The Crimea - Arrival of the Allies in the Crimea - Battle of the Alma - The Flank March - Death of Marshal St. Arnaud - Defences of Sebastopol.
We have endeavoured, (though imperfectly) to describe the operations of the contending forces on the Danube; the occupancy by the Austrians of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia; the commotions in the northern and western provinces of Turkey; the struggles of the petty court of Athens to raise a Greek empire on the ruins of the Osmanli power, through the intrigues and crafty scheming of the myrmidons of the czar; the encounters in Asia Minor and the Caucasus; the achievements of the formidable fleets in the Black Sea and the Baltic; and the smaller affairs in the White Sea, and the regions abound Kamtchatka;—but all would have been insignificant if it had not been for the stupendous, protracted, but eventually successful campaign in the Crimea.
Both the climate and the soil of the Crimea are remarkably varied—so much so, indeed, that a description which might be perfectly true of one part, would require to be directly reversed in order to become applicable to another. The fact is, the peninsula consists of distinct portions, which are separated from each other by the river Salghir, flowing from west to east. The northern portion is almost wholly composed of extensive plains, which, though bare of trees, are not deficient in rich pasture, except where marshes and salt-lakes are found. Some of these salt-lakes, which are very numerous towards the sea-coast, are fifteen or twenty miles around. Throughout the northern part n of the Crimea the climate is decidedly unhealthy, being oppressively hot in summer, and bitterly cold, as well as damp, in winter.
On the contrary, in the south—particularly in the valleys and mountain slopes—a delicious mild temperature prevails, and fruits of all kinds are produced in rich abundance. Among the productions of this region may be mentioned corn, hemp, flax, tobacco, olives, vines, mulberries, pomegranates, figs, and oranges. Dr. Clarke gives the following description of a district in the south of the Crimea:—"If there exist a terrestrial paradise, it is to be found in the district intervening between Kutchukoy and Sudak,on the south coast of the Crimea, Protected by encircling alps from every cold and blighting wind, and only open to those breezes which are wafted from the south, the inhabitants enjoy every advantage of climate and of situation. Continual streams of crystal water pour down from the mountains upon their gardens, where every species of fruit known in the rest of Europe, and many that are not, attain the highest perfection. Neither unwholesome exhalations, nor chilling winds, nor venomous insects, nor poisonous reptiles, nor hostile neighbours, infest their blessed territory." This bears pretty evident marks of being tinged with the hues of the writer's glowing fancy, though in some respects confirmed by the testimony of other travellers. However true it may be of the particular district in question, there is certainly no other part on the Crimea so highly favoured; for at certain periods of the year reptiles of various kind infest even the south, the air is far from salubrious, and fevers are pretty prevalent.
The authority of various writers has been cited in support of the different views enunciated, but among those who are entitled to credit we have observed that of a man who, from his accuracy of observation, his personal knowledge of the country, and his scientific acquirements, is placed among the foremost. We allude to Pallas, the well-known traveller and naturalist, who visited Siberia, in 1798, to make astronomical observations. Pallas visited the Taurida, various parts of Russia, and even penetrated to the confines of China. After his second journey to the southern provinces of Russia, he speaks as follows of the Crimea:—
" The climate of the Crimea is subject to great variations. I have experienced some winters, for instance in 1795-6, when the plants of spring were in full flower from the 6th of February, and completely buried in snow the whole of the month of May, but without a strong frost coming on, which might have killed them. The severe winters of 1798-9 and of 1799-1800 lasted, on the other hand, from the end of October to the month of April, with frost more or less severe, and accompanied by violent tempests from the north to such a degree, that the thermometer (Reaumur) fell to 18 degrees under zero, which was, in fact, the extreme cold in the winter of 1787. In the last of those winters, and during the most violent tempests of the north, not only the Sea of Azof and the Bosphorus, but also a part of the Bay of Kaffa and of the Black Sea were frozen, and the ice was strong enough to bear men and horses. But long winters are as little common as the prolonged presence of the snow. The winds are very variable: those of the west and southwest bring rain; those of the south, mild weather with fog; those of the east, dry and calm weather; and of the north, ice. The greatest cold is generally felt in month of February."
The earliest attempts of Russia to obtain possession of the Crimea occurred about the milddle of the seventeenth century. In 1689, the grand invasion was made, headed by Peter the Great, and so sudden and overwhelming was the attack, that it appeared probable that the final subjugation of the people would be made at once; but Selym, the brave Khan, aroused his followers, and drove his foes out of his dominions. But the aggressive march of Russia was still pursued, defeats were sustained, but the powers of the Czar were great, and the second Catherine carried on by force of arms and force of strategy the same line of policy. Of this we have already penned an historical sketch, telling how treaties were made and broken— broken by the rattle of masketry and the roar of artillery—and how oaths were but as idle breath.
" One of the most important events," says a recent writer, "in connexion with the conquest of the Crimea was the triumphal entry of Catherine into that country. It had long been her ambition to make such an expedition, partly for the purpose of sowing dissensions, and partly, it is said, for the purpose of conducting her grandson, Constantine, to the gates of the vast empire which she intended to bequeath to him. On the 18th of June, 1787, she set out from St. Petersburg, accompanied by her ladies and favourites, and the ambassadors of England, France, and Austria; but without her grandson, who, much to her chagrin, was taken suddenly ill with measles, just as the expedition was on the point of starting. The imperial procession travelled day and night, without cessation; a great number of horses being posted at each station, in order that no time might be lost. Fires were lighted along the road, at equal distances, and immense crowds were gathered in different parts to witness the spectacle, and to congratulate their sovereign on her new acquisitions. Arrived at the Dnieper, she found fifty magnificent galleys in waiting to convey her down the river. At Kanieff she was visited by the King of Poland; and at Krementschouk an army of 12,000 men, brilliantly accoutred, enacted her wars with the Turks in divers manoeuvres. The borders of the Dnieper were covered with fictitious villages, elegantly-dressed peasants, and numerous flocks and herds, all in the most flourishing condition. So that what with the natural beauty of the season, and the magical effects of the artist, this barren, ugly region had fell the appearance of a delicious, richly-peopled country. At Kherson she was joined by the Emperor Joseph II. At Perekop she was welcomed by the principal Myrzas, whose troops made evolutions; a thousand Tartars, at the same time, surrounding the imperial carriages, to escort them into the peninsula. This movement at first excited considerable alarm; but Potemkin restored tranquillity by assuring the Empress that the Tartars in question had been chosen by himself for the express purpose of acting as her escort into her newly-conquered province.
" The degrading insult to the Crim Tartar race, couched under this obsequious homage, is but too apparent. Here were a thousand Tartars openly conducting a Russian sovereign to the palace of their Khan. Not content with having bribed this people to betray their country and their King, the Russian intriguer must make them repeat the dastardly act for the amusement of the Empress!" Such was the recognized beginning of imperial sway in the Crimea.
The Crimea, having an area little in excess of that of Wales, presents an irregular quadrilateral figure, with the corners directed nearly to the four cardinal points, and with a peninsula attached to its eastern extremity, called the peninsula of Kertch. The greatest distance north and south, from Perekop to a cape near Balaklava, is about 125 miles in a straight line; while the extent east and west is 200 miles. On three sides it is washed by the Black Sea, and by the Sea of Azof on the fourth. The Isthmus of Perekop (called Orkapi by the Tartars), by which the Crimea is connected with ,the mainland, is about twenty miles long by four in its narrowest part: it is washed on the west by the Black Sea, and on the east by the Sivach More or Putrid Sea, an arm of the Sea of Azof.
No country in the world, perhaps, presents a greater contrast, within the number of miles, than the Crimea, so far as concerns the natural features of the surface. Three-fourths of the area constitute an arid plain orsteppe, occasionally interrupted by hollows, but for the most part flat, dull, and dreary, having a soil in which sand is a principal constituent. In the neighbourhood of the two seas, this plain is dotted with numerous small lakes, shallow and salt: separated from the beach by low narrow strips of land, and surrounded by a soil impregnated with salt. In this whole extent—as large as Yorkshire—the Crimean plain is almost entirely destitute of wood and water, although it has a little green-sward; as a consequence, its inhabitants are few, and its appearance desolate. The inhospitable nature of the region has rendered it a task of much difficulty to the Russians, since their occupation of the Crimea, to send supplies inland to Sebastopol and Simferopol, either from Perekop, or from Arabat to Genitchi, or other places on the shore of the Sea of Azof. One of the most remarkable features of this uninviting waste, is the Kosa Arabatskaia, or Kotche a tongue of land, beginning at the town of Arabat, where the peninsula of Kertch joins the larger section of the Crimea, and extending northward till it nearly touches the mainland of Russia at Genitchi; it cuts off the Putrid Sea from the Sea of Azof in every part except the Strait of Genitchi. This tongue, although more than sixty miles long, is little more than a quarter of a mile in general width ; it is low, sandy, salt, and marked by several small lakes or ponds of salt water; a road, extending along its whole length, contains a few inns at distant intervals; and these inns present the only relief to the oppressive monotony of the region.
Far different is the southern part of the Crimea, with its bold hills and fertile valleys. A mountainous tract extends nearly parallel with the south-eastern coast, from Cape Chersonese, near Sebastopol, to Kaffa, whence to Yenikale it is hilly, if not mountainous. This mountainous tract, in some parts forty miles wide, has an average width of twenty miles; between Balaklava and Alushta, past Alupka and Yalta, it rears its bead like an immense wall near the sea, interrupted by bold headlands, fearful precipices, and small sheltered inlets. As the crest of the mountain-ridge, generally about 2000 feet in height, is not far distant from the sea, the streams which descend to the coast are short and torrent-like. The summit of the ridge presents, not a series of peaks, but an undulating plateau or table-land, relieved at intervals by bolder elevations; the plateau is enriched with good herbage for cattle during the short hot summer; but the snows, which remain during a somewhat lengthened winter, render it for the most part unfitted for permanent habitation. The gradually sloping ground from the plateau to the northern plain, and the strip of beach along the southern shores, constitute the most fruitful, habitable, and valuable portions of the Crimea; indeed, the lateral ridges and the smaller hills north of the plateau, inclose valleys of the most exquisite character, which draw forth encomiums from every traveller; and when it is considered that a few hours' ride will change this lovely scene to one of depressing monotony and dreariness, the diversified character of the Crimea will be sufficiently understood. The most elevated part of the Crimea is the Tchatir-dagh, " tent-mountain," having a flattop surrounded by a number of tent-like elevations, the highest peak being 6000 or 6000 feet above the level of the sea. The rivers Alma and Salghir flow from the Tchatir-dagh; the Katcha, and Belbek, and the Tchernaya, from the more western plateau; while the Tchuruksu and other rivers take their origin further to the east.
