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RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE FROM KOVNO—FOREST BATTLES IN MAY AND JUNE
Offensives on a large scale such as that which had been prevented by the "Winter Battle of the Mazurian Lakes" were not attempted by the Russians on their northern wing after the short counterattack that had pushed their lines into the Mlawa angle in the corner of the Vistula and the Prussian boundary beyond Przasnysz, to the east of Thorn. They virtually remained in their strongly fortified positions along the Narew, the Bobr, and the Niemen, except for the sending out of occasional attacking columns against the German lines lying opposite to them.
These forward thrusts were made especially from the fortresses Grodno and Kovno, and the fortified place Olita. We have already dealt with one such operation which came to grief in the forest of Augustowo in March. The German invasion of Courland had taken place, and the extension of the German lines to the north invited a thrust at their communications when, in the middle of May, the Russians attempted to break through the German lines with columns starting from the great forest to the west of Kovno. Here German troops under General Litzmann, acting under the command of General von Eichhorn, stood on guard. When Litzmann received information that the Russians were advancing in force he was obliged hastily to gather such troops as he could find to stem the Russian attack. Troop units from a large variety of different organizations were freshly grouped practically on the battle field. At Szaki and Gryszkabuda, on May 17-20, they struck the Russians with such force that the Slavs were driven back into the forests.
The German general now decided to clear this territory of his enemies, as it had given them a constant opportunity for the preparation of moves which could not be readily observed, because of the protection of the thick woods. Again he executed the favorite maneuver of Von Hindenburg's armies. He gathered as heavy a weight of troops as possible on his left wing and pushed them forward in an extended encircling movement. From the south a strong column from Mariampol and the line of the Szsczupa moved upon the fortified position of the Russians and the southern corner of the great forest, meeting with strong resistance at Dumbowa Ruda. The troops moving down from the northern part of the woods swung to their right to cut off the Russians from their retreat toward Kovno. By the time the operations had reached this stage it was the second week in June, 1915, and in the great pine forests extending for miles there was an oppressive heat with perfect absence of breeze. Three Russian positions lying in the river valleys in the forest were encircled one after another from the north and had to be given up.
The Russians recognized the danger of the concentric attack directed at them and fought with great bravery. They strove to keep open the road of their retreat toward Kovno as long as possible. However, the ring of the German troops closed swiftly. At Koslowa Ruda, in the southern part of the forest, they found at night a sleeping army; something like 3,000 Russians had lain down exhausted in order on the next day to find the last opening through which to make their escape. They were now saved the trouble and were led away prisoners. The great forest was cleared of Russians. The German move had served to insure the safety of the lines connecting the troops in Courland with their bases to the south of the Niemen.
In an official announcement of the 18th of March, 1915, the German Government sketched the line held in the east by the German troops northward of the front covered by joint German and Austrian forces. It read: "The line occupied by us in the east runs from the Pilica, along the Rawka and Bzura to the Vistula. North of the Vistula the line of our troops is continued from the region to the east of Plozkz by way of Zurominek-Stupsk (both south of Mlawa). From there it runs in an easterly direction through the region to the north of Przasnysz—south of Mystinez, south of Kolno—to the north of Lomza, and strikes the Bobr at Mocarce. From here it follows the line of the Bobr to northwest of Ossowetz, which is under our fire, and runs by way of the region to east of Augustowo, by Krasnopol, Mariempol, Pilwiszki, Szaki, along the border through Tauroggen to the northwest. This is from beginning to end entirely on hostile soil." This long line, it appears, was under the supreme command of Von Hindenburg, while Von Mackensen had charge of the great drive to the south.
The statement here quoted was issued as reassurance to Germans who had been made nervous by reports of a Russian invasion of East Prussia, and was connected with the Russian raid on Memel.
Until June there was practically no change in this great line, except that on its northern end it was swung outward into Russian territory to include a large part of Courland, the River Dubissa roughly forming the dividing line until the front swung eastward toward Libau, in the line of the Libau-Dunaburg Railway.
The tasks of both German and Russian troops were similar. Comparatively weak German forces held the front in the region of the Niemen, the Bobr, and the Narew, safeguarding such Russian territory as had been seized by the Germans, and protecting East Prussia against invasion. Opposed to them lay considerable Russian forces whose task it was, supported by the fortresses of the Narew and the Niemen, especially Grodno, to protect the flank and rear of the Russians standing in Warsaw and southward in the bend of the Vistula, with the Warsaw-Vilna Railway behind them, while great decisions were fought for in the Carpathians and Galicia.
In Poland, between the lower and the upper courses of the Vistula, the Germans about the middle of February, 1915, having occupied the Rawka-Sucha ridge of upland, had developed fortified positions along the rivers Bzura, Rawka, Pilica, and Nida. The bad weather of the winter and early spring, which had turned the roads of Poland into pathless morasses, made against extensive operations, and the momentous undertakings carried out on the wings of the eastern front led the German General Staff to refrain from important movements in this section, where the Russians had strongly fortified themselves for the protection of Warsaw. It was not until the Teutonic allies had gone over to the offensive in the Carpathians and in western Galicia, and the Russians had withdrawn to the Polish hills of Lysa-Gora early in May, that, favored by improved weather conditions, operations in this part of Poland again took on larger scope. Especially along the Bzura the German attacks again became violent in an effort to hold the Russian forces in the district to the west of Warsaw while thrusting at their wings from the south and north. However, fighting was not of great consequence in this middle sector until the middle of June, 1915.
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CAMPAIGN IN SOUTHERN POLAND—MOVEMENT UPON WARSAW
By the 1st of July, 1915, the stupendous enveloping campaign of the Teuton armies on the eastern front had advanced to a point where the Allies were forced to recognize the imminence of a catastrophe, which could be averted only by the most decisive action of the Russian armies.
Far in the north, on the extreme right wing of the Russians, the army of General von Buelow was hammering at the defenses of the Dubissa line. Off and on fighting was taking place in the neighborhood of Shavli. Russian counterattacks, reported from day to day through June, with difficulty had held in check this army, which evidently was aiming at the Warsaw-Petrograd Railway on the sector between Vilna and Dvinsk. On the right flank of these forces operated the troops of General von Eichhorn, with the line of the Niemen for their objective. Next to these on the south, aiming at the Bobr River and the Upper Narew, were the forces of General von Scholtz, and on their right the army of Von Gallwitz, based on Mlawa with Przasnysz in front of it. Below the line of the Vistula, before the Bzura and down to the middle course of the Pilica, operated the Ninth German Army, commanded, at least in the later stages of the Warsaw campaign, by Prince Leopold of Bavaria. The whole group of northern and central armies was acting under the general direction of Field Marshal von Hindenburg.
The armies to the south of this group, cooperating in the drive under Field Marshal von Mackensen which had gained the Teutons Przemysl and Lemberg, had as their left flank the forces of Generals von Woyrsch and Koevess between the Pilica and the Vistula mouth of the San. The troops of Archduke Joseph Ferdinand were pushing forward on the right of these, and the army directly under Mackensen himself came next in line to the eastward, joining up with the armies still operating in Galicia at the extreme right of the great German battle line.
The chief danger to the Russians at this stage still threatened from the south, where the archduke and Mackensen had pushed forward irresistibly in their advance to the east of the Vistula toward the railway running from Warsaw through Ivangorod, Lublin, Cholm, and Kovell to Kiev and Moscow.
The advance of these Austro-German armies, which had operated in the neighborhood of Lemberg, was extremely rapid in the last days of June, 1915. In four days they covered from thirty to forty miles in pursuit of the Russians. By the 1st of July, having swept out of Galicia, their right, under Mackensen, entered the upper valley of the Wieprz, a marshy country which presented considerable difficulty to the advance of troops where a tributary of the Wieprz, the Por, afforded the Russians a natural line of defense. Drasnik, on the Wyznica, which here extended the Russian defensive line westward, was occupied by the archduke's forces on Mackensen's left on the 1st of July, 1915.
The drive of the Austro-German armies through Galicia has been dealt with in the account of the Austro-Russian campaign. As we carry forward the account of the activities of the greatest part of the forces concerned in that series of operations from the point where they crossed over the boundary between Galicia and Poland out of Austrian territory, it will be well to glance backward a moment to enumerate here briefly the gains of these armies on Polish soil up to the 1st of July.
