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


After the Siege - Position of the Armies; their Strength - Expedition to Eupatoria - General d'Allonville's Operations; defeats the Russians at Khanghill - Destruction of Taman and Fanagoria - Expedition to Kinburn - The Fleet off Odessa - Inscription of Kinburn; it is attacked and captured - Oczakov blown up - Steamers ascend the Boug - Fresh Movements at Eupatoria - Failure from want of Water and Will - Inactivity of the Allies - Resignation of General Simpson - Genera?. Sir W. Codrington succeeds him - Great Explosion in the French Lines.
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Immediately after the fall of Sebastopol, the Russians resumed the work of fortifying the north side. If, for a moment, they entertained the notion of retiring to Simpheropol, that moment must have been very brief. But there is little reason to believe that- the question was ever seriously mooted. Prince Gortschakoff had long studied the habits and customs of an allied army under two or three commanders-in-chief. He knew well the benefits he derived from a divided command in the camp of his adversaries. He knew also the strength of his mountain position; and if, indeed, he thought of retreating inland, that thought must have been suggested, not by any fear that he should be forced, but by a fear that he might not be able to feed his diminished host. He probably knew, too, that telegrams from Paris and London exercised a weighty influence over both Marshal Pélissier and Sir James Simpson, and therefore he held fast to the north side of Sebastopol, as the Russians called the mass of stone forts and earthworks overlooking the great harbour. Placing his cavalry on the Belbeck, where water abounded, he took up a long line with his infantry and Cossacks, stretching from the high table land above Fort Constantino, along the Inkermann and Mackenzie ridges to Ai-Todor in the heart of the mountains above the Baidar valley. New batteries sprung up by magic among these rugged bluffs, and in a few days the Russian front of defence was as powerfully organised as ever.

At this time the allies had nearly 200,000 men in the Crimea; including upwards of 10,000 horsemen, and a very numerous and efficient force of field artillery. Having so vast an army, one is astonished to find that no effort worthy of the name was made to strike another blow at the main body of the enemy. The French did, indeed, place their right wing, 33,000 strong, with 54 guns, in the valley of Baidar, with a larger force and more guns on the Tchernaya, backed by a powerful reserve, exclusive of the Imperial Guard on the plateau. But this demonstration, made as early as the 11th, did not in the least deceive Prince Gortschakoff. It was manifest that no threatening movements of troops, no amount of marching and countermarching between Balaclava and the Baidar passes, would induce Prince Gortschakoff to budge a foot. He knew that to reach him through the mountains his adversaries could only- show a narrow front, and thus obtain no advantage from numbers; and that to assail the heights of Mackenzie, they must advance under a terrible fire to force rugged passes and deep defiles. So he did not change his ground, much less run away. What he dreaded was a decided advance from some point of the coast upon his lines of communication - from Kaffa or from Eupatoria, or from the mouth of the Alma - but whether it was that the allied generals could not agree, or that the Governments of Paris and London thought enough had been done, or whether it was that Marshal Pélissier did not wish to risk his laurels, or whether the season was held to be too far advanced for the accomplishment of large enterprises, certain it is that none were undertaken. For ten days after the fall of the place, the only change in the relative situations of the two armies was that the French occupied more ground.

At the end of that time there was a delusive symptom of more extended activity. General d'Allonville, with his division of horse, embarked at Kamiesch, for Eupatoria, on the 18th of September. Arrived there, he took the command of the whole force, namely, 17,000 Turco-Egyptian infantry, 2,500 cavalry, and 48 guns. Expectation ran high in the camp, especially as the allied fleets went to sea on a cruise along the coast, reminding observers of the experimental trips made in August, 1854. The Russians took it to heart, and their telegraphs grew uneasy, and swung about all day. But there was very little danger in the air. General d'Allonville, with the force at his disposal, was strong enough to raise the blockade of Eupatoria on the land side, but not strong enough to move far from the place, or hazard his line of retreat for a moment. When Prince Gortschakoff heard the numbers of the troops which had landed, and their character, he must have felt perfectly comfortable as regards the road to Perekop and the safety of Simpheropol. He was not alarmed x either by the cruise of the fleet up and down Kalamita Bay, or by the presence of the Turco-French force at Eupatoria.

General d'Allonville found a well-disciplined Moslem force at Eupatoria. The Turkish General, Ahmed Pasha, had employed the summer in training these battalions, and the French general was pleased to find such excellent infantry under his orders. But he felt 20,000 men were too few for the execution of any great scheme, and it is doubtful whether, had he been disposed to march inland, his superiors before Sebastopol and in Paris would have permitted the risk involved. He therefore confined himself to the simpler task of driving away the Russians, and giving his cavalry officers the chance of winning a cross and riband.

