Disposition of opposing forces on the South Front early in February, 1919. Measures adopted by the commander of the Red forces of the South Front with a view to straightening out the original disposition of his armies. Fighting for the possession of the Donets Basin. Spring phase of the 1919 campaign in the Donets Basin. Offensive missions of the Red Tenth Army and their execution. Suppression of the Veshensk uprising. General offensive of the Armed forces of South Russia and the withdrawal of the Red forces of the South Front. Conclusions. Beginning of thee Summer campaign of 1919 on the South Front. Development of the advance of the White armies into flanking operations. Withdrawal of the Red armies of the South Front to the R.S.F.S.R. boundaries. Situation of opposing forces on the South Front in mid-July, 1919. Plan of the Red high command for the launching of an attack by the armies of the South Front. General disposition of the Red forces before the launching of the decisive operations on the South Front. Action of opposing forces in the Ukraine in the early autumn of 1919. Withdrawal of the South group of the Twelfth Army. Raid of Mamontov's forces; object of the same. Offensive on the South Front. Immediate results of this offensive. Continuation of Mamontov's raids.
We left the opposing armies on the South Front at the inauguration of the fighting for the possession of the Donets Basin. We may recall that in its efforts to deliver a crushing blow against the Army of the Don north of the Don river, the Red high command first issued instructions to shift the center of the Red South Front to the Tsaritsyn and Voronezh areas.
By February 9, 1919, the general disposition of the opposing forces on the South Front had been substantially as follows: As a result of the fighting and the alternate successes and failures starting in the Donets Basin on the 27th of January between the group of forces under Kozhevnikov and the direction of the Volunteer Army commanded by General Mai-Mayevsky, the Kozhevnikov group occupied the line: Popasnaya (exclusive) - Lugansk; further its line extended in the general direction along the Voronezh - Rostov-on-Don railway, resting on the latter midway between Kantemirovka and Millerovo railway stations. Here, the left flank of the Kozhevnikov group was contacted by the right flank of the Eighth Army. The line of this army extended farther through Kashary (Verkhnaya Olkhovka) up to Ust- Medveditskaya (exclusive). The Ust-Medveditskaya - Kremenskaya (inclusive) line was held by the Ninth Army the Tenth Army, having received its orders earlier, advanced with a part of its forces along the Tsaritsyn - Povorino railway, in the direction of the Ninth Army, and occupied the Ilovlia - Kotuban - Tsaritsyn area. In front (group of armies) reserves were: the 13th Infantry Division (Ninth Army), transferred to Krasny Yar.* In addition, in the Kupiansk - Svatovo area was situated the 2nd Partisan Division that had been transferred from the Ukraine, intended for the purpose of extending the right flank of the Kozhevnikov group. Here also was sent the 3d Brigade of the 1st Knieper Division from the Yekaterinoslav area of the Ukraine front. This brigade was commanded by Makhno and was of a purely partisan nature. It came only under the strategic control of the South Front, performing missions on instructions received therefrom.
* The commander of the South Front, Gittis, shifted this division to Krasny Yar on January 24, 1919 with a view to assisting the Kamyshin group of the Tenth Army. On February 8th it concentrated at Krasny Yar, and on this same day the remnants of the enemy Tsaritsyn group surrendered at Archeda. There was nothing left now for the 14th Division to do at Krasny Yar, and it was later required to overtake and join her army by marching. There is no doubt but that this division could have been utilized to considerable advantage in the Donets Basin.
Against these Red forces, the Whites were disposed as follows. In the Donets Basin the division under Mai- Mayevsky was in close contact with the group under Kozhevnikov on the line: Popasnaya (inclusive) - Lugansk (exclusive) - Krasnovka. Further the White front was formed beyond the Chir river by the rear guards of the disintegrating Don army which had withdrawn there. It is impossible to establish definitely the line of these guards in view of their constant withdrawal southward (See Sketch 7 - original text).
Confusion in the Donets Basin, the independent action of the Eighth Army in reaching the Millerovo area instead of proceeding into the depth of the Don district, and its disregard of her boundary lines, arrived at a proper evaluation of the existing strategical situation, finally demonstrated to the Red high command the actual state of affairs and compelled the commander of the South Front, comrade Gittis,* to abandon the artificial plan for the envelopment of the enemy in the Don steppes and, unfortunately, proved rather late in recognizing the importance of the Rostov area and Donets Basin - the vital political and economic importance of this area for the proletarian revolution.
* He originally commanded the Tenth Army. Was appointed commander of the South Front on January 21, 1919, replacing comrade Slaven.
Beginning February 10th and up to March 6th the efforts of the commander-in- chief and of the commander of the South Front (group of armies) were directed toward the correction of the original development of the forces of the South Front and the shifting of the center of gravity to the Donets Basin area, along with the effort of capturing the forces situated thereat with the cooperation of the forces of the Ukrainian forces. The railway system, however, within the theater of operations, was developed in the meridional direction. A regrouping of the forces of the South Front in the direction of their right flank called for lines extending along the front laterally, and there was only one such line in existence, now situated in considerable depth, namely, the line Tsaritsyn - Povorino - Liski - Kupiansk. Moreover, the railroads were considerably damaged by the enemy.* Hence, the regrouping of the forces had to be accomplished by marching, and while this was taking place, organizations were committed to action in the Donets Basin in driblets by the units situated in that vicinity.
* In the Tsaritsyn - Povorino sector six railway bridges had been destroyed. In the Voronex - Rostov sector the bridge at Yevstratovka was destroyed; the latter was repaired only by the 6th of May, 1919.
This is why the fighting for the possession of the Donets Basin
assumed a sporadic aspect, with alternate successes and failures on both sides.
The situation of the enemy was very much the same as our own. He slowly
transferred his Kuban-Volunteer army from Northern Caucasia to the Donets Basin
and the Don territory. The first order issued by Gittis had for their object
the gradual change to the south; by a partial regrouping of his forces, to
reinforce the group commanded by Kozhevnikov, and to coordinate the action of
this group with that of the brigade commanded by Makhno. Thus bringing about a
partial strengthening of his right flank (Kozhevnikov's group), Gittis
considered his first mission in the Donets Basin the capture of its railway
junctions. Such was the underlying thought of the directive issued by Gittis on
February 9; a brigade of the 13th Infantry Division that had been designated as
front (group of armies) reserve was placed under Kozhevnikov's control.
In accordance with this same directive the axis of the movement of the Eighth Army was directed on the Likhaya railway station (inclination to the southwest), which allowed the commander of the Eighth Army a free hand in the execution of his mission without regard to designated boundary lines; the Ninth Army turned directly south, on both banks of the Don river, on the line: Nizhne-Chirskaya - Kalach. The Tenth Army was given the mission to advance in the Velikokniazheskaya area, with the Tsaritsyn - Velikokniazheskaya railway as its axis of communications.
Vatzetis, the commander-in-chief, considered this to be too flimsy an undertaking, and that it failed to provide for action in the direction of the main effort. According to Vatzetis, the main effort should be directed against Kantemirovka - Rostov, Tsaritsyn - Likhaya, Tsaritsyn - Velikokniazheskaya. Assault detachments in these directions could be organized by a general contracting of the South Front and a redesignation of the zones of advance of the armies.*
* The Russian Civil War of 1918-1919. (Strategical Study of the Offensive operations on the south Front during January-May, 1919.) Moscow, 1919. p. 34.
In view of the above, Gittis issued a directive on the 13th of February, as a consequence of which the front of the Ninth Army extended over a distance of 200 km. By extending his center he reinforced his forces on his flanks. From the Kozhevnikov group in the sector of the Eighth Army there extended the Voronezh - Rostov railway to the Don. This contracted the sector of the Kozhevnikov group by 50 km. The Eighth Army in place of its 100 km front now received a zone of advance of 50 to 60 km (Likhaya - Zverevo - Tsaritsyn - Donets river); the entire sector of the 10th Army on the right bank of the Don river was transferred to the Ninth Army. The Eighth Army, in conjunction with the group under Kozhevnikov, was to defeat the enemy in the Millerovo area. The Ninth Army was to form an assault group on its right flank in the vicinity of the Morosovskoi railway station for the support of the Eighth Army. In the execution of these missions the Kozhevnikov group was to reach by February 20th the line: Pervozvanovka - Grachinsky (one day's march to the southeast of Lugansk), while the Eighth Army reached the line: Kochetkov - Dubovy. The enemy, however, continued to receive additional reinforcements in the Donets Basin by the incessant arrival of troop trains from Northern Caucasia.* The enemy also provided for a consolidation of his position in the Donets Basin. As a consequence, the execution of the above instructions by Gittis led to the initial meeting engagements between the Kuban-Volunteer armies and the Red armies of the South Front. During these engagements the opposing forces delivered their attacks against the flanks of their adversaries. The Red forces gained a considerable victory in the Millerovo area. Launching their advance on the 13th of February, they captured by the 17th of February the area of the Krasnovka - Millerovo - Olkhovaya railway stations.
