Battle of the Danube

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Battle of Slobozia
Part of the Russo-Turkish War (1806-1812)
Date June 20, 1811-May 27, 1812
Location Middle Danube, Wallachia
Result Decisive Russian victory
Treaty of Bucharest
Belligerents
Russia Russian Empire Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Russia Mikhail Kutuzov Ottoman Empire Grand Vizier Ahmet Pasha
Strength
45,000 soldiers 70,000 soldiers
Portrait of Mikhail I. Kutuzov.
G. Dawe, 1829

The Battle of Slobozia, Battle of the Danube or Kutuzov's Danube Operation occurred after the Russian victory at Rousse which took place on 22 June, 1811. After the Russian victory, Mikhail Kutuzov ordered his forces to cross the Danube to Bessarabia. This odd retreat made the Turks think that they won: a big party was held in Constantinople to celebrate the Turks' "victory". Tsar Alexander I became very angry and demanded an explanation. However, Kutuzov had a secret plan behind that strange act and he decided to keep quiet for a while.

Seeing that the Russians had retreated, the Turks prepared to launch a new attack. Several months later 70,000 Turkish troops led by Ahmet Pasha crossed the Danube river to assault the Russians, encamping across from Ruse, around Slobozia.

Well acquainted with his opponent at war, Kutuzov calculated that the Ottomans on the Lower Danube would direct their main force to cross the Middle Danube and to seize Bucharest. Therefore, destroying the fortresses of Silistria Nikopol, Kutuzov took off with his main forces to Ruse and Giurgiu. Zass in Little Wallachia and O'Rourke in Belgrade, covered his right wing, the left guarded by troops, located on the Lower Danube and Slobozia. Along with these preparations Kutuzov entered into peace talks with the minister. Emperor Alexander did not agree to reduce their former demands, and the Ottomans, for their part, too, were extremely uncompromising, the negotiations were suspended. Russian inaction convinced of their weakness in the Vizier, and so he decided to launch an offensive to Ruse, as they outnumbered them and moved to the Danube to beat Kutuzov. At the same time, another Ottoman army, Ismail Bey gathered in Sofia, was about to cross in Viddina to invade Little Wallachia, and connect the two armies of the commander at Bucharest.

The main force (50,000 personnel) garrisoned the west bank, facing the Russian forces. The remaining 20,000 garrisoned at the east bank, guarding the ammunition and provisions. On the night of 2 November 1811 a separate Russian cavalry detachment secretly crossed the Danube and assaulted the east-bank Turkish troops, slew 9,000 troops and captured the remaining ones with all the Turks' provisions. The Russian casualties were low, about 25 cavalrymen and nine Cossack troops killed in action. Right after that, all the Russian forces attacked and quickly encircled the main Turkish army on the left-bank.

Kutuzov then received information that Ahmet Pasha was trying to escape the encirclement himself. The Russian commander let Ahmet escape because he knew that, according to Turkish law, the encircled Grand Vizier could not take part in peace negotiations - and peace is what Kutuzov needed. After that, Kutuzov contacted Ahmet to congratulate him on his successful escape and offer peace negotiations. But the Grand Vizier still hoped for reinforcements and tried to procrastinate. In response, the Russians took all the surrounding forts and cut all the supply lines to the encircled Turks.

With all the supply lines being cut off, the encircled Turks were threatened by hunger and disease. Kutuzov proposed supplying the Turks with food and provisions to allow them to survive. Tsar Alexander I did not agree with Kutuzov's idea, but Kutuzov explained that by keeping the Turks alive, he actually was holding a larger number of hostages and that would force the Sultan to negotiate. The plan was successful and on 28 May 1812 the Treaty of Bucharest was signed.

References[edit]

  • Petrov, А.N. The War between Russia and Turkey, 1806—1812, vol. 1-3. SPb, 1885—87.