is the largest online archive of world war 1 photographs and texts.
the Archive of World War 1 Photographs and Texts
History of World War 1 The Western Front The Russian Front Italian Front The Middle East Air Warfare War at Sea



Reds Had Looted Villages Of Pinega Valley--Winter Sees Bolsheviks Returning To Attack--Mission Of American Column--Pinega--Pinkish-White Political Color--Yank Soldiers Well Received--Take Distant Karpogora--Greatly Outnumbered Americans Retire--"Just Where Is Pinega Front?"

In making their getaway from Archangel and vicinity at the time the Allies landed in Archangel, the Reds looted and robbed and carried off by rail and by steamer much stores of furs, and clothing and food, as well as the munitions and military equipment. What they did not carry by rail to Vologda they took by river to Kotlas. We have seen how they have been pursued and battled on the Onega, on the Railroad, on the Vaga, on the Dvina. Now we turn to the short narrative of their activities on the Pinega River. As the Reds at last learned that the expedition was too small to really overpower them and had returned to dispute the Allies on the other rivers, so, far up the Pinega Valley, they began gathering forces. The people of the lower Pinega Valley appealed to the Archangel government and the Allied military command for protection and for assistance in pursuing the Reds to recover the stores of flour that had been taken from the co-operative store associations at various points along the river. These co-operatives had bought flour from the American Red Cross. Accordingly on October 20th Captain Conway with "G" Company set off on a fast steamer and barge for Pinega, arriving after three days and two nights with a force of two platoons, the other two having been left behind on detached service, guarding the ships in the harbor of Bakaritza. Here the American officer was to command the area, organize its defense and cooperate with the Russian civil authorities in raising local volunteers for the defense of the city of Pinega, which, situated at the apex of a great inverted "V" in the river, appeared to be the key point to the military and political situation.

Pinega was a fine city of three thousand inhabitants with six or seven thousand in the nearby villages that thickly dot the banks of this broad expansion of the old fur-trading and lumber river port. Its people were progressive and fairly well educated. The city had been endowed by its millionaire old trader with a fine technical high school. It had a large cathedral, of course. Not far from it two hours ride by horseback, an object of interest to the doughboy, was the three hundred-year-old monastery, white walls with domes and spires, perched upon the grey bluffs, in the hazy distance looking over the broad Pinega Valley and Soyla Lake, where the monks carried on their fishing. In Pinega was a fine community hall, a good hospital and the government buildings of the area.

Its people had held a great celebration when they renounced allegiance to the Czar, but they had very sensibly retained some of his old trained local representatives to help carry on their government. Self government they cherished. When the Red Guards had been in power at Archangel they had of course extended their sway partially to this far-off area. But the people had only submitted for the time. Some of their able men had had to accept tenure of authority under the nominal overlordship of the Red commissars. And when the Reds fled at the approach of the Allies, the people of Pinega had punished a few of the cruel Bolshevik rulers that they caught but had not made any great effort to change all the officers of civil government even though they had been Red officials for a time. In fact it was a somewhat confused color scheme of Red and White civil government that the Americans found in the Pinega Valley. The writer commanded this area in the winter and speaks from actual experience in dealing with this Pinega local government, half Red as it was. The Americans were well received and took up garrison duty in the fall, raising a force of three hundred volunteers chiefly from the valley above Pinega, whose people were in fear of a return of the Reds and begged for a military column up the valley to deliver it from the Red agitators and recover their flour that had been stolen.

November 15th Captain Conway, acting under British G. H. Q., Archangel, acceded to these requests and sent Lieut. Higgins with thirty-five Americans and two hundred and ten Russian volunteers to clear the valley and occupy Karpogora.

For ten days the force advanced without opposition. At Marynagora an enemy patrol was encountered and the next day the Yanks drove back an enemy combat patrol. Daily combat patrol action did not interfere with their advance and on Thanksgiving Day the "G" Company boys after a little engagement went into Karpogora. They were one hundred and twenty versts from Pinega, which was two hundred and seven versts from Archangel, a mere matter of being two hundred miles from Archangel in the heart of a country which was politically about fifty-fifty between Red and White. But the Reds did not intend to have the Americans up there. On December 4th they came on in a much superior force and attacked. The Americans lost two killed and four wounded out of their little thirty-five Americans and several White Guards, and on order from Captain Conway, who hurried up the river to take charge, the flying column relinquished its hold on Karpogora and retired down the valley followed by the Reds. A force of White Guards was left at Visakagorka, and one at Trufanagora, and Priluk and the main White Guard outer defense of Pinega established at Pelegorskaya.

Like the whole expedition into Russia of which the Pinega Valley force was only one minor part, the coming of the Allied troops had quieted the areas occupied but, in the hinterland beyond, the propaganda of the wily Bolshevik agents of Trotsky and Lenine succeeded quite naturally in inflaming the Russians against what they called the foreign bayonets.

And here at the beginning of winter we leave this handful of Americans holding the left sector of the great horseshoe line against a gathering force, the mutterings of whose Red mobs was already being heard and which was preparing a series of dreadful surprises for the Allied forces on the Pinega as well as on other winter fronts. Indeed their activities in this peace-loving valley were to rise early in the winter to major importance to the whole expedition's fate and stories of this flank threat to Archangel and especially to the Dvina and Vaga lines of communication, where the Pinega Valley merges with the Dvina Valley, was to bring from our American Great Headquarters in France the terse telegram: "Just where is the Pinega Front?"

It was out there in the solid pine forests one hundred fifty miles to the east and north of Archangel. Out where the Russian peasant had rigged up his strange-looking but ingeniously constructed sahnia, or sledge. Where on the river he was planting in the ice long thick-set rows of pines or branches in double rows twice a sled length apart. These frozen-in lines of green were to guide the traveller in the long winter of short days and dark nights safely past the occasional open holes and at such times as he made his trip over the road in the blinding blizzards of snow. Out there where the peasant was changing from leather boots to felt boots and was hunting up his scarfs and his great parki, or bearskin overcoat. That is where "G" Company, one hundred strong, was holding the little, but important, Pinega Front at the end of the fall campaign.


Table of Contents