* According to our intelligence data there had arrived by the 23d of February in the Donets Basin 13 Volunteer troop trains, and by the 1st of March the strength of the Volunteer forces numbered 17,000 to 18,000 men.
At the same time the White forces exerted considerable pressure on the right flank of the Kozhevnikov group on the Dekanskaya - Popasnaya front, turning it in the west. During this maneuver, the Whites themselves came under the assault of the Onishchenko partisan division advancing in the direction of the Konstantinovka railway station. After losing Konstantinovka the White forces began withdrawing, and the right flank of the Kozhevnikov group, extended by the Onishchenko division, reached the Line: Pervozvanovka - Debaltsevo on February 23d. Thenceforward, the progress on both sides was practically uniform along the entire front from Pervozvanovka up to Millerovo. The front lines wavered somewhat alternately as a result of local encounters without any appreciable gains being made by either side. The Red command was unable to develop any further offensives with the forces at its disposal. The Whites were in a position to halt an further progress of the Red forces by means of counterattacks, but were unable to force back the Red lines to any extent.
While the new phase of the 1919 campaign was beginning to take on form on the right flank of the South Front, the encounters already involved the front of the Eighth Army, whereas the center and left flank of the South Front only had to overcome some distances and their only foe here consisted of individual elements rather than any extensive hostile military forces. The Ninth Army by the 28th of February only reached the line of the Chir river. There should be no surprise in the slow progress made by it. Typhus epidemics decimated the ranks of the army. The bad road season started and before long all of the roads were to become spoiled and unsuitable for use by troops, while the combat trains and transport equipment were already becoming separated from the army. Matters were equally bad in so far as the Tenth Army was concerned. This army reached the line of the Aksai river on the 23d of February, having its main forces in the vicinity of the Gniloaksaiskaya railway station.
The further progress of the campaign was characterized by the intensified efforts of the Commander of the South Front for the possession of the Donets Basin. In this connection, the Commander of the South Front was being constantly urged on by the commander-in-chief. The latter demanded a further strengthening of the Red forces in the Donets Basin. As a consequence of this, reinforcing the Kozhevnikov group on March 4-8 with the entire 13th Infantry Division, concentrated on the left flank of this group (from the Belovodsk area), Gittis decided on the launching of an attack with the left flank of the Kozhevnikov group and with the main forces of the Eighth Army against the hostile forces situated on the left bank of the Donets river, in the corner formed by this river and by the Voronezh - Postov railway. This attack proved successful. The advance guards of the Volunteer Army which had occupied the Kalitvenskaya - Glubokay - Krasnovka area were driven back to the right bank of the Donets river. Efforts at an exploitation of the victory were unsuccessful. The beginning of the ice in the Donets river to break up and the ensuing overflowing of the river produced an important water barrier between the opposing forces. The Ninth Army was driven back to the right bank of the Donets river by the time when the ice was beginning to break up on it. The left-flank units of the army reached Nizhny Donets. The 16th Infantry Division marching in the center occupied Konstantivnovskaya and Ust-Bystrianskaya, crossing to the west bank of the river before the ice began breaking up; it was contemplating an advance on Novocherkassk. This movement however, was not supported by the neighboring units. The 14th Division (on the left flank) found it entirely impossible to keep pace with its army and was still on the Tsymel river; the 16th Division was furthermore experiencing a great shortage of ammunition. All of these reasons caused the 16th Division to withdraw back to the left bank of the Donets river. Still farther behind was the Tenth Army. The advance guards of this army, occupying on the 10th of March the Kotelnikovo railway station, reached the line of the Sal river.
Thus the operation launched for the possession of the Donets Basin had not been completed before the beginning of the bad spring weather and the spoiling of roads and breaking up of the ice on the rivers, which had been due to mistakes committed in the development of the main forces on the part of the group of armies. This played into the hands of the enemy, who, covered by the overflowing rivers was now in a position to devote most of his attention to the proper reorganization of the Don army. The center of gravity of his strategical efforts was shifted to the Donets Basin while leaving only a weak screening force to cover the Donets river. The further operations of the enemy (up to the month of May) both on the banks of the Donets river and in the Donets Basin consisted of an active defense. Taking advantage of his superiority in cavalry forces the enemy had little difficulty liquidating scattered uncoordinated efforts on the part of the Red forces at launching attacks, swiftly appearing on the flanks of any assault detachments that managed to move up ahead of the Red lines. Furthermore, the extended lines of the Red forces had made it possible for the enemy to adopt a system of launching brief thrusts against the Red lines which had the effect of undermining the strength of the Red troops. The overflow of the Donets and Don rivers also had a rather adverse effect upon the strategical situation of the Red forces. The communications of the Red armies which had been far from satisfactory even without this, had now become quite disrupted.* The situation of the Kozhevnikov group, isolated on the right bank of the Donets river, caused considerable anxiety. As it was, it had already been precariously situated on the arch-like 200 km front of Yuzovka - Dekonskaya - Popasnaya - Pervozvianovka - Donets river.
* We believe it necessary to emphasize the extremely difficult situation of the Ninth Army, situated in the center of the line, at the time this army reached the banks of the Donets river. The supply units of the army were separated from it and had bogged down in the very area whence they started their advance. Wile on its advance, the Ninth Army passed through an area infected with typhus. By the time the army reached the Donets river some of its units had lost anywhere from 40 to 50 per cent of their men in sick and dead. The arrival at the Donets river, which caused considerable crowding of units in the villages and farmhouses along the river, caused another outbreak of the sickness.
In this situation, the further efforts undertaken by Gittis consisted of strengthening the situation of Kozhevnikov's group of forces, which at this time had been given the designation of the Thirteenth Army. With this object in view, Gittis decided to transfer to the right bank of the Donets the entire Eighth Army and to concentrate it in the Veselogorsk - Lugansk area (See sketch on p. 233 - original text). From this area the Eighth Army was to advance against the enemy along the right bank of the Donets. While this regrouping was to be effected, the Ukrainian front was to reinforce the Thirteenth Army from the Yekaterinoslav area. The transfer of the Eighth Army tn the right bank of the Donets called for a further extension of the Ninth Army on the right. These plans adopted by Gittis on the 11th of March, had not been favorable received by the commander-in-chief, who was apprehensive of the loss of too much time. Vatzetis preferred a frontal advance with the center of the South Front across the overflowing Donets river. He insisted on the complete defeat of the White forces by not later than the 25th of March. Gittis regarded it impossible to force the Donets in its flooded stage, and he maintained his previously adopted plan unchanged, but, with a view to meeting the wishes of the commander-in-chief at least in part, he ordered on the 17th of March the launching of vigorous action by the Thirteenth Army. The latter, engaged in the difficult task of changing over from its former partisan organization into that of the Regular army organization into that of the Regular army organization,* and exhausted by previous incessant fighting, which had affected its efficiency, made its final efforts, launching a series of attacks throughout the remaining part of the month of March. The fighting consisted of local engagements. Separate points changed hands; this fighting completely undermined the strength of the army, and there were now signs of disintegration. The proximity of Makhno's partisan forces had a deleterious effect upon the young troops of this army.
* The partisan organizations and divisions of this army had been organized into the 41st and 42d divisions. The army was assigned the 13th Infantry Division and the arriving 9th Infantry Division, the first echelons of which began arriving in the army area only on the 25th of March. The army cavalry had been organized into an independent cavalry brigade.
Meanwhile the regrouping of the Eighth Army was being delayed.
Gittis intended to complete it within eight days, but instead it required fully
18 days. At the same time, the 12th Infantry Division of this army was delayed
at the Kamensk railway station and was to arrive later. Already on the 28th of
March, however, the major portion of the Eighth Army was on the right bank of
the Donets. The Red forces were now in a more favorable position. They
comprised the forces of the Eighth and Thirteenth Armies numbering 26,000
infantry and 3,300 cavalry troops, these forces were soon to be joined by the
12th Infantry Division (10,000 infantry and 200 cavalry troops). Makhno's
partisan forces comprised an assault force of 10,000 infantry and cavalry.
Thus, the Red command was capable of developing in the Donets Basin a force of
40,000 to 50,000 infantry and cavalry troops.
Against these Red forces the White forces were disposed in two groups: In the southern part of the Donets Basin were situated the forces under General Mai-Mayevsky - 6,000 infantry and 14,000 cavalry troops, while to the southeast of Lugansk operated the group of General Pokrovsky - 12,000 infantry and 7,500 cavalry troops; a total of 39,500 infantry and cavalry troops.* Farther along the line of the Donets river were 14,000 infantry and cavalry troops of the Whites, deployed against the Red Ninth Army (22,500 infantry and cavalry).
* General Denikin in his The Russian Turmoil states that on the entire North Front of the Armed forces of South Russia, including also the sector of our Tenth Army, there was a total of 42,000 to 45,000 infantry and cavalry. The Mai- Mayevsky group - the so-called Caucasus Volunteer Army -he states to have comprised at the time 12,000 men. This information is very much at variance with that available in our archives.
