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Massacre of Praga
Eve of the Battle
After the Battle of Maciejowice General Tadeusz Kościuszko was captured by the Russians. The internal struggle for power in Warsaw and the demoralisation of the city's population prevented General Józef Zajączek from finishing the fortifications surrounding the city both from the east and from the west. At the same time the two Russian corps under Generals Aleksandr Suvorov and Ivan Fersen (22 000 strong) were making their way towards the city.
The Russian forces consisted of two battle-hardened corps under Generals Aleksandr Suvorov and Ivan Fersen . The earlier took part in the recent Russo-Turkish war and then in the heavy fights in Polesie and finally in the Battle of Maciejowice . The latter fought for several months in Poland, but was also joined by fresh reinforcements sent from Russia. Each of them had approximately 11 000 men.
The Polish forces consisted of a variety of troops. Apart from the rallied remnants of the Kościuszko's army defeated in the Battle of Maciejowice , it also included a large number of untrained militia from Warsaw, Praga and Wilno, as well as a number of scythemen and civilians. The forces were organised in three separate lines, each covering a different part of Praga. Central area was commanded directly by General Józef Zajączek , the northern area was commanded by Jakub Jasiński and the southern by Władysław Jabłonowski . Altogether, the Polish commander had less than 20 000 men.
The Russian forces reached the outskirts of Warsaw on November 3, 1794. Immediately upon arrival, the Russian forces started artillery barrage of the Polish defences. This made the Polish commander think that the opposing forces are preparing for a long siege. However, Suvorov's plan assumed the fast and concentrated assault on the Polish defences rather than a bloody and lengthy siege.
On 3 o'clock in the morning of November 4 the Russian troops reached the positions just outside the outer rim of Polish field fortifications and two hours later started an all-out assault. The Polish defenders were completely surprised and soon the Polish lines were broken onto several isolated pockets of resistance. General Zajączek was slightly wounded and retreated from his post, leaving the remainder of his forces without command. This made the Poles retreat towards the centre of Praga and then towards Vistula. The heavy city fights lasted for four hours and resulted in a complete defeat of the Polish forces. Only a small part managed to evade encirclement and retreated to the other side of the river through a bridge.
After the battle ended, the Russians started to loot and burn the entire borough of Warsaw. In what was seen as a bloody revenge for the earlier Warsaw Uprising , almost all of the area was pillaged, burnt to the ground and the inhabitants of Praga were murdered. Exact death toll of that day remains unknown, yet it is estimated that at least 20 000 civilians were killed.
After the Battle
After the battle the commanders of Warsaw and large part of its inhabitants became demoralised. To spare Warsaw the fate of its eastern suburb, General Tomasz Wawrzecki decided to withdraw his remaining forces southwards and on November 5. Warsaw was captured by the Russians with little or no opposition. It is said that after the battle General Aleksandr Suvorov sent a report to Catherine the Great consisting of only three words: hurrah - Praga - Suvorov. The empress of Russia replied equally briefly: Congratulations, Field Marshal. Catherine.
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