"Before them stretches a new country. Broader plains, lower ranges of hills than in Galicia. To the right and left, as far as the eye reaches, fields, meadows, and swamps. Here and there, windmills. Immense forests, different from those they knew at home: pines, oaks, and birches, all mixed together, with some ash-trees and poplars, only slightly cut down and low of growth. The retreating Russians have tried everywhere to burn down forest and field, but have destroyed in most places only narrow strips and small spots that look now like islands: there the trees have been bared of their foliage in the middle of the summer as if it were the early spring, and the pines are red and brown like beech trees in the winter time. Every few miles trenches and shelters had been cut into the landscape and ran across field and forest, hills and valleys, masterpieces of their kind, cunningly hidden, partly untouched. Alongside the road there were many, many soldiers' graves, singly or sometimes combined into small cemeteries. The Russians bury their dead with devotion. Double-armed Greek crosses betray their burial places.... But not always did they find time during their retreat. Occasionally a penetrating odor of decay announces the fact that some of their dead had to be deprived of burial. Then, very rarely only, indeed, one comes across black, swollen corpses, so terribly gnawed and disfigured by millions of small crawling animals, that all individuality, all humanity, has been destroyed.
"The advance moves on for miles on curious roads. Are these still roads? There is no foundation. Just cuts have been made into the ground, which is sandy here and muddy there and again swampy. During dry weather they take turns in being dusty like the desert, or hard as stone or gently yielding; during rain they are without exception unreliable, spiteful, dangerous. The burden of the uninterrupted transport traffic escapes to the left and to the right farther and farther into the edges of the fields, cutting off continuously new widths of wheel tracks so that roadways are formed 150 to 300 feet wide, which narrow down only at bridges or fords by sheer necessity. All bridges, even those that have been spared by the Russians, have to be solidly renewed and supported, for they had never been intended for such demands. Across furrows and deeply cut wheel tracks, across loose footbridges, through puddles that are more like ponds, and through deep holes, motorcars—fast automobiles and gigantic motor trucks—rush and rumble madly, from time to time helplessly sinking down into the mud and mire till relays of horses and the force of the next detachment pushing forward on its way rescues them and they are off again."
"The road is lined with a sad seam of dead horses. Still other cadavers poison the air and entice swarms of greedy crows. The Russians have killed all cattle which they were unable to carry along quickly enough or to eat upon the spot, and then left the carcasses on or alongside the road: cattle, pigs, sheep have been shot down in this fashion, so that the pursuer should find no other booty than ashes and carrion.
"At some distance from the line of march there may be left some untouched villages, sound, normal, human settlements. But one does not see them. Wherever the fighting has been going on, we pass by debris and ruins. Big villages have been burned from one end to the other into empty rows of chimneys and blackened heaps of tumbled-down houses.
"The churches alone sometimes have been shown some respect. As far as they have not been riddled by shells or have not lost their roofs, they are still standing, clean and almost supernatural with their white or pink wooden walls, their shrilly blue or deep red domes, and their shining gilt decorations. Everything else has gone up in flames or has been shot to pieces.
"Out of the general wreckage a few utensils and pieces of furniture stick out here and there: bent beds, crumpled-up sewing machines, half-melted pans and pots. Sometimes it is even possible to form an idea of the former appearance of a house from the design of its blackened wall paper or from a few remnants of some other decorations. Here and there small corners and nooks have been preserved as if by a miracle, and, in some unaccountable way, have survived the ruin that surrounds them on all sides: strips of a flower garden, or perhaps a summer-house with a table in it and a cover and breakfast dishes on the table.
"Up on a chimney, half of which has tumbled down, stands a stork, as if he were meditating over the ruin wrought by human hands; suddenly he pulls himself together, spreads out his wings with quick decision, floats down into his familiar pond and forgets the raving of maddened mankind in the enjoyment of a juicy frog. Through the labyrinth of a fallen-down barn limps a big black cat, tousled and scratched, already half-maddened from hunger, vicious like a wounded panther. Along what had been once streets run packs of dogs gone wild, restlessly smelling at dirt and corpses, growing bolder day by day until finally they have to be shot down.
"Only few people can stand it on this God-forsaken stage of misery. Occasionally a few thin Jews in their long coats walk across the ruins of the market place, which look like a stage setting. On their shoulders they carry in a bundle their few belongings, like pictures of the Wandering Jew. Their families live for a short time from whatever they can scratch together from the ruins or out of the trampled-down fields. They cook and bake on one of the stoves standing everywhere right out in the open road and offer their poor wares for exhibition and sale on a few boards, a last effort to support life by trade. In the case of the women, no matter what the nationality, it always seems as if they had saved out of the horrible destruction only their best and brightest clothes. At a distance their colors shine and smile as if nothing at all had happened. But upon coming up closer, one can easily see how little these unfortunate beings carry on their poor backs.
"More than once we stand perplexed before the touching picture of a short rest on the 'flight to Egypt.' A little family—is it the only one that has remained behind when everybody else wandered away, or have they already come back home because there was nothing better to be found out in the world? In the garden of a plundered farmhouse they have put up a poor imitation of a stable out of charred boards, and in it they live more poorly than the poorest gypsies. Their lean cow has been tied to a bush; among the trampled-down vegetables their equally lean mule grazes. The mother squats on the ground, nursing a child, while father and son are stirring up a heap of glowing ashes and roasting a handful of potatoes that they have dug up somewhere.
"The return pilgrimage of the natives has already begun at an extensive rate. The advancing Germans are met everywhere by long lines of them, on foot and in wagons, carrying with them carefully and lovingly the few remnants of their herds. What has been their experience?
"One nice day the Cossacks had appeared at their farms and had told them: 'Not a soul is allowed to remain here. The Germans are approaching and the Germans will torture you all to death if they catch you. Take with you whatever you can carry. Everything else must be burned and destroyed, so that the Germans won't find anything that they can use.' That was enough to make these poor, ignorant farmers take leave of their homesteads. By the thousands they wandered off quickly and without much hesitation. Some were driven away like so much cattle, day by day farther into an uncertain future. Others were carried in long columns of wagons to the nearest railroad and still others were led orderly by their own mayors and village elders. In the inland of the Empire they were to found for themselves new homes. The czar was going to look after them. Russia is powerful and rich. It will lure the Germans into its swamps so that they will drown there miserably. It will draw them all the way to Moscow and there they will experience the deadly fate of 1812. Just like Napoleon will the Germans suffer this time. This patriotic hope, however, did not compensate the farmers for their lost homes. It is true they get enough to eat every day. At their resting places they are fed from field kitchens supplied and equipped by the Russian army and administered by civil committees. Hunger they did not need to suffer. But for all that, their home-sickness will not down, and the dislike of the continuous wandering, the aversion to strange places, the loathing of the unorderly, irregular life of nomads strengthens their determination to turn off their road at the first opportunity and to seek the long way back to their village, in spite of the terrible Germans.
"But in the meantime the world has been turned upside down, their homes are unrecognizable; nothing, absolutely nothing, is as it used to be. Wherever there is the smallest nook that has remained inhabitable, some stranger has built a nest. The new authorities speak German, rule German, and run things in a German way. The need to protect themselves against epidemics, and political prudence, demand that these homeless wanderers should not be permitted to wander around any longer at will. Into cities they are not allowed to enter, or even to pass through them. Out in the country, the field police watch them carefully, for more and more frequently adventurous groups are formed—states in a very small way and without any regard for anybody else. Strong fellows with plenty of nerve use this rare opportunity, make themselves leaders and dictators of these groups, organize new communities, which they rule with a strong hand, make laws, inflict punishments, and impose their will just as they please. That makes it necessary for the German authorities to interfere promptly and to bring order and authority to bear on these insecure conditions. The population is registered and no one is allowed to immigrate or to emigrate without the proper papers.