Taking advantage of his small numerical superiority, Gittis decided to make his main effort against the group of forces commanded by General Mai-Mayevsky. Against Pokrovsky's forces he left a small screening force of 7,500 infantry and 600 cavalry (1st Moscow workers division, 41st Infantry Division, and a brigade of the 42d Infantry Division). The Thirteenth Army was to attack Mai-Mayevsky frontally, while the remaining forces of the Thirteenth Army (8,000 infantry and 1,900 cavalry) and the Makhno partisan forces were to attack him from the Rutchenkov railway station area in flank and rear.
The plan for the successful operation here depended on the successful action of the Red screening forces against the Poikrovsky group of forces and upon the timely arrival of the 12th Infantry Division at Lugansk.* The enemy, however, disrupted this plan. The Pokrovsky group itself launched an attack against the Red screening force in the Lugansk area. On March 27th and 28th the advance elements of the screening force were driven in at the Pervozvanovka and Kartushino railway stations. On the 29th of March the enemy, employing superior forces, defeated the 41st Infantry Division and repelled it in the direction of Lugansk. The Eighth Army began gradually directing its forces to the aid of the screening force. The enemy was defeating them in detail, and by the 2nd of April forced back the Eighth Army toward Ugansk. At this point the Eighth Army found support from the arriving trains of the 12th Infantry Division. The Thirteenth Army and the partisans under Makhno found themselves abandoned to their own resources. They gained some local victories but lost all gains when Mai-Mayevsky, relieved of the threat of the Eighth Army, attacked them with his cavalry.
* This cold have hardly been expected. The 16th Infantry Division of the Ninth Army had barely relieved the 12th Infantry Division in the sector extending from the mouth of the Kalitwa to the Mityakinskaya railway station.
The failure of this offensive had an adverse effect on the situation of the Red South Front, inasmuch as it had taken place at the very time of the beginning of the Cossack uprisings in rear of that front, in the vicinity of the Veshensk and Kazansk railway stations. The revolt was staged by those Cossacks which in the latter part of 1918 had submitted to the authority of the Soviet government and were released and sent home by entire regiments with equipment and arms, which of course, a sad mistake. The Cossacks now adopted the slogans of the social-revolutionaries. The uprising spread in all directions from these Cossack villages, and greatly affected the situation of the South Front. In order to suppress the revolt it had become necessary to detach about 14,000 infantry and cavalry troops from the Eighth and Ninth armies.
Nevertheless, Gittis made every effort toward the execution of his mission. He now decided to commit to action in the Donets Basin also the Ninth Army. Two divisions of this army (the 16th and 23d), by spreading out the 14th Division from the mouth of the Donets river up to the Kamenskaya railway station, were to be concentrated in the vicinity of the Gundorovskaya and Novo-Bozhedarovka railway stations. The 12th Infantry Divisvon of the Eighth Army was moved up to the Mityakinskaya area. Thhse three divisions were to attack jointly the right flank of the Volunteer Army, while the Eighth Army attacked it frontally.
This time the plan of action was upset by the commander of the Ninth Army, Vsevolodov, who had long since planned to betray the Red command. He thus concentrated the 23d Infantry Division in the vicinity of Ust-Belokalitvenskaya, instead of the area designated for this division, 100 km away from the Eighth Army. On the 12th of April the 23d Division crossed the Donets river and seized the Repnaya railway station, but was surrounded on three sides by the enemy and driven back with heavy losses to the left bank oif the Donets river. Practically at the same time the 16th Infantry Division proceeded to cross the Donets river, with the mission of capturing the Kamenskaya railway station. It accomplished this mission on the 10th of April, seizing the drill ground on the right bank of the Donets and, entrenching itself, successfully held out for the following 4 or 5 weeks. The action of the 16th Infantry Division brought about a considerable tactical victory. From the Kamenskaya drill ground, with the collaboration of the commander of the Nintzh Army, further active operations could be developed. The latter, however, here again failed to conoperate, and the operations of the Ninth Army came to a complete standstill in the 19th of April.
In view of the reasons stated above the advance of the Eighth Army launched on the 13th of April had also brought about minor results. Only by the 26th of April did it reach the line 10 km south of the Pervozvanovka railway station and 35 km to the southeast of Lugansk. On this line the Eighth Army was subjected to an attack by the assault group of the enemy consisting of Shkuro's cavalry corps. The latter, by means of successive thrusts, shattered the front of the Eighth Army and forced it back. During this withdrawal the White forces on May 5, 1919, succeeded in entering Lugansk. Gittis endeavored to assist the Eighth Army by an attack with the right flank of the Ninth Army on Zverevo - Likhaya, developing it from the Kamenskaya area. On the 30th of April the enemy repulsed this attack, and on the 13th of May endeavored to cross to the left bank of the Donets river between Lugansk and Kamensk in the vicinity of Grachevsky, but was in turn attacked in flank and rear by the 16th Infantry Division, which had endeavored to cut off the enemy from the crossings of the Donets river.*
* The events taking place on the 13 and 14 of May in the Grachevsky area are of considerable interest from the tactical standpoint, and we shall therefore consider these in greater detail. Effecting a penetration in the vicinity of Grachevsky, the enemy swiftly advanced to the northeastward and by the morning of the 14th reached the Gluboky railway station with advance elements, stationing weak screening forces in the west against Mityakinskaya, where the cavalry brigade of the 16th Division had been situated, and in the east, against Staro-Kamenskaya, remaining 6 to 8 km from the latter point on the evening of the 13th. The capture by the enemy of Staro-Kamenskaya would have been tantamount to the seizure of all crossings in rear of the Kamensk drill ground, which might have led to an envelopment of the forces situated thereat (16th and 23d Divisions). Proceeding, however, to the northwest, apparently with the object of establishing contact with the Veshevnsk insurgents, the enemy failed to take advantage of this situation. On the night of the 14th of May the commander of the 16th Division abandoned the Kamensk drill ground and with liberated forces launched a vigorous attack at dawn of the 14th in the west, making the main effort along the Donets and by so doing cutting off the hostile forces which effected their penetration there from their crossings. Simultaneously there was operating against the flank and rear of this hostile group the cavalry brigade of the 16th Infantry Division from the direction of Mityakinska against Grachevsky.
The maneuver launched at the initiative of the 16th Infantry Division, proved successful. Apprehensive of the threat to his communications, the enemy on the 14th of May hastily withdrew to the right bank of the Donets river. Thus, the first half of the month of May was characterized by a series of attempts on the part of the enemy at gaining the initiative and to pass from his active defense to a wide-scale offensive. In the course of the period preceding this campaign the Red South Front gradually lost its numerical superiority over the enemy. Whereas on the 28th of March the relative strength of the opposing forces on the South Front, in the principal direction of the fighting, on the sector of the Thirteenth, Eighth and Ninth armies, showed the Red forces to be 1 1/2 times the strength of the Whites, namely: against 41,000 infantry and cavalry forces of the Whites the Reds had 56,000 infantry and cavalry troops, on the 20th of April this relative strength changed in favor of the White forces and against the 54,000 infantry and cavalry troops of the entire Red South Front the Whites had 77,300 infantry and cavalry troops, and by the beginning of May, by a series of mobilizations and reinforcements raised the strength of these forces to 100,000 infantry and cavalry.* The Red commander-i-chief did everything possible to strengthen the forces of the South Front, but the exhaustion of all strategical reserves in the interior of the country was now reflected on the nature of the reinforcements received here, arriving in small detachments.**
A considerable part of these reinforcements, however, was consumed in the action against Veshensk insurrections. There were also some other reasons responsible for the scattering of these reinforcements in order to plug up holes rather than their utilization for the organization of a powerful assault detachment. These reasons consisted of the thinned out lines of the troops at the front by typhus epidemics and by disintegration which set in among certain units. This disintegration assumed greater proportions within the Thirteenth Army, which had been made up primarily of former partisan elements. This army bore the brunt of most of the heavy fighting for the possession of the Donets Basin. All of these causes served to completely undermine the actual strength of the army. By mid-April this army was no longer suitable for action and served as a passive witness to the happenings on the sector of the Eighth Army.
In this situation, the commander of the South Front placed much hope on the Red Tenth Army. The latter, routing the disintegrated forces of the Don army, already reached the line of the Manych river on the 29th of April and firmly established itself at the Torgovaya railway station. The commander of the South Front now decided on the exploitation of the success of this army. In a directive issued on April 30th, Gittis ordered the Tenth Army to launch an attack against the Rostov-on-Don-Tikhoretskaya railway section and thus to cut the communications of the Don district with Northern Caucasia. Apparently, Gittis intended by so doing to divert the forces and attention of the enemy from the Donets Basin. In the execution of its directive, the Tenth Army continued its advance. On May 6th the patrols of this army appeared at the railway stations situated 40 km to the east of Rostov-on-Don. On the other hand, the commander-in-chief demanded the development of vigorous action in the Donets Basin. Here the Eighth Army, after losing Lugansk, established itself on the line Gorodishche - Rodakovo railway station - Veselogorsk. Gittis reinforced this army with the newly arrived brigade of the 7th Infantry Division which was assigned to him and he decided on the execution of the directive of the commander-in-chief as follows: The Thirteenth Army was to develop its assault with the left flank in the direction of Lugansk, and contain the enemy by attacks on the entire front. The Eighth Army from the line: Yeleonovka (exclusive) - Gorodishche (exclusive), in conjunction with the forces of the Ukrainian Second Army (Makhno's partisan forces), was to develop a strong assault against the left flank and rear of the Volunteer Army in the general direction of the Kuteinikovo railway station.
