Sieges Of Przemysl
From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
"SIEGES OF, 1914-5. PRZEMYSL - The Galician town of Przemysl (see 2 2.534) was first fortified in 1834, when Austria mobilized against Russia. The completely exposed position of the N.E. frontier made it imperative to lay out fortifications. The Archduke Charles had already, in 1824, called attention to this weak point. In case of an invasion of East Galicia by the Russians, the first natural obstacle capable of bringing them to a halt would be the river beds of the lower San and the Dniester, and the obvious thing to do was to strengthen this line by constructing a series of fortifications. On the San it was originally intended to build out Jaroslau as a fortress, but the decision in 1854 fell on Przemysl. In later years a row of smaller bridgeheads and points d'appui arose along the Dniester, which greatly increased its value as an obstacle. In the course of one year a fortified ring of no less than 65 forts had been erected round the town of Przemysl. The year 1870 saw the building of a permanent ring of forts finished, but the works were not a match for a bombardment by modern siege guns, owing to the very niggardly expenditure sanctioned. Although after 1888, and in the last years before the World War, the modernization of the fortress from a technical standpoint was begun and some modern selfcontained forts were constructed, it was in 1914 still in a very unsatisfactory condition. The short time available for equipment between the first days of mobilization and the first siege by the Russians was indeed spent in feverish activity, but only a very small part of the neglect of the past io years could now be made good. The works on the ring of forts, which was 48 km. in circumference, were more or less out of date. Only 12 of them could be considered " bombproof," while all the rest were only "shellproof," and even so only against 24-cm. bombs and 15-cm. shells of old-fashioned construction. The points d'appui for the infantry and the battery emplacements lying between the forts were almost without exception only splinterproof shelters, and some were mere field fortifications constructed of wood and earth. The infantry line running through these was protected by wire obstacles, generally only three rows deep. In front of the line of the ring of forts one enormous task had to be undertaken in preparing for the defence - the clearing of the foreground. No less than 18 villages and from 7 to 8 km. of forest were levelled to the ground. Numerous barracks, ammunition magazines, communications, bridges and other buildings, had still to be erected within the ring. The armament of the fortress was also on a very low footing, consisting of about r,000 guns in all, of which more than half were short-range weapons for ditch defence, and in lraditores. These were 12and 15-cm. cannon dating from 1861, r5-cm. mortars dating from the 'eighties, and 8-cm. cupola, disappearing cupola, and minimum port guns of old construction. About 450 of the guns were distant defence guns, being for the most part old 9-cm. field guns (M 75/96) with a range of only 6 km. Of modern guns the fortress at the beginning of the war had altogether only four 30.5-cm. mortars, with a range of 9 5 km., and 24 8-cm. field guns dating from 1905, effective up to 7.5 kilometres. The distant defence guns also included some 12-cm., 15-cm. and 18-cm. siege cannon, dating from 1880, 10 10-cm. and 15-cm. cupola howitzers made in 1899, 15-cm. mobile howitzers of the same year, and 24-cm. mortars made in 1898. As regards munitions the average provision was Soo rounds per gun, and not even that in the case of the modern mortars. For all the four 30.5-cm. mortars taken together there were 300 rounds in the fortress. Of machine-guns there were altogether 114, one-third of which were built into the forts, leaving twothirds for mobile use.
For the purpose of provisioning the fortress an estimate of 85,000 men and 3,710 horses had been established. In peace time one month's supplies were stored in the fortress, with the understanding that an increase to three months' should be made during the arming period. The Austro-Hungarian Higher Command did its utmost at this time to increase the store of supplies, and, by making full use of the available railways and motor columns, succeeded in provisioning the fortress for four months and a-half. These precautions were all the more justified as, at the last moment, the garrison was augmented by the addition of the 23rd Honved Inf. Div., two field tramway sections and other minor formations, which brought up its strength to 130,000 men and 21,000 horses. At this strength the fortress was provisioned, not for four and a-half, but for three months.
