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Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2


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And what was the upshot? the forts looked "speckled." "The effect produced on the masonry works is said to have been very small; the archings of two casemated embrasures were shaken, and these were at once repaired." It is stated that the gunners were driven from their guns more than once, and that some pieces were dismounted; but the Russians again steadily resumed their fire, and fired on to the end. The superiority of stone forts, and even earthworks, over ships, remained as firmly established as ever. Indeed, it was strengthened, by the use of most destructive shells with what are called time-fuzes. The fleets did not venture again to attack the great forts at Sebastopol.

The night of the 17th was quite still. Not a shot was fired on either side. The hours of darkness were spent in repairing damages and re-mounting gun». The allies could not keep up a fire in the night, not only because their ammunition was already running short, but because the French needed absolute quiet to renew their batteries. Therefore, all night long the French and Russians were re-fashioning their trenches and mounting fresh guns, and the British were repairing the comparatively slight injuries sustained by their works, enlarging the magazines, and restoring the shattered gun-platforms and gun-carriages.

At dawn, on the 18th, the cannonade was resumed. This time it was a duel between the British and the Russians, for the French had not recovered from the destructive blows they received on the 17th. The Russian fire was far heavier than on the preceding day. The batteries round the Malakoff, the Redan, the Barrack, the Garden, and left face of the Flagstaff batteries, were more vigorous than ever. But our fire did not equal in intensity and weight the fire of the first day. Then, our gunners were lavish of ammunition; now, they hoarded the slender store. Each gun fired once in ten minutes. But the enemy, having behind them the best stocked arsenal in the world, pitched in every kind of missile without stint. Although they could not touch our magazines, again we blew up one of theirs - this time in the Malakoff. The first day we fired as fast as we could, in the hope of subduing their fire and storming in; but on the second day all idea of instant storming had been given up. "We fired to continue the bombardment and enable the French to recover. One ominous sign marked the 18th - the Russians made a reconnaissance from the Tchernaya in the forenoon, upon the lines of Balaclava. Their heavy masses appeared above Tchorgoun, and on the Fedoukine heights, but did not approach nearer. It was the first instalment of the great bodies on the road from Bessarabia.

On the night of the 18th, the French fired a few guns; but the Russians quelled them at once. On the 19th all the batteries of the allies went to work together. We began to fire rockets and red-hot shot, and raised some conflagrations in the place; but they did not spread. The French again suffered severely. Sharpshooters now began to be planted in pits in front of the parallels; they spent their time in firing into the Russian embrasures, and in small engagements with Russian sharpshooters. There were more alarms on the side of Balaclava; but otherwise the steady, monotonous firing went on, and even the noise had ceased to interest or attract notice. Captain William Peel distinguished himself by daring valour. On one occasion he picked up a shell and flung it over the parapet before it could burst. On another, when the Union Jack was shot down, he seized the stump, and, jumping on the parapet, under a storm of shot, waved the flag to and fro until a new staff was brought. Well might the sailors adore such a leader. Two new batteries were constructed: one on the right, to strike at the shipping in the great harbour; one on the left, to fire down the South bay.

But the result of the day's fire was a painful disappointment. The superiority of the Russians was now established. They had more men, more guns, more means of all kinds. On the 19th they fired more shots; they fired steadily, and they had increased their number of guns. The artillery of the besieged was double that of the besiegers. It was all artillery of great weight and great range. The Russian general had men enough to serve all his guns, and to keep very strong parties on guard. Each night he more than repaired the damage done in the day. Todleben seemed to be sleepless. In short, the whole character of the operation, so far as the allies were concerned, had become changed, not by their will, but by time and the will of the Russians. On the morning of the 20th, the English store of ammunition had been so reduced, that very few rounds per gun remained. They had. fired 20,000 the first day. Moreover, the enemy was evidently gathering in force in the valley of the Tchernaya. Therefore the generals took council together, and determined to await the arrival of reinforcements, both of men and means, and then to recommence a fresh bombardment, with a greatly increased force of artillery.

