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Chapter XX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3


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In the centre the regiments of the 2nd Division had come upon enemies as soon as they had formed. These were the leading companies of the Borodino battalions, and they were at once set upon by Pennefather's brigade, and pushed back. On the extreme right, half-way down the spur, whose crags drop on one side into the Tchernaya valley, and on the other into the Quarry ravine, Pennefather had posted the 41st and 49th, with three guns, under Captain Hamley. They had no sooner arrived than heavy Russian columns were seen indistinctly moving down the opposite slope. The guns opened on them, but the Russians turned their artillery to that side, and our guns, though steadfastly served, were too weak to contend with the heavy metal opposed to them. The columns went down into the hollow, and soon re-appeared, flocking up the British side of the hill. The Taroutino regiment turned upon the sandbag battery, and part of the Borodino went with them up the road to break against Pennefather's brigade. The Russians came on without faltering". Our troops were outnumbered and outflanked; our guns were in danger of being taken. The 41st and 49th, quitting the sandbag battery, fell back, and the hill seemed in danger of being lost; but at this moment the bearskins of the Guards were becoming visible. The Duke of Cambridge, when he had turned out his brigade, moved it to the right of Pennefather, and went to succour the hardly-pressed 41st and 49th. The Guards came steadily down the slope of the spur, and, passing to the right and left of the guns, cheered and charged, checked the advance of the enemy, and recovered the battery. Hitherto they had only used the bayonet; they now brought their rifles into play, and smote the retreating Russians with deadly precision. The regiment Taroutino was so broken that it retired even into the Inkermann valley to reform. The brigade was not complete when the Guards charged into the battery; but the Coldstreams came up at once, and the three regiments took ground, the Grenadiers on the right, the Coldstreams in the centre, and the Fusiliers on the left of the recovered work.

It was at this time - about seven o'clock - that Lord Raglan arrived. The fog had cleared somewhat, but the smoke of battle had taken its place. He rode down the spur towards the sandbag battery just as the Guards had recovered it; and he sought to penetrate the thick mist, and discern the numbers and intentions of the foe. He could see but little through the rifts in the smoke. He saw enough to make him feel the peril of his position, and that of the whole army. Upon his tenacity hung the fate of every soul on the plateau. If he blenched all was gone in a moment, and the Czar would gain a victory which would efface the stigma inflicted on his arms at the Alma and on the Danube. Lord Raglan was a calm and steadfast man. If danger rose high his resolution rose higher; and knowing that his soldiers were like himself, children of a proud and obstinate race, he felt that he could do his duty, and hold fast to that narrow strip of rugged ground, which formed, as it were, the gate into the lines drawn about the southern defences of Sebastopol. He therefore resolved to stand on the defensive, and dispute for the gate with the enemy until he won or his troops were destroyed. The British soldiers actually before the enemy at the end of this first heavy onset of Soimonoff and Pauloff did not number more than 6,000 men. The 4th Division on the march would bring the number up to 8,000, and beyond this he could not array a bayonet, for the 3rd Division had to guard the trenches, and the Highland Brigade was at Balaclava. Lord Raglan knew he could rely on aid from General Bosquet. That officer at the first had offered several battalions to the Duke of Cambridge and Sir George Brown, but these two, though ignorant of the serious character of the attack, took upon themselves to refuse. Had it not been for this proud unwillingness to accept French aid, or this fear of responsibility, Bosquet would have been earlier in the field; for Gortschakoff had so feebly acted on the side of Balaclava that the quick Frenchman soon saw through his weak devices. As soon as he received a request for troops from Lord Raglan he at once put three battalions in motion. But he had two miles to march; the earth was soaked with a night's rain, and part of the way lay through thick scrub. Some time, therefore, was required to force the troops along. Two battalions were directed upon the right rear of the 2nd Division, and the third was ordered to take post near the Canrobert Redoubt at the extremity of the entrenchments on the Sapoune ridge.

