The Russian Campaign
( Originally Published 1918 )
IN the very beginning Russia had marked out one point for attack. This was the city of Cracow. No doubt the Grand Duke Nicholas had not hoped to be able to invest that city early. The slowness of the mobilization of the Russian army made a certain prudence advisable at the beginning of the campaign. But the great success of his armies in Lemberg encouraged more daring aims. He had invested Przemysl, and Galicia lay before him. Accordingly, he set his face toward Cracow.
Cracow, from a military point of view, is the gate both of Vienna and Berlin. A hundred miles west of it is the famous gap of Moravia, between the Carpathian and the Bohemian mountains, which leads down into Austria. Through this gap runs the great railway connecting Silesia with Vienna, and the Grand Duke knew that if he could capture Cracow he would have an easy road before him to the Austrian capital. Cracow also is the key of Germany.
Seventy miles from the city lies the Oder River. An army might enter Germany by this gate and turn the line of Germany's frontier fortresses. The Oder had been well fortified, but an invader coming from Cracow might move upon the western bank. The Russian plan no doubt was to threaten both enemy capitals. Moreover, an advance of Russia from Cracow would take its armies into Silesia, full of coal and iron mines, and one of the greatest manufacturing districts in the German Empire. This would be a real success, and all Germany would feel the blow.
Another reason for the Russian advance in Galicia was her desire to control the Galician oil wells. To Germany petrol had become one of the foremost munitions of war. Since she could not obtain it from either America or Russia she must get it from Austria, and the Austrian oil fields were all in Galicia. This, in it self, would explain the Galician campaign. Moreover, through the Carpathian Mountains it was possible to make frequent raids into Hungary, and Russia understood well the feeling of Hungary toward her German allies. She hoped that when Hungary perceived her regiments sacrificed and her plains overrun by Russian troops, she would regret that she had allowed herself to be sacrificed to Prussian ambition. The Russians, therefore, suddenly moved toward Cracow.
Then von Hindenburg came to the rescue. The supreme command of the Austrian forces was given to him. The defenses of Cracow were strengthened under the direction of the Germans, and a German army advanced from the Posen frontier toward the northern bank of. the Vistula. The advance threatened the Russian right, and, accordingly, within ten days' march of Cracow, the Russians stopped. The German offensive in Poland had begun. The news of the German advance came about the fifth of October. Von Hindenburg, who had been fighting in East Prussia, had at last perceived that nothing could be gained there. The vulnerable part of Russia was the city of Warsaw. This was the capital of Poland,, with a population of about three-quarters of a million. If he could take Warsaw, he would not only have pleasant quarters for the winter but Russia would be so badly injured that no further offensive from her need be anticipated for a long period. Von Hindenburg had with him a large army. In his center he probably had three-quarters of a million men, and on his right the Austrian army in Cracow, which must have reached a million.
Counting the troops operating in East Prussia and along the Carpathians, and the garrison of Przemysl, the Teuton army must have had two and a half million soldiers. Russia, on the other hand, though her mobilization was still continuing, at this time could not have had as many as two million men in the whole nine hundred miles of her battle front.
The fight for Warsaw began Friday, October 16th, and continued for three days, von Hindenburg being personally in command.
On Monday the Germans found themselves in trouble. A Russian attack on their left wing had come with crushing force. Von Hindenburg found his left wing thrown back, and the whole German movement thrown into disorder. Meanwhile an attempt to cross the Vistula at Josefov had also been a failure. The Russians allowed the Germans to pass with slight resistance, waited until they arrived at the village Kazimirjev, a district of low hills and swampy flats, and then suddenly overwhelmed them.
Next day the Russians crossed the river themselves, and advanced along the whole line, driving the enemy before them, through great woods of spruce out into the plains on the west. This forest region was well known to the Russian guides, and the Germans suffered much as the Russians had suffered in East Prussia. Ruzsky, the Russian commander, pursued persistently; the Germans retreating first to Kielce, whence they were driven, on the 3d of November, with great losses, and then being broken into two pieces, with the north retiring westward and the south wing southwest toward Cracow.
