While Early deployed his men slowly and cautiously, the morning hours passed. Shortly after noon some echoes of action may have reached Lee from the north-east, but the pine forests were thick, and sound did not carry far. Ere long, however, he must have been informed that while Johnson’s division was advancing toward Bartlett’s Mill, the ambulance train had been fired on from the north. Steuart’s brigade had moved out from the road, the rest of the division had been recalled, and a line of battle had been formed facing the Rapidan. Meantime, Early had completed his dispositions and had put Rodes and Hays in line, opposite what appeared to be a strong force at Locust Grove. Instead, therefore, of having a race for Chancellorsville, with an enemy moving southeastward from the fords of the Rapidan, Lee found the Federals in his front and on his left flank. Still, this situation did not altogether contradict the view that the enemy was advancing toward Fredericksburg or the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad. The Federal columns might have been delayed in crossing the fords opposite Lee’s front, or the forces that had been encountered by Early might be a heavy rearguard.

About 1 P.M., Heth’s division, at the head of Hill’s corps, reached Verdiersville. Lee gave the men an hour’s rest and then directed that they continue their march up the plank road toward Mine Run. Some time after the last regiment of the division had filed past, Lee himself rode forward with his staff. When he had gone about two miles he found the division halted and heard firing ahead. At length, Heth rode up and reported that when his advance had reached a point between two and three miles from Verdiersville, he had come upon a detachment of Stuart’s cavalry skirmishing with Federals along the plank road. Heth had thrown forward skirmishers to support the cavalry, but they had been driven in quickly. Several attempts to drive off the enemy had been made to no purpose. Might he advance his whole division and feel out the strength of the Federals? Lee consented, and Heth hurried away.

In rear of Heth’s line of battle, Lee waited. North of him, where Johnson’s division had been fired upon, a hot action was in progress. To the north-east, Rodes’s and Early’s men were skirmishing briskly. And now Heth was about to engage. It was, to say the least, stiff and extended resistance to be offered by an adversary who was supposed to be hastening toward the railroad below Fredericksburg.

General Hill, who joined Lee about this time, had been of opinion that the enemy had only cavalry in his front, but General Stuart, in a note sent at 2 o‘clock, expressed the belief that the enemy was advancing up the Rapidan. Most significant of all was a dispatch from General Thomas L. Rosser, one of Stuart’s new brigadiers. He reported that during the morning he had found the ordnance train of the I and V Army Corps on the plank road near Wilderness Tavern. Attacking, he had captured 280 mules and 150 prisoners, and—what was of far greater immediate importance—he had observed that the wagons were headed for Orange Courthouse, not for Chancellorsville.

Was Meade, then, moving against the Army of Northern Virginia, rather than to the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad? It seemed probable, but until the purpose of the enemy was more fully disclosed, Lee hardly dared hope that his numerically inferior army would have the opportunity of fighting a defensive battle. When, therefore, Heth returned late in the evening and announced that he had driven the enemy’s skirmishers from their advanced position, Lee was unwilling to authorize an advance until he had personally examined the enemy’s position and had seen for himself how strongly the Federals were posted. He ordered Anderson’s division of Hill’s corps to the right and rear of Heth to fill in the gap between Heth’s left and Early’s right, and after Hill returned from making these dispositions, Lee went with him on a reconnaissance.

By this time he had information that the force which Johnson’s division had encountered on its advance was an entire corps, part of which had been driven off, with a Confederate loss of some 545 men. Such additional intelligence as reached Lee confirmed the suspicion formed after the receipt of Rosser’s dispatch and led him to conclude that the whole of the Army of the Potomac was in his front. It was not necessary to go in search of the enemy; the enemy was searching for him! For the first time since Fredericksburg the army was to have a chance of receiving the enemy’s assaults instead of attacking. As it was now nearly dark, Lee determined not to advance against the strong position of the Federals that evening, but to withdraw to the west bank of Mine Run during the night and to await developments. Early retired behind the run without additional orders and took up a good line there. Hill’s corps was recalled during the night.

When Early reported, about daylight on the 28th, Lee instructed him to move his troops still farther westward to an even better defensive position, for if Meade was of a mind to assume the offensive, Lee wished to meet it on the most favorable ground. But before Early could execute this order he found the Federal infantry advancing to Mine Run and, with Lee’s permission, he waited to repulse them. A heavy rain began to fall while the army stood ready to resist attack, and this downpour seemed to deter the enemy. Making one or two minor adjustments in his front, to protect it from enfilading fire, Lee ordered earthworks thrown up. As the earth began to fly, he rode or walked among the soldiers with encouraging words. “In an incredibly short time (for our men work now like beavers),” one officer wrote shortly afterwards, “we were strongly fortified and ready and anxious for an attack.”

But the enemy did not attack that day, nor the next, though he opened a heavy artillery fire on the 29th and threatened to assault. Lee could not believe that Meade had made elaborate preparations and had moved his whole army for a mere demonstration, so he continued to strengthen his earthworks, while the enemy set to work to emulate him. The day witnessed the strange spectacle of two great armies exchanging occasional cannon shots and contenting themselves, for the rest, with seeing which of them could pile the higher parapets. It chanced to be a Sunday, and the weather was very cold. The men who were not on duty gathered about their fires and, here and there, assembled in prayer meetings incident to the great revival that showed no sign of losing its force. As Lee rode out on a tour of inspection, he, with his staff, chanced to pass one of these gatherings. He promptly dismounted and participated reverently in the service.

On the 30th, the weather still very cold, Stuart reported early that the enemy was forming line of battle on the south side of the Catharpin road. But once again expectations were deceived, and no general engagement occurred. Puzzled as Lee was by Meade’s lack of action, he was so confident of the outcome of a Federal attack that he notified Davis not to reinforce him with troops that might be needed for the defense of Richmond. He continued to keep a sharp lookout on his flanks, however, especially on his right, where there had been some active cavalry skirmishing on the 29th.

Sometime on the 30th a hurried message arrived from General Stuart, asking Lee to come to him at once. Lee went with the messenger, and found Stuart in the company of Wade Hampton in rear of the left flank of the enemy. Hampton had reached that position unobserved and believed that it was possible to turn the Federal position and repeat Jackson’s movement at Chancellorsville. Lee studied the ground carefully and conferred with some of his officers but decided against immediate action, probably because he could not bring the troops into position in time to attack that day, or else because he wished to wait a little longer in the hope that Meade would attack.

When the morning of December 1 came and went with no further sign of any intention on the part of the Federals to press the offensive, Lee lost hope that the Federals would assume a vigorous offensive and he determined to take the initiative himself. “They must be attacked; they must be attacked,” he said. Hill was directed to draw Anderson’s and Wilcox’s divisions of veterans to the extreme right, probably with an eye to moving them to the position Hampton had discovered the previous day, and Early was instructed to extend his right to cover the ground vacated by the two divisions. Lee’s plan was to carry Wilcox and Anderson beyond the enemy’s left flank and to sweep down it, while Early held the defenses on Mine Run with his own corps and with Heth’s division. The weather was so cold that water froze in the canteens of the men that night, but the movement got under way smoothly and without interruption by the enemy, though there were some evidences of activity within the Federal lines.

Before daybreak on December 2 the whole army was ready; Anderson and Wilcox were in position; the rest of the men were on the alert; the gunners were at their posts. As soon as it was light enough to see, the skirmishers looked eagerly through the woods for the Federal pickets. But they scanned the thickets in vain: The enemy was gone! The withdrawal was so unexpected that a staff officer who was sent to order Hampton’s division to pursue the foe found the videttes on the watch for an advance by the Federal divisions that were then fast making their way toward the fords of the Rapidan. Informed of the changed situation, the cavalry rode fast and hard, and the infantry followed through woods the retiring enemy had set afire. Meade, however, had a long lead, for he had started during the late afternoon of the 1st, and the chase was fruitless.

“I am too old to command this army,” Lee said grimly, when he saw that his adversary had retreated, “we should never have permitted those people to get away.” In deep depression of spirits, and indignant at the many evidences of purposeless vandalism, he soon recalled the infantry and moved back toward his camps higher up the stream. When he had cooled down, two days later, he wrote of Meade, “I am greatly disappointed at his getting off with so little damage, but we do not know what is best for us. I believe a kind God has ordered all things for our good.”

Except for a troublesome raid by General W. W. Averell against the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, beginning December 11, the Mine Run episode marked the end of active operations in 1863. It had been for Lee no such year of victory as ‘62. The bloody glory of Chancellorsville had been dimmed by the defeat at Gettysburg. The limit of the manpower of the South had almost been reached. The spectre of want hung over the camps. From the time of the return to the line of the Rappahannock and Rapidan after the Pennsylvania campaign, the army had met with no major disaster, but it had scored no success. Taking Bristoe Station, the capture of the Rappahannock bridgehead and the movement to Mine Run as one campaign, Lee’s losses had been 4255 and his gain had been nil.

These casualties, amounting to nearly a whole division, were not due to recklessness on the part of the men, or to ready surrender. Aside from those killed and wounded in Johnson’s division as it marched to Mine Run, virtually the whole of Lee’s losses were attributable to defective leading or to carelessness on the part of commanding officers. The operations had lacked not only the dash of Jackson but the tactical skill of Longstreet, as well, and they must have raised serious misgivings in Lee’s mind as to the future handling of the two corps left him. The impetuosity that had marked A. P. Hill ever since the battle of Mechanicsville cost the army the service of two effective brigades at Bristoe Station, and along with them the possibility of a substantial victory. Not since McLaws’s slow bungling at Salem Church had there been a worse example of generalship. The defense at Rappahannock Bridge and at Kelly’s Ford on November 7 was unskillful, even though no blame could be fixed. As for Ewell, he made no mistake at Bristoe Station and was not present at Mine Run, but he was so enfeebled by his former wounds that Lee was deeply concerned for him. With his quaint language, his aquiline countenance, and his wooden leg, he was a picturesque and appealing figure as he rode gamely among the troops. Everyone was puzzled to know how he contrived to stick on his horse. Lee, however, had to ask himself the more serious question of how Ewell could sustain the hardships of an active campaign, and that question had added point, because, in Longstreet’s absence, Ewell was ranking lieutenant general. If Lee went down, the command would devolve, temporarily at least, on him. Taylor probably voiced the secret feeling of his chief when he wrote, “I only wish the general had good lieutenants; we miss Jackson and Longstreet terribly.” The full weight of the army rested on Lee. He had to give to his corps commanders a measure of direction that had been unnecessary when he had operated with two corps under “Stonewall” and “Old Pete.” His might now be the responsibility of fighting the battles as well as of shaping the strategy. It was a heavy burden to be borne by a man whose heart symptoms were becoming aggravated.