"Of course, there are also good, carefully tended main roads besides the bad country paths, and some of them are even paved for miles. One of these runs right straight from the south toward the Polish city of Cholm. For miles one can see this road, which looks like a ribbon that grows narrower and narrower all the time; in the background is a forest, through and beyond which the road runs. At the farther end of the forest, on the shoulders of a hill, are the white buildings of the monastery of the Russian bishopric of Cholm. Only when one comes within a few hundred steps of these buildings does one see the low, long, stretched-out little town in line with the ridge of the hills that drop away to the north....
"A little farther on, to the northwest of this little country town, is the larger, rich city of Lublin. There all the advantages of civilization are in evidence: street cars, electric lights, department stores, coffee houses. But here, too, war, want, and misery have left their impression on everything: old men, women, children in rags, asking for shelter and stretching out their thin arms for bread. On all the squares troops pass and cross each other, delaying the traffic. There are Germans and Austro-Hungarians in long columns and then again a long line of Russian prisoners of war, marching to work. Among the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen only rarely some figures remind one of the fact that this is Eastern Europe: tall, thin Jews in their long caftans and Jewish women with their unnatural wigs; male and female beggars there are in great numbers, and they are so hungry looking and ragged, so deep-eyed and sickly, that one can hardly manage to swallow one's food in their vicinity, if one happened to have chosen a seat on the terrace of one of the hotels.
"A few days later Brest-Litovsk was taken. Behind the troops that stormed the fortifications during the night and thus forced the fall of the city, pressed from early morning great masses of the Austro-Hungarian and German armies. They came on over all the roads: infantry, artillery, cavalry, engineering troops, supply detachments, and in between, impatiently puffing, the automobiles of the higher staff officers, everybody eager to enter the big fortress and to get hold of the big booty.
"But what a disappointment! From far off clouds of dust and smoke announced the fate of this famous fortress. The bridges across the Bug had all been destroyed, those of steel blown up and the wooden ones burned. Only slowly separate small units managed to cross on temporary narrow bridges to the citadel. Everything else crowded together on both sides of the road and spread out into the fields, filling the flat surrounding country as far as the eye could reach with one single, immense, many colored war camp: groups of horses, field kitchens, resting infantrymen, innumerable white backs of wagon after wagon.
"Whoever managed to enter Brest-Litovsk saw for the first time a big city devastated and ruined as pitilessly as formerly only villages had been made to suffer. Hundreds and hundreds of houses, once human habitations, now smashed down to their very foundations, or mangled so as to have lost all meaning, ruins containing nothing but broken stones and ashes and at the best here and there a stair banister, suspended in midair. And all destruction had not been wrought as a result of a long siege and its continuous assaults of gunfire and shells. In one night, at the command of the Russian authorities, this Russian city had been laid waste. Only about one-quarter of it had remained entirely or partly habitable. Only in the citadel were there left supplies of any great amount. There quite some quantities of flour and canned food, weapons and munitions, war and railroad equipment, had escaped the well-prepared explosion, and had been saved only because there had not been enough time to complete the work of destruction and to explode all the mines that had been laid. A happy exception among this horrible riot of wholesale destruction was found occasionally in the case of some few estates of the Polish nobility. In some way they escaped here and there and were passed by without suffering demolition and despoliation in spite of the fact that the villages near which they were usually located were almost always masses of smoking ruins. The manor houses of some of these estates often became the temporary lodging of some division or even some army corps staff. For they filled one of the chief requirements for such headquarters: a sufficiency of many large, light rooms which permitted to combine the necessary offices with the officers' quarters under the same roof. Every high command needs a number of offices for its various branches of service, in war as well as in peace. At that, war demands a hundredfold measure of ready cooperation and punctual working together. What happens from early in the morning, far into the night and often throughout the night in these offices during the course of a lively action on the battle field is nothing more or less than administrative activity as it is known to us and practiced in peace, but of a degree of activity, responsibility, and decision, of an importance and variety as times of peace do not demand from an army officer.
"Day and night numerous telegraphs and telephones, established often by means of very skillful and exposed connections, receive reports, communications, inquiries, and requests from the front and transmit orders, instructions, decisions, and information to the front, and at the same time maintain a similar service with superior headquarters. The number of subjects which have to be watched continuously is legion: movements of their own and the enemy's forces; changes in their own and the opponent's positions; news and scouting service; losses, reserves; lodging, provisioning, arming of the troops; sanitation, prevention of epidemics, ambulances, hospitals; counting and handling of booty and prisoners; military law, religious matters, gifts; health and continuity of the supply of mounts; climate, weather, condition of the water; condition of streets, bridges, fortifications; means of intercourse and traffic of all kinds; railways, mails, wagons, motors, pack animals; aeroplanes; telegraph and wireless stations.
"And all these matters, within a certain group of the army, change hourly, perhaps, and are continuously subject to unexpected modifications; at the same time they depend in their outward relations on events that happen in other adjoining army groups, on the general military and political conditions, on the decisions and interference of general headquarters. And if the staff quarters of two or three army groups have to consult with each other about every action and re-action before they make their various moves, unceasing activity must be displayed by everyone in order to accomplish all that each day demands. This activity which at one and the same time actuates and reports, acts, observes, and accounts, requires the possession of many manly virtues: the energy of strong nerves, clearness, wisdom, knowledge, self-consciousness, and decision. Every commander shares in it. But the greatest demands are made by it on the few supreme commanders on whom depends the fate of millions.
"Thus the summer months quickly passed by. As they passed, the advance continued. In spite of this, however, the crops were brought in from the fields so recently conquered. And what was accomplished in this direction will some day form a separate chapter in the economical history of this war.
"Much of the crops, of course, had been destroyed. In many other cases all the agricultural machines and implements had been carried off or destroyed. And then there was a great lack of labor. What was there to be done? Under the leadership of officers with agricultural experience separate commissions were formed. They gathered up all the implements and machines that could be found or could be repaired again and then ordered by the hundred and thousand from the country in the rear what they still lacked and soon battalions of war prisoners were busy peacefully gathering in the wheat in the fields. Before long the harvest had been completed. Threshers and threshing machines were put to work. Wherever flour mills were in condition to allow of repairs, mechanics were set to this task. And soon a steady stream of flour poured forth that enabled the invaders to feed their armies, their prisoners, and whatever part of the civil population had returned, to a great extent from supplies raised and gathered in the occupied region itself, a remarkable success gained from a combination of German organization, Russian labor, and Polish versatility."
SIDELIGHTS ON THE RUSSIAN RETREAT AND GERMAN ADVANCE
The difficulties which the Austro-German troops encountered in pursuing the withdrawing Russians were in many instances greatly increased by the very strong field fortifications which the Russians had thrown up everywhere to stem the advance of the enemy. How effective these fortifications were may be readily understood from the following description which is taken from the report of a special correspondent of a south German newspaper who had an opportunity to inspect these positions soon after they had been wrested from the Russians:
"In fortifying this position the Russians had indeed created a masterwork of modern field fortification. Deep, broad trenches had been fitted so closely to the landscape that in most instances they could be recognized as such only at very close distances. Almost all these trenches had been covered with a fivefold layer of tree trunks, on top of which there was to be found another layer of earth and over that again a solid layer of sod. The wooden pillars which supported this covering had in many places been fastened by means of wooden plugs into strong tree trunks, which in turn had been deeply imbedded in the bottom of the trench. Everywhere there were to be found openings for one and sometimes even two or three sharpshooters or for machine guns. Powerful shelters had been erected as a protection against shrapnel. Everywhere the trenches had been located in such a manner that one would outflank the other. In all the trenches there were to be found shelters, many of which were spacious enough to allow a whole company to retreat to them, and to these the Russians withdrew whenever the German artillery fire was directed against the trenches. These shelters were deep down below the ground; their entrances were comparatively small and protected with manifold layers of railroad rails. In front of these positions had been erected strong successive lines of entanglements which consisted partly of barbed wire and partly of strong abatis, formed of trees and their branches. In front of one section of these trenches the Russians had cut down a piece of woodland between 150 and 300 feet wide. They had then left the trees on the ground wherever they happened to have fallen and covered the entire space with a confusion of barbed-wire entanglements."
