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Attitude of the German Powers


Attitude of the German Powers - Alliance between Austria and Prussia- Mission of Sir John Burgoyne - Choice of Gallipoli as a Base - The Czar's Forces in the Principalities - They cross the Danube - Drive the Turks out of the Dobrudscha - Are frustrated before Kalafat, and retreat - Paskiewitch determines to besiege Silistria - Description of that place - The Russians partially Invest it - English Defenders of Silistria - The Arab Tabia - Attempts to Storm Defeated - The Russians advance their Parallels - Employ Mines - Omer Pasha reinforces the Garrison - Paskiewitch, Gortschakoff, Schilder Wounded - Siege Raised - Causes of Failure - Treaty between Austria and the Porte - The Fleet in the Black Sea - Odessa Bombarded - Russian Reverses in Circassia - Assembly of the Allies at Gallipoli: at Scutari - Weak Constitution of the Armies - Lord Raglan arid Marshal St. Arnaud visit Shumla - -Plan agreed upon - Vagaries of St. Arnaud - Plan upset - Concentration at Varna deferred: at length effected - State of the Camps - Lord Cardigan's Reconnaissance - Omer Pasha's Visit to Varna - Battle of Guirgevo - Evacuation of the Principalities by Russia - Austria agrees to certain Essential Bases of a Peace-She Occupies the Principalities - Value of this Act - The British Government turns its eyes on the Crimea - Sebastopol - The Duke of Newcastle's Despatch - Council of War - Expedition resolved on - Cholera in the Camp - Fatal Expedition to the Dobrudscha - Fire in Varna.
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Thus by a series of complex events, beginning in 1850 with the restless interference of the French, met with corresponding readiness by Russia, who, out of a Political quarrel with the French Emperor, developed a large and aggressive design against Turkish independence - a series of events which culminated in 1854 - the Czar found himself at war, not with Turkey only, but with France and England.

And what was the attitude of the German Powers, whose arms and influence should have exercised so great a pressure in this quarrel? It is necessary at this stage of the story to define their position, because attempts have been made to show that their policy was the same as that of the Western Powers, and that all were united in the work of bringing the Czar to reason. Unhappily, this was not so. The offence committed by Nicholas was an offence not only against Turkey, but against Europe. By Europe, no doubt, it should have been met and defeated, and the common disturber should have been punished, if need were, by the common force. But, although England and France were prompt in pledging themselves to meet force by force, the German Powers would not pledge themselves to more than the meeting of force by diplomacy. Over and over again it was proved that the Czar would not recede; yet the German Powers refused to act, or even declare their readiness to act. There was, between them and the Western Powers, only union up to a certain point. The concert was incomplete. Austria was more willing than Prussia to adopt strong measures; but Austria did not do more than take up a negative and neutral position during the winter and spring of 1853-4. Yet she could not evade the danger which grew every day; and, therefore, on the 9th of April, Austria - Prussia going with her so far - signed, in common with the Western Powers, a protocol taking note of the existence of war, and declaring that the summons addressed to Russia was " founded on right; " that the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire was and remained a sine qua non condition of peace; that means should be found, of bringing that empire within the European system; and that the Four Powers would not enter into any arrangement with Russia, or any other Power, which did not accord with these principles, without previously deliberating in common. So far there was union; but there was no union in arms. Yet the very requirements of the protocol were those which, as every fact had shown, Russia would not agree to without an application of adequate force. & wide chasm separated the Western from the German Powers - the gulf of war. All that the protocol did, beside justifying the war in which the German courts would not engage, was to pledge them to a basis of peace. What the Germans, and especially Austria, were eager for, was the evacuation of the Principalities; that was a German as well as an Austrian interest^ and Prussia, aspiring to be the leading German Power, could not neglect her duty in that respect; and so, ten days later, namely, on the 20th of April, Austria and Prussia formed an offensive and defensive alliance. To do what? Defend the Sultan? Defend Europe? No; to " defend the rights and interests of Germany." They undertook to hold troops in readiness, and they guaranteed to each other reciprocally their German and non-German possessions. They did not ally themselves with the Western Powers, to defend with them the common interests of the Sultan and Europe. The " interests of European welfare "were, indeed, invoked as a motive for German action; but the substantial parts of the treaty related to Germany alone. Russia had at this time whispered in the ear of the "King of Prussia that the original motive for seizing the Principalities had been removed by the concessions granted to the Christians by the Porte. Prussia, therefore, hoped the Czar would withdraw his troops; but, as this hope might prove delusive, Prussia agreed to add another article to the treaty providing for hostilities. The two Powers in effect declared that they would make war on Russia ! in the event of the incorporation of the Principalities, or in the event of an attack on or passage of the Balkan by Russia." How, then, can it be said, that even at the end of April, 1854, the Four Powers were united? At this time neither Prussia nor Austria would make war to thrust the Russians from the Principalities. England and France were actually present on Turkish soil to effect that object. The Four Powers were agreed upon several very important points of great though deferred interest - the bases of a peace; but they were not agreed upon the most important point of all - the mode of obtaining the peace. On that point the Western Powers took one path, and the German Powers another. As we shall soon see, Austria had reason to fall farther away from Prussia, and to approach the Western Powers. But it is now time to turn from diplomacy to those other arbiters of the destinies of nations, who are called in to cut the knots which diplomacy ravels together, and then fails to untie.

