A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 176

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CAMPAIGN IN EAST PRUSSIA


On Wednesday, August 26, Rennenkanipf attacked and the battlethatfollowedwasfierce,stubborn,terrible. Exceptforthe light horse artillery that accompanies a cavalry division, the raiders were lacking in gun power. They could not reply to the enemy's batteries. They had either to ride down the guns across open country, with slirapnel playing on them all the way, or dismount and creep in open formation to the point at which a rush might carry the position. The trenches were filled with German riflemen, and the hre of innumerable Maxims had to be met. Only the incomparable mobility of the Cossacks enabled Rennenkanipf to break the German centre. On the Russian Guard fell the heaviest fight- ing. The enemy held a village of scattered farmhouses, set in low, level land. Each farmhouse was full of riflemen; behind was ranged the German lines, from which several batteries poured slirapnel into the advancing Russians. Clearing villages is infantry w'oi'k, but there were no Russian foot soldiers avail- able. Some Russian horsemen, however, were near the spot. They dismounted and fixed bayonets—every Russian cavalryman carried a bayonet—and slowly worked their way to file village, clearing the farms of sharpshooters as they went. Meanwhile, a couple of German guns w^ere firing on them at short range, and an overwhelming number of entreitched infantrymen was raining bullets on them. When the Guards cleared the village and advanced on the German lines, there was barely a third of them left standing. Yet they pressed oii within a hundred yards of the German position. Tlieir leader, who already had a bullet through his thigh, now fell with a shattered shoulder. But the Guards went on, their bayonets readytostrike. Theycouldseetheeyesoftheirfoes,andalong theGermanfrontthereweresignsofwavering. Soamounted squadron of the Russian Guards was sent full-tilt on the Prussians, and crashing on the line of the enemy, captured the guns and then harried the soldiers. A wedge was driven clean through the German army. Three army corps fled north-westerly towards Konigsberg ; the fourth corps ran south-west towards Osterode. All four flung away their arms and ammunition, and even their food, in their haste to save themselves. The intricate system of defences in the swamp country was unused. Even a fortified position on the River Angerapp was abandoned without a fight.

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