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Chapter XX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8


Effects of the Combat at Balaclava - Its Lessons - The Position contracted - Plans of the Allies - Frustrated by the Enemy - The Position of Inkermann - Neglected Perforce - Weak Defences - Action of the 26th of October - Defeat of the Enemy - Mr. Hewett's 68-pounder - Menschikoff Reinforced: his Strength - The Strength of the Allies- Russian Plans - Battle of Inkermann - English surprised: they run to Arms - Heavy Russian Attacks repelled - Power of the Russian Batteries - False Attacks from Balaclava Valley and the Town - Two British Divisions check the Enemy - The Sandbag Battery - Advance of the Guards - Lord Raglan arrives - The Enemy brings up Fresh Columns - Dannenberg - The Grand Dukes - The 18-pounders - New Infantry Fights - The Coldstreams in the Sandbag Battery - Bloody Combat - Enemy successful - The Guards retake the Battery: but are again expelled - Death of Cathcart - The State of Affairs - Arrival of the French - New and sharp Engagements - The Russians frustrated: they retreat fighting - Canrobert declines to pursue - Losses on both sides - Council of War - Lord Raglan's firmness: its value to England.
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The lower range of heights in front of Balaclava, and the seven British guns taken from the Turks were the only material advantages gained by the enemy on the 25th of October. Moral advantages, beyond those implied in the capture of guns, he gained none. In order to strike a severe blow, Liprandi should have carried Balaclava as well as the Turkish redoubts; and had the British cavalry or the 93rd Regiment shown the least hesitation, the slightest symptom of wavering, it is most probable that the Russians would have instantly overrun the valley, and have swept like a torrent through the gorge into the little port. The charges of the cavalry and the steadfastness of the 93rd balked the Russian general. The Russian horse and Russian infantry fell again under that moral ascendancy established at the Alma, and never lost. Therefore the moral advantages of the combat of Balaclava were on the side of the allies.

Moreover, the strong demonstration of Liprandi afforded physical proof of the weakness of the position. It opened the eyes of the generals to the precarious tenure under which they held this priceless port. It caused the expediency of retaining Balaclava to be raised as a serious question. Coming so swiftly on the failure of the week's bombardment, it served to deepen the dawning impression that the expedition itself had failed, and that the allies must make up their minds to a protracted winter campaign, to be carried on by a weak force, or to an ignoble abandonment of the enterprise - to a retreat from the Crimea. These were grave and perplexing questions. Lord Raglan, in concert with General Canrobert, had to answer them, and to do so without a moment's delay.

The two generals met at Balaclava on the 26th of October, surveyed the position, and reckoned their resources. Lord Raglan called to his aid Colonel Gordon, of the Engineers, and ordered him to report on the practicability of retaining Balaclava as a base of operations. The report was favourable. With a slight increase of force, Colonel Gordon said, works could be thrown up that would maker it impregnable to any force the enemy could bring against it; the generals at once resolved to hold fast to the port; and that same afternoon fatigue parties began to ply the pick and spade, and commenced those lines which so soon became immensely strong. The force of marines was increased to 1,200 men. More sailors were landed. the three Highland regiments were posted about Balaclava, and a French brigade, under Brigadier Vinoy, took up a position at Kadikoi, and immediately entrenched themselves. Soon a connected series of entrenchments ran from the lofty heights to the east of Balaclava, overlooking the sea, down the slope, in front of the gorge leading to the port, and then westward to the Col, where they entered the French lines protecting the pass, and extending far along Mount Sapoune. Thus the position was contracted in order to meet the exigencies of the moment; and the contraction of the lines forced the British to abandon the Woronzoff road, a good, sound military way, and left them with only one road to the front, that which passed by Kadikoi and over the Col. So that the connection between the British army and the sea, whence they drew all their supplies, was this tortuous thread of a road, which the weather was, even then, rapidly decomposing into primitive mud. From this moment the allies were at once the besiegers and the besieged. They were assailing Sebastopol, and the Russians were in great force on the exterior of the lines of contravallation. All Russia was open to the defenders of Sebastopol. The small ports of Kamiesch and Balaclava alone were the outlets from the allied camps to France and England. The supplies of the Russians were immense, especially supplies of guns, timber, ammunition, shot, shell, and men; the supplies of their assailants were limited, and they could only be renewed from countries far away over the sea. This was the crisis of the expedition. If Lord Raglan's heart failed him all would be lost. It did not fail. Come what might, he resolved to hold fast to the nook of Russian land the allies had won, and show a stout front to adversity. But one step was taken which had most calamitous consequences. All the transports that were not absolutely needed were ordered to leave the harbour and anchor outside. And there they were left, although the coast was rocky, and the Black Sea famous for its tempests, and the masters of the ships filled with apprehensions. It looks as if Lord Raglan had not then determined on wintering in the Crimea, and still cherished hopes that, with the few troops they had, the allies could take Sebastopol, destroy it, and sail away. Vain delusion ő The storms were gathering around. The Czar, grown angry and impatient, had determined to strike a powerful blow, retrieve his shattered fortunes, and punish the presumption of the allies.

