The southern, or second, army, which stretched all along the Galician plain at the foot of the Carpathians to the town of Halicz, had for its mission the protection of the first army from the south. It was known, or expected, that the first army would advance right into Russian Poland, with but inferior forces in front of it. It was feared, however, that the main Russian concentration to the south-east of it might turn its right flank. The business of the second army was to prevent this. The first army (I), being the operative body, was more homogeneous in race, more picked in material than the second (II), the latter containing many elements from the southern parts of the empire, including perhaps not a few disaffected contingents, such as certain regiments of Italian origin from the Adriatic border.
So far as we can judge, perhaps—and it is a very rough estimate—we may put the whole body which Austria-Hungary was thus moving in the first phase of the war beyond the Carpathians at more than 750,000, but less than 1,000,000 men. Call the mass 800,000, and one would not be far wrong. Of this mass quite a quarter lay in reserve near the mountains behind the first army. The remaining three-quarters, or 600,000 men, were fairly evenly divided between the two groups of the first and of the second army—the first, or northern, one being under the command of Dankl, the second under that of von Auffenberg. Each of these forces was based upon one group of depots of particular importance, the northern operative army (I) relying upon Przemysl, and the southern one (II) upon Lemberg.
It was less than a week after the first German advance bodies had taken the outer forts of Liege when Dankl crossed the frontier, heading, with his centre, towards Krosnik and farther towards Lublin. His troops were in Russian territory upon the Monday evening or the Tuesday, 10th-11th August.
The second army meanwhile stood fulfilling its role of awaiting and containing any Russians that might strike in upon the south. It had advanced no more than watching bodies towards the frontier, such as the 35th Regiment of the Austrian Landwehr, which occupied Sokal, and smaller units cordonned out southward between that town and Brody. Here, at the outset of the large operations that were to follow, it is important for the reader to note that everything depended upon the resisting power of the second, or southern, army.
Observe the problem. Two men, a left-hand man and a right-hand man, go out to engage two other men whom they hope and believe to be unready. The left-hand man is particularly confident of being able to drive back his opponent, but he knows that sooner or later upon his right the second enemy, a stronger man, may come in and disturb his action. He says therefore to his right-hand companion: “Stand firm and engage and contain the energy of your opponent until I have finished with mine. When I have done that, I shall turn round towards you, and between us we will finish the second man.”