Counter-maneuver of the White forces against the Selivachev detachment. Continuation of the action against the raids of Mamontov's forces. Relative strength of the opposing forces prior to the beginning of the Orel operation. Beginning of the Orel operation; development of the same. Plan of the Red counter-maneuver. Formation of the South and Southeast Fronts. Fighting in the Don territory. Operations of the Fourteenth Army. Crisis of the Orel operation.
The deep wedge formed by the Red Eighth Army into the White front in the Kupyansk area had compelled the Ukraine White forces to halt their operations in the Ukraine. Limiting their activity to an active defense against the Fourteenth Army, the command of the Volunteer Army proceeded with preparations for a counter-maneuver against the Selivachev detachment,Containing this detachment frontally, the commander of the Volunteer Army organized assault groups in the Bielgorod and Biriuch areas for an assault against the flanks and rear of the Eighth Army (See Sketch 8 - original text).
In the organization of the Bielgorod mobile group of forces use was
made of the cavalry corps commanded by Shkuro (transferred to the Kiev area)
and the newly organized units of the Kharkov area (units of the 31st and
Kornilov divisions); the Biriutch group was organized from two Don divisions
and 1 brigade. The enemy assumed an active defense against the Ninth Army on
the line Pavlovsk, Podgornaya railway station securing in this manner his
maneuver on the right. .
On September 5th the results of this regrouping of the White forces were beginning to become apparent. Developing their assault from Bielgorod in the northeasterly direction, toward Rzhava, and from Varvarovka on the Kalitva river (40 km. southeast of the town of Biriutch)- in the northwestern direction, on Biriutch - N. Oskol, the White compelled the units of the Eighth Army to withdraw on the line north of Korotcha - N. Oskol- Alekseyevka.
The success of the White counter-maneuver against the Selivachev detachment had been due in large measure to the unduly rapid forward movement of the detachment without providing for a sufficient development of this wedge into width. The eighth Army moved ahead in a narrow and extended line, which rendered its flanks highly vulnerable. Obviously too much attention was here devoted to the gaining of territory.
The Fourteenth Army, after first repulsing the enemy behind the Seim river, endeavored to assist the Selivachev detachment by the active operations of its right flank. It once more crossed the Seim river and occupied the line Borzna - Bakhmatch on September 13 but, owing to the unfavorable situation in the Kursk area, found it necessary to again effect a withdrawal.
It is only now that the unfavorable results of the lack of a coordinated strategic plan of actio for the groups of forces under Shorin and Selivachev became apparent. The enemy was afforded an opportunity to liquidate the Selivachev undertaking by taking advantage of the considerable distance separating Selivachev's forces from the Shorin group. The lack of close contact between these two groups had also been responsible for the interruption of communications occasioned by raids of Mamontov's forces against the rear of the South Front. In view of the interrupted communications between the Shorin group and the headquarters of the South Front, it was temporarily left to the direct control of the commander-in-chief.
Attaching primary importance to the Shorin group, the commander-in-chief ordered the commander of the South front to direct the right flank of the group west of Lugansk, without weakening the Shorin group by detaching from the latter any forces for action against Mamontov's forces, while on the rest of the front he was to develop every possible activity in order to impede the transfer of hostile forces to the left flank. These orders serve to indicate that the commander-in- chief still contemplated the employment of the Shorin group on the main effort, and was opposed to its employment in support of the action (by the Lashevich detachment) against the Mamontov corps. The commander-in-chief, however, was apparently at odds with the representative of the Military Revolutionary Council of the Republic on this matter. The latter was apparently endeavoring to transfer the center of gravity in the action of the South Front to the Orel - Kursk area and to reinforce the Lashevich group with the forces employed on the Don sector. This appears evident from the telegram of the commander-in-chief (No. 4195/op) of September 6, 1919 addressed to the representative of the revolutionary military council.*
*Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No. 868, pp. 33 and 34
In this telegram the commander-in-chief stresses the fact that in all Lashevich had at his disposal for action against Kamontov's forces a total of 10,470 infantry and 500 cavalry troops with 12 guns. On September 2nd Lashevich was sent additional 3,000 infantry and 9 guns. Aside from this, there had been concentrated at Gula the 21st Infantry Division in the nature of a reserve, which was arriving there from the East Front. In addition, Lashevich was in a position to employ also in action against Kamontov's forces the Tula garrison numbering 1,000 infantry troops and 2 guns (5th Latvian Railway Regiment). Further on the commander-in-chief comes to the most vital part of his telegram, objecting to the proposed change in the direction of the advance of the Red Ninth Army directly west and to the direction of the cavalry corps under Budienny to the Voronezh - Kursk area. In the opinion of the commander-in-chief, the adoption of such a plan amounted to a fundamental change of the original plan. The commander-in-chief believed that the shifting of our efforts to the Voronezh - Kursk area, which even now was not of any special importance, amounted to yielding the initiative to the enemy. The commander-in-chief was of the opinion that the situation was developing more favorably for the enemy in the western sectors of the South Front. The enemy had at his disposal here a better developed railway system,and he also had some reserves situated behind his lines here. The shifting of hostile reserves to the east involved considerable difficulties owing to the railway situation there as well as to the absence of available reserves in that area. Recognizing the plan of defense as ruinous, the commander-in-chief stressed the necessity of a strict adherence to the adopted plan of action for the delivery of the attack against the Don and Kuban territories, considering these as the sources of the hostile manpower. We have presented the salient features of the telegram because of its particular importance. This telegram is the key to a proper understanding of all further regrouping on the South Front.
The Whites, convinced of the numerical superiority of Shorin's group of forces, and unable to halt its progress on the lines occupied by them, began an organized withdrawal to the line of the Khoper and Don rivers, basing their right flank on the Tsaritsyn fortified area. Taking cover behind these rivers and basing themselves on the Tsaritsyn area, they regrouped their forces, organizing a powerful mobile group of forces in the Kachalinsk - Kotluban area made up of three Kuban corps and their 6th Infantry Division. This mobile group launched an attack first of all on September 9, 1919, against the Tenth Army, inflicting heavy losses upon it and by so doing halted the further advance of Shorin's group. The latter had by this time been weakened considerably by a detachment of forces for action against Mamontov's raiding forces, as indicated by the above- quoted telegram.
The favorable change in the general situation for the Whites now prompted the White leaders to exploit the local successes gained by them over the Selivachev detachment. Their decision in this connection formed the basis of the general engagement on the frontiers of the R.S.F.S.R. which developed primarily in the Orel operation. Before examining the nature of the development of this new phase of the campaign on the South Front and which was the crucial phase of the action here, we wish to present a few concluding remarks on the continuing Mamontov raids.
After his successful coping with the 56th Infantry Division that had been sent against him from the Kirsanov area and, as we already mentioned;after seizing Tambov on the 18th of August and Kozlov on the 22nd of August, the Headquarters of the South Front, being compelled to abandon the latter town and to move to Orel, Mamontov moved directly due west, stationing a flanking detachment at Rannenburg. Mamontov's successful action demanded the unification of the control of the forces operating against him under a single commander. On August 27, 1919, control of all forces employed against Mamontov was placed in the hands of Lashevick, who was a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the South Front. An attempt to block the line of advance of the Mamontov forces was unsuccessful in view of the fact that nearly the entire forces employed against him were foot troops. As a consequence, Mamontov's forces succeeded in reaching Lebedyany before the Red forces could get there, whence he moved on Yelets - occupying the latter.
In the course of the further movements of Mamontov's corps among the Cossacks there was to observed the signs of disintegration, brought about by excessive plundering by Mamontov's troops. The inhabitants were hostile toward his corps and the strength of his cavalry was gradually diminishing. This caused Mamontov to resort to subsidiary military formations organized from among the local inhabitants (organization of the Tula infantry division). Simultaneously there was an increase in the strength of the Red forces, and the ring of the latter formed around Mamontov's corps began tightening. In view of this fact, Mamontov decided to end his raids. On September 4th he moved from Yelets in three columns in the southerly and southeasterly directions. On the 6th of September he managed to escape the envelopment of the Red forces and began a swift march to the south. The Red high-command, endeavoring to prevent Mamontov from establishing contact with his main forces,decided on the assignment of considerable forces of the South Front for action against Mamontov.
