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Chapter XXXIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5


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The head-quarters of General Kmety were behind the centre of his lines. Thither, about three on the morning of the 29th, came messengers from the outposts. A weak cordon of riflemen was posted down the slope in front of the works. The messengers brought the news that the enemy was advancing. The general at once ordered the reserves to turn out without noise, sent Major Aali Aga to look after his guns, and forwarded the exciting news to General Williams and Yassif Pasha, who were in Tek-Tabia, across the river. Kmety himself, certain that Hussein Pasha would be on the alert, went first to the centre and then to the right. It was an inspiriting moment. The moon was high, and obscured only by flitting clouds; yet not much could be seen. Men thought they heard the noise of moving masses down in the darkness; they looked and listened. Kmety r an old soldier, knew the "signs "of an approaching foe. Gazing intently from his rocks, he at first remarked that in the valley, " some parts of the ground were darker than others, not unlike the contrasts of ploughed and pasture lands lying in a distant plain." But the darker parts were seen to move, and then to remain still. "The valley became continually more and more full of these fields of shadow." Placing his ear to the ground, the brave Hungarian heard the noise of wheels moving gently through the valley. Then he knew that the fields of shadow were columns of armed men, and that the noise of wheels proceeded from the motion of hostile cannon. Soon he saw that " these grey masses" were moving against Hussein Pasha, on the left, and Rennison's lines, the right entrenchments. On both sides there was silence. The Turks, keen and eager, were kept close. The guns were loaded, and the matches were ready. General Kmety, having nothing to fear for his right flank and rear, drew out his whole strength, in order to force back the foe at once at the weakest spot - Rennison's lines - where the ground being more even in front, the issue could be the more rapidly determined. He posted his reserves, and disposed of his guns. The reader will imagine three dense columns, supported by artillery, tramping in the dark; one against the right, one against Yusek-Tabia, in the centre; the third and heaviest against the left flank of Tachmasb. These columns were distant about 1,200 yards when General Kmety ordered the artillery to break the silence. Aali Aga fired the first gun - the flash of which sent Teesdale bounding towards the post of danger. The whole Turkish line began to fire; the enemy answered without energy; but his infantry columns " burst upon us with a continuous thunder of cheers."

The Russian left column, exposed to a heavy fire of artillery, marched steadily on. Neither the round-shot, nor. as it came nearer, the grape-shot, and then the musketry, converging upon its head, and searching its flanks, nor the rocky ground it traversed, stopped the majestic march of these noble troops. For half an hour it was tormented with shot, and yet it still moved forward. When about a hundred yards from the works, the head of the column, its patience exhausted, opened fire, but still without halting. On it came. General Kmety now brought up fifty rifles of the Sultan's Guard, and formed them parallel to the head of the column. It was now enveloped in fire; nevertheless, these stubborn Russians pressed up to within ten yards of the ditch. That was the limit of their advance. Brave men as they were, they could bear no more; they slowly turned, and slowly fell back on their guns. The Turks had exhausted their ammunition, and the men were flinging stones at the retiring foe. The artillery was deficient in grape-shot. The Turks had no horsemen. The enemy was beaten; he might have been destroyed. In the track of the column lay a thousand corpses, and from the pouches of their dead enemies the Turks, leaping over the parapets, replenished their empty pouches.

At this moment of victory Kmety learned that Yarim-ai-Tabia, on his left, had been captured; that the Tachmasb lines had been turned, and that Hussein Pasha was shut up in the Tachmasb Redoubt. To rally his men, Kmety called out that the foe was in the rear; and at this call they ran back to their ranks.

From the enemy's centre column a few hundred men had been detached, and these, rushing upon Yarim-ai, had frightened the officer in command there out of the work. He ran into Yusek-Tabia, just as Teesdale galloped up with his interpreter, Mr. Rennison, and took command. The centre column itself, supported by the right column, which swept round the left of the Tachmasb lines, was in such force, and moved with such vigour, that Hussein Pasha, feeling he could not resist, drew his men from the breastworks into the Tachmasb Redoubt. So that, soon after the combat began before Rennison Lines, the Turks were deprived of all their defences on the left and centre except the two redoubts, Yusek and Tachmasb. The enemy cheered as he poured along in rear of the breastworks and took possession of the lines of Turkish tents. He pushed on battalion after battalion, with drums beating and colours flying, deeming, no doubt, that the day was won. It was far from being so. Teesdale, in Yusek, was repelling the enemy with great loss, after a deadly encounter on the parapets, in which he crossed swords with the Russian leader. Hussein Pasha, steadfast as a rock in Tachmasb, was maintaining a rapid fire of artillery upon the dense Russian columns. Kmety was approaching with four companies of rifles of the Guard. Yanik Mustapha Bey had come down with a battalion from Fort Lake at the first alarm, but the force of the Russians in the tents stopped him. He was wounded, but firm; and sheltering his men under a stone wall built to protect the camp kitchen from the wind, he maintained the combat. To dislodge him, the enemy moved a force upon his rear; but at that moment Hussein Pasha, seizing the occasion, sallied from the redoubt; Yanik dashed forward with soldierly promptitude, and both cutting their way back, regained the redoubt. This feat was performed in the presence of 15,000 Russians. About the same time Kerim Pasha, always foremost where there was peril, with an aide-de camp and four Kurds, rode through the enemy, and, greeted by the hurrahs of the Turks, dashed up to the side of Hussein Pasha. There he sat, throughout the combat, conspicuous on horseback, composed, yet alert, and constantly smoking his pipe, amid a storm of shot which killed two horses under him.