Rennenkampf's attack on the German left wing was equally successful, and von Hindenburg was driven into full retreat. The only success won during this campaign was that in the far south where Austrian troops were sweeping eastward toward the San. This army drove back the Russians under Ivanov, reoccupied Jaroslav and relieved Przemysl. This was a welcome relief to Przemysl, for the garrison was nearly starved, and it was well for the garrison that the relief came, for in a few days the Russians returned, recaptured Jaroslav and reinvested Przemysl. As von Hindenburg retreated he left complete destruction in his wake, roads, bridges, railroad tracks, water towers, railway stations, all were destroyed; even telegraph posts, broken or sawn through, and insulators broken to bits.
It was now the turn of Russia to make a premature advance, and to pay for it. Doubtless the Grand Duke Nicholas, whose strategy up to this point had been so admirable, knew very well the danger of a new advance in Galicia, but he realized the immense political as well as military advantages which were to be obtained by the capture of Cracow. He therefore attempted to move an army through Poland as well as through Galicia, hoping that the army in Poland would keep von Hindenburg busy, while the Galician army would deal with Cracow.
The advance was slow on account of the dam-aged Polish roads. It was preceded by a cavalry screen which moved with more speed. On November 10th, the vanguard crossed the Posen frontier and cut the railway on the Cracow-Posen line. This reconnaissance convinced the Russian general that the German army did not propose to make a general stand, and it seemed to him that if he struck strongly with his center along the Warta, he might destroy the left flank of the German southern army, while his own left flank was assaulting Cracow. He believed that even if his attack upon the Warta failed, the Russian center could at any rate prevent the enemy from interfering with the attack further south upon Cracow.
The movement therefore began, and by November 12th, the Russian cavalry had taken Miechow on the German frontier, about twenty miles north of Cracow. Its main forces were still eighty miles to the east. About this time Grand Duke Nicholas perceived that von Hindenburg was preparing a counter stroke. He had retreated north, and then, by means of his railways, was gathering a large army at Thorn. Large reinforcements were sent him, some from the western front, giving him a total of about eight hundred thousand men. In his retreat from Warsaw, while he had destroyed all roads and railways in the south and west, he had carefully preserved those of the north already planning to use them in another movement. He now was beginning an advance, once again, against Warsaw. On account of the roads he perceived that it would be difficult for the Russians to obtain reinforcements. Von Hindenburg had with him as Chief of Staff General von Ludendorff, one of the cleverest staff officers in the German army, and General von Mackensen, a commander of al-most equal repute.
The Russian army in the north had been pretty well scattered. The Russian forces were now holding a front of nearly a thousand miles, with about two million men. The Russian right center, which now protected Warsaw from the new attack could hardly number more than two hundred thousand men. Von Hindenburg's aim was Warsaw only, and did not affect directly the Russian advance to Cracow, which was still going on. Indeed, by the end of the first week in December, General Dmitrieff had cavalry in the suburbs of Cracow, and his main force was on the line of the River Rava about twelve miles away. Cracow had been strongly fortified, and much entrenching had been done in a wide circle around the city.
The German plan was to use its field army in Cracow's defense rather than a garrison. Two separate forces were used; one moving southwest of Cracow along the Carpathian hills, struck directly at Ivanov's left the other, operating from Hungary, threatened the Russian rear. These two divisions struck at the same time and the Russians found it necessary to fight rear actions as they moved forward. They were doing this with reasonable success and working their way toward Cracow, when, on the 12th of December, the Austrian forces working from Hungary carried the Dukla Pass. This meant that the Austrians would be able to pour troops down into the rear of the Russian advance, and the Russian army would be cut off. Dmitrieff, therefore, fell rapidly back, until the opening of the Dukla Pass was in front of his line, and the Russian army was once more safe.
Meanwhile the renewed seige of Przemysl was going on with great vigor, and attracting the general attention of the Allied world. The Austrians attempted to follow up their successes at the Dukla Pass by attempting to seize the Lupkow Pass, and the Uzzok Pass, still further to the east, but the Russians were tired of retreating. New troops had arrived, and about the 20th of December a new advance was begun.
