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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

November 1917

The October Revolution!

Editor’s note: Russia was still on the Julian calendar and did not switch to the Gregorian calendar until after the revolution. The 11 days difference took the "October revolution" into November.

November 2

Germans Break Through Italian Front

Often repeated statements of Allied military leaders that the character of European fighting may change overnight, is exemplified in the conditions surrounding the Austrian-German drive on Italy. Instead of trench fighting, operations on the Italian front have reverted to the old time maneuvering of the great armies, with flanking movements, surprise attacks, and seven million men being moved about to play the strategy game of generals and their lieutenants.

Italians, who have been urging that the Italian front was a position of extreme strategic value, now frankly state that they believe the war will be won or lost for the Allies within the next few weeks. They state that the issue now hangs on whether the Italian armies can hold the onrush of the Austrian-German forces.

Such an achievement on the part of the Central Powers would not only afford them the resources of Italy and free access to the Mediterranean, but also would place the Allied forces in Macedonia in a precarious position to release hundreds of thousands of Austrian, Turkish and Bulgarian troops for service on the Western front.

In the latest operations, the Germans captured 60,000 Italians, bringing the total prisoners reported taken to 180,000 in the past two weeks. Although the Germans have broken the Italian line, the resistance offered by Italian contingents, which offered themselves up for the supreme sacrifice, delayed the Germans such that the Italian Third Army had time to cross the Isonzo River in an orderly fashion. As a result, the main body of Italian forces is intact and ready to face the Germans in the counteroffensive, which is being prepared.

The methodical retirement on a huge scale, involving the movement of upwards of one million men and their stores within three days was naturally accompanied by extreme hardships and many detached instances of unavoidable confusion. The outstanding fact is that a huge army has been withdrawn in the face of overwhelming odds and has come out scarred, but still intact, and with colors flying.

November 9

Bolsheviks Cease Petrograd

Wednesday night, the Maximalists and their Bolshevik allies ceased control of Petrograd. Initial reports indicate that the coup d’état had been brought about without bloodshed.

Leon Trotsky, President of the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Council of Soldiers’ and Workman’s Delegates, and a leading Bolshevik, issued a declaration to the effect that the Provisional government was no longer in existence and that some of its members have been arrested. The proclamation declared that the new government will propose the immediate and just peace, will hand land to the peasants, and will summon a constitutional assembly.

The Maximalist also announced that the death penalty, which was re-established at the front by Premier Kerensky, has been abolished and complete freedom for political propaganda has been established at the front. All revolutionary soldiers and officers who had been arrested for complicity in so-called political crimes are to be set at liberty immediately.

Leon Trotsky was the editor of the New World, a revolutionary paper published in New York City, where he was prominent in the radical circles on the East Side. When he arrived in New York in January 1916, from Spain, immigration authorities permitted him to land when he declared that he was not a revolutionist but a disciple of Karl Marx and desired to bring concord among the nations. He remained in New York until the overthrow of the Czar, when he returned to Russia.

Because of his revolutionary tendencies, Trotsky was often in jail in Russia. He was sent to Siberia in 1903 and later in 1912 for participation in revolutionary plots. After his release the second time he went to Berlin, but when the war broke out he was ordered to leave. He fled to Spain, where he was promptly thrown into prison. After his release he came to the United States.

The Maximalists comprises the most extreme element of Russian revolutionary socialists. The Bolsheviks first sprang into prominence in the early days of the revolution under the leadership of Nikolai Lenin, the radical agitator, who later was put under the ban of the Provisional government because of his ultra radical preaching and his suspected pro-German leanings. He is known to have been in Petrograd for some time, however, a government order for his arrest failed to result in his apprehension. Meanwhile the Maximalists were under the leadership of his chief lieutenant, Leon Trotsky.

The strength of the Maximalists has lain in the support, which they obtain from the military, chiefly in the Petrograd garrison. They have failed, however, to impress their policies upon Russia as a whole. Nevertheless, their influence upon Russia’s policies, both internal and external, has been marked because of their prominence in Petrograd, the seat of the government. This was this sinister influence that, in part, prompted the recent proposal by the Kerensky government to remove the capital to Moscow, which would be freer to represent adequately the will of the whole Russian people.

