Our last notice took our readers down to the landing of the Allies at Old Fort. So far everything had gone well for the Allies. They had surprised Menschikoff. They had found him unprepared to resist their landing. The Euxine itself favoured them. They threw their army on the soil of the Crimea without the feeblest show of resistance on the part of the Russians. According to Todleben, 62,223 men were disembarked at Old Fort, which is a little in excess of the actual number engaged at the Alma. On the 19th, the Allies began their march. They took their time. They were from 9 am till 2 pm traversing the 10 miles between Old Fort and the Boulganack. About 3 o’clock — let our readers understand that we are always quoting Todleben, unless distinct intimation be made to the contrary — Lord Cardigan, by Lord Raglan’s orders, pushed forward a reconnaissance of cavalry, and drove in the Russian outposts. Menschikoff, in order to support them and feel the force of the enemy, despatched a brigade of Hussars, supported by two regiments of infantry and two light batteries. Lord Raglan having perceived this sent up the Light Division and the Second Division, and two additional regiments of horse and a field battery, to sustain his troops. While the skirmishers on both sides were exchanging harmless shots, General Kiriakow, who commanded the Russians, mistaking a squadron of the Duke of Leuchtenburg’s Hussars, who were in white tunics, for the enemy, opened on them with four guns, and caused them to retreat between the two fires. Soon afterwards the Allies began to retire, and the Russians, imitating the movement, retired to the Alma.
The Allies bivouacked nearly on the line of the river, and Todleben tells us how the Russian army watched our fires through the night and saw the sea illuminated by the lights on board our ships. The useless baggage and waggons of the Russians were sent away to the Katcha; two ambulances were established, and, as a curious instance of the indifference to medical assistance only too common among generals (our ambulances were left behind at Varna), we may mention that to each of these two field-hospitals there were just three surgeons attached, with a very small number of apothecary assistants, and ten waggons for the carriage of the wounded. These doctors, it appears, are always troublesome everywhere. There is a little of bitterness in the remark by General Todleben that the “other surgeons, whether from curiosity or by the orders of their chiefs, remained, with all their attendants, near the hospitals, and there were far more vehicles than had been prescribed.” The Russian wounded were doubtless very little interested in deciding whether the doctors were too inquisitive or were only implicitly obedient. So passed the night of the 19th of September. Before the dawn next morning a single gun was heard from the French flagship. Then they heard the “Diane” beat along the French lines; then the reveillée sounded along the English front; finally, the Russian battalions were roused for the work of the day by a hymn to Heaven, “Qu’il est glorieux.” The troops sank on their knees while the priests traversed their ranks with the cross on high and the holy water. The Russians were drawn up in a position which was very favourable for defence in some respects, while in other regards it presented signal disadvantages. One of the principal drawbacks was its great length — five and one-third miles; another was that the left flank could not touch the sea in consequence of the fire of the fleet. The Russian left, therefore, scarcely reached the road from the village of Alma Tamack in that direction. Along a portion only of the front of the position were drawn up the 42½ battalions, 16 squadrons, 11 sotnias (a sotnia is 100 nominally, but generally runs up to 120 Cossacks), making a total of 33,600 men, with 96 guns. Mr Kinglake’s authority is opposed to that of Todleben as to the strength of the Russians, for he makes them 39,017 men and 106 guns. According to Todleben they were disposed as follows, running from left to right:— At the village of Aklese, two-thirds of a mile from the sea, and in the rear of the line on the Alma, the 2d Battalion of the Regiment of Minsk; in the right front of it, and one-and-a-quarter mile from the sea, between the Alma Tamack road and the road from the ford at Bourliouk, four Battalions of Reserve of the Regiments of Bialostock and Brest, in columns of companies on the steep slope of the hill. Behind these, in the second line, in column of attack, the Light Infantry Regiment of Tarontino, and between in reserve the Regiment of Moscow with the light field battery No. 4 of the 17th Brigade of Artillery. So far for the left. In the centre of the position, on the right of the reserves of the Regiments of Bialostock and Brest were drawn up the light batteries Nos. 1 and 2 of the 16th Brigade of Artillery, which enfiladed the road to Eupatoria. Behind the guns was the Light Infantry Regiment of Borodino, drawn up in two lines in column of attack. To the right of the road, about 400 yards from the river, were drawn up the four battalions of the Light Infantry Regiment of the Grand Duke Michael. In front of the interval between the battalions of the centre, at grapeshot distance from the river Alma, the Battery of Position of the 16th Brigade of Artillery No. 1 was placed behind an epaulement. To the right of the Grand Duke Michael’s Regiment, partly in columns of company, partly in columns of attack, was disposed the Regiment of Souzdal, having on its left and in front the Battery No. 3, and on its right wing in front the Battery No. 4 of the 14th Brigade. Behind the Grand Duke Michael’s Regiment the Regiment of Wladimir was deployed in the second line. The Regiment of Ouglitch was deployed behind the Regiment of Souzdal. In the rear of the Regiment of Wladimir was disposed, so as to sweep a ravine, the Battery of Position No. 3, and the Light Battery of Reserve No. 1 of the Cossacks of the Don. The Reserve consisted of the Regiment of Volhynia, of three battalions of the Regiment of Minsk, the Light Battery No. 5 of the 17th Brigade, and the Brigade of Hussars of the 6th Division of Light Cavalry, with the Horse Artillery Troop No. 12. The whole of this reserve was placed behind the centre of the position near the great road to Eupatoria, the infantry to the left and the cavalry to the right. The regiments of Cossacks No. 75 and No. 60 were sent across the river to guard the right flank and observe the enemy. The 6th battalion of Tirailleurs, the combined battalion of sailors, and the 6th demi-battalion of Sappers were thrown out as sharpshooters on the right bank of the Alma in the plantations about Alma Tamack, Bourliouk, and Tarkhanlar. To set on fire these villages in case of necessity, and to destroy the bridge, a mass of combustible matter had been prepared. A detachment of Sappers was stationed at the bridge over the river. The centre and right were commanded by Prince Gortschakoff, and the left by Lieutenant-General Kiriakow.
We shall now proceed to describe, as nearly as possible in the words of Todleben, the memorable battle of the Alma. According to the Russian version the allied Generals decided on the 19th of September to attack simultaneously in front and on both flanks. Bosquet was to move at 5.30 am to turn the left; Canrobert, Prince Napoleon, and Forey were to move against the centre at 7 am. The English army was to have marched at 5.30 am and turned the right flank. At 6 o’clock Bosquet was already afoot, but at 7 o’clock, when the French centre was beginning its movement, St Arnaud, being informed that the English army was not ready, halted his right. Meantime, the fleet cast anchor near the shore, and the French steamers having gone close in discovered a fordable shoal at the mouth of the Alma and gave information to Bosquet. At 11.30 am the whole allied army attacked the Russians in the following order: — Bosquet’s Division, formed in two columns, with the artillery in the centre and followed by the Turks, preceded the line on the right and was directed against Alma Tamack. The Division Canrobert and the Division Napoleon, in two lines, in columns of division, with artillery between the lines, were to advance on Bosquet’s left towards the space between Alma Tamack and Bourliouk. The Division Forey was in columns of regiments, followed by artillery, and with the 5th Chasseurs on its right placed behind the Division Napoleon, and the reserves of artillery were placed behind the Division Canrobert. The front of advance of the French as well as that of the English was covered by numerous sharpshooters, and the latter had in addition a field battery protecting their advance. The right flank of the English army on the left of the French was formed by the 2d Division under Sir de Lacy Evans, having on its left the Light Division of Sir George Brown, each in two lines of three regiments each, and between the divisions and in front was a field battery. Behind the 2d Division came the 3d Division under Sir Richard England; the 1st Division, commanded by the Duke of Cambridge, marched in rear of the Light Division, and the artillery was placed between the divisions of the second line. The 4th Division, under Sir George Cathcart, marched on the left rear of the Duke of Cambridge, and the cavalry was placed on the left wing to protect the army against the Russian horse. Towards half-past 12 o’clock Bosquet reached the right bank of the Alma, and at the same moment the fleet, increasing their fire, caused considerable loss to the Russian left, even at the distance of 11⁄3 mile from the sea. Under cover of this fire d’Autemarre’s Brigade advanced to the ford of Alma Tamack, a Battalion of the 3rd Zouaves at once crossed the river, and spreading out as skirmishers in the face of all, commenced to ascend the heights. They soon showed themselves on the summit of the cliffs, whence they opened a very lively fore of rifles. Seeing this, Bosquet hurled the whole of d’Autemarre’s Brigade up the heights, where they formed on the plateau across the road from Alma Tamack, supported by a battery of artillery, and there awaited the arrival of the other brigade under Bouat. While d’Autemarre had been gaining the heights Bouat, followed by the Turks, begun to pass the ford at the mouth of the river on the right, but the battery which accompanied him, finding it impossible to get over, turned towards Alma Tamack and joined the other battery with the other brigade.
The first battalion which opened fire on the Russian side was that of the Minsk Regiment stationed at the village of Aklese, which did not perceive d’Autemarre’s movement till the Zouaves were actually on the heights. This battalion, placed in a most critical position, isolated from the rest of the army, decimated by fire in front, in enfilade, and even in the rear, began to retreat towards Orta. At the same time Kiriakow, under a very brisk fire from the very outset, and enfiladed by the guns of the fleet, began to retire his troops in the direction of the telegraph. Prince Menschikoff, seeing the French appear suddenly on his left flank, ordered the Regiment of Moscow and the batteries No. 4 and No. 5 of the 17th Brigade to march in that direction. The Battalion of Minsk perceiving them at once halted, while the Battery No. 4 galloped to its aid. Exposed to the guns of the fleet, and having only 10 pieces against 12, the Russian battery had still more to suffer from the rifles of the enemy. Here, as elsewhere in his account of the action, Todleben lays great stress on the terrible effects of the arms of precision. In a short time out of 100 men the battery lost more than 48, and still more in horses. Aiming at the distance of more than 900 yards the French sharpshooters, who had been directed to concentrate their fire on the artillerymen, prevented the artillery coming close enough to deliver their fire with effect. The French howitzers, on the contrary, fired with such success that Bosquet attributed the success of his flank movement to the superiority of their calibre over the Russian guns. The Regiment of Moscow and No. 5 Battery only arrived after the whole Brigade d’Autemarre covered the heights of the left bank, and just as the Brigade Bouat issued out of the ravine. It was then too late to drive the French across the river. With the Regiment of Moscow came Prince Menschikoff in person, who, seeing his danger, ordered up the three remaining battalions of the Minsk Regiment, two batteries (No. 3 of position and No. 4 of light reserve) of Cossacks of the Don, and the troop of Artillery No. 12, and four squadrons of Hussars. The position of Bosquet’s Division before the rest of the French had begun to cross the river would have now been indeed perilous if the Russians could have attacked him with superior forces, but the retreat of Kiriakow towards the Telegraph had put it out of their power, and the reinforcements which were sent only arrived one after the other. True, they had 28 guns to oppose to Bosquet’s 12, but the latter of greater calibre reached the Russians a long way off, and the enemy’s riflemen did not permit them to equalize their chances by getting nearer. While Bosquet had succeeded in occupying the heights on the right side of the river, Canrobert was leading his division towards the left, and Prince Napoleon was conducting his division to the right of the village of Bourliouk. At 1 o’clock they approached the river and their skirmishers attacked the Russians in the gardens, while a battery of Canrobert’s, two batteries of Napoleon’s, and two troops of Artillery of the Reserve opened fire against the centre. The second battery of Canrobert’s Division proceeded towards Alma Tamack, to join Bosquet. At the same time St Arnaud directed Lourmel’s Brigade and one battery to strengthen the latter, and Aurelle’s Brigade to reinforce Canrobert. Thus, against the open space between the Regiment of Borodino and the troops engaged with Bosquet, the French directed 24 battalions and 28 guns. The English up to this had not yet been engaged; more slow in their movements than the French, they halted beyond cannon shot, and Lord Raglan decided to wait till the success of the French had become more developed.
In consequence of the arrival of Canrobert and Napoleon, the Russians had to oppose 11 battalions with 5, and their situation would have been desperate had the reinforcements sent by Menschikoff delayed on their march, and, as the Regiment of Minsk of the reserve had to come nearly 1½ mile before they reached the scene of action, the whole of Bosquet’s Division and a part of the Turks already occupied the heights. Bouat’s Brigade and the Turks were formed en echelon on the right and rear of d’Autemarre. Once more the allies found themselves the stronger. Counting every battery, although all were not engaged at the same time, the Russians on the left wing had only 8 battalions, 4 squadrons, and 44 guns, not reckoning more than 6,000, while Bosquet had nearly 7,000 men, whose flank was covered by 7,000 Turks. Notwithstanding that superiority, the Russians had tried at the arrival of the Minsk Regiment to repulse the French from the heights they occupied with the bayonet, but, avoiding a hand-to-hand engagement, the latter received them with grape and a hail of rifle balls from the skirmishers and deployed battalions. Seeing the impossibility of passing over a space ravaged by deadly projectiles without enormous loss, the Russians were obliged to abandon a charge and confine their efforts to the defensive. Exposed to the fire of the batteries and rifles, the infantry and artillery stood stoically under the murderous discharge, but from the moment they were obliged to give up the attempt to drive Bosquet and the Turks over the river their position became more than doubtful, particularly as at the moment the First and Second Divisions were already about crossing the river, Canrobert and Napoleon had driven the Russian skirmishers between Alma Tamack and Bourliouk over the stream, and as Kiriakow’s troops had now left their position Canrobert’s Division hastened to ford the Alma and mount to the plateau. The battery, passing the stream near the former village, proceeded to join Bosquet. It is true the two companies of the 6th Battalion of Rifles could have annoyed the French during the crossing, but they were out of ammunition and could not find the reserves, which had been sent to the rear of the right wing. So they withdrew, and Canrobert’s men began to show themselves on the heights. When they had deployed on the plateau, Napoleon, with whom was St Arnaud, began to cross, and a battalion of Zouaves threw themselves over immediately.
“At half-past 1 o’clock the English troops, marching very slowly (fort lentement), reached the right bank of the Alma, and halted just where the fire of the Russian troops became already effective. The Divisions of Brown and de Lacy Evans deployed in one line, and their skirmishers, supported by two troops of Horse Artillery in position, began to open a very brisk fire. The men of the 6th Battalion of Rifles and of the battalion of marine riflemen in the vines received the English by a well sustained fire, while the Russian batteries increased the rapidity of their discharges. The English, to whom the fire of the riflemen, and, above all, the artillery, caused sensible losses, sheltered themselves behind the inequalities of the ground. Their soldiers armed with rifled pieces replied briskly to the tirailleurs, and hailed bullets on the Russians on the left bank. The English, firing with very great precision, hit as they pleased, officers, soldiers, and artillerymen.”
At that moment St Arnaud learnt that the First Division, having crossed the river, was meeting with resistance. In effect Canrobert’s Division had debouched on the left flank of the Regiment of Moscow, already engaged with Bosquet, but the Russian battalions, with a few pieces of artillery, throwing back their right flank, opened a well sustained fire of musketry and cannon against the French columns. At that moment Canrobert encountered the troops of Kiriakow, which had halted behind the Telegraph, and these different obstacles arrested the French. But the success of the Russians was only temporary. Aurelle rushed to the aid of Canrobert, and Bosquet detached two batteries to his assistance. These troops re-established the equilibrium in the onward movement, and facilitated the access of the heights on the left bank to Prince Napoleon. A fact of importance which ought to be remarked is that Canrobert’s troops met no resistance till they had ascended the steep. The Prince concentrated his troops and advanced his batteries, which, with those of Canrobert’s, opened a murderous fire. He sent at the same time to demand the co-operation of the English.
“The French batteries overwhelmed our troops with grape and shell, and we suffered in turn very sensible losses. Colonel Prikhodkine of the Minsk Regiment, the General Major Kourtianow of the Moscow Regiment were wounded; the greater part of the chefs de bataillon were also killed or wounded. It was then that our troops, deprived of the greater part of their leaders, began to fall back towards the Telegraph. Although the Regiments of Minsk and of Moscow had lost between them 1,500 men, they retreated in good order, halting at intervals and opening a violent fire against the enemy. They also lent assistance to the light batteries 4 and 5 of the 17th Brigade, which had suffered more than the others. These batteries, having lost the greater part of their gunners and of their horses, worked their pieces nevertheless with ardour. Although they were reduced to two horses for each gun, and to one horse for each caisson, they never ceased firing as long as the retreat lasted. Finally, the left wing, halting at the Telegraph, offered a last resistance to the French, and it was not till after a bloody struggle that it was obliged finally to yield to the enormous superiority of the enemy’s forces. The Telegraph Hill, the culminating point of the centre of our position, was occupied by the French, who planted their flag upon it.”
Then the French and Turks united deployed in an irregular line of which the right was in advance of the village of Hadji Boulat, and the left in front of the Telegraph.
To cover his left flank Napoleon changed front and formed an angle with the general line. Lourmel’s Brigade occupied the interval between Canrobert and Bosquet, and the whole French army advanced simultaneously.
We now come to the English army. We have been looking for some time to ascertain what M de Todleben has done with them. Here they are at last:—
“It was thus that while the right wing of our army was still engaged in a bloody struggle, in which the efforts of the English exhausted themselves against the courage and firmness of our troops, the battle on the left wing was already over. It has been said above that towards 2 o’clock, and at the time when Canrobert had succeeded in deploying on the heights, the English reached the right bank of the Alma. They maintained themselves in that position while making us suffer from the effects of a very brisk fire of precision until the whole of Napoleon’s men had crossed the river. Having received news that the Prince had effected his passage, Lord Raglan made an onward movement. The Division Brown advanced towards the gardens and vineyards, and the Division de Lacy Evans partly towards the right and partly towards the left of Bourliouk. The division of the Duke of Cambridge, behind the Division Brown, deployed in columns. The Division de Lacy Evans was followed by the Division England and the Division Cathcart, while the cavalry still on the left, somewhat in the rear, assured the movement of the left wing. In front of the centre marched two batteries. Notwithstanding our fire, which caused sensible loss to the enemy, the English advanced in perfect order. Their artillery hailed grape on our skirmishers ensconced in the vines and houses. When the English had reached the bridge two of our batteries, occupying the heights on two sides of the high road, received them with a violent fire of grape, and the riflemen of the Regiment of Borodino and those of the Regiment of Grand Duke Michael concentrated their fire upon them. Codrington’s Brigade, which advanced towards the bridge, received by musketry and a cannonade, experienced considerable losses, confusion seized the ranks, and it retired in great disorder behind Bourliouk. But the enemy’s riflemen, concealed behind the walls of the gardens, opened fire, and began to penetrate into the villages on the left bank. The sharpshooting of the English riflemen caused our troops terrible losses, and above all did great mischief to the two light batteries placed in front of the Borodino Regiment on the left of the high road. The situation of these batteries became more difficult still when, after some time, two English guns succeeded in crossing the Alma by the fords below Bourliouk, and, after having ascended a rise of the hill, got into position, and took our two batteries in enfilade. A hail of rifle balls committed great ravages among the gunners of the artillery, and among the columns of the Regiment of Borodino, which, with the light battery No. 1, placed in advance of its left wing, was obliged to retire. Meanwhile, the light battery No. 2, more on the right, continued to mow down with its fire the retreating battalions of Codrington’s Brigade. The troops of General Kiriakow, after their encounter with the French, near the Telegraph, never halted in their retreat till they reached the Katcha, and they were now followed by the Regiment of Borodino. The light battery No. 2 quitted its position last of all. It was with difficulty they could drag their guns up the hill, in consequence of the loss of horses. The passage of the bridge then became more easy. At last the Division of the Duke of Cambridge and of de Lacy Evans having reached the river set about effecting the passage. England’s Division and the reserve of artillery alone remained on the right bank as soon as Cathcart and the cavalry began to gain the left side. Brown’s Division, notwithstanding the fire of the Chasseurs of the Grand Duke Michael’s Regiment, and of 12 guns behind an epaulement on the right of the high road, passed to the left bank also. Seeing the movement of General Brown, Prince Gortschakoff ordered two battalions of the Grand Duke Michael Regiment, which had suffered less than the others, to attack the enemy with the bayonet. The Regiment of Ouglitch was brought forward from the epaulement, and posted in a ravine near the place previously occupied by the Cossack batteries. The 3d and 4th battalions of the Grand Duke Michael Regiment advanced with the bayonet against the English. By this movement the infantry masked the battery, which was obliged to stop its fire of grape. The enemy, seeing the movement of our troops, fell back towards the river, and having let them approach within a little distance opened against them a most murderous fire. The commander of the regiment, Colonel Selespew, and the two majors were killed. It was then that after sustaining a considerable loss, and seeing the greater part of their senior officers fall, our battalions retired directly towards the epaulement, thus preventing the battery from reopening its fire and covering the retreat of our infantry. On the heels of our retreating troops marched the 23d Regiment of English infantry. On reaching the epaulement our troops occupied the flanks, and thus unmasked the battery, which immediately recommenced firing. But it was too late! The English were not more than a pistol shot from the battery. Our artillerymen, seeing that the enemy were on the point of rushing into the epaulement, limbered up their guns, and retired along with the battalions of infantry, which had suffered a considerable loss. The two other battalions of the regiment placed on open ground and exposed to fire were also much weakened, and could no longer oppose the English columns. Two pieces of the battery of position No. 1 of the 16th Brigade, of which one had the trail broken and the other its two wheelers killed, could not be carried off, and remained behind the epaulement, which was at once occupied by the English. In a moment on the parapet so lately held by our battery we saw the English banner waving. The 1st and 2d Battalion of the Regiment of Wladimir, sent to support the retreating Chasseurs, rushed to the fight. The charge was executed with great impetuosity. Without troubling themselves about the terrible fire of the English the battalion advanced in a compact mass with the bayonet. The enemy could not resist the shock, and, abandoning the epaulement, retreated before they had time to do more than fire a few shots. The epaulement was occupied by our troops, who, concealing themselves behind the parapet, opened a very brisk fire against the enemy now forced to fly precipitately towards the river. While all this was taking place the French had occupied the Hill of the Telegraph, and their reserves were already massed on the left bank, while the troops of Kiriakow were retreating towards the Katcha. In the meantime, the English, driven out of the epaulement and beyond the reach of our smooth-bores, had only to meet the fire of a handful of riflemen of the Regiment of Wladimir, for the riflemen of the Grand Duke’s regiment had no more cartridges. The English halted there about 120 yards from the river, and, having begun to reform, opened fire once more. Lord Raglan caused the Divisions of the Duke of Cambridge and de Lacy Evans, which had already effected their passage, to advance to the aid of the weakened troops of General Brown. A fresh attack of the English was imminent. The Division of the Duke of Cambridge, supported by the Division of Brown, which had succeeded in rallying, and by Pennefather’s Brigade, once more advanced towards the epaulement. The situation of our troops was becoming very critical. The perilous contest might have been rendered to some extent less unequal by the support of a battery; but as they had not attached one to the Wladimir Regiment, the enemy was enabled to organize his battalions at his ease. The battery, which had quitted the epaulement, could, with great difficulty, carry off the ten guns which remained to it, in consequence of the enormous loss sustained by it in gunners and horses, and found it absolutely impossible to reoccupy the epaulement and renew the combat. They might have advanced the light battery, which was left almost uselessly near the Souzdal Regiment, but it would have had to make a very difficult movement in the bottom of a ravine, in rear of the regiment, and it could not have arrived in time. Notwithstanding the danger of their position, our troops stood firm. The terrible fire of the clouds of skirmishers deprived our troops in a very short time of the greater part of their officers and chiefs. All those who surrounded Prince Gortschakoff fell, the Prince himself had his horse killed under him, and his coat was pierced with six balls. But Prince Gortschakoff and General Kvizinsky did not recoil from a fresh sacrifice to save the position. They both commanded a bayonet charge, and led in person what remained of the Regiment of Wladimir. Animated by the example of its chiefs, the Regiment of Wladimir, with loud hurrahs, rushed on, part over the epaulement, part by its flanks, and precipitated itself upon the enemy. At the sight of the determined onslaught of the Regiment of Wladimir, the first line of the English regiments lost order in the ranks, wavered, and began to retire towards the bridge. But at this supreme moment our troops were suddenly taken on the flank by the French artillery, and this unforeseen attack determined the success of the action in favour of the English. St Arnaud, in fact, having learnt the obstinate resistance which the English were meeting, had suspended for some moments the movement of his troops, and, after the occupation of the Hill of the Telegraph, had advanced against our right flank two troops of Horse Artillery of the reserve, a mounted battery of the 4th Division, and half an English battery. This artillery, numbering 23 pieces, opened a murderous fire against our flank, and at the same moment the French troops recommenced their onward march. Overwhelmed by this incident, as terrible as unforeseen, the Regiment of Wladimir paused, and the English, emboldened, directed against it a very brisk fire. But the regiment after a momentary halt, with loud hurrahs, once more renewed its bayonet charge! Received by the thundering fire of the infantry, and of the artillery of the French and of the English, having lost nearly all of its officers, and having no supports, it was obliged to abandon the attack, and fall back towards the epaulement which we had not time to reoccupy with artillery. The English pursued the Regiment of Wladimir. Its shattered fragments found a refuge behind the parapet and succeeded in checking by a rolling fire the progress of the enemy for a moment. General Kvizinsky, being exceedingly anxious to carry off the two guns abandoned by the battery of position No. 1 of the 16th Brigade, and wishing to afford a means of retreat to the artillery in the epaulement more to the right, halted stiffly with the regiment to check the enemy. Thus opposed in their march, the enemy replied to the fire of the Wladimir Regiment without relaxing their fusillade. For 20 minutes the regiment maintained itself behind the epaulement, and at the same time that it made head against nearly a whole English division was taken on flank and rear by the fire of the French battery. While the Regiment Wladimir was falling heroically behind the epaulement the Brigade Colin Campbell threatened to turn its right flank, the Division of Prince Napoleon advancing more to the left hastened to cut off its retreat to Sebastopol, the French battery thundered on its flank, and the Divisions Brown, Evans, and the Duke of Cambridge rained on it a hail of bullets and shell. But the Regiment of Wladimir wavered not. Although it had lost its colonel, 3 majors, 14 captains, 30 officers, and about 1,300 men, it stood firm on its ground. Fearing that they might cut off the retreat on Sebastopol, and seeing that neither at the centre nor on the left wing were there any means of making the chances of the battle more favourable for us, Prince Menschikoff, towards 4 o’clock in the afternoon, at last ordered Prince Gortschakoff to order the troops of our right flank to fall back on the chain of heights. Lieutenant-General Kvizinsky, having strengthened the line of skirmishers, began to retire with the remains of the Wladimir Regiment and of the Regiment of the Grand Duke Michael. In the former there was not one field officer left, and only two captains and seven lieutenants, many of whom, though wounded, would not quit the ranks. At the moment when he gave the order to retreat the General had a horse killed under him and was wounded in the foot. That did not prevent his continuing to fight and to take all the measures the occasion demanded. Soon a rifle ball broke his left wrist and hip, and he fell under his heavy wounds. Our troops retired with regularity and good order, so that the artillery, notwithstanding the losses it had experienced, brought off all its pieces except the two of the battery of position No. 1 of the 16th Brigade, which remained on the field and fell into the hands of the enemy, as they could not be dragged up the heights. The English, having succeeded in carrying several guns to the spot lately occupied by the left wing of the Regiment of Souzdal, opened against the Regiments of Souzdal and of Ouglitch a fire of artillery and rifles which caused a loss of nearly 100 men to the latter before they could gain the top of the ridge. To cover the retreat, Major-General Kischinsky, by the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, caused to be placed on a trifling eminence not far from the old position of the reserve the troop of Horse Artillery No. 12 and the light batteries Nos. 3 and 4 of the 11th Brigade. Behind them and on the left of the road to Sebastopol the Regiment of Vollivnia was stationed, and on the right of the road the Brigade of Hussars was posted, with the Cossacks on its right flank. The English, having occupied the ground of the right wing and the centre of our old position, began to pursue our retreating soldiers. Lord Cardigan’s Brigade, together with the Horse Artillery, advanced, resting on the right of Colin Campbell’s Brigade, and was sustained by the Brigade of the Guard Bentinck and by a part of the Divisions de Lacy Evans and Cathcart, which marched in the rear. The enemy’s artillery opened fire, but our troops were already out of range, and suffered no loss. Having approached our rear within cannon shot the enemy were received by the fire of our artillery, which caused them to halt, and to desist from further pursuit. Thus our rearguard secured to the bulk of our army the possibility of arriving without impediment at the Katcha, which they reached about 9 o’clock. At 7 the enemy, reinforced by Torrens from Old Fort, bivouacked on the very ground occupied by our troops during the battle. The motives which prevented the enemy pushing the pursuit further were:— 1st, that their troops were harassed with fatigue from the heroic opposition of the Russians; 2d, that they had not enough of cavalry; 3d, that they were afraid the Russians might halt behind the Katcha, which presented the same facilities for resistance as the Alma; 4th, the illness of Marshal St Arnaud, which prevented the operations after the action receiving the impress of the necessary activity.”
So far we have translated almost literally M de Todleben’s account of the Battle of the Alma, at the risk of wearying all and of surprising and irritating many of our readers; but the book is very dear and scarce, and it will probably be some time before it appears in an English form. It will be observed that in the main the Russian General confirms the French accounts as to the progress of the great events of the action, and the manner in which the troops were engaged. He quite ignores Lord Raglan’s “scarlet arch on the knoll,” and the effect of the white plumes of his staff; but he also omits the advance of the Guards, and does not agree with Mr Kinglake as to the value of Sir Colin Campbell’s demonstration on the left. It would trench too largely on our space to analyze his statement, but we may observe that the very story of the fight at the epaulement and the capture of the guns, as well as the disposition of the troops, proves that if the English army was not the first to move, it had the hardest fighting and the hottest part of the struggle. The table of losses furnished by Todleben is conclusive on this point. In killed, wounded, and missing the Russian army lost 5,709 men. Of these the regiments defending the position to the right of the high road to Eupatoria — those of Wladimir, Grand Duke Michael, Souzdal, and Ouglitch — opposed to the English left lost 3,028. Some of the regiments on the left of the road were opposed to the English also, and if we put their loss at 500, which is very low, we shall leave a balance of 2,200 as the share of the work done by our allies. It would be absurd, after the testimony which has been adduced, to which is now added that of Todleben, to deny that the French did their work admirably well. National prejudice, morbid feeling, and personal dislike to the Emperor can no longer assert that his soldiers belied the ancient reputation of the French army on the heights of Alma, and we of all people can best afford to concede them the high praise their activity and gallantry deserve.
In accounting for the defeat of the Russians, Todleben assigns a high place to the superior armament of the allies, but he also asserts that the Russians were inferior in manœuvring. It may be useful to point out to those officers who declaim against the Hythe school for its supposed tendency to make the soldier too independent of his officer that Todleben distinctly assigns as an advantage the greater confidence, skill, and mobility which soldiers left to themselves as skirmishers are sure to acquire. “They will not hesitate,” he says, “in action nor will they require the continual direction and surveillance of their immediate officers.” The opponents of musketry instruction may say that English soldier nature is different from human nature anywhere else in the world. We do not believe them. Certainly, the Russian is not fit for freedom of action in the field if an Englishman is not. Todleben praises, also, the sword bayonet exercise, and the pas gymnastique, which serve as the complement to the advantages obtained by the rifled arms. The Russian army, remembering the traditions bequeathed by Suwaroff, preferred the shock of the charge to precision of fire at long range; and, while the soldier of the West was taught to develope his presence of mind and individual quality, the Russians were, above all things, trained to act in masses. No army could equal them in manœuvres by masses, but on difficult ground, where straight lines and precision of movement were no longer possible, and where presence of mind was required in the face of an enemy, the Russians, who did not yield to any army in the world in bravery and devotion, had to suffer great losses and to forfeit the chance of victory. At the Alma their infantry, armed with smooth-bores, could not hit anything beyond 300 paces, while the Allies reached them at 1,200 paces and more. When they got near enough to equalize the disadvantages, their battalions were disorganized by the allied fire. The artillery exposed to the fire of riflemen, who were out of range of grape, could only make their fire effective by using shrapnel, of which they had only 15 rounds in each light battery. Ordinary shells were almost useless. Even when the Allies had become disorganized by the united efforts of artillery and infantry, and when it was only necessary to complete their defeat by a cannonade, it was impossible to act in consequence of the loss in guns and horses caused by rifle fire, and the same cause obliged the artillery to quit its position prematurely at times, for fear of being captured by the Allies. The allied artillery caused the Russians very little loss in comparison with the small arms of precision. But among the most important causes of their defeat was the neglect to fortify their position, though they had both time and means for the purpose. The tardy opposition to Bosquet also contributed to their disaster. Finally, the abandonment of his post by Kiriakow, had a fatal influence on the regiments fighting on the right, as it permitted Napoleon and Canrobert to ascend the heights, and was the cause of the losses to Gortschakoff’s men.
In fact, an ill armed Russian force, placed in a position which was not fortified, ill commanded and manœuvred, was attacked by an enemy superior in numbers and equipment, and was, as the Americans say, "pretty badly beaten."
*Défense de Sébastopol. Ouvrage rédigé sous la direction de Lieutenant-Général E de Todleben, Aide-de-Camp Général de S M L’Empereur. Tome I. Première Partie, Deuxième Partie. St Pétersbourg: Imprimerie N Thiebelin et Cie, 1863.