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... Baron Munchausen and Bendery Fortress ...

baron MunchhausenOne might wonder but the well-known comic character Baron Munchausen in fact turned out to be an officer of Russian army and took part in a military campaign against Bendery.

It is known how reverently the inhabitants of Bendery relate to their fortress, to its history and to everything connected with it. Therefore, the history of the stronghold is overgrown with various kinds of incredible stories, legends, tales, etc. Although the stories give a special flavor to the fortress, very often they are far from the truth. There are numerous fantastic stories about the underground tunnels, which go almost hundreds kilometers from the city. As for Minich with Munchausen and the unsuccessful assault of Bendery fortress, we decided to go to the historical facts and esteem them in the general outline of the history of the fortress and the town. The truth, as usually, was somewhere in the middle.

Indeed, the Russian army under the command of Minich during the Russian-Turkish war of 1736-1739 many times set a goal to get the main strongholds of Turkey - Ochakov and Bendery. In 1737, preparing for military operations, the army of Minikh (100 thousand) set a goal to interrupt Turkey's ground communication with the Crimea, to seize Ochakov, then Bender, and after to go to Danube. The second army, under the command of Lassi (40 thousand) was ordered to go to the Crimea. 

Unlike Bender, on July 2, 1737, Minich’s army managed to take Ochakov by military assault, most likely by chance, because of one of the bombs at random hit a powder magazine and an explosion caused the enemy to be completely confused, this allowed Russians to get into the fortress and staged a terrible massacre there, leaving alive only 4 thousand people from the
Count Burhard Christoph Munich 17,000th garrison. After the capture of Ochakov, Minikh could not develop his success and go to Bendery, as the lack of food and fodder made him to retreat from Ochakov 80 versts to the Bug in Andrew’s fortification. The failures continued to pursue the army of Minich - general diseases, typhus, and the plague killed 15,000 people, including 3,000 oxen, that‘s why Minich was forced to go to Ukraine, leaving all the artillery and wagon train in St. Andrew’s fortification. In that military company died about 35 thousand people. The Austrian military agent reported to Berenklau, “After the capture of Ochakov, the army was brought into such frustration that it could no longer do anything, and if the Turks attacked it from Bender, they would not meet with any resistance.” But the Turks helped Minich by their inaction. However, as soon as Minich leaved to Ukraine, 50 thousand Turks and Tatars arrived from Bendery to Ochakov, their attacks heroically fight off the Ochakov garrison led by Shtofeln.  The Turkish-Tatar horde returned to the Bendery fortress, because they lost 10 thousand people near Ochakov, and the same number people died from the plague.

The main goal of the military company in 1738 remained the main Turkish stronghold Bendery fortress on the river Dniester, Turks stationed the 60 thousandth army under the walls of the Fortress. Having Bendery and Ochakov Russians could completely push out Turks behind the Dniester, making supplementary hit on Crimea. On May 18, 1738, the 55,000-thousand army of Field Marshal Minich with 40 thousand wagons moved from the river Dnieper to the river Dniester. It was the longest expedition of Minich across the steppe, during which he had to cover more than 300 km of solid steppe. On July 26 Minich reached Dniester, North of Bendery, but Russians could not cross the river to the right bank and get the fortress. On the right bank, there was 60-thousandth army of seraskir Veli-Pasha, who placed artillery on the heights of the heights and completely blocked the crossing. Then Minich decided to maneuver along the river, but still did not manage to cross it.  Bendery fortress remained inaccessible for him. In August there were many battles between Russians and Turks, who crossed the river to the left bank and hit the army of Minich.  In the end of August, Minich was forced to leave Bendery and to retreat behind the Bug.  A considerable part of the artillery was abandoned because of the death of horses and oxen - cannons were thrown into wells, the shells were buried in the ground. Because of the terrible plague Russians had to leave the fortresses of Kinburn and Ochakov. So ended the unsuccessful military campaign against Bendery. 

