Excellent possession of bladed weapons is the hallmark of the Russian cavalry. Well, what was the art and power of these blows?
I. Sagatsky wrote about the amazing blows inflicted by Russian cavalrymen with cold weapons – both in peacetime and during the First World War. In this regard, he mentioned 2 classic strikes with a saber of the 12th Don Cossack Field Marshal, His Serene Highness Prince Potemkin-Tavrichesky Regiment Zemlyakov (Sagatsky I. Terrible blows // Military Byl. 1960. No. 44, p. 25).
He reported that, being a child at that time, he watched with curiosity and excitement the competitions in the cabin of the lower ranks of the 11th Cavalry Division, which included the regiment. Competitions before the war took place in Radziwill. The number of competitors gradually decreased until it came down to a duel between the last two candidates for the main prize – they were the sergeant-major of the 11th Chuguev Uhlan regiment and the aforementioned companion Zemlyakov. Worthy opponents went on a par, flawlessly cutting down all the targets. The commission found itself in difficulty, not knowing who to give priority to.
Finally, it was the turn of the additional test. They brought 2 identical, in a good fist thick, long clubs. The clubs were fixed in the crosspieces. On the first club, by lot, the sergeant-lancer was released. The latter struck a very strong blow – more than 2/3 of the depth. But a kind of “vine”, although its upper part moved a little to the side, remained standing. Then, on a full career, Zemlyakov went on his red-haired handsome man. The sergeant’s checker flashed … The cudgel remained standing as if nothing had happened – and those present were at a loss. “I missed,” said a Cossack standing next to the eyewitness. “Not that kind of our lieutenant. Wait a little, ”another responded. And, indeed, the top of the club trembled – and, cut off by an unusually fast and powerful blow, its entire upper part slid down.
The son of a front-line soldier, cavalier of the Georgievsky arms, Colonel I.V. Sagatsky, further reported that in the midst of the war in Galicia, his father, at that time the commander of a division of the 12th Don Cossack regiment, had to attack the Hungarian cavalry, which took the attack, in horse formation. The officer in the letter recalled this victorious cavalry battle, describing several terrible moments. Remaining in the “castle”, he was surrounded by several Hungarians – for a long time, with despair, single-handedly fighting them off. IV Sagatsky was preparing for death, when suddenly a skylight dawned, and then, seeing the commander in danger, the aforementioned record holder, companion Zemlyakov, rushed to his rescue. Having run into the Hungarians, he began to chop them down – and they all remained in place. The last Zemlyakov struck such a terrible blow that the Hungarian fell in two right in the saddle, being cut by an oblique blow – through the collarbone and shoulder to the side.
Lieutenant Colonel A. V. Slivinsky, reproducing the details of the cavalry battle at Yaroslavitsa, recalled the checker strike of the lieutenant of the 10th Dragoon regiment Kobelyatsky – the last compartment on the elbows of both hands of the Austrian major, and the checker then to the vertebra dug into the gunter’s neck (Slivinsky A. Equestrian battle of the 10th cavalry division of General Count Keller on August 8/21, 1914 near the village of Yaroslavice. Serbia, 1921, p. 15).
Analyzing the checker strikes of the Russian cavalry and Cossacks, he notes that they mainly occurred in the area of the shoulders or in the head. Some blows were so strong that, like a watermelon cut in half, the head fell apart into 2 parts, and then, going further, the weapon dug deeply into the victim’s body. The Austrian cavalry went to war in metal helmets and helmets. The latter, being extremely impractical in the campaign, turned out to be useful in battle, saving many lives. When hitting the metal of a helmet or a helmet along the normal, the saber sometimes cut them through (and then, albeit weakened, the blow reached the target), and sometimes the weapon glided over the iron – and then the blow either “disappeared”, or the blade dug into the neck or shoulder of the enemy (In the same place. S. 42 – 43.).
The confrontation between the Russian and German cavalry ended in a similar way. So, 06.09.1914, a “through” attack of a squadron of Nizhny Novgorod dragoons took place through a squadron of German lancers. The oncoming horse attack began in the quarry, and turned into a slow crawl of two cavalry units that met through each other. Russian dragoons, who could easily cut through the German helmets with powerful blows, immediately gained the upper hand. For example, a platoon non-commissioned officer by the name of Luft with a powerful blow not only cut the German’s helmet (by cutting his head), but also, when the saber slipped from the victim’s head, cut the horse’s rump. If the Russian losses in this battle amounted to several wounded, then the German ones – up to 70 killed and 12 wounded (captured).
The corresponding skills and abilities were honed during the Civil War. True, in the fight against the wrong enemy.
So, an eyewitness recalled (Rykhlinsky V. “To the note” terrible blows “” // Military Byl. 1967. No. 47, p. 30.): “In the month of May 1920, before our departure to Northern Tavria, by the will of fate, I turned out to be a junior officer of a machine-gun platoon, the commander, who was Lieutenant De Witt, a descendant of a glorious admiral, like me, a Kievite. I caught up with the division near Sivash and a new, exciting chapter of my service began.
“Machine gunners forward!” The team and we, as “Makhnovists”, rush on spring-loaded light carts, pulled by a troika and loaded with a heavy “Maxim” … Behind, three or two hundred meters away – riders … We were the first to enter the muddy water of Sivash on May 25, 1920 carrying machine guns on boats, while walking chest-deep in water. On the right, armored trains thundered and beat Kane’s long-range guns. From that day, marches and counter-marches began, endless attacks, skirmishes with the red cavalry, days and nights in the saddle, in the fragrant steppes of Tavria …
On the fifth day, I managed to fall asleep, curled up in a ball, on a large green chest, in a rich hut. At about three o’clock, I was awakened. Anxiety … In an instant I was on my cart, a second followed me and we rushed forward to Novo-Alekseevka, where our headquarters was located.
And so, coming into position, in front of the dismounted horsemen, on the crumpled grass and wheat, we saw strange heaps of “something” … These were the hacked bodies of the soldiers of the Kalmyk regiment, who carried out patrols in front of Novo-Alekseevka. They lay in the same underwear, in heaps of 10 – 20 people. Caught by surprise by the red cavalry, at about two o’clock in the morning, they were completely chopped up. One corpse struck me: it was cut in half, in the very middle, from the head to the waist. There was not a drop of blood and the dissected parts looked like anatomical models from a museum. Their color was pale pink and the lungs, heart and head with a brain that did not flow out were clearly visible in the section … A little further, another corpse, the left part of the head, half of the chest with the left shoulder and hand were cut off … .. The same distinct anatomical cut and not a drop of blood …
These were “instant” photographs that remained forever in my memory, as an example of what a Cossack saber can do. ”