The Empire of Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 601 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.

A new series of mines beneath the walls were now constructed by the Russian engineers, which were to operate with destructive power, hitherto unrecorded in the annals of war.  On the 1st of October the tzar announced to the army that the mines were ready to be fired, and wished them to prepare for the general assault.  While one half of the troops continued the incessant bombardment, the other half were assembled in the churches to purify themselves for the conflict by confession, penitence, prayer and the partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  The divisions then exchanged that the whole army might prostrate itself before God.  Ivan IV. himself retired with his confessor and passed several hours in earnest devotion.  The night preceding the assault there was no repose in either camp.  The Kezanians, who were anxiously awaiting events, had perceived an extraordinary movement among the Russians, as each battalion was guided to the spot whence it was to rush over the ruins immediately after the explosion.  Forty-eight tons (tonneaux) of powder had been placed in the mines.

The morning of the 2d of October dawned serene and cloudless.  The earliest light revealed the Russians and the Kezanians each at their posts.  The moment the sun appeared above the horizon the explosion took place.  First the earth trembled and rose and fell for many miles as if shaken by an earthquake.  A smothered roar, swelling into pealing thunder ensued, which appalled every mind.  Immense volumes of smoke, thick and suffocating, instantaneously rolled over the city and the beleaguering camp, converting day into night.  A horrible melange of timbers, rocks, guns and mutilated bodies of men, women and children were hurled into the air through this storm cloud of war, and fell in hideous ruin alike upon the besiegers and the besieged.  At the moment when the explosion took place, one of the bishops in the church was reading the words of our Saviour foretelling the peaceful reign of fraternity and of heavenly love, “Henceforth there shall be but one flock and one shepherd.”  Strange contrast between the spirit of heaven and the woes of a fallen world!

For a moment even the Russians, though all prepared for the explosion, were paralyzed by its direful effects.  But instantly recovering, they raised the simultaneous shout, “God is with us,” and rushing over the debris, of ruin and blood, penetrated the city.  The Tartars met them with the fury of despair, appealing, in their turn, to Allah and Mohammed.  Soon the Russian banner floated over tottering towers and blackened walls, though for many hours the battle raged with fierceness, which human energies can not exceed.

Prince Vorotinsky, early in the afternoon, soiled with blood and blackened with smoke, rode from the ruins of the city into the presence of Ivan, and bowing, said,

“Sire, rejoice; your bravery and your good fortune have secured the victory.  Kezan is ours.  The khan is in your power, the people are slain or taken captive.  Unspeakable riches have fallen into our hands.”

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The Empire of Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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