With this in view, in addition to the forces sent for employment against the White cavalry, including the brigade of the 3d Infantry Division (of the Eighth Army) and the 21st Infantry Division that was proceeding from the East Front to reinforce the Shorin group of forces, orders were issued for the assignments from the Tenth Army of the 37th Infantry Division and the 22nd Infantry Division from the Ninth Army. The high command was in no particular hurry in transferring the 27th Infantry Division, contemplating to reinforce with this division the right flank of the Ninth Army, while the 22nd Division was delayed by its army until the completion of the action against the Mironov uprising. The latter, a former Cossack colonel, fought on the side of the Soviet forces from the very beginning of the October revolution, but, being opposed to the Soviet policy in the Don territory, decided on action on two fronts, namely against both, Denikin's forces and against the Bolsheviks, with his Don corps that he was at this time organizing in Saransk (government of Penza). On August 23d, under the pretense that the government was disrupting the organization of his corps, Mironov induced to revolt a part of the Cossacks and with a detachment of 5,000 men (of whom only 2,000 were equipped with arms and 1,000 cavalry), with two guns and 10 machine-guns, moved to the front in the hope that he would be accepted by the 23d Infantry Division of the Ninth Army, which he had previously commanded. For the purpose of liquidating the Mironov uprising, units were taken from the First and Fourth armies of the East Front, units of the reserve army from Kazan and from the Samara fortified area. There was, however, no need of their assistance in this connection. The Mironov detachment came upon Budienny's cavalry corps and was dispersed.
After the liquidation of the Mironov insurrection, Budienny's cavalry corps continued its advance in the Novokhopersk area. Mamontov was at this time proceeding directly on Voronezh. On September 7th Mamontov occupied the town of Usman and during September 8 to 12 he vainly endeavored to seize Voronezh, finding it impossible to overcome the Red forces which had arrived there in time to save the city. As a consequence, Mamontov discontinued his action for the possession of Voronezh and withdrew in a northerly direction, where he continued for about a week to maneuver in the vicinity of the city and in the immediate proximity of the line of the front, endeavoring to disclose weekly held points within the Red front with a view to penetrating the same and to thus establish contact with his main forces. All available information with respect to the disposition of the white cavalry indicated their concentration to the southeast of Voronezh, and the principal Red forces were also being moved up, weakening the lines to the southwest of the town.
During the maneuvering of Mamontov's forces there was disclosed the
vigorous advance of the corps under Shkuro from Stary Oskol in the northern and
northeasterly directions. The Shkuro group on September 17 was already situated
50km. southwest of Voronezh; Mamontov promptly turned his forces against
Shkuro's and Mamontov's cavalry forces at the Osadchino village. Mamontov
failed to halt the advance of the Red cavalry, yet he considerably weakened
their striking power, particularly in so far as the Shorin group was concerned.
Considerable forces of this group (over two infantry divisions) instead of
performing the immediate mission designated for them, were diverted for action
against the Mamontov forces. This circumstance served to facilitate in large
measure the development of the new offensive of the White armies in the central
aries and aided them in the execution of this advance. Mamontov's success was
bought, however, at the price of the collapse of the military efficiency of his
cavalry, owing both to the internal disintegration of the latter and to the
exhaustion of the cavalry. The importance of large cavalry forces under the
conditions obtaining in the civil war was duly recognized by the Red high
command from the experience gained by Mamontov's raids. This finally brought
about the firm decision of the organization of large Red cavalry units, which
played a decisive role in the subsequent operations of the Red army
(Proletarian campaign on horseback).
This was the general strategic background on which was developed the final large scale offensive of the White armies on the South Front.
Before the beginning of the decisive struggle in South Russia, General Denikin had succeeded in raising the strength of his forces to 99,450 infantry, 53,800 cavalry troops and 560 guns (these forces varied considerably as to combat efficiency). The White high command had gained this increase in its forces by introducing into its military establishment forcibly inducted men mobilized from among the population along with captured men from the Red military forces. Service in the White armies, however, was equally repugnant both to the local inhabitants and to the captured en of the Red military forces.
The general disposition of the hostile forces at the time of the launching of the Orel operation had been as follows: On a front of about 1,065 km. the enemy had 15 infantry and 26 cavalry divisions (58,650 infantry and 48,200 cavalry troops, 431 guns and 1,727 machine-guns); immediately behind his lines, in the Kharkov and Bielgorod area were two infantry and one cavalry divisions in the process of organization (15,300 infantry and 600 cavalry troops), and finally, farther behind the lines new units in the process of organization included 25,500 infantry and 5,000 cavalry troops. The Red armies of the South Front at this time were brought up to a strength of 113,439 infantry, and 27,328 cavalry troops with 774 guns and 3,763 machine-guns, occupying a front from the Dnieper river up to the Volga. In general the Red forces enjoyed a numerical and technical superiority over the Whites; in the central sectors, however, where the decisive fighting developed, the enemy had succeeded in concentrating relatively strong forces, namely; against 55,630 infantry and 1,820 cavalry troops and 412 guns (Fourteenth, Thirteenth and Eighth armies) of the Reds, the White forces consisted of 45,200 infantry and 13,900 cavalry troops with about 200 guns (See Sketch 9 - original text).
The armies of the Red South Front occupied positions as follows:The Fourteenth Army with its main forces was situated on September 5 on the line of the Desna and Seim rivers from Chernigov through Pliski up to Glukhova, forming the right flank of the armies of the South Front ( on September 6th the commander-in-chief again transferred the Twelfth Army in the West Front); The Thirteenth Army which bore the brunt of the fighting during the recent operations, was situated at the approaches to the city of Kursk, with the Seim river in its immediate rear, and occupying a line from Kursk, up to Stary Oskol (exclusive). The Eight Army occupied an advance position on the right bank of the Don river on the approximate line Stary Oskol - Valuiki (both inclusive) - Pavlovsk. The Ninth Army remained in positions behind the Eighth Army, extending to the line of the Khoper river from Nikolayevsk to Ust-Medviditskoi. The enemy was already withdrawing on this front behind the Don river, being delayed only by rear guard actions.
Against these forces, on the front: Stary Oskol - Rzhava - Oboyan - Sudzha - Sumy, there was concentrated the hostile assault group comprising 25,900 infantry and 5,600 cavalry troops, 421 machine-guns, 90 guns, 4 armored cars, 9 tanks, 10 armored trains. The hostile forces were situated more densely in the Rzhava - Oboyan sector, where on a 12-km. front there were concentrated 9,500 infantry and 700 cavalry troops with 32 guns, comprising 800 infantrymen per one km. of front - a density of troops that had not been used in the civil war up to that time.
This disposition of the hostile forces tends to show that the enemy intended first to effect a tactical penetration of the center of the South Front, with a view to the subsequent development of the same into a strategic breakthrough of the front by means of subsidiary assaults to be launched with his flanking groups of forces.
Stubbornly fighting for the maintenance of the initiative, the commander of the South Front on September 9th assigned the missions to the Fourteenth and Thirteenth armies of reaching the line; Vorozhba - Sumy. In turn, three days later, i.e., on September 12th, the White command issued orders for the launching of a general offensive on its entire front "from the Volga up to the Rumanian frontier."In the execution of the above mission, the enemy attacked shortly thereafter the Red Thirteenth Army with his entire assault group and, effecting a penetration of the center,reached the city of Kursk.
With a view to counteracting this, the Red command endeavored to develop an assault against the enemy with the flanking armies, with the Fourteenth Army and the Shorin group, calling upon the latter to seize Bogutchar at the earliest practicable moment. The advance of the Fourteenth Army developed successfully and it occupied on the 13th of September the line Borzna - Bakhmatch;* the Shorin group, however, became involved in vigorous and fruitless action in the Tsaritsyn area, which restricted its freedom of movement. Furthermore, the Thirteenth Army was also ordered to concentrate assault detachments in the Nizhnedevitsk and Marmyzhin areas and to utilize these in accordance with the requirements of the situation**
* In the execution of this mission the Fourteenth Army was reinforced with the 7th Infantry Division and a brigade of the 9th Infantry Division.
**The commander-in-chief, S.S. Kamenev, demanded on September 19th an even more bold undertaking by the Shorin group. He required it to reach the line of the Don river on the Pavlovsk - Ust- Medveditskaya as promptly as possible, and the development of the attack westward along the Don.
By September 20th the advance of the White forces extended along the entire front of the right-flank forces of the Fourteenth Army and of the center armies of the South Front (Thirteenth and Eighth armies).Defeating the units of the Fourteenth Army, the White forces endeavored to drive them back of the Desna river, with a view to securing the left flank of the Orel group of forces. After capturing Kursk the enemy developed his operations against the Eighth Army, thus widening his strategic penetration also in the east. In order to bring about the decisive defeat of the Eighth Army, the Whites sent the corps under Shkuro against Voronezh,in the vicinity of which, as we have seen above, it established contact with the corps under Mamontov. As a result of the vigorous fighting, the three armies of the South Front (Fourteenth, Thirteenth and Eighth armies) were defeated by the enemy and were withdrawing in a northerly direction; the cavalry corps under Budienny maintained contact between the Eighth and Ninth armies.
