« EdellinenJatka »
affording passage to an army of 120,000 men, and of keeping up the supplies of such a force, with siege-trains sufficient to reduce several great fortresses, is no easy undertaking. In winter the ice renders it impossible, for supposing the river to be frozen, which sometimes happens, it would be perilous in the extreme to place an army on the right bank without a certainty of communication with its base. Below Rustchuk there is only a single spot, at the mouth of the Dembowicza, opposite Turtukai, where the shore is firm and dry though flat; but Count Moltke affirms that even here it would have been utterly impossible to collect the materials for building a bridge 1,000 paces long. For these reasons the Russians crossed the Danube in 1809 at Galatz, and in 1828 at Satunovo, both places near the mouth of the river, in boats and pontoons. It must be borne in mind that in the campaigns of 1828 and 1829 the Black Sea was the real base of Russian operations. The Russian invasion of that period, said Colonel Mansfield, was a naval one. The main struggle lay in the active proceedings of Admiral Greig’s fleet, which victualled the army, ferried over stores, siege trains, and detachments, and even seized an important point, Sizepoli, on the coast. This resource might entirely fail the Russians at the present time, and if the Turkish gunboats were masters of the river, it might not be easy to keep open the vital communications of the army. Count Moltke says, after relating the campaign of 1828, that “if a Russian army were to cross the Danube at · Hirsova with a real effective force of 120,000 men, to invest 6 Silistria with 20,000, Varna with a like number, and to place * 30,000 men in observation before Schumla, it is not altogether ' impossible that the remaining 50,000 men, based upon the sea'ports of the Black Sea, might at once cross the Balkan.' This is cold comfort from the first strategist in Europe, especially when the Black Sea is commanded by the enemy. But that is in fact what the occupation of Bulgaria' means.
It is possible that the Russians, who have always hitherto attacked Bulgaria from the Lower Danube, with indifferent success, might conceive a different plan of operations, and begin their attack at the north-west corner of the Turkish empire, taking Servia as their base. The river Danube forms the boundary between Roumania and the Servian territory for about twenty-five or thirty miles below the Austrian frontier, and within this space, at Glabowa, there are still some remains of a bridge which Trajan threw across the river. Possibly forces might here attempt a passage. But such a plan of operations is open to grave objections. The eastern districts of Hungary and Transylvania form a huge angle jutting out and covering Little Wallachia, in such wise that a Russian army operating there is absolutely at the mercy of the AustroHungarian forces. The Emperor Nicholas placed his army there in 1854, with no good result, and on consulting Prince Paskiewitsch, that experiened general told the Czar that the first thing that he had to do was to withdraw his forces from the west and take Silistria, if he could, before the 1st of May, which he failed to accomplish.
An army operating on the Seryian frontier would find itself under the guns of Widin, and must first attempt the reduction of that important fortress. No doubt the road skirting the western ridge of the Balkan is comparatively easy, and leads by Sofia to Philippopolis and Adrianople; but to advance leaving the main strength of the Turks in possession of its fortresses, threatening the left flank of the army, would be to violate all the rules of war.
In 1828 the following observations were addressed by a foreign officer of distinction to Khossens Pasha, then chief military adviser of the Sultan. They were afterwards communicated by Prince Esterhazy to the Duke of Wellington, and have the honour to be included in the · Wellington De
spatches; '* but as it is probable that few of our readers have read them with the attention they deserve, we shall cite them in this place, as they are extremely applicable (except in one particular, the operations in Wallachia) to any invasion of Bulgaria by a Russian army.
The success of your defence depends in the first place on the measures taken to hold Schumla, and on the direction of the troops collected at Widin. These two points will check the war on the Danube, and will expose the enemy to greater losses if he advances on Roumelia. The object is not to gain battles, but to threaten the Russian lines of communication. All the fortresses of the Danube, so long as they are not closely invested, must observe the same system. If the enemy approaches Roumelia, it becomes the more necessary that the army of Widin, which cannot be too strong, should descend the Danube. It is not necessary, and it would be dangerous, to seek out the enemy. You will cut his main artery, if you cut his communications with the Danube. If the Pasha of Widin succeeds in getting between him in Wallachia or at Rustchuk, the game is yours. Great mobility in the forces at Widin, and complete immobility in the forces at Schumla, are your two grand principles. If you can collect 50,000 men, even though three-quarters of them are bad troops, in the position of Schumla, it will take two months before they can be driven out by hunger or the bayonet. As long as you are there, the enemy must also be there, or
* New Series, vol. v. p. 357.
he may leave a portion of his army to invest the place and advance with the rest. If he leaves a small force behind him, you can beat it and cut off his communications; if he leaves a large force, what remains will not suffice for a decisive advance. In any case, a part is less than the whole. If you leave Schumla, you bring down the whole after you; if you remain there, you have to face but a part. As long as you are at Schumla, there is no danger for Constantinople. If the Russians advance on Adrianople, it is an additional reason for you to remain at Schumla. They will take Adrianople or not; in the former case, they must hold it with a great part of their forces; in the latter, they have lost the game, for they cannot leave Adrianople in their rear. In either case Constantinople is safe. But if at last you are compelled to evacuate Schumla, what should be your line of retreat ? withdraw upon Constantinople, the main body of the enemy will follow you; you will concentrate his attack, instead of dividing it. If you throw yourselves into the valley of the Maritza, half the Russian. army must follow you, and the other half will not be strong enough to march on the capital. Meanwhile, the fall of the year will come on, and the Russians will have to retreat. To fight no battle against the advance of the enemy—to divide his forces—to harass him without ceasing-to stick close to the Danube- to bring all the strength you can to bear on his rear—these are your principles. The climate, hardships, and sickness will have consumed half his army before the end of the campaign. Do not be afraid of the naval operations of the Russians. A Russian squadron in the Black Sea is much too precarious an instrument to serve as a base for operations by land. Constantinople cannot be attacked, even though it be ill defended, with less than 100,000 men; and it is absolutely impossible to enable 100,000 men to subsist for four weeks before Constantinople on the magazines of Wallachia and Moldavia.'