Kerensky’s task as the head of the Provisional government has been a formidable one. Hailed as the savior of Russia in her hour of need, he labored with ability and patience to keep the diverse elements comprising the revolutionary democracy together. It appeared for a time, after the failure of the Korniloff rebellion, that he might succeed in guiding Russia over the dangerous shoals upon which she had drifted as the result of seemingly irreconcilable diverse currents.

However, it was indicated by a recent interview that he was becoming discouraged over the situation. Although he declared Russia was still emphatically in the war, he asserted she had been worn out by the struggle and felt she had a right to claim that her allies henceforth assume a heavier burden of the fighting.

Reports state that Kerensky has left the capital, and has gone to the front to appeal for troops. But another report says that the whole Northern army has deserted to the Maximalists who now hold the Russian capital.

Opinion in Allied capitals seems to be that the Maximalist’s attempt to guide the destinies of trouble torn Russia will be short-lived. Civil war, with a more conservative element of Russia opposed to the extremists of Petrograd, is expected.

Italians Prepare To Defend Venice

Italy is undergoing a rebirth of patriotism. Everywhere men are clamoring to go to the front. The troublemakers who two weeks ago said they were tired of the war, and who were willing to listen to German agents, now are either in hiding or hastening to admit that they were misled. The entire country is placarded with announcements from the War Ministry, calling upon citizens to join the army and asking women to help support the morale of the soldiers.

Ever since the opening of the war, Italian cavalrymen have been chafing because the mountain warfare offered no opportunity for employment of their branch of the service. Now, however, they have had the chance to prove that the cavalry is not as obsolete as "crossbow men," as one writer put it.

In fact, the successful retirement of the Italian army was due very largely to the heroism of the mounted troops. The splendid maneuvering of the cavalry and their reckless charges in the face of streams of machine gun bullets, reminiscent of the deeds of the famous British Light Brigade, are regarded by military officers as constituting one of the most brilliant features of the fighting on this front.

Charges of entire brigades were encountered with the perfect precision and control. Machine guns could not stop them. Some regiments were virtually annihilated, but their sacrifices were not in vain, in so much as they protected the road over which the Third Army passed to safety.

Virtually all of eastern Venetia is being left to Austrian-German occupation. Meanwhile, the leading citizens of Venice met yesterday and voted that they will never desert the city in its hour of need.

First American Soldiers Captured

The Germans announced the capture of American soldiers by a German raiding party on Saturday. Capturing, killing and wounding American troops on the battlefront are some of the inevitable misfortunes of war. The German high command has been eager to capture Americans and has offered special money rewards and other inducements to the first German troops who should take a man in the American uniform.

Although the sector in which the American unit is being hardened to trench warfare is comparably a quiet one. There has been frequent night raiding parties on both sides in which the American soldiers participated in, and it was on one of these nocturnal exploits when the Americans met up with a German patrol prowling about in no-man’s land.

The government has taken steps to be assured that American prisoners in German hands will fare as well as it is possible to arrange it, and, indeed, that their lot may be better than the average. Through the Red Cross in Geneva the government has arranged to provide food and clothing for American prisoners, so they may not be forced to depend on the insufficient, skanky, and constantly shrinking bounty of the Germans.

November 16

Kerensky Army Moves Toward Petrograd

The All Russian Congress of Workmen’s’ and Soldier’s Delegates is reported to have named a cabinet composed of Bolsheviks. The cabinet is headed by Nikolai Lenine as Premier and Leon Trotsky holds the post of Foreign Minister. All Cabinet members are to be Bolshevik.

Lenine said the first act of the new government would be to offer to all nations a democratic peace, based on no annexations and no indemnity. Such a peace, he said, is to be concluded, not by diplomacy, but by the representatives of the people.

Lenine explained that by annexation he meant, the forcible seizure of any territory in the past or the present without the consent of the people. He asserts that all secret treaties made to benefit the bourgeoisie must be published and voided to benefit all.