The fall of Kursk and the poor condition of the Selivachev detachment attracted the attention of our commander- in-chief to the Orel-Kursk direction. Originally the commander-in-chief, apparently, contemplated efforts toward the liquidation of the partial victories of the enemy in the Orel area and the protection of the inner flanks of the groups of forces under Shorin and Selivachev with the aid of Budienny's cavalry corps. The gradual evaluation of the plan of the Orel operation, and the transfer of the center of gravity to the Orel - Kursk - Kharkov area, may be noted from the subsequent discussions that transpired between the commander-in-chief and the commander of the South Front, and the orders issued by the commander-in- chief. Already on the 24th of September a telegram of the latter (No. 4514/op)* addressed to the commander of the South Front stressed some new regrouping of forces. This telegram referred to the concentration of certain new units that were to be left at the disposition of the commander-in-chief in the Navlya - Dmitriev area. This was a reference to the Latvian infantry division, the brigade commanded by Pavlov and the brigade of Red Cossacks, with a total strength of 10,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry troops and 80 guns. Before long, apparently, the commander-in-chief formulated a definite plan of action with respect to the utilization of the cavalry corps under Budienny in the Voronezh area. The commander of the South Front, apparently already informed of this decision, in his note of the 27th of September (No.10215)* reported to the commander-in-chief that "in general", he "intends to send the cavalry corps against Mamontov's forces," which were still operating against the lines of the Eighth Army.
*Archives of the Red Army, Doc. 738, p. 93.
A telegram addressed by the commander-in-chief to Shorin (No. 4615/op) dated September 30th, seems to have a direct hearing on the above report This telegram contains the definite statement that it is imperative to make this cavalry corps available as promptly as possible for a new mission, and that for the time being it was necessary to deliver one more brief thrust in the southeast with a view to facilitating the speedy arrival of the Ninth Army on the Don.**
** Archives of the Red Army,Doc. 738, p.105
On this same day, i.e., September 30, the Shorin group, upon orders of the commander- in-chief (No. 4637/op)*** was detached from the Southeast Front.
*** Id. Doc. 738, p.111
Henceforward the South Front became the center of attention of the commander-in-chief. On this front, the Orel - Kursk area became the object of special care of the commander-in-chief and commander of the South Front. The attention of the latter, however, was divided between the Thirteenth Army and the Eighth Army
The Eight Army at this time found itself in a rather difficult situation. The wedging in of the corps under Shkuro and Mamontov between the inner flanks of the two fronts in the vicinity of Voronezh threatened the turning of the left flank; at the same time, a considerable infantry force appeared to the prepared for the delivery of an attack against its right flank from the Korotoysk area. Yegoryev, commanding the South Front (group of armies), in a conversation with the commander-in-chief over direct wire on October 6th, outlined the mission of the cavalry corps as follows: "This cavalry nightmare must be dispensed with as soon as possible and the Ninth Army must be enabled to consolidate the positions on the Don." The commander- in-chief concurred in this, stating that "Budienny, by exerting pressure first on Mamontov's forces and then on Shkuro's, should prove of material aid to the Eighth Army." *
*Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No. 831, p. 334. In this same conversation the commander-in-chief communicated to Yegoryev the information of his relief from command of the front (group of armies). A.I. Yegorov was shortly thereafter appointed commander of the South Front.
The above discussion is also quite important in determining the strategic plans of the commander of the South Front, which had also been approved by the commander-in-chief. In the conception of this plan we note the special importance assigned to the Voronezh area, which particularly disturbed both the commander of the South Front and the commander-in-chief with its "cavalry nightmare." In order to do away with this nightmare use was being made of the cavalry corps. However, there was still no mention of the utilization of this cavalry corps in connection with the operations of the forces in the Orel area or its subsequent missions. This testifies to the fact that the plan of operations as a while, with the full cooperation of all of the separated units, had not yet been completely worked out by our higher military leaders. And yet, among the different versions appearing in our military historical literature, the suggestion appears that the plan for the Orel operation was at once formulated in the final aspects, and contemplated a double envelopment of the hostile group of forces operating in the Orel area. * The outcome of the above discussions was the directive of the commander-in-chief (No. 4780/po) dated October 7th ** sent to the commander of the South Front in conformity with which the cavalry corps under Budienny was assigned to the South Front and was given the mission to continue the pursuit and the destruction of the hostile cavalry forces belonging to Mamontov and Shkuro. The commander of the South Front, in his orders No. 632/op set forth this mission as follows: "Mamontov and Shkuro have joined forces at Voronezh and are operating against Gryaza - these forces will be located and destroyed."Simultaneously, all cavalry forces of the Eighth Army were attached to Budienny's corps.***
*Triandafilov in an article entitled A brief strategic outline of the offensive of the South Front and the Liquidation of Denikin's Army (Shornik trudov VNO, State Publishing House, 1921, p. 129) writes; "It was contemplated to concentrate an assault group at Orel, and to attack in the general direction of Orel - Kursk, while conducting at the same time an attack with the Budienny cavalry from Voronezh," etc.
** Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No. 738, p. 115.
*** Id. Doc. No.738, p. 114.
While our decisive counter-maneuver was being formulated for the
Orel area, the enemy continued to gain his last successes; The right flank of
the Fourteenth Army was forced bank beyond the Desna river and units of the
Volunteer Army had already occupied the city of Chernigov, and on the 6th of
October they also entered the city of Voronezh. The advance of the White forces
in the Orel area had not been affected by the movement of the Red Ninth Army
(l8,630 infantry, 2,766 cavalry with 165 guns) to the line of the Don river,
before which there was gradually retreating the numerically stronger Don Army,
with the object of straightening out its front along the Caucasus Army under
General Wrangel in the Tsaritsyn area.
However, the appearance of the Red Ninth Army on the line of the Don river still produced an indirect, unfavorable effect on the White forces operating in the Orel area. This consisted of the fact that General Denikin, with a view to securing the right flank of the Volunteer Army by a further advance of this flank northward, ordered the commander of the Don Army to clear of Red forces the Don territory in the Novokhopersk area.*
*This decision determined the further action of General Denikin in the separate Orel and Novokhopersk areas, which prevented him from obtaining reserves from the Don Army for a development of his assault in the direction of his main effort.
The second crossing of the Don river was organized by the Don Army into three powerful groups; In the Talovaya area; in the Kazansk village area, and in the Kletskoi village area. The intervals between these assault groups were occupied by a weak line of outposts.
The operation on the Don front started with a new raid by Mamontov's cavalry against the Liski railway station and the occupation of the Talovaya railway station on October 1st, severing the communications of the Headquarters of the Ninth Army with the right-flank units of this army and creating a threat to the Novokhoperks area. Against the raiding cavalry there were directed the cavalry corps under Budienny, the cavalry group of the Ninth Army, the 21st Infantry Division, the 22nd Railway Brigade, along with a variety of local military organizations. Avoiding an encounter with these forces, Mamontov on October 3 turned to the northwestward and was approaching Voronezh; he was being pursued by Budienny's cavalry corps which had reached the Bobrov area.The assault groups of the Don Army, however, taking advantage of the weakened lines of the Ninth Army brought about by the transfer of considerable forces to its right flank for action against the new raids undertaken by Mamontov, successfully crossed the Don river during the period of October 5 to 10, and were forcing back the Ninth Army all along the line, and by so doing threatened the left-flank divisions of this army that were still maintaining their positions on the Don river. After considerable fighting, the commander of the Ninth Army found it necessary to withdraw to the line; mouth of the Ikorets river - Buturlinovka - Uspenskaya - Kumylzhanskaya - Archedinskaya awaiting a more favorable time for the launching of a general offensive.
Forcing back the Ninth Army in an easterly direction the enemy,joining the cavalry corps of Shkuro and Mamontov at Voronezh, began developing his active operations in the gap between the dinner flank of the Eighth Army, threatened by the hostile cavalry corps operating in the Gryaza area from the direction of Nizhnedevitsk, and by the Don III Corps from the direction of Bobrov, operating in the vicinity of the Nordovo railway station, withdrew to the line of the Ikorets river, from the Tulinovo railway station up to the mouth of that river.
