The Battle of Oltenița (or Oltenitza) was fought on 4 November 1853 and was the first engagement of the Crimean War. In this battle an Ottoman army under the command of Omar Pasha defeated the Russian forces led by General P. A. Dannenberg.
This battle took place during the Danube campaign of the Crimean War. In the build-up to war, Russia had occupied the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, positioning troops on the (northern) left bank of the Danube, the border of Ottoman territory. The Ottoman Empire had responded by moving troops to the right bank to face them. In the centre Russian forces south of Bucharest were faced by Ottoman forces in the fortresses of Rustchuk and Silistria. Following the Ottoman ultimatum on 4 October 1853 to withdraw within 2 weeks, Ottoman forces under Omer Pasha crossed the Danube River from Widin into Kalafat on 28 October 1853 to draw the Russians into the western part of Wallachia.
On 2 November 1853 an Ottoman force of 10,000 troops under Omer Pasha crossed the Danube in eastern Wallachia and occupied the Danube port town of Oltenița, prior to an advance on Bucharest. With the Russians now in western Wallachia fighting the Ottomans at Calafat, the capture of Bucharest would cut off all communications and supply between Russia and those troops. Having captured Oltenița the Ottoman troops moved up the north bank of the Danube to attack the large fort located in the town of Turtukai. This fort was protected by ten (10) large guns. This fort was captured by the Ottomans.
In response, a Russian force under PA Dannenburg was sent to counterattack, arriving at the town on 4 November 1853. The heavy guns at the fort in Turtukai were used by the Ottomans against the Russians and after a fierce exchange of fire the Russians were thrown back, with heavy casualties. Despite this success, however, the action persuaded Omer that his position was untenable; he expected Russian reinforcements to arrive, and was concerned about continuing operations with the onset of winter. Accordingly he abandoned the advance on Bucharest and re-crossed the Danube. This was completed by 15 November 1853.
The battle of Oltenitza was the first military engagement of the Crimean War. It resulted in a tactical victory for the Ottoman forces, in that the Russians were driven off, and the Ottoman forces were left in possession of the town. Nevertheless their strategic aim, to advance on Bucharest and drive the Russians from the Principalities, was not accomplished, and the Ottoman forces were obliged to retreat to their start position. The battle was hailed in the European press as an Ottoman triumph, and Russian pride was damaged, but strategically the action had little impact.