With the right of the army swinging up along the river Nida, northeast of Cracow, the Russian left attacked the Dukla Pass in great force, driving Austrians back and capturing over ten thousand men. On Christmas Day all three great western passes were in Russian hands. The Austrian fighting, during this period, was the best they had so far shown, the brunt of it being upon the Hungarian troops, who, at this time, were saving Germany.
Meantime von Hindenburg was pursuing his movement in the direction of Warsaw. The Russian generals found it difficult to obtain in-formation. Each day came the chronicle of contests, some victories, some defeats, and it soon appeared that a strong force was crushing in the Russian outposts from the direction of Thorn and moving toward Warsaw. Ruzsky found himself faced by a superior German force, and was compelled to retreat. The Russian aim was to fall back behind the river Bzura, which lies between the Thorn and War saw. Bzura is a strong line of defense, with many fords but no bridges. The Russian right wing passed by the city of Lowicz, moved southwest to Strykov and then on past Lodz. West of Lowicz is a great belt of marshes impossible for the movement of armies.
The first German objective was the city of Lodz. Von Hindenburg knew that he must move quickly before the Russians should get up reserves. His campaign of destruction had made it impossible for aid to be sent to the Russian armies from Ivanov, far in the south, but every moment counted. His right pushed for-ward and won the western crossings of the marshes. His extreme left moved towards Plock, but the main effort was against Piontek, where there is a famous causeway engineered for heavy transport through the marshes.
At first the Russians repelled the attack on the causeway, but on November 19th the Russians broke and were compelled to fall back. Over the causeway, then, the German troops were rushed in great numbers, splitting the Russian army into two parts; one on the south surrounding Lodz, and the other running east of Brezin on to the Vistula. The Russian army around Lodz was assailed on the front flank and rear. It looked like an overwhelming defeat for the Russian army. At the very last moment possible, Russian reinforcements appeared—a body of Siberians from the direction of Warsaw. They were thrown at once into the battle and succeeded in re-establishing the Russian line. This left about ninety thou-sand Germans almost entirely surrounded, as if they were in a huge sack. Ruzsky tried his best to close the mouth of the sack, but he was unsuccessful. The fighting was terrific, but by the 26th the Germans in the sack had escaped.
The Germans were continually receiving reinforcements and still largely outnumbered the Russians. Von Hindenburg therefore deter-mined on a new assault. The German left wing was now far in front of the Russian city of Lodz, one of the most important of the Polish cities. The population was about half a million. Such a place was a constant danger, for it was the foundation of a Russian salient.
When the German movement began the Russian general, perceiving how difficult it would have been to hold the city, deliberately withdrew, and on December 6th the Germans entered Lodz without opposition.
The retreat relieved the Russians of a great embarrassment. Its capture was considered in Germany as a great German victory, and at this time von Hindenburg seems to have felt that he had control of the situation. His movement, to be sure, had not interfered with the Russian advance on Cracow, but Warsaw must have seemed to him almost in his power. He therefore concentrated his forces for a blow at Warsaw. His first new movement was directed at the Russian right wing, which was then north of the Bzura River and east of Lowicz. He also directed the German forces in East Prussia to advance and attempted to cut the main railway line between Warsaw and Petrograd. If this attempt had been successful it would have been a highly serious matter for the Russians. The Russians, however, defeated it, and drove the enemy back to the East Prussian border. The movement against the Russian right wing was more successful, and the Russians fell back slowly. This was not because they were defeated in battle, but because the difficult weather interfered with communications. There had been a thaw, and the whole country was waterlogged. The Grand Duke was willing that the Germans should fight in the mud.
This slow retreat continued from the 7th of December to Christmas Eve, and involved the surrender of a number of Polish towns, but it left the Russians in a strong position. They were able to entrench themselves so that every attack of the enemy was broken. The Germans tried hard. Von Hindenburg would have liked to enter Warsaw on Christmas. The citizens heard day and night the sound of the cannon, but they were entirely safe.