For several days the Eighth Army had already been without communications with the Headquarters of the South Front. The plan for the withdrawal was adopted by the commander of the Eighth Army on October 4th independently. He reported that the reasons for his withdrawal were the turning of both flanks, the lack of communications, lack of ammunition, and the general exhaustion of the army during its battles.*
* Archives of the Red Army, Doc. 831, pp. 348 and 349.
Particularly noteworthy was the enemy's advance in the Orel area
along the main railway line Kursk - Orel - Moscow. This advance, however, was
brought about at the price of a regrouping of forces along the front, inasmuch
as General Denikin no longer had at his disposal any available reserves behind
his lines with which to support a further development of his operation.
At the very time of the Orel operation the peasant movement behind the lines of Denikin's forces had assumed the proportions of a real peasant conflict, shattering all internal ties within the White communications zone, at times threatening even Denikin's headquarters. The peasant's struggle against Denikin was led not alone by the proletariat but as well by the an- archaist slogans and by the social-revolutionary ideology of the Greens. The fight against the large land-owners, against when the peasantry had taken up arms, facilitated the rise of Makhno's influence. In the course of one month Makhno seized Yekaterinoslav, and his detachments at times threatened even Taganrog, where Denikin's headquarters was situated. On the Black Sea coast the peasant movement of the Greens which adopted the slogans of the third independent democratic power had assumed such proportions that the Allied diplomats, represented by the British High Commissioner, endeavored to improve Denikin's position by entering into negotiations with the Greens looking toward a truce between them and General Denikin.
Relations with the Kuban Cossacks at this time had become
particularly strained. Officially, the Rada had been subdued by the execution
of several of its deputies. However, in order to keep the Kubans subservient to
Denikin it was practically necessary to establish the actual military
occupation of the Kuban territory.
Finally, in the autumn of 1919 Denikin's national policies also began bearing fruit. The Tchetchens * and Daghestan revolted against the Government of the Armed forces of South Russia.
* The Techetchens are a people of the Caucasus region, Terek territory. - Tr.
Even though the leading elements of the mountain tribes endeavored
to lend to the uprising a nationalist, chauvinistic aspect and to conduct it
under pan-Islamic slogans, this succeeded only in part. The economic causes
responsible for the wide scope of the movement had been responsible also for
the revolt itself. In the wake of the Green banner name the Red banner in short
order, and in a considerable number of areas the mountaineers began advancing
definitely Bolshevik slogans in their abrupt nationalist change.
And thus among the White forces, notwithstanding their numerous recent victories, there was beginning a powerful struggle that gained momentum from day to day, waged by the peasantry and national minorities against the Government of the Armed forces of South Russia.
Action against the increasing peasant uprising served to divert considerable forces of the White command. Against Makhno's forces there were sent aside from the reserve forces, some of the best first line units; the Terek Cossack forces were engaged in fighting to suppress the Daghestan revolt; Wrangel's Caucasus Army had to base the operations on a communications zone that was seething with the Kuban revolt.
The immediate result of this internal political situation, in so far as the military front was concerned, was that the military commanders could not count on a flow of reinforcements from the interior, and, as we have already pointed out, reinforcements had to be acquired at the price of denuding other sectors of the front. The reserve force which to some extent had been made available by the Don Army upon its withdrawal beyond the Don river had been once more committed to action by General Denikin on the line previously occupied by it, as a consequence of which there where no further reserves available with which to reinforce the advancing units, and it was thus necessary to weaken the screening force that had been left against the Red Fourteenth Army on the right bank of the Desna river.
A glance at the disposition of the opposing forces in the Orel area on October 8th presents the following picture (See Sketch 10 and map pertaining to Chapter XI - original text). The front of the White forces extended in a convex semi-arc from Voronezh via Zemlyansk - Petrovsk (exclusive) - Livna - Gryaznoye (exclusive) - Eropkino - Kromy (exclusive) - Bgoroditskoye - Sevsk (exclusive). On this line the White forces developed as follows: In the Voronezh area, to the southeast of the city, there operated the cavalry corps under Shkuro and Mamontov, comprising about 11,000 cavalry troops. On the line Zemliansk (exclusive) - Livna - Gryaznoye (exclusive), about 125 km. in length, there operated a hostile infantry division consisting of 4,900 infantry and 400 cavalry troops (number of guns and machine-guns unknown). Thus, in this sector of the front the enemy had 39 infantry and 3 cavalry troops per kilometer of front (in round figures). On the line Gryaznoye (exclusive) - Dropkino - Kromy (exclusive) - Bogoroditskoye (exclusive), extending over a distance of 100 km., the Kornilov Division developed its advance with about 4,000 infantry and 300 cavalry troops, providing about 40 infantry an d 3 cavalry troops per kilometer of front. In the Bogoroditskoye (inclusive) - Sevsk (exclusive) sector, and 50 kilometers to the southwest of it, on a general line of about 150 km., there developed the 3d Infantry compression 6,400 infantry, 300 cavalry troops and 20 guns - about 43 infantry and 2 cavalry troops and 1/8 of a guns per kilometer of front, in round figures. These three division belonged to the I Corps of General Kutepov: in reserve, south of Kursk, Kutepov had 2,5000 infantry troops that had been formed into newly organized units. Further, against the Fourteenth Army along the line of the Desna river, from the left flank of the Drozdovsky Division up to Borozna, over a distance of 150 km., there developed the V Cavalry Corps under General Yuzefovitch, comprising 4,000 cavalry troops - about 27 cavalry troops per kilometer of front, in round figures.
Against these forces of the enemy, the Reds, confronting them on the
above line, had developed as follows: against the 1st Infantry Division and
partly against the Kornilov Division, in the Kromy (exclusive) - Khotetovo -
Gryaznoye - Livna (exclusive) - Petrovskoye sector, a distance of 250 km., the
Thirteenth Red Army (the composite division, 55th Division, brigade of the 3d
Division, brigade of the 9th Division and the 42d Division), comprising 16,000
infantry and 2,200 cavalry troops, 369 machine-guns and 129 guns, or about 64
infantry and 9 cavalry troops with 2 machine-guns and 1/2 gun per kilometer of
front, in round figures.
In the immediate rear of these forces, however, in the Karachev - Glinka - Navlia - Samovo - Gorodishche area, there was already concentrated the G.H.Q. reserve made up of the Latvian Infantry Division, brigade under Pavlov and the cavalry brigade commanded by Primakov, with a total strength of 10,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry troops and 80 guns.*
*Archives of the Red Army . Doc. No. 2022 (25-c, map),
By committing to action this reserve in the sector of the Thirteenth Army the number of troops per km. of front here was to be brought up to 104 infantry and 15 cavalry and 5/6 gun. There was thus brought about a superiority of two to one over the enemy here. Against the Drozdovsky Division in the Borogoditskoye - Sevsk sector, extending about 100 km., was concentrated the main strength of the Fourteenth Army ** (3d Brigade, 41st Infantry Division; 57th Infantry Division; 2nd Brigade, 7th Infantry Division) - about 10,000 infantry troops with 40 guns, providing 1,000 infantry troops, 2/5 gun per kilometer of front, i.e., here too the Red forces had more than a two to one superiority over the enemy, which might have been even further increased by introduction of the G.H.Q. reserve into action in the sector of the Fourteenth Army. Against the corps commanded by Yuzefovitch on the right bank of the Desna there extended up to the vicinity of Borzna the 46th Infantry Division with some cavalry organizations.
** Id. Doc. No. 738, p. 117.
The potentialities, however, of the Red Thirteenth and Fourteenth armies for further reinforcement had not been exhausted with the G.H.Q. reserves alone. In the Orel area there was arriving the Esthonian Infantry Division, which was soon to be committed to action. From Vyazma there was being transferred to Bryansk the 45th Infantry Division, which was to reinforce the Fourteenth Army (this division was late, however, in arriving and came up only after the pursuit of the enemy had already been launched). The enemy could only have thrown into the balance of the uncertain fortunes of war that small reserve which he had available south of Kursk along with units taken off from neighboring sectors of the front.
