The fierce battle for the Kakhovsky bridgehead

A British-made White Guard tank captured by soldiers of the 51st Infantry Division near Kakhovka

Slashchev and Barbovich stopped the enemy and threw them back to the Dnieper. However, here the whites ran into the powerful Kakhovsky fortified area, occupied by fresh units of the Blucher division. Barbed wire and dense and well-organized artillery fire stopped Barbovich’s cavalry. As a result, all the attacks of the White Guards on Kakhovka on August 13-15 crashed against the powerful defense of the Reds.

Preparing for a new battle

In mid-July 1920, there was a relative calm on the Crimean front. Both sides were actively preparing for new battles. The command of the white Russian army was preparing for a new offensive with the aim of expanding its territory, seizing vital resources, including human resources. The Red Army was preparing for a new attempt to destroy the White Guards.

Wrangel’s army had grown noticeably stronger by August 1920. The capture of Northern Tavria and the defeat of the Redneck Cavalry Group made it possible to transplant several thousand Cossacks onto requisitioned and captured horses. Due to the mobilization in Tavria, rear units and garrisons, due to the captured Red Army soldiers (both sides during the war actively included ordinary prisoners in their ranks), the thinned parts were replenished. Several Makhnovist and Petliura chieftains went over to Wrangel’s side. The Russian army on the front line had 35 thousand bayonets and sabers (more than 55 thousand people in total), 178 guns, 38 aircraft. After the victory over the 13th Soviet army (groups of Rednecks and Fedko), the White Guards regrouped: the Don and Consolidated corps were united; Slashchev’s 2nd Army Corps was transferred from the northern sector of the front to the western one and took up defensive positions along the Dnieper; the 1st Army Corps of Kutepov was sent to the northern sector of the front.

By the beginning of August 1920, the Red Army was also significantly strengthened. The size of the 13th Soviet Army was increased to 58 thousand soldiers, about 250 guns and 45 aircraft. It was headed by a new commander – Uborevich. At the same time, new units and reinforcements were constantly transferred to the Crimean direction. So, against the Wrangelites, the 51st Infantry Division of Blucher was transferred from Siberia. It was one of the most powerful divisions of the Red Army: 16 regiments, its own artillery and cavalry (a whole corps). Taking into account the shortcomings of the previous battles, Soviet aviation was united under a single command of I. Pavlov.

Also, the Soviet command realized the need to strengthen mobile units on the Crimean front. On July 16, the 2nd Cavalry Army under the command of O. Gorodovikov was formed from the remnants of the Zhloba’s cavalry corps, the 2nd cavalry division and other units. He was an experienced commander, Cossack-Kalmyk by origin, fought in the tsarist army, after October he went over to the side of the Bolsheviks. Gorodovikov fought under the command of the famous generals Dumenko and Budyonny, commanded a partisan detachment, a platoon, a squadron, a cavalry regiment, a brigade and the 4th cavalry division. He fought successfully with the troops of Krasnov and Denikin, with the Poles. The 2nd Cavalry Army included the 2nd Cavalry Division. Blinov, 16th, 20th and 21st cavalry divisions. Initially, due to a shortage of personnel, horses, weapons and equipment, the army was small – about 5.5 thousand soldiers (according to other sources, about 9 thousand people), 25 guns and 16 armored vehicles.

The fierce battle for the Kakhovsky bridgehead

Commander of the 2nd Cavalry Army Oka Ivanovich Gorodovikov

To Aleksandrovsk and Yekaterinoslav

The Soviet command planned an offensive at the beginning of August 1920, but the White Guards outstripped the enemy. After the defeat of the group of Goons, the White Guards regrouped and almost immediately launched an offensive, preventing the 13th Soviet Army from recovering. White threw back the enemy troops, who were still trying to attack in the direction of Mikhailovka and Bol. Tokmok. On July 25, 1920, Kutepov’s corps, which replaced parts of Slashchev in the northern section, dealt a powerful blow to Aleksandrovsk and Yekaterinoslav. Markovskaya and Drozdovskaya divisions defeated the 3rd and 46th rifle divisions of the 13th army. One of the red brigades was surrounded and suffered heavy casualties. The Wrangelites captured the town of Orekhov.

The white command introduced the Kuban Cossack division of General Babiev into the gap. To develop his success, Wrangel transferred Barbovich’s Horse Corps to this area. However, the Reds quickly came to their senses and began to violently counterattack with the forces of the 2nd Cavalry Army (16th and 20th Cavalry Divisions) and units of the 40th Infantry Division. White continued to attack, but at the cost of great efforts and losses. Soon the White Guards managed to take the important railway junction Pologa and on August 2 Aleksandrovsk, which was bypassed by the White cavalry. On the southern flank, the Don Corps defeated the 40th Infantry Division.

This is where the successes ended. The white parts fizzled out, lost their striking power. The resistance of the Red Army increased markedly. The Reds quickly pulled up reinforcements and closed the gaps, and then counterattacked. The White Army began to retreat to its former positions. On August 4, the Wrangelites left Aleksandrovsk, two days later – Orekhov and Pologi, on August 8, White Berdyansk fell. Thus, the white command was unable to achieve decisive success in the northeastern sector of the front.

