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Chapter XX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 4


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Simultaneously with the defeat of Cathcart, the Russians had rolled in heavy masses on the Guards. It was only the fringe of the left of the Selenginsk battalions which had slain and driven the men of the 4th Division. The right of that regiment, the Okhotsk, and the left of the Yakutsk, were pressing upon the Guards in numbers that were irresistible. Our men fell sullenly back. At this crisis the Duke of Cambridge rode along in front of the line of the Guards, and between them and the foe, and urged his soldiers to stand firm and fire. "We have no ammunition" was the unanswerable reply; and without ammunition, but with a firm countenance, and slowly, the Guards gave ground until they reached the line;of the 2nd Division. Had the enemy then come resolutely on, he might have won the day, for the spur at length was his. He had now room to deploy. He might ascend the post road, and the slope he had conquered, and burst out upon the plain. We were in great straits, but the soldiers were as stubborn as ever, and the officers as cheerful and daring. But the loss had been terrible. Besides Cathcart, General Strangways and Brigadier Goldie had been mortally wounded; Sir George Brown, Brigadier Adams, Brigadier Torrens, Colonel Gambier, and Brigadier Bentinck had been seriously hurt. Half the officers of the Guards were down, and the Line were cruelly smitten, officers and men. The only cheering feature in the battle at this time, apart from the pluck of the men, was the execution done by the two 18-pounders which had been brought into action, and which were hammering effectually the Russian guns on Shell Hill. Bosquet, too, was approaching, and General Canrobert was at Lord Raglan's side. Fresh ammunition had been served out to the men; and although they were in disorder, men of different regiments being mixed together, and some, as an Irishman said, " fighting independent," yet fight they did, and in the crisis of the engagement held fast.

But the moment was most serious. The Russian columns who had carried the sandbag battery, and swept up the post road, were now established across the open space on the allied side of the battery. General Dannenberg had brought his reserves, Vladimir, Sousdal, and Boutirsk, forward over the crest of 2nd position to support the veterans of the Yakutsk, Okhotsk, and Selenginsk, and the rallied battalions of Soimonoff's force, who were in perpetual conflict with Codrington, Buller, and Pennefather. Some daring bodies of the enemy had worked their way through the brushwood and up the slope, and had even charged over the low wall of loose stones which crossed the post road in front of the camp. In spite of case shot fired into them when a few yards from the guns, these brave soldiers pressed on. In the front of the line there were a series of indescribable single combats and mêlées going on. The bayonet was used, perhaps, more than in any other battle; and since Agincourt no small band of British soldiers had been so hard bested as these. Nearly four hours they had struggled, one to four, keeping the crown of the hills; and now they were in appearance more like a straggling mob than a line of disciplined soldiers. It was under these circumstances, when no order could be kept, no formation retained, when every man fought for himself, and rallied him to any little band engaged fiercely fighting for life and honour, that the qualities of the race came out, and the best effects of training were seen. They had done, they were doing, their best. They deserved succour, and succour came.

The two French battalions, the 6th and 7th Light Infantry, which had been sent forward by Bosquet at the request of Lord Raglan, were now brought over the crest to support the right. It is said that when they came first into the storm of shot and shell which fell upon the ridge they blenched, as if amazed, halted, wavered, gave ground. At this sight Lord Raglan "changed countenance," so an observer affirms; and those who knew how the battle stood felt a choking sensation. But the hesitation of the Frenchmen did not last long. General Bourbaki, General Pennefather, and Captain Glazbrook led them and cheered them on, and, recovering their presence of mind, they went over the ridge and into the battle, and, side by side with our men, and sometimes mixed with them, stood as stoutly and charged as bravely as the best. Behind them came other French battalions. Dannenberg was preparing for a thundering attack along the whole line; but before he could assume the offensive with decision he found himself assailed. The French were about to win back the sandbag battery spur, which innumerable foes had torn from the grasp of our exhausted men. The clarion of the Zouaves and the drums of the Light Infantry were heard; 3,000 Frenchmen were about to prolong the line to the right, and contend with the enemy for possession of the ground, now strewn thickly with British and Russian dead.

