Saturday, January 21, 2023

Kavkaz Campaign - A Second try at Zugdidi

On the day following the successful defence of Zugdidi, 7th of June, the Commander of the Coastal Column, General Kutizedoff detached 1st (Grenadier) Division and sent it down the Kutaisi road to join up with Count Ignatieff's Kavkaz Column. The Count was only two days' march off, but his situation had become more than somewhat perilous.  His line of communication - the Fort Ghori turnoff - ran past the enemy right flank, vulnerable to a raid.  By adding the Grenadier Division to his strength he hoped to drive back Abdul Abulbul Ameer's command, leaving himself the freer to link up with the Coastal column main body.

Meanwhile, the Ameer, following up the retreat of Count Ignatieff's corps, caught up with it a short distance from the aforementioned turnoff. Eager to attack, he ordered a reconnaissance that indicated that the enemy before him had not yet received any addition to its strength.(Die roll = 5). But Count Ignatieff  had settled himself into a fairly strong position behind a small stream that circled a considerable tract of hill country beyond.  Upon the arrival of the grenadiers, the Count for his part, also ordered a reconnaissance that determined the enemy numerical strength even yet greater than his own. For several days, both sides glared at each other on opposite sides of the braided Tekhuri stream.

As the situation in Ignatieff's command had changed before the Kars Command had the opportunity to attack, I decided that a second recon was called for. But I now think it might have been a good idea just to go ahead with the attack, with the Turcowaz unaware of the enemy's acquisition of strength. Or I could have subjected the question of either or to a die roll. At any rate, the second recce was carried out on the 13th, and obtained evidence that Ignatieff's Command was stronger than it had been.  
At Zugdidi, General Bashir Ed Din Pasha had become by 10th June aware that the Izumrud-Zeleniyan forces on the far side of the Inguri River had somewhat diminished in  numbers (Recce die roll = 4). Not one to miss an opportunity that presented itself so obligingly, the Pasha ordered the attack for the next day. 

His plan was simply a repetition of 6th June: 1st and 2nd Divisional columns storming the West Ford and Middle Bridge; 3rd Division to assault the town directly across the fords along the town's river front and the East Bridge. The Gardner guns would again deploy at the outside angle of the river bend, and, with 1st Artillery Regiment supporting  the assaults by 2nd and 3rd Divisions as seemed most likely to effect results.  At the West Ford, 1st Division, led by what remained of the cavalry, had in support the 2nd Artillery Regiment.

Turcowaz Trebizond Command: 
Command: Bashir ed Din Pasha (average commander) = 6SP

1st Division: HQ (1SP elite), 1st (3SP), 2nd (3SP), 3rd (2SP) Regiment (average) = 9SP

2nd Division: HQ (1SP elite), 4th (2SP), 5th (3SP), 6th (3SP) Regiment (average) = 9SP

3rd Division: HQ (1SP elite), 7th (4SP), 8th (4SP), 9th (3SP) Regiment (average) = 12SP

IX Machinegun Battalion = 2SP (average)

1st Cavalry Brigade: 20th Cavalry(average) = 3SP

I, II/ 1st Field Regiment @ 2SP (average) = 4SP

III (2SP), IV(1SP)/ 2nd Medium Regiment (average) = 3SP

101st Medium Transport Battalion @ 2SP /3CP (carrying capacity)
111th, 112th  Pack Transport Battalion @ 2SP /2CP = 4SP/ 4CP

22 Units (including command); activation 10/11/12 units per turn
55 Strength Points (SP); Exhaustion Point (EP) = -19, Rout Point (RP) = -28 
(represents an army of about 28,500 troops, 40 machineguns, 140 artillery pieces)

Casualties and the detachment of a whole division left the Coastal Column with:

Izumrud-Zeleniya Coastal Column:
General-leytenant Malakhai Malodorovitch Kutizedoff (average commander) = 6SP

3rd (Rifle) Division - HQ (1SP elite) 
    9th, 11th, 12th Infantry Regiments (average) @ 3SP
    10th Infantry Regiment (average) @ 2SP

    Totalling 12SP

1st Light Cavalry Division -
    1st Hussar Regiment (average) @3SP
    2nd, 3rd, 4th Hussars (average) @2SP 
    Totalling 9SP

1st Field Artillery Regiment - I and II (Field) Battalions @2SP (average) = 4SP

Naval Artillery Detachment -
     V (Naval) Artillery Battalion = 1SP (average)
     VI (Naval) Machinegun Battalion (Nordenfelds) = 2SP (elite)

3 Transport Battalion columns @2SP/3CP = 6SP/9CP .

17 Units (including command); activation 8/9/10 units per turn 
40 SP; EP = -14, RP = -20
(represents an army of  about 13,000 troops, 40 machine guns, 100 artillery pieces.