Another difficult problem which confronted both the Russians in their retreat and the Germans in their advance was that of transportation, especially in the region between the Vistula and the Bug Rivers. Not only is the number of railroads in that territory very small, but neither side had available a large enough number of railroad cars to transport the large number of men and vast quantities of equipment involved. This necessitated the creation of new means of transportation. According to a correspondent of the Hungarian newspaper "Az Est" the problem was solved by the Austro-German armies in a remarkable way. In the first place the number of horses before each wagon was increased. Where formerly two horses had been used, four were employed now, and where four used to be considered sufficient the number was increased to six. This resulted in an unending line of giant transports drawn by teams of four and six horses like they had never been seen before.
The work of these horses was greatly lightened by field railways. So quickly were these built that they seemed to grow right out of the ground. In some places industrial railways of this nature, already in existence, were utilized. Both steam and horsepower were used on these railways. Valleys were bridged over; gradients were reduced by every available means. At regular distances pleasant little block houses were to be found, which served as stations and guardhouses. The condition of the roads did not permit the use of motor trucks to any great extent, but wherever there was even a thread of possibility for motor trucks to get through they were promptly called upon to assume a leading part as a means of transportation. The immensity of the problem may well be understood by the fact that approximately two thousand automobiles of all kinds were employed by the German army of the Bug River.
All of this could be moved quickly. Everything that was necessary to make repairs was carried along. Supplies were heaped on motor trucks, and the officers in charge of supplies and equipment lived in automobiles which had been fitted up like rooms. The supply and equipment departments had their own electric-lighting system and their separate wireless. This vast establishment could be mobilized in twenty-four hours, and its completeness, swiftness, efficiency, and punctuality were not only a triumph of modern industry, but were among the chief contributing causes for the Austro-German success in overpowering obstacles and difficulties, and for the fact that throughout the entire campaign in Russian Poland the troops never suffered lack of provisions and munitions.
The Russian retreat brought untold misery to the civil population of those parts of Russia which were affected by it. Especially true was this of those sections in which the Russian authorities decreed that the civil population had to become participants in the retreat and leave their homes and goods to the mercy of the invaders. The terrible suffering and misery resulting from these conditions will, perhaps, become more vivid from the following details taken from some Russian newspapers which will give an idea of the conditions: "In Moscow all railroad stations are overcrowded with refugees. Most of these are unable to leave the freight cars in which they had arrived because the tortures of hunger and thirst which they had to suffer during their trip had been too much for them. Thousands upon thousands of these unfortunate beings had been struck down by sickness, and as far as the capacity of the Moscow hospitals allowed had been cared for, while still other thousands had to be satisfied with accommodations in the open squares and streets of the city, while others were removed farther east in order to reduce the overcrowded conditions of the city. Every day some ten thousand refugees were sent east by way of Smolensk, Orel, and Tula. Among these were many thousands of German colonists who had formerly been residents of Cholm and Volhynia, but had been removed from there by order of the Russian Government previous to the Russian retreat. The fate of all these hundreds of thousands of refugees by the time winter will have arrived will be horrible. What, for instance, will happen to about thirty thousand farmers from Galicia who were removed by force and now are located in a concentration camp on the River Slucz with nothing over their heads except the sky?"
From all parts of the Russian Empire involved in the German advance, streams of these unfortunate victims of war were continuously flowing toward the east. One of the chief reasons for the extensive misery which they had to suffer was the fact that the Russian organization, which even in times of peace does not work any too well, broke down completely under this unexpected and unparalleled demand on its resources. In spite of the fact that the larger number of these refugees were driven east by the special and express command of the Russian authorities, the latter had made no preparations to take care of them nor did they seem to show much worry concerning their fate. Even some of the high Government officials pointed out, to the responsible Government departments that, as long as the Government had driven these unfortunate human beings away from their own homesteads without, in most cases, giving them time to gather in even their most necessary belongings, it had become the Government's duty to provide for them elsewhere in some fashion. If one considers that most of these people were without any resources whatsoever, and that the housing and feeding of such vast masses demanded the expenditure of large sums of money, which apparently were not available, it will easily be understood that all these men, women, and children of all ages and conditions suffered not only untold inconveniences, but actually the pangs of hunger and thirst, which in a great many instances resulted in the outbreak of epidemics and in the decimation of whole camps.
How a civilian observer was struck by some of the conditions in Poland may be gleaned from a description in one of the German monthly magazines rendered by an artist who accompanied one of the German armies on its invasion of Poland: "Of course the first thing one learns to know is the horrible condition of roads in Russia.... One of the other main difficulties is the lack of cleanliness which results in so many epidemics among the population. These two conditions presented serious problems to the invading army; for, of course, it became necessary to remove the difficulties arising from them as much as possible....
"The water supply also is of the worst on the eastern front, and when I wandered in the great summer heat through the trenches or drove by the hour with wagon and horse through the sandy wastes of Poland, I could not help but think of the many occasions when the fighting armies, in spite of all fatigue and hardships, had to go without drinking water of any kind whatsoever...."
One of the greatest successes which the Germans gained in the summer of 1915 was the taking of the fortress of Kovno. Indeed it was the fall of this Russian bulwark as much as anything else that precipitated most of the Russian losses after the fall of Warsaw. Considering the importance of Kovno the following report of a special correspondent of the "Berliner Tageblatt," who was present during its bombardment, will be of interest. He says:
"The bombardment had reached a strength which made one believe that he was present at a concert in the lower regions. Guns of every variety and caliber, up to the largest, had been concentrated here and attempted to outroar each other. In unceasing activity the batteries spit their devastating sheaths of fire against the Russian forts and against the fortified positions which had been thrown up by the Russians between the forts and which had been supplied by them with very strong artillery. The latter did its best to keep up with the efforts of the besieging army. Day by day the Russian guns began firing against the German lines almost as soon as the German lines had opened their fire and the combination swelled the noise to a terrible height.
"Exactly at seven o'clock in the evening the German guns paused for a while in order to permit their infantry to advance. This was an almost daily occurrence and day by day the German lines drew nearer to the Russian forts.
"Hardly had the fire of the German guns stopped when a furious crackling of rifle fire would begin. The German lines had left their trenches and were advancing against the Russian position from which they received heavy fire. Machine guns, too, joined the uproar. It was impossible to follow the infantry attack in detail, but its success could be gleaned from the fact that the German gun fire, which gradually was taken up again, had to be advanced in the direction of the fortress."
This fortress of Kovno, for which the Germans were making such a tremendous drive and which the Russians tried to hold with all the resources at their command, occupies in respect to the Niemen line the same position which the fortress of Lomza occupies in respect to the Nareff line, only in a much greater measure. And, indeed, the city is specially adapted by its entire location to act as protector of this important river. Between steep banks, which rise as high as 200 feet, the stream rushes along here, surrounding the city picturesquely with its heights and protecting it at the same time from attack. There Kovno is situated where the Vilia joins the Niemen, and only a short distance down the latter the Nieviaza adds its waters, so that Kovno forms a natural center of a number of extensive valleys which join here. It is upon these natural conditions of its situation that the unusual importance rests which Kovno has occupied for centuries in a historical, economical, and military respect in the history of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia.
Founded in the eleventh century, it belonged from 1384 to 1398 to the Order of the German Knights, who made a military point of the first order out of it. In 1400 the Grand Duke of Lithuania attacked and captured the town. The height of its career was reached in 1581, when it was raised to the center of the export trade and received a custom house. The commerce of the city at that time reached annually the sum of three million ducats, an immense amount for that period. The Russian czars, therefore, attempted at various times to capture the rich city, but it was not until the third partition of Poland in 1795 that Kovno became definitely a possession of the Russian Empire.
