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sixty-two guns, under General Read, moved down the
high road of the Traktir Bridge, and halted opposite the
French. The left wing, 16,000 infantry, seventy guns,
under General Liprandi, moved in two columns ; the
right one, under that general, followed the march of
Read ; the left, under General Bellegarde, descending
the heights by another path, was to halt on the road to
Tchorgoun. The reserve of infantry, 19,000, with thirty-
six guns, was to descend by both roads, and draw up
behind Read ; the great body of cavalry, 8000, with
twenty-eight guns, was to follow Bellegarde ; the reserve
artillery, seventy-six guns, to draw up behind the
infantry reserve.

Gortschakoff's plan was this : at daybreak, Liprandi
was to drive in the Sardinian outposts on the right bank
of the stream, while the whole Army formed to attack.
GortschakofT would then determine whether to use his
whole force for the attack of the Sardinian position, or
for that of the French, and, till he had determined, all
were to await orders. The first step in the programme



270 Battle of the Tchernaya.

was accomplished by driving the Sardinian outposts as
far as the last height on the right bank, which they
continued to hold. But here a terrible disappointment*
according to his own report, awaited Gortschakoff.
General Read, apparently interpreting an order sent to
him " to commence " as meaning " to attack," launched
both his Divisions, prematurely and without a prelimi-
nary cannonade, at the heights held by the French. He
carried the tete de pent with the Division on his left, the
Twelfth, and ascending by the road, it reached the French
lines. But it got no farther. Crushed by a tremendous
fire, it was driven down the hill, and across the stream,
with immense slaughter. Read's other Division, the
Seventh, crossing by fords, endeavoured to move along
between the front of the French and the river, in order to
attack their left flank, but was soon compelled, after a
feeble attempt, to regain its own bank in disorder, and
though suffering a comparatively slight loss, was not again
brought into action. The Twelfth Division, reformed
after its repulse, was now used as a support to the Fifth
of the Reserve in again attacking the French right ; they
again took the tete de pont, and advanced by the road and
neighbouring fords across the stream and up the heights,
but only to be again driven back to their own bank
ravaged as before, and with the loss of General Read,
who was killed. Thereupon the Twelfth and Fifth
Divisions, reduced to half their numbers, were with-
drawn to ground near the bases of the Mackenzie
heights, and Liprandi was ordered to send a brigade
of the Seventeenth Division to the assault. It ascended



Retreat of the Russians. 2 7 1

at the same points as its predecessors, and like them,
after reaching the French lines, and undergoing heavy
loss, was driven back to the other baqk, its retreat being
covered by another of Liprandi's regiments.

Gortschakoff, seeing that the French were being
strongly reinforced (a French Division having reached
the ground, and two others being on the march for it,
while six battalions of Turks had come up), withdrew
his troops. His cavalry and guns formed line across
the valley, the infantry in rear ; and thus for many
hours he waited, beyond cannon shot, in case the Allies
should quit their positions to attack him. But this
formed no part of Pelissier's design. The Russians,
whose disaster was aggravated by want of water, with-
drew, and about two P.M. were seen ascending the road
to the Mackenzie heights, while other columns followed
the route thither from Tchorgoun, till the whole had
quitted the field. The slaughter among them had been
very great. Three generals, sixty-six other officers, and
2300 men were killed ; 160 officers and 4000 men
wounded, and thirty-one officers and 1700 men had
disappeared. The French lost 1500 killed and wounded;
the Sardinians, 200.

With this defeat vanished whatever faint hope the
Russian chiefs might have had of retrieving, in any im-
portant degree, their failing fortunes. The employment
of militia in this battle showed the approaching exhaus-
tion of their resources. In May 1855 Lord Lansdowne
stated in the House of Lords, as derived from authentic
sources, that a return was made up a few days before



272 Russian Losses in the War.

the death of the Emperor Nicholas showing a total loss
to the Russians of 240,000 men. It seems almost in-
credible, but the march through the muddy flats, and
bad, unmetalled roads of Southern Russia, the severity
of the winter there, the traversing of the wind-swept
steppes of the Crimea, supplies and shelter being
throughout the route difficult to obtain, and the trans-
port of the country destroyed, had put such a strain on
the troops that, out of every three men who were de-
spatched to the army, it may be said two fell by the
way. Besides losses of this kind, in the six months
from March to August inclusive, 81,000 men had
been killed or wounded in and around Sebastopol.
There was a cemetery on the north side, called " The
grave of the Hundred Thousand," whither the dead were
conveyed from the works and the hospitals. The
Armies of the Great Military Powers had not at that time
approached to their present magnitude, and it was
evident that even the comparatively huge resources of
Russia must be drawing towards their end.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE DESTRUCTION OF SEBASTOPOL.

What Gortschakoff saw in Sebastopol Yet He resolves to sustain an
Assault French Plan of Assault The Final Bombardment The
French Attacking Forces The English The Assault Cost of
taking the Malakoff Failure of the French elsewhere Failure
at the Redan Predominance of the Malakoff Incidents on
following Days Constancy of the Garrison Final Destruction
of the Fleet.

SEEING how desperate was the condition of the fortress,
Prince Gortschakoff had resolved, after the battle of the
Tchernaya, to abandon the place. In letters to the
Minister for War, of the i8th and 24th August, he
expressed this intention, saying there was not a man in
the Army who would not call it folly to continue the
defence longer. It was with a view to operating a re-
treat that he pressed forward the construction of the
bridge across the harbour, which was to have a roadway
of sixteen feet, and to bear heavy vehicles. He also
conferred with Todleben on other measures to protect
the withdrawal, and, accordingly, barricades were built
across the streets, and formed into armed and defensible
works, in which, as a last resort, to hold in check the
assailants. Preparations were also made for blowing up
the principal forts and magazines.



274 What Gortschakoff saw in Sebastopol.

Another great cannonade had begun on the I7th
August. The French lines had now approached so
close to the place that new additions to them were
immediately destroyed or rendered untenable by the
fire from the Malakoff and Little Redan ; and the shower
of small shells, easily cast into the trenches from the
ramparts, and called by the French bouquets, greatly
increased the losses of men. It was for the silencing
of the artillery which thus hindered the French, that
the Allied batteries opened in full force against the
part of the enemy's lines from the Redan to the great
harbour. But the town front was not included, and the
English batteries suffered greatly from want of support
by the works on their left.

On the 2Oth August Gortschakoff entered the fortress,
and went round the lines of defence, upon which the fire
of the Allies was just then at its height. What he saw
might well confirm him in his resolution to retreat.
There was no longer either a city or a suburb to defend,
for both were heaps of rubbish and cinders. The para-
pets of the works, dried in the heats of summer, and split
in huge fragments by the shot, were crumbling into the
ditches. The interior space was honey-combed with holes
made by the shells. Gabions and sandbags could not be
procured to repair the embrasures, which remained in
ruins. Many of the dismounted guns could no longer be
replaced, not because there were not plenty in the arsenals,
but because to mount them by night, under the deadly fire
of the mortars, entailed such frightful sacrifices of men.
The defenders of the works were packed in caves under



Yet He resolves to sustain an Assault. 275

the parapets ; the gunners lay dead in heaps on the bat-
teries ; the wounded could not be removed by day, because
the communications with the rear were now searched
throughout by the fire of the Allies, and so lay where
they fell, in torment, in the sun, beside the more fortunate
.slain. On landing, the Prince had passed the hospitals,
full to overflowing, and the ambulances with the wounded,
crowding what had been the squares. There was
nothing to relieve the horrible monotony of destruction
and devastation, except the bridge, which promised re-
treat from this misery, and which was approaching
completion.

Yet it was after this visit that the Russian General
changed his mind in the direction of what he had before
termed folly, " I am resolved," he wrote to the Minister
for War, on the ist September, " to defend the south side
to the last extremity, for it is the only honourable course
which remains to us." Calculating that the daily loss of
the garrison was from 800 to 900, and that he could
bring 25,000 men from the Army outside to reinforce it,
by leaving only 20,000 to guard the Mackenzie heights,
he considered he might still prolong the defence for a
month. Everything was against such a cruel determina-
tion ; but he proceeded to execute it so far as in him lay.
It did not, however, rest with him to determine the end.

The cannonade once more reduced the Malakoff, its
dependencies and neighbours, to absolute silence, and
enabled the French to push their works yet closer. The
soil between the Mamelon and Malakoff could be cut
into like a cheese, and the trenches were more easily



276 French Plan of Assault.

made and better constructed here than elsewhere. The
English trenches before the Redan had been stopped by
solid rock ; the French approaches to the Little Redan,
now only forty yards from it, had also got into soil so
stony as would no longer afford cover. The most ad-
vanced approach to the Malakoff was only separated
from it by twenty-five yards ; in the soft soil the trenches
might have been pushed to the very edge of the ditch,
but only with great loss, and, besides, the facility of
mining below them would increase as the distance
lessened. It was therefore deemed that the time for
assault had come, and it only remained to determine
the details. Accordingly, a council of war considered
the matter. After the members had delivered their
opinions, Pelissier expressed himself thus: "I, too,
have my plan, but I will not breathe it to my pillow."
There is, however, no need to be so reticent with the
reader. The French commander had learned that the
relief of the troops in the works before him took place
at noon, and that in' order to avoid the great additional
loss which would be caused by introducing the new
garrisons before the old ones moved out, the contrary
course was followed of marching out most of the occu-
pants before replacing them. Thus noon was the time
when the Malakoff would be found most destitute of
defenders, and noon was to be the hour of the assault.
Also another advantage was offered to the French. The
salient of the Malakoff had been adapted to the form of
the tower which it covered, and was therefore circular,
consequently there was a space in it which could not be



The Final Bombardment. 277

seen or fired on from the flanks ; that was the space
upon which the troops were to be directed. Roadways,
twenty yards wide, were made through the trenches, and
then masked by gabions, easily thrown down, by which
the reserves could be brought up in the shortest time.
The Malakoff, the Curtain, and the Little Redan were
each to be attacked by a Division, supported by a
brigade ; and four Divisions, with other troops, were
destined to attack the Central Bastion and works near
it, and break from thence, by the rear, into the Flagstaff
Bastion. But, first, the cannonade was to be renewed.
It began on the 5th September, and this time it encircled
the whole fortress, the French batteries before the town
opening no less vigorously than the rest. At night a
frigate in the harbour was set on fire by a shell, and the con-
flagration for hours lighted up the surrounding scenery.
On the 6th and 7th the feu d'enferwent on, the Russians
replying but feebly ; on the night of the 7th a line-of-
battle ship was set on fire by a mortar, and burnt nearly
all night ; it contained a large supply of spirits, the blue
flames from which cast a lugubrious light on the ram-
parts from the harbour to the Malakoff, producing, says
Todleben, " a painful impression on the souls of the
defenders of Sebastopol.

Daylight, on the 8th, found the Russian defences com-
pletely manned, the guns loaded with grape, and the
reserves brought close up. But, as the reader knows,
the assault was not yet, and the result of these prepara-
tions to receive it was increased havoc in the exposed

ranks of the defenders.

S



278 The French Attacking Forces.

Many names which acquired fresh distinction in
future wars are found among the French commanders
on this occasion. The Division to attack the Malakoff
was that of MacMahon, one of whose brigades was com-
manded by Decaen, the other by Vinoy ; and in reserve
to it was De WimpfTen's brigade of Camou's Division,
and two battalions of Zouaves of the Guard, under
Colonel Jannin.

Dulac's Division, composed of the brigades of St Pol
and Bisson, was to attack the Little Redan. In reserve
were Marolles' brigade of Camou's Division, and a bat-
talion of chasseurs of the Guard.

Between these two was posted, opposite the Curtain,
between the two bastions, La Motterouge's Division,
formed of the brigades of Bourbaki and Picard ; in
reserve two regiments of voltigeurs, two of grenadiers
of the Guard, the whole under General Mellinet, with
De Failly and Ponteves for brigadiers. Pe"lissier's head-
quarters were in the Mamelon. To avoid giving warning
to the enemy by signalling, the Generals set their watches
by his, and on the stroke of noon, Bosquet, commanding
the whole attack on this side, was to launch his troops
against the lines where the defence was conducted by
General Khrouleff, to aid whom, with their guns, four
steamers were held ready in the waters below.

