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Saturday, February 12th 2011, 5:23pm

Russo - Turkish War of 1828 and 1829, by Col. Chesney, 1854

The Russo-Turkish Campaigns of 1828 and 1829
with a view of the Present State of Affairs in the East

Author: Colonel Chesney, R.A., D.C.L., F.R.S.
Published: Redfield, New York, 1854

Quoted from "Chesney"

- Description of Moldavia and Wallachia
- Course of the Danube, from the western side of Wallachia to the Dobrudscha
- Obstinate defence of fortresses by the Turks
- Description of Ada Kedi, Widdin, Khalafat, Nicopoli, Sistchof, Rustchuk, Giurgero,Silistria, Hirsova, Brailow, Matschin
- Proposed canal to turn the lower Danubi
- Second line of defence behind the Danube
- Tirnova
- Varna and Schumla
- Description of the Balkan
- Various passes of the mountains
- General observations on the passes
- Positions of Buyuk Chekmedge, Kuchuk Chekmedge, and Ramid Chifllick
- Proposed additions to the defences of Constantinople

The Russian invasion of the Turkish territory was to embrace both sides
of the Black Sea; and it will be seen by a glance at the map, that, in each case, the seat of war forms an irregular triangle. The one in Asia has the trans-Caucasian provinces for a base, and Erzerum, orrather the sources of the Euphrates, at its apex, with a mountainous and otherwise very difTicult country intervening. That of Europe has Bulgaria, i. e., the river Danube, with its fortresses, for a base, and Constantinople as the apex. Nearly midway between the extreme points, the noble range of the Balkan runs from side to side of the triangle, almost parallel to the base, having on its northern slopes, Tirnova, Schumla, Pravadi, and Varna.

These strongholds are so situated as to serve the double purpose of advanced posts of the great mountam barrier in their rear, as well as points d'appui of the fortresses on the Danube ; and it might reasonably be expected that some intimation of the enemy's intentions against the latter, would have been the consequence of a previous occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia by cavalry and light troops Since, by the treaty of Bucharest, Bessarabia ceased to be a part of Moldavia, this province only extends to the Pruth, which separates it on the eastern side from Bessarabia ; the latter having been Russian territory ever since the peace in question was concluded in 1812. The principality of Moldavia now extends nearly 200 miles, from the Danube bordering Wallachia to the borders of Gallicia and it has a breadth of about 120 miles, from the banks of the Pruth on the east to the Carpathian mountains and Transylvania on the west. The Danube washes the south-eastern extremity of this territory for the distance of about twenty-four miles, and during this portion of its course, receives the rivers Pruth and Sereth.

The Pruth has a south-eastern course of about 500 miles to the Danube, from its sources in the Carpathian mountains in the circle of Stanislawow, and is navigable almost throughout the whole extent of Moldavia. The Sereth, in the upper part of its course, receives the Bistritz and the Moldava, which gives its name to the territory; and almost at its termination, the Birlat. These streams and their affluents divide almost equally, and completely water the principality, which has an area of nearly 17,000 square miles.

The country is covered in part with extensive forests, producing every kind of timber ; and the remainder, which is agricultural or pastoral, is very fertile in wines, as well as in every kind of grain and vegetable. Vast numbers of horses, cattle, and sheep, are grazed on its rich meadows. Rock-salt, asphaltum, saltpetre, and even gold, are foimd in this principality.

Jassy, the capital, is situated on the Bachlei, a muddy stream, one of the affluents of the Pruth. It contains numerous churches and convents, in addition to about 4,000 houses, chiefly of wood. Owing principally to fires, the population has diminished of late years. Previous to 1827 there were about 40,000 inhabitants.

Galatz, the only port of Moldavia, is situated on the Danube, between the rivers Pruth and Sereth. Having been made a free port in 1834, it has become a very important place, being the seat of imports and exports for the whole of this extensive province, as well as a depot for Austrian merchandize passing up and down the Danube. Its trade, especially in grain, is very considerable, and the vessels coming thither from various countries are very numerous. The mixed population of Moldavians, Jews, Armenians, and gypsies, is about half a million.

Wallachia, the other principality, belongs more particularly to the present geographical limits of Turkey, being washed by the Danube on its southern side, and again on its eastern by the bend of this river, as it flows northward to the extremity of this province opposite to Galatz. From its eastern limits on the left bank of the Lower Danube, Wallachia extends about 276 miles to the Upper Danube and Hungary on the west, and again 127 miles northward from the left bank of the Danube to Moldavia, and nearly the same distance to Transylvania. It is abundantly watered by various rivers and streams, which traverse the country from the Carpathians to the Danube. The principal of these are the Schyl, which terminates opposite to Rachova; the Aluta, which enters the Danube at Turn ; the Argisch, which ends its course opposite to Turtokai; and the Yanolitza, which debouches at Hirsova.

According to Balbi, Wallachia has an area of 21,600 square geographical
miles. A broad level tract stretches northward from the Danube, that part near the river con- sisting of marshes and meadow pastures, which are subject to its inundations. The ground becomes hilly and more elevated as it approaches Moldavia, and the western side of the country is mountainous, or hilly. Like Moldavia, this principality is covered in places with extensive forests but it is still richer in mineral, pastoral, and agricultural products. Iron, copper, lead, silver, and gold, are found. Horses and cattle abound ; and according to Wilkinson's account of the principalities, the number of sheep amounts to 2,500,000; while besides barley, rye, hemp, tobacco, and Indian corn, there is seldom less than 1,250,000 quarters of wheat produced annually.