The effect of the first onset of the two British divisions and the brigade of Guards had been severely felt by the Russians. Their own narratives admit that they were repulsed with heavy loss, that Soimonoff's command was nearly rendered unfit for further exertion, and that for a space the Russians could do nothing but pour a continuous hail of projectiles into the English lines. The fact was that the leading battalions, stung by the biting fire of the British skirmishers and the supports, or else believing that the position could be carried by a rush, had made their first attacks before the supporting column had overcome the physical difficulties of the ground. Only twenty battalions had. come into actual collision with our troops, and there were still more than double that number behind their own ridges. It was during the pause in the infantry battle that Sir George Cathcart brought up his division. One brigade, under Goldie, was placed in the gap between the right of the 2nd Division and the left of the Guards; and the other, under Torrens, with which Cathcart marched, took post as a reserve in rear of the Guards. All the troops at the disposal of Lord Raglan were now under his command. Upon their valour hung the fate of the allies. At the utmost this force did not exceed 8,000 men. Counting only those battalions of the enemy which had not been engaged, General Dannenberg had 19,000 infantry with which to overpower them. Dannenberg himself had come somewhat late on to the field. He was now on the great hill in the midst of the Russian batteries. The fire of the English guns, lighter though they were than the Russian pieces, struck down the staff officers and the orderlies at the General's side. "For a long while," says a Russian narrative, " he remained erect upon his fine brown charger. Suddenly it sank beneath him, struck on the shoulder by a piece of shell which burst near. He called for another horse, and one was brought him. As the General prepared to mount the horse was knocked down by a ball, and a third had to be provided. Death was raging everywhere, and spared not the highest nor the meanest." And now Dannenberg prepared to make another, a more sustained and deadlier, attempt to take the British heights, and open a way into the heart of the allied position. The soldiers were told that the two sons of their father the Czar, the Grand Dukes Michael and Nicolas, were there to see how a Russian army could do its duty; and, in fact, the two Grand Dukes were present, either on one of the lofty heights about the ruins of Inkermann, or else actually in the battle.

So far the enemy had gained no great advantage, but he had made a very rude attack along the whole line, and had been repelled with the greatest difficulty. Nevertheless, it was a precious thing to have met and disconcerted the first attacking columns. Their English opponents would be the last to say that the Russian infantry were not worthy foes; and the Russian writers freely admit that in this encounter, although surprised, " the English had well supported their ancient renown, and had maintained a heroic defence." During the pause of the fight, while the artillery maintained the combat and the infantry were merely keeping up a brisk skirmish in the bush, Lord Raglan became sensible that his 9-pounders were overmatched by the Russian guns, which, besides being many of them of heavier metal, were nearly twice as numerous. Moreover, as fast as guns were disabled the Russians supplied their places with fresh pieces from their immense train of artillery. Lord Raglan soon remembered that there were in the artillery park two 18-pounders, the same guns which had been used in the sandbag battery to crush the Russian guns, mounted among the Inkermann ruins. These he ordered to be brought up. It is said that the officer to whom the order came said it was "impossible." Lord Raglan, writes Colonel Calthorpe, was much annoyed at this, and turning to one of his staff, an artillery officer and assistant adjutant-general, he said, " Adye, I don't like the word impossible; don't you think the guns can be brought up? " Major Adye said he was certain it could be done, and Lord Raglan then sent Captain Gordon to see that it was done.

Before they came into action the infantry battle had been renewed. As Codrington's brigade of the Light Division, fighting on the left bank of the Careening ravine, often within it, and sometimes over it, protected effectually the left of Buller, and as the occupation of the spur, on which was the sandbag battery, covered the right flank of Pennefather, General Dannenberg saw that he could not force the centre and break through on to the plateau until he had cleared the sandbag battery spur. Between eight and nine he had rallied two of Soimonoff's regiments, Tomsk and Kolyvan, and he counted on these supported by the Boutirsk regiment m reserve, to maintain the fight with the left of Buller and the whole of Codrington. Then he sent forward the infantry of the 11th Division - three regiments, each of four battalions, Yakutsk, Okhotsk, and Selenginsk - with two rifle companies, to act as skirmishers. They were ordered to carry the sandbag battery, clear the whole of the slope, and sweep up the post road into the camp. Gallant soldiers, and opposed to the British for the first time, they made their way up to the battery with great spirit and unusual speed. It may be remembered that the Guards occupied the battery, and the ground to the right and left of it, and that Cathcart, with Torrens's brigade, was in support on the right rear.