The advance was launched on the 14th of May. At first, the Red forces drove the Whites back; on May 15th Lugansk once more passed into the hands of the Red forces; Makhno's partisan forces captured the Kuteinikovo railway station - thus gaining the rear of the enemy inconsiderable depth. The South Front (group of armies), however, lacked sufficient forces for the exploitation of the successes. The Ukrainian front (group of armies) could not assist it, having already attached to the South Front by May 1st, 1919 about 11,000 infantry and cavalry troops from its own forces. The principal mass of these forces now, still comprising 20,000 to 40,000 infantry and cavalry troops, was turned abruptly to the west and southwest - toward Eastern Galicia and Bessarabia. The maintenance of contact between the two fronts (groups of armies) was now left to the South Front and the partisan forces under Makhno.
The Ukrainian Front meanwhile assumed an almost "partisan" aspect. The regular troops on this front were absorbed by an diffused among the bulk of the partisan forces surrounding them. Within the partisan mass of forces there was a constant process of internal disintegration. This had been due to a variety of causes, one of which was the absence of political control in some of the units. The kulak (wealthy peasant) elements abounding within these units were striving to pursue political objects of their own and to enter the scene of battle as an independent force. There were considerable dropping out of the Red army organizations of men who casually joined them on previous occasions. Early in May, 1919, Ataman Grigoryev, heading in the Ukraine a detachment of 15,000 men, openly joined the social-revolutionaries and came out against the Soviet government. His bands spread out in a wide wave over the Ukraine, threatening Odessa and Kikolayev. These bands disorganized and harassed the communications of the Ukrainian Second Army. And through the Grigoryev forces soon became absorbed in .he vast Ukrainian spaces a were diffused as a result of the process of disintegration within their ranks, they nevertheless diverted considerable forces from the Ukrainian front (see Sketch 7 - original text).
The Grigoryev revolt also affected the Makhno forces. Makhno was still paying a double game with the Soviet government. On the 15th of May he made an appeal to his men calling upon them to disregard Grigoryev's action, and he moved his forces against Kuteinikovo, but all this assumed the aspect of preparations for a revolt. He redesignated his detachment as the 1st Insurgent Division, conducted an election of officers, while he with his immediate aids became the head of the division. Thus, a new menace was arising behind the lines of the South Front, which extended even to the line of contact with the enemy. Meanwhile, the Cossack uprising had not yet been suppressed which from the latter part of March kept harassing the communications of the Red Ninth Army.
Now the area seething with revolt stood out in bold relief. It covered in excess of 10,000 square km, extending from Ust-Medveditskoi to Boguchar. The strength of the insurgents increased to 15,000 men, whose armament included several machine-guns. We have already pointed out that the action against them consumed about 14,000 men of the South Front. In April there operated against the insurgents from the Eighth Army the expeditionary division under Antonovich (6,569 infantry, 1,171 cavalry and 22 guns), and the expeditionary division under Volynsky from the Ninth Army (4,661 infantry, 1,426 cavalry and 71 guns). The suppression of the revolt nevertheless proceeded at a slow pace. These two divisions were split up into small detachments over the entire 400 km area consumed by the uprisings, without entering into the vital centers of the same. The action of these forces was somewhat more successful after Comrade Khvesin was placed in charge over them. Within one week, from May 24 to June 1, Khvesin gained considerable successes, but these came rather late, in view of the change in the general situation on the South Front (see Sketch on page 233 - original text).
In summing up the above, it is to be admitted that the May operations on the South Front, the essential features of which consisted of an enveloping movement by the widely separated opposite flanks of this front (right wing - Second Ukrainian Army and the Thirteenth and Eighth armies; left wing - Tenth Army), connected by a highly attenuated center consisting of the Ninth Army, proved beyond the power of the armies of the South Front and was incapable of execution in view of the existing situation.
We interrupted our survey of these operations at the time when the maneuver of the left wing of the front (Tenth Army) began to develop successfully in the direction of Tikhoretskaya and when the offensive launched by the right wing in the Donets Basin, after initial successes, began slackening owing to a lack of sufficient forces. Because of this very same reason, the advance of the Tenth Army had assumed the aspect rather of a demonstration in force. The enemy, however, apprehensive of the fate of Rostov-on-Don and Novocherkask, undertook a regrouping of his forces, shifting the corps under General Pokrovsky to the Tenth Army sector from the Donets Basin. On May 3d the enemy completed the concentration of his forces against the Red Tenth Army. The White forces were disposed in three groups as follows: Group of General Pokrovsky, consisting of the 1st Kuban Division, the 2nd Terek Division and Don forces, was situated in the Bataisk area; the group of General Kutepov, reinforced by Kuban units, was situated west of Torgovoi, and the II Cavalry Corps commanded by General Ulagai was situated in the Divnoi area. The main effort was to be made by the group of General Kutepov.
The penetration of the center of the Ninth Red Army completely undermined the strength of the South Front. This penetration took place at the. very time of the enemy's completion of his counter-maneuver in the Donets Basin. On May 24th large hostile forces (mostly cavalry) crossed the Donets river at the Dubovoi farm at the junction point of the 23d and 16th divisions and, preceeding northward in the direction of the Glubokaya railway station and eastward in the direction of Kaltvenskoi, gained the rear of the 16th and 23d divisions. Efforts on the part of these divisions to close their front and to repulse the penetrated hostile forces proved unsuccessful. On the 29th of May the White forces already reached the Millerovo railway station, reaching within a depth of 75 km behind the Red forces and completely splitting the Ninth Army into two parts. The immediate mission of the penetrating hostile forces was that of reaching the Veshensk insurgents as quickly as possible. The 16th Division situated on the left flank of the Ninth Army withdrew northwestward to the area of the Eighth Army (vicinity of the Mityakinskaya railway station), while the other divisions (23d and 14th) situated east of the penetrated area, withdrew in the area northeast and northerly direction, skirting the area of the insurrection on the east. Surrounded by the insurgents and lacking army control, these divisions made their way independently. The Ninth Army, as such, in a manner of speaking, ceased to exist. At the same time, the White forces continued to develop their successes also in the Donets Basin. They affected a penetration at the junction point of the Eighth and Thirteenth armies and now turned both flanks of the Thirteenth Army and were driving it back frontally. From May 27th to 31st this army still continued to put up stubborn resistance, after which, however, it was compelled to begin a withdrawal in a northerly direction.
The Red Tenth Army was in a similarly difficult situation. On May 7th the enemy forced it back to the line of the Manych river. On the banks of the Manych river vigorous fighting continued until the 13th of May in the course of which General Kutepov's group twice succeeded in crossing the Manych river south of Velikokniazheskaya. Having determined the safety of such unorganized attempts, the enemy on May 13th undertook a new regrouping of his forces, which was to be completed by the 18th of May. The hostile cavalry units moved down the Manych southward with a view to launching a turning movement against the Red forces concentrated in the Velikokniazheskaya area. But before the completion of this regrouping, Ulagai's cavalry corps in fighting in the Priutnaya - Remontnaya area defeated the group of the Tenth Army situated in the steppes and reached the Grabevskaya village. On the 17th of May the cavalry of the Tenth Army under command of Dumenko, suffered a decisive defeat at the Grabevskaya village. The communications of the Tenth Army came under the assaults of the cavalry commanded by General Ulagai. This now compelled the Tenth Army to halt its fighting on the 21st of May in the Velikokniazheskaya area with the hostile cavalry group under General Wrangel, which had managed to cross over in this area, and to beat a hasty retreat.
In the circumstances, the directives issued by the commander-in-chief and commander of the South Front on the 31st of May designating defensive missions for the armies of the South Front, were out of date. The strength of these armies had been completely undermined by their overexertions during May and by the missions given them, that were beyond the possibility of execution. Now their withdrawal could only be accelerated. Time was necessary in which to have them reorganized, reinforced and placed on an efficient military basis.
This needed time was not found until the period when the enemy's efforts themselves began to dissipate. It came about only when the opposing forces began approaching the boundaries of the R.S.F.S.R.
One of the immediate results of the failures of the armies of the South Front was the curtailment of the independent existence of the Ukrainian Front commander. The Ukrainian Second Army was redesignated on June 4, 1919 as the Fourteenth Army and placed under the control of the South Front. The Ukrainian First Army situated on the line: Korosten - Rybnitsa, and the Third Ukrainian Army situated on the Dniester from Rybnitsa up to the mouth of this river, were at the same time reorganized into the single Twelfth Army and incorporated into the West Front. (See Sketch 7 - original text).