The principal towns are Tergovist on the Yanolitza, containing 5,000 inhabitants; the port of Brailow; Giurgevo, a town of 3,500 inhabitants; and Crajova, the capital of Little Wallachia, a thriving town of about 9,000 inhabitants. Bucharest, the capital, contains about 60,000 inhabitants. Owing to the gardens within the town, it covers a very large space, and is on the whole a very fine city. Transverse logs of wood across the streets supply the place of the usual pavement. The metropolitan Greek church is a handsome edifice, and many of the houses of the Boyards are fine buildings. The Bazars are extensive and well supplied, as might be expected in the centre of a productive and populous country. This district is supposed to contain 100,000 gypsies, 20,000 Jews, 5,000 Armenians, and only 3,000 Greeks; the remainder being Wallachians, who increase the aggregate to about a million.

The inhabitants of these principalities are a quiet passive race, of Sclavonian origin, but claiming descent from the Romans of the lower empire ; which is partly supported by the fact of their speaking a doggrel Latin, The origin of the Bohemians is not known; but they are, as usual, a migratory people. The rest of the Wallachians are partly so; and, their pursuits being chiefly pastoral, their huts, which are half buried in the earth, are easily changed from place to place ; so that, unless there should be either a coriA^ent or a church, whole villages frequently disappear from the places marked on the maps.

The tribute paid directly by these provinces to the Porte was by no means oppressive; but a heavy contribution was drawn from them indirectly, in the shape of wheat, timber, and cattle, which were sent to Constantinople at fixed prices, much below the market value. This was, however, a small disadvantage compared to that of being in the van of the Turkish territory, and consequently the first to suffer from an invading enemy.

In approaching the confines of Bulgaria, the river Danube breaks through a mass of chalk, which, added to a narrow rocky bed, and the eddies, causes some difficulty in the navigation, both at Gladova and Demir-Kapu. Below these so-called "Iron gates" the river and valley gradually widen as far as the fortified town of Widdin, which is seated on the right bank. Below this place the banks are higher on the Bulgarian than on the opposite side of the river, which has a current of about two miles per hour, and a width varying between 300 and 500 yards, as far as Nicopoli. At this place, the ancient Nicopolis ad Istrum, the stream widens to nearly three miles, and so continues, interspersed with islands, and passing with an east and north-easterly course Rustchuk, Turtokai, and Silistria, to Boghazkoi.


Saturday, February 12th 2011, 5:34pm

Russo - Turkish War of 1828 and 1829, by Col. Chesney, 1854 - part #2

Quoted from "Chesney"

At the latter place—from whence the celebrated wall of Trajan crosses to the Euxine, a distance of only thirty-eight miles - the Danube makes a northerly course along the Dobrudscha, by Hirsova, in three principal branches which, after uniting at Brailow, continue a northerly course to Galatz. Here it again turns to the east, and at the distance of about ninety miles, falls into the Black Sea by the several arms of the Delta. Below Brailow and Galatz—where the more active commerce, chiefly in corn, commences - the streams, as they wind through a flat country, display quite a forest of masts, which appear to be moving in different directions through the fields.

Vessels, however, make their way up to Widdin, and even higher; the depth of water mid-stream being seldom under seventy feet. With some difficulty, the Danube may be passed a little above Widdin, and again at Oltenitza, or rather Turtokai, below that fortress; also at the island near Silistria, and again at Hirsova: which, in descending thus far, is the first suitable place for the passage of an army. Saturnovo and Tuldcha, in the Delta, are, however, preferable point ; particularly the latter, at which a bar with only fourteen feet water would facilitate the construction of a bridge: although in this part of the Delta, as well as higher up the main stream, the right bank usually gives to the defenders the advantage of higher and more difficult ground, to assist in disputing the passage.

The difficulty which must be experienced in crossing a deep and -somewhat rapid stream, even with the assistanceof one of the islands, ceases during the seventy of a Bulgarian winter. On the 19th, and again on the 25th of December, 1829, the writer crossed the Danube with horses; and it was evident that the ice had been for some days sufficiently sohd for that purpose, the frost having been severe since the 7th of the month. In addition to the ordinary difficulties in crossing when the river is not frozen, even where there is no kind of resistance, may be added the strongholds on the banks of the Danube.

These deserve a brief description; the more so that the defence of a fortress by the Turks may, m one sense, be said only to begin with them where it usually ends in more scientific warfare : namely, after a breach has been effected in the body of the place. Ada-Kala, the most westerly post of the Turks, and originally an Austrian work, contains bomb-proofs for about 2,000 men. It is situated on an island, and is well calculated to defend the passage, as well as to resist any attack made from this part of Wallachia.

Widdin, the next fortress in descending the river, stands on its right bank, towards which it presents revetted lines en cranaillere. On the land side there are seven bastioned fronts, with ravelins of tolerably regular construction, and the place is surrounded by a deep and wide ditch, which is either wet or dry at pleasure. The revetment is nearly forty feet high, and there is a covert way and glacis. Towards the west, there is also an ancient castle, which serves as a citadel, and a well provided arsenal. The suburbs of Widdin extend along the river, and are defended by permanent lines, flanked at intervals by tower bastions. The parapets are of earth, faced with and retained by hurdles ; which are frequently used for this purpose by the Turks, agreeably to a practice originally borrowed, it is said, from the Poles.