The southern coast of the Crimea gradually became, during the first half of this century, the Ventnor or Bonchurch for wealthy Russian families; it possesses all, and more than all the beauties of the Isle of Wight during the summer months; and, as a consequence, it became studded with the holiday mansions of the Galitzins and the Woronzows of the empire. The tourists' road, if so it may be called, runs along the coast from Alushta to Yalta and Alupka, and so through the small valley of Baidar to Balaklava, traversing a scene of varied beauty from end to end. Mr. Scot speaks thus concerning it: " The last eight miles of the journey to Yalta is through a lovely country, where the mountains again recede from the coast, giving place to a series of valleys, over which nature has spread some of her choicest blessings—unrivalled position, soil, aspect, and climate; and man has not forgotten to acknowledge these generous gifts. The fairest flowers and fruits of the earth are there cultivated, and the chateaux of the nobility are studded about. We seemed once more to have reached civilisation: elegant private carriages, gentlemen on horseback, and well-dressed women, were to be seen as we dashed through a village of villas." If this description renders intelligible the delight of the Russians in spending a summer or autumn in the Southern Crimea, Mr Danby Seymour's account of the Northern Crimea in winter will bring vividly before us the terrific nature of the steppe, and the stupendous difficulties necessarily encountered in the transport of an army, of provisions, or of commodities of any kind, across such a country in such a season: " During the winter, the ground is covered with snow, which at times lies several feet deep. Unimpeded by mountains, forests, or rising-ground, tlie winds from the north-east passing over many hundred miles of frozen ground, (in the country around the river Don), blow with resistless violence, and often uninterruptedly for several weeks. When the frost is severe, and the snow in a dry powdery state, the wind drifts it about and obscures the air. These snow storms are called by the inhabitants ' metel ' or ' boura,' and have often proved fatal to the half-frozen, blinded, and bewildered traveller, who, having lost his way, is wandering over the dreary icy steppe in quest of refuge. Detached houses and whole villages are sometimes buried by the drifting snow, through which the inmates are obliged to cut their way. At times the traveller looks in vain for the solitary post-house at which he is always anxious to arrive, and learns that he has reached his temporary resting-place only by a slight rise in the snow, and by his sledge being overturned into a hole, through which he creeps down into the cottage, which is sometimes thus buried for several weeks. When the wind blows with violence, and the snow is drifted about in eddies, the storm has a singularly bewildering and stunning effect; the inhabitants themselves lose their way; and the herds of horses, cattle, and sheep that happen to be surprised by it, become seized with panic, and, rushing headlong before the gale, defy every obstacle that presents itself to their wild career—they are then inevitably lost." The experience of the Russian armies during the war verified most fearfully this character of the Crimean steppes when covered with snow and blasted by wintry winds.
With such scanty knowledge as they had been able to gather, the commanders, in obedience to orders from their respective governments, prepared to make a descent on the Crimea. The town of Sebastopol with its magnificent harbour, fortress, arsenal, and fleet, being the principal object of attention, there arose an inquiry whether a landing should be made on the western or southern coast. Many military authorities were of opinion, both before and after the achievement, that a happier selection of a landing-place might have been made; but the commanders having resolved on a descent upon some point of the western coast, northward of Sebastopol, the only question now to determine was—how far distant should this point be ? The rivers Belbek, Katcha, and Alma flow into Kalamita Bay, north of Sebastopol, and all are commanded by rising-grounds on their southern banks, and if these slight elevations were defended by the Russians, a landing would be very difficult. On the other hand, if a landing were effected at Eupatoria, higher up the coast, the invading army would be enforced to traverse forty or fifty miles of waterless plains to reach Sebastopol, whether or not a Russian antagonist might appear. There was a choice of difficulties; and circumstances afterwards proved that the commanders had not arranged their plans even when the vast armament had reached the Crimean shores.
Never in modern times had such an armament been seen—never such a display of war-vessels, and transports laden with troops, speckling one sea at one time: bright pendants flying, bands playing, the scarlet of the soldier contrasting with the blue of the sailor, the steamers vomiting forth their curling smoke, and .the guns booming forth their signals or their courtesies. The admirals conferred with the generals on the formation of a plan for supplying-ships to transport the troops, and for the establishment of such rules as might obviate danger and confusion during the voyage and the landing. It was arranged that each division of the army should have a complete division or fleet of transports at its service, and that each of these fleets should be convoyed by a squadron of war-ships—thereby establishing a bond of connection between the troops, the transports, and the men-of-war, and between the generals, admirals, and captains. The last week in August and the first in September were weeks of incessant movement: English and French soldiers; and English artillery (the French artillery came by another route, without being landed at or near Varna) being brought down to the beach, and there embarked on board the transports, several hundreds in number. That the transports were indeed numerous will easily be imagined, when it is considered that 60,000 or 70,000 troops were about to be conveyed from the shores of Bulgaria to those of the Crimea, a distance of not less than 300 miles. The smaller transport-vessels were appropriated to the conveyance of the infantry, the artillery, and the immense stores required by a large army; but the British cavalry were for the most part conveyed in the magnificent steamers which had already acquired a reputation more than European—the 8th Hussars and the 17th Lancers in the Himalaya, the 4th Dragoons in the Simla, the 13th Dragoons in the Jason, the 11th Hussars in the Trent, &c.
The immense squadron of ships conveying the allied forces extended for nine miles, with an unknown depth, so that, as far as the eye could reach, the spars of the vessels of both nations were seen rising from the water. Old Fort, where the landing was effected, is, according to the best maps, 21 miles to the north of Sabastopol, and 14 to the south of Eupatoria, a little above the Bulganak. This position is indicated in some maps by the name of Traktir. As the English ships drew up in lines as nearly as possible parallel to the beach, the French fleets passed under steam and extended to the right. Their small war-steamers went much nearer the shore than our own were allowed to go, and soon the tricolor was floating on the beach, and the shouts of " Vive L'Empereur I" rang through the air. The French were the first to take possession of the Crimea.
The place selected for the landing of the British troops was a low strip of beach and shingle, cast up by the violence of the surf, and forming a sort of cause-way between the sea and a stagnant salt-water lake, one of those remarkable deposits of brackish water so frequent along the shores of the Crimea. The causeway is not more than 200 yards broad, leading to an irregular table land, extending with gentle undulations to the chain of rocky heights called the Tent Mountains. As the vessels approached the shore, the prolific character of the country became apparent; and fields of corn and pasture lands, herds of cattle, and grain in stalk, with many a pleasant-looking farm-house, gave indications of prosperity. From the earth arose an aromatic perfume from the wild lavender covering the stubble fields, and here and there groups of the people—not unlike the Bulgarians in appearance—were seen at various parts. The aspect of the country was peculiarly beautiful, as its cultivated spots and wild barrenness, its hills and valleys, became distinguished beneath the beams of the noonday sun.
We have said the French were the first to land; and everything connected with that landing was admirably conducted, and did great credit to the military skill and discipline of the imperial troops. The whole labour and responsibility of the disembarkation of our troops rested with Sir Edmund Lyons—no light or easy task. At the appointed time a black ball was run up the fore of the Agamemnon, and the report of a gun was heard. The boats then gathered around the ships, and the disembarkation began in earnest. It was a grand and imposing sight; those vast masses of men, with their red coats and glistening bayonets, crowding where but a few hours before the sea-gull and the wild fowl alone were seen. Now the whole line of coast was thronged with men—men bent on conquest—men of different nations, who had united in this expedition, and were determined to uphold with their lives truth and justice against tyranny and wrong. The loading and unloading is described as having been a very amusing sight. A gig or cutter, pulled by eight or twelve sailors, with a paddle-box boat, flat, or Turkish pinnace, would come alongside a steamer or transport, in which troops were ready for disembarkation. The officers of each company first descended, each man in full dress. The officers were followed by the privates, each carrying his blanket and greatcoat strapped up into a kind of knapsack, inside of which was a pair of boots, a pair of socks, a shirt, and a forage cap; they also carried water canteens, rations, firelock, bayonet, cartouch box, fifty rounds of ball cartridge for rifle, and sixty rounds for smooth bore arms.
As this busy scene was at its height, and the throng of soldiery on the shore and boats upon the water rapidly increased, news came that a Russian camp had been discovered not eight miles distant. Orders were immediately issued for the Sampson, the Fury, and the Vesuvius, together with three French steamers, to proceed to the place indicated. There the report was confirmed. A Russian camp of 6,000 men was discovered not a mile from the shore. The steamers opened fire with shell. The French were unsuccessful, but the English pitched shell after shell in among the tents, knocking them over right and left, and driving out the soldiers in swarms.
While this was going on, the disembarkation was still continued, and the good feeling subsisting between the soldiers and sailors is graphically described by a writer in the leading journal: —
" As each man came creeping down the ladder, Jack helped him along tenderly from rung to rung till he was safe in the boat, took his firelock and stowed it away, removed his knapsack and packed it snugly under the seat, patted him on the back, and told him 'not to be afeerd on the water;' treated ' the sojer,' in fact, in a very kind and tender way, as though he were a large but not very sagacious ' pet,' who was not to be frightened or lost sight of on any account, and did it all so quickly that the large paddle-box boats, containing 100 men, were filled in five minutes. Then the latter took the paddle-box in tow, leaving her, however, in charge of a careful coxwain, and the same attention was paid to getting the ' sojer ' on shore that was evinced in getting him into the boat, the sailors (half or wholly naked in the surf) standing by at the bows, and handing each man and his accoutrements down the plank to the shingle, for fear ' he'd fall off and hurt himself. ' Never did men work better than the blue-jackets; especially valuable were they with horses and artillery, and their delight at having a horse to hold and to pat all to themselves was excessive. ! When the gun-carriages stuck fast in the shingle, half-a-dozen herculean seamen rushed at the wheels, and with a ' Give way, my lads—all together.' soon spoked it out with a run, and landed it on the hard sand. No praise can do justice to the willing labour of these fine fellows. They never relaxed their efforts as long as man or horse of the expedition remained to be landed, and many of them, officers as well as men, were twenty-four hours in their boats."
