Imágenes de página

to the present time, it was necessary for an invading army, on first entering an enemy's territory, to secure one or more defensible posts as depôts, from whence to draw supplies, to form hospitals, and as points to retreat upon in case of disaster. As the army advanced from these points, the lines of communication grew more assailable, and it became necessary either to leave a moveable force to keep the road open, or to secure and garrison some other strong points on the line of march, from whence to oppose any attempt the enemy might make to throw himself on the line of communication. In advancing, it was also impossible to disregard any fortress or body of troops of the enemy stationed on the flank. The former must be besieged and taken, the latter attacked and routed; or a strong force must be detached to hold either in check, before the advance could be continued in safety;-and each of these necessary operations, of course, called for a certain expense of time or of material.

ated by the presence of steam. The fleet, moving as the army moved, within sight of, and in constant communication with it, carried the supplies and received the sick and wounded; and had the Russians, advancing from the interior in overwhelming numbers, attacked the left, or threatened the rear, the army, falling back parallel to the coast, might have fought, and, if necessary, re-embarked, with the advantage of an immeasurably more powerful artillery-that of the fleetthan the enemy could possibly have brought into the field. Thus the calculations and provisions which so largely contributed to the difficulties of warfare, and its chances of mishap, resolved themselves into the simple measures necessary to keep the army in readiness for battle while marching on the point in view.

According to the old conditions of war, in the invasion of the Crimea near Eupatoria, and the advance on Sebastopol, the right flank of the army would be secure by resting on the sea, but the left would be totally unprotected. In the first place, the army, after landing its stores, must have strongly intrenched and garrisoned the depôt on the coast selected for them. As it advanced, the communication with this depôt must have been rendered secure, by detaching a force sufficient to repel any Russian army appearing on the flank of the line of march, and strong escorts must have accompanied all convoys between the army and its depôt. In order to leave, after these deductions, a sufficient force to carry on the siege, the invading army must have been far larger than that which the Allies possessed. It would also have been necessary to attack the fortress on that side on which the landing of the army was effected; because, a complete investment being impracticable, to have passed round the place I would have been to leave the communications at the mercy of sallies from the garrison.

All these considerations were obvi

The French, as stated, disembarked at a point about two miles lower down the coast. From thence they extended their front across the plain till their left touched the right of the English light division, while the first division filled up the interval between the light and second divisions and the head of the lake. On the ground thus enclosed by the front of the army, the lake, and the sea, the other divisions were encamped at intervals down to the point where the disembarkation of the stores went on. In the plain, about two miles in front, might be seen a Russian villa, with its outbuildings and clumps of trees. Here was an outpost of English rifles and French light infantry, with some artillery; and close to this place the light cavalry bivouacked and made daily reconnoissances of the surrounding country. In a village beyond the lake, on the left of the army, was another outpost of riflemen. The inhabitants remained in this village, and, being paid for any poultry, forage, and vegetables they might possess, freely parted with them; and they also brought their camels, bullocks, and arabas on hire. The camels were especially fine animals-large, well-fed, sagacious-looking, and covered with smooth brown hair-very different from the gaunt, mangy dromedaries of Barbary. The indefatigable foraging of officers and men, who returned

from the village at all hours laden with poultry and vegetables, very soon exhausted the scanty supply the village contained, though at first it was easy to get fowls, turkeys, geese, melons, and pumpkins. On the third morning, taking with me a Turkish interpreter of the division, I rode to the village to try my fortune. Successful foragers, with strings of poultry hanging to their saddles, passed me, and assured me there was nothing eatable left. The houses were of mud, thatched, and standing within small stone-walled enclosures. The inquiries of the interpreter at the doors only elicited the assurance that the inhabitants had already parted with all they had, and that there was not a single goose, hen, or turkey left in the place. However, I got some melons, pumpkins, and a jar of butter. On repeating the visit next day, even these were scarcely to be obtained; and almost the only result of the expedition was a small lump of fresh butter, which a woman brought me in a gourd. Looking round for something to cover it with, I saw a peasant in a long gown and fur cap standing beside his araba, eating a water-melon, and made signs to him that I wanted a piece of the rind. He courteously choked himself in his haste to finish the eatable portion of the section he was occupied with, gave me what I wanted, and then, scooping out the heart of the melon, presented it to me on the point of his knife. I had not thought it possible that water-melons could be so delicious as this juicy mouthful proved then; certainly those of the Crimea may challenge the world.