On the left bank, opposite to Widdin, is the tete de pont of Khalafat, a revetted work of but moderate strength, until the recently added entrenchments. About ten miles below Widdin is the town of Lom, defended by lines similar to those of the suburbs of Widdin, with the addition of loopholed parapets, constructed with gabions.

Again, at nearly the same distance lower down, two inferior forts have been constructed to defend the river at Oreava or Rachova ; which, with this exception is an open town. Forty-five miles lower, and nearly opposite to the river Schyl, the ancient Tiarantus, Nicopoli occupies two steep hills on the right bank of the Danube. The town is defended by irregular lines which are revetted, and have hurdle-faced earthen parapets. The works are surrounded by a deep ditch, flanked by flat bastions. On the left bank of the river, and immediately opposite, nrc the forls of Yeni-Kala and Esld-Kala, both of which are commanded and protected, at the distance of about 900 yards, by the guns of the town. A garrison of 8,000 men was destined by the Sultan for the defence of this place.

The position of the commercial town of Sistchof, the next place in descending the Danube, closely resembles that of Nicopoli. It stands on the right bank, and occupies two hills, which are divided by a deep valley. The crest of the eastern hill is crowned by a turreted castle, said to have been built by the Genoese ; and intrenchments were hastily thrown up by the Pasha to defend the western hill and its acclivity. These works, which are a fair specimen of Turkish science, consist of long curtains flanked by semicircular bastions, having earthen parapets faced with hurdles, and surrounded by a deep and narrow ditch. With the intended allotment of a garrison of 3,000 men, Sistchof was capable of a respectably defence.

Some distance lower is Rustchuk and its tete de pont. The former, which is rather commanded by higher ground on the south-west side, played an important part in previous wars. It is defended by eight bastioned demi-revetted fronts on the land side, with a ditch and counterscarp of masonry, without ravelins or other outworks; but having, at the eastern part of the town, the additional protection of a bastioned work, which serves as a citadel. Six very irregular fronts, and the bastion of Kala Alik Tabia projecting into the river, protect the town on the side of the latter.

Nearly opposite to Rustchuk, but beyond the range of artillery, are the three separate works at Giurgevo. The first is an ancient castle on an island, which, with the addition of the second work - a pentagonal stone-work, and rather strong - forms a kind of harbour. Adjoining the latter fort is the town, which had been recently fortified by the Pasha, with a chain of works, forming nearly a semicircular sweep, of which the Danube is the chord.

Silistria occupies the right bank of the Danube, nearly at the commencement of its delta, and had nearly 24,000 inhabitants in 1828. The town is but imperfectly fortified, and it is commanded from the exterior : more particularly on the south-western side. There are ten fronts, each of which has an extremely long curtain and two small bastions; which, as is commonly the case in Turkish works, give an imperfect flanking fire to the ditch. The scarp and counterscarp have scarcely a relief of fifteen feet. The former is surmounted by a hurdle parapet, with a strong row of palisades rising above its crest on the interior side. There is a low and very imperfect glacis, but no covert way or outworks of the usual construction; the place of the latter being partly supplied by three exterior redoubts enclosed to the rear. A fourth, outside the western angle of the town, and a fiftli, similarly situated near the eastern extremity, flank the works towards the river, and protect the trading vessels when anchored under the walls.

The next place of any consequence is Hirsova, a town containing- about 4,000 inhabitants, and seated on the right bank, nearly midway between Sihstria and Brailow. The fortifications form an irregular parallelogram, with rocky ground on three of the sides, and the river Danube on the fourth. There are five bastioned revetted fronts, surrounded by a
ditch defended by ten guns : an old castle on the western side of the town serves as a kind of citadel. As the Russians had a bridge at this place in 1809, the Turks bestowed some pains on its defences. The contour is, however, defective, having several dead points, with the additional disadvantage of some ground outside commanding the works: particularly the island below the town.

At nearly the same distance below Hirsova, the town of Brailow stands on the left bank. It is defended by eight fronts of fortification with revetted scarps and counterscarps, a glacis, a deep ditch, and a castellated citadel within the works at the western flank of the town; but there are no outworks to assist in its defence. This place is nearly opposite the centre of the alluvial track of the Dobrudscha, in which are several small fortified places, which, when supported by an army in the field, might be defensible.

Matschin, though at some distance from Brailow, may be considered its tete-de-pont. It is on the right bank, and has a population of 1,000 or 1,500 souls. It is surrounded by seven bastioned revetted fronts of fortification, and has a kind of citadel, which being placed on some elevated ground on the side of the Danube, commands the town from thence.


Saturday, February 12th 2011, 5:51pm

Russo - Turkish War of 1828 and 1829, by Col. Chesney, 1854 - part #3

Quoted from "Chesney"

The town of Tuldscha stands on the right bank of the river, and is defended by a detached, hexagonal work, without ravelins or other outworks. This was formerly the tete-de-pont of what is now the Russian fortress of Ismail. There is also a work serving as a kind of keep or citadel but the ground is unfavourable to defence, since it offers many dead points to assist an enemy's approaches.

