During the summer of 1919 in the south of Russia, the Reds suffered defeats and retreated. The culminating stage of confrontation between White Russia and Sovetskaya was the Orel and Voronezh counter battles, which took place in October-November between the troops of the red Southern Front on the one hand, and the Volunteer and Don armies on the other.
It was then, in the dank autumn days, that whites, more than ever, were close to success. However, the victory was left for the Bolsheviks. Why? It is believed that the Equestrian Corps of Seeds Budyonny, which broke through at the junction of the Volunteer and Don armies, played a decisive role in the success of the Reds. But was this really a decisive contribution to the victory of the troops of the Southern Front? Let's try to figure it out.
Headquarters are weak
The basis of the Volunteer Army consisted of "colored regiments", in October of the 1919, deployed in the division: Kornilov shock, Officer general Markov and Officer general Drozdovskogo rifle. On October 13, the Kornilovites took the Eagle, Markovites approached Yelets, and the Drozdists successfully advanced in the Bryansk direction.
Defending the Eagle, the 13 Army of the Reds actually lost its combat capability. Its commander, former headquarters captain Anatoly Hecker, requested that he be relieved of his duties as commander. By the way, the former General of Infantry Andrei Zayonchkovsky, who commanded the First World 30 Army Corps, who at one time fought side by side with the Iron Division of Denikin, was the chief of staff at Hecker. Zayonchkovsky was unable to prevent the defeat of the 13 Army, which, in general, is not surprising: the venerable general was more inclined towards armchair academic work, rather than planning combat operations. He wrote the fundamental works on the Crimean and First World Wars.
In the 14 th Red Army, which fought in the Bryansk direction, it was led by former Second Lieutenant Jerome Uborevich - the situation was no better. A member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Army, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, informed Lenin: “Something incredible, something bordering on betrayal. Some frivolous attitude to the matter, an absolute lack of understanding of the seriousness of the moment. In the headquarters of any hint of order, the headquarters of the front - it is a farce. Among the parts, we created a mood that the cause of the Soviet government was lost, you still can’t do anything ... ”
So, 13-I army lost its combat capability and, leaving the Eagle, rolled back to the north. In the headquarters of the 14 army, in the figurative expression of Ordzhonikidze, - a farce. The divisions of the Volunteer Army, inspired by the summer victories, are fighting against them. From the height of the 21st century, the victory of the Reds in those autumn days of 1919 seems incredible. But…
While the whites were breaking through to Orel and advancing on Bryansk, the Soviet command formed the Shock group under the command of former Major General Anton Martusevich to the northwest of Eagle. It consisted of the Latvian and Estonian divisions, a separate rifle brigade and a separate cavalry brigade of Red Cossacks under the command of Vitaly Primakov, the notorious for their looting of the civilian population. This group had the task in cooperation with the 13 and 14 armies to deliver the main attack in the direction of Crom - in the left flank of the Kornilov division. In the middle of October, located in 36 kilometers south of Orel Krom, bloody battles began between the Kornilovites, on the one hand, and the Latvians and Estonians, on the other. Without exaggeration, we can say that this provincial village turned the Russian page in the autumn of 1919. stories.
When analyzing the operational situation in mid-October near Orel, the question naturally arises about the reserves of the parties. Among the Bolsheviks, this is the Shock group, as well as reinforcements arriving from the Eastern front, where the troops of Admiral Alexander Kolchak were already defeated. In October whites had no reserves in the Moscow direction. Operations in the area of Eagle, Krom, Liven and Yelets volunteers had to lead by constant maneuvering and rearrangements of the units operating on the front. Tactical skills and higher fighting spirit still allowed them to win, but the volunteers themselves increasingly felt that the numerical superiority of the Reds was taking on critical dimensions.
Nevertheless, the release of the Shock Group of the Southern Front to the rear of the Kornilovites did not at all force the latter to suspend the offensive. White only changed the direction of the strike from the north (to fifty kilometers north of Orel, Mtsensk, against the remnants of the 13 Army) to the south-west (in the direction of Krom, against the Shock group).
Thus, in the middle of October, a curious operational situation developed in the Orla region, when the two strongest groups of opponents — the Kornilov shock division and the Red shock group — were in the rear of each other. And in this situation, not only reserves could play a decisive role, but the ability of commanders to orient themselves in an intricate operational environment.
In general, the view that the one who has more reserves wins is not entirely true. Already in 1907, a prominent military theorist (Major General from 1916), Alexander Svechin wrote: “One of the most important advantages of an attack over a defense is precisely the ability to significantly increase the number of troops operating on the battlefield at the expense of only those present. “The force that is applied in practice is a very small fraction of the existing force” (J. St. Mill). The inactive passive mass represents a round zero, since only really produced efforts are taken into account in combat. The units that are inactive during the decisive moments of the battle do not affect his fate. ”
Unfortunately for the whites, at the headquarters of Denikin did not have a clear idea of what was happening in the Orel region. In a situation where the 13 Army did not pose a serious threat to the Kornilovs and did not have to fear its offensive from Mtsensk, the only correct solution seemed to be the offensive by all the forces of the Kornilov division in the direction of Krom and the defeat of the Red Shock Group. White had chances, especially against the background of successful actions of the legendary Colonel Drozdovskaya detachment Anton Turkul. His detachment went to the rear of the Shock group of the Reds, which appeared between the hammer and the anvil: from the west - the Drozdists, from the south - the Kornilovites.
In addition, the command of the red "drummers" was not up to the mark, as evidenced by Soviet historians, in particular, Angarsk: "The headquarters of the Strike group very poorly organized control and communications on the march. The enemy’s intelligence was almost absent, and the position of the troops was inaccurate. Constantly worrying about their right flank and having an extremely vague idea of the location of the enemy, the units moved unnecessarily carefully and slowly. Only the lack of coherence in the actions between the Kornilov and Drozdov divisions saved the strike group from defeat in the region of Kromy ”(hereinafter my reference. - I. H.).
Angarsky critically assesses the attack of the Reds under the Eagle: “The offensive against the Eagle was carried out by three divisions in the complete absence of any kind of interaction. As a result, the enemy was able to avoid complete destruction threatening him and retreated to the south. ”
The fact that the strike group could not cope with the tasks assigned to it understood the command of the Southern Front, replacing Martusevich with former staff captain Friedrich Kalnins, who immediately asked to send him more reserves. In fact, not with the ability to beat whites. As a result, the enormous numerical superiority allowed the Bolsheviks to push the volunteers back from the Eagle and go on the counteroffensive.
Missing keys to Moscow
And what about Budyonny? His Equestrian Corps on the day of the entry of the Bolshevik units in Orel - October 20 was only moving to Voronezh from the line Usman - Sobakino. Interestingly, in the last days of September, Budyonny, on his own initiative, began to move from the Kazan region towards the right flank of the 8 Army deployed east of Voronezh under the command of professional revolutionary Gregory Diamond (Sokolnikov), while the 3 Don Corps led successfully offensive against its left flank. On the day of the Kornilov's capture of the Eagle - 13 of October, Budyonny begins fighting with Lieutenant-General Konstantin Mamontov’s 4 Don Corps (a significant mass of Cossack corps after the famous raid on the red rear with a huge amount of loot goodness went on vacation to their native villages) and gradually crowded it to northwest. Donets move to Voronezh. October 26 The 8 Army captured Liski, dropping the Don Don 3 corps behind the Don and securing Budyonny's attack from the south. According to the latter: "Exactly in 6 in the morning of October 24, the cavalry corps divisions (4-i - from the north, 6-i - from the east and southeast) broke into Voronezh".
By that time, the Bolsheviks had already taken the Eagle, the initiative passed into their hands. Having lost Voronezh, White expected to stay on the right bank of the Don. Moreover, the situation on the front of the 8 Army remained heavy for the Reds. Her right-flank divisions with stubborn battles moved to the Don and October 25 were in 10 – 15 kilometers from it.
