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The Thirteenth Regiment

The World War has shown clearly that all peoples are not alike, that
they do not think alike, that they do not feel in the same way about
the great things of life and death, and that they do not live alike.
England felt very differently from Germany about invading a state whose
neutrality both nations had guaranteed.

The difference is largely due to education in the home, the church, and
the school; but it is also the result of heredity. Races seem to
differ naturally in regard to these things. The Germans have always
been cruel, hard, and unmerciful, while the French are tender and
inclined to be too easy, even with wrongdoers. The Slav is dreamy,
musical, and poetic, while the Bulgarians seek to gain their ends by
deceit and brute force. In thinking of the nations and the peoples of
the Balkan peninsula, we must be sure to distinguish clearly between
them, for they are not at all alike.

Only at the beginning and at the end of the World War have we heard
much of Serbia. At the beginning, two Serbians, who were, however,
Austrian subjects, assassinated the Crown Prince of Austria, Archduke
Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, on June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo, the
capital of Bosnia, an Austrian province. Whether the war had been
already planned or not, this assassination was used as a reason for
Austria's attack upon Serbia.

General Putnik, a great commander, was put in charge of the Serbian
troops. As General Joffre did in France, he retired before the greatly
superior numbers of the enemy, until he was in a position to
counterattack and win a victory. Joffre was thus able to save his
country from being entirely devastated and defeated, but General Putnik
was not. Instead the Serbian army disappeared as a determining force,
until near the end of the war when it helped to bring Bulgaria to her

The Serbians sing as they go into battle, for, as has been said, they
are an imaginative and a musical people. The heroes of today are
blended in their visions with the Serbian heroes of ancient days, and
their battle songs are of them both, or first of one and then of the

As they went into their last victorious battles in 1918 against the
brutal and lying Bulgarians, they sang a sad but spirited song, the
words of which may be translated into English as follows:--

Colonel Batsicht, the Austrians are a thousand to one, but what does
it matter? You are only one, yourself, but you are Colonel Batsicht!
Were the Austrians as many as the leaves in the forests and their rush
to attack more violent than the flood of the Vardar in the spring time,
you would even then be their equal, Colonel Batsicht!

And the marvelous thing about the words of this wonderful battle song
is that they are true, and that one man fighting for the right with the
spirit and devotion of Colonel Batsicht is always the equal of
thousands seeking to establish the wrong. In all the history of the
world, nothing has proved this so fully and so clearly as the story of
Belgium in the World War. Standing like one man against thousands, she
saved the world and herself.

Colonel Batsicht was in command of the Thirteenth Regiment of Infantry
in the Serbian army at the opening of the war in 1914. When the
Austrians attacked in force, General Putnik decided upon a general
retirement to save his armies.

On the evening of the 27th of November, 1914, while this retirement was
being carried out, the commanding general sent the following orders to
Colonel Batsicht, If possible, hold your ground for twenty-four hours.
If necessary, sacrifice your regiment to save the Serbian army.

Colonel Batsicht sent back word to the commanding general, I have your
orders and they will be carried out. Then he set about preparing to
defend the heights which his regiment was holding.

At seven o'clock the next morning, sixteen battalions of Austrian
infantry, ten batteries, and four squadrons of cavalry attacked the
position. At the firing of the first gun, Colonel Batsicht looked at
his watch and exclaimed, The twenty-four hours for which we must hold
our ground have now begun!

The Austrians were ten against one and the battle was a furious one.
Three times the Austrians were driven back; but from their great
numbers and from reinforcements coming up, they soon reformed and
renewed the attack and were finally successful in pushing back the
Serbian right wing for a short distance. But Colonel Batsicht quickly
rallied his forces, and they stood their ground. Then the left wing
wavered and the colonel hurried to the left end of his line to
reorganize it and encourage the men. He was wounded himself, but this
did not stop him and his presence was enough to make his soldiers
invincible. So all through the day, Colonel Batsicht directed and
encouraged, and at evening the Thirteenth Regiment of Infantry of the
Serbian army still held the line although most of their number had been
killed and their colonel twice wounded.

The Austrians were much disturbed by the heroic resistance of the small
body of Serbian soldiers and determined in the early morning of the
next day to finish the matter quickly. At dawn they attacked and the
Serbians gave way, first on one wing and then on the other, and at last
in the center. The reserve was thrown in but could not prevent the
Austrians from slowly advancing. It was six o'clock and the Serbians
had held the line for twenty-three hours. The few officers that were
uninjured urged Colonel Batsicht to order a retreat.

It is no use to struggle longer, replied the colonel. Order the men
to retire.

Come with us, said the officers.

No, replied the colonel, I cannot. I promised to hold this ground
for twenty-four hours, and I must remain for one hour longer.

But we cannot go without you, cried the officers.

Obey my orders! Return to your troops and retire with them! said the
colonel sternly.

Military discipline permitted the officers to do nothing but obey.

The colonel was left with his orderly upon the top of the hill up which
the Austrians were advancing. The orderly continued firing until the
first platoon of the enemy were upon them, when he fell, and the
colonel was left standing alone.

Where is the Thirteenth Regiment? asked the Austrian officer.

I am the Thirteenth Regiment, replied the colonel with a smile.

Then surrender, cried the officer.

You insult me by asking me, a colonel in the Serbian army, to
surrender, replied the colonel as he raised his revolver. But the
Austrians were watching sharply and fired first, and the brave colonel
fell mortally wounded.

He was carried back of the Austrian lines in an ambulance. When the
Austrian general was told the story, he hurried to the hospital and
found Colonel Batsicht still alive.

The Austrian told him that it was sad indeed to see such a brave man
dying and that he was sorry the colonel had not surrendered.

I am not sorry, General, replied the colonel.

A few hours later he died, and was buried with military honors.

The Serbian soldiers and the Serbian people will never forget him. He
has now become one of their national heroes. Their imaginative and
poetical natures see him now as one greater than a mere man, as a sort
of superman with the attributes of a god. So they sing in the valley
of the Vardar and in the meadows and mountains of Montenegro and
Albania the sad but spirited song of which the words in English are:--

Colonel Batsicht, the Austrians are a thousand to one, but what does
it matter? You are only one, yourself, but you are Colonel Batsicht!
Were the Austrians as many as the leaves in the forests and their rush
to attack more violent than the flood of the Vardar in the spring time,
you would even then be their equal, Colonel Batsicht!

Next: Where Are You Going Great-heart?

Previous: Harry Lauder Sings

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