The first night on shore was about as wretched as it is possible to conceive. Seldom have 27,000 Englishmen been more miserable. The sky grew black and lowering, the wind arose and the rain fell. The showers increased in violence about midnight, and early in the morning the water fell in drenching sheets, which pierced through the blankets and great-coats of the houseless and tentless soldiers. During the night it blew freshly from the west, a heavy sea tumbled into the bay, and sent a high surf on the beach.
On the following day the high surf upon the beach greatly interfered with the operations of the troops, especially in the landing of the cavalry and artillery. Several valuable horses were drowned. Never perhaps did men work so cheerfully and so well, under such drawbacks and disadvantages. Before the day was out, orders were given to land the tents—an order which was very readily obeyed—the men had experienced enough of the inconvenience of being without them. They did not seek a repetition of the miseries of the night before. Whilst our poor fellows had been soaked through, their Gallic allies had provided themselves with tents; an example our men were glad enough to follow. On the next day the disembarkation was continued with even increased spirit and energy. Provisions, top, became plentiful, sixty arabas laden with flour having been seized on their way to Sebastopol, and a meat and vegetable market being also established.
Throughout all these operations, reports were raised from time to time of a Russian attack, and the utmost vigilance and caution had to be observed. They marched at length towards the object of their coming, and as their ranks approached the Alma, the utmost enthusiasm prevailed—enthusiasm not to be daunted by the wild stories of the Tartars as to tlie whole country being undermined, awaiting but a signal to hurl the invaders to destruction. Such stories are always common enough in time of war.
Various rumours were afloat as to the actual extent and position of the Russian army. All these rumours were contradictory, as by some the forces of the Czar were represented as amounting to 8,000 men on the road to Sebastopol, and by others to 45,000.
On the night of the 18th, Lord Raglan issued orders that the British army should strike tents at daybreak on the 19th, and prepare to march. The French marshal issued like orders to the troops under his command. A striking difference in the arrangements of the two camps was observable in this particular; that the French carried their tents with them, whereas the British re-embarked theirs on board ship. The French conveyed their tents in pieces, each man bearing a share of that which would cover him at night; whether it was that the British tents were too heavy, or so constructed that they could not readily be separated into portions, the result was unquestionable—that the British troops had thereafter to pass many a comfortless night without shelter, while their companions in arms were under canvas. It may have been that, as the Cossacks and Russian cavalry were known by this time to be employed in laying waste the country, sweeping off the supplies, and burning all the houses that lay between Old Fort and the Alma, the march was ordered too hastily to permit the tents to be taken. Be this as it may, however, the tents were ordered to be conveyed down to the beach; and boats came from the ships to re-embark them, and one brigade of the 4th division remained on the spot until this duty was performed.
The march began in early morn. Officers and men scrambled up after their hasty night's rest, and made such arrangements for equipping and breakfasting as circumstances permitted. The scarcity of water was a sad evil; it limited the power of obtaining an early repast, and it prevented the men filling their kegs preparatory to a march over ground where water was nearly unattainable. Some of the officers breakfasted on cold roast pork and "a pull at the water-barrel," while large numbers of the men started without a morning-meal of any kind.
It was a splendid sight. Stretching far and wide, presenting a martial front from east to west, and advancing in columns separated by small intervals, this army of more than 60,000 chosen men formed a gallant body. Here, the red coats of the line regiments, the bear-skin caps of the Guards, the picturesque dress of the Highlanders, relieved by the sober darkness of the riflemen; there, the simple caps or shakos of the French, the bulky red trousers of the Zouave, the flowing costume of the other African regiments, and the nimble tirailleurs; further on, the Turks, Europeanised except in relation to the red fez; and each—British, French, and Turk—anxious to stand well in the eyes of the others. The artillery too threw its bright specks into the picture. Each British division of infantry was attended by a division of artillery, consisting of eight 9-pounder guns, and two 24-pounder howitzers; and with the cavalry division was a troop of 6-pounder horse-artillery. As the artillery maintained a position at the right of its respective division, it threw a diversity into the scene. Turks close to the beach; French next; then English; then cavalry; and rifles and light skirmishers furthest inland—presented a magnificent front; while behind these came the trains of horses carrying the reserve ammunition, the baggage-animals, the arabas with sick men and commissariat stores, the droves of oxen and sheep—which the commissaries had with immense difficulty collected—and the rear-guard to bring up the whole. The moving mass covered several square miles, and carried with it the hopes of three nations. "Nor was even this the limit of the picture; a splendid fleet steamed and sailed southward as the army marched and rode southward—each, fleet and army, watching and admiring the other.
It was apparent to the troops that an encounter was not far distant; for on the afternoon of the 19th, before the expedition had reached the Bulganak, curling wreaths of smoke could be discerned on the south and east, marking the spots where villages and houses had been fired by the Cossacks, and where the poor Tartars were rendered homeless by this characteristic specimen of Russian tactics. Next could be seen hovering upon and around the distant hills, dark bodies of cavalry, whose object appeared to be to check the advance of the Allies by harassing attacks on the left flank. A portion of cavalry, about 600 in number, belonging to the 8th, and the 11th Hussars, and the 13th Light Dragoons, commanded by the Earl of Cardigan, galloped onwards to meet the Cossacks. These Cossacks appeared thrice the number of the small force which went out against them; therefore Lord Raglan ordered them to be recalled. Whilst these skirmishers were slowly returning to the main body, the Cossack squadrons separated so far as to give play to some pieces of artillery, which poured forth a succession of shot upon this small body of British cavalry. By this time a troop of horse-artillery had arrived, which dealt out its missives with such effect as to cause the Russians to retire. Had this small body of 600 cavalry advanced farther up the hill, there is no doubt but perhaps one half would have been swept down by the hidden Russian artillery. The few casualties of broken arms and legs consequent upon the Russian shots showed that British troops could bear pain without wincing. This work was not, however, left wholly to the English, for a body of French wound round the hill, and scattered a squadron of Russian cavalry by a few 9-pounders. Prince Menschikoff's plans were to take up a defensive position on the Alma; and, in his account of this his first encounter with the Allied troops, he did not give exactly the same colouring to it as the Allies; but as the skirmish was merely a trifle, neither side attempted to make much of it. When the whole of the Allies—the Russians having retired to the Alma—had crossed the Bulganak, preparations were made to bivouac for the night—a night which was cold, damp, and comfortless;—and sleep, in most instances, was out of the question. Many, however, having been weakened by cholera, at Varna, slept the sleep of death, that night, and were not permitted to be partakers in the victory of the coming day.
Morning dawned on the 20th of September—the day of the Battle of the Alma—amid a busy camp, a buckling-on of accoutrements, a harnessing of horses, and a hasty breakfasting on the part of those who had time and materials for obtaining that welcome repast. Many expected, though none could know, that the dawn would usher in the day on which the first great battle would be fought by the English and French armies during this war—the only contests worthy of note before that day having fallen to the lot of the Turks, on the banks of the Danube and in Asia. Lord Raglan had made his head-quarters at a little post-house on the banks of the Bulganak, which the Cossacks had not succeeded in quite destroying by fire; whether the officers had aught to cover them is doubtful : the supper, the sleep, the breakfast, were all al fresco, leaving few domestic chattels to be disposed of when the morning's march commenced. The distance from the Bulganak to the Alma is between four and five miles; and as it was by this time known that the Russians had strongly posted themselves on the banks of the last-named river, the Allies prepared by proper equipment for an encounter as soon as the Alma should be reached. The French had bivouacked during the night nearest to the sea; next to them the Turks; and the English further inland—the three camps forming a line nearly three miles in extent, at right-angles with the sea-shore. In this same order did they commence their march southward to the Alma: the line being now much more than three miles in length, owing to the skirmishing outposts of rifles and light cavalry, scattered far and wide inland to keep a keen watch on the enemy.
To understand the military operations of this momentous day, it becomes necessary to notice—first the topographical features of the river's banks; then the arrangements made by the Russians in defence of those banks; and next, the plans of the Allies in relation to the forcing of a passage.
The river Alma, formed by the junction of several streams which have their origin in the Tchatir-dagh, flows north-west to the road leading from Sebastopol to Simferopol, being crossed by that road at a point between Baktcheserai and the last-named town. From this point a course nearly westward takes it to the sea; its banks being dotted with several villages, of which those nearest to the scene of action are Kanitchkoi, Tarkhanter, Bourliouk, Almatamak, and Akles. The river, cutting through a soft red clay soil, is in most places shallow enough to be forded; but there are occasional depths which render fording dangerous. The highest bank is sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left of the river; but for a considerable distance near the mouth it is on the left or south side; and thus the Allies, coming from the north, found themselves on the banks of a stream commanded by higher ground on the other side. Small rivulets force their way into the Alma on the south bank, forming miniature ravines, or lateral valleys, which separate the southern banks into hillocks, knolls, or detached heights. The road from Old Fort joins the road from Simferopol at a point near the village of Bourliouk, and is carried over the Alma by a timber bridge. The knolls near the river's bank become united further inland into a plateau, which is commanded by a hilly ridge 600 or 700 feet in height, extending quite to the sea, where it presents an abrupt cliff: this ridge, like the lower plateau, being cut up by lateral gullies into isolated hills.