Budyonny recalled the very difficult situation in which his cavalry corps found itself in the last days of October: “After Voronezh had mastered part of the cavalry corps, pursuing the enemy, by October 26 approached Don and began preparations for forcing it. I was very worried about the situation on the right flank of the corps, which remained open. The gap between the Cavalry Corps and the left-flank units of the 13 Army was still very large. ” According to the commander of 3 of the Kuban Corps, Lieutenant General Andrei Shkuro, Budyonny crossed over to the right bank of the Don only around October October.
Thus, when the Kornilovites were ousted from Krom, Budyonny’s final success at the junction of the Volunteer and Don armies was not yet clear. While the Cossacks were on the west bank of the Don, the right flank of the Volunteer Army, Lieutenant-General Vladimir May-Mayevsky (who became the prototype of General Kovalevsky in his Excellency Adjutant) remained secured.
Consequently, the situation in the Voronezh region could not influence the retreat of the Kornilovites from Krom. However, even after the Budennyi divisions crossed the Don, the Reds could not create an immediate threat to the rear and flank of the Kornilovites who were retreating from Eagle. Having occupied Voronezh and dropping the Cossack divisions of Shkuro and Mamontov to the west of the Don, Budyonny did not reach the main point: the 3 of the Kuban and the 4 of the Don Corps suffered heavy losses, but were not defeated.
While Budyonny slowly moved in the direction of Kastornaya, dragging the right flank of the 8 Army behind him, its left-flank divisions retreated to the north. When analyzing the operations of the parties in October - early November, this position of the left flank of the 8 Army was not taken into account by most historians. However, there is reason to believe that it was precisely to the east of Voronezh that the keys to Moscow were hidden. About how dangerous for the Reds was the situation at the junction of 8 and 9 armies, the commander of the Southern Front, former Colonel Alexander Egorov, eloquently testified. According to him, by the middle of October “... on the left flank (8-th. - I. H.) of the army, the situation was extremely unfavorable. The 3 units of the Don Corps developed their initial success, and the 9 Army retreated farther and farther to the northeast and east, dragging the flank of the 8 Army ... the left flank retreating to the north all the time, and the right flank stretched Behind Budenny's corps to the west. It turned out a very vulnerable wedge with a very narrow base, and the slightest failure on the right flank of the whole army (8) threatened with complete disaster. The gap between the two inner flanks of the 8 and the 9 armies was left open by the Tambov direction, and the enemy, more enterprising than the Don army, would have been able to use this gap to consistently defeat both armies ... the right wing of the 9 armies continued to retreat without stopping. ”
This very lengthy quotation of a Soviet commander makes it necessary to take a fresh look at the oncoming battle between the Southern Front and the white troops in October-November of the 1919. The conclusion suggests itself that the fate of the campaign was decided not only and even not so much to the west of Voronezh and near Orel, but also in the area of Borisoglebsk and Talovaya station.
The breakthrough of the Cossack cavalry on the unprotected junction of 8 and 9 armies, the gap between the right flank of the Budenny corps and the actually defeated 13 army, the persistent nature of the fighting in the area of Orel and Krom make it concluded that the defeat of the armies of the Southern front in the last October could become a reality. Even in early November, when the divisions of the Volunteer Army retreated from Orel, the position of the 8 Army was extremely unprofitable for further operational actions by the Reds. The center of the army advanced far to the south in the direction of Liski - the 33-division - was vulnerable from two directions: Bobrovsky - from the east and Voronezh (from Kastornaya) - from the west ... In this situation, the 9-I army not only did not give a guarantee for the strength of the left flank of 8, but, moving to the northeast, substituted the latter for White's flank blow.
At the end of October, the direction to Usman from Talovaya inspired far greater concerns to the command of the Southern Front than from Zadonsk and Voronezh. All efforts of the 8 Army to restore the position on its left flank ended in failure. October 28 Egorov, in a telegram number 52, reported to the commander-in-chief, former colonel Sergey Kamenev about the abnormality of this situation and asked to put appropriate pressure on the command of the South-Eastern Front to take measures to promote the 8 army. However, former Colonel Vasily Shorin, who led this front, reported on the inability of the 9 Army due to its weakness to help its neighbors.
