« AnteriorContinuar »
not attack. Canrobert was opposed to the risks of doing so. Sir John Burgoyne, who commanded the Engineers in the British army, supported his opinion, and, instead of instant assault, the allies sent for their siege-train. A delay of this kind was exactly what Todleben desired. He had all the resources of a great arsenal at his disposal ; he had troops of dockyard labourers whom he could employ in making earthworks; he had far more engineering skill than any of his adversaries. The twenty days which were occupied by the allies in getting up their siege-train and in preparing preliminary trenches were devoted by Todleben to strengthening and arming his outworks. Stung by Korniloff's remonstrance, Menschikoff threw 25,000 men into the town; and thus, on the 17th of October, when the attack at last began, the allies had before them works well designed, heavily armed, and strongly held, instead of the poor fortifications, slightly armed and weakly manned, over which they might have forced their way twenty days before.
On the morning of the 17th of October, when the bombardment at last began, the allies hoped to destroy the enemy's
fire, and to march into the town over his silenced batteries. As the day dawned the fire was opened,
a little later the allied fleets joined in the attack, and for long hours a duel was maintained such as had never previously been witnessed in the history of the world. But the allies found that the task which they had set themselves to perform was tougher than they had expected. The ships, posted too far from the forts, sustained some injury themselves, but inflicted little loss on their adversaries. The French, on the left of the allied line, found themselves enveloped by a fire superior to their own, till at last the explosion of a magazine in their lines disheartened their troops and silenced their batteries. The British, opposed to less heavy metal, succeeded in dominating the Russian fire. But their success was not sufficient to counteract the other failures. The allies had flung away their opportunity twenty days before; and in war, as in life, the opportunity which is once lost does not recur.
The bombardment of the 17th of October.
The death of
Had, indeed, the allies known what had occurred in Sebastopol, they might perhaps have thought that the bombardment had not been in vain. The storm of shot and shell had not opened a way into the Russian Korniloff. lines, but one chance shot had ruck to the death the man who was the soul of the defence. The spirit of Korniloff, however, survived his fall. The breaches which had been made by the allied fire in the daytime were repaired in the night ; and every day the gunners of the allies looked on works stronger and more formidable than those which they had assailed the day before.
He who desires to understand the stirring military events of the next few weeks must endeavour to acquire some general acquaintance with the ground on which the allies were encamped, and of the positions which they held. The roadstead of Sebastopol is a deep inlet of the sea, running west and east. On the extreme east it receives the waters of the Tchernaya, a little river which flows from south to north, and which is crossed by two bridges, one near its outlet, the other five miles nearer its source, and by a ford between the two. Due south of the eastern end of the roadstead lies the little sheltered port of Balaklava, occupied by the British shipping. The Chersonese, on which the allies were encamped, may thus be roughly described as a piece of high rugged land in the shape of an isosceles triangle, the base of the triangle being an imaginary line drawn from the eastern end of the Sebastopol roadstead to Balaklava. The base could be threatened along its whole line by an enemy with its communications open to Simpheropol and Russia; but it was specially exposed to attack at its north-eastern angle, which is usually, though not quite accurately, called Mount Inkerman, and at its southern limit near Balaklava.
By their own choice, the British occupied the right of the line of siege and drew their supplies from Balaklava; the French occupied the left of the line and were supplied from Kamiesch and Kazatch Bay. The left flank of the French army, therefore, rested on the sea; the right flank of the
of the Rus
British army, its communications and its supplies, were open to attack. Unfortunately, moreover, while the more difficult
task was thus thrown on the British army, the British The strength of the allied numerically were much weaker than the French.
Including sailors landed from the fleet, the British army, at the end of October, numbered some 25,000, the French army some 40,000, combatants.
The strength of the allied armies would hardly have been sufficient to justify their undertaking the siege of Sebastopol, if the garrison had been confined to the men whom Menschikoff had originally under his orders. But, during the six weeks
which followed the battle of the Alma, Menschikoff The strength
was largely reinforced from Russia. The march of
the allies round Sebastopol left all the roads to Russia free, and the evacuation of the Principalities placed an army at the Czar’s disposal which was rapidly transferred to the Crimea. Thus at the end of October the Russian army was gradually raised to 120,000 combatants, and the unusual spectacle was offered of a siege in which the besieged were to the besiegers as 2 is to 1.