The final operations of 1863 marked two new stages in the methods of war employed by the Army of Northern Virginia. They increased, in the first place, the faith of the troops in the great utility of field fortification. Lee’s construction of the South Carolina and of the Richmond lines had early demonstrated his belief that the commanding general should provide the maximum cover for his men when they were to be engaged for a long period in defensive operations. His use of field works did not date, as some authorities have claimed, from Mine Run, but from Fredericksburg and, more particularly, from Chancellorsville. After Mine Run, as the declining strength of the army forced it more and more to the defensive, field fortification became a routine. Every soldier was a military engineer.

If the infantry were finally converted to the use of earthworks at Mine Run, the cavalry developed, in the second place, an important new tactical method during the last five months of the year. Prior to the Bristoe campaign, the sharpshooters of the cavalry had been organized officially, and during the second battle of Brandy, October 11, they were dismounted by regiments and were effectively employed. In that action, Lomax’s whole brigade left their horses in the rear and for a time occupied a line of breastworks. Again, in the “Buckland Races,” Fitz Lee used some of his cavalrymen on foot. During the Mine Run operations, when the cavalry had to contend with a thick forest and heavy undergrowth, through which it was impossible for mounted men to pass, these tactics of dismounted action were developed. In the fighting of November 27, and again on the 29th and on the 30th, the troopers were led against the enemy by regular infantry approaches. From that time onward, as the necessities of the service demanded, the dismounted cavalrymen were frequently summoned to support the thinning line of the infantry. It was hard on the troopers but it saved horses, and it prepared the army more fully for the fearful tests that awaited in the campaign of 1864.


Third Samnite War – Battle of Sentinum 295 BC I

JD19 Sentinum (295 BC)

The essedarius (from the Latin word for a Celtic war-chariot, essedum).

With regard to other possible sources of information on a military role for chariots in Italy, texts written by later Roman and Greek authors frequently refer to warfare in Italy at the time of the (Etruscan) kings and the Republic of Rome, but usually do not mention vehicles as being involved.  Clearly, not only the Romans of that time but also other Italic peoples relied on infantry and, to varying degrees, on mounted troops. When wheeled vehicles are mentioned – in the battles at Sentinum in Umbria (in 295), Telamon in Toscana (in 225) and Clastidium in Emilia Romagna (in 222) – they belong to invaders: Gauls, i. e. Celtic tribes. Unfortunately, the texts yield no information on what these vehicles looked like or on their numbers. As to the way in which the vehicles were employed, Livy, in his account of the battle at Sentinum, refers to a sudden attack by Gauls with two types of vehicles (the terms used are essedum and carrus) on the mounted troops on the Roman left wing. Tough Livy’s account provides no details of their tactics, the headlong attack clearly took the Romans by surprise, quite probably because of their unfamiliarity with military vehicles. At Telamon in 225 BC, the chariots were on the flanks of the infantry and the cavalry used in a single independent mass, supported by the light troops. This would support the view that chariots were rarely put to active use in battle in Italy.

The Romans first came face to face with a modern Hellenistic army in 280 BC when Pyrrhus came to the aid of the Greek city of Tarentum in Southern Italy in its conflict with Rome. After two major defeats, the Romans were finally able to defeat the King of Epirus in 275 at Malventum, but the stubborn resilience of Roman legionaries had more to do with this success than any inspired generalship. In many respects the Roman style of command belonged to an older, simpler era, with far less expectation of prolonged manoeuvring prior to a pitched battle as each side searched for as many little advantages as possible. Yet once the fighting started, the behaviour of the Roman general differed markedly from his Hellenistic counterpart. A magistrate rather than a king, the Roman had no fixed place on the battlefield, no royal bodyguard at whose head he was expected to charge. The consul stationed himself wherever he thought the most important fighting would occur and during the battle moved along behind the fighting line, encouraging and directing the troops. Hellenistic armies rarely made much use of reserves, but the basic formation of the Roman legion kept half to two-thirds of its men back from the front line at the start of the battle. It was the general’s task to feed in these fresh troops as the situation required.

Rome had certainly not abandoned all heroic traditions and at times generals did engage in combat. Many aristocrats boasted of the number of times they had fought and won single combats, although by the third century BC at the latest they had most likely done this while serving in a junior capacity. At Sentinum in 295 BC one of the two consuls with the army – an exceptionally large force to face a confederation of Samnite, Etruscan and Gallic enemies – performed an archaic ritual when he ‘devoted’ himself as a sacrifice to the Earth and the gods of the Underworld to save the army of the Roman People. Once he had completed the rites this man, Publius Decius Mus, spurred his horse forward into a lone charge against the Gauls and was swiftly killed. Livy claims that he had formally handed over his command to a subordinate before this ritual suicide (a gesture which was something of a family tradition, for his father had acted in the same way in 340 BC). Sentinum ended in a hard fought and costly Roman victory.


In the Third Samnite War (298–290 BC), Rome faced an alliance of Etruscans, Umbrians, Samnites and Gauls; and the war would culminate in one of the most decisive battles in Italian history: a battle, in effect, to decide whether or not the whole of Italy would become Roman.

Such was its geographical extent, the enemy coalition had the Roman line across Italy stretched thin, and in 296 BC the main Samnite army broke through, moved north, and linked up with the Etruscans, Umbrians and Gauls. The following year, they repeated this feat, and this time turned on the pursuing Roman army and crushed it at the Battle of Camerinum. The Roman state was plunged into crisis. The constitution was suspended as special commands were created and incumbent officeholders continued beyond their normal terms. Older men and ex-slaves were mobilized to fill the ranks of new legions, and another two consular armies, 35,000 men in total, were sent into the field before the end of the summer of 295 BC. Even so, as the Romans approached the coalition army encamped at Sentinum on the border between Umbria and Picenum, they were heavily outnumbered. To improve the odds, a detached Roman force invaded Etruria, hoping that the threat of devastation would draw off the Etruscan and Umbrian forces; which it did. Despite this, when the Romans offered battle, the remaining Samnites and Gauls accepted the challenge (an almost essential precondition of combat in ancient warfare, since an army which chose to remain in its fortified camp, often defensively sited, could be attacked only at grave disadvantage).

The Samnites were deployed on the coalition’s right flank, facing the consular army of Quintus Fabius, the Gauls on the left, facing the consul Publius Decius. Roman military doctrine was essentially offensive, though it counselled caution in preparing for this and choosing an opportune moment. On this day, the older consul Fabius represented caution, his younger colleague Decius the spirit of the offensive. Fabius was determined to hold back on the left, confident that the enthusiasm of the barbarian warriors opposite would erode more quickly in a long wait than that of the stolid citizen-peasants of Latium. But Decius was determined to attack on the right as soon as the battle opened.

The Roman army that fought at Sentinum was very different from the hoplite phalanx of the 5th century BC. A century of wars against lightly equipped enemies who fought in more open, fast-moving formations, wars often fought in difficult terrain favourable to the guerrilla and the skirmisher, had transformed Roman equipment, organization and tactics. The Second Samnite War may have completed the transition. The dense blocks of men with spears and overlapping shields who had formed the phalanx had become looser formations of men armed mainly with javelin (pilum) and a lighter oval or rectangular shield (scutum). Large units – the legion (legio) of approximately 4,200 men – were divided into small subunits of 120 called ‘maniples’ (manipuli means ‘handfuls’), and these were deployed in an open chequerboard formation and trained to manoeuvre independently. The new legions were designed for mobile, offensive warfare. Unlike the relatively slow, cumbersome and defensive phalanx, they were expected to deploy, advance, wheel and, if necessary, alter front rapidly; and when the time came to close, they would hurl javelins to disorganize the enemy ranks, and then charge in with sword and shield.

Even so, Sentinum was hard-fought. Decius’ attack on the right was soon bogged down in a head-on clash with the Gallic line, and when he unleashed his cavalry on the far right in an effort to turn the enemy flank, they were met by the Gallic cavalry and, once embroiled, counter-charged and routed by the Gallic chariot force. The panic quickly began to infect the legionaries, and, as it did so and their line faltered, the Gallic infantry pushed forwards. Decius, unable to shore up the collapsing Roman right, was soon lost to a bizarre religious frenzy. Calling on Mother Earth and the Gods of the Underworld to accept the legions of the enemy along with himself as a sacrifice, he galloped his horse into the Gallic line and perished. Fabius offered more practical help. Detaching units from the rear line of his legions on the left, he was able to stem the rout and launch a counter-attack on the right – a complex sequence of manoeuvres made possible only by the greater flexibility of the new legions. The Gallic advance was halted, and, as the Romans reformed and renewed their attack, the Gallic warriors formed a defensive shield-wall. Meantime, probing on the left, Fabius found the spirit of the Samnites in front of him flagging – as anticipated. Launching his infantry frontally and his cavalry on the left flank, he broke the Samnite line after brief resistance, leaving the Gallic shield-wall isolated on the battlefield. Mentally and physically exhausted by hours of fighting and now surrounded, the Gallic units disintegrated and fled. The carnage of battle and pursuit claimed, it is said, 25,000 Samnites and Gauls, with another 8,000 taken prisoner; but Roman losses, at 9,000, were also heavy, especially in the wake of yet heavier losses at Camerinum earlier that year. Nonetheless, Sentinum had secured Roman hegemony in Italy.

Events between 293 and 264 BC are obscure, since the relevant parts of Livy’s History of Rome, our principal source, are lost. But if we do not know a precise chronology, the overall thrust and outcome are clear. Sentinum left the anti-Roman coalition broken backed, and relentless year-on-year Roman offensives thereafter precluded any possibility of its restoration. Samnium, Etruria, Umbria, and the land of the Gallic Senones were conquered and made subject to Rome, mainly as ‘allies’ bound by treaty, though some land was annexed to the Roman state or settled with Latin colonists. Victory at Sentinum made the Roman Republic the only Italian superpower, and within a generation it had absorbed most of the minor states. Some still clung to independence – such as the Greek cities of the far south, foremost among which was Tarentum. Others, unwilling allies of Rome, still aspired to break free – the democrats ruled by pro-Roman oligarchs in the cities of Campania, and many among the Oscan-speaking peoples of the central and southern Apennines. But, too weak to take on Rome alone, rebels against the Pax Romana were forced to look abroad for a more powerful ally. The Greeks, at least, soon found one – a latter-day Alexander, a military adventurer and would-be champion of Greek ‘freedom’: King Pyrrhus of Epirus.