Commander of the Cavalry Corps of the Russian Army Ivan Gavrilovich Barbovich


After repelling the enemy blow, the Red Army launched an offensive. Its plan as a whole repeated the tasks of the previous operation: the main strikes from the west of Kakhovka to Perekop and from the northeast to Melitopol. Only the preparation for the operation was already much better. The place for crossing the Dnieper near Kakhovka was convenient. The width of the river here narrowed to 400 m, the left bank was without fluids (flooded, swampy areas), smooth and convenient for landing. The elevated right bank skirted Kakhovka in a semicircle, making it possible to install artillery there and fire at the enemy. Parts of the Latvian, 52nd and 15th divisions, two battalions of heavy guns, pontoons, watercraft and materials for the construction of the bridge were pulled here. In addition, the operation was supported by the Dnieper flotilla: several steamers, boats and floating batteries. True, by the beginning of the operation they did not have time to complete the transfer of Blucher’s 51st division.

At the beginning of the operation, the Soviet right-bank grouping consisted of about 13 thousand soldiers, about 70 guns and 220 machine guns. After the arrival of Blucher’s division, the forces of the Red Army in the Kakhovka area almost doubled. The Red Army was opposed by Slashchev’s corps and the native cavalry brigade (3.5 thousand bayonets and 2 thousand sabers, 44 guns, occupying the front from Nikopol to the mouth of the Dnieper River in 170 km. 6 thousand checkers and 1 thousand bayonets.) That is, the Reds had a numerical advantage at the beginning of the operation, strengthened by the concentration of forces and artillery in one sector. The White troops were stretched along the front. But in this direction the Reds did not have strong cavalry so that Also, their offensive in the western sector was constrained by the lack of a developed network of railways, and the whites could transfer a powerful cavalry unit to this sector.

On the night of August 6-7, 1920, Soviet troops began to cross the Dnieper at Kakhovka, the Korsun monastery and Alyoshka. First, the Red Army men overturned the Slashchevites and took Kakhovka. Engineering units began to build the bridge. Having put his units in order, Slashchev launched a counterattack. However, the Reds have already entrenched themselves, ferrying significant forces to the left bank. A significant number of civilians were mobilized in the rear, and transferred to Kakhovka on barges. Here, under the leadership of Karbyshev, fortifications were built: wire barriers were erected, trenches were dug, ramparts were poured, positions for artillery were prepared. Several strong lines of defense reached a depth of 15 km. We worked day and night. Construction materials were thrown across the Dnieper. This is how the famous Kakhovka fortified area was created. On August 10, units of Blucher’s 51st division began to be transferred here. The 15th division was already landing in the southern sector, which, overcoming stubborn enemy resistance, took Alyoshki and several settlements.

Source of the card: Kakurin N. Ye., Vatsetis I. I. Civil War. 1918-1921

The offensive began in the eastern sector. Gorodovikov’s 2nd Cavalry Army, reinforced by the 1st Rifle Division, attacked here. She followed the same path as the Redneck’s group: from Tokmak to Melitopol. The Red cavalry broke through the enemy’s front and on August 11 went to the rear of the Whites, who held Tokmak. However, Gorodovikov’s divisions could not break into the depths of the defense of the White Army. Kutepov’s corps inflicted a flank attack, pushed the 20th cavalry and 1st rifle divisions. The 2nd Cavalry Army was dissected. The head group of three cavalry divisions was under the threat of encirclement. She had to turn back. The fierce battle continued, but was lost by the Reds. First, the infantry wavered and began to retreat, then the cavalry. True, this success went to the whites at a high price, the regiments melted down to the number of battalions.

After eliminating the breakthrough of the red cavalry, Wrangel immediately sent Barbovich’s corps, reinforced with armored cars, to the left flank from the front reserve. The Kakhovka group of Reds at that time had already advanced 20-30 km. Together, Slashchev and Barbovich stopped the enemy and threw them back to the Dnieper. However, here the whites ran into the powerful Kakhovsky fortified area, occupied by fresh units of the Blucher division. The area was already well targeted. White cavalry could not go around the flanks, go to the rear of the enemy, and head-on attacks led to heavy losses. Barbed wire and their dense well-organized artillery fire stopped Barbovich’s cavalry. As a result, all the attacks of the White Guards on Kakhovka on August 13-15 crashed against the powerful defense of the Reds.

After this failure, Slashchev quarreled with Wrangel, on whom he laid all his sins, and was sent “on health leave.” The corps was led by General Vitkovsky (head of the Drozdovskaya division). On August 18, the Red Army repeated the offensive from Kakhovka to the east, but the Wrangelites were also able to repel this blow.

Thus, the offensive operation of the Red Army as a whole failed. However, the Reds captured the Kakhovsky bridgehead and fortified there. The bridgehead was of strategic importance. Kakhovka was located only 80 km from the Perekop isthmus. Here the Reds had three divisions ready to attack. Now the White Army, attacking in the eastern or northern sector, had to fear an attack on Perekop, which could cut off the troops from the Crimean peninsula.

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