After that Kovno suffered many reverses. In 1806 a disastrous fire broke out and destroyed three-fourths of the city, but in spite of this disaster and others which followed, the city recovered and gained a certain importance in a political way, when in 1842 it was made the capital of the newly created government of Kovno. From then on the trade of the city grew in bounds and leaps, and it became a center of the trading to and from Prussia. Its industries, too, were developed extensively. Seven fortifications are situated to the south of the city, three more protect the road to Vilna, and one the bridge across the Vilia.
During the series of engagements near Dvinsk, in the fall of 1915, especially severe fighting occurred on the shores of Lake Sventen. The colonel of a Russian regiment which participated in these engagements gave the following vivid description to a staff correspondent of the London "Times":
"We had to secure a lodgment on the promontory nicknamed by our men the 'Dog's Tail.' My scouts crossed the lake at night, dug themselves in and annoyed the enemy holding the brickyard, situated upon a slight eminence at the northern part of the promontory. A Lettish officer commanded the scouts and organized the whole landing. Being a native of the place, he was able to take advantage of every latent resource afforded by the country. Thus he managed to discover a small fleet of boats, and added to them by constructing a number of rafts. During the night our men gradually reenforced the scouts. On the following day we rushed the brickyard. This gave us a larger foothold to deploy one of our regiments, and storm what we called 'Bald Hill,' while another regiment gave its attention to 'Red Hill,' to the southwest.
"Our advance was very slow. The Germans had a large number of Maxims, three times as many as we had, also automatic rifles, and freely used explosive bullets. But on our side we had our artillery massed in several lines east of Sventen and Medum, including field and heavy guns under good control, so that we could pour in direct or flanking fire at will. Three days passed chiefly in artillery preparation for our final attack. The infantry advanced slightly. Our artillery observers were in the trenches correcting the fire of our guns. On November 3, 1915, the enemy began to pour in a fierce flanking fire from their guns west of Ilsen.
"When the scouts and supports moved from the 'Dog's Tail' promontory, our neighboring corps began to advance also, and we finally extended our right flank and gained direct contact. But all this time we were suffering heavily from the enemy's Maxims on the heights.
"'Bald Hill' and 'Red Hill' were won on the third day. The enemy counterattacked and retook the first named heights. Our position was now a critical one. The waters of the lake in our rear cut off all hope of immediate reenforcements or of eventual retreat. We had to retake 'Bald Hill' at all costs, and we did it. My men were tremendously encouraged by the hurricane fire kept up by our artillery. Many of them had witnessed the terrible effects of the German hurricane fire. For the first time they saw that our own artillery was not only equal but even superior to anything the Germans could do. Our gunners telephoned asking me when they should stop, so that our men should not suffer from their fire. It seemed to me that our shells were bursting perilously near, and I asked them to cease fire. A half company then attacking 'Bald Hill' was immediately mown down by the German machine guns. I at once signaled to the gunners 'keep on firing' and only when our skirmishers were within 250 paces of the German trenches the hurricane was suspended and we went for the Germans with the bayonet, but they did not wait."
Many of the successes gained—both by the Russians in their retreat and by the Germans in their advance—were due to the effective work of the aviation corps. Scouting and bomb dropping were daily occurrences. A picturesque description of such a trip made by an aeroplane "somewhere in Poland" is taken from "Motor" and gives a very clear idea of the dangers to which pilot and observer are subjected at all times as well as of the practical results of their work:
"The departure had been set for nine o'clock in the morning and, while the pilot has already taken his place in the aeroplane and is trying out his motor, his companion comes out of his tent. The latter wears a wide brown leather coat, a storm cap is drawn deep down over his forehead, a long shawl covers his throat and in order to protect himself against the oil which the motor puffs out during the flight he has covered his eyes with big spectacles. A sergeant with some soldiers carry bombs to the aeroplane and pack them carefully next to the seat of the observer. The latter takes his seat, the motor starts, the propeller turns around quicker and quicker, and at last the pilot waves his arm—the wedges are withdrawn from under the wheels. The plane begins to roll along, lifts itself up from the ground and mounts in elegant spirals higher and higher; smaller and smaller appear men and houses; at last the aerostat shows 3,000 feet; the observer gives a sign and the plane turns in the direction of the enemy. It is comparatively easy to find the way: the railroad tracks which run toward the lines of the enemy serve as a guide; the aeroplane follows them above villages chopped into ruins by gunfire, whose houses look like small toy boxes. Suddenly, dark lines appear which run toward the west: trenches of the enemy which unroll themselves to the observer as if they were on a map. And right away small white clouds arise, the first greetings which the enemy fires toward the aeroplane, but under which the latter rushes by descending quickly.
"At last the trench zone has been crossed; the country in back of it appears to be strewn with pits and funnels caused by the explosion of big caliber shells. Here and there destroyed villages are to be seen from which dark pillars of smoke arise. Then the first roadway about which information is to be gathered appears. Peacefully it lies in the sunlight. Farther toward the west, however, the street becomes more lively; but the black specks which move down there are only a few automobiles which most likely carry some members of the general staff of the enemy and offer nothing worth while observing. But a little farther back a dark line and many small specks appear—detachments on the march. The observer leans over his map, compares, looks down once more, then marks the observation on his map and the time at which it was made, and on goes the journey. In the streets of a larger place, which is reached soon afterward, a crowd of people are observed; in front of a church are standing at regular distances a number of wagons, a short wagon in front and back of it shapes that look like a frame—cannon. The observer continues to make marks on his map and at the same time a sharp sound is heard at his side and in the upper plane a slash appears. He waves his hand and the pilot sharply turns to the left. The observer reaches for a bomb and holds it over the edge of the aeroplane, drops it, and immediately afterward a flash appears among the cannon and the crowd on the market place disperses in wild flight. Another wave of the hand, another turn to the left, another bomb. The result is satisfactory; at least one cannon has been destroyed. But now it begins to become unpleasant; to the right and to the left, in front and in back, small white clouds arise; down there the bombardment has begun and it must make quite a loud noise which, however, is drowned in the noise of the motor. The pilot stops the motor and silently and gently the aeroplane descends into less dangerous heights; then the motor again begins to work and the aeroplane quickly turns its course toward the southwest following the white band of the country road.
"Suddenly white wisps of smoke arise over the tree tops of a near-by forest; again the observer makes some entries and, while the aeroplane rushes furiously forward, marks down with his pencil one body of troops after another. Above a freight station another stop is made; on the platforms of its storehouses men rush along busily. Their work will have to be disturbed: a motion of the hand, a pull on the motor which starts the descent, a grasp for the third bomb—and a railway guardhouse collapses into itself. The last bomb hits its mark even better; it explodes right in the middle between two cars without, however, hurting anybody; for the workmen have run away as quickly as their feet will carry them; pillars of fire roar up high; gasoline or coal oil supplies apparently have been hit. To determine this definitely is impossible, for the aeroplane must rush on. After a short time, its commission executed, it turns back toward the east; the batteries which had been observed a short while ago and the lines of trenches are again passed and at last the tents of the hangar come into view; the cross, showing the place for landing, becomes visible; the descent begins; the wheels touch the ground with a sharp jolt; the observer jumps out of his seat and runs up to his commander to make his report."