On June 16, 1915, the Teutonic allies forced the Russians to fall back upon Tarnograd from north of Siemandria, thus pushing this section of the front across the boundary into Poland about to the line of the Tanev. Tarnograd itself was occupied by the Teutons on the 17th, and on the 18th the Russians retreated behind the Tanev. There was little change in this particular sector during the fighting which was crowned for the Austro-Germans by the capture of Lemberg on June 22, 1915. Further to the east, however, to the south of the Pilica and west of the Vistula, Von Woyrsch was exerting pressure, and on the 20th of June Berlin announced the capture of several Russian advance posts by these troops. By the 24th the Slavs had begun to retreat before Von Woyrsch in the forest region south of the Ilza on the left bank of the Vistula; thus rear guards had been thrown across the Kamienna, and Sandomir was occupied by the Austro-Hungarians. On the 25th the fighting developed on the line Zarvichost-Sienno-Ilza, to which the Russians had fallen back.
Defeats of the Russian rear guards on June 29, 1915, to the northeast and west of Tomaszow, where Teutonic forces had now also crossed into Poland, caused the Slavs to begin the relinquishment of the Tanev forest district and the lower San. Tomaszow itself was occupied by the pursuing troops. By the 30th the Teutonic allies had swept forward beyond the Tanev region to Franpol, Zamoez, and Komarovo, and on the same evening they threw the Russians out of their strong defenses on the Zavichost-Ozarow-Sienno line, west of the Vistula. The pursuit was pushed energetically on both sides of the Kamienna. The important bridgehead on the Vistula, Josefovo, was taken on the 1st of July.
The Russians between the Bug and the Vistula were now offering strong resistance with large forces on the line Turobin-Krasnik-Josefovo, the rivers Por and Wyznica forming roughly their defensive front, as previously pointed out.
In its daily bulletins of July 1, 1915, the German Great Headquarters made this announcement for the eastern theatre of war (from the Baltic to the Pilica): "The booty for June is: Two colors, 25,595 prisoners, including 121 officers, seven cannon, six mine throwers, fifty-two machine guns, one aeroplane, also a large amount of war material." For the southeastern theatre of war (from the Pilica to Bukowina) the headquarters announced: "The total booty for June of the allied troops fighting under the command of General von Linsingen, Field Marshal von Mackensen, and General von Worysch is 409 officers, 140,650 men, 80 cannon, 268 machine guns." The Austro-Hungarian General Staff on the same day reported: "The total booty for June of the troops fighting under Austro-Hungarian command in the northeast is 521 officers, 194,000 men, 93 cannon, 364 machine guns, 78 ammunition wagons, 100 field railway carriages, etc."
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BATTLE OF KRASNIK—CAPTURE OF PRZASNYSZ
On July 2, 1915, the forces of the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand which had passed through Krasnik, on the Lublin road, struck serious resistance from the Russian army of General Loesche which held strong positions across the highway, just to the north of the town, and was now evidently determined to stop once for all the Teuton advance toward the railway at its back, connecting Warsaw with Kiev, through Lublin and Cholm.
On July 3, 1915, the Austrian report, however, announced that 4,800 prisoners and three machine guns had been taken in the neighborhood of Krasnik and along the Por stream, and the next day they reported that they had occupied the heights which run along to the north of the city, having pierced the enemy's main position on both sides of Studzianki, and taken more than 1,000 prisoners, three machine guns and three cannon.
The Russian front was turned to such an extent that they had to fall back some three miles on the Lublin road. The Austrians on the 5th of July summed up their enemy's losses as twenty-nine officers, 8,000 men, six cannon, five ammunition wagons, and six machine guns. As the result of this Austrian advance the adjoining enemy forces to the eastward along the Wieprz River had been obliged to fall back beyond Tarnograd, and by the 6th of July Vienna summarized the Austrian captures in these battles as having grown to forty-one officers, 11,500 men.
The Austrians, however, could make no further headway. On July 5, 1915, they were heavily attacked, being forced back to their intrenched lines on a ridge of hills to the north of Krasnik. The Russians now reported that they had taken 15,000 prisoners and a large number of machine guns. Two thousand bodies were reported by the Russians to have been found before their front. More prisoners were taken by the Russians on the 7th and it was only on the afternoon of July 9 that the Austrians were able to stem the tide. The total loss of the Austrians in this action was given by their opponents as 15,000 men.
The Austrian explanation of their retirement in front of Krasnik issued on July 11, 1915, pointed out that the relative subsidence of activity of the Teutonic allies was due to the fact that the goal set for the Lemberg campaign had now been attained. This, they explained, was the taking of the city and the securing of strong defensive positions to the east and north. The ridge to the northward of Krasnik was a natural choice for this purpose on the north, while the line of the Zlota Lipa and Bug rivers served the purpose toward the east (see Austro-Russian campaign). The Austrian explanation pointed out further that some of their troops had rushed beyond the positions originally selected to meet heavy reenforcements brought up by the Russians from Lublin, and that these had to withdraw to the ridge, where they were successfully resisting all attacks.
The battle of Krasnik was regarded by the Russians as an effective victory, for it seemed to have halted the advance on Lublin. The army of Von Mackensen had now also come to a stop about halfway between Zamosc and Krasnostav, an artillery duel on July 7, 1915, being the last activity noted on the front of this army for some time.
Their comparative quiet in the region between the Vistula and the Bug where the main advance of the Teutonic forces on the south had been under way with great vigor for several weeks until the check at Krasnik was not interrupted until July 16, 1915. Day after day the Teutonic headquarters reported "nothing of importance" in this quarter. When the quiet was finally broken it appeared that it had been the lull before the storm. Before taking up again the activities on this section of the front, it will be necessary to take a glance toward the northern half of the great arc that enveloped the Warsaw salient on two sides.
In these early days of July, 1915, considerable uncertainty prevailed among those who were watching the progress of the campaign in Poland as to where the heaviest blow of the Teutons would fall, whether from the south or the north. The decisive stroke came with lightning suddenness. A tremendous attack was launched in the direction of the Narew by the army of General von Gallwitz.
A laconic announcement of the German General Staff on July 14, 1915, bore momentous news, although its modest wording scarcely betrayed the facts. It read: "Between the Niemen and the Vistula, in the region of Walwarga, southwest of Kolno, near Przasnysz and south of Mlawa, our troops have achieved some local successes." The Russian report referring to the beginning of the same action was equally noncommittal, though possibly more misleading. This states: "Considerable enemy forces between the Orczy and the Lidynja adopted the offensive and the Russians declining a decisive engagement retreated during the night of the 13th to the second line of their positions."
On July 15, 1915, the Germans announced that the city of Przasnysz, for which such hot battles had been fought in February, and which had since been strongly fortified by the Russians, had been occupied by them. The German summary of this action given out a few days later stated that three Russian defensive lines lying one behind the other northwest and northeast of Przasnysz had been pierced and taken, the troops at once rushing forward to Dzielin and Lipa, respectively west and east of the town. Under attack from these two points the Russians after yielding Przasnysz, on the 14th, retired to their defensive line Ciechanow-Krasnosielc which had been prepared long beforehand. On the 15th the German troops pressing closer upon the retiring Slavs stormed this line and broke through it to the south of Zielona on a breadth of seven kilometers, forcing the Russians again to retire. General von Gallwitz's troops in this assault were supported by the forces of General von Scholtz, on their left, who were pressing the Russians from the direction of Kolno. On July 16, 1915, the Russians were retreating on the whole front between the Pissa and the Vistula, toward the Narew.
The German summary of the fighting during these days reported the capture by the army of General von Gallwitz of eighty-eight officers, 17,500 men, thirteen cannon (including one heavy gun), forty machine guns, and seven mine throwers; and by the army of General von Scholtz of 2,500 prisoners and eight machine guns.
This great attack in the north, to which may be ascribed the final breaking of the lines that had so long protected Warsaw, had been carefully planned and undoubtedly was timed in coordination with the movements of Mackensen's armies on the south, striking the Russians just when Mackensen and the Archduke Josef, having had time for recuperation and preparation for another push forward after the check administered at Krasnik, were in readiness to inflict a heavy blow on their side of the Warsaw salient. When it began the German lines all along the front burst into fresh activity. It was the signal for a simultaneous assault along nearly a thousand miles of battle front.
In the Mlawa sector to the north of Przasnysz the Russians had developed an exceedingly strong system of fortified positions between their advance lines and the Narew fortresses. For miles, to a depth of from fifteen to twenty kilometers, there ran some three or four and at certain points even five systems of trenches, one behind the other. Hundreds of thousands of thick tree trunks had been worked into these defensive works and millions of sand bags piled up as breastwork. Bombproof dugouts had been constructed deep in the ground. Everywhere there were strong wire entanglements before the front, sometimes sunk below the level of the earth, arranged in from two to three rows. Projecting bastions and thoroughly protected observation posts gave these systems of trenches the character of permanent fortifications.
