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Battle of Olszynka Grochowska
Battle of Olszynka Grochowska was the biggest battle of the November Uprising. It was fought between the armies of Poland and Russia on February 25 in the woods near Grochów, at the eastern outskirts of Warsaw.
Before the battle
The first months after the outbreak of the November Uprising saw no hostilities between Poland and Russia. Both the Polish commander Józef Chłopicki and Russian tsar Nicholas I were hoping for a peaceful solution to the conflict. However, none of the sides could propose a satisfactory compromise and in on January 25, 1831, Nicholas was deposed of the Polish throne.
This was seen as a de facto declaration of war and the Russian Army under Ivan Dybich was ordered to enter Poland and crush the rebellion. The Russian army entered Poland on February 4 and started a fast advance towards Warsaw. Despite several minor battles and skirmishes, in which the Russian army suffered significant losses, the advance could not be stopped by the Polish forces, both numerically and technically inferior.
On February 24 the Russian Army reached the outskirts of Warsaw in two columns. Initially Dybich was planning an all-out assault on Warsaw on February 26. However, the successful Polish counter-attack in the Battle of Białołęka , in which the 13 500 men strong Corps of General Ivan Shakhovskiy was defeated and forced to retreat, made Dybich change his plans and attack earlier than planned.
The Polish forces dislocated to the east of Warsaw constituted the majority of Polish Army. Apart from the II Infantry Brigade under General Kazimierz Małachowski , dispatched to the north to take part in the Battle of Białołęka , the forces of General Józef Chłopicki included some 36 000 soldiers and 115 cannons of various calibres. Large part of the Polish forces was composed of fresh, poorly trained and ill-equipped volunteers. However, the core of the Polish Army was composed of Napoleonic Wars veterans.
The Russian forces had some 59 000 men at arms and 178 cannons. In addition, at 15.00 the weakened corps of General Shakhovskiy arrived to the battlefield and took part in the assault. The forces of Field Marshal Ivan Dybich were organised into 5 Infantry Corps, with some cavalry units attached to them. However, the main part of the Russian cavalry was defeated in the Battle of Stoczek and did not enter the combat.
The Polish counter-attack in the area of Białołęka on February 24 surprised the Russians. In the early morning of February 25, after both units taking part in the Battle of Białołęka were on the verge of breaking after a night-long city fight, the Poles threw in the reserve 1st Infantry Division under General Jan Krukowiecki. The Russians started a retreat and the Poles started a pursuit, but the Polish advance was halted after an hour.
The sound of the nearby battle made Field Marshal Dybich change his plans and order an assault on Polish positions 24 hours earlier than planned. At noon the I Corps and the Corps of General Grigoriy Vladimirovich Rosen were ordered to assault the Polish 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions (Generals Skrzynecki and Żymirski , respectively) in the woods east of Grochów. At the same time the Corps of General Pahlen was ordered to outflank the Poles from the south and strike through the lines of the Polish 4th Infantry Division of General Szembek .
Although the Russians had numerical superiority and better equipment on their side, the Polish lines were well-hidden in the woods and the Russian artillery had difficulties helping the advancing infantry. Despite numerous assaults, both the woods and the Grochów-Gocławek road was still in Polish hands by dusk. After suffering heavy casualties, the Russians withdrew from the battlefield. However, the Poles also lost large part of their forces and were unable to organise a successful pursuit.
After the battle
The battle was not concluded. However, the Poles finally managed to stop the Russian advance and prevented Dybich's forces from capturing Warsaw. This however was a pyrrhic victory. The Russian army lost at least 9 500 killed and wounded. Polish losses were slightly smaller, but also significant: between 6 900 and 7 300 dead and wounded.
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