The Winter War entered a bloody stage as Russian troops moved directly towards Warsaw. As Prussia and Austria scrambled to get their act together, battle was joined by Pultsuk where the 40,000 Russian Army joined battle against a 28,000 Polish Army. The Russians had expected an incredibly easy victory over the Poles and to acquisition the country into their Empire. They turned out to be dead wrong.
The Russian Army had gone under practically no reforms since Napoleon’s invasion, still slow, still with an incompetent officer class and still with outdated tactics and equipment; it was in for a nasty shock. The Polish Army, in a contrast, had recently received several thousand New England rifles and the Army was staffed by several old French officers who had served under Jozef Poniatowski in previous campaigns. The new Polish Army was also modelled on the French and in the last few years, had become one of the best (If, the smallest) in Europe.
The battle at Pultsuk on the 3rd January was the watershed moment for Poland and its untested Army. The Armies were made up of 32,000 infantry and 8000 cavalry on the Russian side while the Polish Army had 22,000 infantry with 6000 cavalry. Poland did have an advantage in guns with 80 of them while the Russian supply train was behind the Army and only allowed them 50. Poniatowski himself commanded the Polish Army, wanting to defend his new Kingdom to the death if needs be.
The Armies met on a hilly plain with the Polish Army occupying the high ground. Seeing that they were desperately outnumbered, Poniatowski decided that a quick victory was needed. Mounting his artillery so that they were all pointing at the centre of the infantry, bombardment commenced at 11:21 AM and the battle was joined. The bombardment took a heavy toll on the Russian infantry as it marched uphill towards the Poles. Taking a cue from the tactics of Wellington, the Polish Army was stationed quite a way back on the hill deployed in line. Once the Russian Army had actually managed to reach the top of the hill and get over it, the Polish forces opened a concentrated fire which further decimated the Russian lines.
The Russian line, though damaged, still marched on and managed to open fire on the Polish lines but due to their use of muskets, the firing was in the favour of the Polish. The Russian cavalry had gone around the flanks of the Polish infantry and made an attempt to send the infantry into chaos. They were themselves countered by the Polish cavalry who were, in this case, outmatched by the sheer ferocity of the Russian attack. The cavalry did give the infantry enough time to form into square and therefore, were able to repulse the attack when it finally came through.
For three hours, the battle raged and the Russian Army took a hard pounding throughout. Unable to gain anything in the way of an advantage, the Commander of the Russian Army insisted that the attack be kept up; believing that weight in numbers would eventually win the day. He was wrong. The Polish line held despite the Russian assaults and by 2:48 PM, several Russian units began to flee from battle which caused a chain reaction throughout the line. The entire central lines crumbled under the constant firing and artillery bombardment and began to flee.
Unable to rally the troops, the Russian Commander was forced to order a retreat from the field. Exhausted and battered, the Polish Army was unable to chase their enemies, having suffered over 7000 casualties to the Russian’s 12,000. The battle was a landmark occasion in European history as Poland now had a military victory to its name and one that had been achieved by a complete Polish Army. The immediate affect in Europe was instantaneous as the Prussian and Austrian Governments, who had been dragging their feet on the Russian invasion, now jumped in and threatened war against Russia in support of Poland.
The Battle of Pultsuk came as a huge shock to the Russian Government. How had they lost to Poland? The Commander was instantly blamed and court marshalled while the Tsar considered the options. While they could continue the War effort, it would also be a War against the major German powers and Sweden was making noises to the north. Faced with no alternative, Russia was forced to agree to a cease-fire and withdraw their troops from Polish territory on the 11th January.
The Winter War, as it came to be known, was the biggest military humiliation in Russian history. Not only had the Russian Army failed to achieve its aims but it had done so in such a way to be an utter disaster for Russia’s aims. Now all of Europe was lined against it, the Russian Army had been humiliated in front of the entire World and the cause of Polish nationalism had received a tremendous boost. Negotiations for a peace treaty were short and finished on the 30th January.
The Treaty of Warsaw saw Russia agree to pay 10,000,000 rouble reparation placed on Russia along with accepting a war guilt clause and agreeing to keep back their Army a full forty miles away from the Polish borders except for border control. Although Poland received no land acquisitions in the Treaty, the War was such a boost to national confidence that it was in fact overlooked. Poland had proven itself to be amongst the nations of Europe and free from the influence of her old oppressors.
For Russia, the Winter War marked the start of the ‘Grand Isolation’ for Russia. Unable to hold its head up high in Europe, the country turned its eyes east towards Central Asia and Siberia where there were much easier targets available…
With the Grand Isolation of Russia from Europe beginning, the Filiki Eteria almost lost hope. Without their great neighbour to the north to support them, who else was there? It was then pointed out that there was in fact another candidate to support them in the struggle. After all, while Greece was the cradle of civilisation, Paris was where it had matured into adulthood.
The request for French aid came at an opportune time indeed. Europe was, by and large, peaceful; France’s economy was chugging along and a French Navy had started to take shape. The plea for help from the Greek Nationalists struck a chord within the higher ups of the French military elite considering their conciliatory (Although successful) Treaty of Siegen. The idea of one more great victory stirred something in their blood of the old war dogs and they supported the measure for Greek independence. Realising what a boon it could be to the French diplomatic cause, Talleyrand also leant his support to offering aid to the Greeks. The motion was passed and the banner of Greek Independence was supported by the French much o the delight of the Revolutionaries.
