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


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At daybreak on the 7th the smoke and the mists of the morning hung over the hills and ravines. The growing light showed that, although the enemy had worked hard in repairing damages, yet that the outlines of the great entrenchments were less shapely and trim than heretofore. Once more the batteries on both sides put forth their might, and the deafening roar was renewed. The enemy showed some vigour at first, but the Malakoff and Mamelon were soon forced to succumb. For a moment they were cheered by the sound of an exploding magazine in our right attack, which, happily, did little damage. It was plain, however, to all eyes and ears that, on the vital points, the enemy was the weaker, and that the attack had got the mastery over the defence. Late in the afternoon, and for an hour or two preceding the assault, the fire of our guns became quicker than ever. The men in the batteries put forth their whole energies, and for an hour before the assault the cannonade was fiercer and more deadly than at any preceding period. The Mamelon was quite overwhelmed, and eye-witnesses likened it to the crater of a volcano - a just simile, since it spouted upwards fire, smoke, dust, and fragments, as the shells burst incessantly within its interior.

During this awful cannonade Lord Raglan took up his post on the slope of the hills, and General Pélissier passed through the English camp, amid the cheering of our soldiers, on his way to the Victoria Redoubt. His troops, four divisions, were mustering and marching down to the trenches; and our soldiers of the 2nd and Light Divisions, not a fifth of their force, were filing down the ravines to the advanced parallel, ready to bound into the Quarries. Here we may say that this place was no longer a mere excavation, rudely faced with sandbags and gabions, but a regular entrenchment. It had grown up to that form as part of the audacious plan of counter- approaches so happily adopted by General Todtleben. It was close under the Redan, but much exposed to the raking fire of several batteries, especially those in the town which looked to the north-east, and those in the southerly face of the square work in the Mamelon. Now it was that General Pélissier's moral courage was put to a severe test. Whether General Niel had appealed to Paris or not, just at this critical moment, when all was ready, a telegram which had gone forth from the Emperor's Cabinet was flashed into the French headquarters. The general received it and read it, pondered a moment, and then folding it up, put it in his pocket, and gave the order for the assault. What was that telegram? It was an order from the Emperor, given in Paris in total ignorance of what could and could not be done, that Pélissier should on no account assault the Mamelon, because the Emperor thought disaster would befall his arms! Pélissier was then tried, and not found wanting.

The English had told off about 3,200 men of the Light and 2nd Divisions to carry the Quarries. Two small columns, each 200 strong, were to turn the flanks of the work, and then advancing towards the Redan, lie down, and cover by their fire a working party, 800 strong, whose duty it was to turn the face of the work towards the Redan. About 1,000 men were held in support in the trenches, and two battalions were posted in the Woronzoff Road to cover the flank of both our attacks. The French, having a more serious operation, and being more accustomed to act in masses, detailed about 28,000 men for the two assaults. General Mayran had the direction of the operations against the White Works - redoubts on the Careening Ridge, one more advanced than the other, and standing between the Great Harbour and the Careening Ravine. Two of his brigades - the right under Do Lavarande, the left under De Failly - were to storm the redoubts, while General Dulac held an entire division in reserve to support both; and beside these, there were two battalions in the Careening Ravine, intended to push down it, and cut off the retreat of the enemy. General Camou was entrusted with the attack on the Mamelon. One brigade, under Wimpfen, was to carry that work; while another brigade and an entire division were drawn up in the middle ravine between the French left and our right. Behind them were two battalions of the Imperial Guard, and in rear of all, near the Inkermann battle-field, was a complete division of Turks. The whole operation was under the control of Bosquet. The fire of the allied batteries was at its height when three rockets fired from the Victoria Redoubt, at 6.45 p.m., let loose the excited soldiers, who dashed at once upon the enemy.

The brigades on the extreme right went up to the White Works at a run, Lavarande's men first storming the redoubt on the right at the point of the bayonet, and De Failly rushing past this work, and being equally successful in carrying its counterpart; while the battalions in the ravine marched down it, and swept up a number of the flying garrison. Led away by a furious impulse, the troops even entered a third work, just above the Careening Bay, but this they could not hold. the other two redoubts, however, were firmly grasped and held in spite of the fire of the batteries on the north.