Such being the topographical features of the river and its banks, there was an obvious advantage on the part of the Russians over the Allies, both in the possession of higher ground, and in the defences they had had a whole week to form since the Allies made a landing at Eupatoria. Prince Menschikoff, who commanded in the Crimea at that time, did not fail to make use of these precious days. He took possession of all the heights which commanded the gullies, the river, and the northern bank : planting formidable batteries at every salient position; some were earthworks, hastily thrown up, but armed with 24 and 32-pounders; while others were field-batteries, further aided by howitzers. The chief of these batteries was an earthen redoubt, whose face formed two sides of a triangle, with the apex pointing towards the little bridge over the Alma, and the sides directed to two reaches or bends of the river, one above and the other below the bridge: this single work, therefore, commanding an extensive portion of the river's course. Not only was this redoubt rendered formidable by its position near the brow of a hill, but the ascent to it was enfiladed or commanded by three or four batteries placed on neighbouring heights, the guns of which swept the slope of the hill leading up to the redoubt, or could readily be made to bear upon the bridge and the village. The various batteries and the redoubts were heavily armed with ordnance, mostly brass guns of fine workmanship. Further to defend the ridge, and to prevent an ascent up the slopes which led to it, masses of skirmishers, armed with rules, were placed; insomuch that it would, in every sense, be an uphill struggle on the part of an enemy attempting to gain the ridge. The redoubt, being placed near the spot where the high road from Eupatoria to Sebastopol cuts across the ridge, was virtually the key to the whole position: whoever retained that redoubt, when the battle was over, would be the victor of the day. A large force of Russian lancers and heavy dragoons, and a formidable body of infantry, were ready to defend these batteries at all points, and to descend upon the Allies if any favourable opportunity should offer. The right wing was on the east of the main road; the centre on the west of the same road; while the left wing extended from the centre some distance towards the sea, from which the important point occupied by the redoubt was two and a half miles distant. An additional defence lay in this: that although the river is shallow, and generally fordable, the banks are extremely rugged, and in most parts steep; the willows along the margin were cut down by the Russians, to prevent them from affording cover to the attacking party. Lord Raglan, in his despatch relating to the battle, shows how much he was impressed with the strength of the Russian position, the defences of which he estimated at not less than 45,000 or 60,000 men, besides the formidable artillery. Marshal St. Arnaud reported to his government that the Russian forces included the 16th and 17th divisions of infantry, a brigade of the 13th division, a brigade of the riflemen, a force of about 6000 cavalry, and four brigades of artillery.
The plans which the Allies formed for forcing a passage through these tremendous obstacles were as follow :—On the morning of the 20th, before the battle, the extreme right of the Allies was in the rear of the village of Loukoul, a short distance from the mouth of the Alma: it consisted of General Bosquet's or the 2nd French division, with the Turks in the rear; both being within a short distance of the sea, where the combined fleets could be seen in majestic array. The centre consisted of the 1st French division, under General Canrobert, and the 3d under Prince Napoleon, with the 4th division and the artillery in reserve. Further inland still, forming the left wing of the Allied army, were the 2nd and light British divisions, under Sir de Lacy Evans and Sir George Brown; behind these were the 3rd and 1st divisions, under Sir Richard England and the Duke of Cambridge; and to bring up the rear, the 4th division under Sir George Cathcart, and the cavalry division under the Earl of Lucan. About 65,000 men were thus placed in splendid order, with a frontage of nearly four miles, and a depth of half a mile. The system of operation determined on by the Allied commanders consisted principally in this—that the French right should assail the Russian left by crossing the Alma at and near its junction with the sea, and climbing the steep rugged cliffs to the heights above; that the French left and the English right should cross the river at or near the bridge, and ascend the heights immediately opposite; while the English left should operate on the landward flank of the enemy. In view of the formidable position of the great redoubt, the English would appear to have had the hardest work cut out for them; but this could only be judged by the result. Boats had, on the previous day, ascertained that the Alma was fordable near its mouth, and that one of the French divisions could easily cross it. Admiral Hamelin, it was arranged, should place eight French steamers off the cliff which forms the seaside end of the ridge, to pour in a storm of shells upon any battery or battalion of the enemy which might attempt to interrupt the crossing of the troops.
It fell to the lot of General Bosquet to commence the battle, aided in a remarkable manner by the French steamers. The heights descend to the sea so abruptly and steeply, that Menschikoff appears to have relied mainly on natural defences at this part, placing most of his men and guns further inland, near the highroad. The Allied commanders had not failed to notice this circumstance; and Bosquet's attack was part of a plan for taking advantage of it: it was hoped that he might be able to ascend the rugged cliff-like steep, to gain the plateau, to outflank the left of the enemy, and thus distract them from the main attack in front. "Rapidly but steadily did the French and Turks advance, crossing the Alma very near its mouth, and sending ahead a party of skirmishers and light troops to clear the gardens and brush-wood of any opponents; but nonesuch appeared; for either the Russians did not regard the movement as one of importance, or they had no available batteries or battalions to bring to bear on that point. With inconceivable activity the French climbed the cliff: the Zouaves being especially agile at this work—running, leaping, crawling on hands and knees, surmounting all obstacles of bush and gully. They gained the plateau; and then, and then only, did the Russians open upon them. A smart interchange of firing took place, and Bosquet advanced by degrees towards the central position, although no fewer than five batteries were pouring forth their missiles.
During the single hour, from half-past eleven to half-past twelve, in which Bosquet was thus employed in obtaining possession of the heights between the enemy and the sea, Canrobert, with the 1st and part of the 4th divisions, was making arrangements to afford him aid at a time when he was becoming severely pressed by the Russian batteries. The river was boldly crossed by a ford at the village of Almatamak; and Canrobert and Prince Napoleon found a small path which led up to the heights; artillery was dragged up the opposite slopes in face of the Russian batteries and sharp-shooters; and Bosquet, this diversion being made, was enabled to maintain his advantageous position. In order still further to assist Bosquet, Marshal St. Arnaud sent to him the remaining moiety of General Forey's division, the 4th; and thus there were two streams of French troops crossing at different points, to aid Bosquet in maintaining his advantageous position.
Now commenced a most exciting struggle. As Bosquet advanced by one oblique route, and Canrobert by another, they met on the heights near an unfinished octagonal tower, which was probably intended for a telegraph ; and around this spot the Russians had assembled a formidable power of infantry and field-batteries. Again and again did the French attack; and each time did the Russians repel the onslaught. The Zouaves, more Arab than French in appearance, fought with all the ardour which Algerine campaigning had engendered; bullets were forgotten as soon as the men came within bayonet distance; hand-to-hand contests were maintained on all sides; and it became at length difficult for the batteries on either side to fire without hitting their own men. When at length the French obtained command of the position, and the Russians retired, the vicinity of the tower was found to be covered with an unbroken mass of wounded and dying men, the opponents intermingled one among another. The French fleet afforded valuable aid during these operations; the steamers ran in as close as they could to the bluff cliff, and shelled the heights in amazing style—pouring forth these terrible missiles, which passed over the crest of the bluff, and fell among the Russian batteries and battalions, at a distance of 3000 yards from the ships.
Hot work this had been for the French. In the centre of the line, too, the exertions were immense, and the success great. The general movement of Marshal St. Arnaud, with the chief of his forces, commenced at the moment when Bosquet with his division appeared on the heights. Infantry and artillery pressed on towards the river, pouring out volleys against the Russian sharp-shooters, and forcing them to retreat up the opposite slope. The French dashed into the river, each man crossing where he could or where he liked, reformed on the other side, and pressed onward and upward with irresistible force: the infantry and guns in the lower position gradually gaining an ascendancy over those in the upper. The marshal and the officers were on the alert during this period, galloping about from point to point, to render aid where aid seemed to be most required; and the troops behaved with the ardour and courage which the French are wont to exhibit. The same men who would have cried " Vive la Republique !" at one time, now cried " Vive l'Empereur !" for the glory of France was in either case the sentiment which animated them: the cry was a battle-cry, an outpouring of enthusiasm.
Few but terrible were the hours during which the British were engaged in fighting on this day of blood, and trying was the ordeal to be passed through by the men, very few of whom had actually seen war; but Lord Raglan trusted in them, and his trust was not in vain. When the movement began, the light division, strengthened by horse-artillery, and the 2nd division, fronted the enemy, and were likely to be the first to fire and to receive fire; the 1st and 3rd divisions were in the rear; while the 4th division and the cavalry were still further from the river, to act as a reserve, and to protect the left flank and rear against large bodies of the enemy's cavalry which had been seen in those directions. The advance having commenced, and the banks of the river nearly attained, the Allies were thrown into some confusion by the well-timed burning, by the Russians, of the village of Bourliouk, directly opposite the centre of the Russian position: it was well-timed, because such a manoeuvre, among the sad but inevitable concomitants of warlike tactics, created a continuous blaze and smoke for 300 yards, obscured the Russian position, and obstructed the plans of the British for crossing the river. The advance was to be made when the French right had gained a certain position on the heights; and, awaiting this moment. Lord Raglan ordered his troops to lie down, to escape in some measure the murderous hail; there they lay, balls and shells falling into and upon and among them; until at length the general, brooking no longer delay, ordered a rise and an advance. Sir de Lacy Evans's division thereupon separated into two brigades, one of which forded the river above the burning village, and the other below; the fording-places being deep and dangerous, and a destructive fire being maintained against them by the infantry and artillery on the opposite bank. And now did the execution become indeed tremendous; for the Russians had placed twigs and sticks to mark the exact angles at which their ordnance would command the banks of the river at various points. Missiles whizzed over the heads of the British troops, ploughed in among their columns, rebounded, dashed up the soil in clouds, and carried death into every regiment. The disadvantages were rendered still more obvious by this circumstance: that, owing to the steepness and ruggedness of the banks, the artillerymen found it almost impossible to transport their guns to the opposite side of the stream; insomuch that the battle was far advanced ere two guns were successfully brought over by Captain Dickson.
It was the light division, under Sir George Brown, that crossed the river under the most trying circumstances; for this division was directly in front of the hill on which the formidable redoubt was placed. The banks of the river at that spot, rugged and broken, offered serious obstacles; and the vineyards through which the troops had to pass, as well as trees which the enemy had felled, created additional impediments, which prevented the men from forming incompact order. The noble fellows bore a fierce torrent of shot, shell, and musketry, while wading through the Alma; and then scrambled up the slopes, through thickets and vineyards, scattered and dispersed, and exposed to a terrible fire in front and on both flanks. They were mowed down with fearful rapidity; but, on the other hand, the English artillery wrought yet more fatal execution on the dense masses of Russian infantry, posted on various parts of the slope of the hills. Lord Raglan and his staff plunged into the river, and crossed near the bridge; three of his staff-officers were struck down by the side of their commander, and the contest became most deadly. The veteran Sir George Brown saw his division cut down by fifties at a time; but he never wavered; he headed his men; he was unhorsed, but rose again, shouting " Twenty-third, I'm all right!"