The German attack was a failure. On the whole, the Grand Duke Nicholas had shown better strategy than the best of the German generals. Outnumbered from the very start, his tactics had been admirable. Twice he had saved Warsaw, and he was still threatening Cracow. The Russian armies were fighting with courage and efficiency, and were continually growing in numbers as the days went by.
During the first weeks of 1915 while there were a number of attacks and counter attacks both armies had come to the trench warfare, so familiar in France. The Germans in particular had constructed a most elaborate trench system, with underground rooms containing many of the ordinary comforts of life. To-ward the end of the month the Russians began to move in East Prussia in the north and also far south in the Bukovina. The object of these movements was probably to prevent von Hindenburg from releasing forces on the west. Russia was still terribly weak in equipment and was not ready for a serious advance. An attack on sacred East Prussia would stir up the Germans, while Hungary would be likewise disturbed by the advance on Bukovina. Von Hindenburg, however, was still full of the idea of capturing Warsaw. He had failed twice but the old Field Marshal was stubborn and moreover he knew well what the capture of Warsaw would mean to Russia, and so he tried again.
The Russian front now followed the west bank of the Bzura for a few miles, changed to the eastern bank following the river until it met with the Rawka, from there a line of trenches passed south and east of Balinov and from there to Skiernievice. Von Mackensen concentrated a considerable army at Balinov and had on the 1st of February about a hundred and forty thousand men there. That night, with the usual artillery preparation, he moved from Balinov against the Russian position at the Borzymov Crest. The Germans lost heavily but drove forward into the enemy's line, and by the 3d of February had almost made a breach in it. This point, however, could be readily reinforced and troops were hurried there from Warsaw in such force that on February 4th the German advance was checked. Von Mackensen had lost heavily, and by the time it was checked he had become so weak that his forces yielded quickly to the counter-attack and were flung back.
This was the last frontal attack upon War-saw. Von Hindenburg then determined to at-tack Warsaw by indirection. Austria was instructed to move forward along the whole Carpathian front, while he himself, with strong forces, undertook to move from East Prussia behind the Polish capital, and cut the communications between Warsaw and Petrograd. If Austria could succeed, Przemysl might be relieved, Lemberg recaptured, and Russia forced back so far on the south that Warsaw would have to be abandoned. On the other hand if the East Prussia effort were successful, the Polish capital would certainly fall. These plans, if they had developed successfully, would have crippled the power of 'Russia for at least six months. Meantime, troops could be sent to the west front, and perhaps enable Germany to overwhelm France. By this time almost all of Poland west of the Vistula was in the power of the Germans, while three-fourths of Galicia was controlled by Russia.
Von Hindenburg now returned to his old battleground near the Masurian Lakes. The Russian forces, which, at the end of January, had made a forward movement in East Prussia, had been quite successful. Their right was close upon Tilsit, and their left rested upon the town of Johannisburg. Further south was the Russian army of the Narev. Von Hindenburg determined to surprise the invaders, and he gathered an army of about three hundred thousand men to face the Russian forces which did not number more than a hundred and twenty thousand, and which were under the command of General Baron Sievers. The Russian army soon found itself in a desperate position. A series of bitter fights ensued, at some of which the Kaiser himself was present. The Russians were driven steadily back for a week, but the German stories of their tremendous losses are obviously unfounded,. They retreated steadily until February 20th, fighting courageously, and by that date the Germans began to find themselves exhausted.
Russian reinforcements came up, and a counter-attack was begun. The German aim had evidently been to reach Grodno and cut the main line from Warsaw to Petrograd, which passes through that city. They had now reached Suwalki, a little north of Grodno, but were unable to advance further, though the Warsaw-Petrograd railway was barely ten miles away. The southern portion of von Hindenburg's army was moving against the railway further west, in the direction of Ossowietz. But Ossowietz put up a determined resistance, and the attack was unsuccessful. By the beginning of March, von Hindenburg ordered a gradual retreat to the East Prussian frontier.