By adhering to these sound principles, as the Duke of Wellington declared, the Turks did succeed in beating off the Russian attack in 1828 ; and in 1829, a little more resolution and activity on their part might (to use the words of Count Moltke) have hurled Diebitsch from the summit of victory and success to the lowest depths of ruin and destruction.'
To these remarks we will only add one short passage from Count Moltke himself:
Sultan Mahmoud, in the years 1834 and 1836, rebuilt Varna, the most important fortress of his empire, according to a plan in favour of which there is not much to be said. Schumla, which has lost nothing of its strategical importance, has been materially strengthened by the stone forts of Strandscha, Tchally, Veddaï, and Tchengel, as well as by the erection of large massive barracks, hospitals, and storehouses. Pravadi may be temporarily fortified with very slender means [this is now also a strong place], and these three places will in future be able to arrest the progress of an army of 50,000 or 60,000 men for months beneath their walls. In 1828–9 the passes of the Balkan
mountains were not defended at all. Were the Porte to establish military colonies of Ottoman race on the plains of Aidos and Karnabat, the Balkan would unquestionably become a very formidable barrier.'
This last suggestion of the great Prussian strategist has been acted upon, to some extent, by establishing the Circassians, who were driven out of their native land by Russia, on lands south of the Balkan range.
Of the possibility of an attack on Constantinople itself, little need at present be said, for it is wholly unnecessary. In order to invest Constantinople, says Moltke, it would be necessary to have two armies in Europe, one in Asia, and a fleet in the Sea of Marmora. Such an undertaking is one of the greatest operations of war, and would require preparations both by land and sea of enormous magnitude. The defence of the city is, on the contrary, comparatively an easy task-indeed, if held by a maritime Power, with the assent of the existing Government of the place, it is impregnable.
We have entered into these military details, in which we have merely adopted the views of the Duke of Wellington, Count Moltke, and Lord Sandhurst, not because we believe war to be inevitable-still less because we desire that it should take place. We are, on the contrary, persuaded that the use of armed force for the purpose of effecting some amelioration in the condition of the Christian subjects of the Porte is an expedient of the most dangerous nature, which would probably lead to what the Duke of Wellington justly called “ portentous
consequences.' Our object has been to show, as a matter of fact, that the Turks have one of the strongest military positions in the world, and that they are probably better prepared than ever they were before, to defend it. The occupation of
Bulgaria’ is therefore not the simple affair which some people in this country have supposed. It involves the continuous passage of a difficult river, the reduction of four or five great fortresses, and the defeat of a very considerable army. It is possible that if Russia employs all the resources of her vast empire in such an operation, she will in the end exhaust the resources of the Ottoman Empire and defeat it. But this would probably require two or even three campaigns not less onerous to Russia herself than to Turkey; and what Russia wants is a speedy and decisive triumph. That is highly improbable in a war of positions against a Turkish army.
Even if the invasion were successful and the resistance less protracted, the mere occupation of the country would require the presence of a very large army; and all this must be accomplished, and the country itself ruined by war, before the beneficial results of a Russianised administration of these provinces could so much as begin. It is all very well for Indian civil servants or English travellers to devise philanthropic schemes for the government of Turkey. We heartily wish they had the power to apply them, and we do not question their success. But they have not the power. Russia alone might have the power. Russia alone could occupy the country, if it is to be occupied. Russia would establish there, not a British but a Russian administration. Where Turkey ends, Russia begins. And again we say, who is to bear the expense of such operations as these? What is Russia herself, who must take the chief part in them and bear the chief burden, to gain by such an enterprise ?
We cordially sympathise with the Bulgarians; we wish them well, and we are glad to learn that there is an intelligent, industrious people springing up in that country. The whole influence of the British Government at the Porte ought to be used to assist and protect them, and as long as we are on friendly terms with the Porte that influence is great, because it is disinterested. But we presume that the British taxpayer is not to be called on to pay a farthing more because the Bulgarians are an interesting and oppressed people, still less that the British nation is to go to war to avenge
and redress their grievances.
The value of these facts is that they are great dissuasives from war, and we are happy to perceive indications that they are not without their effect on the Russian Government. If, indeed, it could have persuaded Austria to join the attack by occupying Bosnia, or England by forcing the Dardanelles, breaking a European treaty, and perhaps destroying the Turkish fleet, the work would have been half done. But for warlike purposes she has met with no support in Europe; on the contrary, the attitude of all the Powers is uncertain, of some adverse; and their opposition would probably increase in proportion to her success. If the Turks repelled the attack, well and good ; if not, more than one hand might be put forth to snatch from her the fruits of victory. Moved by these considerations, the Russian ambassador at Constantinople has shown great moderation in the Conference, and a desire to cooperate with England in obtaining improved conditions for the Christian population, to which we cordially respond as long as the means of promoting these laudable objects are confined within the limits of
Let us by all means obtain for the Christians all that it is reasonable for us to ask and for the Porte to grant; let us, above all, insist on the faithful obser