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The Glorious Stand of the Tsar’s 10th Regiment – A Fictional Battle

July 19, 2010

It was a cold autumn afternoon in the sodden fields west of Astrakhan. The rain drizzled intermittently, forcing the men to keep their locks covered. They shivered amidst the tall grass, listening intently for the sound they knew would come.

This was the famed Army of the East, commanded by General Aleksandr Melushkov. Two weeks earlier they had finally caputred the Dagestani capital of Takri after a six-month siege. The Dagestanis had proved a thorn in the side of the nascent Russian Empire, assaulting the city of Cherkassk on Christmas Day 1704 and burning it to the ground. Melushkov, the 32-year old general, who had fought previously against the Swedes, was commanded to the East by the Emperor and given the task of subduing the attacks. Raising an army of 1200 men, he set out in the summer of 1705. It was a long trek, but finally his men arrived and liberated Cherkassk following a stiff fight against the Dagestanis. After subduing the capital in the winter, Melushkov had assumed that the war was over. But rebels, and the last commander of the former Dagestani republic, known only as “Blinding Sun” was still at large. He raided Astrakhan in January 1706 and claimed it as his republic. Reluctantly, Meluskov set off from Takri and headed further east across vast Steppes. That summer, his men were crossing the vast delta west of the city, when they were intercepted by the Sun forces, all mounted on horseback.

The Russians had a trick up their sleeves. The Army had learned how to deal with cavalry thanks to a new formation, the square, which enabled it to meet any charge. The three infantry regiments – 7th and 10th Russian and 3rd Cossack, formed into three squares with Meluskov’s cavalry behind. The 7th formed square in woodland, hoping their concealed position would enable them to delay the enemy.

It did. “Blinding Sun’s” vast mounted armada, spotting the main force in the open, attempted to outflank it through the woods. They ran straight into the 7th. For 10 minutes, a time that must have seemed an eternity to the men inside the 7th’s square, wave upon wave of cavalry and dismounted infantry flowed around its position. Twice, the square was broken, swiftly to be closed again. But it became too much. As the horsemen ran out of the woods and into the waiting guns of the 3rd Cossacks, the 7th broke. Its men fled and were cut down, and the horde were unleashed. The wave crashed upon the bulwark of the 3rd Cossacks, who were hacked to pieces. Even these brave shock troops could only do so much. Barely 20 men stood when the order to retreat was sounded. Meluskhov himself entered the fray, killing scores. There was now only one effective regiment left on the field.

The glorious 10th.

The 10th was low on men. Only 102 had made it this far, following its losses in the Takri campaign. They stood stolidly in the square, watching the carnage and exchanging fire. When the Cossacks were finally broken, they advanced into the melee and caught the Dagestani force offguard. Men hacked and shot at each other at point blank range. By this time, the only mounted troops were the cavarly of “Blinding Sun” himself. They circled ominously around the outnumbered 10th, waiting for the chance to strike.

But the 10th held firm. Meluskov tried vainly to reach them, but his men broke and fled, fearing the battle lost. The ranks of the 10th dwindled, but kept fighting. Suddenly, it seemed as if the sheer force of will of this tiny Russian unit became too much. The Dagestani assaulters broke. “Blinding Sun” howled in rage, and turned his horsemen to attack the surviving Russians. But they about-faced, swung up their muskets and fired. The cavarly came crashing down. “Blinding Sun” was left alone before a thin line of men, frantically reloading their muskets. He fled towards the wood, already stinking from the hundreds of Russian and Dagestani corpses within. But he fled too late – the 10th advanced, took aim, and shot him down.

"Blinding Sun" attempting to flee, moments before he is shot down by the 10th.

Only 30 men of the 102 that entered the battle remained at its end. But they had saved the fight. A week later, they entered Astrakhan victorious, and the Dagestani empire was crushed, paving the way for Russian expansion in the East. The 10th Regiment of Foot was renamed His Majesty’s 1st Guards Regiment, and was ordered back to Moscow to prepare for the latest war against the Swedes.

But the men refused to go. They knew they were needed in the east, and for the glorious battles to come. The Army of the East had a world to conquer, and it could not do it without its bravest, strongest troops.

Glory to the 10th!

-JK

[Note: This is a write-up of a small battle I fought in Empire: Total War. As you can probably tell, I’m totally hooked again!]

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