Troubles. 1919 year. 100 years ago, in August 1919, the August counteroffensive of the Southern Front began. The Red Army tried to defeat the main grouping of Denikin's army and liberate the lower reaches of the Don. The main attack from the areas north of Novokhopyorsk and Kamyshin in the general direction to Rostov-on-Don was delivered by the Special group of Shorin, an auxiliary strike from the Liski area to Kupyansk was delivered by the Selivachev strike group.
"Red" armored train named after Lenin in Donbass. 1919 year
The situation at the front
By early July 1919, the White Guard Armed Forces of the South of Russia, led by Denikin, inflicted a heavy defeat on the Red Southern Front. The Whites captured most of the Donetsk basin, Crimea, Kharkov, Don region and Tsaritsyn, developed an offensive further north and in Little Russia. On July 3, 1919, Denikin issued a Moscow directive, where the ultimate goal was the capture of Moscow. Wrangel's Caucasian army advanced in the Saratov direction; Sidorin's Don army - to strike in the Voronezh direction; The volunteer army of May-Mayevsky is in the Kursk direction, and part of the forces is to the west.
However, in July 1919, the White Army was unable to achieve noticeable success. This was due to a number of factors. Military historians note the weak mobilization potential of the AFSR, the relatively small number of whites who had to control a huge region, extended communications and an extended front; dispersal of forces when the White Guards advanced in three directions; disagreements within the white command - Denikin, Wrangel and the command of the Don army had their own vision of the development of the offensive; the Bolsheviks still controlled the most populated and industrially developed provinces of the center of Russia, were able to mobilize countries to repulse the Whites - "All to fight Denikin!"; The Reds were able to quickly restore the combat capability of the Southern Front by emergency measures, transferred reinforcements from central Russia and the Eastern Front, where Kolchak's army suffered a heavy defeat and no longer posed a great threat.
On July 15, the Southern Front under the command of Yegoriev consisted of about 160 thousand bayonets and sabers, 541 guns, then its number was increased to 180 thousand people and about 900 guns. In addition, tens of thousands of fighters were in the fortified areas and spare parts. The white armies of the AFSR numbered about 115 - 120 thousand bangs and 300 - 350 guns.
The White Army did not have enough forces and means to develop the first success. The first enthusiasm began to fade, numerous internal contradictions and disagreements began to emerge. The resistance of the Red Army increased significantly, hopes for the internal weakness of the Bolshevik regime and the final collapse of the Red Southern Front did not materialize. The Bolsheviks and Red commanders quickly learned, won over to their side many tsarist generals and officers. The Red Army became a real regular army, continuing the traditions of the Russian army.
Therefore, in July, the pace of the offensive of Denikin's army dropped significantly. From the middle of July, the Red Southern Front tried to counterattack. These attempts were unsuccessful, but stopped the Denikin's offensive. On July 28, Wrangel's Caucasian army took Kamyshin and advanced further north. The Don army of Sidorin not only could not advance, but in the course of stubborn battles, which went on with varying success, was pushed back, lost Liski and Balashov, and retreated beyond the Don. As a result, the attempts of the offensive of the Caucasian and Don armies bogged down.
Only in the west, in Little Russia, did the whites achieve noticeable successes. On July 31, the Whites took Poltava, in the southwest - defeated the Reds in Northern Tavria and west of Yekaterinoslav. Continuing the offensive, White on August 11 reached the line Gadyach - Kremenchug - Znamenka - Elizavetgrad. Having discovered a rather low combat capability of the Western troops of the Southern Front (12th and 14th Red Armies), Denikin adjusted his strategy. Without canceling the previous tasks of the Moscow directive, a new directive was issued on August 12. Denikin ordered the May-Mayevsky Volunteer Army to hold the Znamenka area, and the 3rd Army Corps of General Schilling, with the support of the White Black Sea Fleet, to capture Kherson, Nikolaev and Odessa. A group of Bredov is being formed to attack Kiev. The success of the offensive to the west made it possible to create a common anti-Bolshevik front with Poland. On August 18, Denikin's army broke through the red front in Novorossiya. The 12th Red Army was utterly defeated. On August 23 - 24, White took Odessa, on August 31 - Kiev.
