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batteries, which had been brought back from the front for the purpose, opened fire upon the Turks' position, and the ambushers were compelled to capitulate. The progress on the left was even more difficult than that which we experienced in the northern sector. The roads were indescribable. Where they mounted and crossed the intervening ridges they were almost impassable, whilst in the valleys the gun carriages sank up to their axles in liquid mud.”
From still another source we hear:
"In the Van sector a Russian brigade was held up by a forest fire, started by the Turks, which made all progress impossible. For days a brigade had to sit idle until the fire had burned itself out, and even when they moved forward it was necessary to cover all the munition wagons with wet blankets, and the ashes through which the stolid Russians marched were so hot as to burn away the soles of their boots.
“A curious discovery which was made in this extraordinary march was the remains of a Turkish company which had evidently been caught in the fire they had started and had been unable to escape."
On May 1, 1916, Russian Cossacks were able to drive back Turkish troops, making a stand somewhere west of Erzerum and east of Erzingan. Other detachments of the same service of the Russian army were equally successful on May 2, 1916, in driving back toward Diarbekr resisting Turkish forces west of Mush and Bitlis, and a similar achievement was officially reported on May 3, 1916. On the same date Russian regiments made a successful night attack in the upper Chorok basin which netted some important Turkish positions, which were immediately strongly fortified. May 4, 1916, brought a counterattack on the part of Turkish forces in the Chorok sector at the town of Baiburt, which, however, was repulsed. On the same day the Russians stormed Turkish trenches along the Erzerum-Erzingan road, during which engagement most savage bayonet fighting developed, ending in success for the Russian armies. Turkish attacks sest of Bitlis were likewise repulsed. On May 5, 1916, the Turks attempted to regain the trenches in the Erzingan sector lost the
T-War St. 5
day before, but although their attack was supported by artillery, it was not successful.
The Russian official statement of May 7, 1916, gives some data concerning the booty which the Russians captured at Trebizond. It consisted of eight mounted coast defense guns, fourteen 6-inch guns, one field gun, more than 100 rifles, fifty-three ammunition wagons, supply trains and other war material. This, taken in connection with the fact that practically the entire Turkish garrison escaped, confirms the view expressed previously that the capture of Trebizond was of great importance to the Russians, not so much on account of what they themselves gained thereby, but on account of what the Turks lost by being deprived of their principal harbor on the Black Sea, comparatively close to the Caucasian theater of war.
The Turkish artillery attack of May 5, 1916, in the Erzingan sector was duplicated on May 7, 1916, but this time the Russians used their guns, and apparently with telling effect. For so devastating was the Russian fire directed toward the newly established Turkish trenches that the Turks had to evacuate their entire first line and retire to their second line of defensive works. Throughout the entire day on May 8, 1916, the Turks doggedly attacked the Russian positions. Losses on both sides were heavy, especially so on the Turkish side, which hurled attack after attack against the Russian positions, not desisting until nightfall. Though no positive gain was made thereby, the Russians at least were prevented from further advances. The same day, May 8, 1916, yielded another success for the Russians in the southern sector, south of Mush. There, between that town and Bitlis, stretches one of the numerous mountain ranges, with which this region abounds. On it the Turks held naturally strong positions which had been still more strengthened by means of artificial defense works. A concentrated Russian attack, prepared and supported by artillery fire, drove the Turks not only from these positions, but out of the mountain range.
On May 9, 1916, engagements took place along the entire front. In the center fighting occurred near Mount Koph, in the Chorok basin southeast of Baiburt, and the Turks made some 300 prisoners. Farther south a Turkish attack near Mama Khatun was stopped by Russian fire. In the south another Turkish attack in the neighborhood of Kirvaz, about twenty-five miles northwest of Mush, forced back a Russian detachment after capturing some fifty men. All this time the Russians were industriously building fortifications along the Black Sea coast both east and west of Trebizond. During the night of May 9, 1916, the Turks made a successful surprise attack against a Russian camp near Baschkjoej, about thirty-five miles southeast of Mama Khatun. There a Russian detachment consisting of about 500 men, of which one-half was cavalry and one-half infantry, found themselves suddenly surrounded by the bayonets of a superior Turkish force. All, except a small number who managed to escape, were cut to pieces.
As the Russians succeeded in pushing their advance westward, even if only very slowly, they became again somewhat more active in the north along the Black Sea. On May 10, 1916, they were reported advancing both south and southwest of Platana, a small seaport about twelve miles west of Trebizond. Throughout May 11, 1916, engagements of lesser importance took place at various parts of the entire front. During that night the Turks launched another strong night attack in the Erzingan sector, without, however, being able to register any marked success. The same was true of an attack made May 12, 1916, near Mama Khatun. In the south, between Mush and Bitlis, an engagement which was begun on May 10, 1916, concluded with the loss of one Turkish gun, 2,000 rifles and considerable stores of ammunition. In the Chorok sector the Turks succeeded on May 13, 1916, in driving the Russian troops out of their positions on Mount Koph and in forcing them back in an easterly direction for a distance of from four to five miles. There, however, the Russians succeeded in making a stand, though their attempt to regain their positions failed. May 14, 1916, was comparatively uneventful. Some Russian reconnoitering parties clashed with Turkish advance guards near Mama Khatun, and a small force of Kurds was repulsed west of Bitlis. On May 16, 1916, the Russians announced officially that they had occupied Mama Khatun, a small town on the western Euphrates, about fifty miles west of Erzerum and approximately the same distance from Erzingan. Throughout the balance of May, 1916, fighting along the Caucasian front was restricted almost entirely to clashes between outposts, which in some instances brought slight local successes to the Russian arms, and at other times yielded equally unimportant gains for the Turkish sides. To a certain extent this slowing down undoubtedly was due to the determined resistance on the part of the Turks. It is also quite likely that part of the Russian forces in the north had been diverted earlier in the month to the south in order to assist in the drive against Bagdad and Moone, which was pushed with increased vigor just previous to and right after the capitulation of the Anglo-Indian forces at Kut-el-Amara in Mesopotamia.
PART VII--CAMPAIGN IN MESOPOTAMIA
RENEWED ATTEMPT TO RELIEVE
S far as the Turko-English struggle in the Tigris Valley is
concerned, the preceding volume carried us to the beginning of March, 1916. On March 8, 1916, an official English communiqué was published which raised high hopes among the Allied nations that the day of delivery for General Townshend's force was rapidly approaching. That day was the ninety-first day of the memorable siege of Kut-el-Amara. On it the English relief force under General Aylmer had reached the second Turkish line at Es-Sinn, only eight miles from Kut-el-Amara. After an all night march the English forces, approaching in three columns against the Dujailar Redoubt, attacked immediately after daybreak. Both flanks of the Turkish line were subjected to heavy artillery fire. But, although this resulted quickly in a wild stampede of horses, camels and other transport animals and also inflicted heavy losses in the ranks of the Turkish reenforcements, which immediately came up in close order across the open ground in back of the Turkish position, the English troops could not make any decisive impression on the strongly fortified position. Throughout the entire day, March 8, 1916, the attacks were kept up, but the superior Turkish forces and the strong fortifications that had been thrown up would not yield. Lack of water-all of which had to be brought up from the main camp—made it impossible for the English troops to maintain these attacks be