Stuyvesant: Your comments are always a pleasure. The longer I write AARs, the more I appreciate the people who take the time to comment.
As for the Siberians. Operation Red Flood has a small amount of steam left in it. But eventually the front will become stale again.
Chapter 16 - Death Rides A Horse: Southern front, July - August 1919
The more the proletariat presses the bourgeoisie, the more furiously they will resist.
We know what vengeance was wreaked on the workers in France in 1848.
And when people charge us with harshness we wonder how they can forget the rudiments of Marxism.
Recap: On the Southern front, the situation is dire. With Makhno and Grigoriev dead, the Anarchist are now a leaderless mob. Blucher's surprise attack against Rostov has failed costing the commanding general his life. Now Skachko is in control of a battered army stranded deep in enemy territory.
Skachko was left with a royal mess. His army was utterly exhausted, supply stocks were low - they would last for no more than a month. In Rostov, Ivanov and Drozdovsky had superior forces and were just waiting to crush the Communists. Skachko knew, it was time to run for their lifes.
However they would need the assistance of friendly forces keeping their line of retreat open. This task fell to the most expandable force available: the Anarchists. Leaderless as they were, there was nobody left to protest. The whole mob was loaded onto trains and rushed south. On 6 July 1919, the Anarchists reached Donetsk and set up defensive positions.
In the meantime, Skachko retreated from Rostov in northward direction. Then he turned west and marched for Donetsk where he arrived on 10 July.
1: Bogatyrev, 230 pw
2: Ivanov, 380 pw
3: Denisov, leaves Bogaevsky's army and heads for Donetsk with almost 18.000 men (482 pw).
4: Battles of Donetsk, 7 and 8 July 1919
But before Skachko could reach his destination, Donetsk came under attack from White forces. Their vanguard - consisting of an infantry brigade and a cavalry regiment - walked right into an ambush. 4 entire infantry regiments perished on 7 July. A total of 4.200 Volunteers were slaughtered by Anarchists taking bloody revenge for Makhno's death.
The next day, the main White force arrived. Denisov had been dispatched from Bogaevsky's Don Cossack Army. His force consisted of Pokrovsky's 1st Division and a number of independant regiments. Denisov had rushed to Rostov by train only to discover that Skachko had already escaped. Unwilling to give up so easily, he continued his voyage towards Donetsk in order to intercept the Communists. However he found the city heavily defended by a well-equipped if unorganized mob of Anarchists.
The opening phase of the battle was an artillery duel: the Anarchists had six batteries of horse artillery each containing 8 small caliber cannons. Denisov had one battery less but one of his contained fearsome 152 mm guns. Luckily, Makhno had taught his men well: the Anarchist artillerymen oudid their opponents thoroughly and inflicted three times as many casualties.
In the second phase of the battle, Pokrovsky's 1st Division moved into close combat, it crushed an Anarchist cavalry regiment and inflicted heavy damage to a second one. But the other Anarchist regiments didn't stand idly by, instead a series of devastating charges was launched into Pokrovsky's flanks while the the remaining Anarchists held off Denisov's other units. When the Cossack leader finally retreated, he left 4.600 dead White soldiers behind. The Anarchists had fared better, only 1.700 of their own had fallen. But the damage had been concentrated on very few units. As a consequence, two entire regiments had been annihilated.
Unfortunately, Denisov's corps hadn't been the only Volunteer force sent to cut off Skachko's retreat. Sidorin had left Ekaterinoslav in an attempt to take control of the railway line leaving Kharkov in southward direction. Moreover Cherbachev had ventured north and was now ideally placed to interrupt the vital railway line in a second place.
Inspite of Anarchist bravery, the situation had deteriorated. Now both forces, Skachko's Communists and the Anarchists warband, were threatened with encirclement. The new evacuation plan would start with a race: The Soviet forces boarded trains and headed for Pavlograd. Here the Anarchists would resume their role as human shields for the more valuable Communist infantry. Skachko would then continue north and start a flanking march leading around Sidorin's position.
As expected, Cherbachev tried to take Pavlograd. Strangely he left the smaller one of his two divisions behind and took only Babiev's 16th Division with him. Both sides arrived in the region on the same day (18 July 1919) and battle ensued immediately. However, Skachko couldn't be bothered to help his Anarchist allies. He had his 65.000 Communists continue their voyage while the Anarchists fought for the both of them. But as it turned out the Anarchists had gotten quite adapt at killing Whites. Half of Babiev's division perished, 4.300 men in total. Anarchist casualties were only one fourth of that number. But once again the unlucky regiment that had bore the worst of the attack got wiped out.