The country in this region is hilly, with here and there steep declivities and peaks of considerable elevation. The Russians had cut down whole stretches of forest in order to afford them a free field for their fire and an opportunity to observe the advance of their opponents. Enveloping tactics on the part of the Germans were here quite excluded as the two lines ran uninterruptedly close to one another. Przasnysz which had become a heap of ruins had been converted virtually into a fortress by strong defensive works built while the Germans and Russians lay opposite each other in front of it throughout the spring. The country round about had been drenched with much German and Russian blood.
General von Gallwitz, to capture a place with the least possible loss, decided to break through the Russian defenses at two points at both sides of the town sufficiently close to each other so that the intervening lines would be immediately affected. His attacks were therefore directed at the first line Russian positions, which formed projecting angles to the northwest and northeast of Przasnysz so that instead of taking the city directly from the front he would seize it as with a gigantic pair of pincers from both sides and behind. The plan succeeded to the full. The Russian lines were broken on both sides of the city and the German troops, rushing through, met behind it, forcing the Russian defenders hastily to evacuate the place to avoid being caught within the circle.
Strong infantry forces were collected opposite the points of attack, and enormous masses of artillery were placed in position with abundance of ammunition in readiness. The preparations had been made with all possible secrecy and even when the German batteries had begun gradually to get their range by testing shots no serious assault seems to have been expected by the Russians. On the morning of the attack they were just to inaugurate service on a small passenger railway line they had constructed behind their front.
On the morning of July 13, 1915, soon after sunrise, a tremendous cannonade was let loose from guns of all calibers. Although the weather was rainy and not well fitted for observation the German guns seem to have found their marks with great accuracy. When the German infantry stormed the first line of works which had been shattered by the artillery fire they met with comparatively little resistance and their losses were small. The bombardment apparently had done its work thoroughly. The German infantry rushes were started in successive intervals of a quarter of an hour, line following line. Swarms of unarmed Russians could be seen coming out of the trenches seeking to save themselves from the terrible effect of the shell fire by surrendering. During the course of the forenoon the sun came out and illuminated a scene of terrific destruction. The Russian positions on the heights northwest of Przasnysz had been completely leveled. In their impetuous forward rush the German troops did not give the enemy time to make a stand in his second line of trenches and overrunning this, by night began to enter the third Russian defensive line. Przasnysz was flanked in the course of twenty-four hours and could no longer be held. A fine rain was falling as the German columns marched through the deserted, smoke-blackened city, a melancholy setting for a victory.
On July 14, 1915, the German troops had broken through on both sides of the city, met to the south of it and forming a mighty battering ram, on the next day, forced the next Russian line, the last, to the north of the Narew. This ran through Wysogrod-Ciechanow-Zielona to Kranosiele. The Russians here made a desperate defense and the German advance pushed forward but slowly. The effect of the German artillery fire seems not to have been as striking as on the first day of battle. The German report of the attack on this line points out that the regiment of the Guard holding the right wing of a division which was to attack the heights to the south and southeast of Zielona was impatient to go forward, and was allowed to advance before the reserves which were to be held in readiness to support the move had come up.
However, confident of the accuracy with which the "black brothers" (shells from the big guns) struck the enemy's trenches, the riflemen leapt forward through fields of grain as soon as they saw that a gust of their shells had struck in front of them. By means of signs which been agreed upon they then signaled their new positions and the guns laid their fire another hundred meters farther forward. The infantrymen then stormed ahead into the newly made shell craters. Thus they went forward again and again. Neither Russian fire nor the double barbed wire entanglements were able to check their assaults.
As the German shouts rolled forth the Russians ran. A neighboring division consisting of young men who had enlisted in the course of the war, in a brilliant charge took a bastion at Klosnowo. The effect of this first penetration of the Russian main position made itself felt in the course of the afternoon and night along the whole front. Further German forces were thrown into the breach and strove to widen it.
The Russians at many points resisted obstinately, but under the pressure from the front and in the flank they were finally unable to hold their ground. The German account speaks with admiration of the ride to death of a Russian cavalry brigade which attacked the German infantry southeast of Opinozura without achieving any results. Cossacks and Hussars were mowed down in an instant.
The German advance taking several intermediate places did not halt until it stood before the fortification of the Narew line itself. As a result or this stroke the German troops had advanced some forty to fifty kilometers into hostile territory on a breadth of a hundred and twenty kilometers and had captured some 10,000 prisoners and much war material. By the 18th of July, 1915, German trains were running as far as Ciechanow.
Advances were likewise made by the Germans to the right of the attack on the Przasnysz positions on both sides of the Mlawa-Ciechanow Railway, rolling up the Russian positions as far as Plonsk. On the left progress had also been made and heavy fighting done, but the German great headquarters pointed out that in times to come history will assign the important place to the central feature of this great offensive by General von Gallwitz, that is the enveloping attack at Przasnysz and the ramming thrust at Zielona.
The report issued by the Russian General Staff on July 19, 1915, admitted that to the west of Omulev their troops had withdrawn to the Narew bridgeheads on the 17th. The points of some of the German columns on this day, in fact, came within the range of the artillery of the fortress of Novo-Georgievsk and the army of General von Scholtz reached the line of the Bobr and the Narew between Osowice and Ostrolenka. The action at Przasnysz had been decisive. It resulted ultimately in the relinquishing by the Russians of the lines of the Rawka and Bzura which had been so stubbornly held against the Germans in the long defense of Warsaw. The troops directly charged here with defending the capital fell back to the Blonie lines about fifteen miles from the city.
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GRAND OFFENSIVE ON THE WARSAW SALIENT
The great stroke at Przasnysz was the most dramatic feature of a grand offensive all around the German lines that were endeavoring to close in upon the Russian armies. On July 16, 1915, the Archduke Joseph struck hard at the Russians on the Krasnik-Lublin road in an endeavor to carry the fortified positions at Wilkolaz. His men, however, were thrown back after ten furious assaults. Krasnostav, on the road to Cholm, was attacked on the same day by the army or General von Mackensen, and after a series of desperate rear-guard actions had been fought by the Russians was swept over by the German Allies. By the close of the day the Germans had taken twenty-eight officers, 6,380 men, and nine machine guns.
The Germans, prepared in the recent pause in the fighting, by the bringing up of their artillery on the long lines of communication which now stretched behind them, with troops reenforced by such fresh forces as they could muster, were hurling themselves upon the Russian defensive positions everywhere along the line. Thus, on the forenoon of July 17, 1915, the army of General von Woyrsch, whose objective was the mighty fortress Ivangorod, operating just to the west of the upper Vistula, broke through the Russian wire entanglements and stormed the enemy's trenches on a stretch of 2,000 meters. The breach was widened in desperate hand-to-hand combat. The Teutons by evening inflicted a heavy defeat on the Moscow Grenadier Corps at this point and the Russians were forced to retreat behind the Ilzanka to the south of Swolen. Some 2,000 men were taken prisoners by the Germans in this battle and five machine guns were captured.
Far in the northeast in Courland the army of General von Buelow, on July 17, 1915, defeated Russian forces that had been rushed up at Alt-Auz, taking 3,620 prisoners, six cannon and three machine guns, and pursuing the Slavs in an easterly direction. Desperate fighting was also taking place to the northeast of Kurschany.
Notes of anxiety mixed with consoling speculations had begun to appear in the press of the allied countries when the vast German offensive had thus become plainly revealed and had demonstrated its driving force. A Petrograd dispatch to the London "Morning Post" on the 15th of July, 1915, said of the German plan that it was to catch the Russian armies like a nut between nut crackers, that the two fronts moving up from north and south were intended to meet on another and grind everything between them to powder. The area between the attacking forces was some eighty miles in extent, north to south, by 120 miles west to east. The writer offered the consolation that this space was well fortified, the kernel of the nut "sound and healthy, being formed of the Russian armies, inspired not merely with the righteousness of their cause, but the fullest confidence in themselves and absolute devotion to the proved genius of their commander in chief."
The dispatch pointed out that it was all sheer frontal fighting, that the Germans had been twelve months trying frontal attacks against Warsaw on a comparatively narrow front and in vain. What chance had they, he added, "of success by dividing their forces against the united strength of Russia." This sort of argument is typical of the endeavor to sustain the hopes of Russia's friends during these days. Doubts, however, began to creep in more strongly as to the possibility of holding Warsaw.
