Friday, February 17, 2023

Kavkaz Campaign - Armies Reorganise

Izumrud-Zeleniyan Infantry in attack

Owing to the cumulative costs of campaigning and combat, all the armies in the Abasgian Valley had to look to their depleted units and formations. A major reorganisation was indicated: units converged and commands reassigned. The shattered Turcowaz Trebizond Command in particular was in bad shape - bad enough that its commander, Bashir Ed Din Pasha, called upon Ionople for a reinforcement.

Something of a lull descended upon operations. 

Kavkaz Campaign
Developments 23-25 June, 1875

2 - The Izumrud-Zeleniyan Army again divides into two, one half under General-Major Kutizedoff remaining for the moment in Zugdidi, the other - Kavkaz Column under Count Ignatieff - marching eastward again to try conclusions with Abdul Abulbul Ameer. Future Spade draws will apply to this column.

J - Turcowaz Trebizond Command (beginning just south of Zugdidi to which it had retreated after the late battle) retires 2 hexes towards Poti, to stand at the highway's Kutaisi turnoff.

A - Turcowaz Kars Command retires into Kutaisi Town
      - Turcowaz Trebizond Command retires across the Rioni River into Poti
      - Turcowaz troop carrier sails westward (off the map)
Campaign card draw ends.

Turcowaz regulars.

To be continued: the Armies reconstituted.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Kavkaz Campaign -



Strong as Bashir Ed Din had made his defences around Zugdidi, there was no winking the numbers against him and the strategic vulnerability of his southward line of communications. Two regiments, 1st and 2nd, with machine guns and artillery, protected by earthworks crowning the ridge south of the town, and the attached woodlands at least made an obstacle difficult to pass. But that was all that was available there - there were no reserves in this part of the field.

Much more menacing, however, was the enemy array to the west of the town - two infantry Divisions, the matelot contingent of infantry, machine guns and artillery, a cavalry Division and 3 battalions of artillery. At the north end of the line, 3rd Division led off by seizing the small outlying village of Rukhi, before pushing on towards the main Turcowaz defence line. The entrenchments there did not quite close off the open flank, and thereto 11th Infantry, followed by the 12th advanced.  
On the far side of town, the rather depleted Zeleniyan 2nd Division were a deal more circumspect, despite the fords and bridges in front of them offering apparently easy passage. They were more inclined for the moment to bring the eastern suburb of the town under heavy rifle and artillery fire. Yet their fire action was sufficient to tie the Turcowaz 3rd Division in place, as the Izumrud-Zeleniyan attacks slowly developed on the west side.
The Turcowaz position there, as Bashir Ed Din became acutely aware, was fragile enough: a single Division manned the defences, the Zeleniyan artillery redoubt - a somewhat isolated outpost - occupied by one of the Turcowaz medium artillery battalions, supported by 3rd Infantry from 1st Division.  

It might have been better had that infantry occupied the redoubt, for after an initial check, the attacking Marine regiment quickly surged over the earthworks, the guns could not be got out, and the position was rapidly taken. At once, the Turcowaz 1st Division commander, Ali Marsbar Pasha, ordered a counterattack through the woods to retake the position. Even with Ali Marsbar leading the change, the sailors simply would not be shifted.

Meanwhile events were developing rapidly around the Socar village, south of the town. Covered by an early morning fog, the Grenadiers had formed up rather close to the Turcowaz defence line, and came under heavy rifle and machinegun fire the moment the mist lifted. Third Grenadiers at once seized the village, wherein could be found some shelter. But the mountain artillery battalion was not so lucky, and was soon silenced. Lacking artillery support made the Grenadiers' job a deal more difficult.    

The Cossacks did their bit by trying to envelop the enemy-held ridge line. Assailed by a galling flanking fire from the enemy guns close by the south road, the Cossacks were repulsed time and again.  

Soon, the Cossacks added a regiment to the frontal attack, whilst 3rd and 2nd Grenadiers assaulted the enemy position along the remainder of the front.  First Grenadiers undertook to infiltrate the gap between the wooded flank of the enemy position and the town.  That gap was covered from the town by the rifle fire of the Turcowaz 9th Infantry. In an attempt to suppress this flanking fire, the Zeleniyan 2nd Division brought down small arms and artillery. 

The ferocity of 2nd Grenadiers' attack, led by the Division commander, General-Major E.G. Tonikandzhin in person, threw the defenders out of the woods. Pressing onward,  the Grenadiers pushed on to a fight to the finish in the open ground behind the woods - a fight the broke both units. 
The dice tell the story: close combat, both rolled '6'. The effect: both 'kills'.  And see how many SPs both sides had remaining before the combat was decided. One. Each.   


However, the General-Major himself remained unhurt, and soon joined 1st Grenadiers, advancing down the river road past the town. The main Turcowaz position was still holding, but both sides had taken heavy losses in the scrimmage over the earthworks.

There still remained the heavy task of levering the enemy off the high ground... 