WINTER ON THE EASTERN FRONT
By the end of November, 1915, winter had set in along the eastern front. Especially along the northern part of the eastern line this necessitated almost a complete stoppage of operations. For there the weather becomes very severe. The ground freezes sometimes to a depth of three and more feet, which, of course, makes it impossible to dig trenches quickly. But just as soon as trench digging at short notice became impossible operations had to cease. For whenever armies advance over closely contested ground—as was the case all along the eastern line—the advance by necessity is slow, possibly over only a few miles every day. And every time the line is pushed forward, and trenches previously occupied are left behind, it becomes necessary with each step of the advance to dig new trenches unless the advanced line was fortunate enough to be able to stop the day's work in the trenches of the enemy, a possibility which, of course, did not offer itself any too frequently. And even then a lot of digging was necessary, because what was previously, during the enemy's occupation, the back of a trench line now had to be turned into its front. All of this digging, or at least most of it, had to be done quickly, in order to avoid the loss of the newly gained positions by the success of hostile counterattacks. But both sides alike found it impossible to dig quickly, or, for that matter, in most cases to dig at all when the ground was frozen solid. So both sides found themselves condemned to a more or less continuous state of inactivity as far as all war operations were concerned, excepting only artillery duels, mining, aeroplane attacks, sniping from each other's trenches, and all those other more or less insignificant operations that are usually called by the generic term "trench warfare."
Although the Russians were acknowledged masters of trench digging and of throwing up well-planned and efficiently defended field fortifications of every kind, and also the great mass of their soldiers were much more accustomed to severe winters than the German forces, because a very much larger part of the Russian than of the German Empire is subject to very low winter temperatures, still the Germans, all in all, had the advantage over their adversaries under these conditions. In the first place the percentage of mechanically and scientifically trained men in the German army is far greater than that in the Russian army, because the latter is recruited primarily from an agricultural population, whereas the former draws its largest numbers from an intensively industrial body. Furthermore, organization within and without the army had been developed to a far higher degree by the Germans than by their eastern neighbors. It is, therefore, not at all surprising to hear of the marvelous preparations that the Germans had made for the approaching winter, and inasmuch as most of this information is gathered from Russian sources, there can be little doubt of its correctness.
Down below in their trenches, covering the walls of their dugouts, the Germans had erected light metal buildings. These had been manufactured back in Germany in immense quantities in simple, standardized parts. Easily shipped in a "knockdown" condition, they were just as easily put up and put together, and all of them were fitted with heating apparatus of some kind. Warm clothing of every kind and description had either been manufactured at the Government's expense or had been collected from private sources throughout the empire by appealing to the nation at large by means of the newspapers. Although the statement, frequently heard, that each man had a sleeping sack undoubtedly was vastly exaggerated, vast quantities of these useful articles had been distributed. Then, too, officers, from captains down, gave their men detailed instructions and orders how to protect themselves efficiently against severe cold, and how to treat promptly and effectively any of the many ailments that are apt to afflict people unused to very low temperatures in a rather moist region, from frostbite down to colds.
From every possible line of human enterprise the Germans, according to Russian reports, apparently tried to learn lessons which might become applicable in these near-arctic conditions on the east front. Having been taught by the previous winter's experience the impossibility of trench digging, they promptly organized extensive mining detachments among their engineering troops, augmenting the latter in great quantities by soldiers from other branches of their general service who, from their experiences in times of peace, had become particularly adaptable to such work. These mining troops, later on in the winter, were to creep forward under the protection of night's shadows and blast with dynamite those trenches that were absolutely essential for cover of advancing troops and that could not be dug in the frozen ground with more simple tools. Long before this, however, while winter had not yet shown its full severity, these troops were busily occupied with the preparation of land mines, which were to act as substitutes for barbed-wire entanglements when freezing snow, piling up many feet high, rendered the latter useless. Previous experience, too, had taught that, when such weather conditions arose, the immense quantities of snow that fall in these regions not only completely covered barbed-wire entanglements, but as repeated snowstorms thickened the mass day by day, and sleet and thaw, caused by an occasional hour's sunshine, hardened it, made it even possible for the enemy's forces to advance securely on it in spite of, and on the very top of, all barbed-wire obstacles.
Throughout the first winter of the war the Germans had also used ski detachments. Most of these were employed in the mountainous regions of the western front. But small troops had been sent to East Prussia and had proven themselves very valuable there. Again and again Russian troops, attempting operations on ground covered with two or three days' snowfall, had sunk to their waists and chests into the snow and had become easy prey to attacks made by German soldiers on skis. So the Germans early in the fall, when certain parts of south Germany and Austria, covered with high mountains, lend themselves admirably for ski practice, had sent time after time detachments of carefully selected infantry troops to these regions and had made ski experts out of them. Sledges too—large and small—had been provided in quantities, because they had proven their value as means of transporting men and supplies where all other means had failed absolutely.
With the approach of real winter all these comparatively new features of warfare were put to use. Of course the Germans were by no means the only ones to profit from past experience and from the modern advance of the sciences and mechanical industries. But from all reports it is clear that they outdid the Russians in inventiveness as well as in the thoroughness and extent of their preparations.
"Jack Frost" also definitely stopped regular fighting. With its arrival war at the eastern front deteriorated into more or less of a guerrilla war. Instead of attempts to break through the line by miles, both sides settled down to a bitter contest for choice pieces of ground here and there. An exchange of a bit of high ground for a nasty, damp trench in a bog was considered quite a victory. The capture of a small supply train by a small detachment that had managed to sneak through the line at some point unobserved or unoccupied, because it apparently was impossible for occupation on account of the nature of the ground, was as much talked about as only a victory in a real engagement would have been two or three months ago. In a way, both the Russian and German and Austro-Hungarian armies had a much more severe time of it on the east front than the German and Franco-English forces had at the west front. First of all, the latter was located in much more civilized regions, cleaner, therefore, and healthier. Then, too, the nature of the ground in the west was less hard on the fighters, higher in most places, and, therefore, drier. Furthermore, the western line was practically an unbroken line from the English Channel down to the Swiss border. In the east, however, marshes, lakes, and rivers made an unbroken line impossible. All along the front there were innumerable gaps. Of course many of these were gaps because no human being could find a foothold on them, and, therefore, needed no watching. Others, however, while impossible for occupation, were not equally impossible for passage, provided those that attempted to pass were willing to take great risks. And there was no lack of such on either side. So Russians, Germans, and Austro-Hungarians had to be continuously on the jump to prevent such raids of their lines which, though they might have been very small in the beginning, might have had very serious consequences. These conditions, therefore, made war on the east front for everybody concerned truly a war of attrition, equally racking for nerves and bodies.
Only one other event of importance occurred on the east front during the winter of 1915-16. General Russky, commanding the Russian forces fighting before Riga and Dvinsk and in the Dvina-Vilia sector, was forced by illness to retire from his command. He was succeeded by General Everth, who up to then had commanded the next adjoining army group, from the Vilia down to the Pripet Marshes, and who now assumed command over all the Russian forces from the Gulf of Riga to the Pripet Marshes. Farther down the line General Ivanoff continued the leadership that he had assumed after the German advance had come to a standstill at the end of October.
Thus the winter passed. As we have learned in some of the preceding chapters, operations were resumed in a small way at certain points along the line from time to time. With the approach of the spring of 1916 these activities slightly increased in extent and severity. But both sides, as long as frost continued, were satisfied with this state of conditions and with never-ceasing preparations for new offensive operations to begin as soon as nature would permit.
PART VI—THE BALKANS
BATTLE CLOUDS GATHER AGAIN
Though Serbia had been the first to be attacked by the Central Powers when the world war began, the end of the first year's fighting was to find her still unconquered, though she had passed through ordeals quite as severe as those suffered by Belgium.
Let us review, briefly, the events of the first year:
Hardly had hostilities been declared by Austria-Hungary, on July 28, 1914, when the armies of the Dual Empire began gathering along the Serbian frontiers; then, within a few days, they hurled themselves into Serbia, hoping to overwhelm her by the sheer weight of their numbers. Not only did the soldiers of the little Balkan nation withstand the onslaught of the imperial troops, but within the week they had swept them back, driving them across the frontiers.
So astounded was the Austrian General Staff, so dumfounded was it by this unexpected disaster, that it required some weeks to realize what had happened, and to prepare for a second and mightier attempt to overcome the resistance of the Serbians.
