Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812)

Summary

The Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812 was one link in a series of wars between the Russian and Ottoman empires.

The reason for the war was the resignation in August 1806 of the rulers of Moldavia and Wallachia – Alexander Murusi and Constantine Ypsilanti. Under the Russian-Turkish treaties (in accordance with the provisions of the Yassky Peace Treaty of 29 December 1791), the appointment and removal of the rulers of Moldavia and Wallachia were to take place with the consent of Russia.

Russian troops of General I. I. Michelson were introduced into the principalities in 1806, which did not contradict Article 16 of the Kuchuk Kainarji Peace Treaty (1774). The number of his army reached 40,000 men. On November 11, Russian troops began to cross the Dniester River. Commandants of the fortresses of Khotin, Bendery, Akkerman and Kiliya ceded them without a fight. Pasha, who was in charge of Ismail, did not succumb to the exhortations of Michelson, who assured him that the Russian troops were marching into the principalities only to save Turkey from Bonaparte”s ambitious plans. At the same time the commandant of Rusciuc, Alemdar Mustafa Pasha sent a detachment of troops to Bucharest, which the Turks began to commit all kinds of violence against the inhabitants, but on December 13 they were driven out by a detachment of General M. A. Miloradovich and went to Zhurja. An attempt by General K. I. Meyendorff to seize Izmail, undertaken almost simultaneously, ended in failure. Meanwhile, Michelson had located his troops in the winter quarters in the principalities, allied with the Serbs, who had rebelled against Ottoman rule in 1804 under the leadership of G. Karageorge. The Ottoman influence in the principalities was weakened.

It was not until December 18 that a declaration of war was made by the Ottoman Empire. A huge role in provoking the war was played by the French diplomat General O. Sebastiani. The Vizier General”s army was ordered to hastily concentrate near Shumla, and the Bosnian pasha with 20,000 men moved against the Serbs, who were able to capture Belgrade on November 30. Despite the protests of the English ambassador, who was fighting the French influence in Constantinople, he was unable to prevent the break with Russia. Then he left the Ottoman capital for Admiral D. Duckworth”s squadron, and at the end of January 1807 this squadron forcefully broke through the Dardanelles and stopped against the Sultan”s palace.

At Sebastiani”s instigation the Porte began written negotiations with the British, and while they were dragging on, began to vigorously fortify the Dardanelles Passage, threatening the retreat route of Duckworth”s squadron. The latter realized this and withdrew from under Constantinople at the end of February. Following that, the Porte concluded an alliance with France, while England declared war.

The formation of the Turkish army proceeded slowly, but this could not be used, as the new clash with Napoleon did not allow to strengthen the troops in the principalities, and therefore in early 1807 Michelson was ordered to limit itself to defense. Offensive actions were entrusted to the Black Sea Fleet and Senjavin”s squadron, cruising in the Mediterranean Sea (Second Archipelago Expedition), as well as to the Russian troops located in Georgia.

Active military operations on the Danube and the Caucasus began in the spring of 1807. Russian troops occupied Khotin, Bendery, Ackermann, and Bucharest, and General Meyendorf”s corps laid siege to Ishmael. The latter, however, could do nothing, and stood at Ismail from the beginning of March until the end of July, confining itself only to repelling Turkish sorties.

The corps of Count N. M. Kamensky, sent to Brailov, also had no success and after several skirmishes with the enemy retreated behind the Buseo River. Miloradovich, sent to Zhurja, managed to defeat the Ottoman detachment near the village of Turbat, but in early April he also withdrew to Bucharest. Meanwhile, the Vizier, having gathered an army near Shumla, was preparing to invade Wallachia, but was delayed by a revolt of Janissaries in Constantinople, who overthrew Selim III and proclaimed Sultan Mustafa IV. When the latter declared his intention to vigorously continue the war, the Vizier with forty thousand army crossed the Danube at Silistria and moved to Bucharest, hoping on the way to connect with the corps of Rushuk ayan Alemdar Mustafa Pasha, who followed the same route from Zhurja. This connection failed: June 2, Miloradovich defeated the Vizier”s vanguard near Obileshti, which then again went to the right bank of the Danube. Meanwhile, on June 19 Senyavin defeated the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Athos.

Serbian rebels led by Karadjordje at the beginning of 1807, supported by the Russian detachment of I. I. Isaev, took Belgrade, and July 10, 1807 Serbia passed under Russian protectorate.

In Transcaucasia Count I. V. Gudovich, who initially acted unsuccessfully, defeated the Erzurum seraskir Qur Yusuf Ziyuddin-pasha on the Arpachai River on June 18. The Black Sea squadron of Rear Admiral S. A. Pustoshkin seized Anapa.

