russian troops were able to occupy the peninsula.
To be continued ...