In Berlin the announcement of the Teutonic victories that began with the successful assault at Przasnysz was received with general rejoicing, and the appearance of flags all over the city. The Russian retreat toward the Narew River in particular was regarded by the military critics as threatening momentarily to crumble up the right flank of the positions of the Russians before the capital of Poland.
Cholm and Lublin on the southern line of communication of the Russian armies were now in imminent danger. On July 19, 1915, came the announcement that the troops under Field Marshal von Mackensen, which had pierced the Russian line in the region of Pilaskowice and Krasnostav, had increased their successes, and that the Russians were making the most desperate effort to prevent complete defeat. All day the battle had swayed in a fierce struggle for mastery. The Russians threw a fresh division of the Guards into the fight, but this too had to yield to the overwhelming force of the Teuton onslaught. Farther to the east as far as the neighborhood of Grabowiec, Austro-Hungarian and German troops forced the crossing of the Wolica, and near Sokal in Galicia Austro-Hungarian troops crossed the Bug. (See Austro-Russian Campaign.) In consequence of these Teuton successes the Russians on the night of the 18th to the 19th of July retreated along the whole front between the Vistula and the Bug—practically the last line of defense, for the Warsaw-Kiev railway had been broken down. The German troops and the corps under the command of Field Marshal von Arz alone from the 15th to the 18th of July, 1915, took 16,250 prisoners and 23 machine guns.
It was announced by the Germans that according to written orders captured during this action the Russian leaders had resolved to hold the positions here conquered by the Germans to the utmost, regardless of losses.
The same day that brought the report of this Russian retreat on the south brought the news that in the adjoining sector to the west of the Upper Vistula the army of General von Woyrsch had met resistance from the Russians behind the Ilzanka after the Russian defeat on July 13, 1915, that, however, Silesian Landwehr on the 18th had captured the Russian defenses at Ciepilovo by storm, and that the Russian line at Kasonow and Barenow was beginning to yield. The army of General von Gallwitz had now taken up positions along the whole Narew line from southwest of Ostrolenka to Novo Georgievsk. The Russians, however, as already indicated, were still holding fortified places and bridgeheads on the right bank of the river. In this sector the number of prisoners taken by the Germans had risen to 101 officers and 28,760 men.
In the sector next adjoining, passing onward around the enveloping lines, that lying between the Pissa and the Szkwa, the Russians likewise had retreated until they stood directly on the Narew. Here the Slavs had been favored by forests and swampy land which made pursuit difficult.
At the extreme left end of the German line a magnificent success had been achieved in the occupation of Tukkum and Windau. This capture brought the Germans to within fifty miles of Riga, seat of the governor general of the Baltic provinces. They were, however, destined not to make any substantial progress in the direction of that city for many months to come.
Blow fell upon blow. The question "Can Warsaw be held?" began to receive doubtful answers in the allied capitals. The colossal coordinate movement of the Teutonic forces in these July days had received so little check from the Russian resistance that the British press had begun to discount the fall of the Polish capital. Shortness of ammunition and artillery was ascribed as the cause of Russia's failure to make a successful stand against the onrushing Teutons.
On July 20, 1915, Berlin announced the capture of those fortifications of Ostrolenka lying on the northwest bank of the Narew River. This was one or the strong places designed to protect the Warsaw-Grodno-Petrograd railway. The threatened fall was highly significant. To the south of the Vistula the Teuton troops had advanced to the Blonie-Grojec lines. Blonie is some seventeen miles west of Warsaw and Grojec twenty-six miles south of the city.
Farther eastward and to the south troops of the army of General von Woyrsch had completely turned the enemy out of the Ilzanka positions, having repulsed the counterattacks of the Russian reserves which had been quickly brought up, and captured more than 5,000 prisoners. Von Woyrsch's cavalry had now reached the railway line from Radom to the great fortress of Ivangorod, the objective point of this army, and Radom itself had been seized.
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BEGINNING OF THE END
So uncertain had grown the positions of Lublin on the southern railway line leading to Warsaw that the Russian commander in chief had issued an order that in case of a retreat the male population of the town was to attach itself to the retiring troops.
On July 21, 1915, the Russians throughout the empire were reported to be joining in prayer. "Yesterday evening," telegraphed the London "Daily, Mail's" Petrograd correspondent on the 21st, "the bells in all the churches throughout Russia clanged a call to prayer for a twenty-four hours' continual service of intercession for victory.
"To-day, in spite of the heat, the churches were packed. Hour after hour the people stand wedged together while the priests and choirs chant interminable litanies. Outside the Kamian Cathedral here an open-air Mass is being celebrated in the presence of an enormous crowd."
The chronicle of the closing days of July, 1915, is an unbroken narrative of forward movements of German armies on all parts of the great semicircle. The movement now, however, was slow. The Russians were fighting desperately, and the Germans had to win their way inch by inch. By the 21st the Russians were withdrawing in Courland to the east of the line Popeljany-Kurtschany, and the last Russian trenches westward of Shavly had been taken by assault. To the north of Novgorod the capture of Russian positions had yielded 2,000 prisoners and two machine guns to the Germans on the 20th.
Farther south on the Narew a strong work of the fortress Rozan defending an important crossing was stormed by the Germans, and desperate fighting was going on at Pultusk and near Georgievsk. Already the Russians were beginning to yield their positions to the west of Grojec, which meant that the Teuton armies were about to push into the opening between Warsaw and Ivangorod and divide the Russian forces. The armies of Von Woyrsch on July 20, 1915, seized a projecting bridgehead to the south of Ivangorod, and captured the lines that had been held by the Russians near Wladislavow.
In the positions defending the railway between Cholm and Lublin, Russian resistance was once more marked, and was checking the progress of the armies of Von Mackensen and Archduke Joseph Ferdinand.
By noon of July 21, 1915, the Silesian troops of Von Woyrsch had stormed the bridgehead on the Vistula between Lagow and Lugawa-Wola, with the result that Ivangorod was now inclosed from the south, while to northwest of the fortress Austro-Hungarian troops were fighting on the west bank of the Vistula. Austro-Hungarian troops too were battling their way close up to the fortress directly from the west. Line after line was giving way before the Teutons. The Russian retreat over the bridge at Novo Alexandria to the south of Ivangorod was carried on under the fire of German artillery. Numerous villages set afire by the Russians were now sending great clouds of smoke into the sky over all this region.
The troops of the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand, after a stubborn resistance on the part of the Russians, seized enemy positions on July 21, 1915, near Chodel and Borzechow, advancing another step toward Lublin. Eight thousand Russian prisoners, 15 machine guns, and 4 ammunition wagons were taken.
By the 23d of July, 1915, the Teutonic troops were close up to the encircling forts of Ivangorod and stood on the Vistula all the way between the fortress and the mouth of the Pilica. On the 24th the Teutons announced a victory over the Fifth Russian Army by General von Buelow at Shavli. The report read: "After ten days of continuous fighting, marching, and pursuit, the German troops yesterday succeeded in bringing the Russians to a stand in the regions of Rozalin and Szadow and in defeating them and scattering their forces. The booty since the beginning of this operation on the 14th of July consists of 27,000 prisoners, 25 cannon, 40 machine guns, more than 100 loaded ammunition wagons with their draft animals, numerous baggage wagons and other material."
This day brought the announcement also of the capture of the fortresses of Rozan and Pultusk on the Narew, after violent charges by troops of General von Gallwitz. The crossing of the Narew between these places was now in German hands, and strong forces were advancing on the southern shore. The Russians had been resisting obstinately in this quarter, and the Germans had made their way only by the most heroic efforts. German headquarters announced at this time that in the battles between the Niemen and the Vistula covering the ten days since July 14, 1915, more than 41,000 prisoners, 14 cannon, and 19 machine guns had been captured. The German troops now also attained the Vistula to the north of the Pilica. In their summing up of results since the 14th of July the Teutons recounted further on this day, the 24th, that some 50,000 prisoners had been taken by the armies of General von Woyrsch and Field Marshal von Mackensen during the period.
The army of Archduke Joseph Ferdinand had been making rapid progress. On July 24, 1915, under the attacks of these troops the Russians retreated on a front of forty kilometers, between the Vistula and the Bistritza, from eight to ten kilometers northward to prepared lines, their attempts to halt in intermediate positions being frustrated by the onrush of the victorious Teutonic forces in pursuit.