In 296 BC Appius’ legions bore the numerals I and IV, but when Rullianus assumed command they were renumbered. At Sentinum, Rullianus’ legions had the numerals I and III but we cannot be certain that both were the regiments originally enrolled by Appius, as one may be the legion with extra cavalry that Rullianus recruited from volunteers in Rome. Scipio Barbatus’ imperium allowed him to assume command of one of Rullianus’ three legions and take it over the Apennines to defend Camerinum, Rome’s key Umbrian ally. This legion had the numeral II.

The circumstances that took Barbatus and the Second Legion to Camerinum are uncertain. Egnatius certainly moved his army into Umbria, maybe with the intention of forcing Camerinum to join him, or simply to let his plunder-hungry troops sack it, but Barbatus got there before him. A possible scenario is that the consuls received intelligence of Egnatius’ intention, but for some reason their armies were unable to march, so Rullianus made Barbatus propraetor and invested him with imperium. Barbatus then made a rapid march over the Apennines with legio II and established a camp in the vicinity of Camerinum. The consuls followed up when they able to do so.

The propraetor was probably the first of his branch of the Cornelii clan to bear the famous cognomen Scipio. It is conceivable that he took the name when elected consul; a scipio was a staff that signified magisterial rank. His other cognomen tells us that he was bearded (barbatus). The elogium inscribed on his sarcophagus declares that the bearded propraetor was as handsome as he was brave, but caution was the better part of valour when Egnatius’ host loomed into sight. We do not know if Barbatus’ small army included allies, but it was clearly no match for the great forces arrayed against it. Fearing his camp would be overrun, Barbatus abandoned the position and made for a hill sited between it and Camerinum. The hill would be easier to defend, but the wily Egnatius anticipated the Roman general and had already sent troops to occupy the summit of the hill. Barbatus failed to send scouts (exploratores) ahead to reconnoitre the position. His troops ascended the hill and found themselves face-to-face with Samnite and Gallic warriors. The rest of the confederate army swarmed up behind the Romans. Barbatus, the Second Legion, and any allied cohorts he had, were trapped.

Meanwhile, Rullianus and Mus were following up with their consular forces. As they neared Camerinum, Gallic horsemen rode up to taunt and harass the Roman marching column. The Senonian troopers had freshly severed heads impaled on their spears or hanging from their horses’ tack. It is uncertain how long Barbatus and his small army were trapped on the hill, but when the consuls appeared the legion was almost destroyed and the propraetor was surely anticipating death or ignominious capture. Luckily for Barbatus, Egnatius withdrew his troops before they were in turn trapped by the new Roman army. The Samnite general then marched to Sentinum, some 50 miles to the north and made ready to give battle. The Four Nations were again divided between two camps, the Samnites and Senones in one, and the Etruscans and Umbrans in the other. Egnatius planned to engage one consular army with his Samnites, and the Senones would fight the second. While the Romans were fully occupied, the Etruscans and Umbrians would emerge from their entrenchments, skirt around the embattled armies and capture the lightly defended Roman camp located 4 miles away, thus leaving the legions and allied cohorts with nowhere safe to retreat to and vulnerable to attack from the rear. Egnatius may have hoped that this would be enough to cause the Roman army to surrender or flee. Livy informs us that deserters from Egnatius’ army brought news of this plan to Rullianus and the consul therefore sent orders to Megellus and Centumalus to leave their positions above Rome and invade the territory of Clusium in Etruria. This diversionary attack has the effect of persuading the Etruscans to hurry back home. They do not feature in Livy’s account of the Battle of Sentinum (the principle account), nor do the Umbrians, some of whom may have opted to aid the Etruscans (more natural allies than Samnites or predatory Gauls), while other Umbrian contingents, seeing the coalition weakened, chose to depart to their home towns.


Third Samnite War – Battle of Sentinum 295 BC II

The availability of allied manpower was crucial for Rome’s success. at the battle of Sentinum in 295 bc the allied contingents already outnumbered the Roman citizen legions (Livy: 10.26.4), and on the eve of the Hannibalic war (218 bc) they outnumbered the Romans by three to two (Brunt, 1971: 44-60; Cornell, 1989). When Scipio was organizing his African expedition in 205 bc, which secured Rome’s victory in the war, he obtained the money and materials from Etruscan cities, and the manpower from allies in Umbria and the central Apennines (Livy: 28.45.14-21)

Livy makes it very clear that the consuls were concerned about the great size of Egnatius’ army. Unfortunately its actual strength is not reported by Livy or any other source, but it was probably the largest army yet assembled in Italy. One wonders, therefore, if Rullianus’ (and perhaps also his colleague’s) plan to draw off the Etruscans was actually underway before deserters apparently brought news of Egnatius’ dastardly plan. Fulvius Centumalus was especially well placed to march up the valley of the Tiber, or through the Ciminus, to threaten Clusium, once the stronghold of Lars Porsenna. Centumalus’ time in the Faliscan country had not been without incident. Even with the propraetor’s army on their territory, Rome’s perceived weakness encouraged some Faliscans to take up arms and they made an incursion into neighbouring ager Romanus, but Centumalus caused the enemy force to disperse by a simple ruse:

When a force of Faliscans far superior to ours [an exaggeration] had encamped in our territory, Gnaeus Fulvius [Centumalus] had his soldiers set fire to certain buildings at a distance from the camp in order that the Faliscans, thinking that their own men had done this, might scatter in hope of plunder.45

Centumalus must have reached the territory of Clusium before Megellus and began the work of devastation. It seems that Megellus arrived to take over this task, allowing Centumalus to march on Perusia and intercept the Perusine and Clusian forces that had returned from Sentinum. The Etruscans were defeated, losing 3,000 men and 20 of their sacred military standards.

The consuls were keen to bring the Samnites and Senones to battle. It was not certain that the propraetors would defeat the Etruscans or that the Umbrians, or even more Gauls, would rejoin Egnatius. Even in its reduced state, the consuls wondered if they had enough men to defeat the army of the Samnite general. For two days the consuls sent troops to harass the enemy. The troops involved would have been cavalry and light infantry, that is, soldiers suited to skirmishing and hit and run tactics. The Samnites and Senones responded in kind, neither side winning any real advantage but, as the consuls intended, Gellius Egnatius was suitably provoked and on the third day he led all of his troops from his camp and offered battle. The Battle of the Nations, as it became known, was at hand; Romans, Latins and Campanians facing Samnites and Gauls.

The actual location of the battle in the territory of Sentinum is uncertain. There is a suitable plain immediately to the north of the town. A small river, now called the Sanguerone, cuts through the centre of the plain. Egnatius’ army fought in two divisions. If the battle was fought on this plain, the river might have separated the divisions and the opposing consular armies.46

Gellius Egnatius drew up his Samnites on the left wing of the confederate army. Samnite cavalry, although not mentioned by Livy, presumably covered the left flank of their infantry. The Senones formed up on the right, with a very substantial cavalry force protecting their right flank; the infantry on the right flank of any army were vulnerable because this was their unshielded side. Assuming that the Sanguerone separated the Gauls and Samnites, the watercourse protected the unshielded side of the Samnite infantry.

On the Roman side, Rullianus took up position on the right opposite the Samnites with his First and Third Legions. Decius drew up the Fifth and Sixth Legions on the left against the Senones. The Campanian cavalry are reported only on the right flank with Rullianus, but it may be that the 1,000 troopers were shared by the consuls and divided into two alae (wings). Unless the legion annihilated at Camerinum was the regiment raised in Rome with the double complement of cavalry, Rullianus should have had 300 more equites than his colleague. However, mountainous Samnium was not cavalry country and it is probable that more Gallic cavalry confronted Mus, and Rullianus could have transferred some of his horsemen to Mus.

The positions of The positions of the Latin and allied forces at Sentinum is unclear. In Livy’s account all of the fighting is carried out by the legionaries and Roman and Campanian equites. Livy does refer to subsidia, that is, reserves, being brought into action at a critical stage of the battle. These reserves may be the allied cohorts, drawn up behind the legionary battle lines, but the allied cohorts were organized into maniples and interchangeable lines of hastati, principes and triarii, and so could have formed up on the flanks of the legions. Livy’s reserves would then be legionary and allied triarii, and the allied cavalry turmae would have reinforced the Roman and Campanian troopers on the wings.

If the four legions at Sentinum were up to strength, Rullianus and Mus had 16,800 legionary infantry and 1,200 or 1,500 equites (18,000 – 18,300 in total). The force of Latins and allies, perhaps including the 1,000 Campanians, is said to have been greater than the number of Roman troops. We should recall that Appius Claudius and Volumnius Flamma had a total of 27,000 allied soldiers with them in Etruria. It would not be unreasonable to assume that a similar number joined Rullianus and Mus and this would bring the size of the Roman army up to c. 45,000, but the situation was different to that of 296 BC. There were three other Roman armies in the field, all requiring allied contingents, and it may be that the number of allies at Sentinum was only slightly greater than the number of Roman troops, and a total figure of less than 40,000 may be appropriate.

As noted above, Livy does not report or estimate the size of Egnatius’ army at Sentinum. He does relate, with considerable disdain, that some of the sources he consulted put forward a grossly exaggerated total for the enemy army:

Great as the glory of the day on which the Battle of Sentinum was fought must appear to any writer who adheres to the truth, it has by some writers been exaggerated beyond all belief. They assert that the enemy’s army amounted to 330,000 infantry and 46,000 cavalry, together with 1,000 war chariots. That, of course, includes the Umbrians and Tuscans who are represented as taking part in the battle. And by way of increasing the Roman strength they tell us that Lucius Volumnius commanded in the action as well as the consuls, and that their legions were supplemented by his army.