Life portrait of Munchhausen in the uniform of the captain of the Russian army Next year, in 1739, Minich with the 68th army moved again to the Dniester, but this time his goal was not Bendery, but Khotyn, located in the upper stream of Dniester.  Spreading through spies the false information, that the army was moving to Bendery, on July 19, Minich approached the Dniester, passing through populated Podolia. Having deceived Khotyn's serasker Hussein-Pasha, putting in front of him the main forces of his army on the left bank, Minikh secretly with 20thousand army crossed the Dniester near the village of Sinkovtsy. Seraskir of BenderyVeli Pasha, being deceived, came very late to help Hussein Pasha, and when they united their forces near the village Stavuchany, Russian army was completely ready for the general battle. On August 17, 1739, the Russian army defeated the united Turkish army, which had numerical superiority. During the attack,  seraskir  of Bendery Veli-Pasha, was the first who reeled off, could not withstand the onslaught of the Russians and ran from the battlefield. The victory of Russians in Stavuchany made Turks to leave over the Danube, and Moldova took the allegiance to Russia.

On August 19, the Khotyn garrison capitulated, and on September 3, Russians entered Iasi. However, all achieved results were reduced to zero because one of the ally of Russia - Austria concluded a separate peace with Turkey.

As you can see from this story, Minich did want to capture Bendery fortress repeatedly, but, ultimately, the circumstances were such that Russian troops could not even approach it, and left it to wait for the second army in 31 years under the command of General-in-Chief Panin P.I.

As for Baron Munchhausen, his participation in the campaigns of the army of Munnich was historically confirmed. The biography of Baron Karl Friedrich von Munchhausen (1720-1787) is not unique to the 18th century. For many people, Munchausen is a literary character, a mythical hero, whose “afterlife” is a match for the “stories” that made him famous. Baron was born in the small German town Bodenwerder and was the fifth child in a large family. His family has been known since the 12th century, and this name was worn not by one officer or minister in various great German duchies and principalities. From the age of 15, baron was traditionally made a page in the retinue of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. In the autumn of 1737, the duke received a letter from Russia, from his younger brother Prince Anton Ulrich, asking him to find two pages for him. In the summer of 1737, Prince Ulrich participated in the assault of the fortress of Ochakov and was in the epicenter of the battle with his entire retinue. The horse of the prince was killed, the adjutant was wounded, and both pages died of
Report of the company commander Munchhausen wounds. After a long search, the duke finally told his brother that von Hoim and von Munchhausen would like to go to him and voluntarily wished to serve him. Pages left to Russia on December 2, 1737, and, having arrived in the army of Minich, they replenished the retinue of Prince Ulrich, consisting of a good dozen people. So our hero joined the army of Minikh to the military campaign of 1738, just when the unsuccessful campaign against the Turkish fortress Bendery took place. Prince Anton Ulrich in this campaign commanded a detachment of three regiments, and it was his detachment that met on August 14 the united Turkish-Tatar cavalry near the Biloch river. He met it with rifle fire and, as Minikh reported, “scattered them like straw in the wind”. But the main goal of the campaign – the town Bendery fortress remained inaccessible and as it is written in the biography of Munchhausen - “although Munchhausen honestly fulfilled his duty, having flown all over the fortress on a cannonball and collecting valuable information.” As mentioned above, the Turkish artillery did not allow the army of Minich, in which our hero was, to cross to the right bank of the river Dniester. Prince Anton Ulrich did not participate in the next company, but remained in Saint Petersburg, where young Munchhausen met Princess Golitsyn. The result of this meeting was the birth of an illegitimate child. The girl was subsequently grown up in a family of Cossack ataman Nagovitsyn. From December 1739, Munchhausen left the retinue of Prince Ulrich and joined the Cuirassier Braunschweig regiment. Like many compatriots, baron was looking not so much for adventures as for his secular success and professional career, because in Russia they were clearly pleased to foreigners. At the age of 24, the Baron commanded the guard in Riga and met the future Empress Catherine. Then he participated in the Russian-Turkish war, by the age of 30 he had served in the Russian army as a captain. Munchhausen on the cannonball.   He lived in both capitals, traveled through the most part of the empire and, thanks to a lively and sociable character, made a lot of different acquaintances. Being not too successful financially, after the retirement, he returned to his ancestral castle, Bodenwerder, where he entertained his guests with various stories about his incredible adventures. His first 16 stories appeared in 1781 in Berlin magazine "Guide for funny people."

How amazingly the fates of different people intersect...





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