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advance at that end. The wave of Russians had swept nearly to the German
trenches, situated between two sections of field artillery, and there
had been repulsed. Russians were smeared across in front of these pits,
dead, dying, or wounded - cut down by the terrible spray of German
machine guns.

"I got up to the trenches as the German fire slackened because of the
lack of targets. The Russians had gone back. Strewn in the trenches
were countless empty shells, the bullets of which had, as it looked to
inexpert eyes, slain thousands. As a matter of fact, there were hundreds
of dead in the field ahead.


"German infantrymen spat on their rapid firers as we reached the trench
and delightedly called our attention to the sizzle that told how hot the
barrels were from the firing.

"The men stretched their cramped limbs, helped a few wounded to the
rear, and waited for breakfast. It was not long forthcoming. Small lines
of men struggling along tinder steaming buckets came hurrying up to the
accompaniment of cheers and shouts. They bore soup that the men in the
trenches gulped down ravenously. Meanwhile men with the white brassard
and the red Geneva cross were busy out in the open, lending succor to
the Russian wounded. The battle seemed to have come to a sudden halt.

"But even as I was getting soup, the artillery fusillade broke forth
again. From 9 o'clock to noon the Russians hurled their heavy shells at
the German trenches and the German guns. The German batteries replied

"There was mighty little fuss and feathers about this business of
dealing death from guns. The crews at each piece laughed among
themselves, but there were none of the picturesque shouts of command,
the indiscriminate blowing of bugles, and the flashy waving of battle
flags that the word battle usually conjures up. It was merely a deadly
business of killing.

"Over to the right, a scant 300 yards away, the Russians had apparently
succeeded in getting the range. As I watched through the glasses I saw
shrapnel burst over the battery there and watched a noncommissioned
soldier fall with three of his comrades. I was told that one had been
killed and three wounded. The Red Cross crew came up and bore away the
four - the dead and the live - and before they were gone the gun was
speaking away with four fresh men working it.

"But the shrapnel kept bursting away over it and soon an orderly came
riding furiously back on his horse, saluted the officers with me, and
shouted as he hurried back to the artillery reserve: 'Six inch shells to
the front; more ammunition.'

"I went back to see the wounded, but the surgeon wouldn't let me. I
expressed to him my wonder at the few wounded. I had seen only a few in
the trenches, and no German dead until I saw the artilleryman killed.
He explained that the losses on the German side were light because
the trenches were well constructed and because there had been no
hand-to-hand, bayonet to bayonet fighting.


"Yesterday, my first day at Wirballen, I saw the third attempt of the
Russians to carry the German center by storm. Twice on Wednesday their
infantry had advanced under cover of their artillery, only to be
repulsed. Their third effort proved no more successful.

"The preliminaries were well under way, without my appreciating their
significance, until one of my officer escorts explained.

"At a number of points along their line, observable to us, but screened
from the observation of the German trenches in the center, the Russian
infantry came tumbling out, and, rushing forward, took up advanced
positions, awaiting the formation of the new and irregular battle
line. Dozens of light rapid-firers were dragged along by hand. Other
troops - the reserves - took up semi-advanced positions. All the while the
Russian shrapnel was raining over the German trenches.

"Finally came the Russian order to advance. At the word hundreds of
yards of the Russian fighting line leaped, forward, deployed in open
order, and came on. Some of them came into range of the German trench
fire almost at once. These lines began to wilt and thin out.


"But on they came, all along the line, protected and unprotected alike,
rushing forward with a yell, pausing, firing, and advancing again.

"From the outset of the advance the German artillery, ignoring for the
moment the Russian artillery action, began shelling the onrushing mass
with wonderfully timed shrapnel, which burst low over the advancing
lines and tore sickening gaps.

"But the Russian line never stopped. For the third time in two days
they came tearing on, with no indication of having been affected by the
terrible consequences of the two previous charges. As a spectacle the
whole thing was maddening.

"On came the Slav swarm, into the range of the German trenches, with
wild yells and never a waver. Russian battle flags - the first I had
seen - appeared in the front of the charging ranks. The advance line
thinned and the second line moved up.

