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The Russo-Haminid war of 1877-1879 - Clash of the Empires (WIP)


O-Sultan Abdulkadir I. the Victorious. ------- "The Counter-Attack at Plevna", 1879

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Sultan Mustava V., the father of Abdulkadir I., led a great reformation effort of the Empire, especially on the military side. Organisation and logiostics saw a great effort, as did the Topları, the Artillery Corps (traditionally a separate branch of the Hamidi Ordusu). Hamidi observers showed a keen interrest in the US civil war, and drew their own conclusions. Since the Empire largely still lacked rail-transport efforts were made to at least make the western borders easily suppliable by rail, and (to the chagrin of the traditional heartlands of the Empire in Anatolia and Egypt) the western provinces of Rumelia were to receive the greatest effort to be made defensible. Fortresses were modernized in the late 1860s, artillery procured in England and the USA, and the need to update the muzzle-loading rifles to something more modern was keenly seen as well. In 1869 the Sultan ordered Rifle-trials to be held, on the enticement of a strong order-contract with the Empire of over 50.000 rifles. Unfortunately Sultan Mustafa suffered a stroke in december of 1869, and relinquished a lot of the state affairs to his only son, the Pasha of Algiers, Abdülkadir. Sultan Mustafa doted on his son (and to a lesser extent his 14 daughters) and oversaw Shezade Abdülkadirs education personally. The successor, so Sultan Mustafa, should be prepared as best as possible to lead the Empire. Thus, after a stringent military and political education and a succession of promotions to ever higher offices, Shezade Abdülkadir was appointed to the Pashaluk of Algiers in 1868, and after Mustafas illness recalled to Konstantiniyye in 1870. Gradually the offices were transfered, with the public approval and order of the Padishah, and the Empire saw a gradual transfer of power as smooth as it had ever whitnessed. In june of 1871 Sultan Mustafa died peacefully in his gardens, and Abdülkadir was inthroned as the 22nd Sultan and Padishah of the Hamidi Imperium.

Abdülkadir I., already 44, having always seen military office, had a keen interrest in the Army modernization effort left to him by the late Sultan, and (having been schooled in the Prussian general staff college, ordered the creation of a military school of the "modern kind" in Konstantiniyye, the Imperial Guards Educational Center.
Nominally this office oversaw only the appointments to the Kapikulu Ordu, but this traditional guard unit also was to be increased to the size of 6 Divisions or one full army corps. They would be the vanguard of Hamidi military might, so his vision. The "New Men" of the Empire tended to be attracted by this, and (while many traditionally-minded officers grumbled) the Guard Corps saw a decreasing age of the officer corps as well as an increase in officer-to-troop ratio compared to the rest of the army.

The Hamidi O-Kapikulu Ordu in 1872 was structured as follows:

1. Household Guards Cavalry - directly stationed at the Sultans residence (7.500 men, half of them mounted)
1.-4. Division of Guards Infantry - Kapikulu Ordu, Konstantiniyye (38.750 men)
1. and 2. Division of Guard Artillery - Kapikulu Ordu, Konstantiniyye Arsenal (11.800 men, 284 field guns, 130 heavy guns)
1. light Cavalry Division (8.800 men, of those 5.000 mounted line troopers)

The Artillery employed by these exemplar elite units were mostly US-bought and license-produced parrot rifles, though about 30 Armstrong breechloaders that had been procured on trial were also assigned there.

The Officers were equipped with a traditional kılıç sabre and copied austrian Gasser-Revolvers that fired 11mm black powder ammunition. The line troops used the older muzzeloading rifles common to the rest of the Empire, which rankled the officer corps and the Sultan to equal ammount. One had the means, craped together over the last decade, to fully equip the Guards Corps and at least the Rumelian Corps of the Army with newer rifles immediately, though the Trials had not yet produced decent results. Also the military observers from ther battlers between the austrians and the prussians told drastic stories about the prussians mowing down the brave austrian troops with their breechloaders while lying down, the austrians having rifled muzzle-loading Lorenz rifles that were roughly equivalent to the Hamidi equipment.
One had tried to procure english Martini rifles, captured examples had showed magnificently, but unfortunately the Ingiliz had refused to sell any. The americans had shown strong, and while their winchesters were magnificent on paper they also were expensive, so very expensive. The Sultan had his household cavalry equipped with their model of 1866, but that was about all one could afford. What was needed was one rifle, firing one ammunition, in the various lengths required. Clandestinely acquired russian Berdan rifles had shown quite adequately, though not very accurate at longer ranges; also their single locking lug looked flimsy to the Arsenal testers.
While own manufacturing potential was good, if the process should be completed within less than 5 years one had to buy at least 50% of the guns already manufactured from abroad. It was decided to adopt a single-shot breechloader with metallic cartridges and center-fire ignition, as a compromise as not to spend money on a tube-magazine. Self-development was a possibility, though finding a manufacturing partner would be made much harder that way. The trials dragged on unto the year 1872.

