Page 3487

3487 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

Staff, the German Government had for

years been buying land on strategic points

in both East Prussia and Poland, and

building houses that were particularly

suitable for purposes of defense. Ostensibly this was done by individual farmers, but much of the expense was paid

through military appropriation. Says

Robert R. McCormick, to whom General

Yanouskevitz told the story: "Dwellings

were erected that overlooked long stretches

of territory in the direction of Russia;

they were built with thick fort-like walls

on the eastern front with small loophole

windows, but with wide doors and windows

and with thin walls towards the west.

Many of these houses were connected by

underground telephones, so that in the

early stages of the war farmers could telephone from within the Russian lines to

the German headquarters. Early in the

war Russian batteries carefully concealed

would be struck by the first shell from a

German gun."

On the 19th of August, the Russian

northern army had arrived in front of

the main German position about Gumbinnen. A bitter battle followed, which

was not decided until the 21st. Both

sides displayed great heroism, and the

Russians were subjected to a frightful

fire from artillery and machine guns.

The Russians pushed in with the bayonet,

while a regiment of Horse Guards charged

a German battery and took the guns.

Ultimately the Germans were outflanked,

and were forced to retreat. The retreat

degenerated into a rout, and thousands

of Germans, with many pieces of artillery

and vast quantities of stores, fell into

the hands of the victors. The survivors,

threatened by the second Russian army

coming up from the south, were unable

to retreat westward and threw themselves

into the seaport of Konigsberg.

About the same time this second army

had attacked a single German army corps

in the neighborhood of Frankenau. The

Russian superiority in numbers was very

great, and the Germans were defeated

and lost many guns and prisoners. A

portion of the defeated troops retreated

westward, while the rest joined their comrades in Konigsberg.

In the very days, therefore, that the

German armies in the west were driving

the French and British back from Mons

and Charleroi and were beginning their

triumphant march toward Paris, the German armies in the east were flying in

disorder before the hordes of the Czar;

while the non-combatants in East Prussia

were receiving a taste of the horrors of

war that their countrymen had inflicted

upon the Belgians. The Cossacks were

nothing loth to play a retributive role, and

there is no doubt that the civil population

of parts of East Prussia, both then and

later, were treated somewhat rigorously.

Hordes, of fugitives fled westward, even

as far as Berlin, spreading news of the

disasters and breeding a feeling approaching panic. German susceptibilities were

so stirred by this news and by that from

Galicia that several army corps were

detached from the western army and

were hurried eastward to endeavor to

turn back the Russians.

From a purely military point of view

it is clear that this action was a mistake.

It would have been better to have permitted

the Russians to ravage East Prussia for

the time being and to have worked their

will with the Austrians rather than to

have detached forces from the west at the

most critical moment in the whole war.

The scales of victory hesitated so long

at the Battle of the Marne that, had the

German leaders in that battle been able

to throw into the balance the six or seven

army corps that had been hurried eastward, they might have won the battle,

and a victory would have meant the downfall of France. With the French and British

armies out of the way, it would then have

been a comparatively easy matter to have

driven out the Russians. The Kaiser,

or the Imperial Staff, or whoever was

responsible for the decision did not, at

this juncture, display the iron resolution

to ignore everything but the one great

end that we have witnessed in General

Joffre. Political and sentimental considerations were permitted to interfere