Granted (Somewhat covertly) French aid, the Revolutionaries prepared to return to Greece with one aim in mind, to overthrow the oppressive Ottomans and restore Greece as a true nation. All that was needed was the time for the French to train a core Army and a good moment in time to announce the revolt and lift all of Greece from the Ottoman yoke…
James Monroe was becoming increasingly frustrated over the problem with the Shawnee Nation. Slowly, but surely, the border of the Nation had edged west as refugees from other Native Tribes had taken refuge within the Nation. Even Tribes as far away as Florida had travelled to the Great Lakes to avoid American wrath! Spain was also proving incredibly stubborn as it kept a hold on its Florida territories with no sign of relinquishing them, even giving consideration to allowing the colony to be a part of the Imperial Federacion. The opposition to Monroe was also growing, seeing him as being weak on the Shawnee question and unable to really bring the American economy out of its slump (While there had been some recovery, the large scale expansion of the Army had caused a huge drain on Government funds).
In short, something needed to be done. James Monroe therefore informed the Shawnee Nation that there would be an increased guard on the American side of the border. Absolutely nobody would be allowed past the border guards without the express permission of an American official. The Shawnee Nation was furious at this and started to mobilise their Army to reaffirm their right over who could enter their country. For a week, it appeared a North American War was imminent as New England also began to get their Army into an attacking position in defence of their Ally.
It was Britain who managed to scale down the threat by offering a compromise peace to both America and the Shawnee Nation. While the Native American Tribes could no longer settle in Shawnee Land, perhaps they could go further west into British North America on the least settled regions? The compromise was grudgingly accepted by the Americans while the Shawnee accepted it on the basis that Britain would agree to move the border a good distance back to compensate slightly for the land lost. As for Britain, the Shawnee Nation officially owed them a favour; they now had a steady group of people who would be more than happy to serve in a war against the Americans should there be one and a War in North America had been avoided… for now.
After several months of training, an Army of 8000 Greeks stationed in Italy were starting to press for action. As luck would have it, they got their opportunity with a chaotic domestic situation in the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mahmud II was struggling in his attempts to reform the Ottoman Empire and bring it up to European standards. In this, he was aggravating the ruling elite and the Janissary Corps with his attempts of modernisation of the military and legal systems.
These all culminated with a revolt of the 4th August within the Palace as disgruntled elements began to make moves against the Sultan. They were betrayed however and the conspiracy was unveiled, leading to panic and the rebellious elements fleeing east to Arabia to gather support for their cause. So distracted, it was decided that it was a brilliant time for the Greek Revolution to take place. The Greek Army was shipped to the area just outside Patras with the objection of urging the population to cast off the chains of their oppressors before moving on to capture Athens.
The troops landed on Greek soil on the 28th led by Peter Damocles, a French Colonel who had been born of Greek parents in Toulouse. He had been chosen for both his exemplary record of serving with the French Army in Russia and Italy and of course, his Greek ancestry. The plan was exceedingly successful, the populace, promised the independence so long denied by them, greeted the Army with open arms and many volunteered to join them instantly. The Ottoman forces were forced to retreat as South-West Greece rose up in rebellion against the Ottomans as word spread like wild fire.
Patras was taken with barely a shot fired as Ottoman forces retreated further east. Due to the rebellion in Arabia, many regiments had gone east leaving reduced garrisons throughout the Western Ottoman Empire and many were being called south to reinforce the theatre of War. This of course would prove an almost fatal error for the Ottoman forces later on but for now, it appeared to have been a good idea to quash the rebellion early. Unfortunately for the Ottomans, the reinforcements needed couldn’t reach past in time and could only meet east of Athens, therefore sacrificing that key city to the rebels.
While the Ottomans retreated, further aid for the Greek Revolution arrived in the form of weapons from France and French ‘volunteer’ units, bolstering the strength of the Greek Army by a further 2000 and various other supplies were given. The stage was set for a clash in September.
Mahmud II was incensed when he heard the news of the Greek rebellion on the 3rd September. Not only that but the units left behind were too weak to stop the rebels from taking Athens? It was a humiliation beyond humiliation! But the rebellion in Arabia meant that he was fighting a two front war and one needed to take precedence over the other. Realising that it was in Arabia, not Greece that the fate of the Ottoman Empire would be decided, Mahmud proceeded to order the units who had just left the European theatre of war to continue on their path and the troops remaining in Europe to gather their strength and prepare for the worst until reinforcements were available.
While the Ottomans were trying to work out their arse from their elbow, the Greek Army marched into Athens amid wild celebrations. Promising a Constitution based off the ideals of the French Revolution, the liberating Army were greeted with open arms by the populace. By the time Athens fell on the 8th, all of Europe was now aware of what was happening in Greece with mixed reactions. Austria began to eye southwards, looking forward to further chaos that could have disrupted the Ottoman Empire. Russia, despite having abandoned the Greek cause, was furious for France interfering with the Ottoman Empire though, like Austria, prepared to take advantage of the chaos. Britain had mixed reactions about the whole affair, welcoming a Liberal movement that would bring independence to Greece and fury at the French for thinking of it first.
Amongst the general populace of Europe, the Revolution was hugely popular as many sympathised with the Greek cause. Before long, many genuine volunteer units of soldiers were being raised with several notable member of the Romantic Movement also signing up, including Lord who gave the Greeks a substantial amount of money to continue their campaign. The Ottoman Empire was strained to deal with this chain of events, their Navy unable and unwilling to attack any ships that could provoke a larger war with other European powers. The Ottoman Army remained on the defensive in Greece itself, taking up defensive positions on the Isthmus of Corinth to bottleneck the Revolutionaries where they stood and prevent them from gaining any more land from the Ottoman Empire.
As winter was around the corner, any further campaigning was put off until spring with only the Greek Army besieging the remaining Ottoman garrisons in the Peloponnese. This lull in the fighting allowed both sides to gather their strength for the upcoming battle in the spring and prepare for the War which would help decide the fate of Eastern Europe.