On came the Austrians again, only to suffer a second defeat. Then they made their third and mightiest effort, and this time every available resource of the empire was strained to the utmost; every soldier not absolutely needed elsewhere was utilized. And this time, indeed, the Austrian forces did penetrate some distance within Serbian territory, and for over a fortnight the Serbian capital was theirs. But their initial success only made their final defeat the more complete. For the third time the Serbian soldiers beat them back, and from that date, December 14, 1914, Serbia remained undisturbed by foreign invasion for almost a year.
Shortly after the beginning of the New Year, came an enemy for whom the Serbians were not so well prepared: a typhus epidemic, which took almost as many victims as had the fighting. Realizing their helplessness, the Serbians uttered an appeal for help, and almost every nation, not an enemy, including the United States, responded generously with money, and by sending Red Cross corps to nurse the plague victims. By the summer of 1915, the epidemic had spent itself, after decimating the army and the civil population.
Meanwhile a danger threatened the Serbians which overshadowed even that from the Austrians; namely the danger that other Balkan nations, and especially Bulgaria, might join the Teutonic Powers. Serbia had already shown that she could take care of the Austrians alone, but with Bulgaria attacking her flank, even the most optimistic realized that the fight against such odds probably would be hopeless.
Turkey, even while Serbia was hurling back the Austrians for the second time, in November, 1914, was the first to declare herself in favor of the Teutons by attacking the Russians. Then began the game of diplomacy to win over the Christian states to the Allies. All had declared themselves neutral, even Greece, though she was bound by a treaty to assist Serbia against foreign attack. But it was generally realized that each was only watching for the first signs of weakness on either side before deciding which to support. To give weight to her diplomacy Great Britain began her military operations on Gallipoli, on the understanding with Greece, of which Venizelos was then premier, that Greek troops should assist. But Venizelos was forced to resign by the Greek King and the governing clique, and Greece continued to maintain her neutrality.
Rumania, in spite of her leanings toward the Allies, remained firm in her neutrality. Bulgaria was more explicit; she made it understood that she would join that side which could most effectually guarantee her possession of the territory in Macedonia which she considered she had won in the First Balkan War and which was given over to Serbia and Greece after the Second Balkan War by the Treaty of Bucharest. Throughout the year the negotiations continued whereby the Allies attempted to persuade Greece and Serbia to agree to Bulgaria's terms, but Greece continued obdurate in her determination to hold all she had, and Serbia yielded only in part, and very reluctantly. In August, 1915, beginning the second year of the war, these negotiations were still in progress. As it was still unknown publicly that Bulgaria had already signed a secret alliance with Germany, the situation was considered favorable to the Allies, especially as on August 22, 1915, it was announced that Venizelos was again to become prime minister of Greece.
The first indication that King Ferdinand and his cabinet had come to a decision was in the agitation that appeared in Bulgaria itself among the leaders of the opposition parties, protesting against the Germanophile policy of the Government. On September 18, 1915, a deputation of these leaders had an interview with the king, in which they made their protest; the report was that a stormy scene occurred, in which several members of the deputation used language to the effect that should the king go against the popular feeling, which was in favor of the Entente, it would cost him his throne. They also demanded that the National Assembly be convened.
The king's reply was to order a general order of mobilization of the Bulgarian army. At the same time a note was issued to all foreign representatives in which the Government stated explicitly that Bulgaria had no intention of entering the war; that she had called her men to the colors only to maintain an "armed neutrality," as Holland and Switzerland were doing. In spite of these assurances, Greece also began mobilizing. On September 20, 1915, there appeared a significant statement in the German official report of military operations, to the effect that German artillery, stationed on the Danube opposite Semendria, had opened fire on a Serbian position. Never before had there been mention of German guns so far south. Altogether, the situation in the Balkans was now becoming acute.
On September 28, 1915, Sir Edward Grey made a statement in the British Parliament which made the world realize that a crisis in the Balkans was imminent. He announced that efforts were still being made to arrange an agreement between Bulgaria and Serbia and Greece regarding Macedonia, "but," he added significantly, "if Bulgaria assumes an aggressive attitude on the side of our enemies, we will support our friends in the Balkans with all our power, in concert with our Allies and without reserve or qualification."
This was followed up by another statement on October 1, 1915, to the effect that German and Austrian officers were arriving in the Bulgarian capital, creating a situation of "the utmost gravity." Within forty-eight hours, Russia issued an ultimatum to Bulgaria demanding that the German and Austrian officers in Sofia be removed within twenty-four hours, otherwise Russia would sever all diplomatic relations with King Ferdinand's Government. To this Bulgaria made no immediate reply, with the result that the Russian Minister left Sofia the next day. Premier Radoslavov, however, on the same day, published an official statement that there were no German or Austrian officers in Sofia and that Bulgaria had no intention of breaking her neutrality. Meanwhile came reports through Greece stating that Bulgarian troops were being massed up against the Serbian frontier. As subsequent events soon proved, Bulgaria was determined to hide her real purpose to the last moment; not until she actually made her first attack did she cease denying her hostile intentions.
That Bulgaria was acting in cooperation with the Teutonic allies was obvious, for already the Serbians had observed that great forces were being mobilized across the rivers, along her northern and northwestern frontiers, along the banks of the Danube, the Save, and the Drina.
What did not develop so soon was the fact that this new invasion was to be under the leadership of the German General von Mackensen, and that the invaders were to consist in large part of German regiments. During the summer Mackensen had been engaged in directing a strong Austro-German offensive against the Russians, with conspicuous success. For weeks after he had left this front and was busy organizing a similar offensive against the Serbians, the German official dispatches continued to associate his name with actions on the Russian front that the preparations in the south might continue secret as long as possible.
Not long after the first Austro-German guns began hurling their shells across the Danube, against the Serbian position at Semendria, the Serbians learned of the disposition and the resources of the enemy. The troops under Mackensen were divided into two armies, each in close contact with the other. One of these wings was under the command of a German, General von Gallwitz, who had distinguished himself against the Russians a short time previously. The men under him were entirely Germans. The other army was under the command of an Austrian, General von Koevess von Koevesshaza. His men were both German and Austrian, the latter predominating.
The army under Gallwitz extended from Orsova, near the Rumanian frontier, along the Danube westward to a point opposite Semendria. Here his right flank joined Koevess's line, which extended up past Belgrade, along the Save and part way up the Drina. The rest of the frontier up the Drina was covered by a smaller Austrian army.
Altogether, the Austro-German armies comprised at least 300,000 men. The Austrians were picked troops, for it was only natural that the general staff wished to retrieve, in some measure, the humiliation of the previous year. The Germans, numbering fully half of the total force, were also hardened veterans, who had seen plenty of fighting on the Russian front or in France or Flanders.
Mackensen's overwhelming success in driving the Russians out of Galicia had been mainly due to his artillery, that arm of the military service in which the Germans excelled all their enemies. And here, too, the artillery was to play an important part, for fully 2,000 cannon, nearly all of mid-caliber and heavy caliber, had been brought down against the Serbians. During the first three invasions the Austrians had thrown their infantry up against the Serbian lines. Now German tactics were to be tried: the Serbian trenches and other defensive positions were to be pulverized with powerful explosives, then rushed with infantry.
Though they had been undisturbed for so long, the Serbians were by no means in doubt as to what was yet to come. They had realized that eventually the enemy would return more determined and more powerful than ever. Therefore, they had spent the nine months since the last defeat of the Austrians in extensive preparations. Line after line of trenches had been built back into the interior of the country, and all the possible crossings on the rivers had been heavily fortified. Moreover, they had drained the civilian population of every male person strong enough to carry a gun.
At this time, when the fourth invasion began threatening, their army mustered fully 310,000 men, slightly more than the Austro-German. In regard to small arms and ammunition they were also at least equal to the enemy, for vast consignments of military stores had been sent into the country by the Allies. Only in heavy artillery were they inferior, but then this was also true of all the armies facing the Germans throughout Europe.