Lenine spoke in short, graphic sentences, vaguely outlining the program of his party. He said: "Our revolution, which the Bolsheviks started several months ago, is now an accomplished fact, and a new era is beginning for Russia. Russia’s third revolution should result in the complete victory of socialism worldwide. "

Lenine then reiterated all the well-known prescriptions for the cure of all Russia’s ills: immediate peace, suspension of the rights of the estate owners, immediate division of the land among the peasants, and the controlled industries by the workmen.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Kerensky arrived at Luga, 85 miles southwest of Petrograd last Wednesday and the garrison there attested their loyalty to his Provisional government. Saturday morning he reached Gatchina, 30 miles southwest of Petrograd where the same thing happened. Reports indicate that troops loyal to the Provisional government are known to be near Petrograd and a division of Cossacks is on the march from Finland to take on the Bolsheviks.

The garrison at Petrograd, which two days ago was solid for the extremists, now is wavering in their allegiance to the Bolsheviks. Dispatches say that most of the Moscow garrison has returned to the allegiance of the Provisional government. The Railway Workers’ Union, which at first had worked under the instructions of Nikolai Lenin, now declares itself wholly on the side of the Committee of Public Safety and that it would not obey further orders of the Bolsheviks.

A certain amount of opposition is also developing in the Soviet Congress, which is splitting into two camps, with the Bolsheviks on one side and the Minimalist, Socialist Revolutionaries and other less extreme elements uttering hostile sentiments on the other. The Central Executive Committee of the Soviet declared that the tactics of the Bolsheviks have nothing in common with true socialism and that they will force the army into the hands of Kerensky with the result that there will be a civil war.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that Gen. Korniloff, leader of the futile revolt of some weeks ago, is reportedly forming a government in Moscow. Whether it will support Kerensky is not yet indicated. Serbia, meanwhile, has announced its independence and proclaimed former Emperor Nicholas as its Emperor.

Nov 23

Kerensky Defeated By Bolsheviks

Defeated in battle by the Bolsheviks and deserted by most of his own officers and men, Premier Kerensky is in flight and his whereabouts is unknown. In Moscow the tide apparently has turned and the Bolsheviks are in control of the ancient Russian capital, with the forces of the Provisional government now besieged in the Kremlin. Between 2,000 and 5,000 have been killed in Moscow.

Premier Kerensky’s forces, which advance from Gatchina were defeated as they approach Petrograd. Kerensky’s Troops then retreated back to Gatchina. The battle in which Premier Kerensky was defeated began last Saturday and continued until Monday night.

The Premier had 5,000 Cossacks and several hundred military cadets, with considerable artillery. The Maximalist forces included four guard regiments, several battalions of sailors and numerous detachments of the Red Guard. The Bolshevik troops were commanded by members of the old aristocracy and former army officers.

While Petrograd appears to be firmly in the hands of the Bolsheviks, its control of Moscow is uncertain. Two trainloads of Red Guards in route from Petrograd to Moscow to support the Bolshevik soldiers have been stopped, and reports indicate Cossacks from southern Russia are moving northward, and that the Bolsheviks are in a panic of their approach. It is likewise reported that approximately a corps of mixed troops from the South Western front, intent on putting an end to the civil war, is in route to Petrograd.

Travelers returning from Russia say that there is little sympathy for Premier Kerensky. The educated masses are infuriated at Kerensky’s laxity and permitting the Bolshevik agitation. Soldiers were indignant that the Premier was unable to maintain authority and order.

Nowhere is there a spark of enthusiasm for the provisional government as it was felt to have deserved its fate. However, a longing for real order and real authority for someone to save Russia, was wanted everywhere. In most of Russia, there is complete absence of news. Order prevails and most people knew little of politics and cared less, as they were more worried about obtaining food for tonight’s meal.

Reports have been circulated that a new Monarchal Union has been formed in the Crimea, whose slogan of: "Onward with the Czar and Holy Russia." The Union is calling for the return of the Czar as the only way to restore stability to the country.

Basing their opinion on the statement of Lenine that the success of the Bolsheviks is dependent on a worldwide revolutionary movement by soldiers and workmen, officials at the Russian Embassy in Washington today projected that the followers of the Kerensky government would win eventually, either through a military victory or through the incapacity of the Bolsheviks to make good their promise to their followers.

Germany, meanwhile, is taking advantage of the situation in Russia by transferring troops from the Russian front. Only part of them appears to be going to Italy, where the front is too narrow to permit the use of great masses. A blow by von Hindenburg at some other point, in way of a diversion, may perhaps be expected.