The energetic conduct of Teesdale had, in the interim, enabled the Turks in Yusek to hurl back two successive assaults, delivered from different sides. Sixteen Russian guns, drawn up in the rear of the extreme left of the Tachmasb lines, now came into action and pounded the Turks; but General Williams and Mr. Churchill, from Yassif and Tek-Tabias, brought a heavy cross-fire to bear upon these guns, and drove them away. At this time Kmety had reached Yusek-Tabia, and organising a column of assault, made a rapid charge at the head of the Sultan's Guards, " gallant youths of Stamboul," as he calls them, who shouting, " Long live the Padishah!" fell on with the bayonet, and cleared the breastworks of Yarim-ai. Tachmasb Redoubt was now quite surrounded. The enemy were massed on all sides, and so close that the grape from the redoubt made horrible havoc. The Russian artillery on the exterior front were throwing shells, but more burst among their own infantry in the tents than in the redoubt. Their skirmishers were in the ditch of the parapet on the proper right of the redoubt, but unable to go farther. A reinforcement of two battalions of Turks, under Zaccaria Bey, had come up and posted themselves behind the walls of the field kitchens, where they stood fast while the Cossacks rode and plundered far in rear.

The object of General Kmety was to disengage the Tachmasb Redoubt, by carrying aid to the brave Hussein Pasha. He formed a fresh column of assault, supported it by two field guns from Yusek, and thinking he could drive the enemy from the proper right of Tachmasb, he charged and stormed in with such heartiness and velocity that the enemy were driven out or killed where they stood. Thus he placed himself in communication with Hussein Pasha on his right and Zaccaria Bey on his left. Captain Halil Bey, a young officer of rifles, foremost in this charge, was wounded in the foot. He mounted a stray horse, got the ball extracted by the first field surgeon he met, and, in a short time, with his maimed foot in bandages, appeared again at the head of his company.

The chances of victory, although the enemy made no way against Tachmasb, were not altogether against him; for just about the time that Kmety recovered Yarim-ai, a strong force of infantry, cavalry, and guns appeared before the English lines. These works were not well placed; they were weakly manned; the ground in front fell so rapidly that an advancing foe could not be seen until he came within grape range. About a quarter to seven the Russians crowned the ridge, fired three rounds, and in ten minutes were masters of the lines. The Turks fled into Williams Pasha Tabia, a work on the edge of the cliff, with its rear to the river. The enemy's infantry piled arms, and breaking down a part of the parapet, he poured a battery through, and began shelling the town and firing into Fort Lake. It is probable that this force was directed to hold the ground won until joined by the enemy from the West. But this could not be permitted. Arab Tabia opened on them. Captain Thompson dragged a 32-pounder from the eastern to the western side of the Karadagh. Colonel Lake turned three guns from the front to the rear of his fort. This cross fire inflicted, severe losses on the enemy. Thompson's gun drove him from Teesdale Tabia on the extreme right, and when he took refuge on the other redoubts, the shot of the gun followed his steps; while from the Arab Tabia, Lieutenant Koch, a Prussian officer, crossed his fire with that of Thompson. Yet the Russians stood gallantly for an hour and a half. At the end of that time a body of infantry, sent by Thompson and another, under Kadri Bey, a good soldier, sent by General Williams, had wound their way across the river, and, uniting with a battalion pushed forward by Colonel Lake, charged the enemy with the bayonet, and drove him out of the lines. In this contest the townspeople and the irregular riflemen from Lazistan joined. The Russian horse essayed a charge, but fell under the fire from the reconquered parapets, and rolled over each other in the deep holes, called trous de loup, which had been dug in front of the lines. The enemy carried off five guns. As he drew out of range a singular incident occurred. One of the battalions engaged at Tachmasb had been cut off, and Colonel Kauffman, its commander, determined to fight his way through the entrenched camp, and make an exit towards the north. He marched straight towards Tchakmak; but ever and anon he came within range of the guns, first of Yusek, then of Fort Lake, then of Tetek, turned round for that purpose. They persevered and got off, with the loss of 250 men; the cavalry which had charged the English lines, and its horse artillery, protecting their escape. Colonel Kauffman thereby won the order of St. George.