The Russian writers admit that from the moment the French entered the field their chance of victory was gone. What does this mean? It means that 8,000 British troops had, for four hours, held their ground against the utmost exertions of nearly 24,000 men, supported by sixteen battalions in reserve, and upwards of a hundred guns; that they had so stricken the force of Soimonoff as to throw upon Pauloff the whole burden of the fight; and that they had inflicted such losses upon his three fighting regiments that they were compelled to halt in full career, and take breath, before they renewed the combat. It was against these three regiments, the whole of whose battalions had been engaged in a bloody conflict with our right and centre, that Bourbaki now led his brigade.

Three French batteries had come up, and had taken their places in line with ours; but still the worst enemies of the Russian gunners were our two 18-pounders, fired with steadiness and deadly precision. The arrival of the French caused a rough, hearty cheer to burst forth from our wearied men, some of whom joined the French as they went down the hill. The Russians were forming for an assault in force, when Bourbaki took them in flank by an impetuous charge. The gallant Russians were surprised, and thrust right and left. The British centre, still in front of their camp, had quite enough to do to keep back the foes who were pressing up the road; and, as the Russians had been smitten but not subdued, driven over the brow but not defeated, they turned, extended, and enveloped the flanks of the French in turn, so that those had to give ground. At this time D'Antemarre came up with his brigade, a regiment of Zouaves, one of Algeriens, and one of the Line. These fresh troops brought the enemy to a stand, and as Bosquet pushed them into the thick of the combat, they fought their way down the spur beyond the sandbag battery. The charge of the Zouaves was a magnificent spectacle. A handful of British infantry, men of several regiments, had been led by three or four brave young officers, down the slope. They pursued far, and looking up, saw the heights above covered with white-capped Russians. Regarding themselves as lost, the English, nevertheless, hurried back, firing into the flank of the enemy. Suddenly they heard the shrill sounds of the Zouave horn, and in a moment after, on came a crescent-like line of these picturesque soldiers of France, leaping like panthers through and over the stunted acacia bushes, with levelled bayonets, into the midst of the enemy. It was in that spirit-stirring and unfaltering charge that they swept the Russians from the hill. But on their left the enemy held his ground. The French light infantry regiments of Bourbaki, and the little groups of British soldiers, could scarcely keep their place, under the fire of artillery and musketry from Shell Hill and the post road. For a moment the Russians wrested a gun from the 6th French Regiment, and its colours; but Colonel Camas roused his men, and by a desperate charge, in which he fell, Camas recovered both colours and gun. Bosquet was nearly captured; and the resistance of the Russians was so fierce, that the French had to fall back a pace, and re-form. The Chasseurs d'Afrique had been brought up, and our light cavalry approached within fire, but both were sent back and held in reserve.

But practically the battle was won. The Russian infantry only resisted in order to cover the retreat of the heavy guns, which could no longer bear up against the 18-pounders. According to the French accounts, the Russian regiments made one more charge, in which they were repelled, but it was only the effort of men determined to prevent a close pursuit. General Dannenberg had still several untouched battalions, and these he formed up to protect the retreat of the brave men who had so nobly borne the brunt of this bloody battle. Two war-steamers at the head of the harbour also began to throw huge shells into the allied position. As the French followed the retreating enemy, he turned repeatedly,, and fired with both cannon and musketry. The slowness and order of the Russian retreat had, at its commencement, an air of majesty in its movement which drew expressions of admiration from those who witnessed it. But as the fire of their artillery slackened, the Russian masses nearest the allies fell into confusion and hurried away; followed at a distance by a crowd of skirmishers in similar confusion, Guards and Zouaves, French Linesmen and English Linesman, all mingled together. The battle was at an end.