Now came the time when the 1st division, under the Duke of Cambridge, was to do its work: it consisted of splendid troops—Guards and Highlanders. Grandly it advanced, crossing the river, and ascending the slopes in defence of the light division, advancing in line as if on parade, and regarding with superb disdain the batteries and dense columns high above them—arriving gradually nearer and nearer to the redoubt, but having its ranks thinned at every instant by the incessant fire from the various batteries. An immense and compact body of Russian infantry was now seen approaching, to aid still more in defence of the main redoubt. The crisis approached. Unless the redoubt could be taken, the passage of the ridge could not be forced, nor the victory gained ; while, unless the Russian phalanx could be broken, the British could hardly hope to reach the redoubt. A few large guns were therefore brought to bear upon the dense mass; and these, by a well-directed fire, broke it, and forced the infantry to retreat in various directions. Then came the moment for the grand charge of the Guards and the Higlanders; the former approaching the redoubt on the right, and the latter on the left. Cheered on by their commanders, they dashed up. Sir Colin Campbell, leading his Highlanders, and reminding them in a few terse exclamations of the old glories of the regiments, rushed up, ordering the men not to fire a shot until they came near the redoubt, when the musket and the bayonet were to work in rapid succession. The Duke of Cambridge cheered on the Guards, who, however, needed little prompting to do their duty at sucn a moment. Up they went, Guards and Highlanders, through thickets, across gullies, over abattis of sharp-pointed branches, and amid the firing of batteries and battalions on all sides. They met the Russians muzzle to muzzle: they entered the redoubt; and the 1st, 2nd,and light divisions speedily commanded the hill and its defences, and virtually achieved the victory ; but not before the vicinity of the redoubt had become strewn with slain. Tho French by that time had attained a position which enabled them to pour in a destructive tire upon the retreating masses; if they could have advanced somewhat further on the plateau, they would have seriously impeded the retirement of the Russians; but the battle had been fought chiefly by infantry on the part of the Allies, and there was no cavalry in a position to pursue the enemy. Hence Menschikoff was able to retire in tolerable order, and to carry off his guns: this, however, he could not effect until he had brought up his reserve cavalry and artillery to cover the retreat.
So many concurrent movements were made during the battle, that it becomes difficult to recognise their relative bearings one upon another; but, expressed in brief, they may be understood as follows :—General Bosquet's division succeeded in turning the enemy's left flank, by the clever ascent of the bluff near the sea; General Canrobert's division, with some field pieces, crossed the river about a mile higher up, ascended the opposite bank, relieved Bosquet, and enabled him to maintain his commanding position; Prince Napoleon's and Sir de Lacy Evans's divisions crossed the river at various points near the centre of the scene of operations, and surmounted the numerous obstacles presented on the opposite banks; while Sir George Brown's and the Duke of Cambridge's divisions crossed above the bridge and burning village, and maintained the fearful struggle on the ascent to the heights. The artillery was brought effectively to bear on such points as it could command, and contributed materially to the success of the day's achievements. The cavalry was not called upon for active service ; but its position was important, keeping in check the lancers and the dragoons whom Menschikoff despatched to the left flank of the Allies. Sir George Cathcart's and Sir Richard England's divisions were not largely engaged; though called partially to the front, they constituted rather a reserve force available in any contingency which might present itself. The Turks are scarcely mentioned in connection with the operations ; they were with Bosquet,—martial in appearanqe, proud of taking rank beside their Allies, and eager to be employed; yet they were nearly neglected. General Bosquet, it is true, spoke in his dispatch of the " prodigies of rapidity " which the Turks executed in their inarch towards the Alma; but little mention is made of any duties subsequently assigned to them. It can scarcely be said that the English and French rendered justice to the Turkish soldiery during the war; appellations, partly in pleasantry, and partly contemptuous, were thrown at them; they were condemned and abused if any of their manoeuvres terminated unfortunately, while few opportunities were afforded them to display soldierly qualities. This course of proceeding was neither wise nor generous; for, when well commanded, the Turks showed many heroic qualities on the Danube and in Asia. Omar Pasha understood them well: and where he commanded, they fully maintained their ancient military reputation.
Numberless were the tales which all, officers and privates, had to tell of this eventful day. Lord Raglan, in a despatch which scarcely described with sufficient clearness the operations of the battle, pointed out the disadvantages with which his officers and men had to contend. In naming the officers—always an invidious duty—who had distinguished themselves, be somewhat dissatisfied those whose names did not appear; but this is one of the natural consequences of the system—a system of questionable utility, because, as the subordinate officers are rarely mentioned by name, even-handed justice cannot be rendered, however kind and conscientious the general maybe. The etiquette of the English army renders still less possible the naming of any sergeants, corporals, or privates, who may have performed heroic deeds. It was not until the numerous "soldiers' letters" appeared in the public journals, that the minute and wonderful details of the battle of the Alma became known. An opinion has at times been expressed, that such letters constitute the best description of a battle, coming as they do from men who were plunged in the thickest of that which they describe; but it should be considered that soldiers do not know the plans of their commanders, neither can they see what is transpiring in distant parts of the field; the letters are valuable as elucidations of minor matters, which each man may feel acutely, but which become buried among the more important incidents of the day. Many of them, thus regarded, are valuable. They are full of eloquence; the thoughts of home, and the heroic determination of the soldier, are mingled together in a narrative which derives force from its simplicity and truthfulness.
A melancholy time was that when the muster-roll was called over, to ascertain who had been killed, who wounded, at the battle of the Alma. All knew that it would be a fearful list; and a feverish anxiety prevailed in every part of the United Kingdom, from the date of the first telegraphic despatch, to know which beloved father, husband, brother, son, had fallen. It was soon evident, from the peculiar tactics of the battle, that the officers had been very much exposed, and that many families of the higher grades of society would have to join with those of humbler rank in mourning over the events of the day. They had, indeed, fallen thickly. Captain Monck, of the 7th, after felling a Russian near him, was shot dead by another; Lord Chewton was severely wounded; Captain Drew fell while serving one of the batteries; and in all the regiments which had been most warmly engaged, the ratio of officers killed or wounded was seriously large. The London Gazette of the 8th of October contained the names of all the officers killed and wounded; while that of the 17th was crowded with columns of names, those of non-commissioned officers and privates; and never, perhaps, were gazettes more keenly perused by those who, hoping almost against hope, ran the eye down the columns with a wish that a cherished name might not be there. The first return contained the names of 26 officers killed, and 76 wounded; the second comprised 327 non-commissioned officers and men killed, and 1557 wounded or missing—a total of 353 of all ranks killed, and 1633 wounded. To this list, however, must be added those, many in number, who died subsequently of wounds received on this day. The inequality of loss among the different divisions was very striking, showing in what different degrees they had been exposed to danger during those-three fatal hours; the light division, with which Sir George Brown crossed the river, and ascended the hill under such a murderous fire, had no less than 967 brave fellows struck down, either killed or wounded; the 2nd division, 498; and the 1st division, 439; while the 3rd, the 4th, and the cavalry divisions, the engineers, and the artillery, had less than 100 killed and wounded altogether. The 7th, 19th, 23rd, 33rd, 77th, and 88th regiments, together with the second battalion of Rifle Brigade, forming unitedly the light division, suffered unequally among themselves, according to the particular points at which they were called upon to bear the awful storm of ball and bullet; the 7th, 19th, 23rd, and 33rd, each lost more than 200 of its number—a fearful gap ; the 77th, 88th, and Rifles, suffered less severely.
The following is a list of officers killed at the battle of the Alma:—Lieut. Abercrombie, 93rd; Lieut. Butler, 23rd Fusiliers; Lieut. Cardew, 19th; Lieut-Colonel Chester, 23rd Fusiliers; Lieut. Cockell, Boyal Artillery; Capt. Conolly, 23rd; Capt. Cust, Coldstream Guards; Capt. Drew, Boyal Artillery; Capt. Dowdall, 95th; Capt. Eddington, and his brother, Lieut Eddington, fell together, both of the 95th; Capt. Evans, 23rd Fusiliers; Lieut. Knowsley, 95th; Lieut. Luxmore, 30th; Lieut. Montague, 33rd; Capt. Monck, 7th Fusiliers; Lieut. Polhill, 95th; Major Rose, 55th; Lieut. Radcliffe, 23rd Fusiliers; Capt. Schaw, 55th: Ensign Stockwell, 19th; Lieut. Walsham, Royal Artilley ; Capt. Wynn, 23rd Fusiliers; Lieut. Young, 23rd. The following died of their wounds soon after the battle:—Viscount Chewton, Captain in the Scots Fusilier Guards: Major Hare, 7th Fusiliers; Lieut. Colonel Haly, 80th regiment. Lieut. Irwine, 13th, and five or six other officers, died of cholera, shortly after their arrival in the Crimea.
The Russian accounts of the Battle of the Alma were all couched in such a manner as to attempt to lessen the disgrace of the Russian arms as much as possible; the government organ, the Journal de St. Petersburg, asserting that the fighting-men on the side of Russia, only amounted to 33,000, whilst those of the Allies numbered 70,000. Menschicoff had boasted, a short time before the battle, that he could hold his position in the Alma for three weeks against an army of 100,000; but the Allies drove him and his forces from that position in three hours! Marshal St. Arnaud estimated the loss of the Russians at from 5000 to 6000 men. The carriage belonging to Prince Menschikoff was captured, containing documents of some importance.
During the time which intervened between the 20th to the 24th, the Russians retreated towards Sevastopol, which they entered on the 21st, and Menschikoff immediately ordered the execution of some very important alterations in and around Sebastopol. The land defences were very materially strengthened; many additional guns mounted; and the fortifications were rendered more impregnable to any force that might be brought against them. Besides these precautions, another astounding manoeuvre was executed, namely, the sinking of a fine fleet of seven ships-of-war in the harbour of Sebastopol, in order to prevent another fleet from entering. This fleet consisted of one ship of 120 guns, two of 14, two of 80, and two of 40. Unexampled as the proceedure was, it was most effectual in the object contemplated; for this barrier prevented any vessels from entering. After these plans had been carried out, Menschikoff and a great portion of his forces left Sebastopol, crossed the Tchernaya, advancing over Inkerman bridge, and moved towards Baktcheserai, about twenty-four miles north-east of Sebastopol, as a means of checking the advance of the Allies towards the centre of the Crimea, and as a means, also, of commanding the high road from Simferopol, by which important route all supplies were brought from the mainland.