Nearly at the eastern side of the Dobrudscha, about the spot where the Danube would have entered the Black 8ea had it continued an easterly course from Boghazkoi, near Tchernowoda, is the small port and town of Kustendji. It occupies a bluff peninsula, three sides of which are washed by the Euxine, and the fourth is defended by a line of
works. The latter, however, are scarcely defensible, being commanded by a chain of limestone hills outside, from which the celebrated walls of Trajan run across to the banks of the Danube. If a navigable cut were to be made lo this point, a distance scarcely exceeding forty miles, the body of the river would ere long take this direction ; thus, at a very trifling expense, by resuming its ancient bed, it would secure the Turkish and European commerce, and give, besides, in a military point of view, an important accession to the means of defending Bulgaria.

In the comparatively level portion of this country which intervenes between the Danube and the Balkan, at about sixty miles from and nearly parallel to the Danube, is the second line of defence.

Of this Schumla may be considered the centre, with Pravadi and Varna at its right or eastern, and Tirnova, the ancient capital of Bulgaria, at its other extremity. Tirnova, the most western place d'armes, is situated about fifty miles from the Danube, at nearly an equal distance from Nicopoli, Sistchof, and Rustchuk ; all on that river. The town is singularly placed in a basaltic mountain basin of 800 feet, or even occasionally 1,000 feet in depth. The houses are built on a plateau, as well as on both sides of a precipitous tongue of land, which runs into and nearly bisects the basin in question.

Near the southern extremity of this projection, but connected with it by means of a bridge, there is an otherwise isolated and more elevated portion of rock, on which stands the citadel, a work originally constructed by the Genoese. Tirnova, therefore, with the rapid river Jantra flowing round it, may, even with reference to the power of modern warfare, be considered a very defensible position.

At the opposite or eastern extremity of the line are the port and fortress of Varna. The town occupies a spreading valley at the head of Lake Devna, and has the shape of a truncated pyramid, the base of which is towards the interior, with its apex on the Euxine. The third side faces the north, and the fourth is washed partly by the anchorage and partly by the river Devna. The places contain about 25,000 inhabitants, but although better fortified than most of the Turkish towns, it cannot, in a scientific point of view, be considered strong. Towards the sea, as well as towards the river Devna, are high loop-holed walls imperfectly flanked ; ten flat bastions connected by long curtains, and surrounded by a ditch with a cunette, form the rest of the enceinte. The scarp and counterscarp are revetted, and the former has a parapet faced with wickerwork hurdles to retain the earth. In the interior, a Byzantine castle with high square turrets at the angles, serves at once as a citadel and magazine.

Since the seige of 1828, a hornwork and some lines have been erected by the Turks, to occupy the commanding ground on the western side of the fortifications ; but it is doubtful whether the means of defence have been much strengthened in consequence. The ancient Hoemus runs from west to east : that is, from the shores of the Adriatic to those of the Black Sea with, however, an unequal degree of elevation, which varies from 5,000 feet at the pass of Gabrova to a little more than 3,000 feet at that of the Kamtchik, about ten miles south of Schumla. The mountains^ arc chiefly conical, and generally clothed with oak and beech trees of a large size ; the valleys are very bold and rocky, and usually covered with evergreens.

The abutments of the southern side, which are higher than those of the northern, have the effect of lessening to the eye the great height of the range itself
from which they also differ in character, being of limestone, with precipitous sides, terminating in walls of rock from ten to two hundred feet in height. Numerous streams and thick underw'ood abound in the northern slopes, and owing to these impediments, the plateaux above these outlying hills cannot be reached without much difficulty. The principal range of the Balkan, exclusive of its abutments, is twenty-one miles across at its greatest width, and about fifteen from side to side at its narrowest points, including the windings.

The Turkish historian. Von Hammer, states that there are only eight defiles by which the Balkan can be crossed that from Chamadere to Chenga, on the Nadirderbend, being the most eastern. General Jochmus, however, mentions five other passes, including mere pathways, between Nadirderbend and the sea at Cape Emineh, viz.:
1. From Misivri by Erikly-Kilisi and Dervish Jowan to Varna.
2. From Misivri by Bana to Varna.
3. From Aschli by Aiwadschiki to Varna.
4. From Aschli by Kaldumatch and Shrikus-Hissar to Pravadi ; and again,
5. From Sudshiderabad and Kiuprikoi to Pravadi.

But the principal routes which are more or less practicable for the passage of troops across the Balkan, are the following. That farthest towards the west, and at the same time one of the most difficult, is the road which quits the Danube at Rachova, and proceeds by way of Sophia to PhiUippopoh. For the greatest part of this distance it is httle more than a bridle path, chiefly winding round the crests of the mountains.

The next points of approach are made from the Danube, about Nicopoli and Rustchuk, Several of these routes from the Danube converge on Tirnova ; from thence there are three roads across the mountains. The First passes by the castle of Tirnova, and thence along the Jantra. A narrow, steep, but not rocky saddle, which might be forced by tirailleurs, is passed in proceeding towards Tuncha, and after a mile of very steep ascent we roach Shipka. The mountains resemble those of the Hartz, and the country is rich in fruit trees, corn, pasture, and wood, with luxuriant fields of roses, from which the attar is made.

The Second route leads from Tirnova to Demir Kapu, and from thence to Selimno ; passing the range at a great elevation, and by a track scarcely known. The Third route leads, from Tirnova to Stararecka, from whence it ascends to the summit of Binar-dagh. Here it meets the road from Osman Bazar, and passes thence between high and naked rocks to Kasan and Demir Kapu.

