3615 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
understood by the Russian people, and
in hundreds of places the church bells
clanged calls to prayer for victory. At
Petrograd, on July 21, in spite of the
great heat, the churches were packed.
Hour after hour the people stood wedged
together while the priests and choirs
chanted interminable litanies. Outside the
Kamian Cathedral an open air mass was
celebrated in the presence of a vast crowd.
But prayer was vain to stop the onrush
of the skillfully led Teutonic legions.
From the first it had been doubtful whether
the Russians would be able to hold Warsaw,
and soon it became doubtful whether the
Russian armies could escape destruction.
The great jaws of the gigantic nutcracker
were reaching for the railways leading to
the interior of Russia, and it was evidently
the Teutonic hope to cut these and envelop
and destroy the Muscovite hosts. Had
von Mackensen from the south been able to
push in as successfully as von Hindenburg
did from the north, this great object
might, partially at least, have been accomplished; but his armies were made up in the
main of less efficient Austrian troops, and
besides, in the week ending July 11,
his forces in the neighborhood of Lublin
had received a severe defeat, in which
the Russians had captured over twenty
thousand men. Von Hindenburg's successes in the north, however, so threatened
the Warsaw-Bialystok-Petrograd Railway
that the Grand Duke was forced to transfer troops from his southern front to defend
his northern line, and von Mackensen was
then able to push up against the fortress
of Ivangorod and the Ivangorod-Lublin-Chelm Railroad.
The Grand Duke Nicholas had already
seen that he must evacuate the Polish
salient, as he had evacuated Galicia, and
his problem was to do so with the smallest
possible loss of men and guns. For a
considerable time the world was in doubt
as to whether he would be able to avoid
a great disaster. But by striking here and
there and fighting delaying actions at
many points, he was able not only to
extricate most of his men and guns from
the trap but also to sweep Poland of articles