This movement also, as stated in a despatch, had three other objects, namely, to obtain provisions which were on the road from Perekop to Simferopol; to obtain reinforcements from Kertch under Khomoutoff ; and to attack the English and French on their rear and left flank, in the event of their march to the north-side of Sebastopol.
These items of information, picked up from various sources, reached St. Arnaud and Kaglan in due course, and had the effect of modifying very considerably the plans of the generals. In the first instance, the southward march was resumed, from the Alma to the Katcha, with an intent to approach the northern side of Sebastopol; a deviation from this maneuvre was not contemplated until a day or two afterwards.
After the terrible battle on the 20th, the French were ready to move before the English—as was the case, indeed, in most of the operations, on account of the imperfect organisation of many departments in the British army. The French removed all their wounded to the ships in a few hours, and St Arnaud proposed to march the next day: this, however, Lord Raglan declined, on account, probably, of the lamentable deficiency in his means of providing for the wounded. It is difficult to estimate the value of the two momentous days thus lost; had the Allies proceeded at once to Sebastopol, the whole aspect of the campaign might have been changed; and if the French chafed a little at the inaction thus forced upon them by their ally, they might justly be pardoned. On the evening of the 20th, on the whole of the 21st and 22d, were the British—bands-men, soldiers who had not been much engaged during the fight, sailors, and marines—employed in burying dead British and Russians, and in conveying wounded British and Russians down to the beach; and even then, distressing as it must have been to the kind heart of Lord Raglan, numbers of wounded Russians were left behind on the hills—the necessity for marching being now extreme. The surgeons worked night and day, amputating shattered limbs and binding up wounds. The wounds were such as are only to be seen on a battle-field. One of the surgeons, writing concerning the " pluck" of the British soldiers at Alma, said: " They laugh at pain, and will scarcely submit to die. It is perfectly marvellous—this triumph of mind over body. If a limb were torn off or crushed at home, you would have them brought in fainting, and in a state of dreadful collapse; here they come with a dangling arm, or a riddled elbow, and it's ' Now, doctor, be quick, if you please—I am not done for so bad but I can get away back and see! ' And many of these brave fellows, with a lump of tow wrung out of cold water wrapped round their stumps, crawled to the rear of the fight, and with shells bursting round them, and balls tearing up sods at their feet, watched the progress of the battle. I tell you this as a solemn truth, that I took off the foot of an officer, Captain —, who insisted on being helped on his horse again, and declared that he could fight now that his foot was dressed ! "
The surgeons attended the Russians, too, on the 21st; but 700 of these miserable relics of Menschikoffs army still remained where they had fallen, and where they had lain sixty long hours, the victims of unspeakable suffering and privation. Lord Raglan humanely rendered these poor fellows all the aid he possibly could under the circumstances.
On the 24th of September, Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud determined on their flank movement from the Katcha and the Belbeck to Balaklava. On the same day, Prince Menschikoff had resolved on his flank movement from Sebastopol to Baktcheserai. It was perhaps the most remarkable day for strategy throughout the war; each army being ignorant of the movements of the other ; each attempted to frustrate the supposed plans of the other; and each would necessarily cross the path of the other at some point near Kutor Mackenzie, or Mackenzie's Farm. This plan of the Allied commanders was adopted on considering the difficulty or impossibility of procuring the indispensable supplies by way of the Katcha or the Belbeck.
Admiral Hamelin, however, attributes this change in the route of the Allies from the north side of Sebastopol to the south side of that town, to the circumstance of the sunken ships in the harbour of Sebastopol. In a despatch, he further says, "the generals-in-chief decided upon turning Sebastopol by the east, and throwing themselves upon the south of the town, after they had placed themselves in communication with the fleets at Balaklava, and obtained provisions and munitions." Whether advantageous or not in other respects, and apart from the boldness and brilliancy which characterised the manoeuvre, there can be little doubt that this flank-movement was in a manner forced upon the Allied commanders by the defensive Russian arrangements at the mouth of the Belbeck and at Sebastopol.
On the morning of the 24th the Allies were strengthened by the arrival of the Scots Greys and an infantry regiment, also by 9000 French; all of whom had been landed at the mouth of the Katcha. About mid-day, the march began, under the heat of a scorching sun ; crossing the Belbeck by a small bridge, about four miles from the sea; and, on reaching the southern bank, and ascending the hill, the officers could espy, with the aid of their glasses, that city which had during so many months occupied men's thoughts—Sebastopol ; the houses and windows being distinctly visible. Near this bridge the armies encamped for the night, some on the hills, some in the hollows between the hills, and the officers in the village.
The 25th was a day to be remembered by all in the army, for it was a day of much difficulty and fatigue. The distance from the Belbeck to Balaklava is but fourteen miles; but the troops had to pass through a thick forest or jungle; and every officer and soldier had to tell how this daring scramble was effected. Had the Russians been aware of the situation of the Allied troops at this time, it would have been a disastrous day to the Anglo-French army; for the regiments were scattered and intermixed in an apparently inextricable mass of confusion: each man threading a path as he best could, and many thousand infantry emerged from the jungle about two o'clock.
It was at this time, that occurred the most extraordinary incident in this extraordinary march. Lord Raglan rode at the head of the British army, the French and Turks being at some distance on the flank. He was one of the first to emerge from the wood upon the high road, and suddenly found himself close to a portion of the Russian army! The two lines had intersected. The opponent commanders had commenced their flank-marches nearly at the same time: Menschikoff having the start by a few hours—the Allies south-east from Belbeck towards Balaklava, the Russians north-east from Sebastopol towards Simferopol: each planned a flank-march, which was really cleverly conceived; each was entirely ignorant of the other's movements; each took Mackenzie's Farm in the line of route; and the two encountered at this spot. Not on equal terms, however, for the van of the British came upon the rear of the Russians; and although the surprise was perhaps equal on both sides, the terror was on the part of the Russians, who had been greatly dispirited by the battle of the Alma, and who had formed an exaggerated estimate of the strength of the Allies. A few cavalry only, Scots Greys and others, were near Lord Raglan at the time; yet did the Russians, entirely ignorant of the extent of the force thus suddenly coming upon them, lose all presence of mind. The British brought a few guns, a squadron or two, and a battalion of Rifles, to bear on the spot; a volley and a charge followed ; and the Russians, after a brief stand, rushed pell-mell along the road to Simferopol, leaving everything behind that might have impeded their flight, and strewing the road for two or three miles with waggons, carts, tumbrils, provisions, ammunition, the military-chest, baggage, officers' uniforms, personal ornaments, and a countless array of miscellaneous articles. Some portions of this captured booty were placed under guard by Lord Raglan's orders, but much also was left as a prize to the men—a prize which not a little pleased them as a relief from the laborious work of this day. "Our gunners," said one of the artillery officers, " got hold of the baggage of some general officer and his staff, for they were soon laden with embroidered hussar jackets, pelisses, and garments of various kinds ; they also got a quantity of jewellery and watches; and some, more lucky than the rest, got hold of the general's luncheon-basket, and feasted on wild-boar, washed down with champagne."
As the stragglers came up, by dozens or twenties, a halt was made for an hour or two, on the heights near Mackenzie's Farm. This farm is about six miles in a straight line from Belbeck Bridge, whence the flank-march had commenced; and another straight line of four miles marks the distance from the farm to the Tchernaya, on the way to Balaklava; but the real distances traversed by the troops were much greater, and the necessity for a little mid-day repose became evident. From time to time, the right flank of the army approached so near the eastern end of Sebastopol, that the red-coats must unquestionably have been seen from the houses and public buildings; yet not the smallest attempt was made to check the march. From evidence afterwards obtained, it appears certain that the town contained few troops; troops and inhabitants were alike in a terror-stricken state; and it remains a fair problem, whether the Allies might not, on the night of the 25th or the early morn of the 26th, have forced the few defences at the upper end of the harbour, and entered Sebastopol With the uncertain knowledge possessed by the Allies at that time, however, concerning the movements of Menschikoff, and with a natural anxiety to establish a line of communication with the fleet, such a venture was not made; Balaklava, and not Sebastopol, was the goal towards which all eyes were on that day turned. When the men had rested for awhile on the heights, Lord Raglan resumed his march, taking the steep winding road from the farm down to the Tchernaya. On the banks of that river he rested for the night; he and his officers being so completely separated from their baggage, which was far in the rear, that a dry ditch served as a bed for many of them. During the night, the baggage and stores arrived, as well as the 4th division, which had been left behind during a few hours as a rear-guard. On this day, and indeed ever since leaving the Alma, officers and men had been heavily laden, One officer wrote: " Each man carries everything ho possesses. We are allowed no tents and no baggage-waggons; so you may imagine the difficulty and delay in moving an army of this description. At the end of a march, each man is glad to hunt for wood, fill his little water-barrel—every officer and man carries one —cook his rations, lie down as near the bivouac-fire as he can, and get to sleep till daylight should he be fortunate enough not to be for picket." And in relation to the fourteen hours' incessant exertion on the memorable 25th, the same officer described the position of himself and his men when their water-barrels were emptied before the Tchernaya was reached. The whole truth is conveyed in these few words: " I would gladly have given my last guinea for a drink of pure water that afternoon."
On Tuesday, the 26th of September, the British army arrived from Tchernaya Bridge at Balaklava —a place which on that day acquired a European reputation, and which was never afterwards to be forgotten, either by soldiers or readers. The route between the two places was nearly south-west, generally on an ascent, and at an average distance of six or seven miles from Sebastopol. The French adopted a more circuitous route, and did not reach the heights southward of Sebastopol until the following day, having encamped on the Mackenzie heights during the night.
About this time, two events, or, more properly, a rumour and an event occurred, which caused much sensation—the one, the reported capture of Sebastopol, transmitted by electric telegraph from Varna. London and many other parts of England were in a feverish state of excitement; and many towns manifested their delight by ringing of bells, music, and other joyous demonstrations. The report stated that the Russians had lost 18,000 men in killed and wounded; 22,000prisoners; Fort Constantine was destroyed; and other forts, mounting 200 guns taken; and six sail-of-the-line were sunk. This was a mere stock-jobbing fraud upon the public, and caused much indignation when the deception was discovered.
