{short description of image}  


A city in Bulgaria on the Tutchinitza river.

First Assault on Plevna:

It was a small and unknown town without fortifications before the siege. Osman Pasha left Widin on 13 July with a column consisting of some 12,000 men and 54 guns. Hearing that he was too late to relieve Nikopol, he pushed on to Plevna, where there was a small garrison and on 19 July he took up a position on the bare hills to the north and east. He was none too soon. General Schilder- Schuldener, commanding the 5th division of the IX corps which had just captured Nikopol had been ordered to occupy Plevna, and his guns were already in action. On July 20, having made a preliminary reconnaissance, the Russian commander advanced his infantry in four separate columns. On the north flank they pressed into Bukova, and also succeeded in driving back the Turkish right wing, but in both cases Turkish counter attacks pressed back the Russians with the result that by noon they were in full retreat, having lost 2,800 men out of a total of 8,000. The Turks lost 12,000. Osman at once drew up plans for the fortification of the position, and the troops were employed night and day constructing redoubts and entrenchments. In order to secure his line of communications, he occupied Lovcha. The Plevna garrison had now been reinforced to 20,000. Trenches were 4 ft deep and the redoubts had a command of 10 to 16 ft with parapets about 14 ft thick. There were in some cases two lines of trench to the front, thus giving three tiers of fire.

Second Assault on Plevna.

In accordance with orders from the Russian headquarters at Tirnova, a fresh attack was made by Krudener on July 30. He had been reinforced and his force numbered nearly 40,000 with 176 guns. After a preliminary cannonade the infantry advanced at 3 PM as before in widely spread columns. The columns attacking from the north and north east were repulsed with heavy loss. Shakovskoi temporarily occupied two redoubts, but a counter stroke by the Turkish reserves forced him back. The Russians retreated, their losses amounting to 7,300 while the Turkish losses exceeded 2,000. The victory was decisive, but Osman again failed to pursue. His troops were elated by success, the moral of the enemy severely shaken, the undefended Russian bridge over the Danube was within 40 miles of him. but he lost his opportunity, and contented himself with strengthening his defensive works. It is said that he was tied down to Plevna by orders from Constantinople.

The Russians now concentrated all their available forces against Plevna and called in the aid of the Rumanians. By the end of August they had assembled a force of 74,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 440 guns. On August 30 Osman moved out of Plevna, and on the 31st attacked the Russians about Pelishat. He returned to Plevna the same evening. The Turks lost 1,300 and the Russians 1,000 men. The Russians determined to occupy Lovcha, and so cut Osman's communications before again attacking Plevna. After three days' fighting this was accomplished by Skobelev, acting under Imeretinski with a force of 20,000 men, on Sept 3. Osman moved out to the relief of the garrison that day with a strong column, but finding he was too late, returned to Plevna on the 6th. The survivors from Lovcha were reformed into 3 battalions, including which Osman had been reinforced to a strength of over 30,000 with 72 guns.

The Third Assault on Plevna.

The Russians moved to their preliminary positions on the night of September 6-7. Their plan was to attack the north-east, south east and south fronts simultaneously. An artillery bombardment began at 6 AM on September 7 and was carried on until 3 PM on the 11th, when the infantry advanced. The Rumanians took one Grivitza redoubt. Skobelev occupied two redoubts on the south front, but the center attack on the Radischevo front failed. On the 12th the Turks recaptured the southern redoubts, the Rumanians remained in possession of the Grivitza redoubt, but the Russian losses already amounted to 18,000 and they withdrew. They entrenched on a line Verbitza- Radischevo, with cavalry on either flank to the Vid. The Turkish losses totally 5,000 of which only a few hundred were caused by the artillery fire of the first few days. There was no question of pursuit. The Russians were greatly superior in numbers and the Turks were completely exhausted.

Investment and Fall of Plevna.

This was the last open force attack on Osman's lines. General Todleben, the defender of Sevastopol was now entrusted with the conduct of the siege and he determined to complete the investment which was accomplished by October 24. Osman's request to retire from Plevna was refused by Constantinople. Supplies eventually gave out and a sortie on the night of Dec 9-10 failed with the result that he and his army capitulated.

Plevna is a striking example of the futility of the purely passive defense which is doomed to failure however tenaciously carried out. Osman Pasha repelled three Russian attacks and practically held the whole Russian army. It remained for the other Turkish forces in the field to take the offensive and by a vigorous counter stroke to reap the fruits of his successes. Victories which are not followed up are useless.

W. V. Herberet, The Defense of Plevna, 1877 (London, 1895)

F. V. Green, The Russian Army and its Campaign in Turkey (London, 1880).

General Kuropatkin (Ger trans by Krahmer) Kritische ruckblicke auf den russisch-turkischen Krieg

Mouzaffer Pacha and Talaat Bey, Defense of Plevna,

Krahmer's Germana translation of the Russian Official History
General H. Langlois, Lessons of the Recent Wars (Eng, trans, War Office, 1910);

Th.von Trotha, Kampf um Plewna (Berlin, 1878);

Vacaresco (Ger, trans.,) Rumaniens Antheil am Krieg, 1877-1878 (Leipzig, 1888).

For more material on the history of Russia and Ukraine please go to Xenophon home page.Please send questions and comments to Xenophon. Or please take a minute to leave a note in our guestbook.