In the mean time, the commissariat officers, indefatigable in their efforts, had purchased, or, where the presence of Cossacks or the absence of the owners rendered purchase impossible, had "lifted" large droves of sheep and oxen, so that the army had daily fresh meat of good quality. Water was scarce, and not good. A muddy well in the village afforded the principal supply, and over it a guard was placed.

On the 18th, about eighty of the 11th hussars, reconnoitring in front, were pursued by seven troops of

Cossacks, and, retiring in skirmishing order, were fired upon; but the enemy kept too far aloof to do mischief. At midnight, on the 18th, the order was given for the army to advance on the following morning, the necessary supplies and reserves being all landed.

Accordingly, on the 19th, at about seven in the morning, the army commenced its march. The order of advance was by double column of companies, from the centre of divisions, the artillery on the_right_of their respective divisions. The day was cloudless, and the spectacle splendid. From any one of the numerous grassy heights produced by the undulations of the plain, the whole army might be seen advancing as if at a great review: the Turks close to the beach; then the French columns; next to them our second division, followed by the third; and on their left the light division, followed by the first and fourth. On the left of all marched the cavalry, parties of which, as well as of the rifles and French light infantry, were in front, in skirmishing order. Close in rear of the columns came the trains of horses carrying the reserve ammunition, the baggage animals, the arabas with sick men and commissariat stores, and the droves of oxen and sheep. There was a road along the plain, but none was necessary; everywhere the ground was smooth, grassy, and totally unenclosed. Perfect silence reigned in the vast solitudes around; no inhabitants, nor any signs of habitation, were visible;

only, sometimes a Cossack might be seen perched on a distant hillock, who presently vanished like a ghost.

In this way the army continued to march, halting occasionally, till, early in the afternoon, the Baganak was reached. This stream, dignified in these ill-watered regions by the name of a river, is a sluggish rivulet, creeping between oozy, muddy banks, along the scarcely indented surface of the plain. Though fordable everywhere, the army commenced filing across it by a bridge, the light division leading. Before reaching it, we had seen our cavalry gallop up to and over the ridge beyond, in pursuit of some Cossacks who showed themselves,

and a troop of horse-artillery followed. Just as the first division began to follow the light across the bridge, we heard the guns open.

I obtained leave to go to the front and see what was going on. Arriving at the ridge, I found it lined with the troops of the light division, looking on at a skirmish of cavalry and artillery in the plain. All our cavalry, about 1000, and twelve guns, were drawn up opposite about 2000 Cossacks, whose artillery was just ceasing to fire; while ours continued to practise at them at a long range, probably 1200 yards. I rode down to the troop of horse artillery, and saw them throw some shot and shell, which appeared to fall short; but at the beginning of the skirmish the combatants had been much nearer. Three or four dragoon horses, killed by the Russian artillery, were lying about, and we had seven men of the cavalry wounded. After a time, the Cossacks slowly retired up the next ridge, behind which more of the enemy showed themselves, and Lord Raglan forbade any further advance. We found afterwards that the Russians lost in the skirmish twenty-five men and thirty-five horses. army, withdrawing behind the ridge south of the Baganak, prepared to bivouac; but there being reason to


suppose that the enemy meditated a flank movement to attack our left, they having been seen extending in that direction at dusk, the divisions on the left had to abandon their scarce-lit fires, till the wing of the army, falling back until it rested on the Baganak, showed a front in the required direction.

The night passed quietly, though the change of front had caused some confusion, and men who had straggled on the march were wandering about everywhere, unable to find their regiments. The English lay without cover, the tents having been left behind, with some few exceptions, for generals, hospitals, and staff. The knapsacks, too, remained on board ship; and the articles judged most necessary, having been selected from them, were carried, packed in the great-coats and blankets.