The other event—the death of Marshal St. Arnaud —was no idle rumour; it was a stern reality, occurring immediately after the flank-march to which the Allied generals attached so much importance. Born in Paris, in 1801, St. Arnaud was yet in the middle of life; but he had seen much rough service. He entered the Gardes du Corps at the age of fifteen; and next served as a sub-lieutenant in the line. After a few years' absence from the army, he re-entered it in 1831, first as a sub-lieutenant, and then as lieutenant. He was engaged under Marshal Bugeaud in various duties during the early years of Louis Philippe's reign. The year 1836 took him to Algiers, where his reputation was chiefly established. As a captain, he distinguished himself at the siege of Constantina, for which he was rewarded with the decoration of the Legion of Honour. After engaging in many battles, he was placed, in 1840, in command of the 18th regiment of infantry; which he left some time afterwards to join the Zouaves. He was further raised to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1842, colonel in 1844, and major-general in 1847, and incessantly occupied in military duties of various kinds. In 1850, he attained the high position of commandant of the province of Constantina, where he was engaged in a hot contest with the Kabyles. Returning to France the following year, after fifteen years' service in Africa, he was appointed to a command in the army of Paris. Being among the small number of distinguished generals who aided Prince Louis Napoleon to overthrow the French republic, and to become the Emperor Napoleon III., St. Arnaud naturally rose in high favour at court; he was made Minister of War, then Marshal of France, then Senator, and then Commander-in-chief of the French army in the East.
Such was Marshal St. Arnaud, who, on the 29th of September, sank under accumulated bodily sufferings, just at the moment when the Allies began to perceive that a formal siege of Sebastopol would be necessary. The declining state of his health had long been known; indeed, when he left Paris to join the army in the East his strength was already broken; and during the autumnal months, his life was one continued struggle against fate. His death occurred on the 29th, near Balaklava. His body was sent on board the Berthollet to Constantinople, where it was embalmed at the residence of the French embassy; and on the 11th of October, the Berthollet ended her melancholy duty by landing the remains of the deceased marshal at Marseilles. Madame St.Arnaud, who had resided at Constantinople during the expedition to Varna and the Crimea, returned to France in the same ship that contained the dead body of her husband. After a solemn service had been performed in the cathedral at Marseilles, the body was transmitted to Paris, where, on the 16th, a military funeral on an imposing scale was performed : the body being interred in a vault in the Chapel of the Invalides. Thus terminated the career of one who, a roving actor and wild adventurer in his youth, afterwards showed many of the qualities of an energetic military commander.
General Canrobert, on whom the command of the French before Sevastopol devolved, was a favourite in the army. Born in 1809, and entering the army early, he embarked for Africa in 1835, with the rank of lieutenant. He was speedily engaged against Abd-el-Kader; then in the expedition to Mascara; and then in various other services, which gained for him the rank of captain in 1837. He joined the Duc de Nemours and General Damremont in an expedition to Constantina in that year, during which he was wounded. Returning to France in 1839, he received the decoration of the Legion of Honour, and an accession of rank. Another period of service in Africa then awaited him; from 1840 to 1850, he was engaged in an incessant scene of warfare in every part of Algeria, serving under Cavaignac and other generals, and executing many achievements requiring courage and address. In 1850, he came once again to France, receiving decorative honours, the rank of general of brigade, and various duties connected with the armies of France. In 1853, he became general of division; and in 1854 he was appointed one of the generals under St. Arnaud in the war in the East. Raised to an onerous command at the age of forty-six, Canrobert briefly addressed his soldiers at the period of St. Arnaud's death, and then set himself earnestly to the study of the arduous work before him.
In describing the town and fortifications of Sebastopol, this peculiarity presents itself—that the description must be in the past tense. The bombardment by the Allies before the capture, the cannonade by the Russians from the northern side when the southern was held by the Allies, and the systematic destruction which followed, almost extinguished Sebastopol from the list of towns; while the Russian defences, enlarged incessantly during the siege, imparted to the fortifications almost a wholly new character. The best way, therefore, to render the details of the siege intelligible, will be first to describe the town and the fortifications as they existed shortly before the war, when additional defences had not yet been commenced. Taking the descriptions from several eye-witnesses, we may be able to form a judgment concerning the arrangement and appearance of Sebastopol in the years 1853—4.
Two years ago the place was scarcely fortified at all on the land-side, and was commanded by the adjacent heights; but the hills nearest to the town have since been partly levelled, and the earth used to fill up the intervening hollows. On the ground thus prepared, a circular wall has been traced out, commencing at the citadel, which arises behind the quarantine station. This wall is a work of much importance, but whether it is as strongly constructed as it should be, and fortified with towers and lunettes, is somewhat doubtful. It has been run up very hastily, but as forty thousand men are said to have been incessantly employed in its construction, it is possible that it may be more formidable than the hurried manner of its erection would seem to imply.
Viewed from the sea, the fortifications of Sebastopol present a very formidable appearance. Cape Constantine is defended by a battery of seventeen guns ; it is just below the telegraph post, to the right of Fort Constantine, which juts into the sea, and has 104 guns mounted. On the same side of the harbour are two other batteries, mounting respectively eighty and thirty-four guns; and on the heights above, connected with Fort Constantine by a military road, is the citadel, the strength of which in guns is not known.
On the right is the quarantine battery, mounting fifty-one guns, so disposed that, while the fire of some can be directed across the mouth of the harbour, so as to intersect the line which the shot from Fort Constantine would describe, that of others would completely command the inlet on the shore of which the quarantine station is situated. The next headland is defended by a battery of sixty-four guns, the fire of which would cross that from Fort Constantine in one direction, and that from the quarantine battery in another. Nearer the town is another battery of fifty guns, while the entrance of the inner harbour, on the other side of the town, is defended by a formidable fort, mounting no less than 192 pieces of cannon. This is called Fort St. Nicholas, and the fire from its quadruple tiers of guns is crossed by that of Fort St. Paul, on the opposite point. On the side of the inner harbour, defended by the last-named fort, is the suburb, inhabited by the artificers employed in the docks, &c., and there also is the marine hospital. The total number of guns mounted is calculated at 1370, but if those composing the flying batteries are counted, the aggregate will be increased to little less than two thousand.
In the construction of these batteries the system of casemates has been adopted, but the solidity of the works is very much questioned by military engineers. The cost of these fortifications to the Russian government thas been estimated at 150, 000, 000 francs, or about £7, 291, 666.
That Sebastopol is a place of great strength there can be but little doubt; and if the numerous forts are as strong as they appear to be—a point concerning which strong doubts exist in the minds of competent military men—it may even be considered as impregnable as any fortified place can be said to be. The term must always be accepted with a certain degree of reservation, for no place can be said to be truly impregnable; the fact of a place never having been taken is no proof of it impregnability, as the Spaniards found at Gibraltar, and the French at Louisburg. This may be the case with Sebastopol, especially if the walls are no better constructed than were those of the long fort at Bomarsund. It is the opinion of experienced engineers that, however impregnable the place may be by sea, it might be reduced by a sufficient land force with a facility that would astonish the imperial nerves. In spite of the partial levelling of the heights, Sebastopol is still commanded by rocky hills, to the removal of which there are insuperable obstacles, and on which the position of an intrenched camp for an attacking force may be traced out by nature. It is true that from the sea, neither the inner harbour, nor the masts of the vessels lying at anchor in it, can be seen, on account of the position being too much below the cliffs along the coast; but when the siege works shall have been carried towards the right, the harbour may be raked by cannon along its entire extent.
Various opinions, similar to the above, were indulged in by persons who had either been eye-witnesses of the place,or gathered their knowledge from perusing the writings of others. The justness or fallacy of these opinions was proved by the result of the operations of the Allied forces.
When Lord Raglan arrived with his army on the heights above Balaklava, on the 26th, he expected little opposition in that quarter; but, as a measure of precaution, he sent on the Rifles to crown the heights, and arranged other battalions in commanding positions. On one of the heights was a small post of little value, an old ruined Genoese castle, that was soon taken by the artillery and the Rifles; but before this capture, Lord Raglan had a narrow escape from a shell discharged by the garrison. The villages of Kadikoi and Balaklava, the one on a small river two or three miles from the harbour, and the other on the eastern shore of the harbour itself, were taken and occupied; and the heights being now also occupied, the British had secured a wholly new base of operations. A narrow defile constitutes the only approach to the harbour on the land-side; a small force of the enemy stationed here might have proved a formidable obstruction to the British; but the Russians, not expecting an attack in this quarter, had left the defile undefended. Lord Raglan entered the village about noon; the inhabitants presented to him fruit, flowers, bread, and salt; and he assured them they were safe from molestation. Small as the harbour is, the waters are deep, and the Agamemnon steamed in safely. Lord Raglan joyfully greeted Sir Edmund Lyons, who had arrived by sea; for a position had been now attained where the supplies from the fleet were immediately in the rear of the armies requiring that service.
Lord Raglan despatched a message to Admiral Dundas by Sir Edmund Lyons, who immediately brought the whole of the steam-squadron, headed by the Agamemnon, and accompanied by several transports carrying siege guns, which arrived in the evening of the 26th off Balaklava, doubling Cape Chersonese. 1000 marines were sent round in the Agamemnon, to take the place of the same number of soldiers, employed in guarding the heights that overlook the little harbour.
Busy were the hours and days at Balaklava. Ships found ingress and egress by a gap so narrow, that careful handling was necessary to prevent collisions; and these ships brought supplies of various kinds, not only from the main fleet at the Katcha, but from Constantinople and other depots. The largest and longest steamers could not enter, on account of the tortuous direction of the mouth: they anchored outside, while the smaller steamers and transports entered the harbour. The tents for the army were among the first articles landed; during ten or twelve days the soldiers had obtained but little covering at night, little shelter from rain, cold, and wind; and many a poor fellow was cut off by the sickness thus engendered. The landing of the siege-artillery was more formidable work; for Balaklava, being a mere village, had no quay worthy of the name, and hence the difficulties were serious in disembarking guns of great magnitude and weight: they were lowered from the ships into barges provided with a kind of drawbridge; artillerymen and seamen aiding in this labour, and strings of horses being then employed in dragging the guns up to the heights forming the plateau between Balaklava and Sebastopol. About sixty heavy guns of the siege-train were thus successively landed. Among the reinforcements which, together with supplies, arrived during the first few days, were the 4th and 6th regiments of dragoons; but it was speedily found that the medical department was defective in strength: many men fell daily under the influence of cholera, and medicines were too few for the wants of the surgeons, who were themselves also too few in number.