Volunteers entering the taken city. Source:
Preparation of a counteroffensive of the Southern Front
In early August 1919, the Reds stopped the White Army's offensive to the north. After that, the Red Army began to prepare a counteroffensive. At first, the commander-in-chief Vatsetis proposed to deliver the main blow in the Kharkov direction with the forces of the 14th, 13th and 8th armies. An auxiliary strike between the Volga and Don was to be inflicted by the 9th and 10th armies. Trotsky supported Vatsetis's position. The commander of the Southern Front, Vladimir Yegoriev (a former tsarist general), proposed to deliver the main blow from the Novokhopyorsk-Kamyshin area in the direction of the lower Khoper and the lower Don. And in the Kharkiv direction, only to conduct the defense.
The new commander-in-chief Kamenev, who replaced Vatsetis, proposed to deliver the main blow on the left flank of the Southern Front in the direction of the lower reaches of the Don. This decision was associated with the location of the troops, for an attack on Kharkov it was necessary to carry out an additional regrouping of forces. This plan was approved by the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, despite Trotsky's objections.
Thus, the general concept of the operation was to advance the troops of the left flank of the Southern Front from the area north of Novokhopyorsk and Kamyshin to Novocherkassk and Rostov-on-Don. For this, on July 23 in the Don direction, a Special Group was formed under the leadership of Shorin. Vasily Shorin was an experienced commander - a former colonel of the tsarist army, commander of the 2nd army on the Eastern Front by the Northern Group of the Eastern Front, supervised the Perm and Yekaterinburg operations to defeat the Kolchakites. His group included the 9th and 10th armies, the cavalry corps of Budyonny, the Penza, Saratov and Tambov fortified areas, reserve units, from August 12 - the Volga-Caspian flotilla. Shorin's special group initially consisted of about 45 thousand bayonets and sabers with 200 guns, then its number increased to over 80 thousand people, more than 300 guns and 22 ships.
An auxiliary strike from the Liski area to Kupyansk was to be inflicted by the Selivachev strike group. Vladimir Selivachev was also an experienced commander - a participant in the war with Japan and Germany, the tsarist general - commanded a brigade, division, corps and the 7th Army (during the June offensive of 1917). In December 1918 he was drafted into the Red Army, in August 1919 - assistant commander of the Southern Front. The 8th Army, two divisions of the 13th Army, and the Voronezh fortified area were included in the Selivachev group. The strike group consisted of about 45 thousand bayonets and sabers, about 250 guns. The 14th Red Army was supposed to support the offensive of the Selivachev group, strike at Lozovaya.
The beginning of the offensive of the Southern Front was scheduled for early August, but by that time they had not had time to complete the preparations for the operation - the transfer of reinforcements, reserves, weapons and supplies. They did not manage to concentrate a powerful strike fist on the direction of the main blow.
The White command discovered that the Reds were preparing for a counterattack. The Whites decided to launch a preemptive strike in order to disrupt the impending enemy offensive, facilitate the offensive of the Don army and cause a peasant uprising in the rear of the Bolsheviks. On August 10, 1919, the 4th Don Cavalry Corps (9 thousand people) under the command of Mamontov (Mamantov) crossed the Khoper River near the village of Dobrinskaya and struck at the junction of the 9th and 8th red armies. The White Cossacks broke through the front and went to the rear of the enemy, began to move towards Tambov. Cossacks smashed rear units, garrisons, dispersed mobilized peasants, disrupted communications, destroyed railways, stations, warehouses of the Southern Front. Panic began in the red rear. Control over the Southern Front was temporarily and partially disrupted.
On August 18, the White Cossacks took Tambov without a fight, the local garrison fled or joined the 4th corps. Then White took Kozlov, Lebedyan, Yelets and Voronezh. An infantry division was formed from local volunteers and prisoners. To fight Mamontov's corps, the red command had to create a Lashevich group (over 20 thousand people, armored trains, aviation), distract significant forces from the front and rear, including several rifle divisions and Budyonny's cavalry corps. As a result, the Don Corps, by order of Denikin, returned to its own on September 19.