The actual garrison of the fortress at the beginning of mobilization consisted of the Austrian 111th and the Hungarian 97th Landsturm Inf. Bdes., one reserve squadron, one reserve battery, 40 companies of garrison artillery, 44 Landsturm artillery brigades, 7 companies of sappers, and the essential sanitary and labour detachments. When the Austro-Hungarian armies retreated behind the San, after the breaking-off of the battle of Lemberg-Nawa Ruska, there were added to the fortress command (under Field-Marshal-Lt. Kusmanek von Burgneusta.dten) the Austro-Hungarian 93rd and r08th Landsturm Inf. Bdes. and the 23rd Honved Inf. Division. Earlier additions had been: two Hungarian march regiments, of which, however, one was handed over to Jaroslau and Radymno, one Hungarian Landsturm hussar unit, and lastly a group consisting of four battalions formed out of various Landsturm formations, auxiliary police and others, cut off from the main body. All in all, the fortress establishment, when the last man of the mobile armies had left the zone, consisted of: 611 infantry battalions (of which 402 were Landsturm), 7 squadrons, 4 field-gun batteries, 43 fortress-artillery companies, 48 Landsturm artillery brigades, and 8 sapper companies; also sanitary corps, military and Landsturm labour detachments, fortress and tramway formations, balloon detachments, telegraph, telephone and radio formations, and so forth. The value of the troops shut up in the fortress may best be judged by the facts that two-thirds of them were Landsturm, including therefore older and less trained men, and that the formations which had been fighting on the open field were reduced to nearly half their strength. There had been, since the beginning of the World War, only two brigades to take duty in the fortress, and one of these even was sent temporarily to the IV. Army Command. The rest of the troops in the fortress were therefore not over-familiar with the duty of the fortress.
The Russian siege army, commanded by Gen. Radko Dimitriev, consisted originally of the whole of the III. Army, with the IX., X., XI. and XXI. Corps and parts of the IV. and VIII. Armies. When the Austro-Hungarian forces resumed the offensive in the beginning of Oct. 1914, the Grand Duke Nicholas withdrew three divisions of the III. Army from the circle of bombardment and sent them to the lower Vistula, with the object of enveloping the enemy. There were now nine and a-half infantry and two cavalry divisions left behind for the blockade of the fortress. Three of these divisions were posted on the N. front, half a division on the S., while the main force of six divisions encircled the E. and S.E. front, which was the point of attack actually fixed upon by Radko Dimitriev, and the two cavalry divisions were encamped on the W. and S.W. front. Counting the Russian infantry division at 16 battalions and the cavalry division at 24 squadrons, the Russians employed no fewer than r 30 battalions and 48 squadrons, Boo guns of the field army and the heavy guns of the siege-artillery parks in the siege of Przemysl.
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The First Siege, Sept. 18-Oct. 9 1914
On Sept. 18 1914, when the Austro-Hungarian armies had marched off westwards from the San and the area of the Przemysl fortress, the fortress was left to itself, with orders - issued to Kusmanek on the 16th - to resist " to the uttermost." The building of the ring of forts and the distribution of the fortress garrison in the defence zone had now been completed. Only one correction had to be made in the line of defence - on the S.W. front, where it lay too near to the town itself, thus exposing the town and the San bridges to the danger of a direct bombardment. Kusmanek therefore selected a position in the foreground, 2 to 3 km. in front of the ring of forts, running from Krasiczyn over the height of Pod Mazurami to that of Helicha, and had this rapidly fortified and occupied by four battalions. This measure obliged the Russians to fix their line of investment at a corresponding distance from the town at this point also.
The Grand Duke allowed only a very cautious pursuit of the retreating Austro-Hungarians by the Russian armies. The IV. and V. Armies advanced toward the N. of the fortress and across the San; the VIII. Army was ordered to push forward through the Chyrow and Sambor area, and S. of the fortress to the ridge of the Carpathians; the III. Army was to take up a position immediately in front of the E. front of the fortress. On Sept. 20 the first Russian detachments crossed the San at Walawa, to be followed at once by other troops coming from Radymno and Jaroslau, where the bridgeheads had been surrendered to the Russians. These troops surrounded the N. front of the fortress.
Portions of the III. and VIII. Armies now advanced towards the S. and S.W. fronts, while on the W. front two cavalry divisions by Sept. 24 completed the hemming-in of the fortress. By means of numerous very vigorous sorties and by violent artillery fire, Kusmanek succeeded in his task, which was to draw as many Russian forces on to himself as possible. He turned the Russian investiture into an exceedingly difficult undertaking.