The next day, Skachko's men had to fight for themselves for the first time since Rostov. Sidorin had ventured south, probably in order to rendez-vous with Cherbachev. Now his men clashed with Skachko's army. On paper the Communists outnumbered their enemy 5:1, but their troops were of lesser quality, low on ammunition and even lower on cohesion. Therefore both sides were almost equal in fighting power. The difference was that the Communist had occupied good defensive ground while the Volunteers had to charge over an open field. Sidorin's corps contained two divisions: Wrangel's 2nd Division, a tiny cavalry force, and Lukomsky's much more powerful 11th Division. Fortunately for the Volunteers, Sidorin's spies had discovered a weakness: Piatakov's 9th Corps was still out of ammunition from the onslaught at Rostov. The Cossack general therefore ordered both his divisions to concentrate their attacks on this corps. If it could be crushed the rest of Skachko's army might disintegrate as well. Skachko couldn't prevent the Whites from attacking Piatakov's corps but he sure wasn't going to let it fend on its own. Thus the 3rd and 22nd Corps provided heavy covering fire while Piatakov's men fought for their lifes with riflebuts and bayonets.
The battle turned into a major Red victory. When it was over, not a single rifle bullet or artillery shell was left in Skachko's entire army but they had made their ammunition count. Lukomsky's 11th Division had lost more than 7.200 men, whereas Piatakov's corps escaped with only 2.200 casualties. The other units didn't suffer any substantial casualties. Sidroin had to retreat while Skachko was able to continue his march. At his destination he was joined by an fully stocked Anarchist supply train. It wasn't enough to prevent starvation but at least the fresh supplies would lessen the effects. Just as importantly, Skachko's men would have a few rounds to fire if they should have to fight once more on the remaining way to safety.
Initially the plan had been to outflank Sidorin's force on a north-western route. But now the plan was changed. Sidorin's men had failed to take complete control of the railway lines. Berzin thus boarded trains in Kharkov. This time it were Communists that would act as shield for Skachko's army. It took Berzin only a day to reach Merefa. Sidorin's battered corps hastily retreated. And Skachko's hungry men marched to Kharkov unharmed. The Anarchists could have intercepted Sidorin's retreating corps but they had received orders to remain on defense.
In the meantime, fresh counter-revolutionary forces were pouring into the Donbas; Berthelot brought a French corps from Kiev - the city had finally fallen to the French in July - and Denisov conquered Makeievka on 9 August after destroying a Red partisan unit.
Skachko's men had escaped to safety but a new White offensive was already in the making. The unsung heros of this episode were the Anarchists: they had sacrificed themselves again and again to ensure Skachko's escape. Their supplies had sustained the Communists, their horsemen had paid the bloody price. Soviet historybooks would apporpriately honour them ... in a tiny footnote.
Next update: Back to generals Slack and Slouch.
 I got lucky here since the retreat had already started at the end of the prior turn. Thus it only took one day to reach the region north of Rostov. This probably saved my stack since it got out of Rostov before White reinforcements could reach the region. Ivanov must have stayed on defense. Not entirely surprising since his units had suffered quite a lot as well.
 A retreat to Donetsk seemed like the best idea. The Anarchists would serve as human shields behind which Skachko's battered men could hide. The next turn I intended to rail both forces back to Kharkov.
 Ian guessed my evacuation plans very well. He correctly assumed that I would try to get Skachko to the railway line. I presume Denisov had orders to continue to Makeievka if he hadn't run into the Anarchists at Donetsk.
 Anarchist units all cost 0 command points, thus the stack didn't suffer from a command penalty. Nevertheless it was anything but ideal to head into battle with a stack composed of single regiments. The risk of losing elements is extremely high under those circumstances. But there was nothing I could do about it since both Anarchist generals had been killed.
 This was unfortunately forseeable. The battle engine pits the units within each stack against each other. Thus a single element unit can draw the concentrated fire of an entire division. If that happens, it will most likely get wiped out. This battle is a good example why one should always strife to form divisions. The bigger the better! Only artillery, supply trains, engineers and political commissars work well outside divisions because the battle engine deals damage to these units last.
 The battle report suggests that Skachko's men took part in this battle but that is incorrect, they never engaged (battle reports list all units present in a region regardless of whether they fired a single shot). This battle was only a contest between 17.000 Anarchists and 7.500 Volunteers.
 Skachko's army nevertheless suffered a few hundred hits from starvation the next turn. An average infantry unit has 50 men per hit. On that basis, I would estimate that more than 10.000 men were lost to starvation. In other words, this campaign ended in a draw casualty wise. But on a strategic level it was a major success: Blucher's former army lived to fight another day and the Southern White had lost a total of 7 points of NM in these battles. On the downside, the Donbas that had been contested territory for a long time was now firmly in White hands.
 Luckily for me, his stack had been in passive posture after its defeat and thus couldn't gain more military control. The Reds still had 57% which meant I was able to use the railways.
 Bad call on my part, I should have given orders to attack. But with a lot of fairly strong enemy stacks close by, I didn't want to risk too much.