Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarts.
Constantinople , November 30, 1877. (Received Dec. 31.)
Sir: The month just closing has witnessed increasing energy in waging the Turko-Russian war, with continued advantages on the part of Russia. As intimated in my dispatch No. 194 of October 31, 1877, fortune had begun to incline to that side, and since that date the inclination has been more marked.
On the 18th instant Kars, after a defense of nearly seven months, fell, with a serious loss of men and material of war. This was undoubtedly a heavy blow to the Turks. The place itself, which has figured prominently in previous wars and had been fortified with great skill, was for them a bulwark on the frontier, and at the same time a standing menace to their neighbors. The reduction of the place, moreover, leaves the army of General Loris Melikoff at liberty to communicate with other Russian troops operating against Erzeroum, to which Ahmed Moukhtar Pasha has retired with the strength of his command. It is understood this general had so much doubt of the practicability of holding Erzeroum against the forces thus united upon it that he submitted the question of attempting to do so to the decision of the Sublime Porte; that thereupon a council of ministers was called and a decision made to hold it to the last extremity. This will no doubt be done.
These renewed efforts of Russia, on this part of the theater of war, wear the appearance of an ulterior purpose to hold the conquered territory. From the first their treatment of the Armenian population has been confessedly kind, though sometimes ascribed to politic motives. The condition of this people in the territory held by the conquering Russians and in that where the Turkish arms prevail is in marked contrast. Some credit should probably be given to the personal efforts of General Loris Melikoff, second in command, I believe, to the Grand Duke, and regarded here as the military genius of the Russians in that part of the field, who is himself a native of Armenia. Still, should Russia be in an attitude at the close of hostilities to insist upon terms of peace. I suspect they will be so dictated as to avoid another siege of Kars in any future war.
On the Danube there has been little change in the positions of the respective armies. The Russians maintain the Shipka Pass and the Turks are still in Plevna, though they can hardly be said to command it. Sulieman Pasha has strengthened rather than shifted his position on the Lom. Mehemet Ali Pasha, of whom I made mention in my dispatch No. 194, has collected a considerable army in the neighborhood of Orkhanieh to create a diversion in favor of Plevna. The Russians, on the other hand, have multiplied their forces around Plevna. They have drawn a line of circumvallation, which devolves upon Osman Pasha the task not of holding the post but of escaping from it. A few days ago came the gratifying report that he had successfully cut his way out in the direction of Rahova, inflicting an immense destruction upon the enemy. It turns out, however, that he attempted the movement, but without success. The fighting has been constant, with some advantages claimed by the Turks under Sulieman Pasha, which have been more than counterbalanced by losses in the neighborhood of Orkhanieh. Up to this time the season has been unusually mild, admitting of active operations much later than seemed probable two months ago.[Page 850]
I have on several occasions alluded incidentally to the condition of the Bulgarians. So far they appear to have been much the greatest sufferers by the war. * * * It was their peculiar misfortune that these atrocities became to some extent an issue in British partisan politics, and especially that they awakened the sympathies of the opposition rather than that of the ministers. * * *
In the matter of their relief, the stream of charity is well-nigh dried up. A late writer, believed to be well informed, states that 2,500 Turkish refugees at Adrianople were receiving the care of three English societies, while 11,000 Bulgarians, with almost as many more on the road, were dependent on the private exertions of the local committee of Consul Blunt and others, though the need of the Christian refugees could be no less intense than the want last year. This local committee by no means confines its exertions to the relief of the Christians, as will appear from the scheme of their organization inclosed.
In this connection I inclose the programme of another society for the relief of Turkish sufferers, originated and actively sustained by the wife of Her Britannic Majesty’s ambassador and the wife of the minister of Sweden and Norway, who give to it much of their time and personal exertion. An organization on a larger scale for the benefit of the sick and wrounded Turkish soldiers is the Bed Crescent Society very liberally patronized.
The Bulgarians have not only been unfortunate in the loss of sympathy and succor they sorely need, but have undergone the spoiling of their goods, imprisonment, torture, exile, and death. The extent of these inflictions I cannot give; I only know historically that it is very great, and has drawn forth, as I have reason to believe, vigorous remonstrances from Great Britain and Germany, and perhaps from other powers.
It is in view of this condition of things in that province that His Highness the Grand Vizier has just issued a proclamation to the Bulgarians, of which are appended copies in English and French. Possibly such a document might be less declamatory and more specific without detracting from its effect abroad. At home, it is likely to fail of any good result from the utter want of confidence on the part of those to whom it is addressed in anything emanating from this source.
A recent measure of the Sublime Porte has attracted a good deal of attention, being nothing less than the organization of 150,000 Christian subjects into a military corps for home service, to be called the Civic Guard. This is a departure from all the traditions of Islam, according to which the Mussulman alone is worthy to bear arms. If it were a time of peace, I believe the Christians would eagerly embrace the opportunity. One of their chronic grievances has been their persistent exclusion from the army. But now they fear being sent at once to the front, into a service full of imminent peril for which they are wholly without the necessary training, even if their inclinations were on this side of the conflict, and all with one consent, Greeks, Armenians, and Bulgarians, express an aversion to the measure.
In my dispatch No. 147, of April 25, 1877, I mentioned the negotiations just broken off between the Sublime Porte and Montenegro, the claim on the part of the latter to extend her boundary northward so as to include the strong post of Nicsitch and also to the coast, giving her a harbor on the Adriatic, and the refusal of the former to admit the claim in either respect. I have given from time to time a syllabus of the subsequent military operations in this province, the victualing of Nicsitch by the Turks (dispatch No. 169, of July 3, 1877), the withdrawal of [Page 851] Sulieman Pasha and his army (dispatch No. 181, of August 31, 1877), and the capture of Nicsitch by the Montenegrins (dispatch No. 185, of October 1, 1877). They seem now to have turned their attention to the seacoast, with a view to the possession of the Albanian port of Antivari, held by a Turkish garrison. Two iron-clads have gone to assist in the defense, and so far the Montenegrins appear to have been unsuccessful. Such at least is the report here.
A few days ago the Sublime Porte declared a blockade of the coast from Spizza to Dulcigno, giving information of it to the other powers by a circular diplomatic note of the 27th instant, which I am requested to bring to the knowledge of my government, and of which I inclose a copy with a translation. It is perhaps worthy of remark that this blockade is identical in principle with the blockade proclaimed by the President of the United States April 19, 1861.
I have, & c.,