A series of failures, the poor state of the army and the loss of hope for the aid of Napoleon, who had made peace with Russia at Tilsit, led the Porte to accept an armistice proposal made by General Michelson, which was concluded on August 12, 1807, valid until March 3, 1809. The Russian troops were to leave the principalities and return to Turkey the captured ships and the island of Tenedos. The Ottomans undertook not to enter into the principalities and cease hostilities in Serbia.

Beyond the Caucasus in 1808 things took an unfavorable turn: the local population, incited by Persian and Turkish agents, became agitated; the Imeretian king Solomon II clearly rebelled against Russia. Persians, at the instigation of England, did not agree to the proposed establishment of the border and laid a claim to Georgia. Count I. V. Gudovich approached Erivan to subdue them, but undertaken on November 17, his assault was repulsed and cost heavy losses. But still, several Persian detachments that had invaded Georgia were defeated.

Emperor Alexander I was extremely dissatisfied with these armistice conditions. The conclusion of peace with Napoleon made it possible to increase the number of the Danube army to 80,000 men. Instead of Meyendorff as commander in chief was appointed Prince A. A. Prozorovsky, who was ordered to set other terms of truce. However, Porte did not want to change the conditions. At this time, in Paris, with the mediation of Napoleon, negotiations for a final peace were underway; but with his departure for Spain, they were terminated. At the beginning of 1808 negotiations again began, but this time not with the Vizier, but with the most influential of the Turkish pashas, Mustafa (of Rushchuk). The negotiations were interrupted by a new coup in Turkey, where Mahmud II was proclaimed sultan. Mustafa, now the Supreme Vizier, rejected all Russian demands and gave orders to prepare for war. After a new meeting between Alexander I and Napoleon in Erfurt, new negotiations began, but not for long, as in November Mustafa was assassinated by the Janissaries, and Porte went for a rapprochement with England and Austria and showed a determined persistence in negotiating the terms of peace with Russia.

On March 12, 1809, a Sultan”s firman came to St. Petersburg with a declaration of war.

Prince Prozorovsky decided to begin the campaign of 1809 with the subjugation of the Ottoman fortresses on the left bank of the Danube, first of all Jurja; but the storming of both this fortress and Brailov ended in failure.

Meanwhile, the tsar demanded decisive action; the aged and sick Commander-in-Chief contradicted him with various reasons for the impossibility of crossing the Danube before the fall. Then Prince Bagration was sent to assist Prozorovsky.

At the end of July the corps of General Zass crossed the Danube at Galatz and then captured Isakcha and Tulcea without a single shot being fired. Ataman Platov”s vanguard entered Babadag, after which the main forces also crossed to the right bank of the Danube. On August 9, Prince Prozorovsky died, and the command of the army passed to Bagration. The ease of crossing the Lower Danube was caused by the small number of Ottoman troops, because the main forces of the Vizier had moved to Serbia at the beginning of May. At that time, Prince Prozorovsky found it possible to detach only the three thousandth Isayev”s detachment to help the Serbs, which was soon forced to return to Wallachia.

At this time Serbia was being terribly defeated, and the inhabitants fled in droves to Austrian borders. After Prince Bagration”s main forces had crossed the Danube, General Langeron”s corps was left in Great Wallachia, and Essen”s corps, designed to support, in case of need, the Russian forces in Bessarabia. Bagration, having ascertained the weakness of the enemy on the Lower Danube, decided to attempt to seize Silistria, to which he began to advance on 14 August, and a few days after that the detachments of General Markov and Platov seized Mechin and Girsov.

Meanwhile, thanks to subsidies from England, the Ottoman army was considerably reinforced, and the Grand Vizier had the intention of taking advantage of the removal of the main Russian forces to the Lower Danube to invade Wallachia, capture Bucharest and thus force Bagration to retreat to the left bank of the Danube. In the 2nd half of August he began to cross his troops at Jurja. Langeron, learning of this, resolved, despite the insignificance of his forces, to go to meet the Ottomans and ordered General Essen, who had moved to Obileshti, to join him. On 29 August they attacked the Ottoman advance guard at the village of Frasine (9 versts from Jurja) and defeated it. Meanwhile, the Vizier himself, receiving alarming news from under Silistria, did not move from Zhurja.