Mamantov's equestrian raid weakened the striking power of the Southern Front, which at that time was trying to defeat the main grouping of the All-Soviet Union of Yugoslavia. Part of the forces of the red front was diverted to fight the White Cossacks, the rear was partially destroyed and disorganized. On the other hand, the raid of the Cossack corps did not fulfill the main task - the peasantry in the rear of the Southern Front did not revolt. Moreover, the actions of the Cossacks repelled the peasants and townspeople of the central part of Russia from the White movement. They acted as robbers and marauders, as if in foreign territory. No wonder the white command - Denikin and Wrangel, was irritated by the actions of the Don Cossacks. Mamontov's corps clearly avoided combat, and did not forget to plunder everything, including even churches. Cossack regiments returned to the Don with huge booty as from a campaign on enemy lands - with herds of pedigree cattle and various goods. It is not surprising that Wrangel considered such a campaign to be criminal and demanded that Mamontov be removed from command.
On the left flank, the White Army struck another blow in order to disrupt the advance of the Southern Front. On August 12, General Kutepov's 1st Army Corps struck the right wing of the Red 13th Army. The Whites were advancing in the Kursk and Rylsk directions. This operation disrupted communications between the 13th and 14th red armies.
Commander of the 4th Cavalry Corps of the Don Army, Lieutenant General K. K. Mamontov
Red Army counteroffensive
On August 14, 1919, Shorin's Special Group went on the offensive. She was supported by the ships of the Volga flotilla. The troops of the 10th Army under the command of Klyuev and Budyonny's corps were attacking in the Tsaritsyn direction. The 9th Army under the command of Stepin advanced on Ust-Khopyorskaya. On August 22, the Reds recaptured Kamyshin. At the end of August, the cavalry corps of Budyonny defeated the White Cossacks in the area of the village of Ostrovskaya and, together with the 10th Army, dealt a strong blow to the enemy troops near the village of Serebryakovo-Zelenovskaya. In early September, the Red Army reached Tsaritsyn. Fierce battles were fought for the city. The forces of the 28th and 38th divisions, and the landing detachment of Kozhanov's sailors were not enough to take the well-fortified city on the move. So, they decided to withdraw the Budenny corps to the rear to fight the White Cossacks of Mamontov. On September 9, the whites launched a counteroffensive and pushed back units of the 10th Red Army. By September 11, the situation in the Tsaritsyn area had stabilized.
The offensive of the Red 9th Army developed slowly, while the Whites put up strong resistance. Only by August 21, a turning point came in the battle and the Reds began to push the Don army to the Khoper and Don rivers. On September 12, the red troops crossed Khoper and advanced 150 - 180 km, but the further offensive was not developed.
Selivachev's group launched an offensive on August 15, striking at the junction of the Don army and the right wing of the Volunteer Army. In ten days of fighting, the Reds occupied the Kupyansk region. However, White concentrated large forces on the flanks of Selivachev's group and on August 26 made strong counterattacks. On the right flank of the Volunteer Army, from the Belgorod region to Korocha, Novy Oskol, the 1st Army Corps of Kutepov and the 3rd Kuban Cavalry Corps of Shkuro struck. On the left flank of the Don army, from the Karpenkov, Krasnoe, Samoteyevka area, the 8th Plastunskaya and the 2nd Don divisions attacked on Biryuch. The Whites tried to surround and destroy the Selivachev group. With heavy fighting on September 3, the Reds began to retreat and, having suffered heavy losses, were able to avoid the "cauldron" and complete destruction. On September 12, Selivachev's group held back the enemy on the outskirts of Voronezh. On September 17, Selivachev, who was suspected of treason, suddenly died (or was killed).
Thus, the counter-offensive of the Southern Front did not lead to the defeat of the main forces of Denikin's army and the refusal of the Whites to march on Moscow. In September, the ARSUR continued the offensive in the Moscow direction. This is due to the lack of forces, especially cavalry in the shock groups of Shorin and Selivachev. The Reds were able to break through the enemy's front and reach the operational space. However, they did not have strong mobile formations to march behind enemy lines, disorganize white and strategic reserves for the development of the first success. Part of the troops was withdrawn to the rear to fight the Cossacks of Mamontov. In addition, the offensive of the two groups of the Southern Front was conducted independently, without communication with each other. This allowed the enemy to fight them separately. However, the advance of the Red Army delayed the movement of the White Guards northward.
Soviet military leader Vasily Ivanovich Shorin