"Nearer and nearer they swept toward the German positions. And then came
a new sight. A few seconds later came a new sound. First I saw a sudden,
almost grotesque melting of the advancing line. It was different from
anything that had taken place before. The men literally went down like
dominoes in a row. Those who kept their feet were hurled back as though
by a terrible gust of wind. Almost in the second that I pondered,
puzzled, the staccato rattle of machine guns reached us. My ear answered
the query of my eye.


"For the first time the advancing line hesitated, apparently bewildered.
Mounted officers dashed along the line, urging the men forward. Horses
fell with the men. I saw a dozen riderless horses dashing madly through
the lines, adding a new terror. Another horse was obviously running away
with his officer rider. The crucial period for the section of the charge
on which I had riveted my attention probably lasted less than a minute.
To my throbbing brain it seemed an hour. Then, with the withering fire
raking them even as they faltered, the lines broke. Panic ensued. It was
every man for himself. The entire Russian charge turned and went tearing
back to cover and the shelter of the Russian trenches.

"I swept the entire line of the Russian advance with my glasses - as far
as it was visible from our position. The whole advance of the enemy was
in retreat, making for its intrenched position.


"After the assault had failed and the battle had resumed its normal
trend I swept the field with my glasses. The dead were everywhere. They
were not piled up, but were strewn over acres. More horrible than the
sight of the dead, though, were the other pictures brought up by the
glasses. Squirming, tossing, writhing figures everywhere! The wounded!
All who could stumble or crawl were working their way back toward their
own lines or back to the friendly cover of hills or wooded spots.

"After the charge we moved along back of the German lines at a safe
distance and found the hospital corps bringing back the German wounded.

"The artillerymen had resumed their duel and as we came up in the lee of
the outbuildings of a deserted farmhouse a shell struck and fired the
farmhouse immediately in front of us. As we paused to see if the shot
was a chance one, or if the Russian gunners had actually gotten the
range, a regiment of fresh reserves, young men who had just come up from
the west, passed us on their way to get their baptism of fire.

"Their demeanor was more suggestive of a group of college students going
to a football game than the serious business on which they were bent.
They were singing and laughing, and as they went by a noncommissioned
officer inquired rather ruefully whether there were any Russians left
for them.

"Throughout the day we watched the fight waged from the opposing
trenches and by the artillery.

"Suddenly at sundown the fighting ceased as if by mutual agreement. As I
write this I can see occasional flashes of light like the flare of giant
fireflies out over the scene of the Russian charge - the flashes of small
electrical lamps in the hands of the Russian hospital corps.

"I'm glad I don't have to look at what the flashes reveal out there in
the night."



_Declaration of War by Austria - Bombardment of Belgrade -
Servian Capital Removed - Seasoned Soldiers of Servia
Give a Good Account of Themselves - Many Indecisive
Engagements - Servians in Austrian Territory_.

Formal declaration of war against Servia was proclaimed by Austria on
Tuesday, July 28. The text of the official announcement was as follows:

"The Royal Government of Servia not having given a satisfactory reply to
the note presented to it by the Austro-Hungarian Ministry in Belgrade
on July 23, 1914, the Imperial and Royal Government of Austria-Hungary
finds it necessary itself to safeguard its rights and interests and to
have recourse for this purpose to the force of arms. Austria-Hungary,
therefore, considers itself from this moment in a state of war with

This declaration was signed by Count Berchtold, the Austrian minister
for foreign affairs.

The events that immediately preceded the declaration of war, as
summarized in a previous chapter, were as follows:

On June 28 a Slav student who thought he was a patriot killed the
Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, at Serajevo,
the capital of Bosnia, which had been lately made a province of Austria.
An inquiry was begun in which evidence was introduced to show that the
assassin's work was part of a plot for the revolt of the Southern Slav
provinces of Austria, and that it was instigated by Servians, if not by
the Servian Government. On July 23, however, before the investigation
was completed, Austria sent an ultimatum to Servia demanding that it use
every means in its power to punish the assassins and also to stop all
further anti-Austrian propaganda. Austria demanded that she be permitted
to have representatives in the work of investigation in Servia.

