Battle of Cēsis (1919)

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This article is about the 1919 battle. For other uses, see Battle of Wenden (disambiguation).
Battle of Wenden
Part of Estonian War of Independence,
Latvian War of Independence
Date 19–23 June 1919
Location Cēsis, Latvia
Result Decisive Estonian victory
Belligerents
 Estonia
 Latvia
Baltic German.svg Baltische Landeswehr
Commanders and leaders
Estonia Ernst Põdder
Latvia Jorģis Zemitāns
Baltic German.svg Alfred Fletcher
Strength
6,509 infantry
65 cavalry
106 heavy machine guns
126 light machine guns
23 artillery
3 armoured vehicles
3 armoured trains,[1] including

2nd Latvian Cēsis regiment: 750 infantry, 8 heavy machine guns, 20 light machine guns[1]

5,500–6,300 infantry, 500–600 cavalry, 50 heavy machine guns, 90 light machine guns, 42–48 artillery[1]
Casualties and losses
Estonia 110 dead, 295 wounded [2]
Latvia 13 dead, 30 wounded[2]
274 dead[3]

The Battle of Cēsis (Latvian: Cēsu kaujas; Estonian: Võnnu lahing Battle of Võnnu; German: Schlacht von Wenden, Battle of Wenden) fought near Cēsis (or Võnnu, Wenden) in June 1919 was a decisive battle in the Estonian War of Independence and the Latvian War of Independence. After heavy fighting Estonian forces repelled German attacks and went on full counter-attack.

Background[edit]

Latvia had declared independence in 1918, but was unable to stop the advance of the Red Army, resulting in the loss of Riga. The advance of the Red Latvian Riflemen was stopped by the German VI Reserve Corps.[1] The Reserve Corps under general Rüdiger von der Goltz consisted of the Baltische Landeswehr, the Freikorps Iron Division, and the Guard Reserve Division.[4] The Latvian volunteers loyal to the Provisional Government were also placed under the command of the Baltische Landeswehr.[1] On 16 April 1919, the Latvian government of Kārlis Ulmanis was toppled by the Germans, who installed a puppet German Provisional Government of Latvia headed by Andrievs Niedra. However, the Latvian Brigade led by Janis Balodis remained passively under the German command.[1]

After recapturing Riga from the Red Army, the VI Reserve Corps continued its advance north. At the same time, the 3rd Estonian Division, having pushed the Soviets out of south Estonia, was advancing into Latvia from the north. Estonia continued to recognise the Ulmanis government, and neither side was ready to back down. On 5 June, fighting started, with the Landeswehr capturing Cēsis the following day.[5] On June 10, with the mediation of the Allies a ceasefire was declared, but talks failed, and on 19 June fighting recommenced.

Battle[edit]

  Baltic German army
  Russian army (Bolsheviks)
  Latvian army
  Estonian army

On 19 June, fighting resumed with an Iron Division attack on the Estonian positions near Limbaži.[6] At that time, the 3rd Estonian Division, including the 2nd Latvian Cēsis regiment under Colonel Krišjānis Berķis, had 5990 infantry and 125 cavalry. The pro-German forces had 5500–6300 infantry, 500–600 cavalry and a strong advantage in cannons, machine guns and mortars.[1] German forces achieved some success under Limbaži, but were soon pushed back. The Landeswehr main attack started on 21 June, breaking through the positions of the 2nd Latvian Cēsis Regiment at the Rauna River. The situation became critical for the 3rd Estonian Division, but the German assault was stopped by three Estonian armoured trains and the Kuperjanov Partisan Battalion.[7]

The Landeswehr continued attacking at several parts of the front, and more Estonian forces joined the battle.[8] After stopping the last German attacks, the Estonian forces started a full counter-attack on June 23, resulting in the recapture of Cēsis.[9] The German units started a general retreat toward Riga.

Aftermath[edit]

The Battle of Cēsis was a decisive victory for Estonia against the pro-German forces. The 3rd Estonian Division continued their advance towards Riga. On 3 July, the Estonian forces were at the outskirts of the city. Estonia, Latvia and the pro-German Provisional Government of Latvia signed the Ceasefire of Strazdumuiža on the demand of the Entente. The armistice restored the Ulmanis government in Riga. German forces were ordered to leave Latvia, the Baltic-German Landeswehr was put under command of the Latvian government and sent to fight against the Red Army. However, to circumvent Entente's orders, many German soldiers instead of leaving, were incorporated into the West Russian Volunteer Army. Fighting in Latvia and Lithuania restarted in October and continued until December 1919.

Estonia celebrates the anniversary of the battle as Victory Day, a national holiday.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colonel Jaan Maide. Ülevaade Eesti Vabadussõjast (1918–1920) (Overview on Estonian War of Independence) (in Estonian). 
  2. ^ a b *Pētersone, Inta (1999). Latvijas Brīvības cīņas 1918-1920 : enciklopēdija. (in Latvian). Riga: Preses nams. ISBN 9984-00-395-7. OCLC 43426410. 
  3. ^ Nikolai Reek. Lemsalu — Roopa — Võnnu — Ronneburgi lahing 19. — 23. VI. 1919. a. (Lemsalu — Roopa — Võnnu — Ronneburg battle 19. — 23. VI. 1919 (in Estonian). Estonian National Defence College museum. 
  4. ^ Spencer C. Tucker, ed. (2005). "Goltz, Rüdiger von der, Count (1865-1946)". The Encyclopedia of World War I: A political, social, and military history. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 492–493. 
  5. ^ Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, pages 150-151. Olion, 1992
  6. ^ Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, page 156. Olion, 1992
  7. ^ Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, page 157. Olion, 1992
  8. ^ Traksmaa, August: Lühike vabadussõja ajalugu, page 158. Olion, 1992
  9. ^ Kaevats, Ülo: Eesti Entsüklopeedia 10, page 519. Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus, 1998

References[edit]