By July 25, 1915, the Narew had been crossed by the Germans along its whole front, southward from Ostrolenka to Pultusk, and by the 26th they had gained the farther side of the Narew above Ostrolenka likewise. The troops moving southeast from Pultusk now approached the Bug, getting toward the rear of Novo Georgievsk and Warsaw, and threatening to close the Russians line of escape, the Warsaw-Bielostok railway.
On July 26, 1915, the Russians made a determined counteroffensive from the line of Goworowo-Wyszkow-Serock in an effort to remove the threat to the rear of Warsaw. This, however, had little success, the Russians losing 3,319 men to the Germans in prisoners.
To the south of Warsaw the Germans had seized the villages of Ustanov, Lbiska, and Jazarzew, which brought them nearly to the Vistula, just below the capital.
The great attacks of the Germans on the troops defending Warsaw were being hampered to some extent by the laying waste of the country by the retiring Russians. Difficulty in moving heavy artillery on roads had also interfered with their progress, but on the morning of July 28, 1915, Von Woyrsch crossed to the eastern shore of the Vistula between the mouth of the Pilica and Kozienice at several places, and was threatening the Warsaw-Ivangorod railway.
Novo Georgievsk was steadily being inclosed. The Russian counterthrusts in the neighborhood of Warsaw both on the north and the south of the city were repelled by night and day. To the south near Gora-Kalvaria a desperate attempt of the Russians to push forward toward the west on the night from July 27th to the 28th, 1915, was shattered.
The armies of Field Marshal von Mackensen, breaking through Russian positions to the west of the Wieprz, captured thousands of prisoners and many guns, and once more thrust back the Russian front between the Vistula and the Bug. On the evening of the 29th they attained the Warsaw-Kiev railway at Biskupice, about halfway between Lublin and Cholm, thus crowning their efforts to get astride their important line of communications. The Russians were destroying everything of value in the country as they retired, even burning grain in the fields.
On the afternoon of July 30, 1915, Lublin at last was occupied by the army of the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand, and on the 31st the Germans of Von Mackensen passed through Cholm. Thus the Teutonic armies were now across the important railway from Warsaw and Ivangorod to Kiev, on a broad front, running all the way down to the Vistula at Novo Alexandria. In Courland the Germans continued to push forward, so that on the 12th of August they were enabled to seize the important railway center Mistan.
Hope in Russia died hard. Press correspondents up to July 29, 1915, still spoke of the possibility of the Russians standing a siege in their principal fortress on the Warsaw salient. On the 29th, however, reports came from Petrograd that the fortresses of the Warsaw defense were to be abandoned and the capital of Poland given up to the army.
The correspondent of the New York "Times" on July 29, 1915, in a special cable summed up the situation in an announcement that the fate of Europe hung on the decision that Russia might make on the question: "Shall Russia settle down to a war of position in her vast fortifications around Warsaw, or shall she continue to barter space against time, withdrawing from the line of the Vistula and points on it of both strategic and political importance, in order to gain the time which Germany has already stored in the form of inexhaustible gun munitions?" The reply was the evacuation of Warsaw.
The decisive blow to Russia's hopes came with the crossing of the Vistula about twenty miles north of Ivangorod on July 28, 1915, already noted. It showed that Warsaw was being rapidly surrounded. The Russian communique of the 30th of July told of the crossing over of the Teutons on both sides of the Radomka, a tributary of the Vistula, to the right bank of the Vistula on pontoons, and of attempts to throw bridges across the great rivers. Von Woyrsch's troops that had crossed over were irresistibly pursuing still farther east on the 30th, defeating troops hastily brought up to stop their advance. By August 1 two entire German army corps reached the right bank of the Vistula. Ivangorod, now threatened from all directions, could evidently not be held much longer.
The fortress surrendered on August 4, 1915, after a violent bombardment of the outer forts had taken place, beginning on the first of the month. Austro-Hungarian troops under General von Koevess especially distinguished themselves in the attack on the west front.
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The retreat from Warsaw began during the night of August 3 and 4, 1915. Already the city had been stripped as far as possible, to judge by reports from Petrograd, of metals, such as church bells and machinery that might possibly be of use to the Germans. A portion of the civilian population left the city. The Blonie line just to the west of the capital was given up under pressure from the Teutons on the 3d. While the retreat was taking place the Russians gave all possible support to their forces defending the Narew lines, so far as they still were maintained.
Desperate charges were hurled by the Russians against the Germans moving forward all along the front Lowza-Ostrow-Wyszkow. The bravery of the Russians, especially in their counterattacks on both sides of the road from Rozan to Ostrow on the 4th of August, won the admiration of the Germans.
The correspondent of the London "Times" reports that on August 4, 1915, there was probably not over one Russian corps on the west side of the Vistula. "Half of that crossed south of Warsaw before 6 p. m.," he writes, "and probably the last division left about midnight, and at 3 a. m. on August 5 the bridges were blown up. The Germans arrived at 6 a. m." The formal entry of the Polish capital was made by Prince Leopold of Bavaria as Commander in Chief of the army which took the city.
The formal announcement issued by the German Great Headquarters on the 5th of August read: "The army of Prince Leopold of Bavaria pierced and took yesterday and last night the outer and inner lines of forts of Warsaw in which Russian rear guards still offered stubborn resistance. The city was occupied to-day by our troops."
In the capture of Warsaw seven huge armies had been employed. The German northern army, operating against the double-track line which runs from Warsaw to Petrograd, 1,000 miles in the northeast, via Bielostok and Grodno; the army operating in the Suwalki district, threatening the same line farther west; the army aimed at the Narew based on Mearva; the army directly aimed at Warsaw, north of the Vistula; the (Ninth) army directly aimed at Warsaw, south of the Vistula; ten or twelve Austrian army corps attempting to reach the single- and double-track railway from Ivangorod to Brest-Litovsk and Moscow, and the line from Warsaw to Kiev via Lublin and Cholm, which is for the most part a single track, and, finally, the army of Von Linsingen, operating on the Lipa east of Lemberg.
The campaign for Warsaw had been fought along a front of 1,000 miles, extending from the Baltic to the frontier of Rumania. An estimate which lays claim to being based upon authoritative figures placed the number of men engaged in almost daily conflict on this long line at between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000. The attacks upon the sides of the lines on which the defense of Warsaw depended had been the most furious in the course of the war on the eastern front. The losses on both sides undoubtedly were enormous, though they can be ascertained only with difficulty, if at all.
The following summary of captures was issued by the German Great Headquarters on August 1, 1915: "Captured in July between the Baltic and the Pilica, 95,023 Russians; 41 guns, including two heavy ones; 4 mine throwers; 230 machine guns. Taken in July in the southeastern theatre of war (apparently between Pilica and the Rumanian frontier): 323 officers; 75,719 men; 10 guns; 126 machine guns."
PART V—THE BALKANS
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DIPLOMACY IN THE BALKANS
In discussing the causes of the Great War in Vol. I we have already shown how important a part the little Balkan States played in the long chain of events leading up to the final catastrophe. When two mighty lords come to blows over the right of way through the fields of their peasant neighbors, it is only natural that the peasants themselves should be deeply concerned. While it is not likely that any of them would feel especially friendly toward either of the belligerents, it might, however, be to their advantage to take a hand in the struggle on the side of the victor. But until each thought he had picked the winner he would hold aloof.
This was, in fact, the situation of all the Balkan States when the Great War began, with the exception, of course, of Serbia, which had been directly attacked. Rumania, Bulgaria, and Greece very hastily announced their complete neutrality to each other as well as to the world at large, though Greece was in the very awkward position of having signed a defensive treaty with Serbia.
Though the Balkan situation has always been considered very complicated, certain broad facts may be laid down which will serve as a key to a fair understanding of the motives behind each of the various moves being made on the Balkan chess board.
First of all, it must be realized that popular sentiment plays a much smaller part in Balkan politics than it does in such countries as England, France and our own country. Though each is more or less democratic in form, none of these governments is really controlled by its people in matters requiring such quick decisions as war. At the head of each of the Balkan States is a monarch surrounded by a governing clique who have full authority in military matters. Each of these cliques has only one aim in mind: How shall it increase the area of its territory, or at least save itself from losing any of what it already controls?
Rumania, being of Latin blood, has no natural affinity with either of the big fighting powers that concern her: Austria or Russia. In her case, therefore, sympathy may be entirely eliminated. She does, however, covet a piece of Austrian territory, Transylvania, in which there is a substantial Rumanian population which has always been rather badly treated by Austria.