In this regard, the private defeat that the Dontsy inflicted on the left flank of the 8 Army should not be regarded as a success, but as a major, perhaps decisive, strategic failure of General Denikin in the Moscow-Voronezh area. The defeat of the 8 Army led the Don cavalry to the left flank and rear of the entire Southern Front, which undoubtedly would have forced the red command to transfer additional forces from the Oryol sector against the 3 divisions of the Don Corps. At this time, 9-I army rolled back to the north and northeast and could not effectively act against the Don. Budyonny, in his memoirs, recognizes that in early October, the 8-I army retreated to the east, losing contact with its neighbors. Decades later, the marshal wrote: “The case could have ended for the 8 Army in complete disaster, if the Cavalry Corps did not reach Talovaya in time to counteract Mamontov.”
However, the 8 Army was on the verge of a catastrophe not only at the beginning, but also at the end of October and its defeat did not take place because of the passivity of the 3 Don Corps. Why did the Cossacks behave this way? The answer lies not in strategy, but in psychology. Already in exile, General Denikin bitterly wrote about the ignoring by the commander of the Don Army, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Sidorin, of his operational directives, which require concentration of the main forces in the Voronezh area. You can understand the pain of Denikin, because General Sidorin could in fact maximally weaken the front against the 9 army, which Shorin, commander of the Southern Front, described as weak, concentrating all his forces on the unprotected junction of the 8 and 9 armies.
The success of the Donians near Voronezh and their access to the rear of the Southern Front would make the command of the 9 Army think not about an offensive on Novocherkassk, but about something less pleasant. However, the Cossacks, unlike volunteers, did not want to fight. It was natural. For white officers, the notion of homeland included all of Russia, with Moscow as its heart. So volunteers rushed to the capital, hoping to hear the chime of its bells. In the minds of the majority of the Cossacks, the Motherland rarely went beyond the limits of the villages. By the fall of 1919, they were freed from the Bolsheviks. Because a significant part of the ordinary Cossacks did not see the point to continue the war.
The command of the Don Army felt the mood of the Cossacks and tried, contrary to Denikin's directives, to concentrate forces not on the Moscow direction, but on the banks of the Don and Khopra. This prevented White from winning the campaign in the south of Russia. Then, in October, the passiveness of the Donets and their local psychology 1919 not only condemned the Volunteer Army near Voronezh, but eventually led the Cossacks themselves to the island of Lemnos, forcing them to drink the bitter cup of foreign land.
In conclusion, it is worth noting that since the fall of 1919, white has been fatally unlucky. The passivity of the 3 of the Don Corps and the failure of Sidorin to comply with Denikin’s operational directives prevented him from winning the oncoming battle at Orel and Voronezh. In January, the 1920 th successful actions of the Volunteer Army near Rostov against Budyonny's cavalry were frustrated by a sudden, unconnected with the situation, retreat of the Don Army from Novocherkassk. At the end of January of the same year, the 4-th Don Corps rejected the Cavalry Army of Budyonny behind the Don and the Manych. 8 February 1920, the year Denikin ordered the transition to a general offensive. It seemed that luck was again smiling white. February 20 volunteers returned Rostov. The Reds, in turn, decided to strike Budenny’s Cavalry Army from the Grand-Ducal on Tikhoretskaya. Don command concentrated a strong group to defeat the enemy. If successful, a fracture inevitably occurred during the entire operation.
However, not long before this, a talented Cossack general Mamontov died. The white cavalry group was headed by Major General Alexander Pavlov. On the deserted and deprived of zimovnik steppes, the Dontians moved towards the enemy, hitting a strong snowstorm, from which there was nowhere to hide. Half of the group simply died out and lost its combat capability. This ensured Budyden victory. Without serious fights.
I think Denikin correctly identified the main reason for the defeat of the army he led: "God did not bless the success of the troops I led."