While this movement to drive the Russians from East Prussia was under way, von Hindenburg had also launched an attack against the Russian army on the Narev. If he could force the lower Narev from that point, too, he could cut the railroad running east from the Polish capital. He had hoped that the attacks just described further east would distract the Russian attention so that he would find the Narev ill guarded. The advance began on February 22d, and after numerous battles captured Przasnysz, and found itself with only one division to oppose its progress to the railroad. On the 28d this force was attacked by the German right, but resisted with the utmost courage. It held out for more than thirty-six hours, until, on the evening of the 24th, Russian reinforcements began to come up, and drove the invaders north through Przasnysz in retreat.
It was an extraordinary fight. The Russians were unable to supply all their troops with munitions and arms. At Przasnysz men fought without rifles, armed only with a bayonet. All they could do was to charge with cold steel, and they did it so desperately that, though they were outnumbered, they drove the Germans before them. By all the laws of war the Russians should have been defeated with ease. As it was, the German attempt to capture Warsaw by a flank movement was defeated. While the struggle was going on in the north, the Austrian armies in Galicia were also moving. Russia was still holding the three great passes in the Carpathian Mountains, but had not been able to begin an offensive in Hungary.
The Austrians had been largely reinforced by German troops, and were moving forward to the relief of Przemysl, and also to drive Brussilov from the Galician mountains. Brussilov's movements had been partly military and partly political. From the passes in those mountains Hungary could be attacked, and unless he could be driven away there was no security for the Hungarian cornfields, to which Germany was looking for food supplies. Moreover, from the beginning of the Russian movement in Galicia, northern Bukovina had been in Russian hands. Bukovina was not only a great supply ground for petrol and grain, but she adjoined Roumania which, while still neutral, had a strong sympathy with the Allies, especially Italy. The presence of a Russian army on her border might encourage her to join the Allies. Austria naturally desired to free Roumania from this pressure.
The leading Austrian statesmen, at this time, were especially interested in Hungary. The Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs was Baron Stephen Burian, the Hungarian diplomatist, belonging to the party of the Hungarian Premier, Count Tisza. It was his own country that was threatened. The prizes of a victorious campaign were therefore great.
The campaign began in January amid the deepest snow, and continued during February in the midst of blizzards. The Austrians were divided into three separate armies. The first was charged with the relief of Przemysl. The second advanced in the direction of Lemberg, and the third moved upon Bukovina. The first made very little progress, after a number of lively battles. It was held pretty safely by Brussilov. The second army was checked by Dmitrieff. Further east, however, the army of the Bukovina crossed the Carpathian range, and made considerable advances. This campaign was fought out in a great number of battles, the most serious of which, perhaps, was the battle of Koziowa.
At that point Brussilov's center withstood for several days the Austrian second army which was commanded by the German General von Linsengen. The Russian success here saved Lemberg, prevented the relief of Przemysl and gave time to send reinforcements into Bukovina.
The Austrian third army, moving on Bukovina, had the greatest Austrian success. They captured in succession Czernowitz, Kolomea, and Stanislau. They did not succeed, however, in driving the Russians from the province. The Russians retired slowly, waiting for reinforcements. These reinforcements came, whereupon the Austrians were pushed steadily back. The passes in the Carpathians still remained in Austrian hands, but Przemysl was not relieved or Lemberg recaptured. On March 22d Przemysl fell.
The capture of Przemysl was the greatest success that Russia had so far attained. It had been besieged for about four months, and the taking of the fortress was hailed as the first spectacular success of the war. Its capture altered the whole situation. It released a large Russian army, which was sent to rein-force the armies of Ivanov, where the Austrians were vigorously attacked.
By the end of March the Russians had captured the last Austrian position on the Lupkow pass and were attacking vigorously the pass of Uzzok, which maintained a stubborn defense. Brussilov tried to push his way to the rear of the Uzzok position, and though the Austrians delivered a vigorous counter-attack they were ultimately defeated. In five weeks of fighting Ivanov captured over seventy thou-sand prisoners.