With the general withdrawal of the armies of the South Front there came to a close a considerable phase of the campaign on this front in 1919. This particular phase was rich not only in military events but in events of political significance as well. The latter was the primary causes of the failure of the initial phase of the 1919 campaign in the South. The Ukrainian, and partly also the Don rural districts were late in experiencing the process of that class organization which the Russian rural district had already gone through in 1918. The Soviet government in embracing the rural districts did not follow (in the Ukraine) the stormy movement of the military front in the south. Thus, on the South Front, as distinguished from the East Front, in the spring of 1919, the objective ally of the bourgeois-landowner bloc was represented by a considerable strata of the peasantry. True, the peasantry here fought, so to speak, on two sides, namely: against the Soviets and against Denikin, aiding the latter militarily. Long and difficult months of time were needed of the civil war, to teach the Ukrainian peasantry the actual state of affairs before the bulk of the Ukrainian peasantry finally came out actively against the generals and landlords of the counter-revolutionaries. For the time being the petit bourgeois elements unrestrainedly spread out against the communications of the Red forces, even capturing some of the regular troops within the latter. As a consequence, there followed the disintegration of the armies of this front. The White forces did not have anything of this sort to contend with during the initial phase of the campaign. A considerable part of their lines were based on wealthy Cossack areas; the latter were particularly vital to the White forces, especially near their bases of operation.
Thus the primary political causes of the failure of the Red armies may be ascribed to (1) the situation behind their lines in regions that were inimical to the Red cause, and (2) the retarded process of class formation within the Ukrainian rural districts. To these two basic reasons may be added a third - the weak hold on the part of the Soviet government over the areas covered by the Red forces, the weak influence exerted over the peasantry, especially in so far as the indigent peasantry was concerned. The manner in which all this affected the military situation and the importance of the same at the front might well be judged from the survey presented above.
The above causes are supplemented by special military reasons, among which may be listed the following:
This facilitated the rapid regrouping of the White forces. They were thus able to concentrate powerful assault groups in the various sectors of the extended and rather immobile front of the Red forces.
The success in the defense of the Donets Basin by Mai-Mayevsky was due mainly to this until the completion of the concentration of all forces of the Volunteer Army.
During the month of June the operations of the White forces, characterized by the pursuit of the withdrawing Red armies, were developed in three areas: in the east - over the routes leading through Tsaritsyn; in the central area - over the routes through Voronezh and Kharkov, and the west area - leading from the Crimea and the Lower Dnieper into the depth of the Ukraine. From the political standpoint, the central area assumed primary importance. The routes here led, over the shortest distances, into the depth of Soviet Russia and to the very heart of it - Red Moscow. And the capture of Red Moscow constituted the principal political objective of the White high command. Prior to the defeat of the eastern White armies under Admiral Kolchak, the Eastern--Tsaritsyn area had also been of strategical importance. By developing an assault in this area, it was possible to extend assistance to the Eastern White armies. However, the strategical victory of the Whites on the South Front took place at a time when the Eastern Front of the White forces began crumbling under the blows of the Reds. Hence the primary importance strategically of the Eastern area for the Whites of South Russia was no longer so great. The matter of the selection of each area, or the several areas, for a primary concentration of the White forces, appeared before the commander of the Armed Forces of South Russia somewhat later when, in the course of further events, he was called upon to formulate a new plan of operations. For the time being, he was developing the pursuit of the Red forces in all of the above mentioned areas.
The enemy was particularly successful in his action against the Red Ninth Army. Wedging in considerably into the depth of the general front of the Red forces in the sector of this army, the White forces developed a series of flanking attacks against the inner flanks of the Eighth and Tenth armies, compelling the latter to hasten their withdrawal. Thus, directing the Don II Corps along the railway line Likhaya - Tsaritsyn the enemy, by threatening the right flank of the Tenth Army facilitated the successful advance of the Caucasus Army under General Wrangel. Menaced on both of its flanks, the Tenth Army hastily retreated on Tsaritsyn. The Ninth Army in the latter part of June was already withdrawing beyond the Buzuluk river. Only on the 23d of June, upon the withdrawal of this army beyond the Tersa and Yelan rivers, did the commander of the Ninth Army, Vsevolodov, decide on the final act of his betrayal - and he deserted to the Whites.
At the same time, the right-flank armies of the South Front, under enemy pressure, already found themselves on the line Volchansk - Valuiki - Pavlovsk, and the immediate danger now commenced threatening the industrial center of Soviet Ukraine - the city of Kharkov. Attempts at the formation of a special Kharkov fortified area ended in failure. On the 25th of June Kharkov had to be yielded to the White forces. At the same time, on the left flank of the South Front, the enemy was approaching Tsaritsyn, which he occupied on the 30th of June. During all this time, the commander of the South Front only once made an effort to halt the advance of the White forces by means of a flanking attack with the Fourteenth Army and partly with the Twelfth Army, which were given the mission of driving the enemy back in an easterly direction behind the Belgorod - Kharkov - Pavlograd - Sinelnikovo - Melitopol railway line. The attempt proved unsuccessful, and by early July the White front extended considerably to the north from the Promyslovoye village* on the shore of the Caspian Sea via Zimnoye and Tsaritsyn, along the Volga and approaching Kamyshin, to which latter point the Red Tenth Army was withdrawing. Further the White front turned on Balashov - Borisoglebsk - Korotoyak - Ostrogozhsk (all of the points were situated somewhat to the north of the line of the White front) - Korocha, skirting Khotmyzhsk and Graivoron, on Konstantinograd - Yekaterinoslav - Alexandrov, passing somewhat to the east of these three cities, thence on the city of Orekhov and down to the Sea of Azov somewhat west of the city of Nogaisk.
* Situated 60 km southwest of Astrakhan.
On all of this wide front the enemy operated with several assault groups. In the Tsaritsyn - Saratov area, on the Tsaritsyn - Dobrynka line (200 km) the enemy employed 9,300 infantry and 14,000 cavalry troops, with 63 guns. In the Boronezh and Kharkov area, on the Yelan (exclusive) - Balashov - Borisoglebsk - Bobrov - Korocha - Graivoron line, extending over a distance of 520 km, the enemy developed his main forces, a total of 46,000 infantry, 34,800 cavalry, and 135 guns. Finally, against the Ukraine, on the front extending from Graivoron up to the Sea of Azov, a distance of 300 km, the enemy had a total of 2,750 infantry and 2,050 cavalry troops with 10 guns.
In the course of the first half of the summer campaign of 1919 the enemy gained a number of important objectives. He drove the Red forces out of the Donets Basin and established himself thereat; he occupied the entire Don district, and by so doing secured for himself an extensive drill ground for new military formations. Finally, he established himself at Tsaritsyn, which enabled him to restore strategic contact with the White armies of the East Front, provided these were able to recover from the defeat suffered by them and to once more advance on the bank of the Volga. With this object in view the commander of the White Caucasus Army, General Wrangel, insisted on the development of the main effort in the Saratov area, in order to establish contact with the White forces of the East Front and to advance jointly with them to Moscow. On the other hand, however, the commander of the Don Army, General Sidorin, favored a temporary halt, in order to improve the service of supply and communications of supply and communications of his forces, being willing even to sacrifice the Kharkov area in the process.
After some hesitation, the commander of the Armed Forces of South Russia, General Denikin, decided on the following plan of action. He directed the Caucasus Army of General Wrangel* to Saratoiv, and thence on Penza - Arzamas - Nizhny-Novgorod. From Nizhny-Novgorod Wrangel was to endeavor to reach Moscow via Vladimir. The Don Army was to advance directly on Moscow over two routes: (1) Voronezh - Kozlov - Ryazan, and (2) Novy-Oskol - Yelets - Volovo - Kashir. The Volunteer Army under Mai- Mayevski was also given the mission to develop its advance against Moscow, the principal direction of this army being: Kursk - Orel - Tula. For the purpose of securing his lines in the west, Mai-Mayevski was to move up in the Ukrainian theater, on the line of the Desna and Dnieper rivers, and occupy the city of Kiev. At the same time, the III Corps of the Volunteer Army, operating in the Crimea, was to reach the Lower Dnieper, from the city of Alexandrovsk up to the mouth of the same river, with the object of the ultimate capture of the cities of Kherson and Nikolayev. The Black Sea fleet was ordered to blockade Odessa (Directive issued by Denikin on July 3d at Tsaritsyn).
* In the latter part of May, General Denikin designated the forces advancing on Tsaritsyn as the Cascasus Army. General Wrangel was appointed commander of this army. The forces of the former Caucasus Volunteer Army, operating in the vicinity of the Donets Basin, were at the same time redesignated as the Volunteer Army, commanded by Mai-Mayevski.