The difficulties of the British were far greater than those of the French. The latter had received large reinforcements, they were nearer to their port, and the roads on their side were better. Nor were the difficulties of the British confined to mere physical obstructions. The small army which landed in the Crimea on the 14th of September had dwindled away. Its numbers were too few for the work to be done. The engineers could not be supplied with fatigue parties of strength sufficient to execute the actual requirements of each day. A third parallel, as a protection to the batteries, was begun, but could not be completed. In order to supply, in some degree, the deficiency, a regiment of Turks was marched up to the plateau, and small parties were employed in the trenches. All this time the weakened force of infantry had to furnish guards to the trenches, fatigue parties for many purposes, and guards for the exposed right flank; and over-work and rough weather combined to reduce the army day by day.

The plan of the allied generals towards the end of October was to open a fierce fire on the place early in November, as a prelude to an assault. The French continued to believe that the key of the Russian line of defence was the Flagstaff Battery, or bastion. They pushed their approaches towards this point with incredible vigour, and they proposed that from these trenches their columns should assault the work, while ours should co-operate with them by crossing the south ravine and assailing the flank of the point attacked. It was with the object of preparing for this that the allies laboured in their trenches, and brought the largest amount of fire to bear upon the battery and its supports; and, until the upshot of this assault was known, the question, whether or not the allies should winter in the Crimea, remained undecided. But this projected bombardment and assault did not take place, for the Russians, having resumed the initiative, adopted a line of action which overthrew the plans and calculations of the allies, and rendered them nought. The siege works went on, wearied men dug and delved in the earth, or pushed forward the flying sap under fire; the batteries on both sides were now busy and now silent; the riflemen in front began to play a subordinate, yet vexatious, part on both sides; but, from the end of October, trench, and battery, and sap were almost forgotten, and the exterior lines of the allies became, for a brief space, the scene whereon the fate of the expedition was to be determined. Prince Menschikoff, reinforced by the whole of the 4th corps, and apprehensive, apparently, of the issue of an assault, resolved to turn upon the allies, and try to thrust himself through the weakest point in their line. Where that point was he had to determine, and he was not long in making the selection. He had failed in his main object at Balaclava. His next blow, he resolved, should be struck at Inkermann.

Throughout the early days of the siege, the right flank of the allied position was a constant source of anxiety to Sir de Lacy Evans, who was posted there with the 2nd Division. The reader may remember that we described Mount Sapoune as a ridge running northward from the Col di Balaclava, and terminating at the head of the harbour opposite the ruins of Inkermann. About midway it was crossed by the Woronzoff road, which, traversing the plain of Balaclava, climbed the ridge, and then ran down one of the ravines nearly due west to Sebastopol. From the Col to a point a few hundred yards north of the Woronzoff road, the eastern slope of the ridge presented an ascent which a daring enemy might overcome; and it was entrenched through- out, armed with guns, and terminated at the northern end by a redoubt - that is, a closed work, named after General Canrobert. These were the lines of the French Corps of Observation, under General Bosquet. Beyond the Canrobert Redoubt, the sides of the ridge fell so abruptly to the Tchernaya, that an attack from that side, that is, from the east, was absolutely impossible. It was here that the 2nd Division, fronting northwards, had encamped; but because they would have been too far from support, they were not placed in a position looking into the Tchernaya valley, but on the next ridge. The line of precipitous heights, from the point nearly opposite the camp of the 2nd Division, turned sharply to the west, and consequently faced the north; and this northern face, broken by four deep ravines, subsided gradually to the shores of the Careening bay in the great harbour. The ground between the ravines consisted of high and commanding bluffs, one of which, called by our men Shell Hill, overlooked the whole, and ran into the camp of the 2nd Division. The most easterly spur ended in a cliff overhanging the Tchernaya, through the base of which the Russians had bored a tunnel for the famous aqueduct. On its western flank was a large stone quarry, and on the western bank of this quarry, an old post road climbed up from the valley, and ran through the camp of the 2nd Division on to the plateau. Shell Hill was the next elevation to the westward. Its base abutted on the head of the harbour opposite the old bridge over the Tchernaya, and around this base the Russian sappers had made a road from the bridge westward to Sebastopol So that two roads ascended the hills from the bridge^ one going straight south up into our camps; the other giving access to the hill-tops north-east of the Careening, ravine. This ravine had its origin near the camp of the 2nd Division, and ran down, deepening as it went, to the Careening bay. It was on the plateau to the south of the Careening ravine that the Malakoff stood. Supposing a stream had flowed through this rocky cleft, the Malakoff would be said to stand on the left bank. the scene of the bloody battle now impending lay to the north of this ravine, and to the east of the point where it had its birth. The hills and glens were covered with dense coppices of stunted trees, and the whole scene was waste and picturesque - a fitting place whereon to contend for empire.