In the end no passable solution was found, and the requirements were consequently revised: A Single-shot breechloading rifle firing at least 11mm by 45mm ammunition, with a manual safety, for a feasible price and with a guaranteed delivery date. In return the Hamidi Imperium would purchase as many as 25.000 of them with a delivery frame of 2 years from ther manufacturer and would also set up machining capacity in the Empire at Izmir Arsenal for the rest of the needed 250.000 rifles. A date was set for the trials to be concluded in autumn of 1873, and the rearmament effort to be completed in December 1877. At least the standing Army of 280.000 men should be equipped with the new arms until then. The priority was set to be the Rumelian Corps, as to deter Russian and Austrian ambitions.
The Uniforms of the Army, still of the old Nizem-I-Cedit lineage of the 1840s were to be revised to a more cost-effective unitarian design as well.


The Hamidi Ordusu in 1869 - looking rather antiquated and not regarded as a threat to modern great powers.

The Hamidi Ordusu, the magnificent Kapikulu troops aside, in 1870 was composed of mostly illiterate peasants and younger sons of provincial landowners. The Army consisted of three main parts: the well-organized Armies of Rumelia and Anatolia and... the rest. The Army of Rumelia, parted in three army corps to 50.000 men each, was by far the most experienced and professional force, the 3 corps of Anatolia were rated as second class, and the Armies of Hejaz, Arabia, Egypt and Equatorial Turkey were not considered of any use against european military force. The professional troops considered truly useful numbered also 300.000 men, and these would need to be re-armed and organized to hold on to the rumelian possessions of the Empire. Russian feelers had already been spotted even in Bulgaria and Greece, orthodox priests from russia and spies galore. The priests were put under surveillance and the spies clandestinely milked for information and then executed.


In spring of 1872 the effort to find a new service rifle for said armies finally bore fruit: a rather unknown american manufacturer presented their weapon, and it was truly just what the army wanted: a sturdy bolt-action singleshot piece firing a hefty 11x65mm rimmed black powder cartridge, a solid 25g projectile at 450m/s. So in August of 1872 the Hamidi high porte ordered an initial 25.000 Ward-Burton Bolt-Action rifles to be delivered to Izmir Arsenal, as well as the tooling required to manufacture the rest of the needed rifles. Those, so the contract, were to be payed for in advance, and to be guaranteed in delivery by the american government, as a sign of closer ties between the High Porte and the USA.

One of the most succesful driving forces was Mehmed Yüksel Pasha, in 1871 transfered from "control duty" (taking care of rebellion and guarding against anglo- and russian agression) in Al-Afghan to the Rumelian 1st Corps and awarded the Title of Pasha on his promotion to Mirliva (Major General). Mehmed Pasha should assume a role of great prominence within our subject at hand, and was later hailed as the Hero of Shipka Pass. The leadership of men like him would prove critically important, the staff reorganisation being at least as important as the re-equipment schemes. There it was decided to concentrate on the two professional corps regions, and find a compromise in general equipment class. A scheme to procure as many of the magnificent (and prohibitively expensive) winchester tube-magazine repeaters as could be afforded was quickly vetoed by Staff of the Corps-region of Rumelia: the muzzle-loading rifles most of their troops used were worse than useless, as Königgrätz had shown. A solid rifle with plenty of ammunition supplied to each soldier would be much preferable. The Topcu would likewise not use the latest of equipment but rather see that they had enough of what would do: instead of the latest Armstrong and Krupp breechloaders one had procured almost outdated muzzleloading 3-inch Ordnance rifles from America in great number. Having a ggreat number of field guns availlable was sen as preferrable to having the most modern and powerful guns in insignificant amounts.
The Cavalry would be reduced in number by almost 70%, either converted to Infantry or subordinated as logistic troops, for the clever men of the latter had calculated that by feeding a horse and equipping a cavalryman for a year one could procure almost ten infantrymen, including weapons and equipment.
Ammunition stockpiles, so a lesson from the US civil war, were of critical importance, and so the Topcu invested greatly in transport and storage of large amounts of field-gun ammunition. Rifle ammunition manufacture was greatly expanded as well, as to make certain that one would not run dry and have to rely on "bows and spears" as the Army high commanders joked. The procurement efforts were well underway in autumn of 1872, and on his birthday in February of 1873 the Padishah was proudly presented with a parade of troops carrying the new equipment; as well as the new dark blue uniform with the red fez that today has almost become symbolic of Hamidi military power.