South of the pass of the Iron Gates - which could scarcely be forced, and could only be turned by a narrow footway to the right—the road separates ; one branch going to the left by Karnabat and Dobrol, while the other goes from thence to the right towards Selimno, over a succession of wooded and difficult ascents and descents. The latter part of this road, which is steep and winding, brings the traveller to the fresh climate of Selimno, with its cotton, vines, olives, and rich vegetation, interspersed with meadow land.

A Fourth route proceeds from Schumla to Tschalikewak, from whence - by means of difficult ascents, and by subsequently winding through deep ravines and precipitous rocky passes, particularly the defiles of the Derbent - the Delli Kamtschik is reached, which is only fordable at certain places. After crossing this river, the road ascends over precipitous and wooded mountains, until it eventually descends through an open country to Dobrol ; from whence a tract covered with brushwood and intersected with numerous streams, leads to the considerable town of Karnabat. In advancing onwards towards Adrianople, the difficult defile of Buyuk Derbend occurs : the remainder of the march thither would be comparatively easy.

The Fifth road leads from Kosludscha to Pravadi, where it separates. One branch proceeds onwards by Kiuprikoi to Kirk-Getschid or the Forty Fords; where it enters a critical defile of fifteen miles in extent, which at Gokbehuet-arakdsche narrows to about fifty paces in wddth, with high and precipitous rocks on each side. The difficulties from thence towards Aidos are comparatively moderate.


Saturday, February 12th 2011, 6:01pm

Russo - Turkish War of 1828 and 1829, by Col. Chesney, 1854 - part #4

Quoted from "Chesney"

The other branch, which proceeds by Jenikoi from Pravadi, is less difficult ; because the Kamtschik may be crossed in summer at several places by fording, and subsequently the Delli Kamtschik can be crossed anywhere about Tchenga. Beyond this place, however, the road is so precipitous that it might be closed entirely without difficulty. The plateau above Tchenga is a mile and a quarter in extent, and troops might be advantageously iiitrenched at this spot, which offers the defensive advantage of ground falling rapidly towards the Delli Kamtschik on one side, and the Dellidschedereh on the other. On the neighbouring open space at Bairam Ovo a considerable encampment might be formed ; and, as a practicable road leads from thence to Varna, a force concentrated on this spot could either debouche on that fortress, or towards Pravadi, at pleasure.

Passing through the marshy country south of Varna, the Sixth route crosses the Kamtschik by a bridge of boats at Podbaschi ; where the banks are precipitous, and from six to twelve feet high. But in order to obstruct the passage of the marsh (which is about 5,000 paces in extent) before reaching this point, entrenchments have been thrown up on some rising ground beyond it, at a spot from whence two narrow but passable roads lead westward. Encountering moderate ascents through beautiful but almost impenetrable woods, these routes lead to Dervish Jowan and Misivri, passing through the deep valleys of the Kip-Dereh. The latter consist of an almost continuous succession of defiles;
nor are there, here or elsewhere, any means of cross communications between the various roads of the Balkan excepting those at the southern declivity of the chain, where one such intercommunication leads from Misivri to Aid OS, and another from Burgos to the same place, from whence a single line is continued to Karnabat and Selimno.

The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth passages, being the most practicable for an enemy, an army placed at Aidos might defend the country w^ith great advantage ; since it could debouche from the mountains either towards Schumla or Varna, with every prospect of overhelming the advancing columns : whose passage across the Balkan may be considered to be impracticable, so long as both, or even one, of those places should be maintained and strongly garrisoned by the Sultan's forces.

These passes are not in themselves more difficult than some of those in the Alps and in Spain, and far less formidable than those of the Taurus and the Eastern side of Persia. The routes by which they are traversed wind through the valleys, and along the sides of the mountains when ascending ; nor are the latter either so steep or rugged as to prevent an advancing body from securing its flanks by means of light infantry : nor even occasionally from employing the latter to endeavour to turn some of those defensive positions.

This description of the passes of the Balkan is the result of personal observations, made during two journeys across that range in 1829, compared with the accounts given by Moltke, General Jochmus, and othws. It is not, howevef, so much the physical impediments presented by rugged valleys and lofty mountains, as the accessories connected with these difficulties in a country like Turkey—such as the want of practicable roads, and the deficiency of supplies consequent on a thinly scattered population—which present the greatest obstacles. Under these circumstances, and with ordinary precautions on the part of the Turks, it is difficult to imagine how the barrier of the Balkan could be forced ; unless, indeed, the invaders should be in a position to bring forward, and (what is far more difficult) to support, an overwhelming force in this part of the country.

There is but little to obstruct an enemy between the southern slopes of the Balkan and that formidable position, about twenty miles from the capital, so celebrated in history,—where, owing to the nature of the ground, Attila was stayed in his march to conquer the eastern empire and where, at a later period, the Huns were signally defeated by Belisarius.
This natural barrier is formed by a chain of steep hills, which, running almost continuously from the inlet of Kara Bournu on the Euxine to the sea of Marmora, separates, as it were, Constantinople and the extremity of the Peninsula from the rest of European Turkey. The northern side of these hills is washed almost throughout their whole length by the Kara-su, which in certain places forms a difficult marsh, and ultimately a lake, flowing into the sea below Buyuk Chekmedge, or the great drawbridge. In addition to the latter, which is about 500 paces long, there are three other bridges leading to the capital : one from Midia, passing along the shores of the Black Sea to the mouth of the Bosphorus ; a second, crossing the marsh between Tsjalatalatje and Tasjalik ; and the third, at Kastanakoi.