The first great sortie was executed by Maj.-Gen. Weher, Commandant of the VI. defence zone, with five battalions and two batteries, on the Grodek road and S. of it, to force back the Russian line of investment between Medyka and Bykow. Taken entirely by surprise, the Russians fell back from the first position, and two infantry divisions brought up to their support suffered heavy losses fromthe artillery fire which now began.
Kusmanek's next opportunity was when he learned that considerable forces were concentrated in the NizankowiceKurmanowice-Fredropol area, with the intention of passing along the S. side of the fortress to push forward towards the west. On Sept. 29 he sent Field-Marshal-Lt. von Tamassy with the 23rd Honved Inf. Div. to attack them by way of Halicha in the direction of the Szybenica height. Here the result was the forced deployment of considerable Russian forces against the 23rd Honved Inf. Div., and consequently the delaying of the Russian westward advance.
Minor sorties on other fronts were also successful, and everywhere a lively artillery battle was kept up in order to rivet the enemy's attention on the fortress. The Russians, for their part, maintained a violent bombardment of the forts in the ring. On Oct. 2 an interruption occurred in the Russian gunfire on the E. front. A parlementaire distinguished by a white flag brought a message from Radko Dimitriev demanding the surrender of the fortress. He was sent back as quickly as he had come bearing Kusmanek's written answer to Radko Dimitriev: " Herr Kommandant, I consider it beneath my dignity to give your insulting demand the reply that it deserves." Thereupon the hail of steel on the forts began afresh.
Kusmanek's refusal had hit Radko Dimitriev hard. It was scarcely possible to fulfil the Tsar's wish and bring about the speedy fall of Przemysl. A coup de main was impracticable, because the siege artillery material was still too far away and could not be fetched up quickly enough on account of the bottomless roads. In the first days of Oct., too, the Austro-Hungarian offensive was launched, and this might within a very short time bring Przemysl the looked-for relief. Radko Dimitriev therefore found himself obliged to revert to a curtailed form of attack, and now tried to make up for the defectiveness of his artillery and technical preparations by reckless onslaughts. As the AustroGerman general offensive had necessitated the removal of some of his N. front divisions to the mobile armies, he made up for Na G orach °Batycze ??. Rokietnica ??.
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Nowasiolki° Krzaczk Bircza 0 lost numbers by making excessive demands on his remaining brave divisions which he sacrificed literally to the last man. Kusmanek had tried to prevent the withdrawal of the Russian divisions by a sortie of the 23rd Honved Inf. Div. with 12 battalions and 7 batteries in the direction of Rokietnica. Radko Dimitriev's plan was, while keeping up the bombardment against the whole ring of forts, to make a demonstration on the N. front and direct the main attack on the S. front against the Siedliska group. The Russian infantry had gradually worked its way up to the ring of forts. The number of siege batteries had been successively augmented - mainly long-distance Io-cm. field-gun batteries, but also some 15-cm. and 21-cm. batteries.
When the Austro-Hungarian offensive had begun on Oct. 4 there was no more time to be lost. The bombardment was doubled in intensity, and on Oct. 5 a coup de main was attempted by a Russian division against the Siedliska group. But the attack was broken by the fire of the defenders, and the division streamed back to its positions, losing heavily. On the 6th three other divisions met the same fate, when, after a bombardment of the N. and S. fronts had increased to the utmost violence, they attempted to take the Siedliska group by storm. Kusmanek, not to be misled by the Russian demonstrations, had recognized in time the direction in which the main attack would be delivered and had raised the strength of the most exposed section of the defence (Section VI.) from II to 25 battalions and increased its artillery to some 350 guns.