The next morning we were under arms early, but did not move for some time. Marshal St Arnaud, riding along the front from an interview with Lord Raglan, was loudly cheered. A report went about that a general action was to be fought that day, which was shortly verified; and between nine and ten o'clock the army advanced, in the same order as the day before, and over plains exactly similar in character to those we had been traversing.


Under a bright sun we marched onward for about two hours, surmounting the grassy ridges which successively formed our horizon, only to see others equally solitary rising beyond. The front of the Allies was oblique, the Turks on the right being about two miles in advance of the British left.

About noon a steamer, coasting along beyond the Turks, began to fire on the land just where a sharp steep cliff terminated the shore. None of the enemy's troops were within range from the sea. The firing was precautionary, to insure an unmolested passage to the troops on the right, who were already passing the river Alma at its mouth. When the British surmounted the next ridge, the scene of the coming struggle disclosed itself.

The plain, level for about a mile, then sloped gently down to a village, beyond which was a valley sprinkled with trees, and watered by the river Alma, a narrow stream, deep in parts, and its banks very steep, but in many places fordable and easy of passage. Between the village and the river were flat meadows and vineyards. On the opposite side of the stream the banks rose abruptly into high steep knolls, terminating in plateaus, behind which rose another and higher range of heights. Both these ranges were occupied by masses of Russian troops; the higher by the reserves, the tops of the knolls below by heavy guns, supported by cavalry and infantry on the plateaus behind. Such was the position in front of the British. In front of the French the

first range of knolls grew more and more abrupt, so that guns could not be placed there, and, indeed, seemed unnecessary from the natural strength of the position. These were defended by infantry, and field artillery were posted, with more infantry, on the plains at the top of the heights. Following the course of the river to the sea, the lower range of heights, grow ing more and more precipitous, gradually merged in the upper, till all became one steep perpendicular cliff, traversed by one or two narrow paths, where the Turks passed in single file. This cliff, had it been held by the enemy, could have been shelled by the fleet; but the Russians, as already stated, trusting, probably, to the natural inaccessibility of this part of the position, did not occupy it, and our Ottoman allies saw no enemy that day.

The progress of the French against the heights in their own front was marked by the puffs of musketry as they swarmed up. Their advance was steady and incessant. On the plain at the top, a small building, probably intended as a signal-station, had been left unfinished, with the scaffolding still round it; and this was the point most hotly contested against the French. During the attack on it, the right of the British had, in the oblique order of advance, gradually come under the fire of the heavy artillery on the knolls, which now began to open, and our skirmishers in advance exchanged shots with the Russians in the village, who retired after setting the houses on fire, the smoke from which, rolling up the valley, rendered the view in front obscure for some time. Pennefather's brigade of the second division, advancing in line along the slope of the plain, lay down near the walls of the village for shelter from the fire of the enemy's guns, which was now incessant and destructive, and then moved onward to the river; while the light division, passing into the valley on the left of the second, continued to advance slowly,-sometimes lying down for shelter against the terrible fire of an 18-gun battery directly in their front, sometimes pressing on, till, passing the river nearly up to their necks, they began to ascend the

slopes beyond, which were held by the Russian battalions.

The battery now in front of them, where the great struggle of the British took place, was, unlike the guns of the Russian centre, covered with an epaulment-that is, a thick low bank of earth, obtained in this instance from trenches dug between the spaces occupied by the guns. This battery swept the whole front of the British throughout its depth and length, and distributed its fire, sometimes on the regiments advancing to attack it, sometimes on the second division, while in and behind the village, sometimes on the first division, drawn up on the plain behind the light. Its fire was crossed by that of the guns from the knolls, which searched the village, and ploughed up the plain behind it. Between the first and second divisions was a wide road, bounded by low stone-walls, leading to a bridge and ford; and this point, being nearly intermediate between the principal lines of fire, was probably the hottest of the cannonade. Many of the 55th fell there, before advancing into the village; and Captain Dew, of Franklin's battery, was killed by a round shot early in the action, near a large painted post beside the road. Many corpses, marked with ghastly wounds, were sprinkled on that part of the slopetwo I noticed, while riding into action with Wodehouse's battery, as killed by especially horrible injuries; a corporal of the 55th, whose brain, scooped out along with the back of his skull, was lying in a mass beside him, leaving his face perfect; and a soldier with only a profile left, half his head being carried away. Shot and shells of various calibres whistled and bounded incessantly along this spot, so that it seemed a marvel how anybody escaped; but the circumstance of the ground there sloping upward, in an opposite direction to the line of fire, considerably diminished the actual peril: for the shot, bounding high after striking, hit only those who were in their line within a few feet of where they touched the ground.