The Russians fell back as fast as they could. Part of their infantry and artillery took the road to Sebastopol; the remainder crossed the Tchernaya bridge. Lord Raglan, it is said, was anxious that the enemy should be pursued as soon as the artillery left Shell Hill. He had not a man to spare for this purpose himself, for our troops were worn out with their tough, enduring struggle, and all the more so as officers and men alike had gone into action fasting. But General Canrobert had Monet's brigade of Prince Napoleon's division, which had been sent up from the Siege Corps, and kept up to this time in reserve. Not a man had seen or felt the enemy. But Canrobert hesitated to use them. He is said to have asked that the Guards should go with them, if they went, for his troops had great confidence in les Black Gaps. But to this Lord Baglan, of course, could not consent, for the Guards were a mere handful. At length Canrobert agreed to push forward two battalions of Zouaves and a battery of 12-pounders, and these, with the two Commanders-in-chief, ascended the heights abandoned by the Russians, and arrived in time to see that the enemy had escaped beyond range. The guns opened fire and did some mischief to the stragglers; but the main force had made good its retreat. The Russian Grand Dukes and Prince Menschikoff had the mortification to witness the ruin of those splendid dreams in which they had indulged with such confidence when their great army moved out at dawn.

The feints of the Russians did not deceive the allies. Prince Gortschakoff made an utterly futile demonstration in the Balaclava valley, and withdrew in the forenoon to his camp. General Timojief, however, issued from Sebastopol in the fog, dashed into the French trenches, and spiked some of their guns. But the French rapidly recovered from the surprise, drove him out, and pursuing him with too much ardour, lost Brigadier Lourmel and a great many men. The sortie was brilliantly repelled, and General Forey said he had nothing with which to reproach his troops, except a too headlong valour.

The battle of Inkermann won for Lord Raglan the baton of a British Field Marshal. And he deserved it for maintaining the reputation of England. To honour and reward him was to honour and reward his soldiers; for he and they, on that dreadful field, rivalled Henry and his soldiers at Agincourt. All who speak of his bearing, show that his coolness and hardihood equalled those of his great master, over whose bones the grave had only closed two short years. It was around Lord Raglan that so many fell, and it is remarkable that no shot, where shots, as he told General Canrobert, fell thicker than they did at Waterloo, hit the British leader. Here is one glimpse. Lord Raglan "was sitting on horseback in the midst of a battery of artillery, watching our men working the guns. A very heavy fire was being directed against this part of the field, both from the enemy's cannon and also from small arms. One of his ptaff suggested the propriety of his not putting himself in quite so dangerous and conspicuous a place, especially, as it appeared from the number of bullets that came singing by us, that he was a mark for the enemy's riflemen. [Staff officers are always found to be extremely prudent; but Lord Raglan probably thought that this was an occasion for a practical illustration of that firmness which made his master say at Waterloo, 'He and I and every man must, if necessary, die where we stand rather than yield.'] In answer to the remark of the anxious staff-officer, Lord Raglan merely said, 'Yes, they seem firing at us a little, but I think I get a better view here than in most places.' [A practical answer worthy of the Duke.] So there he continued for some time, and then, turning his horse, rode along the whole length of the ridge at a foot's pace, and consequently exposed himself more than ever" on that shot-torn field. General Canrobert was wounded slightly while talking to Lord Raglan. General Strangways was mortally wounded while receiving orders from his chief. Another incident illustrates the quality of the soldiers as well as the quality of the general. " Towards the close of the battle, Lord Raglan was returning from taking leave of poor General Strangways, and was going up towards the ridge. A sergeant approached us carrying canteens of water to take up for the wounded, and as Lord Raglan passed he drew himself up to make the usual salute, when a round shot came bounding over the hill and knocked his forage cap off his head. The man calmly picked up his cap, dusted it - on his knee, placed it carefully on his head, and then made the military salute, and all without moving a muscle of his countenance. Lord Raglan was delighted with the man's coolness, and said to him, ' A near thing that, my man." Yes, my Lord,' replied the sergeant, with another salute; 'but a miss is as good as a mile.'" The French writers remark on the equanimity which never, under the worst circumstances, forsook the English general; and they, as well as we, observe that it was the prevailing characteristic of the whole British army.

The losses of the allies were very great. The English lost 2,816 men of all ranks. Of these three generals and 43 officers were killed, and six generals and 100 officers were wounded; 586 men were killed, and 2,078 were wounded. The French lost 1,800 men killed and wounded at Inkermann and in front of their trenches.

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Pictures for Chapter XX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 4

The Valley of Inkermann
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General Bosquet
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