In much the same manner as four days earlier, the progress of the respective columns differed. As before, the 2nd Division column outpaced their comrades on either flank, and reached the Middle Bridge even before their supporting machine guns and artillery had reached the positions at which they were supposed to deploy. Sixth infantry thundered across the bridge and attacked the startled defenders in the woods beyond. 

The action at the Middle Bridge was well under way before the lead elements of the 1st Division had even dipped their toes into the ford north of the peach orchard farm. The Izumrud-Zeleniyan artillery covering this flank thundered out a warning. It was answered by challenge by the Turcowaz mediums lining the riverbank between bridge and ford.

That line of ordnance of course discouraged the defenders simply ling the riverbank to prevent a crossing. But a quick counter attack by two hussar regiments struck the head of the column as it crossed. A stern struggle ensued as the Zeleniyans tried to throw the Turcowaz back over the river, and the latter struggled to expand their bridgehead.

Assailed front and flank, even with the backing of the lead infantry regiment, the sole Turcowaz cavalry unit was unable to make progress. It was not long before they were driven through the infantry following up and into the ford. At once a traffic jam ensued as, until the ford were cleared, the following two infantry regiments could not cross.

Fortune was going against the assault at the Middle Bridge as well. The defenders - infantry, machine guns and artillery - proved too strong, especially as the Turcowaz own supports were not yet up. Leading the transpontine assault, 6th Infantry was flung back with heavy loss, their depleted ranks retiring across the bridge, to bring 5th Infantry into the action.

So far, Izumrud-Zeleniya had contained the early attacks quite comfortably, and with scant loss. But they had served to commit the defence, leaving the Turcowaz 3rd Division to move up, 9th Regiment leading, alongside the north-south reach towards the East Bridge. The trailing unit, the 7th, swung left to splash across the fords into the flank of the machine gunners at the south end of town. Machine gun and artillery fire from back across the river 'shot in' this rude irruption. The machine gunners were quickly overrun.

The 9th Infantry storming across the East Bridge, and the 8th across the fords to the left, momentarily caught the Zeleniyan 12th Fusiliers isolated.  It was to be some time before the 11th came to help.

Although their flank attack having overrun the machine gunners, 7th Turcowaz Infantry now had a foothold in the town, the assault at the Middle Bridge, despite the leadership of Major-General Arslan Pasha in person also found the defence too tough. Among the latter losses were mounting, however, and the Turcowaz at the far end of the bridge were as yet far from bereft of resources.

At the West Ford, despite the heavy losses inflicted upon the attacking column, the Izumrud-Zeleniya cavalry found the pent up columns impossible for long to contain. The deadly accurate artillery drove back the flanking 2nd Hussars all the way to the west road where they finally broke up, and in turn the Turcowaz infantry forced back 1st Hussars alongside. The counter pressure relieved, the Turcowaz cavalry returned, and the following columns were able to fill the expanded bridgehead.

The Turcowaz were making progress at the Middle Bridge as well, although at heavy cost. Fifth Infantry finally routed the 9th Fusiliers at of the woods. They then turned to assault the Zeleniyan artillery in the redoubt, just as the depleted remains of 6th Infantry attacked in front. Fourth Infantry followed across the bridge. Now the Turcowaz drive was on.

Bitter fighting also developed at the East Bridge, 9th Infantry embattled at the bridge itself, and the 8th pushing, for the moment unopposed, into the town.  

Soon enough, the Zeleniyan 11th Fusiliers counter-attacked. Completely stalled, the Turcowaz losses mounted (both units had lost a strength point by this), though the 12th Fusiliers were equally knocked about. 

By now it must have been plain to General Kutizedoff that the forces he had left in hand could never recover the lost ground. The battle must already be lost. His last reserves, the 10th Fusiliers, he led directly against the depleted 7th infantry at the south end of town. Given the reinforcements available to the enemy about the Middle Bridge, this was something of a forlorn hope.

By this time, the artillery position in the redoubt had already been overrun. This freed 5th Infantry to fall upon the flank of 10th Fusiliers.  

The defenders also conjured up reserve cavalry once again to contest the West Ford river crossing. Already the 2nd and 3rd Hussars had long since been spent forces, crushed under the weight of enemy artillery bombardment.  First Hussars were still in action, but, much depleted, for how long was by now problematical.  

