Edward Bruce Hamley.

The war in the Crimea online

. (page 7 of 20)
Online LibraryEdward Bruce HamleyThe war in the Crimea → online text (page 7 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

right and their fortifications, which would enfilade our
trenches in proportion as they were pushed forward.

On the other side of the Woronzoff ravine, on the
slope between it and the Docks ravine, which, like the
other slope, varied from 400 to 600 yards in width, was
traced the work called, after the engineer who constructed
it, Gordon's Battery, and known later as the first parallel
of our Right Attack. The name of the slope was Mount
Woronzoff, and this slope or ridge was the only one that
led direct to the Redan without intervening obstacles.

Again, on the next slope, which lay between the
Docks ravine and the Careenage ravine, our sailors
made and armed with heavy guns a work called the
Victoria Battery. It was not less than 2000 yards from
the enemy's works, at which distance its guns were well
within their own range, and almost outside that of the
opposing artillery. It was also known as the Lan-
caster Battery, because armed with Lancaster guns.

The First French Batteries. 97

Of these batteries, part of Chapman's guns, which
were forty-one in number, fired across the great ravine
upon the Flagstaff Bastion and its dependencies, that
lay between the French attack and the city ; part across
the Woronzoff ravine, on the faces of the Redan, and
the works in extension of it on its proper right. Gordon's
guns, twenty-seven in number, bore in parts, according to
their position, on the left face of the Redan, on the Mala-
koff, and on the ships in the inner harbour and the Careen-
age Creek. The naval battery bore on the Malakoff,
which stood on the continuation of the same slope, and
one gun was directed on a ship in the Careenage Creek.

The task of the French was much easier. The
ground on their side was much more easily trenched,
and trenches there were not exposed as ours were to
be enfiladed (fired into lengthways) by guns outside the
fortress. A hill which they named Mount Rodolph
gave them the means of opening their trenches against
the Central and Flagstaff Bastions at somewhat shorter
range than ours, being about 1000 yards, and the proxi-
mity of their base enabled them to bring up their siege
train with comparative facility.

But, of course, none of the trenches, French or
English, were begun till the work of bringing up the
siege-guns, and their supplies of ammunition, to depots
near at hand, was well forward. It was not till the night
of the 9th of October, when a fresh wind from the north-
east favoured the enterprise, by preventing the enemy
from hearing the men at work, that the French broke
ground on Mount Rodolph, and by morning had made


98 Co-operation of the Fleets demanded.

a trench there iioo yards long. On the nights of the
loth and the nth the English opened their works on
Green Hill and Mount Woronzoff. Each day the
Russians cannonaded heavily the works of the night,
and each night these works were repaired and pushed
steadily forward till, by the evening of the i6th, all
the siege batteries were complete in guns and ammuni-
tion. The French placed fifty-three guns in battery,
making with ours 126 in all. To these the Russians
opposed 118; besides which, 220 pieces would bear
upon attacking troops.

The cannonade which was expected to usher in the
final act of the war was therefore to begin on the
morning of the i/th. And now a question had arisen
which must always be of interest when (as is so com-
monly the case in England's wars) the navy is in close
co-operation with the army. It appeared to the mili-
tary commanders that the fleets .might greatly aid the
land attack by standing in and engaging the sea-forts.
Writing to Admiral Dundas, on the I3th October, Lord
Raglan says, " I know no way so likely to insure
success as the combined efforts of the Allied naval and
military forces." After pointing out that the recent
success on the Alma had led all to believe that the
capture of the place would be accomplished, he ends
thus : " Not to disappoint these universal expectations,
the combined efforts of all branches of the naval and
military service are necessary, and none, I am sure, will
be withheld. Excuse my pressing these considerations
on your attention."

The Fleets to join in the Cannonade. 99

Every reader can perceive how difficult it must be for
a commander to resist such an appeal. Dundas con-
sented, but, as he himself said, " with reluctance." At
a conference of the Allied admirals, on the I5th, it was
resolved that all their ships should make a simultaneous
attack upon the sea-forts. But all the English captains
considered that the attack of the fleets should be made
not at the time of the preliminary cannonade, but at the
moment of the intended assault. The judgment of the
admirals on this point was that it should be left to the
military commanders to say in what stage of the con-
flict the navy should render the aid of its broadsides,
whether all at the time of the land cannonade, all at the
time of the assault, or partly at each of these stages.