During this period there was considerable activity in East Prussia, and the Courland coast was bombarded by the German Baltic squadron. There was every indication that Austria was near collapse, but all the time the Germans were preparing for a mighty effort, and the secret was kept with extraordinary success. The little conflicts in the Carpathians and in East Prussia were meant to deceive, while a great army, with an enormous number of guns of every caliber, and masses of ammunition, were being gathered. The Russian commanders were completely deceived. There had been no change in the generals in command except that General Ruzsky, on account of illness, was succeeded by General Alexeiev. The new German army was put under the charge of von Hindenburg's former lieutenant, General von Mackensen. This was probably the strongest army that Germany ever gathered, and could not have numbered less than two millions of men, with nearly two thousand pieces in its heavy batteries.
On April 28th, the action began. The Austro-German army lay along the left bank of the Donajetz River to its junction with the Biala, and along the Biala to the Carpathian Mountains. Von Mackensen's right moved in the direction of Gorlice. General Dmitrieff was compelled to weaken his front to protect Gorlice and then, on Saturday, the 1st of May, the great attack began. Under cover of artillery fire such as had never been seen before bridges were pushed across the Biala. and Ciezkowice was taken. The Russian positions were blown out of existence. The Russian armies did what they could but their defense collapsed and they were soon in full retreat.
The German armies advanced steadily, and though the Russians made a brave stand at many places they could do nothing. On the Wisloka they hung on for five days, but they were attempting an impossibility. From that time on each day marked a new German victory, and in spite of the most desperate fighting the Russians were forced back until, on the 11th, the bulk of their line lay just west of the lower San as far as Przemysl and then south to the upper Dniester. The armies were in retreat, but were not routed. In a fortr ight the army of Dmitrieff had fallen back eighty-five miles.
The Grand Duke Nicholas by this time understood the situation. He perceived that it was impossible to make a stand, The only thing to do was to retreat steadily until Germany's mass of war material should be used up, even though miles of territory should be sacrificed. It should be a retreat in close contact with the enemy, so that the Austro-German troops would have to fight for every mile. This meant a retreat not for days, but perhaps for weeks. It meant that Przemysl must be given up, and Lemberg, and even Warsaw, but the safety of the Russian army was of more importance than a province or a city.
On May 13th the German War Office announced their successes in the following terms : "The army under General von Mackensen in the course of its pursuit of the Russians reached yesterday the neighborhood of Subiecko, on the lower Wisloka, and Kolbuezowa, northeast of Debica. Under the pressure of this advance the Russians also retreated from their positions north of the Vistula. In this section the troops under General von Woyrach, closely following the enemy, penetrated as far as the region northwest of Kielce. In the Carpathians Austro-Hungarian and German troops under General von Linsingen conquered the hills east of the Upper Stryi, and took 3,660 men prisoners, as well as capturing six machine guns. At the present moment, while the armies under General von Mackensen are approaching the Przemysl fortresses and the lower San, it is possible to form an approximate idea of the booty taken. In the battles of Tarno and Gorlika, and in the battles during the pursuit of these armies, we have so far taken 103,500 Russian prisoners, 69 cannon, and 255 machine guns. In these figures the booty taken by the Allied troops fighting in the Carpathians, and north of the Vistula, is not included. This amounts to a further 40,000 prisoners. Przemysl surrendered to the Germans on June 3, 1915, only ten weeks after the Russian capture of the fortress, which had caused such exultation."
General von Mackensen continued toward Lemberg, the capital of Galicia. On June 18th, when the victorious German armies were approaching the gates of Lemberg, the Russian losses were estimated at 400,000 dead and wounded, and 300,000 prisoners, besides 100,000 lost before Marshal von Hindenburg's forces in Poland and Courland. On June 23d Lemberg fell. The weakness of Russia in this campaign arose from the exhaustion of her ammunition supplies, but great shipments of such supplies were being constantly forwarded from Vladivostock.
When the German army crossed the San, Wilhelm II, then German Emperor, was present. It is interesting to look back on the scene. Here is a paragraph from the account: of the Wolff Telegraphic Bureau : "The Emperor had hurried forward to his troops by automobile. On the way he was greeted with loud hurrahs by the wounded, riding back in wagons. On the heights of Jaroslav the Emperor met Prince Eitel Friedrich, and then, from several points of observation, for hours followed with keen attention the progress of ; the battle for the crossing."