At the same time Wimpfen's brigade issued from the trenches in three columns, and went impetuously up the slope of the Mamelon, led by Colonel Brancion, of the 50th Regiment of the line. On his left were the 3rd Zouaves, on his right Algerian Native Light Infantry. With swift and unfaltering step these bright soldiers pressed on, each eager to be first. Soon they were at the ditch, firing into the embrasures, and receiving from the parapets a telling fire. Then the 50th dashed into the ditch, and began to scramble up the slope of the work, and Zouave and Algerine closed bodily with it. Men were seen a moment on the parapet holding aloft the tricolour, and firing down into the place, and a moment after there was a combat inside hand to hand. Then the enemy, giving way, rushed out at the rear. In a few moments the redoubt was full of Frenchmen. They had won the victory with such comparative ease, that their passions got the better of their judgment. Disobeying all orders, the Zouaves and Algerines pursued the Russians towards the Malakoff, into which our batteries were now pouring a terrible fire. It was an unhappy move; for the enemy immediately lined his parapets and brought his guns to bear, and the Zouaves, although they stood well and fought well, and although they were aided by shells pitched into the Malakoff from our batteries, yet they only stood to be slain. As it had grown almost dark, the flame of musketry, and the flash of big guns and shells, threw an evanescent light upon the horrid scene. In the meantime, alarmed by some appearances indicating a mine, the troops holding the Mamelon all ran out, and the Zouaves and Algerines, returning from their mad rush on the Malakoff, pursued by a heavy and angry column of Russians, found the Mamelon empty. Shattered as they were, they could not hold it, and thus the enemy burst in triumph into his stronghold once more. It was an anxious moment, but General Bosquet was prompt in supplying a remedy. Throwing forward a fresh brigade, and giving it ample support, these new troops, rallying hundreds who had fled in terror at the idea of a mine, went steadily up to the work. There was a brief combat, and rattling volleys; but, overpowered, the enemy sullenly yielded possession, and retired back into the town, this time unpursued. Thus the French stormed, and lost, and regained the famous Mamelon.

Soon after the first advance on the Mamelon, Colonel Shirley, obeying a signal from Lord Raglan, launched his little band against the Quarries. The men of the Light and 2nd Divisions carried the work and its outlying trenches without firing a shot, and then advancing, began to ply their rifles against the gunners of the Redan. Anticipating an assault, the enemy had filled this work with troops, and a horrible carnage was the consequence.

"As one looked at it from the left attack," writes Sir Harry Jones, "the rays of the setting sun lighting up the mass of troops, the shells could be seen plunging and cutting gaps in the ranks, blowing the bodies of the victims into the air." Either to escape this fire or to succour the Malakoff, for a time the garrison of the Redan ran out of that work, and some British soldiers actually went up and peered into it, and saw it was empty.

But when night came, the Russians returned to the Redan, and six times during the night they strove to expel the little band of Englishmen who occupied the Quarries, and at one time, by turning the left flank, they succeeded for a brief space; then, with a rolling cheer, our soldiers went at them with the bayonet, and regained and held the lines, which were at once turned into a new parallel, and the site of a new and most formidable battery.

Thus closed this memorable contest; all night the mortars thundered, and all night their shells fell and burst within the Russian lines.

The loss of the English was about one-sixth of the force engaged. There were killed six officers and 25 men, and there were wounded 30 officers and 431 men. These casualties occurred chiefly in holding the Quarries, and in repelling the vigorous sorties of the enemy. The French loss was one-fifth of their force. It was enormous. They had 628 men killed, 4,060 wounded, and 379 missing; and they lost 276 officers, of whom 69 were killed and four were missing. The Russians fix their loss at 3,000 killed, wounded, and missing; but, considering the heavy fire from the allied batteries, this must be short of the truth.

As the corpses of the combatants strewed the ground between the Malakoff and Mamelon - Zouaves, and Algerines, and Linesmen mingling with the Russians in the amity of death - the enemy hoisted a flag of truce, and asked for a suspension of arms to collect and bury the dead.

This was assented to, and on the 9th, for five hours, there was peace. The Russians gave up 380 Frenchmen, and gathered up 350 of their comrades - a pretty good proof of the intensity of the struggle. The French took 73 guns in the works on the 7th. As they lost two distinguished officers - Brancion and Lavarande - the Mamelon redoubt was named after the former, who fell there, and the redoubts on the Careening ridge after the latter, who was struck down in one of them by a cannon shot after the fight was over.

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

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Capture the Mamelon
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