Therefore, had the Serbians been called upon to defend themselves only against General von Mackensen's armies, it is highly probable that they would have been able to give the same answer as they had the year previous. So probable, in fact, that Mackensen would hardly dared to have attacked them with only 300,000 men. To be sure, their enemy was no longer made up of raw recruits and there was now the heavy artillery as well as a commander of great ability to face, but the preparations they had made in defensive works, as well as the mountainous nature of their country, more than made up for these advantages possessed by their opponents. It was the Bulgarians who would turn the scale.
Because of the greed for territory of their governing clique, the Serbians now faced dangers which even their rugged qualities could not contend against long. For now, while they were steeling themselves to meet the impact of the blow from the Austro-Germans from the north, the Bulgarian army, fully as strong as themselves, was gathering on their right flank. In spite of the diplomatic protests of Ferdinand and Radoslavov, the Serbians were not deceived.
The danger from the Bulgarian army meant more to the Serbians than the mere doubling in number of their enemy's forces. It was the position of the Bulgarians which made the situation especially precarious, impossible.
A glance at the map will show that the main line of railroad, running down from Belgrade to Saloniki by way of Nish, passes within a few miles of the Bulgarian frontier, just opposite Sofia. Indeed, from Klisura on the frontier the distant whistle of the locomotives and the rattle of the trains across stretches of trestle work can be heard plainly on still days. From Klisura on the frontier to the railroad is all down hill. Farther south, at Kustendil, the danger was even greater, though the distance from frontier to railroad somewhat more, for at Kustendil was the terminus of a short railroad from the Bulgarian capital. From this point on the frontier toward the railroad at Kumanova the terrain was all in favor of the Bulgarians, for Kustendil is at the top of a chain of mountains and the railroad runs along the bottom of a valley, the famous Morava Valley.
This railroad, from Upper Serbia down to Saloniki, was the only line of communication and transportation between the main Serbian armies and the Allies. Cut this, and they would wither like a flower separated from its stem.
So keenly did the Serbians realize their danger that they asked permission of the Allies to attack Bulgaria before the Bulgarian army was completely mobilized. They hoped thereby to disable Bulgaria with one sharp blow while she was not yet prepared, then turn their whole attention toward the enemy in the north. But to this plan the Allies would not consent, still hoping that Ferdinand would reconsider his resolution.
Just before the fourth invasion actually began, the Serbians held their frontier along the Danube and the Save with three armies, consisting of nearly eight divisions, or half of all their available men. On the west the First Serbian Army, of three divisions, commanded by General Mishitch, occupied the angle formed by the Save and the Drina, with its headquarters at Shabatz, the scene of such bloody fighting a year before. To the eastward came a force of a division and a half under command of General Zivkovitch, known as the Army for the Defense of Belgrade, which indicates its position. Between Belgrade and the Rumanian frontier lay the Third Serbian Army, of three divisions, with General Jourishitch at its head, protecting the mouth of the Morava Valley.
Facing the Austrians over in the west, in the vicinity of Vichegrad, was the army of Ushitze, of less than two divisions, under General Goykovitch.
These were the forces, about two-thirds of the total Serbian army, which faced the Austro-Germans. But another 100,000 had also to be deployed along the Bulgarian frontier to protect the railroad as best they could. Thus it was that wherever she faced her enemies, Serbia, was hopelessly outnumbered.
THE INVASION BEGINS
As already stated, the first of Mackensen's huge shells began bursting over the Serbian defenses across the river on September 20, 1915. While the wheels of diplomacy continued turning during the following weeks, the roar of the big guns grew louder and more persistent and swept up and down the long line. Then came several attempts on the part of the Austro-Germans to cross the rivers; all these the Serbians successfully repulsed, though they may have been mere feints, as a boxer jabs at his opponent's jaw while he really aims for his wind. There were seven of these attempts. In one, near Semendria, the Serbians reported that a whole battalion of an enemy was destroyed. Meanwhile German aeroplanes whirred back and forth over the Serbian lines, reconnoitering their positions and sometimes dropping bombs. One of them flew south as far as Nish, then turned eastward and disappeared over the mountain ridges toward Bulgaria. And all this while the frontier guards reported that the Bulgarians were massing their troops day by day.
As already noted, the Serbian frontier in Macedonia was left practically unguarded. Possibly the Serbians still hoped the Greeks would hold to their treaty and join them from that direction. And, indeed, the Greek army was being mobilized, frankly to meet the Bulgarians. More encouraging still, the news came that France and England, at the request of Venizelos, had agreed to send to Saloniki 150,000 men to make up for an equal number which, by the terms of the Serbo-Greek treaty for mutual defense against Bulgaria, Serbia would have provided had she been able to do so.
This force began landing in Saloniki on October 5, 1915, but on the same day Venizelos was again compelled to resign by King Constantine, who was determined to keep the Greek nation out of the war. This was a sad blow to the hopes of the Serbians. Still, the British and French troops continued landing, in spite of the "protest" from the Greek Government.
Beginning on October 3, 1915, the fire of the Austro-German artillery became doubly insistent, thundering up and down the whole front with increasing vigor. Again the Teutons began poking their pontoons out into the river, and again they were smashed by the Serbian guns. The fighting waxed hottest at Ram, Dubrovitza, and Semendria, on the Danube, and in and about Ciganlia Island (Island of the Gypsies), at Obrenovatz, Shabatz, and Jarak on the Save, where it is joined by the Drina. Ram and Semendria, both fortified places, guarded the mouth of the Morava Valley, and these Gallwitz subjected to an especially heavy fire. By October 5, 1915, the shelling became heaviest in this sector: the enemy's guns and howitzers belched forth a steady hail of big shells.
Belgrade, also, became the object of an increasingly tremendous effort on the part of the Austro-German artillery. Here they had brought up long-range guns, and with these inflicted heavy damage.
Nevertheless, the Serbians in Belgrade gave a good account of themselves. There were stationed there the big naval guns, 4.7-inch and 6-inch, sent into the country by Great Britain, France, and Russia, and served by their expert gunners. For several days the foreign gunners, under command of Rear Admiral Troubridge, swept the broad surface of the Danube and the Save, sinking two of the enemy's gunboats that happened to come within range.
On October 5, 1915, the German fire on Belgrade intensified and became terrific. They no longer satisfied themselves with pouring their deadly fire on the fortress of Belgrade and the neighboring positions at Zamar, but they began a systematic bombardment of the city itself, hurling vast quantities of inflammatory bombs, as though they meant to burn down every building before attempting to take it. Into the suburbs beyond, through which ran the highways leading into the interior, they rained a curtain of fire which made flight for the inhabitants almost impossible.
On October 6, 1915, the Austro-German forces finally managed to effect a crossing which the Serbians were not able to repulse; at several points they landed on the opposite bank, including Belgrade itself. The first attempts had been made at Jarak, Podgorska Island, and Zabrez, and had been driven back again and again, but this time the enemy put such energy behind his efforts that eventually the Serbians were no longer able to drive him back. Gypsy Island, too, a short distance from Belgrade, was captured, whence a landing was made under the Lower Fortress and on the Danube Quay in the city itself. In the first attempt all the Austrians or Germans who landed under the Lower Fortress were either killed or captured. Finally the invaders established themselves permanently on the quay. During that day the fighting was of a bloodier character than had as yet taken place.
Next day, October 7, 1915, the Austro-Germans pushed on to further success; their big guns raked the river shore up and down and tore down all defensive works, making them untenable for the defenders. And on the day following, October 8, 1915, the Austro-Hungarian troops of Koevess penetrated into the northern sections of the city, taking the citadel by storm. At the same time a German contingent, attached to Koevess's command, landed west of the city and took the heights in that section, fighting its way to the Konak and finally to the Royal Palace, in the center of the city, over which they hoisted the German and Austrian flags. Though there was still much to do, Belgrade was now practically in their hands.