Thus the time had obviously come when it rested with Menschikoff to take the initiative. He directed one of his lieutenants, Liprandi, to strike, and strike hard, at the little port of Balaklava. This port, it has already been stated, was in the rear of the English position. Unlike Sebastopol—for the coast-line at this point runs almost east and west—it was an inlet running nearly due north and south into the land. To
the north of the inlet was a large plain or valley, surrounded on all sides by rocky eminences and
intersected in the centre by a ridge of high land connecting the heights on the east with the allied camp on the west; and on this ridge the Russians in former times had constructed a causeway known as the Woronzoff road.
It did not require any large military knowledge to see that a position of this character was exposed to attack. An active enemy, with its communications open to Russia, operating on the east or right bank of the Tchernaya, could easily throw
The battle of Balaklava.
a large force on the heights which commanded the valley both on the north and on the east. If they established their batteries on the heights, they could, under protection of them, push on a force through the northern half of the valley to the causeway. Once masters of the causeway, they might be able to annoy or possibly even to destroy the crowded shipping in the little port from which the English drew their supplies.
To guard against such an eventuality, the British constructed a line of redoubts along the causeway, and fortified at the same time a high hill on its south-eastern corner, which the soldiers, after the new commander of the French army, named Canrobert's Hill. Redoubts and forts were armed with heavy guns and manned with Turkish troops.
Very early on the morning of the 25th of October, Liprandi, moving with a large force from the north, attacked the east of the position. Canrobert's Hill, its guns silenced by superior fire, was taken. The redoubts on the causeway itself were next attacked; and the Turks, surprised and outnumbered, after a short resistance fled in disorder. Three strong redoubts, and the guns which protected them, fell into the hands of the enemy.
This disaster placed the northern half of the valley of Balaklava at the niercy of the Russians. Liprandi moved some batteries to the high range of hills which overlooked it from the north, he occupied the redoubts which he had wrested from the Turks on the south, he held the heights on the east, and he moved a large cavalry force up the northern valley between the pro:ecting batteries. But the disaster did more than this. The British cavalry was encamped in the southern half of the valley. It was now withdrawn due west behind some of the redoubts on the western end of the causeway which the Russians had not occupied. Its withdrawal laid open the southern valley to the Russians; and only one British regiment, the 93rd, and a horde of flying Turks stood between the vast force of Russian cavalry and the rich prize of British shipping and stores at Balaklava.
Happily for the cause of England, the 93rd comprised
of the Heavy
stout soldiers, and the command at Balaklava had been entrusted to a capable general-Colin Campbell. Campbell saw that the slender regiment which alone stood between the Russians and the port would be attacked by cavalry in force; he resolved to attempt the bold manoeuvre of receiving a cavalry attack in line. The commander of the Russian horse, at once appreciating Campbell's object, and the true method of defeating it, led his men round the right flank of the British line. But Campbell, wheeling his flank company forward, again presented a firm front to his foes. The British fire discomfited the Russian horse, and the enemy's squadrons withdrew.
The attack on the 93rd was only an episode in a battle. The baffled squadrons withdrew to the vast columns of horse The charge
which were moving up the northern valley and pre
paring to cross the causeway to the south. Raglan, Brigade.
some time before, had desired that eight squadrons should be moved to support the flying Turks; and Lord Lucan, who commanded the cavalry in the Crimea, desired Scarlett, the commander of the heavy brigade, to execute the order. Scarlett, moving through broken and undulating ground, was ignorant of the circumstance that he was marching with a slender force of a few squadrons across the face of a huge column of Russian cavalry. The configuration of the ground suddenly revealed to him the danger he was incurring. He at once wheeled his little force into line and prepared to attack. Had the Russians at that moment advanced, their weight must have swept before them the slight brigade which had the hardihood to confront them. By a singular error, they received Scarlett's onslaught remaining at the halt. The small British cavalry force gained, in consequence, the advantage which attaches to momentum. It threw itself upon or into the Russian column, and ultimately cut its way through it Assailed in this manner, the Russian column gained no assistance from its size and weight. Those only who were nearest the onslaught could raise an arm in their defence, those who reeled before the attack imparted their own un