As we have seen, this plan was quite extensive in scope. The actual existing strength of the relative opposing revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces of the country rendered the plan quite baseless from the political standpoint. The execution of the plan brought about a dispersal of forces employed by General Denikin on his assaults. And General Mai-Mayevsky even further scattered his striking forces when he extended his advance nearly along the entire western portion of the Ukraine. The march on the Ukraine led the Armed Forces of South Russia into direct contact with the military forces of the Ukrainian counter-revolutionaries and those of the border states (Poland and Rumania). This was to complicate their strategical situation. The rigid and uncompromising policy of General Denikin with respect to national questions (one inseparable Russian state) precluded any possible coordinated action, and quite the contrary, led to a military struggle among them. General Denikin could not count upon any further growth of his forces from internal sources. The southern counter- revolutionaries were repulsive to the wide Russian and Ukrainian masses. The White eastern armies experienced the same fate, with the result that they could not hope for any restoration of their military strength. Under the circumstances, the plan of the march on Moscow, adopted on July 3d, 1919 by General Denikin for his armies failed to take into consideration the actual foreign and internal political situation for the White forces and was quite incapable of execution.
However, a more thorough analysis of the political reasons causing General Denikin to reject Sidorin's proposals will show that General Denikin had been faced with the dilemma of either marching on Moscow with the support of the bourgeois and landowner bloc and his capitalistic Allies, or to admit to them that he was a failure politically and militarily, and allow someone else to take his place. Without the possession of Moscow, there could be no thought of restoring throughout the country a centralized system, or the subjugation and control of the outlying districts and the subjugation of the national minorities. The restoration of strong Cossack districts was only a step toward this ultimate goal taken by Denikin, rather than an objective in itself. Whereas the proposal of General Sidorin had in view a Cossack domain independent of Moscow, which was strongly advocated by Ataman Krasnov in 1918. Denikin's rejection of Sidorin's proposal created a split which now became apparent and which developed into a chasm between the major bourgeois and petit bourgeois autonomous elements of the Southern counter-revolutionaries (that of the Ukraine and Cossacks).
The capture of Moscow was contrary to the interests of the Cossacks seeking autonomy. The Kuban territory, where autonomy was sought on the basis of the Paris conference of the Allies providing for an independent Kuban government back in the summer of 1918, had made it clear through its representatives that it had no desires for conquest of any kind and that it merely sought to defend its own boundaries. Consequently, the situation confronting Denikin became even more complicated. He had to proceed against Moscow by round about ways and to first gain a political victory in the Kuban territory. This could be accomplished by crushing the Kuban Rada. The latter, however, was the only establishment exercising authority there over the Cossacks and the motive power which had maintained them at the front. Any blow delivered by Denikin against the Rada was at the same time also a blow at the military power of the Cossacks. Action against the Kuban Rada was the principal political objective of the government of the Armed forces of South Russia practically throughout the 1919 campaign. Thus, in the background of the increasing military successes there were coming to the fore mutual internal antagonisms among the motive powers of the southern counter-revolutionaries. This internal struggle among the various counter-revolutionary elements at a time when the White southern armies approached the boundaries of the R.S.F.S.R. and when they penetrated the latter, had been complicated by the sharp conflict with the peasantry and national minorities within the territories embraced by the influence of the Armed forces of South Russia. All this combined served to create an entirely new situation on the South Front, the first signs of which became apparent with the major victories of the White forces of the South Front.
The execution of the plan of the offensive adopted by General Denikin began upon the issuance of his Moscow directive. In this connection, the Red Twelfth Army found itself in a most difficult position in the Ukraine. The latter was the objective of the Armed forces of South Russia advancing from the southwest, of the remaining forces of the Ukrainian directorate and the Polish forces in the west. The Red Tenth Army was soon called upon to fight on two directly opposite fronts. Actually, the forces of the Ukrainian directorate manifested particular activity in the Vinnitsa area, where the strength of their forces amounted to 7,000 to 8,000 infantry and cavalry troops. The Volunteer Army endeavored to penetrate into the western Ukraine from three directions: along the Black Sea - in the Kherson and Nikolayev area, thence in the Yekaterinoslav and Poltava area. The enemy adopted a more passive attitude in the central strategical areas, leading into the depth of Great Russia. In the Kamyshin-Saratov areas the enemy endeavored to drive the Red Tenth Army back by means of a turning movement and to gain the Avilovo-Kamyshin sector.
Both the poor state of affairs on the East Front and the continued withdrawal of the Red forces of the South Front attracted the attention of the Communist party, of the revolutionary masses, and of the commander-in-chief. Party and labor union organizations sent their best material for the reinforcement of the South Front. The proletariat of the south particularly carried on splendid work in this connection. Thus, the Kharkov workers sent fifteen classes of adult men for employment in the defense of the proletarian revolution. The Kharkov communists sent to the front 9/10 of their membership. Certain of the communist "cells" of the frontier zone sent up 80% of their strength to the front. The growth in the revolutionary enthusiasm was evident everywhere among the masses of workers of the Ukraine. The flow of these highly class- conscious and politically dependable reinforcements first of all had its effect upon the morale of the forces serving on the South Front. Aside from this, the high command adopted a series of vigorous measures for the purpose of raising the strength of the forces on the South Front. The favorable change in the situation on the East Front now made possible the transfer of some forces from that front to the South Front. The total number of troops sent to the South Front from May 1st to June 1st reached considerable proportions - a total of 60,000 men.*
* The above included a number of units transferred from the East Front. Among others there were transferred from the East Front the Argir brigade, the 25th and 28th infantry divisions with brigades from the Kazan and Saratov fortified areas. Aside from this there were being organized on the Middle Volga a number of units for the South Front. The 47th Infantry Division completed its organization there. Six additional infantry brigades were ordered organized there by the 1st of August. From all of these forces there was to be organized in the Simbirsk - Samara - Saratov area a special army of 40,000 men.
By the 15th of July, 1919 the situation and the relative strength of opposing forces on the South Front had been as follows:
The Red Fourteenth Army (53,000 infantry and cavalry with 116 guns)
deployed on the line Kherson - Rakitino (640 km). The strength of the hostile
forces arrayed against this army consisted of 24,600 infantry and 67 guns.
Notwithstanding the almost double strength of the Red forces over those of the
Whites, the situation of the Red army here was not very favorable in view of
the presence of marauding bands preying on its supply organizations and on the
greatly extended front.
The Red Thirteenth Army (17,600 infantry and cavalry with 84 guns) occupied the line Rakitino - Stanovoye (170 km). This army was greatly exhausted and worn out by the previous fighting. The hostile forces opposing it consisted of 13,050 infantry and cavalry troops with 48 guns.
The Red Eighth Army (25,000 infantry and cavalry troops with 157 guns) maintained itself on the line Stanovoye - Novokhopersk (220 km), while having before it 15,610 hostile infantry and cavalry forces with 67 guns.
The Red Ninth Army (16,000 infantry and cavalry with 52 guns) on the Novokhopersk - Yelan line (158 km) covered the important Rtishchev area (road to Penza). The enemy here employed a numerical superiority, developing against the Ninth Army 25,000 infantry and cavalry troops with 53 guns.
The Red Tenth Army (26,000 infantry and cavalry with 132 guns) occupied the line Yelan - Kamyshin (145 km), against which the enemy had 18,350 infantry and cavalry troops with 68 guns.
The reserves of the Red South Front and the G.H.Q. reserve consisted of the following: 7th Infantry Division (6,000 infantry, less transport equipment and animals) - in rear of the Thirteenth Army, in the area north of Kursk; 32d Infantry Division (5,000 infantry troops), concentrated in the vicinity of the Mordov and Gryazy railway stations; 56th Infantry Division (about 12,000 infantry troops), concentrated in the Kirsanov - Atkarsk area. In addition to the above, there could be utilized as reserves for the South Front the garrisons of the fortified Kursk, Voronezh, Tambovsk, Rtishchev-Atkarsk and Kamyshin areas, the strength of which amounted to about 11,000 infantry and troops. The reserves of the enemy in the frontal area numbered 20,400 infantry and cavalry, and farther behind the lines - 34,500 infantry and cavalry.
Thus, already by mid-July the Red South Front enjoyed a numerical
superiority over the enemy of 20,000 infantry troops (171,600 infantry and
cavalry troops against 151,900 infantry and cavalry of the enemy). Upon the
completion of the concentration of all forces directed to the South Front from
the East Front, which was to be accomplished by the middle of August, 1919, the
Red South Front was to launch a general offensive.
It is more than this, however, that was responsible for the efficient action of the Red forces of the South Front on the boundaries of the R.S.F.S.R. The situation behind the lines of the opposing forces at the front now assumed the very opposite nature of that existing in May. The Red front was based on the vitally important areas where landed estates along with small rich peasant farms were in abundance. In the Voronezh-Kursk area the average privately owned land was of 113.2 desiatins* with the plot of land of the average peasant 7.6 desiatins.* Moreover, these areas during the preceding year passed through disturbances which ended in the Sovietization of the average and poor peasant elements. The blustering petit bourgeois peasant elements were now situated behind the lines of the White front. Denikin's policy on the agrarian question, which was the center of the immediate interests of the petit bourgeovsie, could not reassure them and only served to further agitate them. The policy here involved was more "rightist" than that of the Cossack governments. Whereas the Kuban government had even agreed to partial abolition of land ownership (though it did not actually pass any laws to put this in effect), the Denikin laws governing land ownership failed to satisfy the peasantry in any shape or form.