Thus, the relative strength of the opposing forces in the Orel area was obviously unfavorable to the enemy. And yet this circumstance prior to the time when the commander-in-chief committed to action his reserves had not been sufficiently decisive, which is to be explained by the thin lines of the Red forces, the exhaustion of the Red forces incident to previous fighting, and finally, the considerable intermingling of Red organizations. This was equally true in so far as the hostile forces here were concerned. Of the hostile assault group in the Rzhava - Oboyan sector, which the enemy utilized in launching his Orel operation, there was not a trace left. The fronts on both sides represented thin lines, each putting forth its last efforts, - one in order to maintained occupied ground, and the other to regain it. The further step in the formulation of the plan of the Orel operation was a telegram of the commander-in-chief (No. 1247/op) dated October 8 addressed to the commander of the South Front.* which stressed the launching of the planned Orel operation without waiting for the concentration of all forces of the assault group. The telegram ended with the following phrase: "Think out clearly the entire operation, particularly the precise missions which it involves." On the next day, i.e., on October 9th, the commander-in-chief transferred the G.H.Q. reserve in the Orel area to the commander of the South Front (by telegram No. 4830/op), **consisting of the Latvian Division and units attached consisting of the Latvian Division and units attached thereto, and in his telegram No. 4828/op ** * The outlined the following plan for the utilization of these units: "It is desirable to have the assault group directed to the northwest of the line Kormy - Dmitrovsk on a front not exceeding 20 km. The general direction of the attack to be aimed against the Kursk railway line between Malo-Arkhangelsk and Fatezh. The forces in the vicinity of Kormy and Dmitrovsk to be left in the areas occupied by the, without, however, removing the assault group." The instructions of the commander-in-chief with respect to the left flank of the Thirteenth Army are of special interest, affecting the brigades commanded by Svechnikov and those of the 55th Infantry Division. The commander of the South Front, whose functions were provisionally still performed by Yegoryev, proposed to utilize these units in the southeasterly direction, but G.H.Q. decided on sending these units also in the main direction of the battle of Orel, suggesting that they be ordered to advance to the southwestward.
*Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No. 738, p.117.
** Archives of the Red Army Doc. No. 738, p. 118.
*** Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No. 738 P. 119
We thus have the concept of the Orel operation, * which was of the nature of a double envelopment of the hostile forces in the Orel area on the one hand, by the assault group - Latvian Division and attached units, and on the other, by the left flank of the Thirteenth Army. Consequently, the scope of the general operation of the 9th of October clearly involved two separate sector, namely, the Voronezh and Orel sectors; the commander- in-chief, however,
*Editor's note: The present volume had been completed before the work of K.E.Voroshilov appeared, entitled Stalin and the Red Army (State publishing house,1929), which contains considerable new data bearing on the process of the evolution of the plan for the delivery of the main attack against Denikin's forces in the Kursk - Kharkov - Donets Basin area. The execution of this plan,as we know, brought about Denikin's defeat.
K.E. Voroshilov writes (p. 21): The autumn of 1919 is engraved in all our memories. a vital, decisive change in the entire civil war was at hand. Equipped and supplied by the Allies and aided by their staffs, Denikin's White guard hordes approached Orel. The entire huge South Front was slowly being rolled back. Internally, the situation was equally difficult. Supply and provision difficulties were grave. The industrial areas of the country came to a standstill because of a lack of fuel. In the interior, and even at Moscow, counter-revolutionary elements began raising their heads. Tula was threatened; Moscow was in danger.
The situation had to be saved. The Central Committee sent Stalin to the South Front as a member of the Revolutionary Military Council. It is now no longer necessary to conceal the fact that prior to his appointment. Stalin submitted to the Central Committee three salient points; 1. Trotsky was not to interfere in the affairs of the South Front, and was not to cross the boundaries of that front; 2. A number of workers were to be recalled from the South Front at once, whom Stalin did not consider suitable for the purpose of restoring the situation among the troops there. 3. New workers were at once to be ordered to the South Front that were to be selected by Stalin, whom he believed capable of the execution of the missions involved. These conditions were accepted in full.
A proper consideration of the vast scope of the undertaking ( an area which extended from the Volga up to the Polish-Ukrainian frontier) referred to as the South Front and embracing the action of several hundred thousand troops, involved a clear and definite formulation of the missions of the front (group of armies). Only after the proper formulation of the plan and missions involved could the appropriate missions be assigned to the forces, and, by a proper regrouping and the concentration of the best available forces in the directions of the main effort, could the offensive be launched.
Stalin found a most indefinite, vague and difficult situation at the front. In the principal area, that of Kursk - Orel - Tula, the Red forces were suffering reverses; the eastern flank was hopelessly stalled. As regards strategic directives, Stalin was offered the old plan (of September) for the delivery of the main attack with the left flank, from Tsaritsyn against Novorossiisk, through the Don steppes:
"The basic plan for the attack by the South Front remains unchanged; the main effort is to be made by the special group commanded by Shorin, the mission of which was the destruction of the enemy in the Don and Kuban territory." (Directive of the commander-in-chief, September, 1919).
After familiarizing himself with the situation, Stalin at once adopted his plan of action. He categorically rejected the old plan, submitted new suggestions and presented them to Lenin in the following note, which is self-explanatory. This note is of such interest and so vividly portrays Stalin's strategic skill, and presents the entire matter is such clear light, that we believe it worth while to present here in full.
"About two months ago this commander-in-chief had no particular objections to the launching of an attack from the west against the east through the Donets basin and of making the main effort in that direction. If he failed to launch such an attack, it was due to the fact that, complaining of the "heritage" received as a consequence of the withdrawal of the southern forces on the southeast front, a regrouping of which would have involved a great loss of time that would have favored Denikin. At the present time, however, the situation and the regrouping of forces involved have undergone some basic changes. The Eighth Army (main force on the former South Front) has changed positions in the area of the South Front and is now facing directly the Donets Basin; Budienny's cavalry corps (another basic force) has also been moved up to the South Front area; a new force has been added - the Latvian Division - which within a month, after some reorganization, will once more constitute a menacing force for Denikin to reckon with. What causes the G.E.Q. to adhere to the old plan? Apparently, nothing more than sheer stubbornness, or if you wish, undue partisanship, which is the "strategic" cockerel at the G.H.Q. A few days ago the commander-in-chief ordered Shorin to advance on Novorossiisk through the Don steppes over a line that might well be flown over by our aviators but that is quite impossible for any of our infantry or artillery to wade through. Obviously, such a wild enterprise in terrain hostile to us and completely lacking in roads could have only ended in failure for us. It is quite easy to understand that a march of this kind against the Cossack villages, as some of our recent experience has clearly shown, would have had the effect of arousing the Cossacks against us and of having them rally around Denikin in the defense of their villages, and might well have placed Denikin in the position of liberator of the Don territory, and brought about the organization of a Cossack army for Denikin and appreciably strengthened Denikin's position. It is especially because of this that it is essential that, without losing any time, we change the already superseded old plan and adopt instead a plan providing for a main attack on Rostov, through Kharkov and the Donets Basin. In the first place, we will, under the circumstances, be operating in friendly rather than hostile territory which will facilitate our movements; and secondly, we will obtain the most important railway system (Donets) and the main arterial route utilized by Denikin in the supply of his forces, namely: the Voronezh - Rostov line; thirdly, this movement we shall cut the Denikin forces in two, of which the Volunteer Army we shall leave at the mercy of Makhno's forces, while threatening the Cossack forces with an attack from the rear; fourthly, we will have an opportunity to arouse the Cossacks against Denikin, who (Denikin), in the event of our successful advance, will endeavor to more the Cossack forces west, to which most of the Cossacks will object; fifth - we will obtain coal, while at the same time depriving Denikin of the same. There must be no delay in the adoption of this plan. In short, the old and obsolete plan must in no wise be galvanized - to do so would be dangerous to the Republic and would amount to aiding Denikin. This plan must be replaced by another more appropriate one. Conditions and circumstances not only are ripe for this but imperatively demand this. Failing this my work on the South Front will be useless, offensive, unnecessary - which shall give me the right, or, more properly, the duty, to leave here, going where I may, even if it be to the devil, rather than to remain at the South Front. - Your Stalin."
Any commentary on the above would be superfluous. Its of interest to note the measurement Stalin utilizes in measuring the shortest strategic distance. In civil wars, simple arithmetic is frequently not enough and may often prove wrong. The route from Tsaritsyn to Novorossiisk may prove much further because it passes through territory where the people are hostile to the Soviet cause. On the other hand, the route from Tula to Novorossiisk may be much shorter because it leads through the toiling inhabitants of Kharkov and through the mining areas of the Donets Basin. In this evaluation of the situation there is clear evidence of Stalin's great qualities as a proletarian revolutionary and as real strategist of the civil war.
Stalin's plan was adopted by the Central Committee. Lenin himself wrote instructions to the field headquarters to change the obsolete directive previously issued at once. The main attack was delivered by the South Front in the direction: Kharkov - Donets Basin - Rostov. We know the results that were achieved: there was a change in the situation of our civil war.
