Page 3769

3769 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

accounts that had reached the headquarters

of the General Staff nor my own observations had led me to expect so desolating a

situation. It is easy to explain this fact:

As long as the soldiers merely had to maintain a passive attitude they gave way to

no important excesses. But when the

moment arrived for them to do their

duty, when they were ordered to prepare

for attack, then the animal instinct spoke

and the veil was lifted.

"There were as many as ten divisions

that did not take their positions for departure, as ordered. An enormous turmoil

arose among the officers of all ranks, the

committees, the agitators. There were

endless requests, conversations, persuasions. To take even the least decisive

measure it was necessary before all to

diminish the number of troops in revolt.

Almost a whole month passed in this way.

Only a part of the divisions obeyed the

order to go into battle. In particular,

the 2d Corps, from the Caucasus, and the

160th Infantry Division revolted. Many

detachments lost not only their former

appearance, but even all human semblance.

I shall never forget the hour I passed in

the 703d Regiment. In certain regiments

there were from eight to ten distilleries of

alcohol! Drunkenness, gambling, assault

and battery, pillage, sometimes murder

became common."

The Commander in Chief, Brusiloff, himself visited this front and, after discussions

with the committees and delegates of the

two corps, went away with the impression

that the soldiers were dependable and

that the officers were unduly alarmed.

Unknown to him, the meeting of the 1st

Siberian Corps, which had welcomed his

speech with enthusiasm, was prolonged

after his departure, and other orators

came who demanded that the soldiers

should not listen to "the old bourgeois"

and loaded his name with gross insults.

These speeches were greeted with frantic

applause.

In the course of a tour of inspection

Minister of War Kerensky made an eloquent patriotic appeal and received an

enthusiastic welcome from the 28th Infantry Division, but, half an hour after

his departure, two regiments resolved that

they would not attack. When the flag

was given to the commander of the regiment from Poti, he received it kneeling,

while three orators and the men of the

regiment vowed, with loud outbursts,

that they would die for their country.

Yet on the first day of the attack, without

even going to their trenches, this regiment

made a half-turn and retired six or seven

miles to the rear of the battle line. General Denikine continues:

"Among the factors which should have

sustained the morale of the troops, but

which in reality led them into complete

demoralization, were the political commissaries and the soldiers committees.

Perhaps there were among the commissaries a few 'black swans,' who, without

meddling in what did not concern them,

were really of some use. But the very