Imágenes de páginas

allied forces—the French occupying the ground to the left, and the British that to the right, of the inner harbour or inlet which separates the town of Sebastopol from the dockyard and the suburb of Karabalnaia. Our own lines in particular were extended from the Tchernaya to the inner harbour, their central point being about opposite the extremity of a small bay called the Careening Bay.

These, however, were but the works by means of which we approached Sebastopol; our base of operations was Balaklava, distant some seven or eight miles from our lines, and in the interval between the two points was our camp, the head-quarters being at a place about equi-distant from Sebastopol and Balaklava. In addition, therefore, to the operations of the siege, we had to protect, from the very onset, our own position against attack from the Russians—a precaution the more necessary,

inasmuch as the garrison of Sebastopol was very numerous, the place itself open for ingress or egress on the northern side, and the enemy reputed to be in considerable force at various points of the country.

1.-BOMBARDMENT OF SEBASTOPOL. Just as our brave countrymen and their glorious companions in arms had heard with feelings of deep indignation that the whole west of Europe had been deceived with a rumour of an impossible success, they fired their first gun against the Queen fortress of the Black Sea. Long as the interval had been, or long as it seemed to those at a distance, it nevertheless had not served for adequate preparation. The works for defence had all along kept pace with those of the besiegers.

The siege first commenced in earnest early on the morning of the 17th of October. The French artillery was too light to cope with the heavy guns of the Russians, or the cross-fire of the Quarantine Battery was too effective, for they were compelled to slacken their fire in an hour and a half from the opening of the struggle. The explosion of several magazines added to the difficulties of their position, which, however, they soon obviated with their usual spirit and activity.

The chief objects the British had to deal with were a round tower on our right and the “Redan,” a detached fort, newly strengthened by earthworks, to the east of the town and inner harbour. Here our batteries successively silenced the round tower, blew up a large magazine in the Redan, and silenced the fire from that fortification and the earthworks about it. This was not done without our own works suffering greatly, but without involving so great a loss of life as might have been anticipated.

II.-NAVAL ATTACK ON SEBASTOPOL. Generals and admirals were impetuous at first. Subsequent events taught them to be more wary. It was agreed that the next day a grand attack should be made upon the forts at the mouth of the harbour. The French ships of war commenced by a heavy fire upon the southern batteries, which was as vigorously returned. The English attacked the northern batteries. The Turks were with the French. Unfortunately the wind was from the land, and the smoke was so dense that very few vessels succeeded in getting into the positions assigned to them. The Turkish, and some of the French vessels especially, got so far to the north as to prevent several of the English vessels approaching.

The order was to keep 1200 yards off the forts, but the Agamemnon, Sanspareil, and London, and at a later period the Queen, took an inside station in advance. The Rodney, Arethusa, Terrible, and Sampson also lay in as close as the shallow water would permit them.

The firing on both sides is said to have been terrific. From half-past twelve to the south, and from about two till nearly six on the north side, the cannonade raged most furiously. The results were, as far as could be ascertained, most unsatisfactory.' Fort Constantine to the north, and the Quarantine battery to the south, are said to have suffered considerably from the bombardment. But other eye-witnesses report that at such a distance the effect of the shot was only to speckle their stone fronts all over like the small-pox. Certain it is that on our parts most of the ships suffered severely in hulls, masts, and rigging. Some were on fire and had to be taken out of the fight.

The French admiral expressed his belief that if the Russians had not closed the entrance to Sebastopol by sinking ships, that the vessels of the squadron would have been able to enter the port successfully after the first fire, and to place themselves in communication with the army. But had they done so, could they have held their place with the united fires of the outer and inner forts and of the shipping directed upon them? We are much inclined to doubt it. So also it has been stated that if the ships could have got closer to the forts, that the results would have been different. Possibly this may have been the case, but we are more inclined to look upon the results of the sea attack of October 18th, however creditable to the gallantry of those engaged in it, as a proof of the wisdom which led the admirals to forego an attack upon Sebastopol by sea unsupported by a land force.

In the mean time, on the land side, the Redan and earthwork batteries, supposed to have been silenced on the 17th, were as busy as ever on the 18th. The distance of the lines from Balaklava, where all guns and ammunition had to be landed, and the rugged and difficult character of the intervening country also told so much against us, that on the evening of the same day we could scarcely get up ammunition to our guns. This at a time when the prodigious resources of the enemy were close to their hands. The metal of their guns was also so heavy that they succeeded for a time in establishing great superiority of fire over the allies. Although for many days and nights previous to the allies opening fire they had kept pouring their shot from hundreds of guns incessantly, without stint or slackening, their resources seemed to be perfectly exhaustless. The losses in the town and forts were, however, great, and already, by the 18th, it was stated that the streets were encumbered with dead.