Hamidi Soldiers in 1873 - note the oversized double ammunition pouches

Another surprise for the visitors of his Imperial Majesty was the re-introduction of the century-old Mehter bands, replacing the short-lived westernisation of military music.
The whole spectacle had been carefully orchestrated and planned: The rather backwardly and declining Hamidi army, seen as mostly a showy spectacle by the westerners, was suddenly replaced by the rows of the Kapikulu Ordu, showing off their brand-new uniforms and rifles, and the sound of the barrel-sized Mehter drums called back to the battlefields of Mohacs and Belgrade. Normally the Sultan would smile benignly while being escorted by a few score household cavalrymen... this time thousands of immaculately dressed infantrymen filled the roads of Konstantiniyye, carrying the new breechloaders western spies were all in a tizzy about: just how did the Hammid rifle compare to the Mauser 1871, or the Martini-Henry? These turks didn't look like last year at all! This parade could well have been held in Berlin or Paris for all its ordered splendour: had the turks really turned the corner of their decline? At least militarily it seemed they had, but one would have to wait for the next conflict actually involving them. On russian side one was not worried: the Tzars forces were mostly modernized already and carried modern Berdan-rifles, and what the bloody sultan, that heathen, gave his guards to play with said nothing about his actual armies. Russia too had seen the lessons of Königgrätz and Sedan: the better weapons were as much as a decisive factor as the leadership and the spirit of the troops. The age-old rivalry between Turkey and Russia was not only simple Imperialism, the balkan lands of the Haminids held many oppressed orthodox christians, Serbs and Bulgars, to be liberated from the Muslim yoke...and plenty of faithful subjects of the Caliphe in Konstantiniyye as well. The Austrians as well wanted a piece of the cake, a veritable nightmare of ethnicities and cultures. Just the time for the Haminids to re-discover their past as a conquering nation, bashing the Mehter Kettledrum.


Hamidi Troops of the Kapikulu Ordu, 1872

Inside the Küçüksu Pavilion, residence of the Sultan since 1860, things were not seen as optimistic as in the newly-built Izmir Arsenal General Staff college: finances were tight, the new rifles and guns were cutting a big hole in the budget. The Sultan had ordered to suspend spending on the Imperial household and to stop any frivulous expenses, insisting on wearing simple military uniforms for all officials. The new dark bluw of the 1870 pattern field uniforms subsequently had become ubiquituous inside the palace. Currently his Imperial Majesty was in discourse with the observers of the Franco-Pruissian war that had just ended: why had the prussians won over a numerically superior french army? One needed to triumph over the russian ambitions sooner or later, and the Tzars armies were mighty. The population, so the Sultans spies, approved of the effort to rebuild the armed forces quite a bit: the arrogant westerners should learn to fear the Muslim again, one did not simply march into Konstantiniyye and make demands of the Sultanate.
There was a bit of resentment that Rumelia received the brunt of the effort, but the Ruslar were indeed an enemy. Official imeging showed them as orthodox christian crusaders, bent on removing the steward of Allah from "Tsargrad", as they caled the capital. Also that the new Sultan showed as an austere warior-type, working long hours on defending the nation instead of wasting money on palaces was a good omen for "Mehmet the Musulman": this was a good Sultan, warlike and competent, and not afraid of showing the westerners the sabre. In the administrations many levels he was liked as well: A spirit of enthusiasm slowly took hold in the century-old offices. The old empire was still alive, the crisis slowly being worked through, to be overcome as any other setback had before: Let's show the world what the old turk can do! No need to ape the westerners like the Japonlar, with shiny brass bands and peaked caps, the Drums and Zurnas of the Mehter and the Fez were fine. Padişahım Çok Yaşa!
Also it had been a special pleasure to ship a full Mehter band to the embassy in Petersburg to wake the ruslar every morning.


