Written in Blood

Written in Blood

The Battles for Fortress Przemyl in WWI
Graydon A.Jr. Tunstall
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/16/2016
Format: Hardback 11 b&w illus., 9 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-02197-7
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Winner, 2016 Tomlinson Prize, World War I Historical Association

Bloodier than Verdun, the battles for Fortress Przemyl were pivotal to victory on the Eastern Front during the early years of World War I. Control of the fortress changed hands three times during the fall of 1914. In 1915, the Austro-Hungarian armies launched three major offensives to penetrate the Russian encirclement and relieve the 120,000 trapped in the besieged fortress. Drawing on myriad sources, historian Graydon A. Tunstall tells of the impossible conditions facing the garrison: starvation, "horse-meat" diets, deplorable medical care, prostitution, alcoholism, dismal morale, and a failed breakout attempt. By the time the fortress finally fell to the Russians on March 22, 1915, the Hapsburg Army had sustained 800,000 casualties; the Russians, over a million. The fortress, however, had served its purpose. Tunstall argues that the besieged garrison kept the Russian army from advancing farther and obliterating the already weakening Austro-Hungarian forces at the outset of the War to End All Wars.

Author Bio

Graydon A. Tunstall is Senior Research Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of South Florida and author of Blood in the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915.


“Drawing on myriad sources, Tunstall tells of the impossible conditions facing the garrison: starvation, “horse-meat” diets, deplorable medical care, prostitution, alcoholism, dismal morale, and a failed breakout attempt.”

“A valuable and unique contribution to the history of both WWI and European fortress war. This work will be cited long after ones on more glamorous subjects have been relegated to library shelves, and in my professional judgment, Tunstall is the only scholar who could have done it.”
 — Dennis Showalter, author of Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk

“Written in Blood is a must-have reference to an often neglected Great War front and to the inner workings of the Austro-Hungarian Army. It is rich with well-researched information arising from primary archival documents about siege conditions, military units in the fighting, and conditions endured by soldiers and civilians who shared their hardships. ”
 — Roads to the Great War

“Academics and readers of popular history will find Tunstall's narrative stimulating and informative, as he transitions smoothly through the levels of war, and the failures in planning and exectuion experienced by the Dual Monarchy in each. Overall, Written in Blood is an extremely useful and informative work about the Eastern Front in World War I and the significance of a critical outpost.”
 — Journal of Military History

“"Although his text has its flaws, especially needless repetitions,[5] Graydon Tunstall has written a welcome, finely detailed account of the battles for Fortress Przemyśl and the offensives of the Carpathian Winter War. It will engage and instruct readers with any interest in the larger context of Austria-Hungary's eastern-front campaigns."”
 — Michigan War Studies Review

    "Along with the earlier work, Blood on the Snow, this book not only solidifies Tunstall’s place as a first-rate historian of the Habsburg Army, but it finally lays to rest the many postwar heroic memoirs and histories of the k.u.k. Army in the Great War. Thanks to Tunstall, we now have a much clearer and more focused account of General Conrad’s disastrous leadership in 1914–15."”
     — Slavic Review

    “This important work remedies the need for an operational account of the fortresses’ fate. All sorts of issues emerge, for example the garrison’s spy hysteria which resulted in the shooting and hanging of hundreds of Ruthenians. The books deserves the attention of scholars in this field.”
     — European Review of History

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    Table of Contents

    List of Maps
    1. Introduction: Fortress Przemyl
    2. The Opening Battles, August-September 1914
    3. Siege and Liberation, October 1914
    4. The Second Siege, November 1914
    5. Limanova-Lapanov and Defeat, December 1914
    6. The First Two Carpathian Mountain Offensives, January to Mid-March 1915
    7. The Third Carpathian Mountain Offensive, Early March 1915
    8. Breakout Attempt and Surrender of the Fortress, March 1915
    9. Gorlice-Tarnov and After
    10. Conclusion

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