Now began a contest about the battery which has been truly called sublime. The Russians were nearly 6,000 strong, quite fresh, full of fight, and very resolute. They "came on in successive columns of regiments, making loud and rude noises which our men called yells. The first to rush at the battery were the Okhotsk men. As they came up the rifles of the Guards told severely upon them, but did not arrest their course. A fierce combat ensued, first heavy firing, then hand to hand fights, then a fearful pressure of men on both flanks of the battery which it was hard to resist. The heavy guns on Shell Hill took the British defenders almost in reverse, yet they still clung to the ground. The regiment in the battery was the Coldstreams. Let a Russian pen sing their praises. "Long they held their post untaken. Repeated attacks of the Okhotsk men, who had partly made good their entrance through the embrasures, were repulsed. Then the Russians crowded close under the wall, where the fire of the enemy could not reach them, to rest and renew their strength. And now the fury and daring of both sides gave rise to a truly Homeric combat. Some of the Okhotsk men seized the muskets of their fallen comrades, and hurled them, with their bayonets affixed, like spears into the battery. Others picked up huge stones and flung them in. Spears and stones were hurled back by the Coldstreams. For ten minutes this fight endured." And now the enemy had swept round the flanks. For a moment the Cold- streams fronted their foes on all sides, and kept them at bay on the open rear of the battery. Then, with a cheer and a rush, they dashed through, scattering their enemies right and left, and, bleeding, broken, but unconquered, made their way up the slope to rejoin the British line. But they had fourteen officers killed or wounded in that bloody sandbag battery, and one or two, simply wounded, were murdered by the enraged enemy. They had, however, slain many of the barbarous Okhotsk, and wounded their colonel; and better than this, they had maintained their good name.

The fight at this time seemed going dead against the handful of British. The other two regiments were coming on, Yakutsk up the post road, and Selenginsk in reserve. On their right the rallied battalions of Soimonoff were fighting with the British centre; while the fifty or sixty Russian cannon on the heights never ceased hurling their iron shower into the British lines. Unless the new attack were repelled at once, the Russians would emerge from the ravines, and, gaining the more open ground, deploy their masses and sweep over the plateau. To prevent this, the Guards were led once more to regain the sandbag battery. The three regiments formed a line of no great length, but they went into the fight with their usual decision. With a steady rush they came down upon their foes. The Russians met them bayonet to bayonet. There was a brief conflict at close quarters. Steel glistened in the air and muskets were brandished as clubs, and men loaded and fired on the flanks, but still the Guards bored their way into and through the mass, and passing over the slain, cheered as they stood once more in the battery - now a charnel house - and resumed their deadly fire.

During this charge part of the Yakutsk regiment had halted on the post road, and had turned to its left to aid its comrades. The Selenginsk men had moved also to their left, and had passed down the slope to out-flank the battery on the Inkermann side. The Russians were resolute to win. The fierce charge of the Guards had made them angry, and they desired revenge. While these two bodies were moving upon the little redan, the Okhotsk rallied, so that the Russians renewed the contest for the battery with a larger force than ever. It so chanced that Sir George Cathcart, thinking he could take the enemy in flank, of his own accord carried Torrens' brigade down the slope to the right. Thus the hostile forces were converging on the same point, Selenginsk intent on the same object as Cathcart. But Selenginsk mustered 3,000 men and Cathcart 400, for part of Torrens' brigade was on the flank of Pennefather. And now, while the Guards once more withstood the shock of the Russian infantry in front, the Selenginsk men suddenly discovered the little band that Cathcart had led below them. They at once opened a crushing fire on our men. Instead of flanking the Russians, Sir George found himself m danger of being cut off and destroyed. His men, too, were short of ammunition. To extricate himself from this position, Cathcart ordered the men to charge, but the ground did not admit of that, and the men fell back. Torrens then rallied the 68th, and prepared to try once more a charge up hill. Sir George called out to him, "Nobly done, Torrens; nobly done!" But it availed nothing. Torrens was shot down, and the men halted. Indeed, the movement was hopeless. The fire of the Russians was so close that Sir George Cathcart was shot dead, and Colonel Seymour, who rushed up to him - they were bosom friends - was shot also. The men were led back through the greatest perils. They carried Brigadier Torrens with them, but the corpse of Cathcart was left among the brush, and with it the faithful Seymour, who would not leave the dead body of his friend, and whom the Russians barbarously slew.

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Pictures for Chapter XX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3

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

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