Some troops were reportedly moved to the Western front, but this is not necessarily significant, as Field Marshal Haig’s pounding tactics necessitate frequent relief for German divisions. German newspapers report the prospect of an offensive on the Greek front, but have also mentioned the obvious chance of a smashing blow at Romania in an effort to end the resistance of that nation.

Hindenburg Line Broken

The British War Office announced that the Hindenburg Line has been broken to a depth of four miles. A large number of tanks moved forward in advance of the infantry when the attack was opened and broke through successive belts of German wire defenses. Following through the gaps made by the tanks, English, Scottish and Irish regiments swept over the enemies’ outpost.

Triumphant in their brilliant stroke against the Hindenburg Line, British troops are pushing forward. In two days the British have gained almost as much ground as in the four months of the Battle of the Somme.

The Hindenburg Line was the strongest the Germans have laid out in the west. The enemy considered them impregnable. Not only were they strongly fortified, but they were also protected by extensive fields of barbwire, which, it was said, only a protracted bombardment would cut sufficiently to allow the infantry to go through.

British tanks had never been before called upon for such extensive work, but what they did in a few hours artillery would have required days to accomplish. The tanks did amazing work and in most places they had no trouble either in tearing through the wire or in crossing trenches. The condition of the German trenches showed plainly that the occupants had abandoned them in a hurry, all sorts of equipment and personal belongings were on the ground.

November 30

Britain Aims To Split Muslims

The advance of the British Army in the Holy Land has stirred the Christian world, and that portion of the Jewish world which accepts the Zionist propaganda has been equally interested. But the Christian and Jewish worlds have been thinking of their own religion rather than those of Islam.

The aim of the operation is to insert a permanent wedge between the Turkish Empire and the Mohammed Holy Land, including the cities of Mecca and Medina.

As the Sultan of Turkey is the recognized spiritual head of millions of Mohammedans who live in France, British and Italian North Africa, and in British India, the Allies fear he has the power to call them into revolt. But the Turkish hold upon Islam rests upon possession of the holy cities.

The Turk is really an intruder and a newcomer in the Mohammedan world. His very title to the caliphate rests upon a questionable transaction not so many centuries ago. The Arab has never accepted the Turkish dominion readily, nor does he cherish any affection and the political fortunes of Islam have steadily declined since the Sultans ceased control of the religion.

Already, an insurrection in the holy cities has temporarily deprived the Turks of control over Mecca. It would be a short step to see the revolt leader raised to supreme power on the religious hierarchy of the Islamic church, where under British Influence, they can be controlled.

If the British can succeed in occupying Palestine and create a protectorate over the Holy Land, then the Turkish connection with Mecca will be broken and the threat from the Mohammedans will have been lifted forever.

Russia On Verge Of Civil War

The general situation in Russia shows little improvement and the country is described as being on the verge of a civil war.

Russian soldiers at the front are reportedly desperate from hunger. The Russian army on the northern front has had no bread for several days and only two or three-day supply of army biscuits is on hand. Army delegates are reported to have recommended withdrawing troops from the front in order to prevent a general flight. Meanwhile, the Second Army on the Russian Northern front has removed its officers and pledged to support the extremists, while the Caucasus provinces have announced that they have seceded from Russia.

Efforts of the Bolshevik government to arrange an armistice continue in Berlin and Petrograd, presumably in connection with the peace offers of the Maximalists.

Meanwhile, indications are that opposition to the Bolsheviks is rapidly gaining strength. A conference of anti-Bolshevik leaders at Russian army headquarters is taking place for the purpose of forming a coalition government.

Gen. Kaledines, the Cossack leader, said he is master of the situation in Russia and many army officers opposed to the Bolshevik regime have joined his forces. Gen. Dukhonin, the de facto commander of all but the Northern forces, has sided with Kaledines and refused to treat with the Germans.

Kaledines is in control of most of the grain growing territory in the South and is said to hold the Russian gold reserves. Kaledines is rapidly capturing those remaining provinces upon which Russia relies for its daily bread.

Under Kaledines, a vast union, under the name of the Southeastern Union, has been formed. It includes the Don territories, the greater part of Little Russia, the lower Volga provinces and Turkestan - the areas that feed all of Russia. This union is growing by the day and promises to soon include the Siberian corn lands.

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