Although 2nd Division had not quite succeeded in suppressing the rifle fire from the town that for a time was such a nuisance to 1st Grenadiers, the latter's push down the river road soon took them out of range. In the meantime, it was sufficiently effective to cause 8th Infantry to abandon their positions lining the east face of the town. For their part, 7th Infantry also found the air too heated behind their earthworks, and fell back towards the town centre.  Second Zeleniyan Division was acquitting itself well. 

By now the attacks on the west side were also developing. The Circassian regiment were bringing under fire the outwork held by 5th Turcowaz, just as the 1st Guards were pressing in upon the town itself.

More dire still, and the added reason for 7th Turcowaz abandoning its position, 3rd Zeleniyan Division were pushing right up to the Turcowaz earthworks. Sixth Infantry had long since disintegrated, and Bashir ed Din found himself directing a rearguard of medium artillery. The Turcowaz situation had suddenly deteriorated to desperate. Counterattack out of the question, whether the Trebizond Command could even extricate itself from the town at all had become more than problematical. 
At least the defences keeping the roads open were still holding, and the Zeleniyan 2nd Division had yet to bestir themselves to press the retiring defenders in the town.
The Circassian storming of the west town outwork was a clear indication that the Turcowaz had to get out, and get out now.  There was even some doubt that any sort of route out was feasible, as the 1st Guards seemed about to reach the crossroads and cut off the road south.

Considering that most of the Coastal Column had hardly bestirred themselves from their start lines, the three regiments from the beach-landing force - Marines, 1st Guards and Circassians - had achieved a great deal - supported, it is true, by effective artillery fire. Even against these few assailants the Turcowaz were already having to strain every sinew to effect what was amounting to a fighting retreat - a breakout, withal.
If the situation in the town were not bad enough, the 1st Division ridgeline defence was also crumbling. Attacking front and flank, the Cossacks finally bundled the 1st Infantry out of its entrenchments, a further attack by the 4th Cossack Regiment hastening the Turcowaz infantry on their way (Attackers at last scored a hit which, with just 1SP remaining, the Turcowaz had to accept the 'retreat' result.  This brought the unit under the eye of the Cossacks to the right rear.  The resulting combat led also to a 'retreat').  
At this point, the leading units had begun retreating from the town, using the ford beside the bridge as the road itself was too hazardous to use.  The remnants of 1st Turcowaz Division were just barely able for now to keep open the line.  
For their part, the machine gunners remained, isolated and surrounded, far from any help, within their earthworks.  Their surrender was only a matter of time, and not much more time, at that.

The east end of the town abandoned, the columns of 2nd Zeleniyan Division were now to be seen crossing the river bridge.

Of course, under such relentless pressure, losses mounting, and the exhaustion point long since passed, it was just a matter of time before losses reached the rout point. So the Turcowaz retreat became a rout.  For 7th infantry and IV Medium Artillery battalion, along with Buzbar Akeem Pasha, the 3rd Division commander, there could be no escape. General-Major  Fyodor. T. Sedanovitch accepted the surrender.
Somehow, the tangle of troops in the streets managed to flee the town betimes, and the whole corps fled south.  The battle was over.  Izumrud-Zeleniya had won, decisively.

However decisive the victory, it did not come cheaply. Twenty-two Strength Points the Zeleniya army lost during this action, so closely they pressed their attacks. Yet that was well short of the 28SP exhaustion point. The Turcowaz Army lost 26SP - brought up to 29SP when including the surrendered units and the GoC 3rd Division.

Translated into numbers,  Izumrud-Zeleniya's losses came to 5,500 killed and wounded out of an army of about 41,000. Out of 23,500, Turcowaz battle losses came to  6,500 plus a further 750 prisoners.  

So far victorious, Turcowaz failure to capitalise led to a defeat that turned the strategic situation quite upside down. Compounded with the loss of a valuable naval unit at sea, the situation was even more dire for Turcowaz than it had seemed for Izumrud-Zeleniya a week before. Bashir Ed Din Pasha would have his work cut out to refurbish his battered command. Meanwhile, Abdul Abulbul Ameer was left high and dry, his own command now outnumbered by a resolute foe. What would be his next move?

To be continued - next strategic moves...

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Kavkaz Campaign - A Turning of the Tide?

During the week long pause in Turcowaz moves, the Trebizond command had not altogether been idle. Having taken the town of Zugdidi, and placed himself between the two Izumrud-Zeleniyan columns, Bashir Ed Din Pasha had created a strategic situation very favourable to Turcowaz, but at the same time his command was vulnerably placed. Much might depend upon what Abdul Abulbul Ameer did next. For his part, though, he was none too willing to attack a corps similar in strength to his own and ensconced among a tangle of hill country beyond the Tekhuri river. His dilatoriness - at least, so said Bashir Ed Din afterwards - did much to compromise the whole campaign. 

In the night of 19-20th June, the moon just past full, Count Ignatieff stole a march upon Abdul Ameer, abandoned his camp fires still burning, and marched off to Zugdidi. The same day, the Guards Legion having debarked where the road north met the coast, joined the battered Coastal Column west of the town. General-Leytenant Kutizedoff at once ordered a reconnaissance. Making contact with Kutizedoff's command beyond the town, Ignatieff ordered a reconnaissance of his own a day later. The day after that, 22 June, the Zeleniyans commenced their attack.