The next day, July 24, Russia joined the little Slav country in asking
for a delay. Austria refused to grant this.

On July 25, ten minutes before 6 p.m., the hour at which the ultimatum
expired, the Servian premier, M. Pashitch, gave his reply to the
Austrian ambassador at Belgrade. Servia agreed to all the conditions
and apologies demanded by Austria, except the requirement that Austrian
officials should be allowed to participate in the inquiry to be
conducted in Servia into the assassination of the Archduke. Even this
was not definitely refused.

On July 27 the Austrian foreign office issued a statement in which
appeared these words:

"The object of the Servian note is to create the false impression that
the Servian Government is prepared in great measure to comply with our

"As a matter of fact, however, Servians note is filled with the spirit
of dishonesty, which clearly lets it be seen that the Servian Government
is not seriously determined to put an end to the culpable tolerance
it hitherto has extended to intrigues against the Austro-Hungarian

Russia at once notified Austria that it could not permit Servian
territory to be invaded. It was then realized in Europe that the great
Slav nation would support its little brother. Germany let it be known
that no other country must interfere with the Austro-Servian embroglio,
which meant that Germany was prepared to back Austria.

An eleventh-hour proposal by the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward
Grey, that mediation between Servia and Austria be undertaken by a
conference of the Ambassadors in London, was accepted by France and
Italy, but declined by Germany and Austria. Then next day, July 28, came
Austria's declaration of war, which soon made Europe the theater of the
bloodiest struggle of all the ages.


Servians reply to the declaration of war was to concentrate a strong
division of its forces in the Sanjak of Novi-Bazar, from which they
would be in a position to threaten Bosnia and Herzegovina, the two
Balkan provinces that Austria had lately annexed. It was also reported
that Servia intended to invade Bosnia with the object of enlisting
further support from the Bosnian Serbs, who were said to be on the point
of rising against Austria-Hungary.

The country of the Servians being well suited for defense, they were
never completely overrun by the Turks, as other Balkan states were,
and as a consequence they still retain, like the Greeks, a native
aristocracy of culture. Physically, they are fairer than most of the
Balkan Slavs and more refined in appearance. By temperament they are
light-hearted, joyous, frivolous, and charming to deal with.

In Servia itself, including territory acquired in recent wars, there
are about 4,500,000 Serbs. In Austria there are about 3,500,000 Serbs,
including Croats who belong to the Servian race.

The Servians have long dreamed and talked and written of a greater
Servia, that should take in all the Servian race. They look back to the
time of King Stephen Dushan, in the fourteenth century, when Servia was
supreme in the Balkans and was nearly as advanced in civilization as the
most advanced nations of Europe. The re-establishment of this ancient
kingdom had become a passion with the Serbs - not only with those in
Servia, but with many in Hungary as well. Hence, their animus against
Austria and Austrian rule, while Austria's fight was, primarily, for
the preservation and solidification of her heterogeneous dominions;
secondarily, for revenge for the Archduke's death. Incidentally, it may
be mentioned that the Archduke Francis Ferdinand was a close personal
friend of the German Kaiser.


The Servian forces under General Radumil Putnik, consist of ten
divisions, divided into four army corps, with a peace footing of 160,
and a war strength of over 380,000. Most of the men called to arms
against Austria were veterans of the two recent Balkan wars, and hence
probably the most seasoned troops in Europe.

The rifle of the Servian army is the Mauser, model of 1899, with a
caliber of 7 millimeters, but it is doubtful if Servia possessed enough
of them to arm the reserves. The Servian field piece is a quick-firing
gun of the French Schneider-Canet system. The army has some 350 modern

At the outbreak of the war Servia had ten of the most modern aircraft,
but she had not developed their efficiency to a degree at which they
would be of much material benefit to her in the struggle.