But this decision was practically an abandonment of the original design, an abandonment begun when the flank march was undertaken. It entailed new labours on the engineers and the soldiers. The English batteries and trenches - substantial though they were - had been built, not to withstand and carry out regular siege operations, but solely to obtain temporary cover for guns with which to silence the fire of the place as a preliminary to an assault. Now that the allies had been forced to undertake a regular siege, the batteries and trenches had to be rebuilt, and converted into strong, permanent works. And all this had to be done at night. By the death of Lieut.-Colonel Alexander, we lost a valuable engineer; his place was taken by Captain Gordon. So, day by day, the works were altered, extended, and pushed forward; and new batteries, suggested by the exigencies of the occasion, and the changed character of the operations, were begun. At the same time Todleben very much increased his defensive works, by connecting the various grand batteries and constructing new ones, and even throwing up works in their front. The Russian outposts swarmed over the ground between the allies and the place, and their riflemen built stone screens, behind which they rallied if attacked, or from which they fired at long range. They were constantly supported by field pieces; and it was evident, from their audacity and forwardness, that the garrison had greatly increased in strength. In one sortie on the night of the 20th, they entered the French batteries, and spiked five mortars. Between the 19th and 24th they exploded three French magazines. Not one British magazine had been penetrated up to this time, but many guns had been disabled; and neither in the fortress nor in the trenches of the allies was there rest night or day. The French had received large reinforcements, including the whole of their 5th Division, under General Levaillant, and two regiments ' of cavalry, chiefly Chasseurs d'Afrique; and, according to their official statements, they mustered on the 20th upwards of 40,000 men under arms. On the 23rd they opened their second parallel of attack, and built three new batteries, raising the number of their batteries to nine.

The expedition to the Crimea was undertaken on the idea that Sebastopol could be taken by a landing, a battle, a march, and a coup de main. The allies landed on the 14th. The news of the battle of the Alma reached Paris and London on the 30th of September. On the 1st and 2nd of October came a report that the place had been taken on the 25th. This report was believed by most people, including the British Government, and it was believed by them because they were cognisant of the real nature of the plan. Those who felt and expressed doubts respecting the truth of a story, which rested on the authority of a "Tatar" riding from Constantinople to Silistria - of the "captain" of a steamer who met the captain of another steamer in the Black Sea, and " the Greek houses" - were indignantly silenced. The French Emperor shared in the general delusion, and it was not until the 4th of October that it was dispelled by the arrival of Lord Raglan's despatch of the 28th, stating that he had only just reached Balaclava. In the midst of their labours in the trenches, and when the grave fact, that Sebastopol could not be taken without a regular siege, was becoming more apparent every hour, this wild story reached the allied camp with the English journals, and excited feelings of the warmest indignation. This incident is narrated to show how great were the expectations of the people and the Governments, and how little either knew of the real nature of the enterprise which they had promoted and sanctioned. In England there was a passion to take Sebastopol, and it cannot be doubted that the failure of the original plan, while it intensified that passion, also made the people angry with the heads of the army and. the heads of the state.

The Czar Nicholas was also angry at the invasion of his dominions and the defeat of his troops; and anger and prudence alike dictated the reinforcement of Prince Menschikoff and the resumption of offensive operations. Accordingly, ho gave orders for the march of the 3rd and 4th Corps d'Armée to the Crimea. These troops had to move by Odessa and Nicolaieff to Perekop, and thence by Simpheropol and Batchiserai to Sebastopol. The route was long and the roads were bad. The allied war- steamers off Odessa and the mouth of the Dnieper: barred the shorter passage by sea. But although the route was long and the roads heavy, it was the will of the Czar that his divisions should make for Sebastopol by forced marches; that the men should tramp along where they could get no transport, and should be carried in country carts, when country carts could be had. The 4th Corps, under General Dannenberg, was between Odessa and Nicolaieff on its return from the Danube. It was, therefore, the first to be pushed into the Crimea. But it was upwards of two hundred miles from Sebastopol. Nevertheless, the case was urgent, and the 10th, 11th, and 12th infantry Divisions, the two brigades of horse, and the three brigades of guns of which it was composed, were hurried over the steppes, across the Bug and the Dnieper, through Perekop into the Crimea. The allies were thundering against the defences improvised by Todleben, and so severe was the fire from the British batteries, that Prince Menschikoff was eager for intelligence that the long looked-for succours were in the Crimea. The 12th Division and the cavalry arrived on the 23rd of October, and was immediately directed to enter the valley of the Tchernaya, and reinforce the Vladimir regiment and the Don Cossacks already watching the allies from Tchorgoun.