III.-SORTIE OF THE 2014 OCTOBER. The French batteries were not able to reopen their fire on the afternoon of the 18th, but by the following morning they not only resumed their fire, but materially added to the weight of the attack by the fire of additional batteries constructed the previous day.

The fire on the side of the English also continued constant and effective, but the enemy, having at their disposal large bodies of men and the resources of the fleet and arsenal at their command, they were enabled, by unceasing exertions, to repair their redoubts, to replace the guns which had been destroyed, and to resume their fire from works which had been silenced the day before. This facility of repairing and re-arming the defences brought quite a new element into the siege, and rendered it a far more serious affair than was at first anticipated—or, as General Canrobert expressed it, “one of the most laborious operations which have been met with for a long time.”

On the night of the 20th the Russians made a sortie against the French, and succeeded, by representing themselves as English, in penetrating into two of the batteries, but were finally repulsed with the logs of six killed and four taken prisoners.

IV.-BATTLE OF BALAKLAVA. On the 25th the army of relief, under General Liprandi, supposed to have numbered some 30,000 men of all arms, and especially charged with the duty of attacking the allies in their own positions, and of achieving, if possible, such successes as would compel us to raise the siege of Sebastopol, commenced its offensive operations by an attack upon the heights of Balaklava, which were defended by four small redoubts, hastily constructed, only three of which had guns in them manned by Turks; by another redoubt on a higher hill in front of the village of Kamara, also manned by Turks ; by the 93rd Highlanders, who were encamped in the plain, with a battery of artillery and a party of Marines.

The enemy commenced their operations by attacking the work near the village of Kamara, and after very little resistance carried it. They followed up this first success by taking possession of the three other batteries, being opposed only in one, and that but for a very short space of time. The Turks having the British to retreat upon, did not show the constancy behind entrenchments which ennobled the defence of Kalafat and Silistria. Their shameful abandonment of their posts enabled the enemy to take possession of the guns in them, amounting in the whole to seven. Those in the three lesser forts were spiked by the one English artilleryman who was in each.

As soon as Lord Raglan was apprised of this movement of the enemy upon the rear of our extreme right, he brought the first and fourth divisions down into the plain, and they were soon reinforced by the first division of French infantry and the Chasseurs d'Afrique.

The Russian cavalry advanced in the mean time to assail the front and right flank of the 93rd, supported by artillery in very great strength ; but they were soon driven back by the vigorous and steady fire of the gallant Highlanders.

Another and larger mass was attacked by the Scots Greys and Enniskilleners, who cut through the first line, at least double the length of theirs, and three times as deep, but got almost enveloped by a second and third, till relieved by the 1st Royals and the 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards, who, rushing at the remnants of the first line, went through it, as an eye-witness expressed it, as though it were made of pasteboard, and dashing on the second body of Russians, still under the terrible blows of the Greys and Enniskillenérs, united to put them all to utter rout. This most brilliant charge of cavalry, which Lord Raglan describ s as the most successful he ever witnessed, and which excited the unbounded admiration of all who saw it, was seen from the heights above, by French and English, "as though they were looking on the stage from the boxes of a theatre.'

The Russian cavalry, followed by our shot, had retired in confusion, leaving the ground covered with horses and men ; their infantry had fallen back towards the head of the valley, when, most unfortunately, in carrying out an attempt to prevent the enemy removing the guns abandoned by the Turks, the light brigade, under Lord Cardigan, was led to charge the whole Russian army, posted in a defile and defended by batteries placed on the heights over their position on the left of the gorge. À more fearful spectacle, it is said, was never witnessed than by those who, without the power to aid, beheld their heroic countrymen rushing to the arms of death. They were soon positively enveloped by infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Nothing could save them from destruction. An enormous reserve of lancers, kept in ambush, came up to hasten the catastrophe. Then occurred an event which would be incredible, if we did not know that the Russians esteem one Englishman's life as equal to that of three Muscovites. The enemy's artillery actually kept up a murderous fire of grape and canister on the mass of struggling men and horses, British and Russians alike-mingling friend and foe in one common ruin. The light brigade went into action that fatal day 607 strong : there returned only 198—a miserable remnant of that band of heroes! It must not be omitted to mention that the Chasseurs d'Afrique made a most successful charge to the left against a Russian battery, and by checking its fire rendered an essential service to our countrymen.