The crisis came on Oct. 7. The 76th Inf. Regt. of the Russian 19th Inf. Div. had on the previous night crept up unnoticed to Fort I. and the infantry lines adjoining it. At dawn one battalion of the regiment succeeded in entering the fort. After a furious battle, heroically led by the commandant, Lt.-Col. Svrljuga, the 149 survivors of the Russians who had forced an entry laid down their arms. The courageous garrison had withdrawn to the interior of the fort, defending it section by section, and all attempts to smoke them out and kill them failed. The neighbouring flanking batteries at Hurko were able to prevent Russian reinforcements from coming in. While this attack was in progress the 69th Reserve Div. on the Grodek Road, the both and 13th in front of Jaksmanici, and the 3rd Rifle Bde. on the S. front had lost heavily by unsuccessful assaults.
In the night of the 7th to the 8th the Russians renewed their furious attacks but without penetrating at any point. A general attack, which was to have followed on the next day, did not take place; and only the Siedliska group was again the object of assaults by Radko Dimitriev's decimated divisions, both morning and evening. This last desperate effort also failed completely, and bled the Russians so severely as to put a complete stop to their attacks from that time onward. After more than 72 hours of embittered fighting a gradual detente set in, none too soon for the overstrained nerves and spirits of the defenders.
On the 9th the first effects of the approaching relief were felt. In the course of the night the Russian cavalry divisions on the W. front had withdrawn, and during the day the investing ring began to be opened by the troops on the N. and S. fronts, while those on the S.E. and E. fronts gradually retired to their positions in the line of investment. With the entry into the fortress of the first Austro-Hungarian cavalry patrol on the evening of the 9th and of infantry detachments on the II th, the relief of Przemysl was accomplished.
Of the Austro-Hungarian armies. the III., under Boroevic, advanced direct on Przemysl. Three corps of this army forced a battle upon portions of the siege army N. of Przemysl, and, on the IIth, beat them back across the river, now greatly swollen by a downpour of many days, with enormous losses. The Russians thereupon entrenched themselves on the E. bank of the river. The Russian VIII. Army now established itself on the heights S.E. of Przemysl up to the Chyrow-Sanok area. The III. Army, at a good distance, faced the E. front of Przemysl.
Radko Dimitriev had imagined that he could subdue Przemysl in a very short time. But all these enormous sacrifices proved vain. During a siege of barely three weeks he had lost nearly 70,000 dead and wounded without having any results to show, for the works of the fortress had suffered very little, and the Austro-Hungarian losses were quite small. On the other side the brave conduct of the Austro-Hungarian defenders had saved a powerful fortress which, in the forthcoming battles on the San, afforded a good basis as a point d'appui for the field armies and was able to come to their aid when their supplies failed.
Period Between the First and Second Sieges
When the AustroHungarian armies on the San and S. of the fortress as far as Chyrow advanced to attack along the whole front, the hope of an interval for reconstruction, which the fortress so urgently needed, was by no means realized. On the contrary, lying as it did in the centre of the battle front, it was obliged to take a most active part in the battle now developing, lending garrison troops to the field armies on the one hand and helping generously with the provisioning and supplies on the other.
Very soon after the relief the 23rd Honved Inf. Div. was withdrawn to reinforce the III. Army. It played a successful part in the hardest battles, especially distinguishing itself in the storming of the strong Magiera height.
Altogether there were taken from the garrison, which also made repeated sorties onto the foreground of the E. front, 22 battalions and 27 batteries. Further assistance was given by the artillery support from the ring of forts.
Even greater tean the active part taken in the battle, and far more lowering in its effect on the garrison, was the support in material given by the fortress to the field armies. During the long rainy period before the relief the lines of communication for the fresh drafts of the armies had become an absolute bog. In addition to this, the Russians in their retreat had systematically destroyed roads, bridges and railways (the railway termini were Rzeszow and Zagorz), to the great detriment of the system supplying the armies. It was only natural that every deficiency that arose in the armies, in so far as it could not be made good by transport from the rear, should be supplied by the fortress, which, in spite of all, possessed considerable reserves of material. The fighting armies, from whose attack far-reaching results were expected at the time, had at all costs to be maintained in good fighting condition until the railways were reconstructed.
As it was confidently expected that the borrowed stores - about 21 days' rations had been supplied by the fortress - and the munitions and other material could be replaced almost immediately, the fortress came in the end to be considered as, to all intents and purposes, the base of supplies for the armies. Presently the Army Higher Command realized the mistake that had been made in this matter, and not only forbade all further withdrawal of supplies from the fortress but, in the days immediately preceding the retreat, ordered the armies in their turn to provide it with supplies. On Oct. 28, too, railway communication was restored by way of Chyrow, after the repair of the bridge at Nizankowice, and masses of supplies began to be hastily poured into the fortress.