An army of this size would be impossible to provision or manoeuvre. However, if the number of enemy casualties, prisoners and fugitives that Livy records is accepted as reasonably accurate, the combined total suggests that Egnatius had at least 38,000 soldiers and the consuls’ concerns about the size of his army, even without Etruscans and Umbrians, probably indicates that he had considerably more warriors at his disposal. The total number of troops at Sentinum was probably in excess of 80,000 and may have been as great as 100,000. According to Diodorus, Duris of Samos put the number of enemy casualties at 100,000, perhaps another gross exaggeration but possibly a reflection of the total size of the forces engaged.

The pivotal engagement in Rome’s conquest of Italy was probably fought in April 295 BC. It was usual for generals to lead their armies out of their camps at dawn and, considering the vast numbers present, it must have taken some time to arrange the soldiers into battle lines. Something extraordinary happened as the Italian armies faced off:

As they stood arrayed for battle, a deer, pursued by a wolf that had chased it down from the mountains, fled across the plain and between the two battle lines. The animals then turned in opposite directions, the deer towards the Gauls and the wolf towards the Romans. For the wolf a space was opened between the ordines, but the Gauls killed the deer. Then one of the Roman front rankers (antesignanus) called out, ‘Where you see the animal sacred to Diana lying slain, that way flight and slaughter have shaped their course. On this side the wolf of Mars, unhurt and sound, has reminded us of the race of Mars and of our founder Romulus.’

This was clearly a sign from Mars, progenitor of the Roman race, and Mus’ legionaries were elated by the portent of the Gauls’ demise. It is, of course, extremely doubtful that a wolf chased a deer between the armies, but it is likely that the Romans saw a wolf that day and it was taken as a good omen. It is also possible that the Gauls, immediately prior to engaging the Romans, sacrificed a deer. Such battlefield sacrifices, carried out before the front rank, were not unusual in the Ancient World. If something went wrong with the ceremony, the opponent observing it would take heart knowing that the gods did not favour their enemy.

Rullianus’ strategy was to stand firm and absorb the charges of the enemy. When the Samnites inevitably tired he would launch a decisive counter-charge. He believed that the same tactic would defeat the Gauls: ‘They are more than men at the start of a fight, but by the end they are less than women!’ He had presumably attempted to convince Mus to adhere to this strategy, yet the other consul was desirous of accomplishing victory more quickly and gloriously and, inspired by the omen of the wolf and the deer, led his maniples forward in an impetuous attack.

The maniples of hastati would have closed with the Gauls at the run (impetus), pausing only momentarily to hurl their pila, roar their war cry (clamor), and draw their swords. The centurions and soldiers in the front would have surged ahead, aiming to batter down Gallic warriors with the bosses of their shields, force their way into the ranks and set to work with their cut-and-thrust swords. The soldiers in the rearmost ranks of the maniples would follow up more steadily in good order, drumming weapons against their shields, shouting encouragement to their comrades and perhaps lobbing pila over their heads and into the ranks of the enemy.

But the Senones resisted fiercely. They too were armed with pila-like missiles, which must have thinned the ranks of the attacking Romans, and their long swords could hack through shields and armour. The two sides were evenly matched in fury and prowess and the infantry action gradually waned. We may presume that Mus called up the principes to relieve or reinforce the hastati, but when they too failed to break the Senones, the consul looked to his cavalry to hasten victory. Riding from turma to turma he exhorted the mostly rich and aristocratic troopers: ‘Yours will be a double share of glory if victory comes first to the left wing and to the cavalry!’

The cavalry on the left wing would have moved forward to protect the flank of the advancing infantry, but until now, there was no all-out cavalry assault. Mus attached himself to the bravest turma (perhaps actually his mounted bodyguard) and led two charges against the Gallic horse. The first charge drove the Gauls back and the second scattered them, exposing the unshielded right flank and rear of their infantry, but the Romans were unable to exploit the opportunity. The war chariots of the Senones had been held in reserve behind the battle line. The sudden and unexpected counter-charge panicked both horses and riders, and the Roman cavalry fled in disorder as the clattering chariots pursued them. Mus was unable to halt their flight, and the fugitives appear to have swept past the flank of their own infantry. The charioteers broke off their pursuit and turned instead on the vulnerable infantry, driving into the intervals between maniples and ordines. Many of the antesignani, that is the hastati or principes in the leading battle line, were trampled down. The Gallic infantry took advantage of the chaos and attacked.

With the cavalry in flight and the leading battle line of infantry almost overrun, it seemed that the Roman left might collapse. If the left fell, Rullianus’ wing would surely also succumb and with it Rome’s hard won conquests in Italy. Decius Mus decided that the time had come for him to follow the example of his illustrious father: he would ride to his death as a devotus and through his own sacrifice bring about the destruction of the enemy. Livy has him utter: ‘Now I will offer up the legions of the enemy, to be slaughtered along with me, as victims to Tellus [Mother Earth] and the divine Manes [gods of the Underworld].’

Livy informs us that throughout the battle Mus kept the pontifex, Marcus Livius Denter, close. Such a senior state priest was necessary to lead a devotus through the correct ritual. That Mus had Denter by his side at all times suggests that his decision to perform devotio was not spontaneous. The consul’s heritage must have led to expectations that he too would perform devotio if the situation facing Rome became desperate and Sentinum was such an occasion. It is likely that he informed Rullianus of his intention to devote himself if his initial tactics failed. The legionaries and allies would have been told as well. If they were not prepared, they would most likely panic at the sight of the consul being cut down.

A spear sacred to Mars was laid upon the ground and Mus stood upon it. Denter helped the consul recite the terrible prayer of devotio, the same with which the original Decius Mus had devoted himself at Battle of the Veseris. It is possible that Livy or his sources invented this, but it seems likely that it derives from pontifical or other priestly records of religious formulae:

Janus, Jupiter, Father Mars, Quirinus, Bellona, Lares, divine Novensiles, divine Indigites, you gods in whose power are both we and the enemy, and you, divine Manes, I invoke and worship you, I beg and crave your favour, that you prosper the might and victory of the Roman people and visit on their enemies fear, shuddering and death. As I have pronounced these words on behalf of the Republic of the Roman people, and of the army and the legions and auxiliaries . . . I devote the legions and auxiliaries of the enemy, along with myself, to the divine Manes and Tellus.

The younger Mus added some grim imprecations to this vow of death:

I will drive before me fear and panic, blood and carnage. The wrath of the heavenly gods and the infernal gods will curse the standards, weapons and armour of the enemy, and in the same place as I die witness the destruction of the Gauls and Samnites!

Denter helped Mus don the ritualistic garb of the devotus. This was the cinctus Gabinius, a toga hitched in such a way that a man could ride a horse and wield a weapon. The consul was ready to meet his destiny, but first proclaimed Denter propraetor (he had been consul in 302 BC). Thus invested with imperium, Denter assumed command of the consular army.

Brandishing the spear of Mars, Mus spurred his way through the broken antesignani, charged into the ranks of the advancing Senones and impaled himself on their weapons. The death of a general, the focus of command and authority and leadership, usually triggered the collapse of an army, but the news of Mus’ glorious demise, transmitted by Denter, rallied the hard-pressed Roman infantry and they turned on their opponents with renewed vigour. According to Livy, Mus’ heroic death had the effect of instantly paralyzing the seemingly victorious Gauls:

From that moment the battle seemed scarce to depend on human efforts. The Romans, after losing a general – an occurrence that is wont to inspire terror – fled no longer, but sought to redeem the field. The Gauls, especially those in the press around the body of the consul, as though deprived of reason, were darting their javelins at random and without effect, while some were in a daze, and could neither fight nor run away.

The Senones’ reaction seems entirely fantastic but is it entirely fictitious? Is it merely the over-egged reconstruction of a patriotic Roman historian or does it have some basis in reality? Livy was keen to describe how the self-sacrifice of Mus brought on the aid of Tellus and Manes and the form that aid took, but were the Senones aware they had killed a devotus? It is possible that they did, and their reaction, although exaggerated, was one of shock and caused their advance to halt.

Grand Prince Dmitry Ivanovich “Donskoy”

(1350-1389), prince of Moscow and grand prince of Vladimir. Dmitry earned the name “Donskoy” for his victory over the armies of Emir Mamai at the Battle of Kulikovo Field near the Don River (September 8, 1380). He is remembered as a heroic commander who dealt a decisive blow to Mongol lordship over the Rus lands and strengthened Moscow’s position as the senior Rus principality, preparing the way for the centralized Muscovite tsardom. Unofficially revered since the late fifteenth century, Dmitry was canonized by the Orthodox Church in 1988 for his selfless defense of Moscow. Modern historians have re-examined the sources on the prince’s reign to offer a more tempered assessment of his legacy.

Following the death of his father, Ivan II (1326-1359), the nine-year-old Dmitry inherited a portion of the Moscow principality but failed to keep the patent for the grand principality of Vladimir. In 1360 Khan Navruz of Sarai gave the Vladimir patent to Prince Dmitry Konstantinovich of Suzdal and Nizhni Novgorod. A year later, Navruz was overthrown in a coup, and the Golden Horde split into eastern and western sections ruled by rival Mongol lords. Murid, the Chingissid khan of Sarai to the east, recognized Dmitry Donskoy as grand prince of Vladimir in 1362. In 1363, however, Dmitry Donskoy accepted a second patent from Khan Abdullah, supported by the non Chingissid lord Mamai who had taken control of the western Horde and claimed authority over all the Rus lands. Offended, Khan Murid withdrew Dmitry Donskoy’s patent and awarded it to Dmitry Konstantinovich of Suzdal. Dmitry Donskoy’s forces moved swiftly into Vladimir where they drove Dmitry Konstantinovich from his seat, then laid waste to the Suzdalian lands. During that campaign Dmitry Donskoy took Starodub, Galich, and possibly Belozero and Uglich. By 1364 he had forced Dmitry Konstantinovich to capitulate and sign a treaty recognizing Dmitry Donskoy’s sovereignty over Vladimir. The pact was sealed in 1366 when Dmitry Donskoy married Dmitry Konstantinovich’s daughter, Princess Yevdokia. To secure his seniority, Dmitry Donskoy sent Prince Konstantin Vasilevich of Rostov to Ustiug in the north and replaced him with his nephew Andrei Fyodorovich, a supporter of Moscow. In a precedent-setting grant, Dmitry Donskoy gave his cousin Prince Vladimir Andreyevich of Serpukhov independent sovereignty over Galich and Dmitrov. The grant is viewed as a significant development in the seniority system because it established the de facto right of the Moscow princes to retain hereditary lands, while disposing of conquered territory. In 1375, after a protracted conflict with Tver and Lithuania, Dmitry Donskoy forced Prince Mikhail of Tver to sign a treaty acknowledging himself as Dmitry’s vassal.

