The conflicts of the nineteenth century did much to create the modern world. Following the defeat of the First Empire of the French, most of Europe was in perpetual turmoil and became the stage for many small wars. The turn of the twentieth century brought even greater catastrophes, since the century that had just passed had sown the seeds of global warfare. From 1820 the people of continental Europe—from the Atlantic coasts to the Middle East—were embroiled in struggles which were both national conflicts and rebellions. This was a time when the nations we know today came into being within regions which had previously been held in thrall for generations by declining empires. Additionally, the age of colonialism saw continental European armies fighting across world. This unique Leonaur three volume set focuses, in chronological order, on the battles which were fought during this turbulent era. Beginning after the fall of Napoleon, and excluding, in the main, the conflicts of the British Empire, these narratives cover the most notable and interesting actions which involved continental European armies. Turkish and North African conflicts are also included. Each book is profusely illustrated with maps and black and white illustrations and the set is wonderful resource of information on largely forgotten wars that is suitable for all students of military history. This concluding volume includes thirteen accounts including, Carthegena, Plevna, Geok Tepe, Agordat and the Greco-Turkish War of the late 19th century.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
From every mud-bank and barricade blazed out a fire of musketry. Round the stormers there sprang up a surging mass of fierce swordsmen, maddened at the slaughter of their wives and children, desperate with the thought that all that was left for them was to sell their lives dearly. The women mingled in the mêlée. Some fought with sticks; others poured boiling water on the stormers. The Russians had expected that once the rampart was passed there would be a panic among the defenders. But at the sight of the new obstacles before them, and outnumbered twenty to one by men who, when it came to cold steel, were at least their equals, the stormers felt that the game was up, and they were forced back into the ditch.
Out poured the Turkomans after them, and drove them back upon their guns. They followed up their retreating foes. One chief was literally blown to pieces as he charged up to the very muzzle of the Russian cannon. Others were shot down well to the rear of the batteries. For a moment, it looked as if the Russian guns would remain in the hands of the Tekkes. If the cavalry had been at hand they might have charged into the confused mass, but they were away to the east and south, and knew nothing of the danger of their comrades. Luckily for the Russians, the Tekkes after the first dash at the guns drew hack into the fortress. Darkness came on quickly, and brought the day’s fight to an end.
The Russians passed the night in momentary expectation of an attack. The cavalry came in soon after dark, and happily were recognised as friends. There were no fires lighted, though the night was cold, and it was difficult to collect the wounded. Nearly 500 men were missing, and so hopeless did the situation appear to Lomakine that he ordered the retreat to begin at dawn. Some of his officers in vain urged that he should at least stand his ground and offer the Turkomans battle, trusting to his rapid-firing rifles and his artillery to secure victory. But he had thoroughly lost heart.
But on the Turkoman side there was equal depression. Far from being elated at their unexpected victory, the Tekkes were terrified at the destruction caused by the Russian shells. They had lost more than 4,000 men. women, and children, chiefly by the bombardment, and they fully expected that it would begin again at sunrise. All night the women wailed their dead, and did what little they could for the hundreds who were dying. As for the men, who had fought with such desperate courage, they chose delegates to go out next morning and throw themselves on the mercy of the terrible soldier whose murderous guns had wrought such havoc. At sunrise, the envoys went forth, but stopped and turned back when they saw the Russian columns already in full retreat to the westward.
At 3 a.m. the Russians had broken up their camp and begun their march, keeping near the mountain-wall to secure their left flank, while the cavalry moved on their right. For a week, they marched thus along the oasis, the Turkomans harassing their rear and picking up the exhausted camels and pack-horses they abandoned. At last it was ordered that these should not be left alive to the enemy, and as cartridges were running short the wretched animals were stabbed to death with bayonets. Daily the wounded and sick soldiers were dying. The heat was tropical, supplies were short, and the streams near the hills often gave only a scanty supply of water.
The Turkoman guides and camp-followers deserted, and to add to the alarm of the fugitives, news arrived that the Khan of Merv was hurrying up to join the pursuit with 6,000 horse and a battery of artillery. Not till the pass through the Kopet Dagh was reached did Lomakine feel safe. The expedition then straggled back to the Caspian, the Tekke horsemen riding up to the very gates of Fort Tchat, and raiding across the desert till they were all but in sight of Krasnovodsk. In thirty years of Asiatic warfare Russia had known no such disaster. Kauffman sent word from Tashkent that if it were not avenged he could not count on peace even in his distant province.
The man chosen to retrieve the fallen prestige of the Russian arms was General Skobeleff. He had the reputation of being the most dashing soldier in the armies of the Czar. Born in 1845, he had distinguished himself in Poland, in the Caucasus, and in Central Asia, and he was a general at thirty, when those who had passed through the military school with him were mostly still captains. In the Turkish war, he had gained new laurels, especially by his reckless valour in the assaults on Plevna. The army heard with exultation that he was to command the next expedition against Geok Tepe, but there were some who shook their heads and expressed the opinion that Skobeleff was likely to be imprudently daring in his conduct of the enterprise—that he would try to conquer the Tekkes by one fierce rush, and there would be another disaster.
Those who spoke thus showed how little they knew the man. Reckless as to his own personal safety, he was one of the most careful and painstaking of soldiers in all that concerned the preparation for the military operations entrusted to his command. He neglected no detail. He laid far-reaching plans, and thoroughly realised the truth of the important fact that battles are won quite as much by the previous organisation of the campaign as by the actual fighting. He studied the causes of the failures of his predecessor; and not Russia, but Europe also, was surprised at seeing this soldier, who was supposed to be all eagerness for the actual conflict, spend a full twelvemonth in preparing for his conquest of the Akhal Oasis.