Yet another burden was imposed upon the fortress by the bringing into it of the wounded and of prisoners, in addition to the very large number of civilian inhabitants. The wounded, it is true, were evacuated almost at once into the interior, before the second siege, but during the second siege 2,000 prisoners were brought into the fortress, and 18,000 civilians had remained within it. So that, taking the average establishment at 128,000 men and 14,500 horses, there were, at the time of the second siege, 148,000 men and 14,500 horses to provide for. By eking out supplies to the utmost, and in the end slaughtering horses, the provisioning of the fortress would last until the second half of March. If the working of the railway coming up thrcugh Chyrow had started one week earlier, no supplies need have left the fortress, and its stores would undoubtedly have been replenished on such a scale that it could have held out until the spring offensive had come into effect. The starving-out of the fortress, which forced on its commander the heart-breaking decision to capitulate, and the setting free of the Russian armies investing it would then have been avoided.
Second Siege, Nov. 6 1914 - March 2 1915
On Nov. 5 the fortress was isolated for the second time, after the field armies had broken off the battle of Przemysl and the San in the night. Once more Kusmanek was confronted with the same tasks as in September. Shortly before the retreat of the field armies the fortress had been reinforced by the 85th Landwehr Bde. and a company of airmen. The strength of the garrison was approximately the same as at the beginning of the first investment. In order to extend the fortress's sphere of action, and to force the Russians to keep their line of investment at a greater distance from the actual ring of forts, at the same time obliging them to use more forces for the occupation of the longer line, Kusmanek had new foreground positions laid out. These formed a curve beginning at the Na Gorach height, and, passing 2-3 km. in front of the western ring of forts, came out S.L. of Krasiczyn at the old foreground position. From Helicha this position was extended to the S. of the fortress through Zlota Gora up to the Siedliska group. This measure secured a double advantage: it placed another obstacle in the way of the attacker, who would have to surmount it before he could assault the ring of forts; and the works would suffer far less from the bombardment, as the siege artillery would be forced to remain farther away from the fortress. On the 9th the investment of the fortress was completed for the second time. The Grand Duke Nicholas had selected the Russian XI. Army under Gen. Selivanov for the siege. This army, consisting of about four infantry and one to two cavalry divisions, had barely half the forces used in the first siege under Radko Dimitriev. This circumstance, and the comparatively small activity shown by the Russians at the beginning of the second siege, pointed to the conclusion that Selivanov was less concerned with a rapid seizure of Przemysl than with the idea of a regular siege, in which he would effect a saving of men on his own side while exploiting the scarcity of food supplies in the fortress, leaving the garrison to grow weak from starvation before he advanced to a serious attack. Kusmanek, on the other hand, displayed all the more activity. The months of Nov. and Dec. he employed in aggressive defence, and only desisted when the decimation of his forces by disease forced him to do so. In nine sorties he seized every possible opportunity of damaging the enemy, of preventing any withdrawals from his forces to the field armies; of destroying his supply trains and lines of communication, and finally of bringing into the fortress any food-stuffssuch as fruit and vegetables - which could be collected. In Dec., .when the Austro-Hungarian armies took the offensive again, these sorties gained in importance, for each important action undertaken by the fortress with the object of containing Russian forces was necessarily a great disadvantage to the Russians defeated in the battle of Limanowa - Lapanow. Above all, in the case of a successful advance by the right wing of the III. Army, the possibility of cooperation between that wing and the sortie troops was not excluded.
On Nov. 7 and 12 further sorties were undertaken in the direction of Nizankowice and Kormanice. On the 14th, following on a report by the airmen of movements of Russian forces through Pruchnik to the W. and S.W., an assault was delivered on Rokietnica by 17 battalions and 10 batteries. For the same reason an equally powerful sortie was made from the S.W. front on the loth, the main force moving on Cisowa, and the side columns towards Krzywcza and the Szybenica height.