Prince Menschikoff was meditating a counterstroke, and devising plans to force the allies to raise the siege. Surveying their position, he deemed it assailable on two points from the Tchernaya, in front of Balaclava, and from the head of the harbour on the British right flank opposite Inkermann. Perhaps the feasibility of the latter operation was then only germinating in his mind. The only evidence of its contemplation by him is the fact, that about the 20th of October he got up heavy guns on the heights above the ruins which are in the face of the cliff on the right bank of the Tchernaya, and near its mouth and opposite the camp of the 2nd Division. On our side, we had, from the first, felt jealous of an attack from the head of the harbour. The engineers had pointed out the dangerous state of that flank, and had suggested the occupation by the allies of commanding ground and projecting spurs, whence the roads and paths from the north could be swept by artillery. Little was done, except to form a sandbag battery for two 18-pounders opposite Inkermann, in order to silence the Russian guns on the other side of the ravine. The battery was built, the enemy's guns were silenced, and our artillery was withdrawn, because we were so weak, and the post was held to be too far in advance and liable to a surprise. Prince Menschikoff at that time showed no other indication of any scheme for assaulting our right flank. He was seduced into another operation. The apparent weakness of the British position about Balaclava made him impatient to attack it. From the lofty ridge of Mackenzie, on the north, and from the heights to the east, which on one side look towards the Baidar valley, and the road to the Crimean undercliff, and on the other into Kamara and the Balaclava plain, he saw the weak- looking defences of the allies in front and flank. the little knolls crowned by the Turkish redoubts lay exposed in the plains, nearly two miles from any support. They ran in a curved line north-west from Kamara - No. 1, on a mound called Canrobert's Hill, being nearest to Kamara; and No. 5 being almost under the ridge of Mount Sapoune. Between them and Balaclava and Kadikoi, and on to the Col and the fortified ridge, there was nothing except the Marines on the eastern Balaclava heights, the 93rd in front of the gorge leading to the harbour, the sailors' gun-battery above Kadikoi, and the camps of the British Cavalry Brigades, north-west of that village. Could he not by a rapid and vigorous movement sweep through these defences, expel the Turks, destroy the 93rd, siege Balaclava, and cut off the British from their road out to the sea? Having won Balaclava, and the heights on both sides, could he not next carry the Col, and so break into the rear of the allied camps, and place them between his guns and bayonets and those of Sebastopol? General Liprandi had arrived with the 12th Division and four regiments of horse and " field-guns, and reinforcing these from his over-abundant garrison, Menschikoff determined to attempt the enterprise.

The Russian commander had kept the British on the alert ever since the opening of the bombardment. He showed Cossacks and even infantry in front of Tchorgoun, and on the Fedoukine heights. His parties had mounted the rough hills above Kamara, where a rugged road passing along a narrow neck of rock, connects the main chain of the southern Crimean hills with the eastern Balaclava heights; but they had found the road scarped, and the neck commanded by heavy guns in battery. Sir Colin Campbell, who commanded at Balaclava, feared an attack from Kamara and on this side, and he had done all that was possible, with the scanty means at his disposal, to provide against it. As he watched daily, his keen eye detected the increasing symptoms of the coming storm. But so weak was our force that we could do little, except place guns in the Turkish redoubts, a measure which did not meet with general approval; and in case of attack to rely for safety upon the arrival of troops from the main body in time to give battle to the assailants. The battle was near at hand.

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Pictures for Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2

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Lord Lyons
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