Denikin's hordes were driven into the Black Sea. The Ukraine and Northern Caucasus were liberated of the White guards. Much of the credit for this is due comrade Stalin. Stalin apparently considered each of these separately and quite independently of one another. Apparently, the commander of the South Front had considered this in the same manner, whose directive (No. 10726/op) ** of October 9th consists primarily of a transmission of the directive of the commander-in-chief above referred to. The commander of the South Front placed the assault group under the control of the Thirteenth Army, ordering its deployment in the Turinovo - Molodovoye sector and the launching of a decisive attack on the section of the railway above referred to. The left flank of the Thirteenth Army - the Svechnikov brigade and the 55th Infantry Division - was to defeat the enemy advancing on Orel. Consequently, the 55th Infantry Division was to advance in the southwesterly direction. The Fourteenth Army was ordered; to execute the mission previously assigned it on its right flank, to restore the situation in the vicinity of the Mikhailovsk farm, and, after reinforcing its left flank with the 1st brigade, to attack with this flank on Dmitrovsk. The main effort was to be made by the Thirteenth Army, while the subsidiary attack was to be delivered by the Left flank of the Fourteenth Army. In reserve of the commander of the South Front there was left north of the city of Orel the 86th infantry regiment, a small detachment and the Esthonian division which was beginning to concentrate there. This directive was not fully executed, however. The left flank of the Thirteenth Army (the Svechinkov brigade and the 56th Infantry Division), as is apparent from the conversations between the commander-in-chief and the commander of the South Front on October 10th**
* Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No.738, pp. 121 and 122
** Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No. 738, pp. 344 - 346. was compelled to turn directly southward, in view of the appearance on the Kormy highway of two new hostile regiments, and the advance involved was turned into a frontal attack instead of the contemplated enveloping movement.
The advance of the assault group of the Thirteenth Army and of the left flank of this army encountered the stubborn resistance of the enemy, and developed very slowly. The directive of the commander of the South Front (No. 10801/op)*already stressed the vital importance of the active operations of the left flank of the Fourteenth Army. On October 12th the commander of the South Front, by directive No. 10852
emphasizing the movement of the hostile cavalry from Voronezh in the northerly and northeasterly directions; repeated once more the mission to the Budienny cavalry corps, calling upon it to defeat this hostile cavalry and at the same time gave it the subsidiary mission of assisting the Eighth Army. the latter army had been given the mission of launching a vigorous attack and to reach the line of the Don river up to Yankovitse. Thus this directive also designated limited missions for the time being to both left-flank groups of the South Front. On October 15th the commander of the South Front placed the assault group of the Thirteenth Army (Latvian Division and units attached thereto) under the orders of the commander of the Fourteenth Army. In his directive No. 10419/op
*** According to the article by V. Triandafillov, above referred to..
the commander of the South Front demanded vigorous action toward the liquidation of the enemy in the vicinity of Dmitrovsk, by the occupation of which the enemy threatened the rear of the assault group - along with the vigorous advance of the central divisions of the Fourteenth Army in the southeasterly direction, with a view to securing the right flank of the assault group. The latter had been ordered by the commander of the South Front to direct its action on Yerkpkino, which brought about a purely frontal attack on the part of this group.
From the relative strength of the opposing forces, as shown above, it is not difficult to realize the advantages of both plans for the utilization of the G.H.Q. reserve. The G.H.Q. directive No.4828/op dated October 9th and the directive of the commander of the South Front, No. 10419/op dated October 15th had brought about essentially a frontal encounter between the hostile divisions under Drozdovsky and Kornilov and the Latvian Division and the brigade under Pavlov.
The difference was that the G.H.Q. directive embraced the line further in rear of the enemy, while the directive of the commander of the South Front included only the Yeropkino area and simply sought to block the spearhead of the hostile advancing forces. Under the existing situation the transfer of the G.H.Q. reserve to the control of the Thirteenth Army was unwise. The course of events by itself brought about a connection of this matter within a very few days, causing the transfer of the G.H.Q. reserve, which had been turned into an assault group, to the control of the Fourteenth Army. The original decision had apparently been influenced by an exaggerated fear for the Tula area. The assault through Kromy, as already pointed out, had led to a series of frontal engagements, which basically upset the concepts of the commander-in-chief with respect to the cutting off of the hostile salient. More to the point was an attack in the same Fatezh or Kursk direction but through Sevsk, i.e., straight across the inner flanks of the hostile 3d Infantry Division and Yuzefovitch's cavalry corps.
The operations of the assault group, committed to action before it had entirely completed its concentration, led to stubborn meeting engagement which favored the enemy.
This condition of affairs had been brought about by the regrouping of the hostile forces which the enemy was compelled to effect in view of the pressure exerted upon him by the Red forces in the Kromy area, as well as by the introduction of the last reserves from the Kursk area and appraently also those from the Kiev area. Thanks to this regrouping of the Whites their forces in the sector Kromy (exclusive) - Sevsk (inclusive) (ed Infantry Division), consisting of 6,400 infantry and 300 cavalry troops at first, were now increasd t 8,000 infantry and 1,800 cavalry troops, having been reinforced by an additioanl 1,600 infantry and 1,500 cavalry troops (the latter were apparently taken from the corps under Yuzefovitch). The cavalry screening force employed against the Fourteenth Army, consisting of the cavalry corps under Yuzefovitch, was reinforced by infantry units in the Sevsk (exclusive) - Sosnitsa (exclusive) sector extending a distance of the 150 km, with a total of 3,500 infantry and 1,500 cavalry troops (23 infantry and 1 cavalry soldiers per kilometer of front). The meeting engagements on the line Orel (exclusive - Sevsk (inclusive) apparently had been due to the maneuvering of the active screening force. In the course of these engagements, however,the enemy succeeded in gaining several local victories, capturing Kromy, Dritriev, Dmitrovsk and Sevsk. Judging from the regrouping of his forces, the enemy directed his main effort against the sector; Yelets - Novosil - Orel (both of the latter points inclusive), a line extending over 150 km. The enemy here reinforced the Kornilov division with 1,000 infantry and 200 cavalry troops in the Orel area thanks to which the above division succeeded on October 13th in capturing the city of Orel, and greatly strengthened (by 5,100 infantry soldiers) the 1st Infantry Division both by shifting the Kornilov 4th Infantry from the neighboring sector of the Kornilov Division and by the transfer of troops from the rear. As a consequence of these measures the strength of the 1st Infantry Division was increased from 4,900 infantry and 400 cavalry troops to 9,000 infantry and 500 cavalry (providing about 60 infantry and 3 cavalry soldiers per kilometer of front, i.e., almost 1 1/2 times the strength with which this division embarked upon its operation). This relatively important strengthening the division had made it possible for it to gain a considerable stretch of territory, of about 50 km. in depth - advancing up to the southern edge of Yelets (inclusive) and occupying the city of Novosil. It was here, however, that the progress of Denikin's operation came to a halt. All of his reserves were by this time committed to action, and the forces could make no further progress owing to the vast spaces covered by them and to the resistance of the Red forces.
The assistance of the Red Fourteenth Army lent in the action of the assault group initially consisted of the attack launched by two divisions of this army (41st and 57th) on Sevsk and Dmitrovsk.*
*In order to form an assult group, make up of the 57th Infantry Division, the commander of the Fourteenth Army, Uborevitch, extended the right flank of his right-flank division (46th) up to the Mikhailovsk farmhouse, which enabled the shifting from its sector of the 57th Division. In addition, there participated in the action against Sevsk some units of the 41st Division, which advanced on Sevsk from the north.
This attack developed very slowly, but the Latvian division nevertheless succeeded on October 16th in occupying the town of Kromy. It found it impossible, however, to advance owing to the Latvian division. Only on October 17th did the Esthonian Division, after having completed its concentration, and being also attached to the Fourteenth Army, launch its attack on the city of Orel and in conjunction with the right flank of the Thirteenth Army (9th Infantry Division) occupied the town on October 20th.
