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The fall of Przemysl, which will now no doubt be called by its Russian na= me of Peremyshl, is in every way surprising.
= = Even a few days before, quite well-informed people had no idea that the e= nd was coming so soon. The town was a first-class fortress, whose develop= ment had been an object of special solicitude to the late Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Of course it was recogni= zed that Peremyshl was the gate of Hungary and the key to Galicia; but, = more than that, it was strengthened into a great point of debouchment for= an aggressive movement by Austro-Hungary against Russia; for the Russian= policy of Austria, like her original plan of campaign, was based on the = assumption of the offensive. It was generally understood that Peremyshl w= as garrisoned by about 50,000 men, that the garrison was exclusively Hung= arian, and that the commander. Kusmanek, was one of the few really able A= ustrian commanders in this war. The stores were said to be enough for a s= iege of three years. The circle of the forts was so extended as to make o= perations easy against any but the largest blockading force; and the aero= drome, which was well covered, gave communication with the outside world.= An air post has run almost regularly, the letters (of which I have some)= being stamped "Flieger-Post." . . . The practical difficulties offered t= o the Russians by Peremyshl were very great; for the one double railway l= ine westward runs through the town so that all military and Red Cross com= munications have been indefinitely lengthened....
= For weeks past the fortress had kept up a terrific fire which was greater= than any experienced elsewhere from Austrian artillery. Thousands of she= ll yielded only tens of wounded, and it would seem that the Austrians cou= ld have had no other object than to g et rid of their ammunition. The fire was now intensified to stupendous pr= oportions and the sortie took place; but, so far from the whole garrison = coming out, it was only a portion of it, and was driven back with the ann= ihilation of almost a whole division.
= Now followed extraordinary scenes. Austrian soldiers were seen fighting e= ach other, while the Russians looked on. Amid the chaos a small group of = staff officers appeared, casually enough, with a white flag, and announce= d surrender. Austrians were seen cutting pieces out of slaughtered horses= that lay in heaps, and showing an entire indifference to their capture. = Explosions of war material continued after the surrender.
= The greatest surprise of all was the strength of the garrison, which numb= ered not 50,000 but 130,000, which makes of Peremyshl a second Metz. Diff= erent explanations are offered; for instance, troops which had lost their= field trains and therefore their mobility are reported to have taken ref= uge in Peremyshl after Rava Russka, but surely the subsequent withdrawal = of the blockade gave them ample time for retreat. A more convincing accou= nt is that Peremyshl was full of depots, left there to be supports of a g= reat advancing field army. In any case no kind of defense can be pleaded = for the surrender of this imposing force.
= The numbers of the garrison of course reduced to one-third the time durin= g which the food supplies would last; but even so the fortress should hav= e held out for a year. The epidemic diseases within the lines supply only= a partial explanation. The troops, instead of being all Hungarians, were= of various Austrian nationalities; and there is good reason to think tha= t the conditions of defense led to feuds, brawls and, in the end, open di= sobedience of orders. This was all the more likely because, while food wa= s squandered on the officers, the rank and file and the local population = were reduced to extremes, and because the officers, to judge by the first= sortie, took but little part in the actual fighting. The wholesale slaug= hter of horses of itself robbed the army of its mobility. The fall of Pe= remyshl is the most striking example so far of the general demoralization= of the Austrian army and monarchy.
= Peremyshl, so long a formidable hindrance to the Russians, now a splendid= base for an advance into Hungary.