The allies do not appear to have entered on the war with any very definite notions. England and France formed an alliance together, and then allied themselves with the Sultan» In defending the Sultan, they were to defend a fundamental principle of European policy in the concrete, and they were to take no advantage to themselves by the act. But their earlier views were limited even from the defensive point of view. While Lord Raglan and the Duke of Cambridge were proceeding through France, to meet Marshal St. Arnaud on the way, and to take counsel with the Emperor Napoleon; while Count Walewski and the British public exchanged compliments at the Mansion House, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert went to a fancy ball at the house of the French Ambassador, the French and English troops were slowly moving up the Mediterranean, the French and English fleets were cruising on the Black Sea and the Baltic, and the Turks were fighting on the Danube. If the allied Powers had then formed great designs for offensive war, they were not in a condition to execute them, for, although they had troops to send, neither had an organised army with which to act at once. They» therefore, at first adopted a middle course. They determined to secure a line of retreat for their ships, and a base of operations from which, in the event of the Turkish army being driven over the Balkan, they could effectively defend Constantinople. At this time there was existent an exaggerated dread of Russian power. The Czar was so strong, the Sultan so weak, so men thought, that it was deemed possible the Russians might force both the Danube and the Balkan by the rapid marches of an overwhelming force, and thus confront the Sultan in his capital. To provide against this, and also to cover their weakness, the allies determined to land their troops at Gallipoli. The shores of Europe at the mouth of the Dardanelles terminate in a remarkable tongue of land, bounded on one side by the straits, on the other by the Mediterranean, and joined to the Continent by a narrow neck of rugged country at the western end of the Sea of Marmora. Sir John Burgoyne and Colonel Ardent had been sent out to inspect this peninsula, and they agreed with earlier military surveyors that it would be advisable to fortify the neck a few miles to the east of Gallipoli, covering the point of debarkation, and commanding the flank of the great road through Adrianople to the Turkish capital. Therefore, as the alhed troops began to arrive in March and April, they were employed in throwing up entrenchments, known as the lines of Boulair, and extending from the Gulf of Saros to the Sea of Marmora. It was in the camps near Gallipoli that the whole of the French and part of the British army were organised for active service; but while they were gradually assembling there, the Turks were fighting so manfully on the Danube, and so effectually thwarting Russia, that the lines of Boulair became useless, and the allies, as we shall see, found it needful to take post on the southern, instead of the northern slopes of the Balkan.

When it became certain that war would ensue, the Emperor Nicholas reinforced his army in the Principalities, and raised it to the strength of about 150,000 men, including an immense force of cavalry, and no fewer than 520 guns. Against this mass the Sultan could barely array a nominal force of 120,000 men, and a number of guns far inferior to that of their foe» The bulk of the Russians were in Wallachia, posted in detachments from Kalafat to Galatz. Their plan of operations was to concentrate a mass of troops opposite Silistria, to hold in check the Turks at Kalafat, on one flank, while on the other they invaded the Dobrudscha. It was then intended that the main body should cross the Danube at Kalarasch, and joining the troops coming up the river upon Silistria, invest and capture that fortress. This done, they hoped to capture or mask Varna, and forcing Shumla, debouch through the passes of the rugged Balkans upon the plains of Roumelia. Marshal Prince Paskiewitch had been appointed to command the army, and such is assumed to have been his plan of operations. If so, the Russians must have counted on the slowness of the allies, on the weakness of the Turks, and on their own rapidity. But the plan was essentially vicious. They could not fail to lose men in the pestiferous Dobrudscha. So long as the Turks held Kalafat, the Russians were never secure on that flank. Then, assuming that they kept the Kalafat army at bay, and even captured Silistria, it was in the highest degree improbable that they could force Shumla, and impossible that they could take Varna, so long as the allied fleets held the Black Sea. Nor were these the only dangers incurred by the Czar. The plains of Wallachia lie between the ridges of the Carpathians and the Danube. These mountains border the whole line of the Russian communications. On their northern slopes Austria was collecting a formidable army. Austria, though not resolved to fight, was growing more menacing in her language and in her attitude. It was true that she trammelled herself by a treaty with Prussia, laying down the march of the Russians on the Balkan as a casus belli. But Russia had no security that circumstances might not occur to produce a change in Austrian councils, or that the very success of her preliminary movements might not bring Austria to act. And if she acted, she would move across the Russian line of communications, and the mere threat to do that would almost ruin the Russian plan. For although the Czar had 150,000 men at his disposal, he could not with these force the strong line of the Danube fortresses, and make head against an Austrian army issuing from the Carpathians at the same time. Moreover, if he were not speedy, the allies would appear, either at Varna or in the Balkan.