The Russians blockaded Eupatoria on the north and south. On the latter side a long and narrow strip of land passed between a great salt lake and the sea, and this isthmus supported the direct road to Simpheropol and Sebastopol. At the southern end of the isthmus the roads separated; a little further on the former stood the village of Sak, and here the Russians had a strong post of cavalry and a well-supplied depot of provisions. Beyond Sak was Tchobatar, another village. On the north of the lake the enemy occupied several hamlets, covering the road to Perekop. The Russian force was composed of cavalry, and Cossacks, and some horse artillery. Having taken note of these facts, General d'Allonville first determined to drive the enemy out of Sak, and burn his stores. This he did on the 25th. Debouching from the isthmus at dawn with 3,000 Turkish infantry, 1,600 French horse, and twelve guns, he pressed forward towards the village, which the enemy abandoned at his approach, falling back upon Tchobatar. Having destroyed the mills and stores, the French general withdrew, unmolested, and returned to Eupatoria. Thereupon the enemy returned and encamped at Sak. General d'Allonville now formed the larger design of driving away the enemy on the north side. During the expedition to Sak, Ahmed Pasha had forced the Russians to fall back on the extreme right of their line, and they were now in two bodies on the right and left of the Perekop Road. In order to force them back, General d'Allonville determined to employ a large force. A body of Turks, of all arms, under Ahmed Pasha, was to march out of the town on the north, and wheeling to the right, move in a line parallel to the Perekop Road. General d'Allonville, with a brigade of French dragoons, a regiment of hussars, and a brigade of Egyptian infantry, was to move directly along the road. Thus, while he struck at the centre of the Russian posts, Ahmed Pasha turned them on the right. The village of Doltchak was the point where the left and centre columns were to join; but, as the enemy had returned to Sak, it was necessary to cover the Sebastopol road; and for this purpose Menekli Pasha was directed to march an infantry force to the southern end of the isthmus, and there take up a defensive position. The Russians on the north of the lake were under Terpelewski and Korf, the former on the right, the latter on the left. Seeing the large force of the allies debouching from Eupatoria at five in the morning, the two Russian generals retired in parallel columns. As D'Allonville pushed their centre, so Ahmed continued to turn their right, and threaten their line of retreat. For some time Korf continued to hang on the right flank of D'Allonville without daring to risk an action. Soon after eight the centre column had reached Doltchak. Ahmed Pasha was still on the march, having the longer line; but in two hours he came up, and Korf fell back southward to Khanghill, making for the Simpheropol road; but beyond this village he did not retire. Terpelewski's horsemen, except a few Cossacks, had disappeared, and there stood Korf, his men dismounted, observing his enemy. D'Allonville, surveying the ground, conceived the idea of surprising the Russians. On these immense plains the slightest depression serves to conceal the march of armies, and he therefore directed his hussars to steal along a ravine upon a narrow front, and his dragoons to follow, concealing themselves as well as they could, while the light artillery marched with them, and the right flank was protected by two squadrons of Turks. Ahmed Pasha remained at Doltchak, ostentatiously drawn up in battle array. The movement was completely successful. The hussars, stealing along the ravine, as soon as they were discovered, formed line on the march, and, gradually quickening their pace, dashed into the midst of the enemy. The Russians had unmasked a battery of horse artillery, and the French hussars made a point at the guns. "While they were engaged in a hand-to-hand fight for these trophies, the 6th Dragoons came up. The hussars had laid hands on two pieces. The dragoons bursting in upon the enemy forced them to fly, leaving behind four more guns. The pursuit was kept up for some miles, and the French cavalry had the satisfaction, not only of routing the Russian horse, but of carrying from the field six guns, twelve caissons, a forge, 169 prisoners, and 150 horses. The French horse and the Turkish infantry then returned to Eupatoria. The French loss was six killed and thirty-five wounded. This brilliant operation relieved Eupatoria from the too pressing attentions of the Russian horse. At the other extremity of the Crimea an expedition, organised at Kertch, had crossed the Straits, and had occupied and destroyed Tamam and Fanagoria; but it would have been more to the purpose had the allied generals seized Kaffa and Arabat, and threatened the road over the Putrid Sea at Tchongar, whence the enemy derived large quantities of supplies.