Meanwhile, Bagration continued his offensive; on September 4 he defeated the corps of Hüsrev Pasha at Rassevat, and on September 18 stopped before Silistria. Four days before that the fortress of Ishmael surrendered to the detachment of General Zass. The Vizier, learning of the Rasevat defeat, moved his army from Zhurja back to Rushuk and sent an order to the troops acting against the Serbs to hurry there as well. Thus the final defeat threatening Serbia was temporarily halted; the Ottoman detachment stationed there retreated to the city of Nis.

In the meantime Bagration had fears of an Anglo-Turkish landing at Dobrudja and of an Ottoman attack from Varna; therefore he transferred the corps left at Isakcha and Babadag by Count Kamensky I to Kovarna, the corps of Essen – to Babadag, and the detachment of Zass left in Ismail. For action against Silistria he had no more than 20,000 soldiers; the siege of the fortress was sluggish, and when the Vizier approached it with the main forces of the Ottoman army, Bagration found it necessary to retreat to the Black Guards, ordering at the same time Kamensky to withdraw to Kyustendzhi. Thereafter, he appealed to St. Petersburg for permission to withdraw the army to the left bank of the Danube in view of the lack of sufficient food supplies on the right bank and the danger of destroying bridges by ice drift. At the same time he promised to cross the Danube again in early spring and move directly to the Balkans. The last action of this campaign was General Essen”s siege of Brailov, which surrendered on November 21. The tsar, though extremely dissatisfied with the fruitlessness of the preceding actions, agreed to Bagration”s intercession, but on the condition that Mechin, Tulcea, and Girsovo remained occupied on the right bank of the Danube.

In the Caucasus at the beginning of 1809 Gudovich was replaced by Tormasov. Threatened by Persia and the Ottoman Empire, he did not dare to attack, but when the Persians broke into the Russian borders, he met them at the river Shamkhor and forced them to retreat, after which they again initiated negotiations for peace. Taking advantage of this, Tormasov sent a detachment of Prince Orbeliani to seize the fortress of Poti, which served as the point of communication between the Ottomans and Abkhazia and Imeretia: the fortress was captured on November 16. Another detachment sent to Imeretia captured its king Solomon, and the inhabitants swore allegiance to Russia. A squadron with landing troops was sent from Sevastopol to Anapa, whose fortifications had been renewed by the Ottomans. This fortress was taken on July 15 and occupied by the Russian garrison.

Meanwhile, Prince Bagration, upset by the disapproval of the sovereign, asked to be relieved of the rank of commander in chief, and in his place was appointed Count Kamensky II, who had just distinguished himself in the war against Sweden. At the beginning of March 1810 he arrived to the Danube army, the forces of which reached 78 thousand, and in addition one more infantry division was sent to reinforce it.

The plan of action of the new commander-in-chief was as follows: the corps of Zass and Langeron crossed at Turtukai and besieged Rustuk and Silistria; the corps of Count Kamensky I headed for Bazardzhik; the main forces (standing in Walachia Minor, the detachment Isayev goes to Serbia, against which the Ottomans again took a threatening situation; to cover Walachia a detachment under the command of Major-General Count Tsukato is left.

The Ottoman Empire at this time was not at all ready for war, and the collection of its troops at Shumla was fraught with great difficulties. Count Kamensky II, in a hurry to take advantage of it, crossed the Danube at Girsov and moved forward in the middle of May; 19 May Zass captured Turtukai; 22 stormed Bazardzhik, 30 surrendered Silistria, besieged by corps of Langeron and Rajewski, and June 1 fell Razgrad. Russian advanced detachments occupied Balchik and the line Varna – Shumla. Cash subsidies from the British government, however, gave the Ottomans the opportunity to continue the war; the rapidly recruiting troops were sent to Shumla, Rushchuk and the Serbian border. To buy time, the Vizier proposed an armistice; but it was rejected.

Meanwhile, the Russian army moved relentlessly to Shumla and by June 10 encircled it from three sides. Commander-in-Chief, confident in the weakness of the garrison, launched an assault on the fortress on June 11, but after a persistent 2-day battle he was convinced that it was impossible to take Shumla by open force, so he turned to a close blockade. He expected to take the fortress by starvation; but when a few days later a large transport with supplies managed to pass there, that hope disappeared as well.

Meanwhile, at other points in the theater of war progress stopped; everywhere demanded reinforcements, and there was nowhere to get them. Then the commander-in-chief decided to pull all his forces to Rushchuk, seize the fortress and, based on it, move through Tarnow for the Balkans. Leaving the corps of Count Kamensky I to monitor Shumla and Varna, the main forces approached Rushchuk on July 9 at which they were joined by the corps of Sass; on July 22, after a 10-day bombardment, an assault was attempted, but it was repulsed and cost the Russian army heavy losses.