The military commanders replied on the i6th. They
chose the last alternative ; they applauded the conclu-
sion the admirals had come to as " a great resolve,"
and expressed their belief that " moral and material
effects " would be produced which must " insure the
success of the attack upon Sebastopol."

Now the primary object of the fleets had been to
render the passage of the Black Sea secure. This had
become less pressing since the sealing up of the harbour
nevertheless the possibility still existed, and must be
provided against, of giving to the Russian Fleet still afloat
the opportunity of sallying out upon a foe so broken by
conflict as to be open to defeat. And the prospects of
an engagement between ships and such forts as defended
the harbour, solid edifices of hard stone, with casemates
for the guns, and armed with a numerous and powerful

ioo Ships versus Forts.

artillery, were not hopeful for the ships. If such an
attack were pushed home by them, no limit could be
placed to the damage they might suffer. The chances
of being riddled, sunk, set on fire by shell or hot shot,
ruined as steamers, and disabled by damage to structure
or by loss of men, were absolutely indefinite. On the
other hand, the probability of ruining the walls of the
forts might to some considerable extent be calculated
beforehand, and was not promising. Only a very close
fire could accomplish this, and that could not but mean
unknown damage to the ships. Nevertheless, it might
well be worth while to run great risks if the success ol
the assault could be clearly seen to be thereby assured.
But it is impossible to gather from the language of the
generals what it was they expected from the co-opera-
tion of the fleets. " If," says Lord Raglan to Admiral
Dundas, " the enemy's attention can be occupied on the
sea front as well as upon that of the land, there will be
a much greater chance of making a serious impression
upon their works of defence, and of throwing the garrison
into confusion." Again : " Their (the fleets') presence
would go far to make all feel that victory would be
nearly a matter of certainty," and the Allied generals
had, as we have seen, talked of " moral and material
effects " to be produced by combined action, which
must insure the success of the attack. But this brings
us, and could have brought the admirals, no nearer
to the actual results to be expected. The only way
in which the assault could be facilitated would be by
causing the withdrawal of Russian troops from the

Risk to no Purpose. 101

threatened land fronts. But troops could be of no
use against an attack by ships upon sea-forts, and no
such withdrawal would have taken place. It may be said
that the gunners would thus be detained in the sea-forts
who might otherwise have reinforced those employed on
the land batteries. But that might have been effected
equally well only by the menace of a naval attack.
Thus the naval commanders must have been, and were,
conscious that their fleets were about to run a great risk
for no definite end, and with the likelihood of being
compelled to appear to suffer defeat.

Kinglake, who knew both Dundas and Lord Raglan,
and who was then in the Crimea, thinks they might
have come to a more satisfactory conclusion in a
personal interview. But they were not on cordial terms,
and had not met for some time. On the other hand,
Sir Edmund Lyons, the second in command in the
fleet, was in constant communication with the General.
We have seen that he offered advice both as to the
expediency of attacking the north side, and of an imme-
diate assault after the flank march ; it was owing to his
counsel that we took Balaklava for a base ; and now it
was he who urged that the fleets should join in the
attack. It was very unfortunate that he enjoyed such
credit with Lord Raglan as to be listened to even when
giving opinions about the operations of the armies, con-
cerning which Lord Raglan had legitimate advisers at
hand. He was always in favour of unhesitating and
adventurous action, a course to which he may have been
inclined, more than he was conscious of, by a^chance

IO2 Positions of the Fleets.

similarity of person to the commander whose whole life
was an example of valorous resolve. He was very like
Nelson, and was naturally proud of the resemblance,
though Nelson was no beauty, and may have secretly felt
that a conformity in spirit also would be becoming. In
these earlier stages of the war, his rash desire to do
something effective rendered him Lord Raglan's evil
genius, and how rash his impulses could be was shown
a little later v/hen he succeeded Dundas in the command
of the fleet ; for he who now so hotly urged a naval
attack never made the slightest attempt on Sebastopol
when he had become responsible for such an action, and
had found by experience how fruitless it would be.
Dundas must have felt himself placed at a great dis-
advantage with such an associate, as any commander
must feel in having a too self-assertive subordinate, who
wants to take the lead, and who fancies he has a popular
repute to maintain.

The naval attack was not, however, executed as had
been arranged. At the urgent instance of the French, a
change was made in the morning. It was decided that
the French Fleet should approach to within 1600 to 1800
yards of the coast line, from Cape Cherson to the middle
of the mouth of the roadstead, and anchor there, firing
on the Quarantine Fort and Alexander ; and that the
British should prolong the line so as to include in their
fire Fort Constantine and the Telegraph and Wasp
Batteries, on the coast of the north side. Several hours
were occupied in thus anchoring the ships, and the land
attack began without them.

The Cannonade begins. 103

Both sides had received reinforcements during the
period of preparation. Menschikoff had by the transfer
of troops from his army increased the number of soldiers
in the garrison by 25,000. On the other hand, the Allied
Fleets had sent men, guns, and ammunition to help
the armies. More than 3000 seamen and marines were
landed by Dundas, and the sailors became, as the Naval
Brigade, a well-known feature of the siege. Of the guns
already enumerated as arming the English batteries,
twenty-nine were manned by the sailors. The French
received from their admiral aid of the same kind.

One other circumstance of this period remains to be
noticed. The Russians had pushed their outposts con-
siderably in advance of their line of works on the side
of the MalakofT, and Sir John Burgoyne had therefore
desired, for the better security of his siege batteries
(which had indeed been established at such a distance
from the enemy's works partly because of the forward
positions of these outposts) that the investing armies
should be, in the main, pushed nearer to the enemy's
lines. Our generals of division did not concur in
this desire. They considered that a more advanced
position could only be maintained at a perilous risk.
But the French took advantage of the shelter afforded
by Mount Rodolph to establish close behind it a brigade
of infantry, and thus their batteries there were strongly
supported, and the troops which would form the head of
their column of assault were as near as possible to the
Flagstaff Bastion.

At the earliest dawn on the i/th the Russians, as

IO4 French Fire silenced.

they descried the embrasures in the hitherto blank faces
of the batteries, began a desultory fire upom them. At
the concerted hour, half-past six, three French shells
from Mount Rodolph gave the signal, and the Allied
batteries opened throughout their extent, the Russian
works replied, and spectators gathering from the camps
in rear looked down upon the most tremendous conflict
of artillery which, up to that time, the earth had ever
witnessed. For four hours it continued almost un-
abated, while the onlookers could draw no conclusion
from the incessant streams of fire which crossed between
the opposing works. For although the English batteries
had ruined the MalakofT Tower, dismounting the guns
on its roof, and disabling the batteries below by the
fall of its fragments, and though considerable damage
had been done to all the Russian works, yet all except
the Malakoff maintained their fire, and on the side of
the French attack no superiority had become evident.
It was about ten o'clock that an explosion took place
on Mount Rodolph. A shell had blown up the principal
magazine, killing about fifty men, and silencing the fire
of the nearest battery. On the remaining French guns
the Russians concentrated their fire, and at half-past ten
the batteries of our allies were reduced to silence.
Henceforth the hope of delivering a general assault had
vanished, and the fire of the English batteries was main-
tained only to cover the discomfiture of their allies.

On our side things had gone, and continued to go
very well. Great havoc was wrought on the parapets
and gorges of the opposing works, on their guns and

English Fire successful. 105

gunners, and on the battalions drawn up in support.
At half-past eleven Admiral Korniloft was mortally
wounded in the Malakoff. The batteries in the earth-
works around the tower gradually ceased to fire. By
three o'clock a third of the guns in the Redan were
silenced, and very soon afterwards we blew up a large
magazine there, reducing great part of the parapet and
embrasures to a shapeless ruin, killing more than 100
men, and silencing the rest of its guns. Todleben says
the defence in that part of the lines was completely
paralysed, and that an immediate assault was expected,
while the troops drawn up to meet it in rear of the work
had become so demoralised that they fell back and
sought the shelter of the scarped edge above the inner

It will be seen, then, that the purpose of establishing
the siege batteries had on our side been accomplished.
All that was expected from them had come to pass ;
the way was cleared, so far as it lay in them to clear it,
by opening a passage for our troops into the Redan,
and silencing its supporting work the Malakoff. But
the disaster to the French had put an end to all thoughts
of an assault by them on the Flagstaff Bastion, and the
two attacks being interdependent, the design could not
be executed. Our fire continued till dusk, and then the
cannonade ceased everywhere.

The event had thoroughly justified the prevision
of Sir John Burgoyne. The Russian heavy batteries
opposed to us had been extinguished by our fire, and
the assault would probably have been delivered in the

io6 Losses on both Sides.

hour before dawn next day, or possibly just before
nightfall on the I7th, when it seems more than pro-
bable that the first step in the capture of the place
would have been accomplished, namely, a secure lodg-
ment on the enemy's main works. Had the French
been equally successful in clearing the way to the
Flagstaff Bastion, the success of the enterprise would
have been assured so far as undertakings can be
which are so largely imbued with the element of

Our losses were slight, that of the French in killed
and wounded about 100 men, the English forty-seven.
The Russians lost more than iioo; not only were
whole detachments repeatedly swept from the guns by
our shot, and 100 men destroyed by the explosion, but
their casualities were vastly increased by the necessity
of keeping ready behind the works the troops which
were to meet the expected assault, who could not be
sheltered from the storm of missiles which swept over
the fortified line.

As the ships effected nothing which could influence
the fortunes of the day, it has not been essential to
describe earlier the part they took. At one o'clock
they had taken up their positions. The British ships
prolonged the line across the outside of the harbour
until met by a shoal between them and the coast of the
north side. Inside that shoal a channel was found, and
was entered by Lyons in the Agamemnon (brought out
of Balaklava for the action), followed by the Sanspareil
and London. These ships approached Fort Constantine

Action of the Fleets. 107

to from 800 to 1000 yards, and their broadsides speedily
destroyed the batteries on its roof. But they made
small impression on its casemates, and found themselves
under a fire from the batteries on the cliff which they
were powerless to return. Many other ships entered the
channel to help them, but all experienced the power of
these small, high-placed batteries, which they were
unable to reach with their fire. Nearly all were set on
fire, some in many places. All suffered great damage,
and considerable loss of men, and all were compelled to
withdraw from the action. It was with these facts before
him that Todleben ventured, in enumerating the ad-
vantages with which, according to him, the Allies would
have attacked the north side, to assert that the ships
could have silenced the very works which inflicted this
damage with impunity, and could also have brought
their fire to bear on the Star Fort, 1000 yards farther

After the cannonade had lasted about four hours
and a half, the fleets withdrew out of action. They had
brought noo guns to bear; the forts replied with 152.
The French ships lost 203 men ; the English, 317 ; the
Russian garrison, 138.

On the 1 8th the French batteries were still unable
to reopen fire, while the English works and guns, little
damaged, once more asserted their superiority over the
Redan and Malakoff. But dawn had disclosed a new
feature in the problem. At nightfall we had looked on
works reduced to shapeless heaps, on ruined batteries
and disabled guns. Before morning the parapets had

1 08 English Batteries still efficient.

been rebuilt, the batteries repaired, and fresh guns from
the inexhaustible supplies of the ships and arsenal had
occupied the embrasures ; and the Allies could now
begin to realise how formidable was the opponent
who could thus, as chief engineer, wield the resources
of the place. The recuperative power of the enemy,
taken along with the failure of the French batteries,
diminished indefinitely the chances of taking the place
by assault. Nevertheless the hope of achieving that
result was far from being abandoned, and there was
yet a space of time in which the operations of the
Allies were concentrated on the preparation for a re-
newal of the cannonade as the preface to a combined
assault on the chief works between the French and the
town. It should be noted, to the credit of our engineers,
siege- artillery, and seamen, that while explosions
frequently took place in the French and Russian
batteries, our magazines remained intact ; while their
works and the occupants of them suffered severely from
enfilade, our losses continued to be slight On the i8th,
1 9th, and 2Oth, when we met single-handed the whole
weight of the enemy's fire (the French being for so long
unable to resume the contest) our aggregate loss in
killed and wounded was only seventy-five men. Up
to the 25th October our daily average loss was
seventeen, while at the same date the aggregate of
Russians killed and wounded in their works amounted
to 3834 men.



Outworks before Balaklava Russians capture them Movements of the
Heavy Brigade Charge of the Heavy Brigade Russian Cavalry
defeated The Orders to the Light Brigade Russians both sides
of Valley Nolan and Lord Lucan Charge of the Light Brigade
Charge of the Chasseurs Return of the Light Brigade Close
of the Action No Attempt at Re-capture Weak Point in Allied
Defences French Measures too exclusive First Action of Inker-
man Object of It The Sandbag Battery Preparation for an
Assault Assembly of Russian Forces.

THE drama now shifted into a new act, in which the
Allies were to be themselves attacked, and forced to
fight for their foothold in the Crimea.

Immediately after he quitted Sebastopol, Menschikoff
had been joined by the remainder of his forces in the
peninsula, hitherto beyond the sphere of action, being
stationed in its south-western corner. These amounted
to 12,000 men, and he also received the further reinforce-
ments which, as already said,, were on their way from
Russia. In fact, the troops which might come to him
from thence had, practically, no other limit than the
means of transporting them. He therefore drew closer
to the place, and while keeping his main force beyond
our ken, had begun on the 7th October to send parties
down to the Tchernaya. Soon afterwards his lieu-
tenant, General Liprandi, established his headquarters

1 10 Outworks before Balaklava.

at Tchorgoun, on the further bank, and the force of
all arms placed under him began to assemble about
that place. It gradually grew till it reached, according to
Russian official accounts, the number of 22,000 infantry,
3400 cavalry, and seventy-eight guns, when it was con-
sidered strong enough for immediate action.

It has been said that the valley between Balaklava
and the Tchernaya is crossed by a line of low heights,
stretching from the foot of the plateau to the village of
Kamara, and that along their course lies the Woronzoff
road. Four of these hills had earthworks on their sum-
mits mere sketches with the spade ; a donkey might
have been ridden into some of them and they had been
armed with, in all, nine twelve-pounder iron guns. The
extent of this line of works was more than two miles.
Their garrisons had no support nearer than the 93d
regiment, and the Turks and marines immediately
around the harbour, who were 3000 yards off. The
Russians had, of course, observed this, and also the
weakness of the works, from the high hills above Kamara,
and at daybreak on the 25th October their attack began.
Crossing the Tchernaya from the Traktir Bridge up-
wards, and keeping at first altogether on the side of the
valley nearest Kamara, their advanced guard came
rapidly on, brought ten guns into positions commanding
the hill (known as Canrobert's Hill) most distant from
us and nearest Kamara, and began to cannonade it.
Liprandi's main body was coming up, and he at length
brought thirty guns, some of them of heavy calibres, to
bear upon Canrobert's Hill and the next to it. These

Russians capture Them. 1 1 1

replied from their five twelve-pounders ; and about this
time a troop of our horse-artillery and a field battery,
supported by the Scots Greys, were brought up to the
ridge, and joined in the artillery combat, till the troop,
having exhausted its ammunition, was withdrawn with
some loss in men and horses.

When the formidable character of the attack was
seen, our First and Fourth Divisions, and two French
brigades, were ordered down to the scene of action.
Reaching the point where the Woronzoff road descends
from the plateau, the First Division made a short halt.
If its orders had enabled it to march down to the plain
there, followed by the other troops mentioned, the
enemy must have hastily withdrawn over the Tchernaya,
or have accepted battle with his back to the Kamara
Hiljs. Instead of this, it was marched along the edge of
the heights towards the other road down from the
plateau at Kadikoi. Moving at a height of several
hundred feet above the valley, it saw the plain spread
out like a map, and what next occurred there took place
immediately below it, and in full view. The Russians
had just captured the two assailed outworks. That on
Canrobert's Hill was occupied with a battalion of Turks
and three of the guns already mentioned, the other with
half a battalion and two. After silencing the guns,

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryEdward Bruce HamleyThe war in the Crimea → online text (page 7 of 20)