Little by little the foreign naval guns in Belgrade had been silenced by the big shells of the German howitzers. In the afternoon General Zikovitch, seeing that the city was now lost and hoping to save it from complete destruction, ordered his forces to retire on the fortified positions lying behind and south of the capital. Several detachments of the defenders, however, had already been cut off and were obliged to remain. Some fought grimly to the bitter end, inflicting heavy losses on the invaders; others were obliged to surrender. In some of the streets the fighting took on a bloody, hand-to-hand character, in which some of the civilians took part. All through the night Mannlicher rifles sputtered back and forth, interspersed here and there with the deeper detonation of the hand bombs which the Serbians hurled in the skirmishes from street to street and from terrace to terrace. When morning dawned the last of the firing died down and the greater part of Belgrade was a vast field of charred timbers and tumbled-down stones.
Belgrade was taken, as the official German and Austrian reports announced joyously next day, but its taking had been at an enormous cost and, aside from the political value of its possession, with very little gain. The official list specified the war material captured as only 9 naval guns, and 26 unmounted field pieces, the prisoners amounting to 10 officers and 600 men, many of whom were wounded. The Serbian Government had been established in Nish since the beginning of the war.
What had happened at Belgrade was typical of the fighting at a number of other points along the banks of the three rivers. On the same day that Belgrade was taken the Austro-Germans crossed the Danube between Gradishte and Semendria, near the village of Zatagna and the small fort called Kosolatz. Ram, too, after having been heavily bombarded, was taken. Then, from these points they tried to blast their way through farther south, away from the river into the interior, but the Serbians held them back from the neighboring heights.
In the west, on the Save, toward the mouth of the Drina, the invaders were not so successful. In this area were some of the best of the Serbian soldiers, among them the Shumadia Division, which especially distinguished itself during all the later fighting. Here Marshal Mishitch, who had led his men so ably during the third invasion ten months previously, was in command. He also had charge of the defenses along the lower Drina, and opposite Badovintse he drove back the Austrians with bloody slaughter.
Between Obrenovatz and Kratinska, on the Save, the Austro-Germans had delivered heavy attacks for three nights successively, but were effectively checked. The operations were directed specially against Zabrez. On October 10, 1915, this Serbian position was still holding out. In the afternoon of that date the Austrians bombarded heavily, using great quantities of asphyxiating bombs. Then they charged in solid masses, believing that the gases had thrown the Serbians into disorder. The latter, however, were provided with masks, and when the enemy charged they sprang from their trenches and met them on the open ground in hand-to-hand bayonet fighting, driving them back in panic.
Again the Austrians showered gas shells on the Serbians; then, toward dusk, came on again, but the Serbians once more broke through the Austrian ranks and captured many prisoners.
But in spite of these local successes by the Serbians, the fighting was beginning to go against them; the invaders had crossed the frontier and could no longer be dislodged. On October 11, 1915, the official German dispatches were able to announce that Mackensen's forces were in possession of the Serbian banks of the Danube and the Save between Gradishte and Shabatz, a stretch of over a hundred miles. On the Drina too, the Austrians had been able to cross over in several places. To all these points they hurried large bodies of reserves to push their advantages and so continue a vigorous offensive east, south, and west of Belgrade, in a wide, sweeping movement along the entire front.
The main effort was made in the east, to secure possession of the Morava Valley and its railroad. Near Semendria, Gallwitz's right wing was in touch with Koevess's left. The plan was that they should advance up the Morava together, each covering one side of the valley. But it was first necessary to reduce the Serbian forts at Semendria and Pojarevatz.
It was now two weeks since the heavy artillery had begun playing on Semendria. By October 11, 1915, the invaders had succeeded in taking Semendria, the garrison retiring to Pojarevatz. Here a very severe battle was fought, but finally the Serbians were forced back, though not without inflicting the heaviest losses that the enemy had as yet suffered. After two days the fort was taken and the Serbians retired to the hills beyond. Thus the invaders were now ready to begin their advance down the Morava Valley.
But just then there came a pause in the fighting. The Serbians observed that Gallwitz waited. What he waited for was not immediately obvious to them. Within a few days they were to know.
BULGARIA ENTERS THE WAR
The Bulgarian Government suddenly threw aside all dissimulation and declared war on Serbia, on the pretext that the Serbians had crossed the frontier and attacked Bulgarian troops. On October 11, 1915, the Bulgarian army began operations by attacking the Serbians at Kadibogas, northwest of Nish, the attack gradually extending up and down the frontier. This was the fatal blow. To oppose the 300,000 men that the Bulgarians could easily put into this field, the Serbians had not over a third as many.
Bulgaria had two large armies against the Serbian frontier. The First Army, under General Boyadjieff, was fully 200,000 strong and was concentrated in the north from Vidin to Zaribrod, threatening the Timok Valley and that part of the Belgrade-Sofia railroad running from Pirot to Nish.
The Second Army, under the command of General Todoroff, was only half as large, and directed itself toward Macedonia and especially toward Uskub, both on account of the strategic importance of that place as a railroad center and as the best point from which a wedge might be driven into the side of Serbia, separating the north from the south. The headquarters of this second force was in Kustendil, its left wing extending down to Strumitza in Macedonia.
On this eastern front, to oppose the Bulgarians, the Serbian forces were in three groups. In the north, its left flank touching the forces operating against the Austro-Germans, lay the Timok group, commanded by General Zivkovitch, whose headquarters were in Zaichar. South of this force came the second group—territorial troops—numbering three divisions of infantry and one of cavalry, altogether about 80,000 men, and commanded by Marshal Stepanovitch. It was based on Pirot and was especially charged with the defense of the railroad. Lower down, with headquarters in Vranya, was the detachment of the Southern Morava. Farther down in Macedonia, concentrated around Uskub, Veles, and stretched down along the Vardar toward the Greek frontier at Doiran, were another 25,000 men under the command of General Bojovitch.
As a slight offset to the disheartening news that the Bulgarians had at last definitely joined hands with the Teutonic forces, came the tidings that France and England had declared war on Bulgaria and that their forces, which had been landing in Saloniki, were already advancing up the Vardar with the intention of making a junction with the southern Serbian forces. Already, on that same day, October 15, 1915, the allied vanguard had advanced as far as Valandova and was there attacked by the Bulgarians, the latter being beaten back and heavily defeated. These were the French troops, under command of General Sarrail; having thrown back the Bulgarians he worked his way northward along the railroad until he reached Krivolak and Gradsko, a few miles below Veles. But transporting troops from France and England was a slow business, and General Sarrail had not then, nor had he later, enough forces to advance north any farther. Meanwhile the Bulgarians in the north, under Boyadjieff, began operations against the Serbians.
The country in this section is extremely rough, being all rocky ridges and deep ravines, with roads little better than mountain trails. Boyadjieff succeeded at once in crossing the Lower Timok, then divided his force into two main divisions. One of these he advanced against Pirot, the other against Zaichar and Kniashevatz. But now the Serbians began a strong resistance.
On October 15, 1915, the Bulgarians began three strong assaults, east and southeast of Zaichar, all of which the Serbians repulsed successfully. East of Kniashevatz another series of bitterly contested encounters took place, neither side making any decided gains. On the following day the fighting extended to Svinski Vis. By this time the Serbians east of Kniashevatz began giving way slowly and the Bulgarians pushed forward and on October 19, 1915, they arrived before Negotin. Toward Pirot they also succeeded in making some advance.
For several days the two fighting lines of men swayed back and forth. Here artillery played not so important a part. Both Bulgars and Serbs, primitive, rugged fighters, threw military science to the winds and plunged into the battle face to face and breast to breast, thrusting each other with cold steel. In some of the struggles the men lost their guns; they picked up the bowlders that lay about them thickly and hurled them at their enemies or they gripped each other with their hands and fought as animals fight. Quarter was neither asked nor given.