The military features of the position had not escaped the practised eyes of our engineers. They had scanned it in every part. They had noticed that it was assailable only from the north - that is, from the head of the harbour; -and they had pointed out how it was assailable from this side only by the valleys lying between the projecting spurs of the plateau. If, they said, these spurs were occupied, even by a weak force, the position could not be forced until reserves arrived. They named the sites for the field works and for the batteries of position, and Sir de Lacy Evans made repeated representations at headquarters, in which he set forth the perils incurred, and the means of providing against them. But the force at Lord Raglan's disposal was numerically too small for the business in hand. Even an advanced post of eighty riflemen, placed on ground overhanging the Tchernaya bridge, was withdrawn, because it was so distant from support that at any moment the enemy could have carried it off. There was a proposal that the 3rd Division should reinforce Sir de Lacy Evans; but it was not acted on. General Canrobert was requested to send a division to the right flank. It is stated that he promised to do so. If he did, the promise was not fulfilled. On the other hand, half- measures were taken. The post road was broken up, and a wall, formed of stones without mortar, was piled across the road in rear of the cut. A field-work was thrown up on the right of the road in front of the camp, and, as we have before stated, a sandbag battery for two guns was built on the easternmost spur opposite the Inkermann ruins. This was intended specifically to silence a Russian battery near the ruins, and not as a defensive work. Regarded as a defensive work, it was not well placed. It had no banquette, or ledge inside from which infantry could fire, and it looked north-east instead of north-west. This sandbag battery, however, answered the purpose for which it was made, and when its fire had silenced the opposing battery its two guns were withdrawn. Such were the sole artificial defences on the right flank of the allies. The natural strength of the position was great, and its defenders were true soldiers. They were the 2nd Division, having the Light far to its left, and the 1st - reduced after the combat on the 20th of October to the Brigade of Guards - in its rear as a reserve.