* A desiatin equals 2.70 acres. - Tr.
Recognizing the right to private ownership of land and the purchase of some of the land owned by large landowners for the benefit of the peasantry on a seven-year basis, Denikin made this contingent upon so many restrictive factors as to practically nullify any possible effect of the supposed agrarian reform. As a consequence, there was nothing left for Denikin and his supporters to do but to remain hopeless witnesses of the growing peasant movement which was now turned directly against them.
The plan for the offensive of the Red South Front had not been
adopted at once. Vasitis, the commander-in-chief, contemplated making the main
effort against the Khartov area with the Red Fourteenth, Thirteenth, and Eighth
armies. The Ninth and Tenth armies, advancing between the Volga and the Don,
were to make a secondary effort. Yegorov, commanding the South Front, who had
replaced Gittis, favored concentrating an assault force in the Novokhopersk -
Kamyshin area, and to make the main effort with this assault forces in the
direction of the lower Khoper and lower Don, leaving in the Kharkov area only a
screening force, while staging a demonstration in force with the Fourteenth
Army on the Chaplino-Lozovaya front.
S. S. Kamenev, who replaced Vasitis as commander-in-chief, ordered on July 23d (directive No. 1116/sh) the delivery of the main attack with the left flank of the South Front in the direction of the Don territory with the object of defeating the forces under General Denikin. The assault group was to consist of the Ninth and Tenth armies under the general command of V. I. Shorin, who was transferred from the East Front where he had commanded the Red Second Army.
As reserve of the assault group there was to serve the 25th and 28th infantry divisions transferred from the East Front. The commander of the South Front was to reinforce the assault group under Shorin with his reserves and with the 56th Infantry Division. The Thirteenth and Eighth armies formed the Selivachev group and were to deliver an auxiliary assault in the Kharkov area. The general offensive was to be launched in mid-August upon the completion of the concentration of all units of the assault group. For the time being, the South Front was to conduct an active defense.
The action of the enemy on the South Front prior to the launching of
the decisive attack by the Red armies was characterized by intensified activity
against the flanks, with lesser activity in the center. Thus, on the 28th of
July the enemy gained possession of Kamyshin in the Saratov area, forcing back
the Red Tenth Army on the Borzenkovo - Bannoye front. Developing their efforts
in the direction of the Ukraine the Armed Forces of South Russia on August 1st
reached the front Poltava, Yekaterinoslav, Nikopol, Aleshka. The
counter-maneuver of our armies laid the foundation of that decisive action on
the South Front which thenceforward continued until the final political and
military collapse of the Armed Forces of South Russia. Before proceeding with
an analysis of the events that brought about this collapse let us glance at the
general disposition and strength of the military forces of the R.S.F.S.R. at
Prior to the beginning of the decisive fighting in South Russia all military forces of the Republic were grouped together at three fronts and in one independent army:
In all there were situated at the front about 450,600 infantry and cavalry troops with more than 1,544 guns.
In the interior of the country there were units in the process of organization, some auxiliary and reserve units, and certain organizations belonging to various divisions which amounted in the aggregate to 14,000 infantry troops, 74 guns and 186 machine-guns; and finally, there were auxiliary forces and special troops with a total strength of about 180,000 infantry troops and 763 machine-guns. The comparatively large number of rear line and special troops is explained by the important and variety of missions which the Soviet government was called upon to perform behind the lines.
The next phase of the campaign for both sides on the South Front consisted of the following special operations: Operations in the Ukraine; operations in the central strategical areas, and finally, the operations inn the space between the Volga and Don rivers (zone of operations of the assault group of the Ninth and Tenth armies).
Let us now consider the operations on both sides in the Ukraine in the early fall of 1919 (Sketch 8 - original text).
The operations in the Ukraine against the Red forces consisted of the active operations of the Volunteer Army, of the Petlura forces and Polish divisions, which endeavored to gain possession of the political center - the city of Liev - from different directions. This placed the Red Twelfth Army in a difficult position, which was called upon to operate simultaneously on three different fronts. The Twelfth Army was at first protected in the east by the Fourteenth Army against the Armed Forces of South Russia. Closer to the Black Sea coast there operated the brigade bands of Makhno; these were equally hostile to the Red and White forces. The front of the main forces of the Twelfth Army was turned facing west whence it was menaced by the Polish divisions under General Haller and the forces of the Ukrainian Directory in the Vinnitsa area.
Against all these hostile forces there operated the three divisions of the Twelfth Army, while the 45th Infantry Division of this army found itself in particularly bad straits. This division occupied the front extending from Vinnitsa via the Popeliukha railway station up to Mayaki, a distance in excess of 200 km with a strength of about 5,000 men. The right flank and rear of this division was harassed by a number of brigand bands operating under various stamans, who developed their operations from the Vinnitsa, Zvenigorodki, Kazatin and Kremenchug areas. The left flank of the division was threatened by the revolting German colonists. The division was compelled to detach a part of its forces (1,000 infantry troops with 7 guns) for action against the brigand bands. The 45th Division held its entire front only with individual patrols made up of 50 men each spaced at 3 to 4 km intervals.
The 47th Infantry Division was securing the Odessa area and the Black Sea coast, while the 58th Infantry Division (organized from the former Ukrainian Second Army), disposed along the coast of the Black Sea, was in direct contact on the one hand with the forces of the Volunteer Army (III Corps coming up from the Crimea) and on the other, with the Makhno bands.
Thus, the Twelfth Army was wedged in between the Russian and foreign White guard armies, with a series of local internal uprisings within the area occupied by it.
The commander of the Volunteer Army embarked upon the active invasion of the Ukrainian territory before the Red forces of the South armies had completed their regrouping and concentration for the purpose of launching their own counter-maneuver, and this facilitated the advance of the White forces.
The Volunteer Army developed its advance in three directions: from Poltava toward Kiev; from Yekaterinoslav toward the very depth of the Ukraine - on Elisavetgrad, Znamenka, Nikolayev, and along the Black Sea coast, on Kherson - Nikolayev - Odessa. In all of these areas, the advance developed successfully. On the 18th of August the front of the White forces in the Ukraine extended from Rylsk (exclusive) via Lubna- Pomoshchnaya, to Kikolayev. The latter was occupied by the enemy on the 18th of August, the 58th Infantry Division withdrawing on Voznesensk. Owing to the fact that two brigades of this division deserted to Makhno's forces, the remaining units of the 58th Division turned in the direction of Golta.
At the same time the Petlura forces developed their advance against the routes leading to Kiev and Odessa, approaching Vinnitsa and Vapniarka, while the Polish forces were moving on Zhitomir. In his endeavor to maintain the Southern Ukraine as far as possible, the commander-in-chief did not desire to give up Kherson and Odessa areas voluntarily. He hazarded leaving there three divisions of the Twelfth Army even in the contingency that the Denikin and Petlura forces should effect a junction of their forces in the Uman - Yelisavetgrad area. The further course of events justified these plans of the commander-in-chief. The units of the Twelfth Army were driven back from two directions. In the east the enemy penetrated the positions of the Fourteenth Army and advanced by the shortest route on Kiev from Poltava, the hostile forces entering Kiev on the 31st of August. On the day before, i.e., on August 30th, Petlura's force had already entered the city. They had poured into Kiev from Vinnitsa after penetrating the lines of the 45th Infantry Division in that area. In the city of Kiev these hostile forces not only failed to join one another but nearly came to blows. Upon a partial understanding arrived at by their leaders the two forces separated, established a line of demarcation between them which left the city of Kiev in the hands of the Volunteer Army. Almost simultaneously with the capture of Kiev the Volunteer forces occupied Odessa with the assistance of a landing force brought there on British vessels and troops advancing from Nikolayev.
As a consequence of all this, the remnants of the three divisions of the Twelfth Army found themselves almost completely surrounded in the Golta area. The withdrawal of this group in the Zhitomir area, after a twenty-day march, and its rejoining of the Twelfth Army at Zhitomir on September 19th, under the general command of comrade Yakir, constitutes one of the glorious pages of the history of our Red army.
In order to come out of the encirclement in the north this group had only a narrow corridor that was not blocked between Birzula and Golta. The Yakir group entered this corridor, proceeding in the direction of Uman. Here this group was joined by the remnants of the 45th Infantry Division. From Uman the forces under Yair proceeded on Khristinovka and Skvir. At the Popelnya railway station they crossed the Kazatin - Kiev railway line within the zone of demarcation established between the Ukrainian and the Denikin forces. Here the group of forces under Yakir first established contact with the 44th Infantry Division of the Twelfth Army by radio. The latter division was abandoning Zhitomir under the pressure of Polish forces and was situated 15 km north of the latter. Agreeing on a coordinated action, the Yakir detachment and the 44th Infantry Division attacked on the 19th of September the city of Zhitomir from the north and south; they drove the Polish forces out of Zhitomir and joined forces in the city.