To oppose, however inadequately, this fire, Franklin's and Turner's batteries of the second division had come


into action behind the village, the former suffering more severely during the day than any other. Turner's battery, while moving to the right, was ordered by Lord Raglan, who had crossed the river on the left of the French, to send two guns to the spot where he had stationed himself, from whence the Russian batteries were seen in reverse. Some delay was caused by a horse being shot, crossing the narrow ford; but the guns were at length brought successively into action on the opposite bank, and their fire took the Russian centre and guns in reverse; while the French, pressing up the heights, had driven back the left. Anderson's battery of the light, and Wodehouse's of the first division, being unable to come into action advantageously so far on the left, had joined the second division, and, unlimbering on the right of the road, directed a fire on the knolls in front of them. The Russian artillery on these knolls, attacked in front, and having their flank and rear threatened by the French and by the field battery which had crossed the river, now began to retire in succession from the left, and the covering masses of infantry soon followed; and a few minutes afterwards the 18-gun battery also limbered up, and began to retreat. It was at this moment that a brigade of the light division, consisting of the 7th, 23d, and 33d regiments, very gallantly led by General Codrington, advancing up the slope under a terrible fire of musketry, pressed into the epaulment before the guns were withdrawn, and Captain Bell of the 23d running up to a driver who was urging his horses out of the fight, the man dismounted and ran away, and the gun was taken. But the Russian battalions were as yet too numerous, and their fire from the breastwork and the slope behind it too close and heavy for the regiments assailing them, and the brigade, with a loss of six hundred killed and wounded, was compelled to retire down the slope, and re-form under cover of the attack of the first division, which had been led across the river by the Duke of Cambridge to support them. The Fusilier Guards, going up to the breastwork with a cheer, retook and kept possession of the gun; the 33d

and 95th came to the support of the 7th; the 19th and 47th also advanced; and after a terrible slaughter the Russians were driven back. The 55th and 30th regiments, coming up on the right of the 95th, drove back the enemy in their own front; and the three brigades, viz., Pennefather's of the second division, Codrington's of the light division, and the Guards, formed line on the ground they had won.

At this time Wodehouse's battery, which had been limbered up, and led across the river by Lieut.-Colonel Dacres when the Russian guns ceased firing, came up on the right of the 30th regiment. The slopes in front were still covered with the enemy's skirmishers, obstinately contesting the ground with our own, and giving way, if at all, very slowly. Over the heights behind the contested battery the helmets of a Russian column might be seen; and presently the solid mass, apparently about 2000 strong, marched over the hill, and began to descend towards the British line. A shell from a gun, laid by Colonel Dacres himself before the gun detachment came up, dropt among the Russian skirmishers; the other guns, coming up in succession, opened their fire on the column, and struck it every time. Franklin's and Anderson's batteries, crossing the river, came up and opened on the left, and Paynter's followed; and the column, after marching about fifty yards down the hill, halted, turned about, and, disappearing over the crest, was seen no more. At this time some guns were brought to bear upon another column which halted in a ravine on the right, quite close to where the French skirmishers were pressing along the heights, and, apparently at a loss what to do, presented a somewhat puzzling aspect; insomuch that Sir De Lacy Evans twice stopt our fire, under the impression that the column was French, and sent a staff-officer to the nearest French regiment to inquire. But, it being presently apparent that a French column would not be in front of their own skirmishers, and some bullets from the troops in question beginning to drop into the battery, where they wounded a sergeant, the guns reopened and dispersed them; and there being none but fugitives now within

« AnteriorContinuar »