The advance launched by the assault group in conjunction with the units of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth armies led to an intensive struggle for initiative here which lasted several days. The front lines of the opposing forces had changed but slightly as a result of the fighting which, in general, ended in faor of the Red forces and consisted not so much in gains of ground as in the fact that, in the end they succeeded in maintaining the initiative. Actually, if we shall draw a line on the front as it existed on October 21st, we shall note a rather slight change compared to the gains, referred to above, of the Volunteer Army. The front of that army, as heretofore, extended somewhat below Yelets, resting with its right flank on the Don and including Korotkoye, Prechistenskoye, Turovka, Sobakino, turning in the south the town of Orel at the immediate approaches to which the 2nd Kornilov Infantry continued to amintain its position by tenacious resistance; farther the line of the White forces extended in a sloping arc on Chuvardino, turning Kromy in the east, Dmitrovsk - Lobanovo - Sevsk, and farther along the line previously shown to have been occupied by the White forces.
The manner in which the commander of the South Front had regarded the immediate missions here may be judged to a certain extend from his directive No. 10938/op dated October 15th.*
Archives of the Red Army, Doc. No. 738, p. 139.
This directive attached decisive importance to the operations of the Fourteenth Army. The liquidation of the enemy in the Orel and Novosil area, wrote the commander of the South Front, depended upon the swift, decisive action of the assault group of the Fourteenth Army, as well as the protection of the town of Livna by the Thirteenth Army which, in conjunction with the advance of the cavalry corps under Budienny on Voronezh and that of the eighth Army against the line of the Don, was to consolidate the general situation of this front (group of armies) and permit the development of further operations ( See Sketches 9 and 10 - original text).
Thus we still fail to note even in this directive army any expression of the thought of a direct connection between the operations on the Voronezh and Orel sectors of the front.
While both sides were bigorously contesting every inch of ground in the Orel area, important events were taking place in the Voronezh area which ended victoriously. On the 19th of October there took place the first encounter between the Volunteer Army and the Don cavalry with Budienny's cavalry corps in which the Red cavalry triumphed. The enemy was endeavoring to regroup his forces for the delivery of a decisive attack against the cavalry corps, when at that particular time the partisans began operating against the rear of the Whites, compelling the latter to detach a part of their forces in order to liquidate these detachments, and meanwhile there approached the general crisis of the engagement which favored the Red arms.
Later, in his directive No. 11144/op dated October 20th, the commander of the South Front, to whom the Twelfth Army was again assigned of October 16, provided for a concentric advance of all his armies, excepting the Twelfth Army. The latter army, being situated in the western sector of the South Front against the Poles, relieved with its forces the 46th Infantry Division of the Fourteenth Army on October 23rd, in conformity with the instructions of the commander of the South Front, and the 46th Division was also moved to the Sevsk - Dmitrievsk area, against the flank of the Volunteer Army. Thus the Twelfth Army also sided indirectly in bringing about the success of the operation in the Orel area. The Fourteenth Army was to break the resistance of the enemy in the Dmitriev area and launch a vigorous offensive against the Fatezh - Kursk area. The Thirteenth Army, with the Esthonian Division, which was once more assigned to it, was to launch a vigorous attack on the line Shchigry - Kastornaya. The Eighth Army was given the mission of reaching once more the line of the Don river. The Budienny cavalry corps was required, immediately upon the capture of Voronezh, to launch an attack in the general direction of Kursk, with a view to cutting off hostile forces situated to the north of the railway line of Voronezh - Kursk. The immediate mission of the cavalry corps was that of seizing the Kastornaya and Marmyzhin railway junctions, *
* Archives of the Red Army,Doc. No. 738, p. 167.
The Eighth Army was ordered to occupy at the earliest practicable moment the line of the Don river up to Yandovice. Thus, according to this directive, only the 2nd of October may we consider to have been the date when the concept of the coordinated action against the Orel and Voronezh areas was actually formed. In reality, it was considerably later. The advance of the Fourteenth Army after the capture of Orel, for a period of seven days, continued to encounter stubborn resistance, the enemy having once more succeeded in capturing the towns of Kromy and Sevsk, while on the tip of the left flank of the Thirteenth Army, the enemy seized the Donsk railway station and began advancing on Lipetsk, Lebedyan and Yelets. These tactical successes, however could no longer influcence the teneral change in the course of events.
The commander-in-chief, in his directive of October 27, suggested to the commander of the South Front, with a view to completely crushing the hostile group in the Orel area, to continue a vigorous pursuit from Dmitrovsk and Orel. This pursuit was to be reinforced by a vigorous assault from the east by the Eighth Army with the cavalry concentrated on its right flank. The latter was given the mission of destroying the hostile group of forces operating in the Yelets area, and then to attack the rear of the Orel group of the enemy. Budienny's cavalry group once more delivered a vigorous assault against the hostile cavalry in the Usman - Sobakino area and on October 24 again occupied Voronezh. After being reinforced by one cavalry division and an infantry brigade Budienny's cavalry corps received the mission from the commander of the South Front on October 27, directive No. 46/op, changing the mission that was contained in directive No. 1144/op of the 20th of October, and requiring him to direct the cavalry, immediately upon crossing the Don river, against the Zemlyansk - Livna area and in conjunction with the left flank of the Thirteenth Army, to destroy the enemy in the Yeleta - Livna area. *
*Archives of the Red Army Doc. No. 738.
This directive caused Budienny to divert the cavalry corps from
Kastorna, which it had reached after the withdrawal of the general line of the
enemy to the south had become apparent.
The exploitation of the success of Budienny's cavalry corps and the successful operations of the 45th Division at Sevsk and Dmitriev threatened the spearhead of the enemy's forces at a time when his advance elements were engaged in vigorous frontal actions with the Latvian Division. These operations caused the enemy, who had suffered considerable losses in fighting with the assault group, to abandon the initiative in the Orel area and to begin a gradual withdrawal, putting up strong resistance at some points. After clearing Kromy for the second time, the enemy endeavored to orgainze resistance on the Line Dmitrovsk (exclusive) - Yeropkino. The Fourteenth Army penetrated the enemy front on November 3d with its assault group made up of two Latvian brigades, and the cavalry division under Primakov, numbering 1,700 troops, was inserted into this penetration.
The successful raid against the town of Fatezh in which Primakov's cavalry succeeded in seizing the town on November 5th created a panic in the enemy rear, which facilitated the further advance of the Fourteenth Army. On November 13th Primakov's cavalry made a second successful raid on the Lgov railway junction situated in the enemy rear.
While the successful advance of the Fourteenth Army was developing, Budienny's cavalry, on November 9th, appeared in the vicinity of the Kastornia railway station - whereupon the enemy began a hasty withdrawal before the line of the Thirteenth Army, beginning also to yield ground on the front of the Eighth Army. The enemy's failure in the principal Orel area could not be compensated for by the successes of the Don Army in the secondary area, where the latter fully executed the missions assigned it, occupying Novokhopersk and Povorino. By November lst the Ninth Army withdrew in the Balashev area to the line Gribankova, Kardail, Lekhtiukhino, halting in the sector: Ryabov, Archedinskaya (See Sketch 9 - original text).
The importance of the operations on the Southeast front during the
period of the Orel operation consisted of the fact that they served to attract
considerable White forces here which, to a considerable extent, facilitates the
successful outcome of the operations of the Fourteenth Army and of the cavalry
corps under Budienny.
And so the 24 - 26th of October may be considered to have been the days when the fortunes of war finally turned in favor of the Red forces in the Orel area. Two factors served to determine this; the defeat of the White cavalry by the cavalry army at Voronezh and the success of the Fourteenth Army in the Sevsk area, where the introduction of the 46th Infantry Division proved of decisive importance. As aptly expressed by one who participated in the events here, this division, committed to action at a time when the strategic reserves of the Whites had been completely exhausted, proved that vital tactical force which brought a sharp turn in the thirty-day battle in the Orel area. On the line, where the main forces came to grips (Dmitrovsk - Orel area), the outcome depended on which of the opponents would become exhausted first - and the decisive role must here be credited to the Fourteenth Army.
The attack of the Fourteenth Army compelled the enemy to yield ground promptly before the Thirteenth Army. The cavalry army at Voronezh dealt a death blow to the White strategic cavalry group from which the latter was unable to recover till the very end of the campaign. We should not, however, overestimate the importance of this victory. The reprecussions of this victory, separated by a distance of 200 km. from the Orel area, could not at once extend to it or bring about at once the beginning of a general withdrawal on the part of the enemy.
The effect of this victory, however, on the morale was tremendous, as a result of the increased attention of the communist party and Soviet government to the South Front.
Already in April, 1919, the belief prevailed that we were near a victory in the south. By the latter part of June some apprehensions were felt concerning the south. In the early part of October the situation was such that the South Front was regarded the most important of the entire civil war.