The temporary lull in the central sector of the Southern theater of operations had been due, on the one hand, to the preparations for our counter-maneuver, and on the other, to the dispersion of the hostile forces over the vast area involved. In view of this fact, the limited objective of the enemy now included the disrupting of our contemplated counter-maneuver. During the summer offensive the enemy gained possession of large areas, which had included: The entire Don district, nearly the entire Ukraine and a stretch of territory along both sides of the Volga, up to Kamyshin. On the boundaries of these territories the White forces already encountered the stubborn resistance of the Red forces of the South Front that were now preparing for an offensive.
In anticipation of this offensive, General Denikin intended to disrupt the Red attack with the aid of his own cavalry forces, inasmuch as he lacked available forces for the launching of an operation on a more extensive scale. With this object in view, he decided on moving up the Caucasus Army commanded by General Wrangel to the north, to detach from Wrangel's forces the cavalry corps under General Konovalov, and by so doing to contract the front of the Don army and to have it join the cavalry corps under General Mamontov that was being organized at Uriupinsk (the latter consisting of 9,000 cavalry and infantry troops with 12 guns). This mass of cavalry forces was directed on an attack against the flank and rear of the central group of the armies of the South Front (Thirteenth and Eighth armies) in the Tambov area, with the further missions of executing raids on the communications of our South Front.
The tardy movements of Wrangel's army had prevented a timely removal of the Konovalov corps from its front, and Mamontov was compelled to carry out his raid without the former. On August 10th Mamontov reached the junction point of the inner flanks of the Eighth and Ninth Red armies in the Novokhoperka area and advanced directly against Tambov, which was one of the bases of the South Front. The Tambov area was particularly important owing to the fact that the Headquarters of the South Front had been situated in that vicinity, at Kozlov.
The first unsatisfactory result from our standpoint of the penetration by Mamontov's forces on the 50 km front was the severance of communications between the Shorin and Selivachev groups of forces, and the attraction of a part of the reserves of Shorin's group and the severance of communications between this group and the Headquarters of the South Front. On August 18th Mamontov captured Tambov and thence turned on Kozlov, thus forcing his way far into the rear of our armies, as a consequence of which it was impossible to exert a direct influence upon the course of action of these armies by the Shorin group. As a result, the groups of forces under Shorin and Selivachev had launched their advance at the designated time, i.e., on the 15th of August. By this time, the situation of the Selivachev group (Thirteenth and Eighth armies) had undergone but a slight change with regard to her situation as indicated above on July 15th, namely: the front of this group began at Akhtyrka and extended somewhat to the north of the towns of Graivoron, Korocha, Alekseyevka, and Korotoyak, embracing farther Liska, Talovoye and Novokhopersk.
The situation was quite different in so far as the front of the Shorin group of forces was concerned. This front was in the shape of a reentrant with apex at Balashov. The northern line of the angle, extending from Novokhopersk to Yelan, was held by the Ninth Army; on the northeastern part of the angle, on the line Borzenkovo - Krasny Yar - Kamenka, was situated the Tenth Army. Thus, the group of forces under Shorin employed on the main effort was occupying oblique positions in relation to its subsidiary group (some 150 km behind the latter). Moreover, the Shorin group had to straighten out its lines and to move forward the left flank of the Ninth Army. All this was bound to have an adverse effect upon the rapid development of the action of the assault group. Actually, as was demonstrated by the course of events, the successes gained by this group were of a purely local nature. Only on the 21st of August did it succeed in developing the left flank of the Ninth Army, when it started on a forward movement.
In due time the plan of action of Shorin's assault group was subjected to criticism. It developed that the basic causes of the failure of this group was due to the selection of the direction of the main effort on a line where political resistance was particularly great. Obviously, this was of considerable importance. This, however, would have been greatly reduced had the commander of this group shifted the center of his assault from the Tenth Army sector (Tsaritsyn area) to the direction of the right flank of the Ninth Army, against the approximate line Pavlovsk - Bogutchar. In that case complete coordination would have been achieved among the forces of the subsidiary group and those employed on the main effort. The latter would then not have operated in the direction where political resistance was the strongest and, under the circumstances, the penetration of Mamontov's forces would not have been accomplished with such ease. In so far as is known, the commander-in-chief, S. S. Kamenev, in no way tried to restrict Shorin especially to the Tsaritsyn area. It is most likely that the geographical importance of the particular point had its attraction, and caused Shorin to overlook other important factors that entered the situation here, as is so often the case in military operations. Furthermore, let us not forget the fact that the raids staged by Mamontov's forces absorbed a part of the Shorin forces, which could not help affecting the scope of his maneuver and the tempo of its development. At first the 56th Infantry Division was utilized in action against Momontov's forces; later the 21st Infantry Division had also to be utilized against them, which division had been attached to Shorin's group from the East Front, and finally it became necessary to send against Mamontov such a vitally important force of Shorin's group as the cavalry commanded by Budienny. The plan for the delivery of the main effort with Shorin's group had suggested itself by the disposition of the Red forces on the South Front as existed at the time when S. S. Kamenev was appointed commander-in-chief of that front. The greater density of forces was on the left flank of the Red South Front at the time. The political situation demanded the launching of an offensive at the earliest possible moment, and the commander-in-chief was called upon to adopt his plan of action on the basis of the existing situation of the forces and their disposition. The difficulties that were encountered in the transfer of large forces by rail are well known in the face of the chaotic condition of the railway transport system that existed during the years of our civil war.
On August 28th the Tenth Army had already gained a considerable victory. Budienny's cavalry corps had crushed the Don cavalry under Sutulov in the Kamennochernov area. On August 31st the Ninth Army already reached the line: Aleksikovo railway station - Yaryzhenskaya, while the cavalry under Budienny again delivered a vigorous assault against the enemy in the Serebryakovo - Zelenovskaya area. Notwithstanding these successes, however, the Shorin group still remained behind the Selivachev group of forces. The latter developed its main effort in the sector of the Eighth Army, turning Kharkov on the east in the general direction of Kupyansk. The Eighth Army, in its advance, carried along partly also the left flank of the Thirteenth Army. On August 24th the units of the Thirteenth Army occupied the town of Korotcha, repulsing the enemy in the direction of Bielgorod. The line of the Eighth Army at this time extended on the line Kikolayevka - Burluk. By September 1st the Selivachev group advanced its Eighth Army on the line: Volchansk - Kupyansk - Podgornaya. This already presented a direct threat to the city of Kharkov. Meanwhile Mamontov continued his raids against the rear of the South Front.
By his raids, Mamontov increasingly disrupted the railway communications there and wreaked havoc upon the political and Soviet organizations in the area. Mamontov at the same time adopted crude demagogic methods for gaining the support of the populace, namely, the distribution to them of plundered goods and property.
In conclusion we believe it necessary to consider the unusual speed with which the Red Army restored its strength after suffering the heavy losses in the latter part of May and early June, were already putting up strong resistance two to three weeks later and launching counterattacks (the Eighth Army retreated in disorder in the norther during the latter part of May and by the latter part of June was already delivering special thrusts in the Ostrogozhsk area against the enemy, inflicting defeats upon him which brought about considerable demoralization in his ranks). Party organizations which joined the military forces in their entirety, locally mobilized trade unions, volunteers from among the local inhabitants - soon made up for the losses and restored the efficiency of military units. The entire phase of the civil war treated in the present chapter was characterized by a whole series of interesting tactical undertakings by individual Red army units in making their way out of encirclements. The withdrawal of the army itself was frequently accomplished without the necessary strategical cooperation of army units and separate sectors of the front. The effort of holding on to gained territory, the weak strategical leadership, the tendency of covering uniformly the entire front, the fighting of local engagements, without basing these on any clear and planned actions on a strategical scale, were still generally the rule throughout many sectors of the front. But, therefore, political activity during this phase of the civil war had been developed to the highest degree. During the trials and tribulations of the Red Army, during its darkest days, there was no mass discouragement among the Red troops.*
* We find it necessary to note that the enemy at this particular time directed every effort of his political propaganda toward a disintegration of the Red forces. He made use of aviation for the purpose of distributing behind our lines appeals to the population with demagogic statements and proclamations. Hostile aviation dropped over the Eighth and Ninth armies during their withdrawal in May forged copies of the "Pravda" newspaper filled with panicky reports of failures on the fronts of the Red forces, containing a forged address by Lenin concerning the failure of the revolution, etc.
Finally, the trials to which the Red Army was subjected during the summer campaign had demonstrated the fact that the Red Army was capable of the creation also on the South Front of dependable cadres of command and political personnel in order to insure the efficiency of organized military units in spite of the considerable scope of the defeats suffered on that front.