By the 30th, all the heavy guns having been "parked" or collected on the heights above Balaklava, the time had arrived for arranging the march towards Sebastopol, and the selection of ground for head-quarters, divisional quarters, depots, &c. On the 2nd of October, the advance was made and the positions taken up; the six divisions of the army being disposed in conformity with the general plan whereon the siege was to be conducted ; and posts of sentinels, pickets, vedettes, &c., established to watch the movements of the enemy. When the soldiers were thus removed from Balaklava, the 1000 marines pitched their camp on the hills bounding the harbour, made a road and cut some intrenchments; the position was easily defended by musketry, and prevented any attack by the Russians on the ships in the harbour. A naval brigade or division was also formed, under Captain Lushington of the Albion; and the sailors, about 1000 in number, displayed great alacrity and delight in pulling up their guns to the heights, being well disposed towards any tactics which would afford them a scene of excitement and of possible glory. The position taken up by the head quarters of the army was about half-way between Sebastopol and Balaklava, three to four miles from each in a straight line; but the advanced posts were much nearer the enemy, and received many a shot from the larger guns at Sevastopol.
Meanwhile, the French had been landing their supplies and siege-material at another part of the peninsula, west instead of south of Sebastopol. As the harbour at Balaklava, with all its advantages, can accommodate only a small fleet at once. General Canrobert soon decided on adopting a landing-place elsewhere; he selected the two bays near Cape Chersonese, generally called Kamiesch and Arrow Bays, between Sebastopol and that Cape. The French quickly formed a landing-place in Kamiesch Bay, established a little town or cantonment on the beach, landed their artillery and stores, despatched their regiments up to the heights, and commenced their arrangements for the attack of the formidable stronghold. The 3rd and 4th divisions, under General Forey, were charged with the duty of besieging the left or west side of Sebastopol; while the 1st and 2nd divisions, under General Bosquet, were formed into a corps of observation, to occupy the positions commanding the Valley of the Tchernaya, and to protect the siege operations against any attempt on the part of the enemy coming from the interior of the Crimea. The Turkish division, it was agreed, should form a reserve for either of these two French corps, as circumstances might render desirable. The landing having commenced at Kamiesch on the 30th of September, the advanced French pickets came, on the 1st of October, within 400 yards of the Cossack vedettes outside Sebastopol. On the next day, the 4th division took up a position about two miles from the town, its left resting on the coast at Arrow Bay, its right on a point about two miles further south, and its front commanding the west and south-west sides of Sebastopol. On the 3d of the month, siege-material continued to be landed in large quantity, while the generals and engineers made many and careful observations on the movements and defences of Sebastopol; thirty large guns from the ships were landed, to be worked by Captain Rigand; and 1000 soldiers were formed into a naval brigade, similar to that on the English side. On the 4th, the third division took up its place to the right of the fourth, and extending thence to a great ravine which runs down to the inner harbour of Sebastopol ; and on many successive days, stores of all kinds were landed at Kamiesch, and carried up to the siege-camp.
During this time, Menschikoff was not idle; having by his spies ascertained that the north side of Sebastopol was free from danger, he immediately set about strengthening the south-side. He obtained the assistance of a very clever engineer, named Todtleben, a young man who had risen from a low grade to a post of eminence, on account of his superior genius.
Sebastopol having no defensive wall of any account, it was left for Menschikoff and Todtleben to construct such towers, forts, redoubts, batteries, or lines of fortified trenches and ramparts, as might repel the Allies, or at least delay the capture. If one of the great forts situated on the harbour commanded the southern land-side ; hence new works had to be constructed. From the battery near Artillery Bay, a crenellated wall, or wall loopholed for musketry, was constructed, following the steep of the hill to the plateau, where it joined a large round tower or fort, mounting twenty guns on the platform, and surrounded by a battery at a lower level. Under the cannon of this round fort was a large fortified barrack, flanked and armed by several strong works. From this fort, a line of defence was constructed entirely round the south and east of the town, to the spot where the Careening Bay enters the harbour ; making the whole circuit of defence, from Artillery Bay to Careening Bay, nearly five miles in extent, including sinuosities. This was not a perfect military wall or rampart, but a sort of ridge about three feet in thickness, with a ditch in front, the earth from which was thrown outwards, to form a glacis between the besiegers and besieged. The wall, if it may so be called, was not broad enough for cannon; but on those points where, in a regular fortification, bastions would have been constructed, Todtleben threw up platforms whereon heavy guns could be mounted, to fire over the wall, many of which were the guns taken from the ships in the harbour. The centre of the line was defended by a large fort, raised on a high point at the upper or southern end of the town. The names Flagstaff Battery, Garden Battery, Barrack Battery, Great Redan, Little Redan, Mamelon Fort, Malakoff Fort— some belonging to a later period in the history of the siege—were all applied to works constructed in consequence of the commencement of the siege itself, and on various elevated spots outside of the town, and in most cases exterior to the " lines" of trench and rampart.
The Allied position gradually assumed a definite character during the month of October, dependent in part on the defensive arrangements made by the Russians. The entire camp occupied a plateau six miles in length by four in breadth; but the siege-works of course grouped themselves near the town to be attacked. The plateau, bounded by an abrupt descent on the east, was defended along this edge by a breastwork, or earthwork breast-high, constructed by the French nearly from Balaklava to Inkermann, with batteries, redoubts, and redans, to defend the more assailable points—the last named of these, redans, being earthworks forming two sides of a triangle, like one tooth of a saw. This line of defence was intended to guard the plateau from an attack by the Russians on the east. The northern edge of the plateau, not much above the level of the highest part of the town, has several spurs, or hilly knolls, jutting out north-west towards the Karabelnaia or eastern half of the town; and on these spurs the English constructed their breaching-batteries, while the French constructed their approaches and parallels on the south-west of the main part of the town. Between the spurs are gorges or ravines, running down towards the harbour. Various batteries were constructed by the British, none at a less distance than two-thirds of a mile from the town. In rear of the batteries, beginning on the right or north-east, was the 2nd division, then the 1st, the light, the 3rd, and the 4th, in order, each occupying such a position as should render its services most available when the siege commenced, or to repel any sortie of the garrison. Between the English and French positions was the longest and deepest of many ravines, running down to the inner harbour; and westward of this were the French batteries, not perched upon spurs between gorges, but occupying a plain almost on a level with the highest part of the town. The English approaches, zigzags, and parallels, were directed towards the forts that defended the Karabelnaia; whereas the French approached gradually nearer and nearer to the main streets of Sebastopol, on the other side of the inner harbour.
The difficulty of dragging the heavy siege-guns up to the heights from Balaklava and Kamiesch, and of digging the trenches in very hard soil, retarded the progress of the siege, and afforded Todtleben time to construct his defensive works. The French established their first parallel on the 10th of October, at a distance of 700 or 800 yards from the place; while their allies were compelled to commence at a greater distance on account of the obstacles afforded by the site.
The trench-work proceeded vigorously during the second week of the month. On one particular evening, after sunset, 2400 French took up a position in line, in front of the fortress, set to work with pick and shovel, and by daylight the next morning had dug a trench three-quarters of a mile in length, at a distance of about 1000 yards from the forts; the Russians, to their astonishment, saw a ditch, parapet, and banquette, where nothing had been visible on the preceding evening. Each French soldier dug and guarded in turn; and as each had about twenty inches of length entrusted to him to excavate, the whole number were enabled to accomplish this extensive work during the night; at a subsequent period, gabions and fascines were brought up, to face and strengthen the embrasures of this parapet, ready for the reception of a long row of guns. Such was the general plan on which the approaches were made by both armies: working-parties would go out in the dusk of the evening, and form as much trench, parapet, and banquette as could be accomplished during the night; returning to camp at daylight—wearied, cold, sleepy, hungry, and perhaps stricken with the beginnings of ague, cholera, or fever. The pickets, under the charge of a colonel or captain, were sometimes more trying than the trenches; since the men, throughout a night which might be piercingly cold or incessantly stormy, had no relief from the duty of keeping watch in the silent darkness, ever on the alert against the possible approach of an enemy.
The Russians showed themselves worthy defenders of the place ; they not only worked night and day to strengthen the lines and forts, but they poured out shot, shell, and bullet against all the men and batteries which the Allies brought within range. This torrent kept the besiegers ever watchful, and occasioned much loss. Sometimes a 56, or even an 84-pounder would plunge down into and plough up the earth within a yard or two of an officer's tent, or would even pierce the tent itself, and carry off some of the simple chattels with which it was furnished. To kill the men, to dislodge the guns planted upon the earthen batteries, to crumble the batteries themselves into fragments—all were objects aimed at by this firing from the garrison; and the nearer the approach of the besiegers, the more perilous became their position on account of the fire. The firing was mostly during the day; but when the Russians could guess at the position of the working-parties, it continued during the night also, maintaining a roar that rendered it difficult for officers or men to snatch a few hours' sleep.
Day after day passed, marked—on the part of the Russians—by the reception of reinforcements, the steady construction of new works, and the outpouring of shot and musketry against the besiegers ; and on the part of the Allies, by the landing of men and stores at Balaklava and Kamiesch, the dragging of the heavy guns up to the heights, the formation of trenches, parapets, and earthen batteries, the mounting of these parapets and batteries with heavy guns and mortars, and the encamping of the three armies— English, French, and Turkish—in convenient positions behind the lines and batteries. All this time passed without any firing on the part of the Allies; the commanders decided that no cannonading should commence until all was prepared for a formidable bombardment; and thus it happened that, during the first half of the month of October, the besiegers were the attacked party rather than the attacking—greatly to the astonishment of those who, at a distance from the scene of operations, and imperfectly acquainted with the arrangements necessary for a siege, longed impatiently for news of ramparts battered down, forts destroyed, breaches stormed, the fortress entered, and the flags of the victors floating over the captured town.