A confused cavalry battle developed between 4th Hussars and the ever-resilient Turcowaz horse. Flung back once, twice, the Hussars were unable to prevent the Turcowaz crossing the road to attack the Izumrud-Zeleniyan artillery in their fieldworks. Fortunately, the Turcowaz were too weak to overrun the gunners, who defended themselves with trail spikes and rammers. Nerving themselves for just one more charge, 4th Hussars struck the Turcowaz mounted remnants in flank, and routed them for good and all.

This was all by now just to keep open the northwest road. The battle clearly lost already, it was becoming doubtful whether indeed Kutizedoff's command could even effect a withdrawal up the coast road. The Zeleniya artillery remained in a position more or less to cover a withdrawal, but there were already Turcowaz elements who had the road within range of their rifles, and there remained the very capable medium artillery on the far bank.

In the town, 10th Fusiliers were being driven steadily back by double its numbers...
... and although the 9th Infantry was momentarily repulsed at the bridge, before long, back they came. 

This time they drove in the Zeleniyan defenders, all the way out of the town.  Alongside, the 11th Fusiliers finally succeeded in throwing their assailants into the river, but were themselves forced to drop back. The town of Zugdidi almost completely in Turcowaz hands after stiff street fighting, General Kutizedoff finally sounded the retreat.  

The Turcowaz had won. They had won a resounding strategic victory that put the Izumrud-Zeleniya's whole campaign in jeopardy. Retreating up the coast road, Kutizedoff's command, deprived of detached grenadier Division, was completely cut off from the Kavkaz column, somewhere down the Kutaisi road. And that command was itself parlously placed (as already hinted and will be further related), not least of which, it had no superiority in numbers over either of the enemy commands between which it lay.

It so happens that I called this Second Battle of Zugdidi before the Zeleniyans had quite reached their exhaustion point - just one more would have been required to reach the threshold of 14SP.  It transpired that the Turcowaz had spent rather more of their strength than I realised in achieving what was clearly a decisive victory. Sixteen SP, it cost them, still 3 short of their EP.  

Translated into numbers, the Turcowaz had lost 4000 casualties out of an army of 28,500; Izumrud-Zeleniya 3250 out of 20,000.

Following this victory, the Trebizond command settled down to occupy the town and contemplate their next move.  The Zeleniyan coastal command, for their part, put some distance a day's march at least between themselves and their recent adversaries. Much hope was now placed upon the troop convoy, somewhere off the coast and not yet landed.

Meanwhile, two days later, and two days' march down the Kutaisi River, Adul Abulbul Ameer carried out a second reconnaissance of the enemy positions at Gakhomela, to discover that the local enemy had undergone an acquisition of strength. He was still contemplating his next move when, two days after that, at dawn of 15th June, a runner came into his pavilion to interrupt his leisurely breakfast and to announce that Izumrud-Zeleniya were crossing the river and attacking.

To be continued...
Disappointment at Gakhomela


  1. An enjoyable background and game report, which must have take quite a bit of effort and time.

    1. Peter
      Yeah - slows me down a bit. But the result - the play and the narrative that follows, is the more interesting, I think. For me, anyhow.

  2. Another excellent battle report. Reads more like a novel than a wargame...very good...again....Regards.

    1. Thanks, Tony -
      If you reckon my accounts read like a novel, I'll take that as a compliment! Tell you what, I have read some novels that read more like war (or fantasy) games. The Game of Thrones comes to mind...

  3. Exciting stuff Ion. Still, despite the Turcowaz successes at Zugdidi the late news of developments at Gakhomela must be a cause for concern.
    I look forward to reading more…
    As ever, your “toys” are lovely - nice and colourful. Well done. I love your sketch too (although I expected Bashir Ed Din Pasha would’ve probably carried a wicked looking sabre 😉). Very inspirational.

    1. Geoff -
      The swashbuckling scimitar wielding dude is more likely to be Abdul Abulbul Ameer. I reckon Bashir Ed Din is more... professional. Sort of. Thank you for your comment re the toys. I am very much firmly in the soldiers gotta be bright and shiny school of war gamers.

  4. Many thanks for posting, enjoyable as always. My Russo-Turkish 1870s forces near completion, inspired by your games.

    1. Hi Brian -
      I'd be very much interested in how your own Russo-Turkish project is getting on! Especially how you have sourced your troops. I have found the availability of some figured I want more than a little problematic. I'm glad to see that others find inspiration from my games.
      Thank you,