CrimeanWar.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 New Plans

 

Plans to renew the siege in earnest quickened in February 1855, especially after the Russians sank six more ships across the entrance to Sevastopol harbour, destroying any hope that they might give up the fight. During the winter's lull in operations, they had strengthened the dominant Malakov defence work and the Mamelon in front of it, now faced by the French on the allied right.

Sickness and casualties, incurred in occasional sorties and exchanges of artillery fire, had reduced the effective British fighting strength to scarcely more than
12,000. Despite this deficiency in men, however, Raglan faced an elaborate French plan to complete the siege of Sevastopol by taking the Star Fort in the north and using 50,000 troops to storm the field army on Mackenzie Heights. Fortunately, the British commander was ignorant of further French proposals to concentrate their reserves at Constantinople. Nor did he know that the Cabinet had needed to reject the idea that British forces should be brought under French control, something attempted by St Arnaud when the allies were in Turkey. In the Crimea, the French now had eight infantry divisions divided into two corps, commanded by Plissier and Bosquet.

The French plan for the investment Sevastopol rested to some extent on aggressive action by Omar Pasha from Eupatoria, where on 11 February he commanded 26,000 infantry, two bat horse artillery with a third battery ab land. Six days later, the Russians launched a determined assault on Eupatoria, which the Turkish C-in-C drove off. This action did underline the importance of the small port and raise the question of whether the Turks should move against the Russian supply lines from the Perekop peninsula into Sevastopol rather than seek to attack the naval port's northern suburb. An allied strategy was not easy to agree, with all three national commanders now in the Crimea. The French undoubtedly had the largest contingent of troops, but the relationship forged between Raglan and Omar Pasha in Bulgaria endured.

A change of government in London in February 1855, with replacement of Aberdeen and Newcastle as Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War respectively by Palmerston and Panmure, brought an intensification of criticism. Panmure swiftly informed Raglan: 'I see no reason ... to alter the opinion which is universally entertained here of the inefficiency of your general staff.' The Commander-in-Chief at the Horse Guards in London, Lord Hardinge, referred to complaints from 'officers of rank' and The Times thundered: 'Their [the troops'] aristocratic generals, and their equally aristocratic staff view this scene of wreck and destruction with a gentleman-like tranquillity ... [they would] return with their horses, their plate and their china, their German cook and several tons' weight of official returns, all in excellent order, and the announcement that the last British soldier was dead.'

Raglan vigorously defended his staff, but Burgoyne had been sent out by the government to be his adviser and was recalled as the ritual scapegoat, leaving the Crimea on 20 March.

In February, too, a Commission of Inquiry- went to the front under Dr A. Cumming to investigate the medical services, 'found the patients in the field hospitals generally in a filthy condition' and contrasted the British arrangements unfavourably with those of the French. Palmerston immediately dispatched a more powerful Sanitary Commission of Mr R. Rawlinson, Dr J. Sutherland and Dr H. Gavin, charged with putting not only the field hospitals in the Crimea, but also those at Scutari 'into less unhealthy condition'. This Commission was rapidly followed by Sir John McNeill and Colonel Alexander Tulloch 'to inquire into the whole management of the Commissariat Department'. Although the departments subject to investigation by these various bodies were not under Raglan's command, the impression of incompetence affected perceptions of his inefficiency by those unfamiliar with the tortuous administrative system. On 24 February, Lucan finally left the Crimea in high dudgeon at being recalled, but in truth his continual sniping at Raglan about Balaclava had become intolerable.

As the weather improved in March, the siege lines edged closer to the Sevastopol defences, raising hopes of an early assault. An allied conference on 25 March set 2 April as the date for renewal of the bombardment.

 

 

 

According to the Quartermaster-General, Airey, only Raglan's patient 'conferring' persuaded the French to support a combined ground attack in the area of the Mamelon/Malakov and Great Redan after the bombardment without simultaneous action west of Man of War Harbour. In the event, the long-awaited Second Bombardment by 501 guns (101 of them British) did not occur until 9 April, in poor visibility through mist and rain.

Meanwhile, in March, Nicholas I had died to be succeeded by his son, Alexander II. Menshikov had paid the price for failure at Eupatoria, being replaced by Prince M. D. Gorchakov from Bessarabia.