The night of this melancholy affray there were great rejoicings in Sebastopol, a salvo of artillery was fired, and the garrison was so inspirited, that, amidst a tremendous cannonade opened against the whole length of the allies, two desperate sorties were attempted the ensuing day.

V.-BATTLE OF THE TCHERNAYA. Their masses, covered by large bodies of skirmishers, advanced, full of confidence in success, against the light division, which, under Sir De Lacy Evans, occupied the heights that overlooked the Tchernaya from the left. This division immediately formed line, and the captains of batteries (Turner and Yates) promptly posted their guns and opened fire upon the enemy.

Immediately on the cannonade being heard, the Duke of Cambridge brought up the brigade of Guards, and General Bosquet, with similar promptitude, and from a greater distance also came to the defence of the position with five French battalions.

The enemy came on at first rapidly, assisted by their guns, on what was called the Mound Hill. Our picquets, chiefly of the 19th and 30th Regiments, resisted them with remarkable determination and firmness. At the same time our eighteen guns in position, including those of the first division, and two others pushed forward by Sir G. Brown upon the left, were served with the utmost energy. In half an hour they forced the enemy's artillery to abandon the field. Our batteries were then directed with equal vigour upon the enemy's columns, which, warmly received at the same time by the close fire of our advanced infantry, soon fell into complete disorder, and ultimately took to flight. They were then literally chased by the 30th and 95th Regiments over the ridges, and down towards the head of the bay. So eager was the pursuit, that it was with difficulty the recal of the men was ultimately effected.

Our loss in this brilliant affair exceeded 80, among whom were 12 officers killed and 5 wounded. The loss on the part of the enemy was estimated at not less than 600; they left 130 dead on the field, and upwards of 80 prisoners fell into our hands.

VI.-BATTLE OF INKERMANN. Scarcely had we been enabled to form a correct idea of the severe actions fought by the British troops on the 25th and 26th of October, when we were startled by the important intelligence that the Russian army, swollen by reinforcements from the Danube, as well as by the combined reserves of all the southern provinces, and animated by the presence of the Grand-Dukes Michael and Nicholas, had attacked in force the right of the English position before Sebastopol on the 5th of November. This attack was rendered the more formidable by a sortie of the garrison of Sebastopol on the English, and another simultaneously directed against the French lines, in order to prevent their sending reinforcements to the British army, exposed to two overpowering assaults at the same moment, and that from two different directions.

Inkermann, with its cave-dwellings of the Tauro-Scythes, its subterranean chapels and sepulchral grottos of persecuted Christians of early times, and its cliffs surmounted by the ruins of Eupatorion-the Theodori of the Greeks—has long been a site of peculiar interest in our minds. Long before we ever dreamt of an invasion of the Crimea, our fancy used to love to dwell upon this mysterious city of caves : little did we think that it was destined to be in our times the scene of bloody conflict, and that the waters of its little streamlet, enriched by so many

historic memories, would be dyed with the mingled blood of Russians, French, and English.

So, however, it has been ; and as the line of country which extends from Balaklava to Inkermann, forming the neck of the Tauric Chersonesus, has been the scene of frequent struggles in olden times, so, by the ever-recurrent stream of events, it has been destined to see the same bloody conflicts repeated to a still greater extent in our own times.

Day dawned on the morning of the 5th of November upon this barren tract, amid fog and vapour, which, drifting with the wind and rain, settled down on the cliffs and valley of Inkermann. The sound of wheels had been indistinctly heard during the night, but it had not aroused the apprehensions of the weary, wet, and slumbering besiegers. At four o'clock, however, the bells of Sebastopol pealed forth the successful positioning of an overwhelming artillery upon the heights which commanded the undefended Aank of the British lines, and gave the signal for enormous masses of Russians to advance to the attack up the same steep ridges. Twelve complete regiments, of four battalions each, amounting to some 48,000 men, took part in this movement. There was, according to Prince Menschikoff, as much artillery as could be taken, considering the difficulty of passing the gates. This would have made with the infantry, as Dec.-VOL. CII. NO. CCCCVIII.

2 L

« AnteriorContinuar »