In Dec. the Russians also became more active. Having let Nov. go by without doing more than prepare a more or less systematic siege, they now began their attacks and turned Dec. into a month of many battles. Quite at the beginning the 82nd Inf. Div. advanced against the N. front. Kusmanek delivered a vigorous counter-blow from the area of Mackowice against the enemy's right flank and repulsed the attack. On Dec. 9 this action was followed by yet another sortie by 19 battalions and 10 batteries from the S.W. front, with the object of preventing the departure of the Russian first Inf. Div.
In the middle of Dec., when the battle of Limanowa - Lapanow had reached its height, Kusmanek received an order from the Army Higher Command to deliver a fresh assault. In the hope of being able to join hands with Krautwald's group, advancing on the right wing of Boroevic's army, Kusmanek prepared for a great undertaking. With 23 battalions and 15 batteries, commanded by Field-Marshal-Lt. von Tamassy, he pushed forward on the 15th in the direction of Bircza and Krzywcza. After four days of victorious fighting, the heights halfway between Cisowa and Bircza were captured, the enemy driven back along the whole of the S.W. front, and the road to Bircza laid open. But as Krautwald meanwhile had been forced back by the Russians, and as the hope of effecting a junction with him had become a forlorn hope on account of the great distance intervening, and as, further, a fresh violent attack had been launched against the northern foreground position, Na Gorach, Kusmanek found himself obliged to turn his attention to this latter, and to recall Tamassy on the 19th to the fortress.
Once more it was the Russian 82nd Inf. Div. which advanced on Na Gorach. Portions had already penetrated the advanced positions when Kusmanek's counter-attack set in on the loth, and on the 21st threw them back to the line of investment.
At the end of Dec. yet another order from the Army Higher Command led to a fresh sortie. After the battle of LimanowaLapanow the Russians, taking advantage of their interior lines, had opened a counter-offensive against the troops of the III. and IV. Armies which had pushed forward into West Galicia. The proposal was for a sortie to be made in a south-westerly direction, falling in with the left flank of the Russian attack on the one hand, and on the other making a second attempt to effect a junction with the III. Army's right wing, which was pushing forward towards Lisko, Sanok and Rymanow. But with the suspension of the offensive on the 28th the sortie troops were brought back.
This sortie brought the offensive activity of the garrison to a close for the time being, in consideration of their ever-increasing losses through fighting and sickness. All forces were now to be reserved for the effort on a large scale to relieve the fortress, which was planned for the middle of February.
The month of Jan. saw the beginning of a period of great selfdenial and sacrifice for the garrison, in consequence of the increasing scarcity of food. The commandant and his staff had in addition the difficult task of maintaining the striking power of the garrison with insufficient means, which involved exacting the maximum of service from each individual soldier in spite of his lack of nourishment. On Dec. 1 1914 Kusmanek, counting upon a delay in the relief operations, had ordered the first general reduction of rations for men and horses. At the end of the month the first horses were killed for the purpose of providing meat and saving fodder. Had the fortress been consuming its full rations it could not have held out beyond the end of Jan., but by the reduction of the ration and further slaughter of horses (up to 7,450), supplies were eked out until the end of March. The extension of the life of the fortress was in proportion to the establishment of horses it was necessary to keep up. For the projected break-through sortie and for the absolutely essential fortress duties a minimum establishment of 4,500 had to be allowed for. By means of further reducing the ration, resorting to incredible makeshifts, and sacrificing 3,500 more horses, the provisioning was made to last until March 24, but there was a rapid mounting-up of the sick list. By the beginning of March one-fifth of the fortress establishment had fallen. To the scarcity of food was added in the winter months that of clothing, footwear and all the other necessaries of life. The garrison had been equipped, for the most part, with summer clothing, and even this had been badly damaged in the fighting. In respect of technical and artillery supplies also, the fortress gradually lost its power of resistance. The barrels of the guns had been gradually burnt out by the excessive demands made on them, and the range of the guns declined accordingly. The stores of ammunition were also rapidly coming to an end, despite the utmost economy.
