May 20, 1818|
Mitau, Courland, Russian Empire
|Died||July 1, 1884
Bad Soden, German Empire
|Service/branch||Imperial Russian Army|
|Rank||General of Engineers|
|Awards||Order of St George (2nd class)
Order of Saint Andrew
Eduard Ivanovich Totleben (Russian: Эдуа́рд Ива́нович Тотле́бен, sometimes transliterated as Todleben) (20 May 1818 – 1 July 1884) was a Baltic German military engineer and Imperial Russian Army general. He was in charge of fortification and sapping work during a number of important Russian military campaigns.
Totleben was born at Mitau in Courland (now Jelgava, Latvia). His parents were of German descent, belonging to the merchant class, and he himself was intended for commerce, but a strong instinct led him to seek a career as a military engineer. He entered the school of engineers at Saint Petersburg, now Military engineering-technical university (Russian: Военный Инженерно-Технический университет).
Early military career
At the outbreak of war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1853, he took part in the siege of Silistria, and after the siege was raised was transferred to the Crimea. Sevastopol, while strongly fortified toward the sea, was almost unprotected on the land side. Totleben, though still a junior field officer, became the animating genius of the defense. On his advice the fleet was sunk, in order to block the mouth of the harbour, and the deficiency of fortifications on the land side was made good before the allies could take advantage of it. The construction of earthworks and redoubts was carried out in extreme haste and much of the artillery from the warships was transferred to them. It was in the ceaseless improvisation of the defensive works and offensive counterworks to meet every changing phase of the enemy's attack that Totleben's peculiar strength and originality showed itself. He never commanded a large army in the open field, nor was he the creator of a great permanent system of defence like Vauban. But he may justly be called the originator of the idea that a fortress should be considered not a walled town but an entrenched position, intimately connected with the offensive and defensive capacities of an army and as susceptible of alteration as the formation of troops in battle or manoeuvre.
Until 20 June 1855, Totleben conducted operations for the defense at Sevastopol in person; he was then wounded in the foot and was not present at the operations which immediately preceded the fall of the fortress. In the course of the siege he had risen from the rank of lieutenant-colonel to that of lieutenant-general, and had also been made aide-de-camp to the tsar. When he recovered he was employed in strengthening the fortifications at the mouth of the Dnieper, and also those of Kronstadt. In 1864 he suggested further improvements of the Brest Fortress that were implemented between then and 1868. In 1856 he visited England, where his merits were honoured.
On 24 March 1854, the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote him a letter asking for his help in returning to European Russia - the writer had been sentenced to four years of banishment in Siberia. (Totleben's brother Adolf had been Dostoyevsky's classmate at the school of military engineering in Saint Petersburg.)
Russo-Turkish War, 1877–78
In 1860, Totleben was appointed assistant to Grand Duke Nicholas, and he subsequently became head of the department of engineers with the full rank of general. He was given no command when another war against the Ottoman Empire began in 1877. It was not until after the early reverses before Plevna that the hero of Sevastopol was called to the front. Totleben saw that it would be necessary to draw engineering works around Osman Pasha and cut him off from communication with the other Turkish commanders. In due time, Plevna fell. Totleben then undertook the siege of the Bulgarian fortresses. After the conclusion of the preliminaries of peace, he was placed in command of the whole Russian army.
- Бешанов В.В. ”Бресткая крепость” Минск, 2004 (in Russian) ISBN 985-01-0428-7
- Суворов А.М. “Брестская крепость на ветрах истории”, Brest, 2004 (text in Russian) ISBN 985-90040-1-3
- Herlihy, Patricia (1987, 1991). Odessa: A History, 1794-1914. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-916458-15-6. ISBN 0-916458-43-1, paperback reprint. p. 158
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition entry for Totleben
- Novorossiia leaders and Odessa Ukraine mayors