Bulgaria, like Russia, is Slavic. Added to that, Bulgaria owes her freedom to Russian arms. Because of these two reasons there is a very strong sentiment among the people in favor of Russia. Russian political intrigues during the past thirty years have done a great deal, however, in undermining this kindly feeling among the more intelligent Bulgarians. And then Russia's ambition to possess herself of the Bosphorus as an outlet into the Mediterranean is directly contrary to the ambitions of the governing clique of Bulgaria, which also has its eyes on Constantinople.
Toward the Austrians the Bulgarians feel nothing but dislike: "Schwabs," they call them contemptuously. Moreover, Austria's contemplated pathway to Saloniki would cut down through Macedonia, another territory coveted by Bulgaria. Ferdinand, King of Bulgaria, however, is a German by birth and training.
Greece, like Rumania, is also racially isolated. She fears Russia for the same reason that Bulgaria does; Greece is determined that Constantinople shall one day be hers. And she fears Austria because Austria's pathway would even take Saloniki from her. And finally she fears Italy because Italy has ambitions in Asia Minor and Albania. All the belligerents seem to be treading on the toes of Greece.
It will be seen, therefore, that the diplomatic game was an especially delicate one in the Balkans. Being comparatively weak, these small states cannot fight alone for themselves. Their selfish ambitions, or of their governing cliques rather, make a combination impossible. Their only chance is to bargain with the winner at the right moment.
During the first half year of the war there was very little for the Balkan diplomats to do but lie low and watch; watch for the first signs of weakening of either the Allies or the Teutons. To be sure, Turkey threw in her lot with the Teutons during this period, but German control of the Turkish machinery of government and the army appears to have been so strong that it seems doubtful whether Turkish initiative was much of a factor in the move.
One of the first moves by the Teutonic Powers through Austria-Hungary was the attempted invasion of Serbia, by which they hoped to eliminate her from the field and also to swing the other Balkan States, especially Bulgaria, over to their side. And had Austria succeeded in penetrating the peninsula through Serbia, there can hardly be any doubt that the effect would have been immediate.
But the invasion by Austria, attempted three times, was an abject failure. At the end of five months a whole Austrian army corps had been annihilated by the Serbians and the rest of the huge invading armies had been driven back across the Danube and Save. Following close upon this came the extraordinary success of the Russians in Bukowina and in the Carpathians, which placed Hungary in immediate danger of being invaded. The cause of the Allies began to look promising and the machinery of Balkan diplomacy began slowly to revolve.
Meanwhile the principal efforts of the Entente statesmen had been directed toward effecting a reconciliation between Bulgaria and the other Balkan States which, she maintained, had robbed her of Macedonia. Indeed, it may well be said that the Treaty of Bucharest, whereby the Macedonian Bulgars were largely handed over to Serbia, and Greece was, and continued to be, the main stumbling block in the path of the Allies to bring Bulgaria around to a union with Serbia and Greece and Rumania, for Rumania had also picked Bulgaria's pockets while she was down, by taking a strip of territory at the mouth of the Danube. In this she had not even had the excuse of reclaiming her own people, for here were none but pure Bulgarians.
In January, 1915, Rumania began to show signs of shaping a definite policy that might later lead her to taking sides. Her King, Carol, a Hohenzollern by blood, had died shortly after the war and his nephew, Ferdinand, ascended the throne on October 11, 1914. Possibly he may have had something to do with the change. At any rate, though Rumania had previously accepted financial assistance from Austria, in January she received a loan of several millions from Great Britain, most of which was spent on the army, then partly mobilized.
At the same time negotiations of a tentative nature were opened by the Foreign Office with Russia offering to throw the Rumanian troops into the conflict on the side of the Allies for a certain consideration. This consideration was that she receive Bukowina, part of the province of Banat, and certain sections of Bessarabia populated by Rumanians, The Allies considered these demands extortionate, and the negotiations were protracted. When the Austrians and Germans, later in the spring, succeeded in driving the Russians out of the Carpathians, Rumania hastily dropped these negotiations and seated herself more firmly on top of the fence. And so, under the guidance of Bratiano, her prime minister, she has continued throughout the whole year, listening to proposals, first from one side, then from the other, but always carefully maintaining her neutral position.
Bulgaria had, at about the same time, accepted a loan from Germany. Attempts were made at the time to explain away the political significance of the transaction by representing the advance as an installment of a loan the terms of which had been arranged before the beginning of the war, but the essential fact was that the cash came from Germany at a time when she was herself calling in all the gold of her people into the Imperial treasury.
Bulgaria now plainly let it be understood under what conditions she would join a union of the Balkan neutrals against the Teutonic Powers. Her premier, Radoslavov, head of the Bulgarian Liberal Party, whose policy has always been anti-Russian, is one of the most astute politicians in the Balkans, and this description is equally true of King Ferdinand as a monarch. These two stated definitely Bulgaria's price; that part of Macedonia which was to have been allowed to her by the agreement which bound her to Serbia and Greece during the first Balkan War; the Valley of the Struma, including the port of Kavalla, that part of Thrace which she herself had taken from Turkey, and the southern Dobruja, the whole of the territory Rumania had filched from her while her back was turned during the two Balkan wars.
The Entente Powers held council with the other Balkan States, each of which had taken its share of booty from Bulgaria. In order to persuade them to consent to Bulgaria's terms, they suggested certain compensations for the concessions they were asked to make. To Serbia, which, in spite of her very precarious situation at the time, was very averse to returning any part of her Macedonian territory, they pointed out that she could find compensation in adding to her territory Bosnia, Herzegovina and the other Slav provinces of Austria, where the population was truly Serb. To Rumania, which was already willing to meet Bulgaria half way, they promised Transylvania and Bukowina. To Greece, which had done less and gained more than any of the other states during the two Balkan Wars and so could afford to be generous, they held out the prospect of gaining a considerable area in Asia Minor, thickly populated by Greeks.
These changes naturally all depended on the complete defeat of the Teutonic Powers, but Bulgaria demanded that at least some, and especially Serbian Macedonia, should be handed over to her at once.
This latter demand brought about strong opposition. The other Balkan States considered that, granting even that all these concessions were to be promised to Bulgaria, she should not expect their fulfillment until she had earned them by helping to defeat the Teutonic Powers.
Venizelos, the premier of Greece, and probably the most broad-minded statesman in the Balkans, stated that, on the part of Greece, concessions to Bulgaria were possible, though, as developed later, in this he did not have the backing of the King and the rest of the governing clique. In February no progress in the negotiations had been made, though a special French Commission, headed by General Pau, visited all the Balkan capitals and tried to bring about a mutual agreement.
At about that time another important military event occurred, especially affecting the Balkans; the warships of the Entente began bombarding the forts in the Dardanelles and it seemed that Constantinople was presently to fall into their hands. Not long after Venizelos stated, in an interview, that he was privy to this action and proposed to send 50,000 Greek soldiers to assist the Allies by a land attack on the Turks.
The Greek General Staff, however, immediately declined to support Venizelos. Such a campaign, it declared, was impossible unless Greece first had strong guarantees that Bulgaria would not take the opportunity to invade Greek Macedonia and fall on the flank of the Greek army operating against the Turks. Venizelos thereupon approached Bulgaria and was told that Bulgaria would remain neutral if Greece would cede most of her Macedonian conquests, which would include Kavalla, Drama, and Serres, which stretch so provokingly eastward along the coast and hold Bulgaria back from the sea.
Venizelos attempted to compromise, and here he was caught between two obstacles. Bulgaria absolutely refused to recede one inch from her demand; and, on the other hand, the Greek governing clique suddenly refused to consider any proposal that would mean the cession of any territory at all to the hated Bulgars. What probably stiffened the opposition of the other members of the Greek Government to the Turkish campaign was the growing suspicion on their part that the Allies were also negotiating with Italy for her support. Now it was obvious that if Italy was to fight in the Near East, she meant to demand a good price. And this looked bad for Greece. Greece and Italy had already nearly come to blows over their clashing interests in southern Albania, yet even this was a small matter compared to rivalry in the AEgean and Asia Minor. What deepened these suspicions was the fact that the Allies refused to indicate definitely just what territory Greece was to have in return for her support against the Turks. Their promise of "liberal compensation" was not at all definite enough. Only Venizelos was satisfied with this promise; he was in favor of trusting implicitly to Anglo-French gratitude.
To bring this deadlock to a conclusion King Constantine called a Royal Council, and by this body the matter was thoroughly discussed during the first few days of March. The Council, together with the king, decided against supporting the Allies actively on such terms. On the morning of March 6 Venizelos called at the British legation in Athens to say that the opposition of the king made it impossible to fulfill his promise. That night he resigned.