The attack on the Redan was to be directed by
General Codrington. His Division (the Light) and the
Second, under General Markham, were to supply the
column of attack, of which the covering party, the ladder
party, the working party (to fill up the ditch, and convert



The English. 279

what works we might gain to our own purposes), and
the main body, were to number 1700, and the supports
1500. The remainder of these two Divisions, numbering
3000, was to be in reserve in the third parallel. Also, in
last reserve, were the Third and Fourth Divisions.

No attack on the Redan would have been undertaken
by the English as an isolated operation. Our compul-
sory distance from that work, the want of a place of
arms (that is to say, a covered space in the advanced
trenches of sufficient extent to harbour large bodies of
troops), the construction of which was forbidden by the
rocky soil, and the still unsubdued fire from the ramparts,
all condemned an assault. But it was deemed necessary
as a distraction in aid of the French, and that purpose
it fulfilled.

The two French Divisions for the assault of the
town defences were assembled in "the work of the
2d of May." In the right portion of it, and in the ad-
joining ravine, was the Division of D'Autemarre, formed
of Niol's and Breton's brigades ; in reserve was Bouat's
Division. In the left of the same work was Levaillant's
Division, composed of Trochu's and Couston's brigades,
which was to head the attack on the Central Bastion and
the adjoining works, with Pate's Division in reserve.
Cialdini's Sardinian brigade was to attack the Flagstaff
Bastion as soon as the Central Bastion should be carried ;
and two French regiments were to cover the left of the
forces attacking this part of the lines, which were all
under General de Salles. The town defences opposite
him were commanded by General Semiakine. The



280 The Assault.

English were to await the hoisting of the tricolour
and the Union Jack together in the Mamelon as the
signal for their advance; the French before the town
were to expect further instructions.

At noon the whole of Bosquet's first line rushed from
the trenches. Not a shot was fired at MacMahon's lead-
ing brigade as it crossed with flying steps the short open
space, pushed the planks over the ditch, and partly by
means of these, partly by leaping into the ditch and
mounting the battered escarp, crowded over the parapet.
And here Pelissier's expectations were exactly fulfilled.
The few defenders in the salient were completely sur-
prised, their commanders killed or captured, and the
Zouaves, who headed the attack, took absolute posses-
sion of this corner of the work. But, though the redoubt
covered 350 yards in depth by 150 in width, the open
space within was very small, for, behind the round tower,
rows of traverses, each forming a new line of defence,
crossed it from side to side. As soon as the Russian
garrison issuing from their shelter caves under the
traverses, and the reliefs swarming in, had manned
these, the real struggle began, and it was desperately
bloody. Every traverse was fought for, taken, and
retaken, and it was not till Vinoy's brigade, directed on
the eastern face, had broken in there, in rear of the
traverses, and had from thence combined with the
Zouaves in front in attacking them, that the enemy was
at length forced out of them, and MacMahon's troops
occupied the work throughout its extent Many times
the enemy brought up reserves to retake their strong-



Cost of taking the Malakoff. 2 8 1

hold, but they could do nothing against the closed rear,
now powerfully manned, and Prince Gortschakoff, who
had come up to the foot of the slopes surmounted by the
Malakoff, at length caused his troops to be withdrawn
from the hopeless struggle. It was four o'clock when
the conquest of the principal work was thus fully assured.
Though well worth the price, it had cost very dear.
MacMahon's Division had issued from the trenches with
4520 bayonets and 199 officers. Of these twenty-nine
officers and 292 men lay dead, and eighty-nine officers
and 1729 men were wounded. The Zouaves of the
Guard had lost 311 men out of 627; Wimpffen's brigade,
637 out of 2100 ; in all, 3038.