Zugdidi Battle Map - from the 
topographical engineer Major I.M. Poteranskii

The broad outlines of the position and Izumrud-Zeleniya plan might be gathered from the opening pictures and Igor M. Poteranskii's sketch map. Two of the Turcowaz Divisions, with 3rd Regiment from 1st Division, had fortified the town against attack from east and west.  Two regiments of 1st Division, with the machine gun company, fortified a ridge position covering the vital road south.  They were supported by field gun battalion positioned close to the road. The cavalry not being suited to defence remained by the south road (it doesn't appear in many of the pictures, but would have served only to cover a retreat).  
West side of Zugdidi: the Zeleniyan Coastal 
Column approaches...
The defenders comprised:

Turcowaz Trebizond Command:
Commander: Bashir Ed Din Pasha = 6SP

1st Division:

1st Rifle Regiment = 3SP
2nd Rifle Rgt =2SP
3rd Rifle Rgt = 3SP
Total 1st Division = 9SP
Turcowaz: 1st Division and MGs facing east
and the Kavkaz Column

2nd Division:
4th Rifle Rgt = 3SP
5th Rifle Rgt = 3SP
6th Rifle Rgt = 3SP
Total 2nd Division: 10SP
Turcowaz: 3rd Division garrisoning Zugdidi;
2nd Division behind earthworks on the 
far side of the town.

3rd Division:
7th Rifle Rgt = 3SP
8th Rifle Rgt = 4SP
9th Rifle Rgt = 3SP
Total 3rd Division: 11SP

19th Cavalry: 2SP

Artillery/ Support Group:
I,II/1st (Field) Regiment = 3SP (2 Battalions)
III,IV/2nd (Medium) Regiment = 4SP (2 Battalions)
IX Machine-gun Company = 2SP
Total Support group: 9SP

Train: 3 units @ 2SP = 6SP (for want of table space, the trains were left off the table, and their unit and SP counts not included in the totals)

Totals Trebizond command:
19 Units, activations: 9/10/11 
47SP, Exhaustion Point -16SP, Rout Point -24SP
Note: Turcowaz had 9SP worth of defence works; 1 fortified redoubt, and 7 other field works.
This brings the SP up to 56.


Kavkaz Column on its start lines...
The attack involved the whole of the Izumrud-Zeleniyan army.

Overall Command: General-Leytenant Kutizedoff
= 6SP
Coastal Column:

1st Division: 
detached to Kavkaz Column

3rd Division: 

HQ: = 1SP
9th Infantry = 2SP
10th Infantry = 3SP
11th Infantry = 2SP
12th Infantry = 3SP
Total 3rd Division: 11SP

Guards Legion:

HQ: Count Ivan Skavinski-Skavar = 1SP
1st Guards (elite) = 4SP
2nd Guards (elite) = 4SP
50th Circassian Rifles (poor) = 4SP
9th Uhlan Light Horse (average) = 3SP
Total Guards Legion: 16SP

1st Hussars = 2SP
2nd Hussars = 1SP
3rd Hussars = 1SP
4th Hussars = 1SP
Total cavalry: 5SP

Matelot Brigade Group:
Marine Regiment = 4SP
Machine Gun Company = 1SP
Naval Artillery = 1SP
Total Matelot Brigade: 6SP

I, II/1st  Field Regiment @ 2SP = 4SP

Train: 5 units @2SP = 10SP (off table, omitted from Unit and SP count)
The Izumrud-Zeleniya Coastal Column.

Kavkaz Column: Count N.P. Ignatieff (3SP)
1st Division (attached from Coastal Column)
1st Grenadiers (elite) = 3SP
2nd Grenadiers (elite) = 2SP
3rd Grenadiers (elite) = 3SP
4th Grenadiers (elite) = 2SP
Total 1st Division: 11SP
Izumrud-Zeleniya: Grenadiers and Cossacks
make ready to attack the fortified ridge line.

2nd Division:
5th Infantry = 2SP
6th Infantry = 3SP
7th Infantry = 2SP
8th Infantry (disbanded)
Total 2nd Division: 8SP
The depleted 2nd Division threatens the 
east side of town, defended by 3rd Turcowaz 

5th Cossack = 3SP
6th Cossack = 2SP
7th Cossack = 2SP
8th Cossack = 2SP
Total Cavalry: 9SP

1st Mountain Artillery = 1SP
2nd Mountain Artillery = 2SP

4 Units @2SP = 8SP (off table; omitted from unit and SP count) 

Totals Izumrud-Zeleniya: 
36 Units, activations 17/18/19.
82SP, Exhaustion Point -28SP, Rout Point -41SP

Note that all units are 'average' unless otherwise stated.

Turcowaz: elements of 2nd and 3rd Divisions
supported by the medium artillery regiment.

This has the makings of a lengthy narrative so I thought I would leave the 'after action report' for the next Kavkaz Campaign posting.

To be continued...