With the defeat of Tver, Dmitry’s seniority was recognized by most Russian appanage princes. Growing divisions within the Horde and internecine conflicts in Lithuania triggered by Olgerd’s death in 1377 also worked to Moscow’s advantage. Dmitry moved to extend his frontiers and increase revenues, imposing his customs agents in Bulgar, as Janet Martin has shown (1986). He also cur tailed payment of promised tribute to his patron Mamai. Urgently in need of funds to stop his enemy Tokhtamysh, who had made himself khan of Sarai in that year, and wishing to avenge the de feat of his commander on the River Vozha, Mamai gathered a large army and issued an ultimatum to Dmitry Donskoy. Dmitry made an eleventh-hour effort to comply. But his envoys charged with conveying the funds were blocked by the advancing Tatar forces. On September 8, 1380, the combined armies of Mamai clashed with Dmitry Donskoy’s army on Kulikovo field between the Don River and a tributary called the Nepryadva. The Tatars seemed about to prevail when a new force commanded by Prince Vladimir Andreyevich of Serpukhov surprised them. Mamai’s armies fled the scene. As Alexander Presniakov and Vladimir Kuchkin point out, the gains made in this battle, though regarded as instrumental in breaking the Mongol hold on Moscow, were quickly reversed. Tokhtamysh, who seized the opportunity to defeat Mamai, reunified the Horde and reasserted his claims as lord of the Russian lands. In 1382 Tokhtamysh’s army besieged Moscow and pillaged the city. Dmitry Donskoy, who had fled to Kostroma, agreed to pay a much higher tribute to Tokhtamysh for the Vladimir patent than he had originally paid Mamai.

Dmitry Donskoy skillfully used the church to serve his political and commercial interests. He sponsored a 1379 mission, headed by the monk Stephen, to Christianize Ustiug and establish a new bishop’s see for Perm which, Martin documents, secured Moscow’s control over areas central to the lucrative fur trade. Metropolitan Alexis (1353-1378) and Sergius (c. 1314-1392), hegumen (abbott) of the Trinity Monastery, supported his policies and acted as his envoys in critical situations. After Alexis’s death, Dmitry moved to prevent Cyprian, who had been invested as metropolitan of Lithuania, from claiming authority over the Moscow see. Instead he supported Mikhail-Mityay, who died under mysterious circumstances before he could be invested by the patriarch. Dmitry’s second choice, Pimen, was invested in 1380 and with a brief interruption (Cyprian was welcomed back by Dmitry after the Battle of Kulikovo until Tokhtamysh’s siege of 1382) served as metropolitan of Moscow until his death in 1389.

In May 1389 Dmitry Donskoy died. He stipulated in his will that his son Basil should be the sole inheritor of his patrimony, including the grand principality of Vladimir. As Presniakov (1970) notes, the khan, by accepting the proviso, acknowledged the grand principality as part of the Moscow prince’s inheritance (votchina), even though, in the aftermath of the Battle of Kulikovo, Russia’s subservience to the Horde had been effectively restored and the grand prince’s power significantly weakened. In contrast to other descendants of the Moscow prince Daniel Alexandrovich, Dmitry Donskoy did not become a monk on his deathbed. Notwithstanding, grand-princely chroniclers eulogized him as a saint. The 1563 Book of Degrees, written in the Moscow metropolitan’s scriptorium, portrays him and his wife Yevdokia as chaste ascetics with miraculous powers of intercession for their descendants and their land, thereby laying the ground for their canonizations.

Kulikovo battle – Army of Dmitry Donskoy Prince with retinue.

Army of Dmitry Donskoy: Infantry


On September 8, 1380, Rus forces led by Grand Prince Dmitry Ivanovich fought and defeated a mixed (including Tatar, Alan, Circassian, Genoese, and Rus) army led by the Emir Mamai on Kulikovo Pole (Snipe’s Field) at the Nepryadva River, a tributary of the Don. As a result of the victory, Dmitry received the sobriquet “Donskoy.” Estimates of numbers who fought in the battle vary widely. According to Rus chronicles, between 150,000 and 400,000 fought on Dmitry’s side. One late chronicle places the number fighting on Mamai’s side at 900,030. Historians have tended to downgrade these numbers, with estimates ranging from 30,000 to 240,000 for Dmitry and 200,000 to 300,000 for Mamai.

The circumstances of the battle involved politics within the Qipchaq Khanate. Mamai attempted to oust Khan Tokhtamish, who had established himself in Sarai in 1378. In order to raise revenue, Mamai intended to require tribute payments from the Rus princes. Dmitry organized the Rus princes to resist Mamai and, in effect, to support Tokhtamish. As part of his strategy, Mamai had attempted to coordinate his forces with those of Jagailo, the grand duke of Lithuania, but the battle occurred before the Lithuanian forces arrived. After fighting most of the day, Mamai’s forces left the field, presumably because he was defeated, although some historians think he intended to conserve his army to confront Tokhtamish. Dmitry’s forces remained at the scene of the battle for several days, and on the way back to Rus were set upon by the Lithuania forces under Jagailo, which, too late to join up with Mamai’s army, nonetheless managed to wreak havoc on the Rus troops.

Although the numbers involved in the battle were immense, and although the battle led to the weakening of Mamai’s army and its eventual defeat by Tokhtamish, the battle did not change the vassal status of the Rus princes toward the Qipchaq khan. A cycle of literary works, including Zadon shchinai (Battle beyond the Don) and Skazanie o Mamaevom poboishche (Tale of the Rout of Mamai), devoted to ever-more elaborate embroidering of the bravery of the Rus forces, has created a legendary aura about the battle.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Halperin, Charles J. (1986). The Tatar Yoke. Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers. Lenhoff, Gail. (1997). “Unofficial Veneration of the Daniilovichi in Muscovite Rus.'” In Culture and Identity in Muscovy, 1359-1584, eds. A. M. Kleimola and G. D. Lenhoff. Moscow: ITZ-Garant. Martin, Janet. (1986). Treasure of the Land of Darkness: The Fur Trade and Its Significance for Medieval Russia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Presniakov, Alexander E. (1970). The Formation of the Great Russian State, tr. A. E. Moorhouse. Chicago: Quadrangle Books. Vernadsky, George. (1953). A History of Russia, vol. 3: The Mongols and Russia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Battle of Ratan, 1809

The last battle on Swedish soil, which took place on 19–20 August 1809. Having conquered Finland from Sweden, the Russians had a small force in the northern parts of what is now Sweden. The Swedes sought to eliminate this through a combined assault from land and sea, but the Russians moved more rapidly, defeating the Swedish force landed at Ratan at Sävar on 19 August. The next day, the Swedish force was attacked when evacuating from Ratan but the artillery fire from Swedish warships shown in the illustration kept the Russians at bay. Peace followed soon after.

As the Swedish army in Finland found itself defeated, it left the country and retreated back to northern Sweden. The Russians soon followed in due course and large parts of the country came under Russian occupation. The operations at Sävar and Ratan, where the coastal fleet would be involved, were only sporadic Swedish attempts to delay the war and try to reconquer occupied parts of Sweden. The ultimate goal was to liberate the town of Umeå, by surrounding general Kamenski who had the town under occupation with his Russian army. Swedish general Wrede was just south of Umeå, and when his landing of 7.500 troops under Wachtmeister north of Umeå, the surrounding of the city would be complete. This daring operation was to be executed in a joint army-navy operation and all this was agreed upon at a war meeting at Härnösand August 5 1809, where such big names like Döbeln and Sandels participated. The king, Karl XIII as Gustav IV King Adolf had been gotten rid of by a formidable military coup, told Wachtmeister, “The expedition must not be lost, if so Sweden is lost.”

Under Admiral Puke a navy of two ships of the line (Kung Adolph Fredric and Försigtigheten), one frigate (Jarramas) as well as 52 smaller vessels of various types set out for the operations behind enemy lines. The smaller ships were towed by the larger frigate and ships of the line, to increase the speed, to allow the Swedish to get to the point of landing as fast as possible.

Admiral Johan af Puke was an able admiral and war hero (although his name may not sound that thrilling in English). As mentioned above, he had been the commander of “Dristigheten”, the first ship that broke the Russian line at Viborg in 1790. He was therefore a renowned leader when he took command of the expedition to northern Sweden in 1809.

On August 17 1809, the forces arrived at Ratan, outside Umeå, where a thick fog effectively covered the attackers. The landing of the troops went as according to plan and the next day, the land troops started the march upon Sävar. On the night between the 17th and 18th Swedish captain Nordenskiöld led an attack against Umeå itself with his nine gunsloops. He shelled the bridge over the Umeå river but was not able to destroy it as he was met by hard Russian artillery fire. Wachtmeister did not do a thing to assist him, although the explosions were heard to Sävar, and so Nordenskiöld returned out to sea after his failed mission. On the morning of the 19th the troops were attacked by 6.000 Russians in Sävar where they were commanded by Wachtmeister. The land troops here lost one of the bloodiest battles of the war, to the Russian general Kamenski. Wachtmeister showed just exactly how bad a military commander he was.

Wachtmeister retreated back to Ratan with his tails between his legs after having lost at Sävar and at Ratan he was protected by the guns of the navy as well as artillery that was mounted on a nearby island as well as on the beaches. Kamenski followed and in the afternoon on August 20, he attacked without thinking twice. The Russian troops advanced without fear upon the Swedes. The Swedish guns immediately opened fire; death rained down on the Russians from the guns of the Swedish navy as well as from the land artillery, they cut deep, bleeding holes in the Russian lines. Kamenski lost about 3.200 in dead and wounded in this daring but foolish attack. “The village of Ratan was razed to the ground and the treetops were cut all the way to Djäkneboda”, Allan Sandström tells us in his book “Sveriges sista krig”. After these heavy fighting, Kamenski and Wachtmeister met for negotiations. The Russian commander demanded that the Swedes should ship out immediately, which the weak Wachtmeister agreed upon. Wachtmeister promised to ship out, and on August 22, the Swedes left.