While the striking power of the fortress was suffering sensibly from all the unspeakable privations imposed by hunger, cold and want, the besiegers were gradually becoming more active. At first the Russians confined themselves to increasing the airmen's activity. Almost every day their airmen circled round the fortress, with very little hindrance from its quite inadequate means of defence, dropping bombs on the forts and the town. In the beginning of Feb. the systematic bombardment of the fortress set in. In the middle of the month the besiegers brought up the line of investment nearer to the N.W., W. and S.W. fronts. On the night of the 18th three regiments attacked the foreground position at Pod Mazurami, but were beaten back with heavy losses. It seemed to the Russians that the garrison's striking power was still too strong; and they let three weeks pass before equipping themselves for an important attack. On March 13 a powerful Russian force advanced against the N. foreground position Na Gorach - Batycze. Against so strong an attack, delivered by at least two regiments, the 35th Light Inf. Regt. could make no stand. As other powerful Russian forces were advancing against the N. front from Radymno, and as Kusmanek considered his own garrison too weak for a counter-blow and also wished to save his forces for the great final break-through, he gave up the foreground position and refrained from counter-attacking. At the same moment the Austro-Hungarian Higher Command had reached the conclusion that the II. Army's offensive would not be able to bring about the desired relief of the fortress, which was therefore inevitably doomed, since the food supplies would be exhausted by March 24.
A break-through from the fortress might conceivably save a portion of the garrison for the Austro-Hungarian army forces, and it had therefore to be attempted. In consideration of the state of supplies, March 19 was fixed as the latest time limit for its execution. Kusmanek had already made all the necessary preparations. He was free to choose the direction in which the sortie was to be made. His decision fell on the E., as it appeared to him impossible for his exhausted men to effect a junction with the II. Army through the mountainous area. On the E. the ground was practicable, and he might hope to have an opportunity there of destroying Russian railway lines and communications, and also possibly to have the good fortune to capture a Russian supply store. In case the break-through failed, he would then be able to take back provisions into the fortress and so prolong its life by a few days.
With two infantry divisions and three independent infantry brigades (50 battalions, 6 squadrons and 18 battalions) the break-through was begun on the morning of the 19th. After some opening success the troops, in a heroic seven-hour battle, fought their way up to the Medyka heights, coming to a stand here at fio A.M. A flanking counter-attack by the Russian 58th Reserve Div., which had been brought up from the Carpathians, then forced them to return to the fortress, their losses being heavy on account of their exhaustion. The fate of the fortress and the garrison was now finally sealed. The Russians realized the aim of this last sortie, and they had captured on prisoners the order regarding it; they therefore knew that the fortress was almost at the end of its power of resistance. Kusmanek now awaited their attacks. All the sortie troops had returned to their old positions on the 19th. The same night the Russian masses made a violent assault on the E. front. Until the morning of the 22nd Selivanov exerted himself to the utmost to take the fortress by storm. An endless bombardment by the heaviest-calibre guns set in, and was followed by assaults on the N.W., N. and N.E. fronts, as well as on the E. front and the foreground position, Pod Mazurami. But the brave defenders held their ground and repulsed one attack after another. At last Kusmanek, armed with authority from the Army Higher Command, decided to destroy the fortress, since it was now quite impossible to save it. On March 22 between 5 and 6:30 A.M., just as renewed Russian attacks had begun, the works were blown up as far as possible; all guns, the small remaining store of ammunition and the technical arrangements were demolished, all arms broken, motors and other vehicles burnt, and the remaining horses shot. Kusmanek then sent a parlementaire to the Russian siege army. When the conditions for the surrender had been fixed the Russians entered the town to take over the administration.
Kusmanek betook himself at once with his staff to Selivanov's headquarters. The garrison,' which was allowed all military 1 In round figures 107,000 men, among whom were 28,000 invalids both fit and unfit for transport.
honours and looked upon even by the enemy as a model of military bravery, remained about another week in Przemysl, and was then removed in large detachments by way of Lemberg. On the 24th the Russian General Artamanov took command.
After four and a half months of heroic defence the fortress of Przemysl had fallen, through hunger and sickness. To the brave garrison, and in the first place to the determined commandant, Gen. von Kusmanek, and to Gen.. von Tamassy, leader of most of the sorties, the highest admiration was due, and the victorious enemy, whose own courage was proved by the enormous tribute of lives sacrificed before the forts and ramparts of the fortress, recognized this in full measure.