The extremely mountainous nature of Servia and of the adjacent territory
of Bosnia make military movements somewhat slow and difficult,
especially for troops unaccustomed to mountain warfare. Compared with
this mountainous region, the district of Agram, where one Austrian army
corps had its headquarters, is easy country to operate in, while the
plain of Hungary on the opposite side of the Danube made the task of
concentrating troops an easy one for the Austrians.

Another Austrian army corps had its base at Serajevo in Bosnia. A
railway to the northeast from this Bosnian capital touches the Servian
border at Mokragora. To the north of this point lies Kragujevac, the new
capital of Servia, to which King Peter, his court and the Government
repaired from Belgrade just before the declaration of war. Southeast of
the new capital is the important Servian city of Nish.

The western frontier of Servia follows the windings of the Biver Drina,
a tributary of the Danube. The Danube itself forms part of the northern
boundary and the former capital. Belgrade, is picturesquely situated
on the south bank of the Danube at its junction with a tributary. Two
Austrian fortresses command the city from across the Danube. On the
plain of Hungary to the north is Temesvar, an important point at which
another Austrian army corps was located.


At the outset the chances of war were heavily against Servia. Such
artificial defenses as she possessed were on the Bulgarian frontier.
Many of her troops were engaged in endeavoring to establish Servian rule
among the neighboring peoples in her new Albanian possessions. Austria
was prepared to bring against her immediately the three army corps from
Temesvar, Serajevo and Agram, and four more corps, from Hermanstadt,
Budapest, Graz, and Kaschau, within a fortnight. Servians one hope
appeared to be the difficulty of the country, otherwise she could not
oppose for a moment the advance of 250,000 troops supported by
pieces of artillery. Then, too, Austria had warships on the Danube and
it was partly through this fact that it was decided by the Servian
Government to evacuate Belgrade and to retire to Kragujevac, sixty miles

In spite, however, of the seeming futility of opposition, Servia,
encouraged by Russian support, prepared for a strenuous campaign against
the Austrian forces, and the first two months of the war ended without
any decisive advantage to Austria. The Servians, on the other hand,
claimed numerous successes. Their task was lightened by the Russian
invasion of Austrian territory and the determined advance of the Czar's
host, which demanded the fullest strength of the Austrian forces to
resist. As the Russians hammered their enemy in Galicia the spirits of
the Servians rose and their seasoned soldiers gave a good account of
themselves in every encounter with Austrian troops. They crossed the
Drina and carried the war into Bosnia, putting up a stiff fight wherever
they encountered the enemy, and while they sustained severe losses
in killed and wounded during August and September, the losses they
inflicted upon the Austrians were still heavier.


The Austrian troops on the banks of the Danube became active soon after
war was declared. In the first few days they seized two Servian steamers
and a number of river boats. Belgrade was bombarded from across the
river and many of its public buildings, churches and private residences
suffered damage.

The hostile armies came into contact for the first time on the River
Drina, between Bosnia and Servia, and Vienna was compelled to admit
defeat in this preliminary engagement of the war. The Servians forced a
passage through the Austrian ranks, but only at the cost of many killed
and wounded.

When Crown Prince Alexander of Servia began the invasion of Bosnia
in earnest, in the middle of August, Austria found herself at a
disadvantage because of the necessity of massing most of her forces
against the Russians. Roumania and Montenegro were then preparing to
join the Servians in the field against Austria.

Later in August the Servians captured several of the enemy's strongholds
in Bosnia. After a four-day battle on the banks of the Drina the
Austrians were defeated with heavy loss, a large number of guns and
prisoners being captured by the Servians. The Montenegrin troops
repulsed an Austrian invading force and took several hundred prisoners
in an all-day battle on the frontier.

Early in September a heavy engagement was fought by the Servian and
Austrian armies near Jadar, resulting in Servian victory. It was claimed
that the Austrians left 10,000 dead on the field of battle. The Servians
also successfully defended Belgrade, which had been bombarded on several
occasions. Fifteen or twenty miles west of Belgrade on the Save River,
an Austrian force was decisively defeated by the Servians, who then
seemed to be duplicating the successes of the Russian army against

The attitude of Turkey was being closely watched at this time, Greece
and Bulgaria being prepared to enter the war against the Ottoman Empire
if the latter decided on belligerency, but on September 5 Turkey again
declared her intention to remain neutral.


