It is needless to relate that many died of these tortures. When they die, the soldiers cry, "Now let your Christ help you." A second caravan of five hundred families left Erzerum: at Baiburt they were joined by another contingent deported from that town, and the account that follows is based on the information supplied by the Rev.
"On the Baiburt road," writes another Russian officer, "there was one small pass which had been roughly reconnoitered, and through this we were moving some of the heavy guns, not imagining that there were any Turks within ten miles, when a heavy fire was opened from a fir wood a thousand feet above us.
By July 14, 1916, the Russians were only ten miles from Baiburt, had again taken up their drive for Erzingan and had wrested from the Turks some strongly fortified positions southwest of Mush. Baiburt fell to the Russians on July 15, 1916. From then on the Russian advance continued steadily, although the Turks maintained a stiff resistance.
The retreat of the Turks took a southwesterly direction toward Baiburt along the Trebizond-Erzerum road and toward Erzingan, to which a road branches off the Trebizond-Erzerum road. Baiburt was held by the Turks with a force strong enough to make it impossible for the Russians to cut off the Trebizond garrison.
The Russians had been astride this road for some time as far as Madan Khan and Kop, both about fifty miles northwest of Erzerum and just this side of Baiburt. There the Turks put up a determined resistance and succeeded in holding up the Russian advance.
A concentrated Russian attack, prepared and supported by artillery fire, drove the Turks not only from these positions, but out of the mountain range. On May 9, 1916, engagements took place along the entire front. In the center fighting occurred near Mount Koph, in the Chorok basin southeast of Baiburt, and the Turks made some 300 prisoners.
Robert Stapleton, an American minister at Erzerum, and by an Armenian woman who was among the deported, and whose life was spared on her embracing Islamism. The convoy numbered, when it left Baiburt, some 15,000 persons, and it reached Erzinjan in safety. There the massacres had already taken place, and the women and children had been deported, for they found no Armenians there.
On the same date Russian regiments made a successful night attack in the upper Chorok basin which netted some important Turkish positions, which were immediately strongly fortified. May 4, 1916, brought a counterattack on the part of Turkish forces in the Chorok sector at the town of Baiburt, which, however, was repulsed.
Having received reenforcements, the Turkish center assumed the offensive between the Armenian Taurus and Baiburt and forced the Russians to evacuate Mama Khatun. This was followed by a withdrawal of the Russian lines in that region for a distance of about ten miles. For the next few days the Turks were able to maintain their new offensive in full strength.
This advance was the direct result of the defeat which the Russians had inflicted on a Turkish division at Bitlis as early as April 15, 1916. By April 23, 1916, the Turks had again gathered some strength and were able to report that they had repulsed Russian attacks south of Bitlis, west of Mush, east of Baiburt, and south of Trebizond.