While the great offensive in Galicia was well under way, the Germans were pushing for-ward in East Prussia. Finding little resistance they ultimately invaded Courland, captured Libau, and established themselves firmly in that province. The sweep of the victorious German armies through Galicia was continued into Poland. On July 19th William the War Lord bombastically telegraphed his sister, the Queen of Greece, to the effect that he had "paralyzed Russia for at least six months to come," and was on the eve of "delivering a coup on the western front that will make all Europe tremble."
It would be futile to recount the details of the various German victories which followed the advance into Poland. On July 24th, the German line ran from Novogard in the north, south of Przasnysz, thence to Novogeorgievsk, then swinging to the southeast below Warsaw it passed close to the west of Ivangorad, Lublin, Chelm, and then south to a point just east of Lemberg. Warsaw at that time was in the jaws of the German nutcracker.
On July 21st, the bells in all the churches throughout Russia clanged a call to prayer for twenty-four hours' continual service of inter-cession for victory. In spite of the heat the -churches were packed. Hour after hour the people stood wedged together, while the priests and choirs chanted their litanies. Outside the Kamian Cathedral an open-air mass was celebrated in the presence of an enormous crowd. But the German victories continued.
On August 5th Warsaw was abandoned. Up to July 29th hope was entertained in military quarters in London and Paris that the Germans would stand a siege in their fortresses along the Warsaw salient, but on that date advices came from Petrograd that in order to save the Russian armies a retreat must be made, and the Warsaw fortresses abandoned. For some time before this the Russian resistance had perceptibly stiffened, and many vigorous counter-attacks had been made against the German advance, but it was the same old story, the lack of ammunition. The armies were compelled to retire and await the munitions necessary for a new offensive.
The last days of Russian rule in Warsaw were days of extraordinary interest. The in-habitants, to the number of nearly half a million, sought refuge in Russia. All goods that could be useful to the Germans were either removed or burned. Crops were destroyed in the surrounding fields. When the Germans entered they found an empty and deserted city, with only a few Poles and the lowest classes of Jews still left. Warsaw is a famous city, full of ancient palaces, tastefully adorned shops, finely built streets, and fourscore church towers where the bells are accustomed to ring melodiously for matins and vespers. In the Ujazdowske Avenue one comes to the most charming building in all Warsaw, the Lazienki Palace, with its delicious gardens mirrored in a lovely lake. It is a beautiful city.
The fall of Warsaw meant the fall of Russian Poland, but Russia was not yet defeated. Von Hindenburg was to be treated as Napoleon was in 1812. The strategy of the Grand Duke was sound ; so long as he could save the army the victories of Germany would be futile. It is true that the German armies were not compelled, like those of Napoleon, to live on the land. They could bring their supplies from Berlin day by day, but every mile they advanced into hostile territory made their task harder. The German line of communication, as it grew longer, became weaker, and the troops needed for garrison duty in the captured towns, seriously diminished the strength of the fighting army. The Russian retreat was good strategy and it was carried on with most extraordinary cleverness.
It is unnecessary to describe the events which succeeded the fall of Warsaw in great detail. There was a constant succession of German victories and Russian defeats, but never was one of the Russian armies enveloped or destroyed. Back they went, day after day, always fighting; each great Russian fortress resisted until it saw itself in danger, and then safely withdrew its troops. Kovno fell and Novogeorgievsk, and Ivangorad, then Ossowietz was abandoned, and Brest-Litovsk and Grodno. On September 5th the Emperor of Russia signed the following order :
Today I have taken supreme command of all the forces of the sea and land armies operating in the theater of war. With firm faith in the clemency of God, with unshakable assurance in final victory, we shall fulfil our sacred duty to defend our country to the last. We will not dishonor the Russian land.
The Grand Duke Nicholas was made Viceroy of the Caucasus, a post which took him out of the main theater of fighting but gave him a great field for fresh military activity. He had been bearing a heavy burden, and had shown himself to be a great commander. He had outmaneuvered von Hindenburg again and again, and though finally the Russian armies under his command had been driven back, the retreat itself was a proof of his military ability, not only in its conception, but in the way in which it was done.