St Pol's brigade went against the Little Redan, and
Bourbaki's against the Curtain. Both broke into those
works, but there was an interior line of defence stretch-
ing across the space from the rear of the Malakoff to the
rear of the Little Redan. This was strongly defended,
field batteries were brought up by the Russians, and the
ships, keeping in motion, and bringing their broadsides
to bear, made havoc amongst the French in the open
ground. Both the brigades were compelled, with con-
siderable loss, to re-enter the trenches, which were filled
with wounded, and along which it was not easy to pass.
However, Marolles' brigade was at length sent against
the Little Redan, the voltigeurs and grenadiers against
the Curtain, where they once more broke in, and were
once more driven out. It was now that a singular feat
was performed. Bosquet gave the order for two batteries
of field-artillery to advance by the prepared road through



282 Failure of the French elsewhere.

the trenches, and come into action against the guns
which were firing on the French from the Curtain. From
their station behind the Victoria redoubt they advanced
at speed, losing many horses as they went, formed up in
the open space before the Curtain, and came into action
with their twelve-pounders. But the ground was swept
both by the artillery and musketry from the enemy's
parapet. The batteries were at once crushed, and what
was left of them at last withdrew, leaving most of their
men and horses, and their commandant, Souty, dead on
the spot. It was a new operation to essay with artillery.
It was brilliantly attempted, but the heavy sacrifices were
incurred absolutely in vain. The attack on this side
made no further progress.

The portion of Codrington's troops destined to head the
attack on the Redan moved rapidly and steadily across the
open space, though suffering much loss from the heavy
fire of round shot, grape, case, and musketry now directed
on them from every available point, and those in front
passed with. ease over the battered rampart and entered
the work. But the rest, with too strong a reminiscence
of their mode of action in the trenches, lay down at the
edge of the ditch and began firing alongside of the
covering troops, who alone should have performed this
duty. The supports also reached the ditch, and some
of them entered the work. But the great reserves, in
moving through the trenches towards the point of issue,
were obstructed and discouraged by meeting the numbers
of wounded men and their bearers, who were of neces-
sity brought back by the same narrow route, a difficulty



Failure at the Redan. 283

which also hindered some of the French attacks, Colonel
Windham, the leader of the attacking troops, finding
that his messages for support produced no result, took
the ill-advised step of going back himself to procure
reinforcements. It was not surprising that, before he re-
turned, his men also had withdrawn. It is probably in
reference to this that the Engineer Journal remarks, in
excusing the troops, " they retired when they found them-
selves without any officer of rank to command them."
They had been overwhelmed by the numbers which the
Russians brought into the open work ; and as they
hurried back they suffered not less heavily than in their
advance. It was unfortunate for them that the French
had spiked the guns in the Malakoff instead of turn-
ing them on the enemy moving into the Redan, as
they ought to have done. With the immense increase
of difficulties in making way through the crowded
trenches, and renewing the attack against works now
fully armed and manned, the attempt was postponed
till next day, when fresh troops, headed by the High-
landers, were to renew it. In the meantime our bat-
teries once more opened with full effect on the now
crowded Redan.

On the French left the two leading brigades of
Couston and Trochu attacked the two works which
flank on each side the Central Bastion. At first
Couston's troops had some success ; but the Russians,
reinforced, drove both brigades back upon the trenches.
A second assault was even more fruitless. Levaillant's
Division was preparing for a third attempt, when Pelissier,



284 The Retreat of the Garrison.

hearing how complete was the failure, ordered the attack
in this quarter to cease.

The French General had learned, soon after the
Russian attempts to recapture the Malakoff had ceased,
that masses of the enemy were passing by the bridge to
the north side. Still he could not yet feel assured that
his victory was decisive. But, in truth, even before dark-
ness set in, the Russians, withdrawn from all their works,
were collecting and moving to the harbour, under cover
of the barricades; those in front of the town towards the
bridge, those from the works of the suburb towards
points in the harbour where steamers and boats were
to transport them to the north side. By daybreak the
whole of the garrison, carrying most of the wounded
with them, had made good their retreat. But the
means adopted to prevent the Allies from pressing into
the place revealed, during the night, that Sebastopol
was being abandoned. Measures had been taken by the
garrison to ensure the explosion of the magazines in the
works and forts at considerable intervals. Thirty-five
of these were blown up successively, the first at eleven
o'clock ; at the same time fires broke out wherever any-
thing combustible yet remained in the ruined city, and
the glare of the conflagrations was augmented by the
burning of two line-of-battle ships in the harbour, where
most of the rest were at the same time sunk. All night
sleep was driven from the camps by the roar of the ex-
plosions, which shook the plains as if with the tremors of


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Online LibraryEdward Bruce HamleyThe war in the Crimea → online text (page 18 of 20)