The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

II. Denikin’s Offensive (May 15-August 1919)


Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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At the head of the Fourteenth Army stands the Revolutionary War Council. Among the members of this council is the Army Commander, who bears full responsibility for the operational leadership of the active forces. Every Red Army man has the right to interest himself in the personality of his commander, upon whose actions depend, to a considerable degree, the success or failure of the struggle. There must be especially great interest in the commander’s personality in the case of the Fourteenth Army, because in the Ukraine they are all too often accustomed to explain setbacks by reference to the mistakes, and even the acts of treachery, of those at headquarters.

Who is the commander of the 14th Army?

Comrade Yegorov is a former officer of the old army. But he was born into a working family and always remained devoted to the cause of the working people. The son of a peasant of Samara province, Comrade Yegorov was for a time a blacksmith, then a stevedore: by stubborn effort he acquired an education, sat for the examination for five years of study at the secondary modern school, and passed out from the Junker training school in Kazan in 1905. Already at the training school he was regarded as politically unreliable and under suspicion, as his regimental commander was subsequently informed. There were grounds for his suspicion: while at the Junker school Comrade Yegorov became a member of a secret socialist group. After graduating from the Junker school he served for three years in the army. When the war began he was called up, and he served throughout the war. He commanded a company, then a battalion, then a regiment. He attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. During the imperialist war he was wounded five times. After the February Revolution Comrade Yegorov organised regimental and divisional committees, and himself became a committee member in a regiment, a division and an army. From his army committee he was elected to the second Central Executive Committee and was assigned to the post of elected commander-in-chief of the Northern front, after October. In the first phase of the revolution, Comrade Yegorov adhered to the Left wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries. This was the period when the Left SRs marched together with the Communist-Bolsheviks in the fight against Kerensky’s treacherous policy, against the imperialist slaughter. But later, as soon as the Left SRs, yielding to kulak and philistine sentiments, began to struggle against the workers’ and peasants’ power, Comrade Yegorov did not hesitate for one moment, but broke with that party of unbalanced intellectuals and joined the Communist Party of the working class.

For his opposition to the imperialist slaughter Comrade Yegorov was, during the period of Kerensky’s Government, condemned by a court composed of the officers of his regiment and removed from his post.

After the demobilisation of the old army, Comrade Yegorov worked continuously at the task of building the new, Red Army. He occupied a number of responsible positions: he was commissar for the formation and training of the Red Army; chairman of the Supreme Credentials Commission, which evaluated candidates for posts of command; and commissar of the All-Russia General Staff. After the middle of August last year, Comrade Yegorov commanded the Ninth Army of the Southern Front, and in December he was appointed commander of the Tenth Army.

Thanks to his energy and his knowledge of military matters, Comrade Yegorov succeeded in raising the fighting capacity of the Tenth Army to the highest level. Soldiers and commanders looked to him with complete trust: under his leadership the Tenth Army won a series of brilliant victories and, after a fighting advance of 400 versts, it forced a crossing of the river Manych. At that time Denikin, who had brought his forces up from North Caucasia, launched his offensive. After the Tenth Army had withdrawn to the river Sal, Denikin’s forces broke through the front and tried to cut off some units of the army. Comrade Yegorov then took direct command of two cavalry divisions, and during an attack received a through bullet wound.

Before this sixth wound of his had healed, Comrade Yegorov was summoned by the Soviet power to take up another responsible post. He was appointed deputy to the commander of the Southern front and a member of the Revolutionary War Council of that front: and, in view of the special importance of the work of organising and training the 14th Army in the Ukraine, that task was entrusted to Comrade Yegorov.

This is not the first time Comrade Yegorov has been in the Ukraine. After the October Revolution, Comrade Yegorov was in December 1917 sent into the Ukraine by the military department of the Central Executive Committee in order to elucidate certain questions, and he was arrested here by the government of Vinnichenko and Petlyura in January 1918, on a charge of participating in preparations for an attempt to blow up the Rada from within. Comrade Yegorov was released from prison by Red Army forces after their capture of Kiev.

In the person of its commander the 14th Army thus has a fine fighting soldier and a Communist devoted to the cause of the working class.

May the Red Army men and commanders be worthy of their commander, the first soldier of the 14th Army. [60]

August 9, 1919


60. The Fourteenth Army kept its cadres and, after receiving the necessary reinforcements, again became one of the best armies of the Southern front. It was on this army’s sector that Denikin concentrated his best Volunteer divisions, and it was this Army which formed the shock-group that inflicted a heavy defeat on Denikin in mid-October 1919, before Orel.

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006