By constructing tetes-du-pont at these passages, and scarping some of the hills, as well as strengthening other weak points, these defences might become a second Torres Vedras, and one of the strongest positions in Europe. Even in its present state, if defended by an organized force, assisted by an armed population, it would prove a serious if not an insuperable impediment; since an enemy must either endeavour to turn it by landing, at great risk, close to the Bosphorus, or attempt to carry it by an attack in front: which in all probability would be attended with serious loss, independently of that still to be experienced in attacking another position six miles from thence.

This position consists of a somewhat similar range of hills, running also nearly parallel to those just described, almost from sea to sea. But not being altogether continuous, it is scarcely so defensible towards the eastern as it is at the western side; where an enemy would have to cross six different streams in approaching the lake formed by them in front of the hills, both above and below Kuchuk-Chekmedge, or the lesser drawbridge. It is scarcely necessary to remark that, as the left of this position as well as that more in advance are particularly strong, their defenders would be enabled to mass their troops towards the centre and right of the space to be defended.

After mastering successively these two very defensible lines, the heights of Ramid Chifflik, just outside Constantinople, would be the last means of endeavouring to cover its dilapidated walls, which have been totally neglected since the conquest of the city in 1453. The exposure which has been the consequence of this neglect, might, however, be easily remedied. By the ordinary repairs of the towers, walls, counterscarp, &c., with the addition of a line of martello towers, or a stronger description of works, constructed at certain intervals parallel to the contour, so as to prevent an enemy from bombarding the place until they are mastered, Constantinople could be rendered capable of a more protracted defence. In its present state, however, there is not anything to impede an enemy, beyond desultory resistance from house to house ; until a terrible conflagration, which must be the result of the bombardment of wooden structures, should end the struggle in the capital.


Saturday, February 12th 2011, 6:51pm

Russo - Turkish War of 1828 and 1829, by Col. Chesney, 1854 - part #5

Quoted from "Chesney"


- Russian officers reconnoitre the passes of the Balkan
- Plans of attack by General Geismar and Baron Valentini
- Troops assembled by Russia for the invasion
- Strength of the army
- Commencement of the campaign
- Critical state of Turkey at that moment
- Nizam, and means of taking the field
- Various attempts made by Russia to conquer Turkey
- The Russians cross the Pruth
- The Sultan sends troops towards the Danube
- First combats in Wallachia
- The plague attacks the Russian troops
- Siege of Brailow
- How the passage of the Danube was effected
- Fall of Isaktschi and other places in the Dobrudscha
- Turkish forces assembled at Schumla
- Description of its intrenched camp
- Movements of the hostile forces up to Schumla

It w^as generally understood in Constantinople, at the time that the war was about to commence, that the actual state of the passes of the Balkan, as well as the means of defence in Turkey generally, had been well known for some time to the Russian Government. It would appear that about two years previously to the rupture, Colonel Berg and some other officers, who had been sent as attaches of the mission to the Porte, took the opportunity of returning from Constantinople to Russia through the principal passes of the Balkan.
On the 7th and 8th of May, 1828, the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th divisions of infantry, witli six regiments of Cossacks and the Hulans of the Bug, composing the 6th and 7th corps, passed the Pruth, on bridges which had been previously prepared, leaving the 3rd corps for the moment on the other side of the river. The 7th corps marched at once against Brailow, under General WoinofF. The 6th, under General Kleist, took another direction, and reached Bucharest on the 16th; from whence General Geismar advanced to Aluta, and his Cossacks reached Crajova, the capital of Little Wallachia, without opposition, on the 21st.
With regard to field operations, a period of comparative inactivity for the 3rd corps followed in Wallachia, during which interval the other two corps were employed; the one in besieging Brailow, and the other in effecting the passage of the Danube. The siege was entrusted to the 7th corps, under General Woinoff, who crossed the Pruth and advanced to the Lower Danube, taking with him a battering train of 100 pieces of ordnance. On their arrival at Galatz, a small body of Turks retired hastily; who, first burning their boats to delay the enemy, entered Brailow with the loss of about forty men, taken prisoners.

Brailow, which is also called Ibrail, stands on the left bank of the Danube, and is defended by eight bastioned fronts with revetted scarps and counterscarps; both of which are higher, in point of relief, than those of most other places in Turkey. A castellated citadel, flanked by round towers, defends the western front of the town; but there are no outworks to strengthen this fortress, nor any casemates to defend the garrison from shells, &c. Being armed with 278 guns, and mortars of various calibres, with (including the inhabitants) about 8,000 men under arms and amply provisioned, Brailow was sufficiently prepared for a siege; although labouring under the serious disadvantage of some cover outside the works, particularly in the ruined suburbs, which was calculated to facilitate the enemy's approaches

On the 8th of May, 4,000 cavahy and 6,000 infantry commenced the investment. On the 11th, the besieging force was increased to 18,000 men; and on the 16th, operations were commenced in form, under the Archduke Michael; while on the 19th, the Emperor Nicholas himself joined the army. The strongest of the three corps d'armee, the 3rd - which
was composed of the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th divisions of infantry, the 3rd division of Hussars, the 4th corps of cavalry, the 2nd Mounted Chasseurs, and two regiments of Cossacks - had remained in Bessarabia, to give time to collect materials for the bridge, and the dike which was to lead to it through the marshes.