Meanwhile, the Vizier, having learned about the departure of the Russian main forces, several times tried to attack the detachments left to monitor Shumla, but on July 23 was completely defeated by Count Kamensky I. Nevertheless, the Commander in Chief ordered Count Kamensky I to withdraw to the line of Trajan”s Wall and, destroying the fortifications of Bazardzhik, Mechin, Tulcha, Isakcha, to draw in the garrisons left there; at the same time the detachment of Langeron left in Razgrad was ordered to join the main army. Rushuk continued to remain in a tight envelopment, and the attempt of the Turks to release the fortress ended August 26 unhappy for them battle at Bathin, after which the Russian troops took Sistov, Bela, Tarnovo and Orsova. On 15 September Rushuk and Zhurzha surrendered.

For the Serbs only thanks to strong reinforcements sent to them (first the detachment of I. K. O”Rourke and then the corps of A. P. Sass) things were also successful, so in early October Serbia was liberated. After the fall of Ruszczuk, Count Kamenski II moved up the Danube on October 9 to take possession of the Ottoman strongholds as far as the Serbian border. Nikopol and Tourno surrendered without resistance; at the same time a detachment of Major-General Count Vorontsov captured Plevna, Lovcza, and Selvi and destroyed their fortifications. However, the commander in chief recognized a winter campaign over the Balkans impossible for food reasons and therefore decided to leave one half of the army in the occupied fortresses, while the other half was placed in the principalities for the winter.

Beyond the Caucasus, after fruitless negotiations with the Persians, military action resumed and was generally favorable, and after the defeat of the enemy near Akhalkalaki, the Persians again began negotiations for peace. The actions of the Black Sea Fleet were limited to the subjugation of the fortress of Sukhum-Kale.

Meanwhile, by the beginning of 1811, Russia”s relations with France became so strained that they heralded a close war, and to strengthen Russian forces on the western border, Alexander I ordered Count Kamensky to separate five divisions from his army, send them across the Dniester River, and limit the remaining troops to the defense of the occupied fortresses; at the same time he was told to hurry to conclude peace, but with the precondition of recognizing the Danube River border and the previous Russian requirements. The Commander-in-Chief pointed out the impracticability of these commands and proposed a vigorous offensive over the Balkans.

Meanwhile, Napoleon was using all his efforts to prevent Turkey from making peace; Austria had also asked for this. Obeying their influence, Porte was strenuously gathering forces to inflict a sensible blow to the Russians: her troops were concentrating in the Etropole Balkans, and at Lovcza their vanguard (15 thousand) under the command of Osman Bey was on display. Count N.M. Kamensky, expecting the approval of his plan to move beyond the Balkans, intended to prepare the way there and for this purpose ordered the detachment of Count Saint-Pree to capture Lovca, which was executed on January 31; but after that on the order of the gravely ill Commander-in-Chief this detachment returned to the Danube.

Soon after that Kamensky was appointed commander of the 2nd Reserve Army and in March 1811 was recalled from the Ottoman Empire, and the Danube Army was entrusted to General M. I. Golenishchev-Kutuzov.

Putting him at the head of the army, the forces which through the removal of five divisions were almost halved (left about 45 thousand), the new commander in chief found himself in a difficult position, especially since the Ottoman army by spring 1811 rose to 70 thousand. In view of this, Kutuzov found it necessary to act with particular caution and, as he put it, “keep a modest demeanor.

Having acquainted himself with his enemy back in the Catherine wars, he calculated that the Ottomans would limit themselves to demonstrations on the Lower Danube, while the main forces would be sent to the Middle Danube in order to capture Bucharest after crossing there. Therefore, having destroyed the fortifications of Silistria and Nicopolis, Kutuzov drew his main forces to Rushuk and Zhurja. Zass”s troops in Wallachia Minor and O”Rourke”s in Belgrade covered his right wing; the left wing was guarded by detachments located on the Lower Danube and near Slobozha. Simultaneously with these preparatory orders Kutuzov entered into peace negotiations with the Vizier. But as the Emperor Alexander did not agree to a reduction of his former demands, and the Ottomans, for their part, also appeared extremely unyielding, the negotiations were suspended. The inaction of the Russians convinced the Vizier of their weakness, and therefore he resolved to launch an advance to Rushuk, and on capturing this fortress to cross the Danube and defeat Kutuzov; at the same time another Ottoman army, Ismail-bey, collected near Sofia, was to cross over near Vidin and invade Lesser Wallachia. When the two armies were united, Bucharest was to be seized.