The fighting about the Tachmasb Redoubt was going on with great fierceness; but, from the moment the Russians were driven away from the English lines, the issue of the day ceased to be doubtful. When Kmety first recaptured the right breastwork at Tachmasb, the enemy stood firmly in the tents within fifty paces. The men stepped out of the tents to fire, and went inside to re-load. But Kmety brought his two field-pieces into action, and put an end to that practice. Within the redoubts the Turks wanted cartridges. Hussein Pasha supplied the want by heading sorties. Thus, part of the garrison was employed in stripping off the pouches of the killed and wounded, and throwing them to their comrades, who maintained the fire. The battalions behind the field kitchen now edged down towards the redoubt, and strengthened the defence. The heavy guns of the forts in the second line came into play, so that the dogged enemy were in a circle of fire. To the last he was supplied with fresh troops, but these did not do more than augment the slain. At length the Turks took the offensive. The enemy stole away towards the left, and sought to escape out of the lines. A reinforcement of Turks, brought up by Lieutenant Tüköri, fell upon him as he was retreating. Hussein Pasha and Teesdale sallied forth, and Kmety placed four field guns in battery. So far as their slender means allowed - and they had few horses - the Turks pressed the retreat of the Russians, and drove off their remaining guns. The battle was at an end; it had raged for seven hours; and during that time a mere handful of Turks, well led, had defeated three times their own number. There are few battles more remarkable for the stubbornness of both sides than this battle of Kars. The Turks had 1,094 killed or wounded; the Russians had at least 6,500 killed, for the bodies were buried by the garrison. They had two generals killed, and three wounded; and other officers among the killed were reckoned by hundreds.

Although the garrison had won a victory, their sufferings were not at an end. It was hoped that General Mouravief would retreat, not only because he had been so thoroughly beaten, but because Omer Pasha was at length afoot, and troops were about to land at Trebizond. But Mouravief did not go; on the contrary, he began to erect permanent huts. Nor did he relax the rigour of the blockade. He drew his lines more closely around Kars; for he knew the plight of the garrison. He judged that no relief would arrive; and he judged correctly. Selim Pasha did not land at Trebizond until the 11th of October; he did not make his appearance at Erzroum until the 25th. The British officers there, and Consul Brant, plied him with every kind of stimulant to provoke him to advance upon Mouravief 's rear. He knew the state of the garrison of Kars, but he would not undertake the task. He marched a little way, when his heart failed him, and he halted. All hope of aid from that side was at an end. Omer Pasha, with a really fine army, had landed at Sukhum-Kaleh at the end of October. He was an immense distance from Kutais and Tiflis. On the 5th of November he forced the passage of the Ingour, winning a brilliant but useless victory. Moving on through Mingrelia, he approached Kutais, until the rains began to fall, and the swollen streams and deep roads brought him to a halt. Then he retreated to Redout Kaleh. In the meantime Kars had fallen a prey to famine. The movements of Omer Pasha had been absolutely without any influence on the result.

The glorious garrison of Kars actually managed to maintain itself for two months after the battle of the 29th of September. The cholera returned, and slew a thousand men in a fortnight. The rations of the troops were reduced to eleven ounces of bread, and some very weak soup, containing an ounce of nutriment. The hospitals grew fuller day by day. The people and soldiers tore up the grass, to feed on the roots. Some of the grain abstracted from the magazines, and a depot of coffee and sugar, accidentally discovered, came in most opportunely as a relief. The horses remaining were now killed sparingly, and from the flesh broth was made. Hunger and cold - for the clothing of the troops was worn out - drove scores daily to the hospital, where they died. The vultures and the dogs grew fat upon carcasses of dead horses; the men, and women, and children failed and withered. " With hollow cheeks, tottering gait, and that peculiar feebleness of voice so characteristic of famine, the soldiers yet clung to the batteries." They never failed in duty or loyalty; neither want of food, nor hope deferred, nor the incessant night alarms of the foe, shook these patient, faithful men. Three days' provisions were collected in the batteries, for a false report had come that Selim Pasha was near, and it was thought advisable to be ready for a sortie. The hungry soldiers stood sentry over these provisions, yet did not touch a single biscuit. Then snow fell; the scanty grass was hidden; its roots were difficult to obtain. At length the people, who had borne their suffering well, cried out that they could bear no more. Mothers brought their children to the military council, and placing them at the feet of the officers, exclaimed, " Take and keep these children, for we have no bread to give them." General Williams now received a message from Consul Brant, saying that Selim Pasha would not move; that Omer Pasha was too far off, and that the Kars garrison had nothing to depend on but itself. At first it was resolved to attempt a retreat; but this, it was seen, was impracticable. Then it was resolved to surrender. Thereupon General Williams and Captain Teesdale repaired on the 25th of November to the Russian camp and with the permission of the former, General Kmety and General Colman - Hungarian refugees, remember - rode through the Russian outposts, and reached Erzroum.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5

Colonel Williams
Colonel Williams >>>>
Colonel Lake
Colonel Lake >>>>
Captain Teesdale
Captain Teesdale >>>>
Alexander II. of Russia.
Alexander II. of Russia. >>>>

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