These being at length prepared, those troops to whom the principal operations of the campaign were to be entrusted, moved onwards in two divisions, under the immediate command of General Radovitch; and on taking post at Saturnovo, nearly opposite to Isaktschi, a battery ot twelve guns was constructed to facilitate the passage of the Danube.

The Turks, who anticipated the enemy's intention of passing at this point, appeared on the opposite bank on the 7th of June, where they constructed a battery of fifteen heavy guns in a suitable position; and as the soft alluvial soil increased the difficulties of the enemy very seriously in approaching the left bank, the attempt to cross at this spot would in all probability have failed, had it not been for some unexpected and very opportune assistance. In addition to sending up the Jäger brigade in the gun-boats from Ismail, General Tutzkovv, the governor of that fortress, had rendered a still more important service to the Russians, by inducing Ossi^i-Michailowitsch-Gladkoy, and his people, the Zaporoga Cossacks, to join the invaders and desert the cause of the Sultan ; to whom they had been faithful since their settlement in that part of the country in the time of the Empress Catherine.

On the 8th of June these Cossacks succeeded, by means of their light fishing-boats, in conveying some 1,500 Jägers, without being perceived, to a wood on the opposite bank; and one of those important results which occasionally occur in warfare, was the consequence of the judicious employment of this small force. The Turks, who were numbered by the Russians at 12,000, but probably scarcely exceeded 6,000 men, were so exclusively occupied with the position of the Russian flotilla and troops in their front, that they totally overlooked what was taking place on their right flank; and on finding themselves suddenly attacked in rear by the Jägers, they were seized with panic and fled; a part taking the route of Bazarjik, and the remainder hurrying into the neighbouring fortress of Isaktschi.

But instead of being of any assistance to the latter place, and endeavouring in conjunction with the garrison to dispute the passage of the river, their alarm was communicated to the others; thus, a place still capable of a respectable defence was shamefully abandoned to the enemy, together with eighty-five pieces of cannon. Twenty-three hours' work now completed a bridge over the Danube, of 900 paces in length; and the remainder of the 3rd corps defiled along it, in presence of the Emperor, to the right bank, in order to commence operations in the Dobrudscha.

For this purpose four battalions and two squadrons were detached against Tuldscha; two battalions against Matschin; four battalions and two squadrons against Hirsova; four battalions and eight squadrons against Kustendji; and four battalions with seven squadrons against Bazarjik making in all 14,000 men. Thus there were about 2,000 men and ten guns, allotted for the reduction of each place - task which was the less difficult since not one of them was provided with a regular garrison. These arrangements being made, the main body - which, with the addition of some Hulans, exceeded 18,000 men - now advanced through the Dobrudscha towards Trajan's wall; proceeding thither by very slow marches, in order to give time to the troops employed elsewhere to complete their operations; more particularly the siege of Brailow.

Eleven days of great activity had enabled the Archduke Michael to open five batteries against the north-eastern side of the works of Brailow; but, as these works had been injudiciously placed, it became necessary to construct others; this was effected under the cover of the suburbs at the south-western side of the town. It was not, however, till the night of the 25th of May that the first parallel was completed; the right portion of this work being 500 paces, and its left about 800 paces from the counterscarp.

Between the 26th and 29th of the month some additional batteries, for guns as well as mortars, were constructed. The besieged endeavoured to ascertain what was doing in the trenches at night, by lighting immense fires on the ramparts; and it is stated that from ten to fifteen men of the besiegers were killed each day. But notwithstanding the activity of the garrison, additional batteries were constructed by the 1st of June; and between the 4th and 6th of the month the 3rd parallel was completed.

The latter was only 150 feet from the counterscarp; and it was not only of sufficient depth to cover the besiegers, but wide enough, also, to transport guns along it. Since the usual ricochet batteries had not been brought into play, it became necessary for the besiegers to employ mines, to destroy the defences and breach the walls. For this purpose a gallery, which had been commenced on the 7th of June, was carried below the foot of the counterscarp, and thence under the cunette to the body of the place: globes of compression being occasionally used to facilitate the work.


Saturday, February 12th 2011, 7:43pm

Russo - Turkish War of 1828 and 1829, by Col. Chesney, 1854 - part #6

Quoted from "Chesney"

During these mining operations, the besiegers were constantly exposed to shells, shot and small arms; in addition to repeated sallies, which were made with the most determined bravery, in the following manner: small bodies of from 50 to 100 men suddenly rushed across the ditch to attack the trenches; every man holding a loaded pistol in each hand, and a dagger between his teeth: for use after having discharged his firearms.

By the 15th of June four powerful mines were preparea by the besiegers, which, on the discharge of three rockets as a signal, were to be sprung simultaneously on that morning; when two columns, each accompanied by a body of Sappers, were instantly to storm the place. Two of these mines proved quite successful, and a practicable breach was opened in the body of the place; but the other two failed, in consequence of the officer who had charge of the operation being struck down by the previous explosion.

Unconscious of the failure of one part of the combination, the left column advanced at the given signal but not finding the expected opening in the bastion, they were all killed: with the exception of a single man, a non-commissioned officer, who jumped into the Danube and escaped by swimming. The other column found a moderately practicable breach more to the right; but some of the guns in the flank of the adjoining bastion being still serviceable, and the Turks prepared to dispute the breach, a desperate struggle was maintained hand-to-hand, until the Archduke Michael at length ordered those who could not advance, and who scorned to retreat, to abandon the attempt. According- to the Russian account, this abortive, and it may fairly be added injudicious attack, was attended with the loss of four generals, 118 officers, and 2,251 men killed and wounded.

