Before these men were called into action, however, their powerful allies had suffered terrible defeats at the hands of the enemy. Dealing only with that division of the Russian army which was engaged in Bulgaria, we have to note the following events. On June 27, 1877, the main body of Russians, or the ‘army of operations,’ as it was called, which was under the command of the Grand Duke Nicholas, crossed the Danube in floating ferries from Simnitza to Sistova, feints having been made to concentrate and pass over in other places at the same time, so as to mislead the Turks as to the intended point of crossing. Although some efforts were made by the latter to prevent the landing on the Bulgarian shore, which resulted in many being killed and wounded on either side, the Russians effected the passage in safety and occupied Sistova, where they found all the houses of the inhabitants sacked and plundered by the Turks, who had beaten a retreat. The Emperor and the Grand Duke Nicholas were either on the spot or in the immediate vicinity at the time of the crossing, the headquarters being then at Ploiesti, on the Bucarest and Orsova, railway, and from that time forward they sustained a series of terrible reverses.
As soon as a sufficient force was landed, they divided the army into three sections, one of which, under General Ghourko, pressed on to the famous Shipka Pass in the Balkans, where he encountered the brave enemy; he occupied the pass on July 19. Another section under the Grand Duke himself—part of the 9th Army Corps—marched onwards to the equally well-known position of Plevna, where Osman Pasha was in command of the Turkish forces, and where the Russians met with their first check. General Kruedener, who commanded the attacking force, was not only repulsed, but, being assailed in his turn by the Turks, he was badly beaten. Two days afterwards, having been reinforced, he, in conjunction with General Schahofskoy, commanding a force of 32,000 men, made a second assault on Plevna, but they were again defeated with terrible loss. On July 31 Ghourko met with a still more serious defeat. He had penetrated with a Russo-Bulgarian force as far as Eski-Zagra (or Zara), where he met the Turks under Suleiman Pasha, and, after a sanguinary