The Armed Forces of South Russia

The Volunteers opened a new offensive, the 'North Caucasian Operation', on 3 January 1919. The Reds had reformed a front with the 11th and newly-raised 12th Armies. These consisted of 150,000 men, of which perhaps only half were combat-ready. Against these, Denikin pitted 25,000, including the cavalry of Wrangel, Prokovsky and Shkuro. At the end of six weeks, in which neither side gave quarter, the Reds broke, yielding 50,000 prisoners and 150 pieces of artillery. This liberated the Terek Cossacks, who sent units to the Volunteer Army and cleared the shore of the western Caspian. White cavalry harried Red survivors northeast into the steppes towards Astrakhan.

The Don Cossacks meanwhile, outnumbered two-to-one and pressed by the Red 8th, 9th and 10th Armies, had fared poorly on their northern and eastern fronts. Morale plummeted, and carefully orchestrated Bolshevik propaganda divided the population against itself: Cossack versus non-Cossack peasant or inogorodnye. The withdrawal of their German allies after the armistice additionally left their western flank uncovered at Rostov, Taganrog and in the Donbas. Further, in December 1918, the British made it clear to Krasnov that they would send aid, but to Denikin who had been able to maintain a clear pro-Allied stance.

Therefore, on 8 January, Krasnov bowed to pragmatism and began negotiations to subordinate his command under Denikin into a new organization known as the Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR). General A. Bogaevsky, a veteran of the Ice March, replaced Krasnov as Ataman of the Don Cossacks on 15 February, and General

V. Sidorin became field commander of the Don Army. Shortly after, Denikin appointed General Wrangel commander of the Caucasian Army and General Mai-Maevsky commander of the Volunteer Army.

The Reds mounted three offensives of varying strength in March, April and May, intending to pin the Don Cossacks in the centre, while crushing their left flank on the Donbas, anchored by the Volunteer Army, and their right flank on the Manych River line, held by the Caucasian Army. The Manych thrust, if successful, would veer southwest towards Rostov, also threatening Novorossisk, effectively splitting the AFSR in two.

Facing north from the White perspective, the Red armies were arranged in an east-west arch: the 14th in the west, 13th, 8th and 9th in the centre and the 10th in the east. These were believed to have a total of 150,000 men while the Whites had only 50,000 in theatre. A further 5,000 Whites were in the Crimea, 5,000 at Odessa and 10,000 were moving north from the Caucasus. A small group of 3,000 defended Russian territory against incursions by the new state of Georgia.

On the left flank, Mai-Maevsky, a former commander of the 1st Guard Corps in World War One, conducted one of the most skilful operations in military history. During these months the 6,000 troops of General A. Kutepov's 1st Corps, consisting of the elite Alexiev, Markov, Drozdovsky and Kornilov Shock Divisions, and attached cavalry, held then defeated 30,000 of the enemy.

Mai-Maevsky's position in the Donets Basin, or Donbas, lay astride an intricate opposite Lieutenant General Anton Ivanovich Denikin Inspects the Russian Tank Corps In summer 1919 as commander of the Armed Forces of South Russia. Denikin, a highly competent officer who had risen through the ranks due to merit and hard work was a political moderate. He had established a record for bravery under fine in the Russo-Japanese War and World War One and had among his medals the extremely rare St George Cross with Swords and Diamonds. Experience In World War One included command of the famous Iran Division' and the position of chief of staff to the supreme commander in 1917. (Photo, Ullstein Blld)

Cross George Tank Corps1st Astrahkan Cossack Regiment
Russian regulars observe the enemy. Don Cossacks, with red stripes down the trousers, stand to the right. (Russian painting, 1910s)

network of railways that connected key industrial towns such as Yusovka, Dehaltsevo, Gorlovka and Rostov. The Volunteers concentrated at rail junctions with supplies and slocks of munitions. A detachment of aircraft carried out reconnaissance overhead, while cavalry and infantry patrolled the ground. Wherever the Reds advanced they were met with a maximum number of Volunteers debouching from troop trains. Armoured trains, which had flanking cavalry troops for protection, offered immediate artillery support while detachments of tanks and armoured cars provided extra punch. The Reds consistently reported being attacked by 50,(XX) Whites.

The right flank of the AFSR, along the Manych River, became critical in April. The lied 10th Army held the village strongpoint of Velikoknyazheskaya in force with superior artillery. Outflanking them to the north on 1 7 May, General S. G. Ulagai's cavalry scattered six regiments of 15. M. Dumenko's Red Horse. Wrangel meanwhile massed seven cavalry divisions and with one infantry division and supporting artillery made a crude pontoon bridge and crossed the river overnight on 17/18 May, After three days of fighting Wrangel lined up the cavalry as if on parade, complete with bugles and flags, then charged, sabres drawn, conclusively breaking the Red positions and taking 15,000 prisoners. The 10th Army retreated towards Tsaritsyn.

General A R Bogaevsky commanded the Partisan Regiment (which later became the elite Alexiev Regiment) during the 'Ice March' or First Kuban Campaign. He succeeded Krasnov as ataman of the Don Cossacks in early 1919. remaining steadfast to the White cause until the final day of evacuation in November 1920. (Deryabin collection)

Don Cossacks

Meanwhile, the northern stanitsas (village communities) of the Don Cossacks, which had been under Bolshevik occupation, had risen again in April. By May, 30,000 Cossacks were in the field behind the lied lines. Denikin now ordered a general advance. Sidorin's Don Cossacks broke through the 8th and 9th Armies, covering 220 kilometres in four days to unite with the rebels in early June and herding the 8th Army towards Voronezh. Mai-Macvsky, reinforced by Shkuro's cavalry, smashed into the 14th Army, moving west to Melitopol while pushing back the 13th Army. The Crimean Whites, General N. Shilling's 3rd Corps, secured the entrances to the peninsula and entered the Tauride, positioning on the lower Dnieper River. The North Caucasian Detachment moved towards Astrakhan while Wrangel advanced towards Tsaritsyn. Also faced with mounting partisan activity in the Ukraine, the entire lied front recoiled.

On the left flank, the AFSR advanced 300 kilometres in June. The 1st Corps, in conjunction with General Toporkov's Terek Cossack Division, captured Kharkov on the 27th after five days' fighting. Simultaneously, Shkuro routed Makhno's partisans who had temporarily joined the 14th Army (previously the 2nd Ukrainian) and took Ekaterinoslav (modern Dnepropetrovsk) on the 29th.

Wrangel's first attempt on Tsaritsyn halted in mid-June against the barbed wire and trench defences of the city. After requesting and receiving detachments of aircraft, tanks and armoured cars, he moved against the city on the Volga on the 29th. The tanks, commanded by British personnel, ripped through the barbed wire, White armoured cars and infantry following and exploiting the breaches, turning the trench lines, while the cavalry dashed through to overrun the city. The Caucasian Army broke the 'Red Verdun' on the 30th. The rich haul included nearly 2,100 (rain wagons loaded with stores and munitions and, counting the 40-day march up to Tsaritsyn itself, 40,000 prisoners.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment