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Crimean texts

The Times 8.8.1854 p 6


It is announced by one of the last telegraphic despatches received from the East by way of Malta and Marseilles, that on the 21st of July the Light Division of the British army, under General BROWN, and the division of the French army under General CANROBERT, embarked at Varna or at Baltschik; and, whether this fact be strictly correct or not, we entertain no doubt that between that date and the present time the allied army has sailed from the shores of Bulgaria to invade the Crimea. Some weeks ago the reasons were less obvious which induced us to deprecate the advance of the Anglo-French army to the Principalities, and to argue that the relief of Silistria and the passage of the Danube were undertakings which might cost us too dear if they were purchased by the sacrifice of a more important operation. Happily, those immediate objectives have been accomplished by the Turks themselves, with only the moral support of the allied army. It never entered into the plan of campaign adopted by Marshal ST ARNAUD and Lord RAGLAN to occupy either the valley of the Danube or the Dobrudscha. OMAR PASHA had asked at the first conference of the allied Generals for the moral support of a European detachment at Varna, and the allied commanders gave him more than he asked — not, as the result has proved, without effect. But the chief advantage of this movement to ourselves was to gain time for the arrival of the heavy guns from Woolwich and Toulon, and in some degree to accustom the troops to the climate. It was also desirable that the hottest period of the year should be over before active operations began. All these considerations must now render our meaning perfectly clear, when we disputed the plan of operations which most of our contemporaries were directing towards the Danube, and steadily pointed in the direction of Sebastopol.

It now becomes expedient to consider with greater detail the nature of the proceedings to which this remarkable expedition may give rise. The first or preliminary operation for the conquest of the Crimea and the siege of Sebastopol, as for any great maritime invasion, is to effect a landing of the troops in such a manner and in such a position that they may be able to hold their ground against the enemy until the army with its artillery and stores has reached the shore, and is prepared to take the field. For this purpose the spot selected for the landing must unite several favourable conditions. It should, if possible, have sufficient depth of water to allow the approach of the ships, or at least of the steam-frigates, so as to give the boats and the troops the shelter of the ships’ guns. It is indispensable that fresh water be found on the spot in sufficient abundance to supply the immediate wants of the army, and that some natural facilities should exist for throwing up fieldworks to protect the first landing from an attack by the superior forces of the enemy. It is also necessary and desirable that the enemy should as far as possible be deceived as to the exact point on which the attempt is to be made. Supposing these conditions to be realized, it is calculated that in about three hours a sufficient number of men and guns may be landed to enable the detachment to hold its position against any force that the enemy is able to bring against it; and in the meantime, from the enormous number of vessels of war and transports at the disposal of the allied forces, every half-hour would add considerably to the strength of the invading army.

The south-western promontory of the Crimea on which Sebastopol stands undoubtedly combines many of the conditions favourable to such an attack. Between the port of Sebastopol and Cape Chersonese, within a distance of about seven miles, there are no less than three inlets or harbours — the bay of Streletska, the Bay of Peschana, and the bay of Kameesch, which are not fortified on the land, and are more or less accessible to vessels of war. To the south of Cape Chersonese the shore below the Monastery of St George might be eligible, and the deep haven of Balaklava would be a most important position for us to obtain and hold in our possession. Some such port must, of course, form the base of operations in the peninsula, and the very first measures of the allied Generals would be to secure and fortify a place of depôt affording them safe communication with the fleet. A glance at the map will show that, if such a position can be found, Sebastopol may be attacked in the rear with remarkable facility. We may here observe that, until about two years ago, Sebastopol was scarcely fortified at all on the land side, and was commanded by hills adjacent to the town. Since 1852 a regular wall has been erected from the citadel to the quarantine harbour, about two miles in length, but it is probable that this wall is still unsupported by the outworks required to give it strength and solidity, and the heights outside these lines still give the besieging army a formidable advantage of position.

From the best information we have been able to collect, the Russian forces now in the Crimea consist principally of two divisions of the 6th Corps d’Armée, under General TCHEODAIOFF, which may amount to an effective army of 70,000 men, exclusive of the marines and dockyard battalions existing in Sebastopol. It is probable great efforts have been, and will be made, to increase this force; but, in the absence of communication by sea, a vast extent of steppes and marshes has to be traversed before the narrow isthmus of the Crimea can be reached at all from the interior of Russia. It is, however, to be supposed that the Russian Generals charged with the defence of this important possession will adopt a double system of operations. Leaving in Sebastopol such a garrison as the extent of the works to be defended may require, the rest of the army, with the cavalry and field artillery, will probably occupy a position in the country; and it will be necessary for the allied armies to be equally prepared for a twofold operation — namely, to invest Sebastopol on the one hand, and to guard against the movements of the Russian army in the field on the other. In fact, if the landing of the allied forces is once accomplished in safety, it is solely on the possibility of relieving the fortress from without, by compelling the assailants to raise the siege, that the safety of the place depends. Left to itself, and attacked by regular approaches, the fall of Sebastopol would be a matter of certainty. The problem to be solved is, whether the allied armies will have the power, during a siege which may be protracted for a considerable time, to repulse all the troops which the Emperor of RUSSIA may or can send against them. For this purpose it may become extremely difficult to carry on the attack on Sebastopol without extending the operations of the allied armies throughout a great part of the peninsula. The southern part of the Crimea, which is by far the most accessible to our fleets and troops, is, however, the only portion of the country which can be called salubrious or fruitful. Two-thirds of the peninsula to the north of the hills along the coast are abandoned to salt marshes and sandy plains, remarkable only for their breed of cattle and of horses, and even a Russian army would have considerable difficulty in maintaining itself in such a country, while all the more productive districts are held by the enemy. We are still unavoidably ignorant of many particulars relating to a country which is almost as large as the island of Sicily, though it has been very little visited by European travellers; but in the foregoing remarks we have pointed out some of the general principles which must be observed in operations of this nature, and we trust that, from the magnitude on which they have now been undertaken, and the spirit which animates the allied armies, they will be brought to a successful termination before the close of the present campaign.

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