Recapture of the Fortress, May 30 - June 31915
Soon after the fall of the fortress of Przemysl the Russians had taken in hand the reorganization of its works. Particularly after the visit of the Tsar, who inspected the destroyed works in the second half of April, the reconstruction was taken in hand with feverish haste. Numerous heavy guns, including French ones, were brought into the fortress, and a strong garrison was maintained. By the middle of May Bohm's and Puhallo's armies had advanced in a concentric attack on the positions S. of the fortress, as well as on the S., S.W. and W. fronts, while Mackensen's army pushed forward in the area N. of the fortress and over the San. While the Allied armies were thus advancing on Przemysl the Russians were undecided whether to hold the fortress or not. By the middle of May they had begun the work of evacuation and the withdrawal of troops. But in the second half of the month the idea of holding the fortress gained ground, and the Grand Duke finally ordered it to be held " to the last extremity." When Mackensen's army began its offensive on May 24 on both sides of the Szklo in a south-easterly direction, the fortress became more and more closely surrounded to the N. also by the ring of investment. By the 30th the necessary heavy artillery had also been brought up, in spite of the delay caused by the ruined roads and bridges, and the bombardment of the S.W. and northern fronts immediately began. These were the two fronts against which the attack was to be directed. While the X. Corps of Puhallo's army stormed the S.W. front, the Bavarians of the XI. Army, in conjunction with one Prussian infantry regiment, one Guard battalion, and the dismounted troops of the firth Honved Ca y. Div., executed the main attack on the N. front.
Misled by the violence of the attack of the Austro-Hungarian infantry regiments (the 9th and 4 5th of the X. Corps), who, on the 30th, stormed the Pralkowce fort, on the S.W. front, Work VII., the Russians awaited the main attack there and brought their whole strength into play against the X. Corps. But although they were able to force the Austrians to evacuate the fort, they could not themselves reoccupy it. Meanwhile the Germans had done good work on the N. front. Their bombardment was mainly directed against the forts, X., Xa., XIa. and XI., lying between Ujkowice and Dunkowiczki, and for this guns of all calibres, including the 42-cm. mortars, were used. On the 31st, after heavy fighting, ending in a melee, Forts Xa. and XIa.. were taken, as well as the adjacent infantry positions, and Fort XI. capitulated. On June fi the Russians brought up strong reserves, but not in time to avert the fate of the fortress. On the morning of the 2nd Fort X. fell into the hands of the attacking forces after its obstinate resistance had been overcome by a liberal bombardment. By the evening Fort XII. had also been captured, and Forts IXa. and IXb. surrendered to Maj.-Gen. Berndt's cavalry. The breakthrough of the ring of forts had succeeded. North of Zurawica the Russians made one more stand; but this line had also been forced by the evening of the 2nd, and the Russians betook themselves to their last line of resistance immediately in front of the nucleus. But the attack did not get as far as this, for the Russians abandoned the fortress on the night of the 2nd, influenced probably by the successes attained by the XI. and II. Armies. Their rearguards took up new positions on the E. front of the fortress on the line Medyka - Siedliska.
At 3 A.M. the Bavarians of Lt.-Gen. Kneusel's division entered the fortress from the north. Maj.-Gen. Berndt followed from the N.W. with the Austro-Hungarian 4th Ca y. Division. By 6 A.M. the Austro-Hungarian X. Corps had also come in. But the attacking forces did not remain long in the evacuated town. In a hurried pursuit they overran the Siedliska position and pushed forward to the E. of the town.
The fall of Przemysl fortress, which had been subdued in barely four days, meant for the Russians the loss of the most powerful pivot of their San front. Not without reason had the Grand Duke - who had tried to gain a success over the IV. Army by a violent assault at Rudnik during the hard struggle for Przemysl - ordered the fortress to be held " to the last extremity." By its fall the forces of the Austro-Hungarian III. Army and the German XI. Army were set free, and could go to the aid of the dangerously situated IV. Army. On the 4th the Russians abandoned the San front. Thus the recapture of Przemysl, apart from the great moral impression it made, was decisive also in a strategical sense. (E. J.)