The fall of Venizelos was, naturally, a heavy blow to the Allies. He was succeeded by Gounaris, an ex-Minister of Finance, who announced his policy as one of strict neutrality. Venizelos was so deeply mortified that he declared that he would withdraw permanently from public life, and then left Greece.
April, 1915, opened with an occurrence that seemed to throw a strong light on the attitude of Bulgaria. On the night of the second day of the month a large force of Bulgar Comitajis made a raid over the southeastern frontier of Serbia, and, after attacking successfully the Serbian outposts and blockhouses, in an attempt to cut the railroad, by which Serbia was getting war supplies from the Allies, they were repelled by the Serbians, though only after severe fighting.
Serbia and Greece both protested loudly, but Bulgaria affirmed that she had had nothing to do with the matter.
As has developed since, Bulgaria had by this time definitely decided to strike for the Teutonic allies when the right moment should come. Already back in January, 1912, a secret treaty had been negotiated between Bulgaria and Germany. This was signed a little later by Prince Buelow and M. Rizoff at Rome. There were more reasons than one for keeping this secret. For within the Bulgarian Parliament there was a strong opposition to the German policy of Ferdinand and Radoslavov, led by Malinoff, chief of the Democratic party, and Stambulovski, chief of the Agrarian party, an opposition so bitter and determined that the king had good reason to fear an open revolution should he openly declare himself for the Germans.
On May 29, 1915, the Allies again sent a note to Bulgaria, making proposals which comprised the results of their efforts to obtain concessions from the other Balkan States. On June 15 Radoslavov sent a reply, asking for further information, obviously drawn up in order to gain time.
Meanwhile, on June 11, Venizelos had again appeared in Athens, where he received a warm welcome from the populace, with whom he was the prime favorite. Within a few days he resumed the leadership of the Greek Liberal party and, at a general election, which was held shortly after, he showed a popular majority support of 120 seats in the Popular Assembly, notwithstanding a determined opposition made by his opponents. Before the Balkan wars the Greek Parliament had consisted of 180 members, but by according representation to the districts in Macedonia annexed after the wars the number was brought up to 316. Venizelos and his policy in favor of the Allies were emphatically indorsed by the Greek suffrage. Naturally this expression of the people's voice was a smart blow at the king and his councillors. On the other hand, they were encouraged by an unfavorable turn that was now taking place in the military operations of the Allies.
The attack on the Dardanelles by the warships had been a decided failure. Nor were the operations of the British troops on the peninsula of Gallipoli meeting with any real success. The Austrians and the Germans had driven the Russians back from the Carpathians and had retaken Przemysl and Lemberg. In fact, the situation of the Austro-German armies had now become so favorable that it was possible for the Teutonic allies to make proposals to the Balkan States with a fair chance of being listened to.
During July, 1915, Serbia was approached by Germany with an offer of a separate peace, but Serbia would not even consider the terms.
On July 8 Austria delivered a note to Rumania, through the Austrian Minister in Bucharest, Count Czernin, which contained two sets of proposals. One was contingent upon the continued but "friendly" neutrality of Rumania, the other on her active participation in the war on the side of Austria-Hungary.
In the first proposal Rumania was promised all of Bukowina south of the Seret River, better treatment of the Rumanian population of Austrian territory, the establishment of a Rumanian university in Brasso, large admissions of Rumanians into the public service of Hungary, and greater liberty of administration to the Rumanian churches in Austria.
The second proposal specified that Rumania should put five army corps and two cavalry divisions at the disposal of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff to operate against the Russians. In return Rumania should receive all of Bukowina up to the Pruth River, territory along the north bank of the Danube up to the Iron Gate, complete autonomy for the Rumanians in Transylvania and all of Bessarabia that the Rumanian troops should assist in conquering from the Russians.
Just a week after this note was received in the Rumanian capital, Prince Hohenlohe-Langenburg, whose wife was a sister of the Queen of Rumania, arrived in Bucharest and tried to induce King Ferdinand to come to terms with Austria, or at least to allow the transportation of war munitions through the country to the Turks, who were then running short of ammunition. The king refused this concession. How important it would have been, had it been granted, may be judged from the many efforts the Germans had made to smuggle material down to Turkey. In one case the baggage of a German courier traveling to Constantinople had been X-rayed and rifle ammunition had been found. Again, cases of beer had been opened and found to contain artillery shells.
Rumania, however, could not yet make up her mind which was going to be the winner. She accepted neither of the Austrian proposals, and protracted making any definite answer as long as possible.
There was another reason why Rumania wished to continue her neutrality until the following winter, at least. The harvesting of her great wheat crops would begin soon, and this wheat could, as had been done the previous year, be sold to the Germans and Austrians at big prices, the blockade of the British fleet having already produced a pressing shortage in foodstuffs. And then, her conscience being uneasy regarding her robbery of territory from Bulgaria, she must also be quite certain how Bulgaria was going to turn.
Having failed at Bucharest, the German agent, Prince Hohenlohe-Langenburg, moved on to Sofia. At that moment King Ferdinand of Bulgaria was endeavoring to get Turkey to sign a treaty, for which negotiations had been going on secretly for some months, by which Bulgaria was to obtain all the Turkish land on the west side of the Maritza River, and so free the Bulgarian railroad to Dedeagatch from Turkish interference. On July 23 this treaty was finally signed, and Bulgaria acquired a full right of way along the line.
Bulgaria was now frankly asking bids for her support from both sides. In an interview which the Premier, Radoslavov, granted to the correspondent of a Budapest newspaper on August 3, 1915, and who remarked to the premier that it was at least strange for a nation to carry on such negotiations simultaneously with two groups of powers, he replied:
"It is these negotiations which give us the chance to make a decision. Our country seeks only her own advantages and wishes to realize her rights. We have decided to gain these in any case. The only question is: How can we achieve this with the least sacrifices? As regards the internal situation of Bulgaria, I may proudly say that our conditions have improved, and that everybody in the country looks forward to the great national undertaking we are about to embark on with immense joy and enthusiasm."
So far as Bulgaria was concerned things did not look well for the Allies in the beginning of August, 1915. Prince Hohenlohe-Langenburg was warmly received. As was afterward made known, he effected a further treaty between Germany and Bulgaria, which promised Bulgaria practically all of Greek and Serbian Macedonia. Unaware then of the existence of this or the earlier compact, the Entente Powers made further efforts to secure the support of the Bulgarians. Early in August they made a collective representation to the Balkan States, and delivered to Bulgaria a reply to her note of June 14, in which she had asked for further details in regard to the concessions promised.
In the collective presentation they spoke of the desirability of making further concessions to Bulgaria, and in the special note to Bulgaria they stated that it was probable that the causes of friction would be removed and a union brought about. Bulgaria, however, was not satisfied, and Radoslavov, the Premier, in an interview to an American correspondent, said that she would enter the war only on receiving absolute guarantees of obtaining all of what she demanded.
The chief obstacle in the path toward an agreement that would satisfy the demands of Bulgaria now seemed to be Serbia, and, on behalf of the cause, she was again pressed by the Allies to surrender all of southeastern Macedonia. Finally, in a secret session of her Parliament, which was held toward the middle of August, she consented.
On the 16th of August the Greek Parliament assembled. The Venizeloists were in a large majority. The next day the Gounaris government felt that it could no longer maintain itself, and consequently resigned. A few days later Venizelos was again Prime Minister of Greece, and the Allies, who were still ignorant of the fatal treaties between Bulgaria and Germany, believed that the difficulties in the Balkan situation had finally been smoothed out.
Thus the beginning of the second year of the war opened in the Balkans very favorably in aspect to the Allies.
PART VI—ITALY ENTERS THE WAR
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ITALY'S RELATIONS WITH THE WARRING POWERS
After nearly ten months of kaleidoscopic changes in the diplomatic situation, which kept the outside world constantly uncertain as to her ultimate determination, Italy declared war upon Austria May 23, 1915. The bare official explanation of these negotiations gave the impression of selfish bargaining, and a broad survey of conditions on the Italian peninsula before and during the first months of the war is necessary to a proper understanding of the causes that led Italy to take sides with Great Britain, France, and Russia.
Behind these long diplomatic exchanges, their foundation rather than the result of them, lay Italy's national aspirations and a gradual crystallization of public sentiment. Officially, Italy went to war with Austria over an alleged violation of the Triple Alliance; but to most Italians the hope of the war meant the return to the Italian flag of Italians living south of the Austrian Alps, realignment of their northern and eastern frontier on better national and military principles, the possession of certain territory on the eastern shore of the Adriatic as would secure her harborless eastern coast from hostile attack, a reduction of Austrian control over Trieste, and the repatriation of thousands of Italians living in the "unredeemed" portions of southern Austria, which despite many years of Austrian domination was essentially Italian in traditions, customs, language, and loyalty.