Prince Menschikoff, who still commanded the Russian army, seems to have had no clear, decisive views of the course he ought to adopt; for, having alarmed the allies at Balaclava, he now determined to rouse their suspicions on the side of Inkermann. On the 26th, accordingly, the very day after the capture of the Turkish redoubts, he directed a force of 5,000 or 6,000 men, and abundance of guns, to attack the 2nd Division. These troops quitted the fortress by the Russian left of the Malakoff, and ascended the right bank of the Careening ravine. The infantry were the regiments of Boutirsk and Borodino - our old enemies at the Alma - and their dark masses, emerging from the Russian lines, were detected by the pickets, and by the sailors in the 68- pounder battery on the ridge leading down to the Malakoff - that is, on the extreme right of the right attack. Their skirmishers were soon heard exchanging shots with the pickets of the 49th and 30th. These, falling back to a good defensible post, kept the Russians at bay for some time; so that the whole of the 2nd Division had time to form. But numbers prevailed, and the pickets were driven in; and the Russians soon showed a mass of columns on and about Shell Hill, and presently eighteen or twenty guns were brought to the front on that height. By this time the regiments of the 2nd Division were lying down in line on the crest in front of their camp; and their twelve guns were in action, while the skirmishers were busy on the slope between the two hills. The Guards were moving down to support the right of the division, and Captain Wodehouse had brought his battery from their camp, and had ranged up in line with Yates's and Turner's guns. General Bosquet had promptly ordered five battalions to move out of the French lines, so as to be prepared to support the British general. General Cathcart had set in motion a battalion of rifles, and Sir George Brown had pushed up two guns on the left about the head of the Careening ravine. But the only force actually in contact with the enemy was the 2nd Division and the eighteen guns. At first the Russians threw some spirit into tneÓr advance. Under cover of their artillery on the hill, they sent a heavy column down the slope which, by its steadiness and weight looked as if it intended to sweep all before it. But a great calamity befell these brave men. The fire of our artillery, concentrated on the Russian guns, was so quick, precise, and severe, that the whole of the Russian batteries disappeared over the brow. Then the British artillerymen, with ready energy, turned their eighteen pieces full on the column of infantry which had so manfully come forward towards our line. The effect of the fire was immediate. The Russian infantry, thus deserted by their artillery, and exposed to the shot from our guns and to the bullets of our skirmishers, turned to the left, and hurriedly sought the shelter of one of the many deep hollows. While they were thus concealed the second column was seen to rise above the brow, and on them the guns poured their shot and shell. The officer commanding, observing what had befallen the first column, immediately withdrew his second over the ridge. All this time the Russian skirmishers in the scrub which roughened the hill-side kept up the conflict. Presently the column which had fled into the ravine on the left emerged in broken order, and was seen climbing the slopes to rejoin the main body in rear of Shell Hill, and our artillery once more visited them with shot and shell and quickened their pace; while our right skirmishers, under Colonel Herbert, plied them with musketry. The 2nd Division, led by Major Mauleverer and Major Champion, Major Eman and Major Hume, were now let loose upon the skirmishers in the space between the ridges; and they fell on with so much vigour and effect, and with such eagerness, that General Pennefather had great difficulty in arresting their fiery march. In an hour the action was over, and the enemy in full retreat. He had lost eighty prisoners, and within the lines occupied by our pickets lay 130 dead bodies of the enemy. His misfortunes were not over. As the columns were on the march back to Sebastopol, they came within the view of Mr. Hewett, mate of the Beagle, then commanding the right 68-pounder battery. Although none of his guns bore upon their line of march, his ready sailor-like shiftiness told him what to do, and he did not hesitate a moment to do it. " Some mistake," says Captain Lushington, reporting to Admiral Dundas, " occurred in the orders of the officer commanding the picket, and the word was passed to spike the gun and retreat. But Hewett replied that such an order did not come from Captain Lushington, and he would not do so till it did. He then pulled down the parapet [on the right of his battery], and, with the assistance of some soldiers, got his gun round, and poured a most destructive fire of grape into a large column of Russians, and on their retreating from the British troops, followed them down the hill with 68- pound solid shots, fired with fatal precision." Hewett's action was highly applauded, and the Admiralty at once made him a lieutenant. The loss of the Russians in this combat is estimated by General Evans at 600, and by Col. Hamley, who was present with the artillery, at 1,000. The loss of the British was twelve killed and sixty-eight wounded. Among the latter were five officers, and of these Lieutenant Conolly, dangerously hurt, was the most conspicuous for the gallantry with which he fought his pickets. Sergeant Sullivan, on this occasion, also " displayed great bravery." The enemy had been defeated by the 2nd Division alone, without the aid either of the Guards or the French. It is to be regretted that the value ©f the service thus rendered by Evans did not meet with that ample appreciation at head-quarters which it deserved. Lord Raglan was at Balaclava. The incidents of the day before were vividly impressed on his mind. He seems to have thought too much of the port and the siege works, and too little of the right flank of the allied lines. Yet there were circumstances in the attack on the 26th which, as well as the attack itself, should have operated as warnings not to be neglected. Thus, "parties of the attacking force," says a military eye-witness, "were observed to carry entrenching tools in this enterprise." For what purpose? " The design of the enemy probably was, after driving back the troops in front, to throw up cover on the opposite [high commanding] ridge, from behind which they might afterwards attack the same point of our line with sufficient force to follow up any advantage, and meet the allies on the plains. Had they succeeded in entrenching themselves, we must either have dislodged them at once in a pitched battle, or have allowed them to collect troops and artillery there till it should suit their convenience to attack us with every advantage on their side... It is scarcely too much to say that the presence of a strong entrenched force on that part of the ground would have been a more serious disaster than the loss of Balaclava." Here was the warning voice, which, unhappily was not, or could not be heeded. Sir de Lacy Evans, in a letter written at a later period, says, " The various exigencies to be provided for on other points at that time [the period of the action we have described], scarcely left impossible, I believe, to afford any material reinforcements or means for the construction of defences." How it came to pass that the means and the reinforcements were afforded a few days afterwards we shall state in its proper place.

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Pictures for Chapter XX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8

The Valley of Inkermann
The Valley of Inkermann >>>>
General Bosquet
General Bosquet >>>>

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