In early June, the Vizier came out of Shumla, and 22 attacked the Russian near Rushchuk, but was defeated and retreated to a pre-fortified position near the village of Kadikoy (15-20 versts south of Rushchuk). Despite the victory, Kutuzov, for various reasons, recognized the danger of remaining under Rushchuk, and therefore, destroying its fortifications, ferried all the troops on the left bank. Then, having reinforced the troops on the right and left wings and strengthened the fortifications of Zhurja, the commander-in-chief himself with the corps of A. F. Langeron positioned himself in one passage to the north of it, expecting in case the Vizier crossed the Danube, to strike a heavy blow against him. At the same time, knowing that it was not yet possible to expect a rapid outbreak of war on the western border, he asked permission to move to the Danube from Iasi the 9th Division and from Khotyn the 15th Division.

After Kutuzov”s retreat to the left bank, the Vizier occupied Rushchuk, but did not move from there throughout July, waiting for the results of Ishmael Bey”s actions. The latter only arrived to Vidin in the middle of July and on July 20 began to cross the Danube with its troops (about 20 thousand). Having occupied Calafat and heavily entrenched in it, he moved against the detachment of Zass (about 5 thousand), but could not seize the inaccessible Russian position. When Zass was joined by O”Rourke”s and Count Vorontsov”s detachments on 24 July and the Russian flotilla approached the Danube, Ishmael-bey was deprived of the opportunity to rush into Wallachia Minor.

Meanwhile, the Vizier decided to cross to the left bank in order to take advantage of the huge advantage of his forces to defeat Kutuzov and, threatening Zass”s communications, force him to open the road for Ishmael-Bey. Vizier preparations lasted long, so that only on the night of August 24 began the crossing of his troops, 4 versts above Rushchuk. By September 2, up to 36 thousand Ottomans were on the left bank, where they, as usual, immediately entrenched, on the right bank was left to 30 thousand. Instead of immediately attacking Kutuzov, who had no more than 10 thousand at his hand, the Vizier remained in place. Thanks to his inactivity, the commander in chief had time to draw in General Essen”s detachment, which was standing on the Olt River (as a reserve for Sass), and realizing that the critical moment in the war had arrived, he did not wait for orders from St. Petersburg in regard to the 9th and 15th divisions, but voluntarily dispatched them: The first he sent orders to hurry to Zhurzha, and the second to Obileshti, to cover the left wing of the army from the direction of Turtukai and Silistria, from where also threatened the appearance of the enemy.

With the arrival (September 1) of the 9th Division Kutuzov”s forces increased to 25 thousand, and now he himself surrounded the fortified Ottoman camp, arranging a line of redoubts flanking the Danube. At the same time, a courageous plan had occurred to him: he resolved to ferry a part of his troops to the right bank, to throw back the part of the Ottoman army that had remained there, and thus cut off the Vizier from his communications. In order to carry out this venture, as early as in the middle of September he began to prepare rafts and ferries on the river Olt.

Meanwhile, Ishmael-bey attacked Zass twice (September 17 and 30) to open the way to Zhurzha, but failed both times. Then the Vizier ordered him to return across the Danube, move to Lom Palanka, where many ships were assembled, and, crossing there again to the left bank, to come to the rear of Kutuzov. Colonel Engelgardt”s detachment was sent to Lom Palanka having learned about the plan and on the night of September 27th it destroyed Ottoman vessels. Having learned about this, Ishmael Bey no longer dared to move from Calafat.

Following this plan Kutuzov was brought to execution: October 1, the detachment of General Markov (5 thousand infantry, 2.5 thousand cavalry and 38 cannons) crossed to the right bank of the Danube and October 2, at dawn, suddenly attacked the remaining Ottoman troops, which, panic-stricken, fled in part to Rushuk, partly to Razgrad. Following that, Markov, having put up his batteries on the right bank, began to smash the Vizier”s camp. Then the Vizier immediately appealed to Kutuzov with a request for an armistice, but without waiting for an answer, at night he sailed by boat to Rushuk, handing the command to Chapan-oglu. On 3 October the Russian Danube flotilla finally interrupted communications with the right bank, and the remnants of the Ottoman army were in a desperate situation with the depletion of all supplies.

On 10 and 11 October Turtukai and Silistria were occupied by units of the 15th Division; at the same time actions against Ishmael Bey were successful and ended with his retreat to Sofia. This state of affairs forced the Porte at last to incline to peace.

As a result of the skilful diplomatic actions of M.I. Kutuzov, the Ottoman government was inclined to sign a peace treaty.

On May 16, 1812, the Treaty of Bucharest was signed.

Sources

  1. Русско-турецкая война (1806—1812)
  2. Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812)