At a meeting of the three allied commanders on 14 April, Raglan secured agreement to continue the current bombardment less intensely to conserve ammunition, but all decided that a ground assault was out of the question. Shortly afterwards, the full extent of the ambitious French plan for future operations became clear. Having deducted those in hospital and detached on support tasks, Canrobert estimated that the French had 90,000 men available in the Crimea; the British, similarly,
20,000. The Sardinians (formally committed to the alliance in January 1855) had promised to send 15,000 men and Omar Pasha could put 25,000 in the field exclusive of Turks defending Eupatoria. This overall total of 155,000 could be divided into 90,000 to contain Sevastopol and 65,000 to act as a field force. Omar Pasha, however, still favoured an advance from Eupatoria against the northern suburb, and there the matter rested for the moment. The Second Bombardment, in the meantime, petered out with no assault on the defences.

Unknown to the commanders in the Crimea, an even more bizarre plan instigated by Napoleon III had actually been agreed in London. Omar Pasha would continue to hold Eupatoria with 30,000 Turks, as a further 30,000 combined with 30,000 French under Canrobert maintained the siege from the southern upland. Including artillery and cavalry, the 20,000 British would be withdrawn from the siege to join 15,000 Sardinians (who reached the front under General A. La Marmora in May),
5,000 French and 10,000 Turks to form a field army under Raglan. This force would cross the Tchernaya to the Mackenzie Heights. An exclusively French second field army, comprising the 25,000 reserves at Constantinople and 45,000 from the siege of Sevastopol, would concentrate at Aloushita, considered. Burgoyne, back in England and present at the relevant meetings, evidently raised no objection. Almost certainly, he calculated that practical difficulties would kill the idea, not least because the number of available Turkish troops had been grossly exaggerated. It also emerged that Napoleon III envisaged taking command of the Aloushita force in person. Then he decided not to journey to the east, and the whole scheme gently faded away. The allies were left to press the siege as best they could. That meant renewed bombardment, followed by an assault on the defences of Sevastopol.

In England, a Parliamentary Select Committee, chaired by J. A. Roebuck, had begun to inquire into the British experiences and became known generally as 'The Sevastopol Committee'. Part of the placebo for political and public angst, which also led to the fall of Aberdeen's government, it concerned itself with Christmas past, provided a platform for the disaffected like Lucan and made no useful contribution to the current position at the front. None the less, news of its proceedings unsettled those conducting operations in the field.

The month of May proved turbulent for the allies. The bombardment was not renewed, though a series of fierce clashes occurred around the siege lines. Omar Pasha threatened to resign because his troops were consigned solely to defensive duties and the Turkish government had agreed to some of his men being placed under Raglan. Canrobert did resign in favour of General A. J. J. P?lissier, remaining in the theatre of war to take over his successor's corps.

A bold change of strategy, dictated by the continued free passage of men and supplies to enemy forces in and around Sevastopol from the east, launched an Anglo-French expedition under Sir George Brown Kertch at the mouth of the Sea of A 3 May. However, extension of the t to the Crimea had its drawbacks for commanders. Politicians could quic interfere with operations, and this w painfully underlined. After repeated from Paris, the following day the French contingent was ordered back to Sevastopol and the enterprise collapsed.

Fifteen days later, now in command, P?lissier galvanised the French into clearing the Russians from the Fedioukine Hills and all ground west of the Tchernaya, besides making aggressive probes on the upland. He disagreed with grandiose plans for field operations or attacking the northern suburb from Eupatoria. Vigorous pursuit of existing siege operations was the only option. He agreed that the Malakov and Great Redan were the keys to success and that the Mamelon and Quarry positions respectively in front of them must be the preliminary objectives. Furthermore, the Kertch expedition would be remounted.

On 22 May, therefore, Brown once more sailed in command of a combined British, French and Turkish force of 15,000 men, with engineer and light cavalry support. This time the immediate objective was seized plus nearby Yeni Kale, as worships destroyed installations and shipping in the Sea of Azov. Before Sevastopol, fine weather raised morale, horse races and sports' days were organised on the Plain of Balaclava and a lavish Queen's Birthday Parade was staged.

 

 

 

 

 

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