On the following day the other two mines were sprung, and with partial success; but during a truce which ensued for the purpose of burying the dead, a negotiation was commenced, which, after having been carried on sixteen hours, terminated by a capitulation and evacuation of the place. The garrison reserved to themselves the right to continue to serve, and the greater part retired to Silistria: they thus tarnished their previous brilliant defence of twenty-seven days with open trenches, by putting the enemy in possession of a fortress that was still defensible, and had 278 guns and mortars, with a sufficient supply of ammunition and provisions.

The ordnance mounted on the walls of Brailow was of mixed calibre, from 36-pounder guns downwards, and mortars throwing shells of 200 lbs., 150 lbs., and 7 lbs. weight but the greatest execution was by the small mortars and wall pieces. The powder was stored in temporary excavations, chiefly under the ramparts; from whence, as was the case in the very infancy of artillery, it was carried loose to the pieces. The resume of the attack shows that 1,700 workmen were employed each day in the trenches, or 45,900 men in all, during the siege, and 14,789 guns were fired into the place. The Russians admitted a loss of about 4,000 officers and men, but the Turkish accounts, with more probability, make it exceed 5,000.

Great praise was bestowed on General Count Suchtelen, who, owing, as it is stated, to the advantage derived from his previous experience, was enabled to terminate the siege by negotiation. It may, however, be mentioned with reference to its premature conclusion, that Kuchuk Hamed told the author that the Russian Commander in Wallachia, in endeavouring to induce him to surrender Giurgevo, stated, as a reason for such a proposal, that a golden key had opened the gates of Brailow: and it must be admitted that Solyman Pasha's conduct is not free from suspicion, since he forgot his own spirited answer to the first summons to surrender: "When the rampart is destroyed, we shall form a living one of our bodies."

The evil resulting from this surrender was not confined to the loss of one of the strongest places in Turkey, for every day that Brailow held out would have been so much additional time gained for the Sultan's defensive preparations.

On the capitulation of this fortress, the Russian flotilla, which had latterly taken a very active part in the siege, immediately commenced the bombardment of the tete-de-pont of Brailow; the surrender of which soon followed, as did that of Hirsova, Isaktschi, and Matschin. Tuldscha and Kustendje held out for a time; but after referring to
Solyman Pasha, and receiving the promise of a free exit for their garrisons to proceed ta Varna or Sihstria, these small places were also evacuated. Thus, a moderate force, with some field pieces, and probably the use a little gold also, made the invaders masters of the country as far as Trajan's wall.

On the 5th of July a forward movement was commenced with reference to the concentration of the Russian forces at Bazarjik. Seven squadrons of cavalry, 100 Cossacks, and four battalions of infantry, formed the advance of the right wing under General Akinfief, and twelve squadrons of cavalry, with 200 Cossacks, and four battalions of infantry, that of the left wing under General Rüdiger; whilst General Benkendorff, with four battalions and some cavalry, took the route of Kousgoun and Silistria, followed by some of the 6th corps from Wallachia.

During the siege of Brailow, the Turks had done a great deal towards the defence of their country. Besides the artillery despatched to reinforce the garrison of Varna, 8,000 regular infantry, and 4,000 Albanians, reached Schumla on the 30th of June; thus, including the troops previously assembled, there was a force of 13,000 cavalry and 31,800 infantry at that place, under the Scraskier.

Hussein Pasha, from the moment of assuming the command, had employed his wonted energy and no mean talent in improving the defences of this position; which, being the pivot of the Turkish main line of defence, claims more particular notice. The town occupies a deep mountain basin formed by two abutments of the Balkan, which project north-east-ward from that chain nearly in the form of a horse-shoe, the heel or extremities of which are towards the exterior; where, however, they are connected by a low range of hills running across the space.
Under these circumstances, part of the 6th corps remained in Wallachia to keep Widdin, Rustchuk, &c., in check, and General Roth made a detour with the remainder to join the field force. He marched accordingly along the left bank of the Danube, as far as Hirsova, where he crossed in boats, and ascended the right bank to Kousgoun. This movement enabled the divisions of Benkendorff and Matadow to push on to Bazarjik, whither they were followed by the 7th corps from Brailow.

The main body now diverged from the road to Varna, and taking that of Schumla, passed Kosludsche, which had been abandoned, and reached Jeni Bazar. Here the second affair of the campaign took place, on the 12th of July, when the Russian advance was attacked and roughly handled by the Turkish cavalry, which drove it for some distance beyond the town, notwithstanding the arrival of General Rüdiger with a reinforcement of cavalry and infantry, to cover the retreat.

By the 16th of July, the arrival of the various corps employed against Kustendje and the other places in the Dobrudscha, had augmented the operating force to 41,000 men; in addition to 24,000 men employed in the rear, according to one account, or even 85,000 men according to others. Now commenced simultaneous movements against Varna, Schumla, and the intermediate position of Pravadi.

General Benkendorff, at the head of four battalions of the 10th division, and some Hulans, &c., advanced from Kosludsche, and occupied Pravadi; which, notwithstanding its importance in maintaining the communications between Varna and Schumla, had been neglected by the Seraskier. The left wing, under General Count Suchtelen, marched to the coast; but instead of being able to commence operations against Varna, he encountered a vigorous sortie; a bloody engagement followed, in which he lost 300 men, and being driven back, reinforcements were thrown into the place by the Turks.

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