Negotiations were prolonged, also, by the fact that at the outbreak of the war Italy was, in a military sense, quite unprepared to engage in a desperate struggle. When Italian Alpine troops finally moved out and took possession of Austrian mountain outposts, the army had undergone regeneration. In both men and munitions Italy was equipped to play a part in the war worthy of a first-class power, and befitting her wide ambitions.
Although Italy was allied with the Central Powers, her peculiar situation dictated a national policy of cordial relations with all Europe. Geographically, she forms a unified mass with Germany and Austria, but the barrier of the Alps across her northern frontier diverts her interests from the north to the south. She is essentially a Mediterranean power, the one great nation on the inland sea with a long coast line and a number of ports. Her hope of the future lay along the Mediterranean shore, but her national unity was gained almost too late to enable her to realize the aspiration of African colonies. It was the disappointment of obtaining possessions in Tunis by the establishment of French control there in 1881 that found expression in the Triple Alliance. Her antagonism against Austria and the Hapsburgs was still unmitigated, but as a practical matter of statesmanship she had to choose between two antagonists—Austria opposing her on the Adriatic, and France on the Mediterranean. Since Africa presented the larger field for expansion, she enlisted the aid of Austria and Germany against France. At the same time she became friendly with England, and largely through this understanding gained her hold upon Tripoli. Cordial relations with France were reestablished in 1903. The sum of her efforts made her a link between the rival groups of European powers. This will explain the peculiar obligations of neutrality incumbent upon the nation when the Triple Entente went to war with her associates in the Triple Alliance.
Alliance with Germany and Austria was a necessity of statesmanship and diplomacy; but at no time was it generally popular with the mass of Italian population. It gave no support to Italian aims in the Mediterranean; it failed to hold the balance between Italy and Austria in the Balkans; it seemed to promise nothing for the future, except, perhaps, immunity from Austrian attack. In fact, it is doubtful whether the alliance would have been renewed in 1912 but for an unexpected outbreak of resentment against France due to a clash over rival interests in northern Africa and increasing suspicion of French action in Tunis. At the same time Italy took offense at the attitude of France toward her position in the war with Turkey, which resulted in the Italian occupation of Tripoli.
This better understanding between Italy and her allies soon was disturbed by their attitude toward Serbia, resulting from the successes of that country and Greece in the Balkan wars. For the sake of maintaining the equilibrium between Italy and Austria, the former sympathized with Serbia's aspirations for a port on the Adriatic. In August, 1913—this incident was not revealed until the Premier of Italy told it to the Chamber of Deputies on December 5, 1914—Austria proposed that Italy should consent to an Austrian attack on Serbia. Italy refused to countenance any such action. Revelations made after the beginning of the Great War showed that during the twenty months that elapsed between the renewal of the Triple Alliance and the outbreak of the war, Italy was constantly engaged in combating the policy of Austria-Hungary toward Serbia and striving to maintain the balance of power in the Balkans. The notes exchanged in this period emphasized particularly Articles III, IV, and VII of the Alliance, and since these portions of the treaty were the basis of subsequent negotiations leading up to the final severance of Italo-Austrian relations, their text may be set down here:
"III. In case one or two of the high contracting parties, without direct provocation on their part, should be attacked by one or more of the great powers not signatory of the present treaty, and should become involved in a war with them, the casus foederis would arise simultaneously for all the high contracting parties.
"IV. In case a great power not a signatory of the present treaty should threaten the state security of one of the high contracting parties, and in case the threatened party should thereby be compelled to declare war against that great power, the two other contracting parties engage themselves to maintain benevolent neutrality toward their ally. Each of them reserves its right, in this case, to take part in the war if it thinks fit, in order to make common cause with its ally.
"VII. Austria-Hungary and Italy, who have solely in view the maintenance, as far as possible, of the territorial status quo in the East, engage themselves to use their influence to prevent all territorial changes which might be disadvantageous to the one or the other of the powers signatory of the present treaty. To this end they will give reciprocally all information calculated to enlighten each other concerning their own intentions and those of other powers. Should, however, the case arise that, in the course of events, the maintenance of the status quo in the territory of the Balkans or of the Ottoman coasts and islands in the Adriatic or the AEgean Sea become impossible, and that, either in consequence of the action of a third power or for any other reason, Austria-Hungary or Italy should be obliged to change the status quo for their part by a temporary or permanent occupation, such occupation would only take place after previous agreement between the two powers which would have to be based upon the principle of a reciprocal compensation for all territorial or other advantages that either of them might acquire over and above the existing status quo, and would have to satisfy the interests and rightful claims of both parties."
When Austria-Hungary sent her ultimatum to Serbia in July, 1914, Italy had lost no time in making her position clear. Premier Salandra and the Marquis di San Giuliano, the Italian Foreign Minister, conferred with Herr von Flotow, German Ambassador at Rome, on July 5, and dispatched the following memorandum to the Duke d'Avarna, the Italian Ambassador at Vienna:
"Salandra and I called the special attention of the ambassador to the fact that Austria had no right, according to the spirit of the Triple Alliance Treaty, to make such a move as she has made at Belgrade without previous agreement with her allies. Austria, in fact, from the tone in which the note is conceived, and from the demands she makes—demands which are of little effect against the pan-Serb danger, but are profoundly offensive to Serbia and indirectly to Russia—has shown clearly that she wishes to provoke a war. We therefore told Flotow that, in consideration of Austria's method of procedure, and of the defensive and conservative nature of the Triple Alliance, Italy is under no obligation to help Austria if as a result of this move of hers she should find herself at war with Russia. For in this case any European war whatever will be consequent upon an act of aggression and provocation on the part of Austria."
When Austria failed to yield to this suggestion and declared war on Serbia, Italy, on July 27 and 28, 1914, had notified Austria and Germany that if she did not receive compensation for Austria's disturbance of the Balkan equilibrium, "the Triple Alliance would be irreparably broken."
While the Italian statesmen declare that they had made their position at the opening of the war perfectly clear to Germany and Austria, the world at large lacked knowledge of these negotiations upon which to base satisfactory judgment of Italy's action—or lack of action—at this time. Italy was in no position to go further than this. The unsettled state of political and popular opinion and her lack of equipment for war forced her to wait; but while she temporized she made ready. In reality, the Italian diplomats maintained that they took a definite position upon their charge that Austria had violated the terms of the Triple Alliance, and that from this stand they never receded. Negotiations with the other members of the alliance received a check, also, through the death of San Giuliano on October 16, 1914. On his deathbed the foreign minister declared his sole regret was that he had not lived to see the day of Italy's entrance into complete national unity.
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NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE CENTRAL POWERS
During the fall and winter of 1914, the Italians had seemed about equally divided in favor of intervention and neutrality. While a large majority of the common people clamored for war, the neutralists probably included the larger proportion of influential citizens. Among the latter were the extreme clericals, who distrusted France and Russia on religious grounds, aristocrats who viewed Germany as a bulwark against socialism; bankers with German connections, and a great body of the middle class who dreaded a war that would interfere with their comfort and prosperity. A genuine admiration for Germany's military prowess, exemplified in the successive victories of 1914, offset to a large extent traditional antipathy to Austria. Nevertheless, interventionist sentiment steadily gained, and Germany, recognizing the trend, organized a determined effort to keep Italy on the side of the alliance. German agents invaded Italy and conducted a campaign of propaganda through the neutralist newspapers and through more secret labors among various organizations influential in their control of public sentiment.
This German campaign reached its climax in December with the arrival at Rome of Prince von Buelow, one of the most skillful diplomats at the call of the German Foreign Office. Von Buelow's capabilities were particularly adapted to a task of this kind among a people that set store upon the niceties of international relations. As an aristocrat and a politician, he ranked among the first of the empire. He had been foreign minister and later imperial chancellor. But his chief qualification for the work was that, before returning to Berlin for greater honors, he had been ambassador at Rome. He had married a Sicilian lady, and was accustomed to spend part of each year in Rome and on his wife's Sicilian estates. The prince was a finished courtier and a charming host. At this juncture his house in Rome became a center of neutralists, and Von Buelow began overtures to Baron Sonnino, the new Italian Foreign Minister, to discover what territorial concessions the Italian Government would demand as recompense for the action of Austria and as the price of adherence to the alliance.