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Chapter XXXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5


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Thus ended this now famous and unique military operation. The losses had been enormous on both sides during the last days of the siege. In four days in August, the admitted loss of the enemy was 5,500 men from the brief bombardment alone. From the 22nd of August to the 4th of September, the Russians had lost upwards of 7,000 men. During the cannonade and bombardment which preceded the assault - that is, in three days - their loss was 4,000, giving a total of 16,500 men, exclusive of the artillerymen killed at their guns. On the 8th their loss, estimated by themselves, was 11,690. So that between the 16th of August and the 9th of September their force was diminished by 28,190 men killed and wounded. Included in this total, which is certainly understated, are a few hundred "missing," but most of the missing were among the slain. The losses of the allies, although very severe every day, were not so great. Allowing 200 a day for the last three weeks of the siege, we have a total of 4,200, and if we add to these the loss on the 8th - 7,557 for the French, and 2,610 for the English - we have a total loss of 14,367. But, except as regards our own figures, we cannot be certain that this total is actually correct; both the French and Russians hide their losses as much as possible in every war.

We have seen that in the last assault the assailants failed everywhere except on one point, and although little has been said of the French failures, because they gained one brilliant success, yet the one English failure has been the subject of endless controversy and great bitterness of feeling. But our narrative has shown that the English failed precisely for the same reasons that the French failed. Those reasons were, that the enemy had superior numbers at every point, that the works attacked were open to the rear, that the enemy in the Redan and in the Central Bastion were prepared, while in the Malakoff they were surprised. But in the case of the English assault all these disadvantages were quadrupled by the fact that the assailants had to traverse an open space, nearly two hundred yards in extent, and swept by grape and round shot before they could reach the Redan. If the French, close under the points they attacked, could not succeed, not even when they poured in column after column, and employed thousands where we employed hundreds, how could we succeed when not one column of attack could reach the work, either in great strength or in disciplined array? If the result of the frantic efforts of the French to conquer the Little Redan and Curtain - efforts in which they lost more than 4,000 men - was failure, is it not presumptive evidence that, had we poured men by thousands instead of hundreds into the Redan, we should have only augmented the list of killed and wounded, without achieving success? Stern necessity compelled us to assail a work which it was only not impossible to take and hold. We might, we should have won it, had the Russians shown any fear. But, on reviewing the circumstances of the assault, we can only come to the conclusion, that nothing could have rendered us masters of the Redan, except some piece of good fortune. Therefore, although the military critic, judging by the rules of his art, may find much to blame in the method of conducting the attack, there is nothing in the result which throws any slur upon British arms.

It is not necessary here to go again over the main features of a siege, with the operations of which the reader has been made familiar. But a few facts will, perhaps, deepen in his mind the impression of its magnitude. The Russian lines were fifteen miles in extent. Fighting, as has been well said, was the least part of the work of this indefatigable garrison. It was not only on the surface and above the surface that they laboured. As there were miles of huge ramparts, so there were miles of subterranean rooms, wherein the garrison lived and slept. In some of these were found pictures and ornaments. In one a canary in a cage, and a vase of flowers. The mines were prodigious. The front of the colossal Flagstaff Bastion was seamed in all directions by mines, containing tens of thousands of pounds of gunpowder. These works are rightly styled stupendous. Those of the besiegers were also of amazing extent and finish. Their trenches were fifty-two miles in length. There were in them 109 batteries, which, on the 8th, mounted 806 guns. The trenches were open 334 days, and the batteries 327 days. The British batteries alone threw 252,872 rounds of shot and shell into the place. The French reckoned their rounds by the million - during the last bombardment their 620 guns fired 1,100,000 projectiles! It was, indeed, by means of this astonishing artillery fire, and by this alone, that the fortitude, perseverance, and bravery of the allies were able to force a Russian army out of the strongest and most amply supplied entrenched camp in the world.

Here we may state, though chronologically out of place, what prize the allies found in the conquered city. They captured 3,839 guns and mortars of various calibres. There were 407,314 round shot, 101,755 shells, 24,080 cases of canister, 525,000 pounds of gunpowder, 470,000 good cartridges, and 160,000 damaged. Amid a multitude of other articles we may mention 450 anchors, 104,000 pounds of copper sheathing, 150,000 pounds of rope, 1,460,000 pounds of bar iron and steel, 120,000 pounds of red copper, 6,000 pounds of nails, 200,000 pounds of old copper, 2,000 tons of coal, several steam engines, a goodly number of forges, a large quantity of firewood, a mass of marine stores, and a quantity of provisions. The mixed commission appointed to collect and divide this spoil determined that, as on the 8th of September the French army consisted of 126,705 men, and the Anglo-Sardinian army of 63,715 men, the former should have two-thirds, and the latter one-third, of the value of the prize. The guns were equally divided, two brass guns being given to General La Marmora, and two Turkish field-pieces, found in the place, were returned to the Sultan. It was found that, out of 2,087 guns mounted in the place, only 297 were unserviceable. Above a thousand fine guns were lying in the arsenal when the town was captured.

There was great exultation in France when the news of the fall of Sebastopol reached Paris. The Emperor at once raised General Pélissier to the rank of a Marshal of France, The guns of the Invalides boomed forth a far resounding salute. There was an illumination in Paris, a Te Deum in Notre Dame, attended by the Emperor himself. In England there was gladness, too, mingled with bitterness; for though Sebastopol had fallen, British soldiers had been worsted in the fatal Redan. But Queen Victoria sent, with promptitude, her thanks to the army, and General Simpson received the Grand Cross of the Bath. The greatest delight, however, was experienced in the camps. "No move trench work! " was the first joyous shout of the soldier. Gaul and Briton were alike wearied of the incessant watching, and dodging, and waiting, and dreary toil, and the horrible uproar, and sudden death and mutilation, without visible good results. Yet, when the silence came, it seemed so strange, that men could only describe it as frightful.

The enemy put a bold face on his defeat, as he had a right to do, for he had conducted himself valiantly, and kept his military honour unstained. The Emperor Alexander boasted that his army had only left to the enemy a heap of "blood-stained ruins.,, "Valiant soldiers," wrote Prince Gortschakoff, "it is painful to leave Sebastopol in the enemy's hands. But remember the sacrifice we made on the altar of our country in 1812. Moscow was surely as valuable as Sebastopol. We abandoned it after the immortal battle of Borodino. The defence of Sebastopol during 349 days is superior to Borodino, and when the enemy entered Moscow in that great year of 1812, they only found heaps of stones and ashes. Likewise, it is not Sebastopol which we have left to them; but the burning ruins of the town, which we ourselves set fire to, having maintained the honour of the defence in such a manner that our great-grandchildren may recall the remembrance thereof with pride to all posterity." Nevertheless, Russia had been seriously wounded; for Sebastopol had proved to be an ulcer, and the strength of the nation had been drained to defend a remote corner of the immense empire of the Czars.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5

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Colonel Windham
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