The Czar did not hesitate to face these dangers. He plunged headlong into war. Before the publication of his manifesto, his troops forced the passage of the Danube near its mouth, and at other points above, drove the Turks out of their fortified posts on the right bank, and established an immense force in the Dobrudscha. Between the 20th of March and the 2nd of April, the whole of that peninsula was cleared of enemies. Mustapha Pasha had rallied his troops behind the wall of Trajan, the remains of an old Roman trench, running between Kustendjeh and the Danube, while the Russian General Lüders had concentrated about 60,000 men on the Baba Dagh mountain, preparatory to a movement up the right bank. Three days afterwards the Turks were driven from Chernovada, on the left flank of their defensive line, and Mustapha Pasha, falling back towards Varna, left a free passage to the enemy. The Russians had lost many men in the Dobrudscha from malaria, want of water, and a defective commissariat. They lost, indeed, more than they gained by this movement, for although the command of the right bank was gained from Ismail to Silistria, the army emerged shaken in its morale and diminished in its effective.

As soon as Prince Paskiewitch arrived at headquarters, and saw the state of things for himself, he began to feel keenly the two dangers which menaced his rear and right flank, the Austrians in the Carpathians, and the Turks in their entrenched post at Kalafat. He saw that the line occupied by his troops was too extensive, and that his right beyond the Schyl was too far from his centre near Bucharest, whence he was to strike his first blow. General Liprandi, who commanded the right wing, had vainly sought for an opportunity of attacking Kalafat with effect. Every move he made towards it was frustrated, for the Turks remained firm, and the fire of the heavy guns was destructive, and he lost men and reputation before these earthworks. It is to be presumed also, for the matter was not kept secret, that Prince Paskiewitch had some inkling of the treaty Austria and Prussia were about to sign. Therefore the Prince determined to withdraw his troops, first to the Schyl, and next behind the Aluta, a few miles further to the east. The Russians suffered a defeat before Kalafat on the 17th of April, and on the 21st they began to file off towards Krajova. Observing this, the Turks pushed out from Kalafat, and also threw a body of men over the Danube at Turn a, near the confluence of the Danube and Aluta, but these were roughly handled by Liprandi's left wing. On the 10th of May, the Turks occupied Krajova, and following the Russian rear-guard, brought it to an action; but pushing on too fast, they were assailed by the supporting columns and driven back. The main body, however, had, in passing the Aluta, broken the bridge of Slatina, and left the rearguard to its fate. But the Turks, deceived by its firm front, made no serious attack; the bridge was repaired, and the rear-guard crossed to the left bank. The Russian columns retired no further, but took up a defensive position behind the Aluta, their right at Slatina, their left on the Danube, with advanced posts beyond the Aluta. General Dannenberg commanded this right wing, having under him Generals Liprandi and Soimonoff. Thus the right wing was strongly posted, and it served the pure pose of preventing the Kalafat army from doing anything to interfere with the siege of Silistria. The remainder of the Russian army on the left bank was at Giurgevo, opposite Rustchuk, at Oltenitza, opposite Turtukai, and at Kalarasch, facing Silistria; while on the right bank, two divisions were in the Dobrudscha, and the corps of Lüders, less one division, was marching up the right bank of the Danube to join in the offensive movement against Silistria. The Turks had 30,000 men on the Aluta, strong garrisons in Rustchuk, Turtukai, and Silistria, a field force of uncertain amount between Varna and the wall of Trajan, and a reserve of about 40,000 men in Shumla and Varna. In the first week of May, the Turks had thus lost the Dobrudscha, and with it the road to Silistria; but they had recovered Little Wallachia, and found employment in that quarter for 50,000 Russian troops. The vigour and audacity they had shown on the Danube piqued the military pride of the Czar, and he urged his lieutenant to strike and strike hard at the centre of the line.

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Lord Stratford de Redcliffe
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