Written in Blood: The Battles for Fortress Przemysl
by Graydon A. Tunstall
Indiana University Press, 2016
As many of us know, the powers that went to war in August 1914 did not have a clear idea of what their political objectives in fighting the war were. Nowhere was the confusion more evident than with the chief of the Austro-Hungarian General Staff, General Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf. Tunstall reminds us in the opening chapter how Conrad's vacillation in determining which mobilization plan to implement quickly led to his armies meeting defeat in Russian Poland and on the Galician frontier. As the armies retreated into Galicia hotly persuaded by the Russians, Conrad saw Fortress Przemysl as a rallying point for the defeated; however, the fortress was more plaster than concrete.
Strategically placed between the San and Dniester Rivers and the Carpathian Mountains' Dukla Pass, which opened to the Hungarian plain, the fortress should have merited adequate funds since its inception in the early 1800s as a defensive position against Russian invasion. However, upgrades to armaments as those weapons changed and strengthening its forts in response to stronger besieging armaments were greatly neglected in favor of fortifications along the Serbian and Italian borders. The author very adequately lays out the fortress's armaments, some cannon dated to the mid-1860s which used black powder, as well as the condition of its walls, left un-reinforced by concrete.
|A Russian Column Entering Przemysl|
Written in Blood is a must-have reference to an often neglected Great War front and to the inner workings of the Austro-Hungarian Army. It is rich with well-researched information arising from primary archival documents about siege conditions, military units in the fighting, and conditions endured by soldiers and civilians who shared their hardships.
Michael P. Kihntopf