Instead of this they adopted a different plan. The navy had long desired some opportunity of doing service. Since the 17th of October, 1854, the allied fleets had watched and guarded, and supplied men and guns to the shore batteries, but had taken no active part. It is true they were to have cannonaded the sea-front once more, but on the 8th of September it blew a gale, and only a few gunboats sheltered in one of the many inlets of the coast had bombarded the Quarantine Fort. Now it happened that the Emperor Napoleon had invented or adopted certain floating batteries cased with iron, and was anxious to test their quality in actual war. It happened also that there was a fort isolated and exposed to attack whereon the experiment might be tried, and a further stress put upon the enemy. The reader will remember that the Crimea is a peninsula, joined to the mainland by the isthmus of Perekop. North of this isthmus, which is very narrow, the land expands east and west, the western part running to a point opposite Odessa, and forming the southern shore of an estuary which receives the waters of the Dnieper and Boug. A short distance up the Dnieper stands the town of Kherson, where the great road to Perekop and Sebastopol crosses the river. This road, going northward, runs to Nicolaief, a town at the confluence of the Nigoul and Boug, twenty-two miles from the mouth of the latter; and thence continues to Odessa. Nicolaief is forty miles from Kherson, and seventy-seven from Odessa. It was end is here that the Russian men-of-war were and are built, and the town was founded for that purpose. From Nicolaief the waters of the Boug go to swell the estuary of the Dnieper. The waters of this estuary run into the Black Sea between two low capes of sand. That on the north is Oczakov, that on the south Kinburn. On both spits there were forts, and these forts guarded the entrance to the estuary, and, consequently, the mouths of the two rivers which open a way to Nicolaief and Kherson. It was the fort of Kinburn that the allies designed to capture. It might have been assumed that their aim in so doing was to pave the way for an advance in force either upon Kherson or Nicolaief; but Prince Gortschakoff knew, as well as the allies, that it was too late in the year to make the attempt even; and thus the expedition to Kinburn only served the purpose of testing the worth of the new floating batteries, and seizing another material guarantee, which, when the time for negotiation came, would prove useful.

In the first week of October upwards of 7,700 infantry embarked on board the French and English men-of-war. The British regiments were the 17th, 20th, 21st, 57th, 63rd, and 837 Royal Marines, giving a total force of 4,109 men. There were also twenty hussars and a battery of artillery, with a due supply of transport. The whole was under the orders of Brigadier-General Spencer. The French infantry consisted of Wimpfen's brigade, 3,470 strong; and the whole force amounted to 8,471 men. The English embarked on the 5th, the French on the 6th of October. There were thirty-eight ships in the French squadron, and thirty-four in the English. The former included the three floating batteries, Devastation, Tonnante, and Lave. The English had six, the French four ships of the line; the former were under Sir Edmund Lyons, the latter under Admiral Bruat. General Bazaine commanded the French land forces. On the 7th the fleets sailed, the British taking the lead. Throughout the night the mighty armament traversed the Black Sea, and on the 8th came to anchor before Odessa. The presence of so large and powerful a fleet, swarming with soldiers too, as the people of Odessa could see, created a deep and visible impression. The good folks lined the esplanade, the Cossacks drew up along the cliffs, and soon regular troops of all arms were in sight. Odessa had been fortified afresh since the autumn of 1854, but there was no intention of attacking it, as no good purpose would have been served by a proceeding so destructive. The object of making so brave a show before Odessa was to attract attention, and give the little Spitfire time to sound and survey in and about the estuary of the Dnieper. On the 9th the surveying ship returned, but the brilliant sunshine which had hitherto favoured the expedition now gave place to Black Sea fog. Slowly the sky was veiled by deep, grey clouds, then a dense mist crept over the sea, and not only hid Odessa from the ships, but the ships from each other. This fog lasted until late in the afternoon of the 10th, when it disappeared, and preparations were made for the departure of the fleet. Then came rough weather, and it was not until the morning of the 14th that the ships got under steam, and made for Kinburn, where they anchored off the spit the same evening.

Kinburn, as we have said, stands on the southern shore of the estuary of the Dnieper, and forms, with Oczakov, the defence of those waters. It is a regular fortress, built almost on a level with the sea. The northern face looks up the spit, the southern along the road that leads to Kherson and Perekop; the eastern looks on to the estuary, and the western on to the Black Sea. Thus it presented four strong casemated faces, and north and south were deep ditches, supplied with sea Water. It mounted fifty-one guns, but they were only I8-pounders and 24-pounders. To the southward there was a small village, and some large stacks of wood. To the north there were two batteries - one called the Point Battery, mounting eight, the other called the Middle Battery, mounting eleven guns. These were connected by a deep-covered way, and their guns commanded the channel, which, inside the spit, ran along near the shore. There were in these works some 1,500 men, under General Kokanowitch. In this very neighbourhood Suvaroff, the most renowned of Russian marshals, had defeated the Turks in 1787, and the next year he captured Oczakov on the opposite shore. Kinburn was, therefore, much prized by the Russians, not only on account of its military value, which was great, but also on account of its relation to former exploits. Within the fort there was a monument to the memory of Suvaroff.

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


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