If so my position was very critical, I shall do everything in my power to bring my troops therefrom. Although I must agree upon the fact that it was very sad to retreat from a victory like this, which we had won in the last two days, in which I not only did beat the enemy and chased him out to his boats, but also personally placed him upon these boats, so to speak”, Kamenski reported to the Czar. And with these words ended Sweden’s last war.

Von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1 versus the Southwest Front Part I

The situation facing Heeresgruppe Süd at X-hour on 22 June 1941 was far more disadvantageous than that faced by either of the other two German army groups. Von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1 had to conduct an opposed river crossing across the Western Bug into a heavily-defended fortified region, which meant the 6.Armee’s infantry would first have to create a series of bridgeheads before German armour could be committed. Beginning at dawn on 22 June, the 6.Armee used five infantry divisions to conduct multiple crossings across the Western Bug River. The 298.Infanterie-Division, with the help of Brandenburg infiltration troops, managed to seize an intact bridge at Ustilug. German pioneers also succeed in capturing an intact bridge further south, at Sokal. Two Soviet rifle divisions opposed the crossing but were too thinly spread to seriously interfere with the initial bridge seizures. Wasting no time, 6.Armee immediately sent Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 197 across the Sokal bridge at 0450 hours. In order that von Kleist’s panzers would not be delayed by the use of just two bridges, German pioneers immediately began building pontoon bridges across the river to provide multiple crossing points. Despite the successful crossing of the Western Bug, von Kleist could initially commit only three of his nine motorized divisions to exploit the bridgeheads due to the narrowness of the attack sector and congestion at the two bridges. General der Panzertruppen Ludwig Crüwell’s 11.Panzer-Division crossed the Sokal bridge and pushed past weak resistance nearly 30km by the end of the first day. From Ustilug, the 6.Armee was able to seize the town of Vladimir Volynskii, which opened the way for General der Panzertruppen Friedrich Kühn’s 14.Panzer-Division to push toward Lutsk – Panzergruppe 1’s intermediate objective.

General Leytenant Mikhail P. Kirponos, in command of the Southwestern Front, hurried to his new wartime command post at Tarnopol, but once there he could barely communicate with any of his subordinate forces for the first two days of the war. His headquarters personnel were unable to establish a functioning radio command net (during peace-time, the Red Army tried to avoid use of radio communications in order to limit opportunities for adversary signals intercepts, but when war erupted suddenly, most units had neither the experience nor the correct code books to initiate secure communications) so he was forced to rely upon civilian phones to try and coordinate his forces. In this command vacuum, local commanders began making their own decisions on how to respond to the German invasion. The Soviet 5th Army, headquartered in Lutsk, directed General-major Semen M. Kondrusev’s 22nd Mechanized Corps to counterattack the German forces threatening Vladimir Volynskii. Although most of this corps was about 100km from the border, by chance its most powerful formation, Polkovnik Petr Pavlov’s 41st Tank Division, was conducting field training just north of Vladimir Volynskii. Pavlov had thirty-one KV-2 heavy tanks (which lacked 152mm ammunition) and 342 T-26 tanks, which were in an excellent position to counterattack the German 14.Panzer-Division as it marched over the bridge at Ustilug. Instead, Pavlov found himself in a quandary that was not uncommon in the Red Army of June 1941 – he was out of radio communications with Kondrusev’s corps headquarters and his pre-war mobilization orders directed him to deploy to Kovel – away from the Germans at Ustilug. Pressured by local Soviet commanders to do something to help the crumbling border defenses, Pavlov split the difference by sending the bulk of his tanks on the road to Kovel, but detaching a tank battalion under Major Aleksandr S. Suin with fifty T-26 light tanks to support Soviet infantry at Vladimir Volynskii. Suin’s battalion arrived just in time to be shot to pieces by German panzerjäger, who knocked out thirty of his T-26 tanks and forced him to abandon Vladimir Volynskii.

Only vaguely aware of the extent of German advances by the end of 22 June, Kirponos was able to get in touch with General-major Ignatii I. Karpezo’s 15th Mechanized Corps, located near Brody, and order them to counterattack Crüwell’s 11.Panzer-Division near Radekhov while the rest of Kondrusev’s 22nd Mechanized Corps deployed to counterattack at Vladimir Volynskii. The 1st Anti-tank Brigade (RVGK) under General-major Kirill S. Moskalenko, which was fully motorized and equipped with forty-eight 76.2mm F-22 anti-tank guns and seventy-two 85mm M1939 anti-aircraft guns, was ordered to create a blocking position west of Lutsk. Moskalenko’s anti-tank unit was one of the most powerful anti-armour formations in the Southwest Front and was also plentifully supplied with anti-tank mines. Kirponos had four other first-echelon mechanized corps in the Southwest Front, but the 4th and 8th Mechanized Corps spent the first few days of the war marching and counter-marching to no useful purpose. Rokossovsky’s cadre-strength 9th Mechanized Corps was beginning a 200km march to Lutsk, but would not arrive for a few days. The 16th Mechanized Corps was even further away from the border. In short, although Kirponos had an overall 6–1 numerical superiority in tanks over von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1, the piecemeal arrival of Soviet armour on the battlefield meant that the Red Army’s advantage was whittled down to a 2–1 local superiority, which was adequate for defense but not attack. Nevertheless, an order from the Stavka, signed by Georgy Zhukov, was received at Kirponos’ command post at 2300 hours on 22 June, directing Kirponos to counterattack with five mechanized corps within less than forty-eight hours.

On 23 June, von Kleist’s armour advanced eastward, with Kühn’s spearhead in the north and Crüwell’s spearhead in the south. They were advancing along very narrow frontages and not mutually supporting, as they were separated by a distance of over 50km. Under these circumstances, the Red Army should have been able to inflict heavy losses on these vanguard units. During the morning, the 13.Panzer-Division reinforced the 14.Panzer-Division across the Western Bug and, together with infantry from 6.Armee, they began to mop up the remaining Soviet border defenses. Crüwell’s 11.Panzer-Division advanced to Radekhov with Kampfgruppe Riebel (Oberstleutnant Gustav-Adolf Riebel’s Panzer-Regiment 15 and the Luftwaffe I/Flak Regiment General Göring, with twelve 8.8cm flak guns) and Kampfgruppe Angern (Oberst Günther von Angern’s 11 Schutzen Brigade and the 119.Artillerie-Regiment). Part of the Soviet 20th Tank Regiment, from General-major Sergei I. Ogurtsov’s 10th Tank Division, was in the town, but they were apparently caught by surprise and hurriedly abandoned Radekhov, along with twenty BT-7 and six T-34 tanks. After securing the town, Riebel sent a tank platoon from Oberleutnant Edel Zachariae-Lingenthal’s 5./Panzer-Regiment 15 forward to reconnoiter to the south and this platoon spotted a group of Soviet tanks in column approaching Radekhov from the southwest along a road. The German tanks quickly occupied hull-down ambush positions and waited until the Soviets – which were T-34 medium tanks – were within 100 meters. Then the five Pz.IIIs opened fire with 3.7cm and 5cm Panzergranate AP rounds.

Even though at this short distance every shot was a hit, the Russians drove on without much visible effect … Despite repeated hits, our fire had no effect. It appears as if shells are simply bouncing off. The enemy tanks disengaged without fighting and retreated.

This Soviet probe merely alerted Riebel to the presence of an impending Soviet armoured counterattack and he promptly deployed the I and II/Panzer-Regiment 15 in a linear defense just west of Radekhov, with the Luftwaffe 8.8cm flak guns in the center and Kampfgruppe Angern’s artillery behind him.21 Soon thereafter, Ogurtsov conducted a sloppy, unsupported attack with just two tank and two motorized infantry battalions across open terrain in broad daylight. He refused to wait for reconnaissance to spot the German positions or his own artillery to deploy, so his forces went into battle blind. Tank–infantry cooperation was virtually non-existent. The 100-odd Soviet tanks attacked in several waves; first the light BT-7 and BA-10/20 armoured cars, then the medium T-28 and T-34 and finally the KV-1 heavy tanks. The German tankers opened fire at about 400 meters and easily put paid to the first wave of Soviet light tanks, but the T-34s began engaging the German tanks from 800–1,000 meters and knocked out three Pz.III and two Pz.IV tanks. The 5cm KwK 39 L/42 was completely ineffective at that range, but in desperation Oberleutnant Zachariae-Lingenthal ordered his Pz.IVs to fire 7.5cm Sprenggranate 34 (HE) rounds at the T-34s. Since the T-34s had been committed straight after a long approach march, they were still carrying reserve fuel drums on their back decks, which could be set alight by shell fragments. A lucky hit or two convinced the Soviets to pull back. Despite the near invulnerability of their armour to German 3.7cm and 5cm guns, a number of T-34s and KV-1s were immobilized by hits on their tracks and then abandoned by their crews. After suffering nearly 50 per cent losses, Ogurtsov broke off his amateurish attack. The Soviet 10th Tank Division lost forty-six tanks in their first battle with 11.Panzer-Division, but knocked out five German tanks and several anti-tank guns. After the action, Zachariae-Lingenthal inspected some of the abandoned T-34 tanks, alarmed by its superior firepower and armoured protection and later wrote, ‘this was a shocking recognition to the German panzer and panzerjäger units and our knees were weak for a time.’

Meanwhile, Kirponos tried vainly to bring up more of his mechanized corps in order to comply with the Stavka-directed counteroffensive on the morning of 24 June, but only the 15th and 22nd Mechanized Corps were in any position to do anything. Von Kleist was gradually feeding more armour into the battle as the Soviet border defenses were eliminated, but he initially held back the 9.Panzer-Division and his four motorized infantry divisions. This was an important command decision – throughout the Battle of Dubno, the Germans maintained strong mobile reserves, while Kirponos committed each formation as it arrived with nothing left in reserve to deal with enemy breakthroughs. Due to poor Soviet radio security at the division level and below, the German 3rd Radio Intercept Company was able to detect Soviet armour units moving toward the border. Although army and higher-level units used good encryption on their radio nets, the tank regiments and divisions employed simpler ciphers that the Germans could break and often failed to change frequencies and call signs for days after compromise. Soviet tank units also had a bad habit of calling for fuel supplies just before launching an attack, which provided German intelligence officers with a valuable indicator. Thus poor Soviet radio procedures in tank units handed another advantage to the German panzer divisions.

