« FöregåendeFortsätt »
them the following days, during the battles which ensued,to furnish supplies, and relieve the wounded. For Diebitsch persisted in his old tactics, pushing the attack without any change of plan on the 18th and 20th of February. During those two days, the Poles maintained their position unyieldingly, in spite of the enormously disproportioned forces, which Diebitsch brought to bear upon their whole line. It was a mere wanton sacrifice of lives, without any definite end or aim.
In fact, for ten days past, the two armies had been continually engaged in a succession of sanguinary battles, with 40,000 Poles only against 100,000 Russians, where the result had been uniformly the same in every case. The Russians attacked the Polish position every day, and were every day repulsed; it thus appearing how much may be effected by a handful of men excited by some strong moral inducement, when they differ from their antagonists neither in discipline, physical force, nor in any other respect, but only the mighty stimulus of a good and a glorious cause. Had the Poles been directed by some great master of the art of war, like Napoleon, had the defensible points of the country been suitably prepared by the requisite fortifications, - the loss of ihe Russians, great as it already was, would have been incalculably greater. But neither Chlopicki nor Radziwill, although both honorable and patriotic men, were fully equal to the emergency; and therefore much of the success of the Poles was owing to the unconcerted dispositions of the several generals of division, who, as it often happened in the engagements along the line, each fought his own battle. It needed only a master mind to combine the Polish forces, and to give direction to the intense patriotism which animated officers and privates alike, to have doubled or trebled the injury sustained by the Russians.
For three days, from the 21st to the 23rd of February inclusive, the Russians remained inactive, awaiting the arrival of a new corps of 20,000 men under Szachoffskoi. They were occupied by the Poles in a manner as remarkable as the struggle itself in which they were engaged. The people assembled in the churches to offer up prayers for the welfare of their country, while the army was employed on the same way on the field of battle, the first line remaining in position, while the rest of the troops were engaged in devotional esercises. “At each collection of troops, the ministers of religion administered patriotic oaths, and by their addresses animated the soldiers to perseverance in the holy struggle.
The sacred ceremonies were followed by hymns, which were sung along the whole line, mingled with the solemn sounds of the bells of Warsaw tolling for the assembly of the people in the churches. These exercises ended in the general shout of Poland forever!' Before commencing hostilities, Marshal Diebitsch sent General Witt with a flag of truce, to propose submission. Witt was stopped at the Polish outposts, where General Krukowiecki went to meet him in behalf of the Poles,and told him that negociations must be entered into, if at all, on the banks of Dnieper, the ancient and the only true frontier of Poland.
The brief respite enjoyed by the hostile armies was but preparatory to a desperate conflict on the 25th. Indeed, on the 24th, a battle was fought at Bialolenka, of the same description with those which had. preceded it. But the celebrated battle of Grokow, on the 25th, deserves, from its desperation and its importance, to be more particularly described. The entire forces on each side were engaged in this combat. The Russians had in the field eight divisions, consisting of 126,
BATTLE OF GROKOW.
000 infantry, 42,000 cavalry, and 280 pieces of cannon, with three divisions of reserve, composed of 16,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and 32 pieces of cannon, covering altogether a line of three miles in length. To oppose this mighty host, the little army of the Poles was posted as follows. A great road proceeds from Praga westward to Milosna and Minsk. To the right of this road, on leaving Praga, are the marshes of Goclaw adjoining the Vistula; to the left is a small forest of alders, beyond which is the village of Kawenzyn. Near the road, in the rear of the line of operations, is the village of Grokow, where the Polish head quarters were stationed. There is an obelisk of iron on the same line, placed on the road to commemorate its construction. The Polish right wing under Szembek, consisting of 7,000 infantry with 24 field pieces, occupied the space between the road and the marshes. The centre, occupying the forest of alders, comprised two divisions of 15,000 infantry and 60 pieces of cannon, under the command of Skrzynecki and Zymirski. The left wing, under Krukowiecki, occupied Kawenzyn, with 6,500 men and 12 field pieces. Four divisions of cavalry, consisting of 9,500 men, under Uminski, Lubinski, Skarzynski, and Jankowski, stood ready to be employed wherever necessity might require, without being posted at any fixed station; and there was a small reserve of 5,400 men in charge of Pac.
Such being the numbers and disposition of the two armies, tbe battle commenced with a furious charge of the Russian right wing upon the Poles at Kawenzyn, which the latter steadily sustained without yielding an inch, until at length the Russians suspended their efforts on that point, to renew them elsewhere. Forming a battery of two hundred pieces of artillery, which opened a
the Balkan, Zabalkanski. If the Poles had assumed the offensive at the first moment of the Revolution, they might have carried on the war in the territory of Russia, or at least in the Polish provinces of the Empire, where the diffusion of the revolutionary movement could have been promoted, at the same time that the war made progress. By acting on the defensive, the Poles suffered the to be brought home into their own territory, and to the very neighborhood of Warsaw. This was found to be the inevitable necessity of the crisis; and Prince Radziwill made his preparations accordingly. We have seen what number of troops the Dictator had proposed to raise. Owing to his want of heartiness in effecting the levies, the Poles saw the vast armies of their enemy approaching before things were in a ripe state for the struggle. At the beginning of the campaign, which was about to open, they mustered the following troops. The whole infantry consisted of 32,600 men, in four nearly equal divisions, commanded by Generals Krukowiecki, Zymirski, Skrzynecki, and Szembek. The cavalry amounted to 13,200 men.
Generals Uminski, Stryinski, Lubinski, and Pac commanded each a division of cavalry; and four squadrons were attached to a corps commanded by General Dwernicki. It was with these comparatively insignificant forces, of 45,800 men and 96 pieces of cannon, that the Poles took the field, against a force of more than 111,000 men and 396 pieces of artillery; many of the Poles, also, being new recruits under new officers, while the Russians were veteran troops commanded by men, who had grown grey in victory.
The Polish troops left Warsaw towards the end of January, it having been decided to concentrate them at points in the line of march of the
BATTLE OF GROKOV.
the whole engagement in command of a battery of artillery, continued to hold in check the advancing Russians, until the last moment, when about forty squadrons of Russian cavalry were seen moving forward to the charge, followed by infantry and artillery. Pientka then retreated to the main body of the Poles. At this moment General Chlopicki, who as the adviser of Prince Radziwill was in effect the head of the army, wounded by a grenade; but Skrzynecki and Czyzewski had already formed their squares and were prepared to receive the Russians. As the Russian cavalry advanced upon the trot, a discharge of rockets was poured into their ranks, which, united with the steady fire of the Polish squares, rendered the horses ungovernable, and threw the whole mass of cavalry into confusion. In a short time, the Russian squadrons were completely cut up, so completely,indeed, that one regiment of cuirassiers was destroyed to a man; and the wrecks of the routed cavalry, being closely pursued by the Polish lancers, and driven back on the columns of Russian infantry, carried the latter along with them in their flight, and compelled a general retreat of the forces, leaving the field to the Poles. After the close of the day, however, the Poles were fain to withdraw their forces into Warsaw, although Diebitsch had neither inclination nor power to attempt crossing the Vistula himself. The Poles lost but 5000 men, the Russians more than 10,000; and if the Poles had possessed a leader of sufficient boldness and skill to follow up the victory, the consequences might have been utterly fatal to Diebitsch.
A short period of inaction followed the bloody day of Grokow. The Russians as well as the Poles had suffered too much in the battle to resume offensive operations immediately. In fact,