Sultan Abdulkadir in new army uniform, 1874

The year 1873 saw another increase in rebellions, but also the first effort of democratic reform within the Hamidi Empire: the rural assemblies were to be self-elected instead of appointed by the local wali, a measure actually intended to reduce the widespread corruption so rampant in the Empire. Political upheaval gripped even the ancient capital: the newly developing educated classes of the Empire wanted to have a say in how the nation was governed. Sultan Abdülkadir was well-guarded, but on Friday the 22nd of April 1873 a lone gunman made it through the cordon of Guards and fired four times at the sovereign. Abdulkadir I. was hit in the right arm by a bullet from an american Joslyn revolver and had his left elbow shattered. The culprit was quickly aprehended, and the Sultan ordered him shot on the spot. This however had not the desired effect: public opinion quickly turned on the Sultan for not giving the would-be assassin the interrogation and trial required by the constitution of 1869.
Conflicts escalated, and demonstrations and unrest quickly became widespread in the Capital. After a week of brutal repression and ever-increasing rebellion that even spread over Anatolia, the Sultan had it announced that a new constitution was to be enacted. For this to happen a council of dignitaries, scholars and (to 30%) elected representatives would be held in autumn of 1873. The election would be open to any male subject who could read and write and was at least 25 years of age.


The elected representatives to the "Meclis-i Umûmî", November of 1873

Officially the Meclis-i Umûmî, the Grand Assembly of the eternal Hamidi state, was not a parliament, but the foreigners and their respective superiors certainly saw it as such. Sultan Abdulkadir lost a lot of his prestige in the eyes of many foreign governments for "giving in to republicanism", the raction from Russia was especially harsh.
The british showed a rather subdued reaction, the French sent a letter of congratulations to "the Hamidi prime minister" as if there was such a thing.
In reality the Meclis-i Umûmî had very little actual political power, but very much a moral one: these were the "foremost characters" of the Empire, their word very much had weight. And for some strange reason (which certainly had nothin to do with the fact that the Sultan had appointed 40% of them directly) they saw rather benignly to the administration of Sultan Abdulkadir and his Viziers. They proposed reforms in the administrative divisions of the Empire, and new economic policies as to catch up fastert to the western "great powers", educational reforms, a unification of the many writing systems and languages of the Empire... a spirit of modernisation and progress that was mostly driven by the old inferiority complex against the western powers. One thing united the Grand Assembly, the modernizing Army, the Sultans Officials and Pashas, and even the ancient religious offices: one would not be the next China, to be trampled and destroyed by the west. The kafirler had been afraid of the armies of the Sultan before, and by the prophet, they would be again.


Abdul Sinan Paşa, the first elected High Representative of the Hamidi General Assembly,

Abdul Pasha, as the west would come to know him, would remain a figure opf lasting memetic value for them: the Turkish Vizier, the Sultans head-man. The political figurehead and embodiment of the Hamidi Empire until 1919. Indeed, the face of the bearded fez-wearing man and the Hücum marsi would form the proverbial turk in the lext hundred years. Abdul Sinan Pasha was certainly the person shaping Haminid democracy the most in its formative years. He propagated enlightened rule under the Sultan, and enlightened Islamism, forn his decades of direct or indirect rule, and he certainly was the most influential statesman of the Hamidi Empire from 1874 to 1900.
He shaped the empire in a lasting way by promoting the Sultans role as not only the Padishah of the Hamidi State but as the Caliphe of Islam, the protector and ruler of all muslims of the globe, giving the Empire a unique standing amonfg the "great powers" of the world: opposed to christian westerners bent on capitalist exploitment and uncontrolled financial enterprise the Sultan was the Lord of al Muslims, the ruler of the counterpoint to christian world domination. And Islam forbid usury, the very basis of capitalism, something Abdul Pasha and the Sultan were equally keen on pointing out to the world. The rebellions in Aceh, french Algerna, spanish Morocco, russian Chechnia and Dagestan and even to a part the resurgance of Islam in the african-american communities were gleefully exploited by the Hamidi Imperium: the Sultan and Caliphe would do all he could to help his brothers!

[TBC]

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