Not surprisingly, no grand Soviet counteroffensive materialized on the morning of 24 June, since neither the 15th nor 22nd Mechanized Corps were ready to attack. Instead, Kühn’s 14.Panzer-Division attacked eastward toward Lutsk at 0800 hours, supported by bombers from Fliegerkorps V. Kühn’s panzers brusquely pushed aside a Soviet rifle division blocking the road to Lutsk, but then ran straight into Moskalenko’s 1st Anti-tank Brigade west of Lutsk. Moskalenko’s unit was caught with its guns still limbered in column, enabling the panzers to shoot up his lead battalion, but once the rest of his unit deployed on line, the German tanks were vulnerable in the open. The Soviet anti-tank gunners were easily capable of penetrating the Pz.III and Pz.IV tanks at 1,000 meters or more, and it was only the lack of supporting infantry or tanks that prevented Moskalenko from giving 14.Panzer-Division a very bloody nose. As it was, both sides suffered significant losses in this first major duel between panzers and Soviet anti-tank guns. It was not until 1400 hours that the 22nd Mechanized Corps was finally ready to attack, and then only with part of the 19th Tank Division. Bravely charging, a battalion of forty-five T-26 light tanks struck the left flank of the 14.Panzer-Division near Voinitsa and briefly regained some ground. However, the Germans were merely withdrawing to regroup and at 1800 hours they struck back with a combined-arms attack that shattered the 19th Tank Division. Not only were most of the division’s light tanks lost, but the division commander was wounded and all three regimental commanders were killed or captured, as well as the artillery commander. The remnants of the Soviet division fell back in disorder toward Lutsk, along with Moskalenko’s anti-tank brigade. During the retreat, Kondrusev was killed by German artillery fire, leaving the 22nd Mechanized Corps leaderless.

Nor had Karpezo’s 15th Mechanized Corps been able to stop Crüwell’s 11.Panzer-Division, which bypassed Soviet blocking positions east of Radekhov and advanced 55km to the outskirts of Dubno. Karpezo seemed to think that his mission was to defend Brody, and was content to sit almost immobile as Crüwell’s division marched past him. Indeed, Crüwell took considerable liberty with Karpezo, leaving his right flank dangerously exposed – but nothing happened. German panzer commanders were trained to accept risk and ignore their flanks, and in 1941 this often paid handsome dividends. Generaloberst Hans-Valentin Hube’s 16.Panzer-Division followed in Crüwell’s path, as well as two infantry divisions, to exploit the breakthrough. Zhukov, who had arrived as Stavka representative at Kirponos’ command post at Tarnopol, ordered him to launch a counteroffensive into the flank of 11.Panzer-Division by 0700 hours on 25 June, even though this would be another piecemeal attack. While the German panzer corps commanders used radio to direct and maneuver their panzer-divisions in coordinated fashion, the Soviet mechanized corps operated with little or no coordination with other friendly formations at this point. Lack of C2-driven coordination prevented Kirponos from effectively massing his armour on the battlefield.

While the main armoured battle was developing around Dubno, Kirponos’ strongest armoured formation – General-major Andrey Vlasov’s 4th Mechanized Corps – was senselessly committed by the 6th Army commander to local counterattacks against the German 17.Armee approaching L’vov. Vlasov’s counterattack did not go well, as his armour was also committed piecemeal and without artillery support. Polkovnik Petr S. Fotchenkov’s 8th Tank Division lost nineteen of its 140 T-34s and the 32nd Tank Division lost sixteen tanks on 24–25 June fighting German infantry units. Vlasov did not report these heavy losses to Kirponos, but did claim the destruction of thirty-seven enemy tanks, even though no German armour was in this sector. Even worse, the tanks of the 4th Mechanized Corps were marched hither and yon by the 6th Army, which wanted tanks everywhere at once, but the result was that hundreds of tanks fell out due to mechanical defects.

25 June was a very good day for Panzergruppe 1. Generaloberst Eberhard von Mackensen had both 13 and 14.Panzer-Divisionen advancing toward Lutsk, and together they were strong enough to force Moskalenko’s anti-tank brigade to withdraw. By the afternoon, German tanks from 13.Panzer-Division seized a bridgehead over the Styr River and occupied Lutsk. The Soviet 9th and 19th Mechanized Corps, approaching from the east, were too late to save the city. Karpezo continued to sit immobile, ignoring Zhukov’s attack order, and allowed Crüwell’s 11.Panzer-Division to fight its way into Dubno by 1400 hours. Soviet infantry attempted to form a defensive line behind the Ik’va River, but Crüwell’s fast-moving kampfgruppen defeated this effort. The easy capture of both Lutsk and Dubno effectively drove a wedge between the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies, making efforts to coordinate joint actions even more difficult. The only positive aspect of the day for the Soviets was that the 9th and 19th Mechanized Corps were assembling near Rovno and the 8th Mechanized Corps had arrived to reinforce Karpezo at Brody. On a map, it appeared to Zhukov that the Red Army could mount a powerful armoured pincer counterattack to cut off the vanguard of Panzergruppe 1 at Dubno.

However, Zhukov’s efforts to jump-start a counteroffensive were no more successful on 26 June and only resulted in further diminishing Kirponos’ armour. General-major Konstantin K. Rokossovsky established a fairly strong blocking position due east of Lutsk, which prevented either the 13 or 14.Panzer-Divisionen from advancing directly on Rovno, but recognizing that his 100-odd light tanks stood no chance against Mackensen’s III Armeekorps (mot.), he opted to make only a demonstration to comply with the letter of Zhukov’s order and then shifted to the defense. General-major Nikolai V. Feklenko was less circumspect and obediently launched an attack with his 19th Mechanized Corps against 11.Panzer-Division at Dubno around 1400 hours. Feklenko attacked with about 200 tanks, but only two KV-1 and two T-34; the rest were either T-26 or T-37 scout tanks armed only with machine-guns. Crüwell easily repulsed Feklenko’s counterattack and both KV-1 tanks were lost. Adding insult to injury, Crüwell boldly pushed his motorcycle battalion, Kradschützen-Bataillon 61, 30km eastward to the outskirts of Ostrog.

Von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1 versus the Southwest Front Part II

On the southern side of the bulge produced by Panzergruppe 1’s advance, Karpezo’s 15th Mechanized Corps was joined by General-leytenant Dmitri I. Ryabyshev’s 8th Mechanized Corps, which had just completed a 600km road march to the front. Ryabyshev’s corps had lost almost half its tanks due to mechanical breakdown, including forty-four out of forty-eight T-35 heavy tanks. Ryabyshev’s corps conducted a forward passage of lines early on 26 June, passing through Karpezo’s disorganized corps. Karpezo opted to remain on the defensive, allowing Ryabyshev to make the main effort in assaulting the right flank of General der Panzertruppen Werner Kempf’s XXXXVIII Armeekorps (mot.) between Leshnev and Kozyn. Ryabyshev began a premature attack with General-major Timofei A. Mishanin’s 12th Tank Division at 0900 hours, but the rest of his corps could not be committed until the afternoon. Ryabyshev intended to capture the village of Leshnev, then push on to seize Berestichko, which would isolate the 11.Panzer-Division at Dubno. Ryabyshev was confident that Mishanin’s division, which had a company of KV-1 tanks and a full battalion of T-34 tanks, could accomplish this mission.

Unfortunately, Mishanin’s armour was committed nearly straight off the line of march, with no time to reconnoitre the unfamiliar terrain or for his artillery and engineers to arrive. Consequently, Mishanin conducted a nearly pure-armour attack with his two tank regiments, but only minimal infantry support. The tanks immediately encountered very marshy terrain along the Syten’ka River, which was little more than a stream, but the Soviet tank crews lacked the skill to negotiate even this minor obstacle. Three T-34 tanks were stuck in the marshy terrain and Mishanin was forced to look for an alternate crossing in full sight of the German troops from the 57.Infanterie-Division in Lishnev. As the Soviet tanks bunched up around the river, the Germans called for artillery fire, which pounded the massed armour. Eventually, Mishanin was able to get his tanks across the marshy terrain and assault into Leshnev. The German panzerjäger were overwhelmed by the T-34 and KV-1 tanks and a number of Pak guns were crushed under their tracks. The German infantry abandoned Leshnev and fell back. However, before Mishanin could consolidate on the objective, an armoured kampfgruppe from Hube’s 16.Panzer-Division attempted to retake Leshnev. While the Pz.III and Pz.IV tanks were seriously out-gunned by the T-34 and KV-1 tanks, the German panzers enjoyed artillery and air support, as well as better C2, which evened the odds considerably. German gunners concentrated on hitting the tracks on the bigger Soviet tanks and succeeded in immobilizing some of the T-34s. Eventually, the German panzers broke off the action and retreated. Mishanin had twenty-five tanks stuck in the marshes or knocked out around Leshnev and was in no position to continue the attack with his unsupported armour. Instead, he sent a company of KV-1 tanks forward to sever the Berestichko-Dublin road and to shoot up some of the German wheeled traffic along this route. Ryabyshev’s other two divisions, the 34th Tank and 7th Mechanized, only got into the fight late in the day and achieved little or nothing.

Amazingly, one of the most powerful Soviet armoured units of June 1941 had failed to inflict significant damage on a single German infantry division. The Red Army’s failure to use combined arms tactics – which was mostly due to impatience in the higher command – almost completely negated the superior capabilities of the T-34 and KV tanks. By the end of 26 June, it appeared that Ryabyshev and Karpezo were still in an excellent position to smash in von Kleist’s right flank on the next day, but the Germans had their own surprise in store. German reconnaissance aircraft had been observing the mass of Soviet armour around Brody all day and they had spotted the GAZ-AAA radio trucks belonging to both the 8th and 15th Mechanized Corps command posts. Around 1800 hours, several groups of low-flying Ju-88 bombers from Fliegerkorps V came in and bombed both command posts. Karpezo was badly wounded but Ryabyshev survived, minus his radio truck, which was left burning. This one air strike – which was a result of poor operational security in the Red Army – seriously degraded Soviet C2 in the armoured battles around Dubno. On top of these difficulties, the Stavka reiterated its order at 2100 hours that Kirponos would continue attacking with all armoured forces and forbid even tactical retreats to prevent encirclements.