Crossing the Save River into Hungary, the Servians scored a brilliant
stroke in the capture of Semlin, an important Austrian city. They also
reported continued successes in Bosnia. Reports of wholesale desertions
of Slavs from the Austrian army were received daily and probably had
considerable foundation in fact. It was said that the Servians were
being received enthusiastically by the people of Hungary.

These Servian triumphs led to the reorganization of the Balkan League,
including Servia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece.

On September 20 the Servian Government announced that an Austrian
attacking army which attempted to cross the frontier near the Sabatz
Mountains had been routed with a loss of 15,000 killed and wounded. The
Servian losses in this and other engagements were claimed to have been
small in comparison with those of the enemy.

Continuing their forward movement into Hungary, the Servians inflicted
further losses on the Austrians near Noviapazow, while the Montenegrins
reported a victory in the mountain slopes over their border.

On October 1 it was reported that the Servians had again repulsed an
Austrian attempt at invasion and had driven the Austrians back across
the Drina with loss. They had also checked another Austrian attempt
to take Belgrade. The Servian war office claimed that the combined
Servian-Montenegrin armies had made material progress in their invasion
of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that they were within striking distance of
Serajevo, which they expected to capture. This, however, was denied by
the Vienna ministry of war, which claimed that the Servian situation was
entirely satisfactory to Austria.

On October 5 Servian troops were reported to have begun a northeast
advance from Semlin, to effect a junction with two Russian columns
advancing southward in Hungary. One of these columns was then assaulting
a fortress in Northwest Hungary, sixty-six miles southeast of Olmutz,
while the other was descending the valley of the Nagyan against Huszt
in the province of Marmaros. This latter province or county, which the
Russians invaded through the Carpathian passes, lies in the northeast of
Hungary, bordering on Galicia, Bukowina and Transylvania. There was a
legend that the eastern Carpathians are impregnable, but this legend was
destroyed by the Russian invasion.

Before attaining Uzsok pass, in the Carpathians, the Russians
successively captured by a wide flanking movement three well-masked
positions which were strongly defended by guns. Each time the Russians
charged the enemy fled and the Russians followed up the Austrian retreat
with shrapnel and quick fire, inflicting heavy losses.

German troops joined the Austrian forces in Hungary and at some points
succeeded in repulsing the invaders, though their general advance was
not decisively checked and they continued the endeavor to effect a
junction with the Servians to the south. Advices from Budapest, October
6, declared that the Russians had captured Marmaros-Sziget, capital of
the county of Marmaros, necessitating the removal of the government of
that department to Huszt, twenty-eight miles west-northwest of Sziget.
A second Russian column was reported to be threatening Huszt and
Austro-German reinforcements were being hurried up to check the Russian

- Kessler in the New York _Evening Sun_.]



_Thrilling Incidents of the Great War Told by Actual Combatants
- Personal Experiences from the Lips of Survivors
of the World's Bloodiest Battles - Tales of
Prisoners of War, Wounded Soldiers and Refugees
Rendered Homeless in Blighted Arena of Conflict_.


Cavalry fighting on the banks of the River Marne in the year 1914 was
almost identical with the charge in the days when Hannibal's Numidian
horse charged at Romans at Lake Trasimene, or when Charles Martel and
the chivalry of France worsted the Moors and saved Europe on the plains
of Tours.

A good description of a cavalry charge was given by Private Capel of the
Third British Hussars, a veteran of the Boer war, who took part in the
fighting beginning at Mons and was separated from his regiment in a
charge at Coulommiers, in the battle of the Marne, when his horse fell.

"You hear," said he, "the enemy's bugles sounding the charge. Half a
mile away you see the Germans coming and it seems that in an instant
they will be on you. You watch fascinated and cold with a terror that
makes you unable to lift an arm or do anything but wait and tremble.

"They come closer and still you are horrorstruck. Then you feel your

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 21 of 49)