In the morning I obtain breakfast and manage to escape from town without attracting a crowd of more than a couple of hundred people; a remarkable occurrence in its way, since Erzingan contains a population of about twenty thousand.
The West Euphrates was crossed the following day. On July 23, 1916, Russian troops on the Erzingan route, in the Ziaret Tapasi district, repulsed two Turkish counterattacks and occupied the heights of Naglika. East of the Erzingan route they captured a Turkish line on the Durum Darasi River. After having repulsed several Turkish attacks Russian cavalry has reached the line of Boz-Tapa-Mertekli.
Intuitively the precise situation of affairs seems to reveal itself in a moment; they are but ordinarily inoffensive villagers returning from Erzingan, where they have sold and squandered even the donkeys they rode to town; meeting me alone, and, as they think in the absence of outward evidence that I am unarmed, they have become possessed ot tue idea of retrieving their fortunes by intimidating me out of money.
Throughout the Russian advance, considerable fighting had occurred in the region of Mush, which, however, resulted in no important changes. The main object of the Russian attacks there was to hold as large a Turkish force as possible from any possible attempt to relieve the pressure on Erzingan.
This condition, of course, meant that until this danger was removed, the closest cooperation between the various parts of the Russian army became essential, and therefore resulted in a general slowing down of the Russian advance for the time being. In the meantime the Russian center continued its advance against Erzingan.
Toward noon, the highest elevation of the pass is reached, and I commence the descent toward the Erzingan Valley, following for a number of miles the course of a tributary of the western fork of the Euphrates, known among the natives in a general sense as the "Frat;" this particular branch is locally termed the Kara Su, or black water.
This explains why by May 1, 1916, the Russian front had been pushed less than twenty-five miles west of Trebizond, even though almost two weeks had elapsed since the fall of Trebizond. In the center sector the immediate objective of the Russians was Erzingan. Beyond that they undoubtedly hoped to advance to Swas, an important Turkish base.
Throughout May 11, 1916, engagements of lesser importance took place at various parts of the entire front. During that night the Turks launched another strong night attack in the Erzingan sector, without, however, being able to register any marked success. The same was true of an attack made May 12, 1916, near Mama Khatun.
Accordingly I pedal perseveringly ahead, hoping to reach the city before dusk, at the same time feeling rather surprised at finding it so near, as I haven't been expecting to reach there before to-morrow. Five miles beyond where I met the boy, and just after sundown, I overtake some katir-jees en route to Erzingan with donkey-loads of grain, and ask them the same question.
Here, as at Houssenbeg-khan, there is a splendid, large caravanserai; here it is built chiefly of hewn stone, and almost massive enough for a fortress; this is a mountainous, elevated region, where the winters are stormy and severe, and these commodious and substantial retreats are absolutely necessary for the safety of Erzingan and Trebizond caravans during the winter.