Despite Kirponos’ intent to launch a pincer attack from Rovno and Brody to encircle the German forces in Dubno, the lack of coordination between the mechanized corps and other Red Army units resulted in a series of piecemeal battles throughout 27 June. The pincer from Rovno collapsed as Feklenko’s and Rokossovsky’s understrength corps dashed themselves to pieces against 14.Panzer-Division and two supporting infantry divisions. Von Kleist’s panzers now had the benefit of infantry support, which had caught up with them, greatly increasing the staying power of the frontline units. Once the Soviet armour from the 9th and 19th Mechanized Corps was spent, the Germans committed their armour: both 13 and 14.Panzer-Divisionen attacked, threatening to envelop the remnants of Feklenko’s and Rokossovsky’s corps. Meanwhile, Crüwell’s 11.Panzer-Division blasted its way through a thin blocking force of Soviet infantry and captured Ostrog. A counterattack by fifteen BT-7 light tanks against Panzer-Regiment 15 in Ostrog failed to budge the Germans. Kirponos was forced to cobble together Task Force Kukin, a small mechanized formation, to block Crüwell from pushing even further east.

In spite of the myriad problems afflicting the Red Army’s armour units at the outset of the war, Ryabyshev’s 8th Mechanized Corps came close to achieving a real success southwest of Dubno on 27 June. Assembling Mishanin’s 12th Tank Division, Polkovnik Ivan V. Vasil’ev’s 34th Tank Division and Colonel Aleksandr G. Gerasimov’s 7th Motorized Division north of Brody, Ryabyshev was able to mount a fairly organized attack that managed to envelop and isolate the 11 and 16.Panzer-Divisionen, as well as part of the 75.Infanterie-Division, by midday on 27 June. A number of Soviet tanks were lost crossing the marshy terrain, but a mobile group with about 200 tanks succeeded in fighting its way to the outskirts of Dubno. Mishanin was wounded in the attack and Soviet losses were heavy, but the situation for Kempf’s XXXXVIII Armeekorps (mot.) was equally desperate. By the end of the day, German and Soviet armour units were thoroughly intermixed southwest of Dubno and there was no distinct front line.

Although Zhukov abruptly returned to Moscow, he continued to hound Kirponos by teletype messages to continue the counter-offensive against von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1. Kirponos, intimidated by his commissars, complied and thereby sentenced much of the remainder of his armour to annihilation. Rokossovsky managed to scrape together a battle group with about fifty T-26 and BT light tanks, a handful of KV-2 heavy tanks and some infantry, which he used to attack into the northern flank of Panzergruppe 1’s bulge on the morning of 28 June. However, by this point the infantry from 6.Armee had arrived in force to bolster von Kleist’s exposed flanks and the panzerjägers from 299.Infanterie-Division stopped Rokossovsky’s attack cold. Polkovnik Mikhail E. Katukov led his thirty-three BT-2 and BT-5 light tanks into battle and lost all of them. As usual, Soviet armoured attacks went in with little or no reconnaissance support and negligible artillery support. Massed artillery, anti-tank fire and flak destroyed most of the Soviet armour, although a single damaged KV-2 limped away. Once the Soviet attack was spent, Generaloberst von Mackensen deftly coordinated the 13 and 14.Panzer-Divisionen into an all-out attack that smashed in the flanks of the Soviet 9th and 19th Mechanized Corps. The fragments of seven Soviet tank and motorized infantry divisions were routed and fled back behind the Goryn River. Feklenko abandoned Rovno, which was quickly occupied by the 13.Panzer-Division.

While disaster was striking the northern group of Soviet armour, Ryabyshev’s 8th Mechanized Corps found itself being encircled. This was the first instance in the war in the East of Soviet armour achieving a significant penetration of German lines, and Ryabyshev set a precedent that would occur again and again over the next two years. First, no follow-on forces were available to support the breakthrough; the nearly leaderless 15th Mechanized Corps mounted only a demonstration attack against the infantry of the German XXXXIV Armeekorps which provided no help to Ryabyshev. Second, the Germans reacted quickly to sever the narrow penetration corridor used by the attacking Soviet armour, isolating the bulk of the 12th and 34th Tank Divisions in a kessel just west of Dubno. Third, morale and C2 within the trapped forces quickly disintegrated, resulting in rapid loss of any unit cohesion. The German 75.Infanterie-Division played a vital role in isolating the bulk of Ryabyshev’s forces, which speaks volumes about the Soviet lack of battlefield situational awareness at this point. A foot-marching infantry unit could envelope fully motorized units. Once Ryabyshev’s armour was encircled, Hube’s 16.Panzer-Division began a series of attacks that quickly reduced the kessel. German heavy artillery and flak was brought up to finish off the trapped Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks, which were now low on fuel and ammunition; twenty-two tanks were knocked out. Ryabyshev, who was outside the kessel, personally led the 7th Motorized Infantry Division in an effort to break through to his two trapped tank divisions, but failed after crippling losses. By the end of 28 June, Ryabyshev’s corps had been neutralized and von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1 had driven a deep wedge into the boundary of the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies. In just six days of battle, four of Kirponos’ mechanized corps had been defeated and the remainder had been seriously reduced.

For the first six days of the battle, while Kirponos was grinding up his own armoured forces in piecemeal battles, von Kleist held back the 9.Panzer-Division and his four motorized divisions. Once the best Soviet armoured formations were spent, von Kleist began to commit his second-echelon motorized forces on 28–29 June. The 9.Panzer-Division attacked unexpectedly into the flank of the Soviet 6th Army north of L’vov and quickly broke through its infantry. The 16 and 25.Infanterie-Division (mot.) used their superior mobility to quickly reinforce the flanks of Panzergruppe 1 at Berestichko and Rovno, which enabled the panzer divisions to resume their attacks eastward. Von Mackensen’s III Armeekorps (mot.) sliced into the fragments of Rokossovsky’s forces and pushed them back. After heavy fighting with Hube’s 16.Panzer-Division southwest of Dubno, Ryabyshev retreated with the remnants of his corps, reduced to 35 per cent of their initial tank strength, four infantry battalions and four batteries of artillery. The rest of his corps, roughly 10,000 troops and 200 tanks, were left in the kessel outside Dubno. With the Southwest Front’s forces in retreat or faced with encirclement, the Stavka finally ordered Kirponos to withdraw to the Stalin Line on the old border.

In the final actions near Dubno, the trapped tankers of the 34th Tank Division took advantage of fog along the Ik’va to stage a breakout operation on the night of 30 June, which succeeded in saving some troops, but not much equipment. In a confused night action – rare on the Eastern Front – the Soviets massed their remaining tanks and punched through Hube’s cordon. The Germans massed artillery, flak guns and tanks to destroy the fleeing Soviets, but some German troops panicked when T-34 and KV heavy tanks appeared out of the mist and overran their positions. Corps Commissar Nikolai Popel, leading the breakout, later wrote:

One of our T-34s flared up like a torch, darting around a field. Over a dozen Pz.IVs ganged up at the same time on a KV-1. We were shooting German vehicles pointblank. When ammunition ran out, we rammed them … Sytnik’s KV-1 [Major A. P. Sytnik, commander 67th Tank Regiment], in the heat of battle, rushed ahead of the others. [He] rammed several Pz.IIIs. His vehicle became a pile of shapeless metal. He began retreating with his crew deeper into the thickets.

By 1 July, the Southwest Front was in full retreat and Panzergruppe 1 had achieved its initial objectives. The tank battles fought between Panzergruppe 1 and elements of seven Soviet mechanized corps around Lutsk-Rovno-Dubno-Brody in the first week of Barbarossa were the largest tank battles to date, involving over 600 German and 3,800 Soviet tanks. While it is true that von Kleist failed to encircle and destroy any Soviet mechanized corps, as occurred in the battle of the Bialystok-Minsk kessel, the 8th, 15th and 19th Mechanized Corps were badly mauled and three other mechanized corps lost at least half their strength. Approximately two-thirds of the Soviet armour, or 2,500 tanks, were lost in the battle between 22–30 June 1941; the majority of losses were caused by non-combat factors, including mechanical failure and lack of driver training. The technical superiority of the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 tanks counted for very little in the Battle of Dubno due to untrained crews and inept tactics. The Stavka’s insistence on launching a premature counteroffensive resulted in the best Red Army armoured units being thrown into battle piecemeal, where they were chopped to ribbons by veteran panzer units. In addition to material losses, losses of senior armoured leaders included two of six mechanized corps commanders, six of eighteen division commanders and ten of thirty tank regiment commanders. The surviving formations were reduced to division-size battle groups with little artillery or support services left after the retreat to the Stalin Line. The one bright spot for the Red Army in the Ukraine was that second-echelon armoured units near Kiev and the 2nd and 18th Mechanized Corps, deployed with the Southern Front near Odessa, were too distant to be significantly affected by the initial German Blitzkrieg; these formations would greatly assist Kirponos in slowing Heeresgruppe Süd’s advance upon Kiev in July–August.

In contrast to the damage suffered by Kirponos’ first-echelon armour, the German panzer units in Panzergruppe 1 suffered very light losses in the first week of combat; no senior panzer leaders were casualties and total personnel losses were around 5 per cent or less. Excluding Pz.I and command tanks, no more than twenty-five tanks in Panzergruppe 1 were totally destroyed by 30 June, with about another 100 damaged or down for mechanical defects, but all five panzerdivisions were still fully combat-capable. German leadership, from von Kleist, to von Mackensen and Kempf at corps level, to Crüwell and Hube at division level, had demonstrated great flexibility and aggressiveness. Even when briefly isolated, the panzer divisions retained their cohesiveness and fought their way out of trouble. To be sure, the Pz.III tanks armed with the 3.7cm KwK 36 L/46 cannon had proven to be a liability in combat against Soviet tanks, but the German skill at combined arms warfare and air-ground coordination had carried the day against Soviet numerical superiority and technical advantages. As Heeresgruppe Süd continued its advance to the Stalin Line in early July 1941, von Kleist was still outnumbered but his forces were better handled and, thus, capable of achieving decisive local superiorities.