3489 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
contented himself with the defensive,
but, on the 26th of August, he began to
execute a cleverly conceived offensive.
His plan resembled that of Hannibal at
Cannae. First he concentrated on his
right near Soldau a great mass of men
and guns and pushed the unsupported
Russian left wing backwards. Then, leaving a comparatively weak force here to
hold the defeated forces from making a
new advance, he hurried many of his men
and guns by railroad and motor cars to
his own left wing near Allenstein, and,
on the 27th, repeated the same tactics
against the Russian right. The Russian
army had now assumed the form of a
crescent, with the horns turned from the
enemy. Pressure was continued during
the next two days, during which the
Russians were battered by the German
artillery. Finally the Russians attempted
to retreat, but they were so badly involved
in the labyrinth that they were unable
to withdraw in anything approaching
good order. Two army corps, of about
eighty thousand men, were caught in the
swamps about Tannenberg, and practically
all were either shot down or captured.
Many who called for quarter were denied
it. The slaughter was so terrible that
even some Germans were sickened by it.
A private soldier, wounded in the battle,
wrote anonymously to Ambassador Gerard
the following letter of protest:
"It was frightful, heart-rending, as
these masses of human beings were driven
to destruction. Above the terrible thunder
of the cannon could be heard the heartrending cries of the Russians: '0 Prussians!
0 Prussians!'-but there was no mercy.
Our Captain had ordered: 'The whole
lot must die; so rapid fire.' As I have
heard, five men and one officer on our side
went mad from those heart-rending cries.
But most of my comrades and the officers
joked as the unarmed and helpless Russians
shrieked for mercy while they were being
suffocated in the swamps and shot down.
The order was: Close up and at it harder!'
For days afterwards those heart-rending
yells followed me, and I dare not think
of them or I shall go mad. There is no
God, there is no morality and no ethics
any more. There are no human beings
any more, but only beasts. Down with
As. a result of the Russian defeat, the
siege of Konigsberg had to be raised
by Rennenkampf's army, and practically
all of East Prussia was freed from the
invader. The great news was given to
the German public in a series of official
dispatches culminating in the following,
issued September 3d:
"The troops of Colonel-General von
Hindenburg in the east are garnering
further fruits of their victory. The number of prisoners is growing daily; it has
already reached 90,000. It is impossible
to determine how many cannons and
trophies are still concealed in the Prussian
forests and swamps. Apparently not two,
but three, Russian commanding generals
have been captured."
By the Germans the victory of Tannenberg was proclaimed another Sedan, and
in the numbers captured it was upon a
scale not inferior to that battle, upon
whose anniversary the tidings of victory
reached Berlin. All of Germany was