Aside from all other things to which we have referred elsewhere in this chapter, the summer of 1919 had been characterized in the life of the Communist party by such matters as the following: On the one hand, all of the best material of the party had largely been sent to the East Front, and on the other - the party found it necessary, in view of its long experience in the civil war, to reform its lines.
During the development of the successes by Denikin, the major questions before the communist party were not only those concerning the strictest,successive militarization of the party, but the purging of the same.
In the city of Petrograd in August, 1919, there had remained in the entire organization 7,889 members. And yet, out of this number, 2,450 were expelled from the party upon a recheck of the membership. But already on August 22 there had been accepted from among the workers of nine regions 7,829 applicants for membership in the party, of which 6,861 were duly enrolled in the party. These figures serve to indicate the policy then existing in the party: On the one hand, the party membership was purged of unreliable members, and on the other, it was being strengthened by the enrolment of members from among the factory workers and toilers.
The Pravada, central organ of the communist party, wrote on September 12, 1919 to the effect that notwithstanding the loss of many of its workers by the Moscow regions "there still remains the urgent matter of purging the party, of strengthening it by the exclusion of unsuitable elements. We must rid ourselves of this ballast as soon as possible." The Prava wrote on October 2nd concerning the utilization of party weeks, i.e., the enrolment of new members from among the workers after the ballast had been eliminated throughout the country. In Moscow the party week provided some important results, for according to available data, from Presna alone there enrolled in the communist party 900 members on October 19th; from Sokolniki came 350 members, etc.
This re-forming alone could have secured the ultimate success and brought about military victory. On the basis of it there were developed also a series of other measures. In the latter part of October, 1919, there appeared in the press the report of the central committee of the communist party covering the period of September 15 to October 15, 1919. The central committee stated that the principal work of the committee as well as that of the entire party for the period covered by the report consisted of work pertaining to the army. The plenary session of September 26th, taking into consideration the menacing situation on the South Front, provided for a transfer to military service of a maximum number of communists and communist adherents employed at central and Soviet establishments, exclusive of the Peoples' Commissariat for War, the People's Commissariat for Imports, and the People's Commissariat for Rail Transport.
The Central Committee asserted that first and foremost, as always,the response to the new mobilization appeal came from the Petrograd workers. The city of Petrograd sent over 300 responsible workers, and conducted further mobilization on the basis of 1 for every 15 civil collectives and 1 for every 10 from among military collective organizations. However, with Yudenitch's advance on the city, further shipment of mobilized personnel from Petrograd to the south and curtailed. Moscow still continued its shipment of personnel for a while, and on October 15th provided about 600 communists, with its mobilization not yet entirely completed.
In the provinces, the Volhynian committee decreed the sending of the entire committee members to the front; the Samara committee selected seven of its best members, and later conducted a supplementary mobilization there; the Nizhne Novgorod committee shortly before that had sent an entire group of responsible workers and then sent 25 additional men. In Vladimir, aside from party (communist) mobilization, which provided 400 men, there were mobilized 25 per cent of the responsible workers from among the trade unions.
Not yet in possession of the complete figures, the Central Committee estimated that the party organizations again sent to the front 2,000 of the most reliable workers, and reported this to have been quite sufficient.
It is necessary to note also the special form of mobilization which during the first months of 1919 was conducted by the trade unions and factory and plant committees through the military supply bureau of the All-Unions. This consisted of the formation of prepared detachments from among the workers by paying bonuses to the men. The central organ of the communist party, the Pravda, in a special article devoted to the problems of these detachments, wrote: "Now it depends on the words and deeds of the working masses. The workers must send supply detachments from among their very best comrades. It is our duty to defeat the White guards not only on the external front, but on the internal front as well."
The policy followed in the collection of foodstuffs was outlined by the Central Committee of the communist party back in the latter part of August, 1919. This consisted introduction of the compulsory supply of foodstuffs, with all provision organizations adopting a proper relationship with the rural areas, especially in dealings with the peasants of average means."
To all of the foregoing measures there were added such measures as the Front Week, increasingly developed subbotniks, *
*Subbotniks -persons gathering on Saturdays for voluntary collective work. - Tr.
which proved highly important in propaganda work. All of the adopted measures combined afforded the inevitable results - the consolidation and reestablishemt of the front. Back on October 4th, 1919, the Izvestia Moskovskovo Soveta wrote that in orderto eliminate the Denikin menace, "in addition to the forces already in action, we are sending new detachments made up of leading workers that will be capable of bringing about a change in the morale of our retreating forces."
The guidance of the Communist party was not limited to administrative and political undertakings behind the lines The party assumed a more firm control over the operations on the South Front. The blustering, rather fruitless visits by Trotsky of the South Front were curtailed. The latter was recalled by the Central Committee to Koscow, and Stalin was sent to the South Front to prepare the latter for a triumphant campaign. "The new military workers call for no interference" on the part of Trotsky in the affairs of the South Front. "The latter was removed from any immediate participation in the cation of the South Front and the operations on the latter front until the very time of the occupation of Rostov-on-Don and Odessa, were conducted without Trotsky." **
The Opposition,by Joseph Stalin, p. 110, State Publishing House, 1928.
Let us once more emphasize the fact that the political causes of the failure of Denikin's campaign weredue essentially to the very nature of his governmental and military system. We shall here consider the military characteristics of his undertakings. The strategy employed by Denikin, deprived entirely of any political support at the time of the Orel operations, began to betray signs of a military adventure. Denikin's operations maybe likened to the actions of a gambler who places his all in a desperate effort to break the bank after he already lost his last cent.
However, in considering his strategic skill, it is necessary to emphasize his ingenious concentration of the assault detachment in the decisive area. After this, however, there came a deries of blunders. Among these chouls be listed the beginning of his action in separated areas, in the Orel and Novokhopersk directions, his persistent efforts to get to Orel,in spite of the vact that the relative strength of the opposing forces there were obviously unfavorable for such efforts, which was quite apparent to him and which may be explained only by his failueto evaluate the increased strength of the Red armies; and finally, his failure to provide for proper security against the Fourteenth Army. The latter mistake was particularly fatal.
We have shown above the vigorous efforts that were being made by the communist party and by the Soviet people in combating Denikin.
Compared to this elemental movement the revived underground counter-revolutionary movement behind the Red lines waxed into insignificance.
The most important, relatively speaking, of this, had taken place in Moscow. A group of plotters here organized a system of furnishing detailed information to the White high command concerning the military strength of the Red forces and their plans of action. Engineer Shchepkin headed this organization, working in cooperation with the Nationalist center. Shchepkin maintained contact with General Stogov and Colonel Stupin, who had occupied key positions in the Soviet war department. Contact had been established between the Petrograd and Moscow plotters. The latter were more thoroughly organized. Two organizations existed in Moscow: a predominantly cadet flavor, and a military-technical organization, which was headed by Colonel Stupin. For the purpose of staging an armed revolt General Strogov organized in Moscow the cadres of two divisions; the plotters, however, experienced a great shortage in arms and men. The object of the uprising was the isolation of Moscow from the outer world by demolishing all of the principal railways. These plots were discovered and those responsible for them were arrested and meted out their just punishment. At the very same time a part of the leftist social-revolutionaries and anarchists attempted to oppose the Soviet government by individualist terrorist activity . These succeeded in staging explosions at the party assembly at the Leontyew square, where several prominent party members were killed and wounded. All of the counter-revolutionary activity, however, ended in complete failure.
Aside from their failures at the front, the White forces were subjected to considerable attacks by the partisan detachments operating under Makhno, which had the effect of considerably undermining their strategic situation. The strength of Makhno's firces ib Ictiber 20, 1919, amounted to about 28,000 infantry and cavalry troops with 50 field pieces and 200 machine guns. They thus represented a considerable force which was divided into four corps. The Makhno "Army", in view of the movement of its infantry by vehicular transport, proved highly mobile. At first the principal theater of operations of this army was in the Yekaterinoslav and partly in the Kherson governments; later these bands began harassing the rear of the Volunteer Army, especially at the times when the situation of the White forces had taken a turn for the worse. Makhno's men were menacing the very headquarters of General Denikin at Tagenrog, seizing the towns on Berkyansk and Mariupol. The White high command was forced to detach considerable forces for action against Makino's bands (the Shkuro corps), thus weakening the forces at the front.
The defeat of the Armed Forces of South Russia in the decisive engagement had the effect of completely turning loose those forces that were undermining the Whites from within. At the same time, all disagreements that existed between Denikin and the Cossacks came to the fore, and the Kuban opposition thence forward not only raised its head but actually came out in violent opposition to Denikin.