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Battle of Przemysl (A Federation of Equals)

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Battle of Przemysl
Part of Krakovian War (A Federation of Equals)
10576
Date November 12th, 1850
Location Przemysl, Galicia
Result Russian Victory
Belligerents
Russian Empire Danubian Federation
Commanders and leaders
Pyotr Gorchakov Edvard Francois Masaryk
Strength
30,000 18,000
Casualties and losses
6,000 11,000
The Battle of Przemyśl was fought on November 12th, 1850, in the Polish town of Przemyśl, then part of the Danubian Federation. A Russian Army, under the command of Pyotr Gorchakov assaulted a defensive line created in Galicia by Danubian Forces, overwhelming them, and achieving victory in the first military engagement of the war.

Prelude

Russian forces under the supreme command of Prince Aleksandr Menschikov, the Tsar's Chief of General Staff, had overwhelmed the Danubian defenses in the month of October, after several weeks of ineffective tactics and a general stalemate since late August. Strictly organized, the Imperial Forces were able to force the bulk of the Second Southern Army, under the command of Edvard Francois Masaryk, north. It was here in the town of Przemyśl, that the Danubian Forces attempted a defense, garrisoned by 18,000 soldiers. The Prince, intent on maintaining his hold on Eastern Galicia, ordered a secondary army, under the command of General Pyotr Gorchakov. With 30,000 Imperial troops, it became the priority to force the Second Southern Army out of Poland. The Danubian Army had prepared defenses on the far side of the San River, which divided the town, and had armed the river defense heavily. Unaware of such a defense system, the Russian Army had arrived on the southern section of the city on the 9th, only to be fired upon by Danubian Guns on the North side. Pyotr withdrew south, to the edge of the town, and prepared for a assault three days latter.

Crossing the San

In the early hours of the 12th, the Russian Officers served a brief meal to the soldiers, and prepared to march north under the cover of night. Colonel Baron Bistrom, of the 62 infantry division, were within a mile of the river when the Danubian Artillery barrage began to ignite fire towards the incoming brigade. The brigade, carrying naval transportation boats, were covered by a returned thunder of Russian Guns, who distracted the Federal fire away from the incoming infantry unit. The 62nd was able to reach the river with few casualties, and dock the boats as the bulk of the Russian infantry prepared to cross.

Meanwhile, 3 infantry brigades, composing of 9,000 troops, and 500 cavalry, had crossed a shallow portion of the San, a few miles east of the town. They were engaged by Danubian skirmishers, though were overwhelmed by the sheer mass of the incoming attackers. By 6 AM, the Russian forces in the east were storming west, and attracting the attention of the river defenders. After a half-hour, the Southern forces began to cross the river, with the majority of Danubian manpower being distributed to prevent the eastern force from flanking the city. Despite heavy casualties during the conflict, the Russian forces were able to cross the river, where they engaged in a melee battle with nearly 6,000 Danubian Soldiers.

Masaryk, at this time, motioned his cavalry forward to the northern section of the river, weakening his eastern flank and allowing the 3 infantry brigades to push nearer into the city. Amidst the engagement, Baron Bistrom was killed, but his death was not a blow, rather a rallying cry, as the Imperial forces pushed the Danubians into a withdrawal. Now marching in column, the Russian Army with 16,000 infantry men and 5,000 cavalry forces smashed into the remaining river guns, bringing the last defenders on the San in a full rout.

Eastern Attack

Now just a mile east of the city, the three infantry brigades (the 2nd, 11th, and 6th) accompanied by the 10th Imperial Cavalry division, were engaged with heavy Danubian resistance. Well organized and supplied rows of Federal troops opened fire constantly, bringing a chaotic Russian force into a mass formation. Lacking decent leadership amidst the Russian officers, and with nearly 4,000 dead, the Imperial forces withdrew, with the 10th division covering their return east. Masaryk, upon receiving news of the victory, ordered a pursuit, which included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th infantry divisions, for a total of 4,754 troops. The Danubian attack was very decisive, bringing the 2nd and 6th into a full rout, while the 11th sustained some degree of organization. However, the attack had allowed the crossing forces time to overrun the river defenses and begin the march north. Fighting continued for nearly two hours as the Baron neared the center command of the city, guarded by few divisions.

Federal Guns frantically attempted to halt the march of Bistrom's troops, but barely even managed to delay it, as the Russians overran the last remaining defenders, driving Masaryk away as his army descended into a rout. The fleeing soldiers withdrew to the East, where the victorious Danubian Brigades were rushing back into the city to attempt a counter-attack. The effort was futile, as there pursuit tactic had pushed them too far away from the Danubian command, allowing time for the Imperials to regain command and prepare to march out to greet the returning Danubian Forces.

Retreat and Aftermath

Having already sustained roughly 11,000 casualties, Masaryk decided to withdraw from the battlefield, and accept defeat. Gorchakov allowed the retreat, refusing pursuit and instead deciding to reorganize the badly chaotic forces under his command. The army of the South, was only saved from total destruction nearly a week later after the relief arrival of the Army of the Centre, who accompanied the Second Southern Army in its withdrawal. By mid-December, there would be at least 2 Russians for every Danubian troop in Galicia.

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