The Emperor chose General Alexieff as his Chief of General Staff. He was the ablest of the great generals who had been leading the Russian army. With this change in command a new spirit seemed to come over Russia. The German advance, however, was not yet completely checked. It was approaching Vilna.
The fighting around Vilna was the bitterest in the whole long retreat. On the 18th of September it fell, but the Russian troops were safely removed and the Russian resistance had become strong. Munitions were pouring into the new Russian army. The news from the battle-front began to show improvement. On September 8th General Brussilov, further in the south, had attacked the Germans in front of Tarnopol, and defeated them with heavy loss. More than seventeen thousand men were captured with much artillery. Soon the news came of other advances. Dubno was retaken and Lutsk.
The end of September saw the German advance definitely checked. The Russian forces were now extended in a line from Riga on the north, along the river Dvina, down to Dvinsk. Then turning to the east along the river, it again turned south and so on down east of the Pripet Marshes, it followed an almost straight line to the southern frontier. Its two strongest points were Riga, on the Gulf of Riga, which lay under the protection of the guns of the fleet, and Dvinsk, through which ran the great Petrograd Railway line. Against these two points von Hindenburg directed his at-tack. And now, for the first time in many months, he met with complete failure. The German fleet attempted to assist him on the Gulf of Riga, but was defeated by the Russian Baltic fleet with heavy losses. A bombardment turned out a failure and the German armies were compelled to retire.
A mare serious effort was made against Dvinsk but was equally unsuccessful and the German losses were immense. Again and again the attempt was made to cross the D vina River, but without success ; the German invasion was definitely stopped. By the end of October there was complete stagnation in the northern sector of the battle line, and though in November there were a number of battles, nothing happened of great importance.
Further south, however, Russia had become active. An army had been organized at her Black Sea bases, and for political reasons it was necessary that that army should move. At this time the great question was, what was Roumania about to do? To prevent her from being forced to join the Central Powers she must have encouragement. It was determined therefore that an offensive should be made in the direction of Czernowitz. This town was the railway center of a wide region, and lay close to Roumania's northern frontier.
The Russian aggressive met with great success. It is true that it never approached the defenses of Czernowitz, but Brussilov, on the north, had been able to make great gains of ground, and the very fact that such a powerful movement could be made so soon after the Russian retreat was an encouragement to every friend of the Allied cause. This offensive continued till up to the fourth week of January when it came to an abrupt stop. A despatch from Petrograd explained the movement as follows : "The recent Russian offensive in Bessarabia and Galicia was carried out in accordance with the plan prepared by the Entente Allies' War Council to relieve the pressure on the Entente forces while they were fortifying Saloniki and during the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula." Russia had sacrificed more than seventy thousand soldiers for her Allies.
During the year 1916 the Russian armies seemed to have had a new birth. At last they were supplied with guns and munitions. They waited until they were ready. In March a series of battles was fought in the neighbor-hood of Lake Narotch, and eight successive at-tacks were made against the German army, in-trenched between Lake Narotch and Lake Visehenebski. The Germans at first were driven back and badly defeated. Later on, however, the Russian artillery was sent to an-other section, and the Germans were able to recover their position. During June the Russians attacked all along the southern part of their line. In three weeks they had regained a whole province. Lutsk and Dubno had been retaken; two hundred thousand men and hundreds of guns, had been captured, and the Austrian line had been pierced and shattered. Further south the German army had been compelled to retreat, and the Russian armies were in Bukovina and Galicia. On the 10th of August Stanislau fell.
By this time two Austrian armies had been shattered, over three hundred and fifty thou-sand prisoners taken, and nearly a million men put out of action. Germany, however, was sending reinforcements as fast as possible, and putting up a desperate defense. Nevertheless everything was encouraging for Russia and she entered upon the winter in a very different condition from her condition in the previous year. Then she had just ended her great retreat. Now she had behind her a series of successes. But a new difficulty had arisen in the loss of the political harmony at home which had marked the first years of the war. Dark days were ahead.