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  Fall of Sevastopol

Detail of Franz Roubaud's panoramic painting The Siege of Sevastopol (1904)

On 17 August, 704 allied guns opened the Fifth Bombardment on Sevastopol. Lasting four days, it was not, however, followed by the expected renewed assault on the Malakov and Great Redan. That occurred on 8 September after three days of further bombardment (the Sixth) by 775 British and French guns, 57 of them from the Royal Navy, 126 from the Royal Artillery. In the Little Redan, 200 of the 600 defenders la Motterouge the Curtain Battery. Each of these divisions would be supported by engineers, artillerymen to spike captured guns or turn them on the enemy and, critically, men with scaling ladders. Troops of the British Light and 2nd divisions, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William Codrington and Major-General J. Markham respectively, attacking the Great Redan were to be similarly supported and preceded by skirmishers briefed to pick off enemy gunners, making a grand total of 1,900 men. Fears of another debacle like that of 18 June prevailed, especially as the exposed area short of the objective remained substantially the same. Brigadier-General C. A. Windham, who would distinguish himself on the day, wrote pessimistically to his wife: 'This may possibly, ay and probably will be, the last letter you will ever receive from me.'

Gorchakov believed that the French were waiting for heavy mortars and would not yet attempt an assault. Noon, when the enemy pickets changed, was designated zero hour, but the British and French left were not to attack until a flag signalled capture of the Malakov. Having taken their trenches to within 30yds (27m) of the Malakov, the sudden surge of MacMahon's division caught the Russians by surprise and they were quickly overrun. Cannon in the Curtain Battery, which could have ranged on the Malakov once captured, were spiked, but French troops were driven back from the Little Redan. P?lissier therefore decided to concentrate on holding the Malakov in strength against inevitable counter-attacks. MacMahon told a British officer: 'I'm here, and I shall stay here,' proceeding to beat off the Russians five times.

French troops on the allied left attacked at 2 pm and suffered heavy loss without taking either the Central or Flagstaff bastions. Due to the rocky terrain, the British had been unable to advance their trenches much closer than 400yds (365m) from their objective, and as on 18 June were enfiladed by withering fire from the Gervais, Barrack and Garden batteries. Although a few brave men (including some from the Naval Brigade) managed to get into the defence- work, they quickly became casualties or were driven out. For the second time an attack on the Great Redan had failed. It cost 2,610 British casualties, 550 of them dead, including 29 officers.

However, as Burgoyne had predicted, the Malakov proved the pivotal fortification. In the final assault on it, the French suffered 7,567 casualties (1,634 killed); Russian casualties were put at 12,000 (3,000 killed). With loss of the Malakov, Gorchakov decided that the southern part of Sevastopol was untenable. During the night of 8/9 September, leaving their wounded behind, the Russians blew up fortifications and important buildings in the port and crossed the prepared pontoon of boats, which they burnt behind them, to the northern suburb.

Next day the allies triumphantly took charge of the dockyard and its environs, claiming that Sevastopol had fallen. But Captain the Hon. Henry Clifford did not rejoice; '1 stood in the Redan more humble, more dejected and with a heavier heart than I have yet felt since I left home ... I looked towards the Malakov, there was the French flag, the Tricolour, planted on its parapet ... no flag floated on the parapet on which I stood.' He might have reflected, though, that if enemy fire had not been directed at the Great Redan, the French in the Malakov would have been bombarded from batteries not required to engage the British. Thus, on 9 September, the tricolour might not have been flying over the Malakov either. Capture of the main, southern part of Sevastopol with its dockyard and arsenals was truly an allied effort, especially as Turks and Sardinians were in the siege lines.

Windham's fate provides an interesting postscript. Despite his forebodings, he survived the Redan debacle, became Chief of Staff to the British C-in-C in the Crimea, was later knighted and advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general.

Chronology of The Crimean War

 

 

 

1853

28 February Menshiko's mission arrives at Constantinople

21 May Menshikov leaves Constantinople

8 June British fleet leaves Malta for eastern Mediterranean

2 July Russian troops cross Pruth river to invade Moldavia and Wallachia

14 October British and French fleets anchor in the Dardanelles

23 October Turkey declares war on Russia 30 November 'Massacre' at Sinope ; Turkish flotilla sunk

24 December Sir James Graham (Fir t Lord of the Admiralty ) calls for destruction of Sevastopol

 

1854

3 January British and French fleets enter Black Sea

11 January Russia warned that warships in Black Sea must return to Sevastopol

13 February Cabinet approves Lord Raglan's appointment as C-in-C, British Expeditionary Force

22 February First troops leave England

27 February Russia must undertake within six days to withdraw from Moldavia and Wallachia by end of April

11 March Baltic fleet leaves Portsmouth

26 March First French troops leave for Turkey

27 March France declares war on Russia

28 March Britain declares war on Russia

30 March Vanguard of Bri Expeditionary Force at Malta Gallipoli

 

8 April British troops at G French already there

10 April Britain and France sign treaty of alliance; Raglan leaves London

15 April Turkey formally joins the allies

22 April Naval bombardment of Odessa

29 April Raglan reaches Constantinople

7 May St Arnaud lands at Gallipoli

11 May Siege of Silistria starts

23 May Britain, France, Austria and Prussia guarantee Turkish independence

25 May French troops sail for Varna

29 May British troops sail for Varna

22 June British naval squadron blockades the White Sea

23 June Siege of Silistria raised

2 July Russians recross Pruth river, vacating Moldavia and Wallachia

16 July Raglan receives Cabinet dispatch requiring invasion of the Crimea

18 July Allied Council of War to discuss invasion

21 July Mouth of Katcha river chosen as landing area

10 August Serious fire in Varna delays invasion; cholera also prevalent

24 August Embarkation commences; bad weather further disrupts timetable

31 August Anglo-French naval squadron attacks Petropavlosk

 

5 September Raglan reaches Balchik Bay; French commander (St Arnaud) already gone

9 September Raglan carries out another reconnaissance

19 September Advance on Sevastopol commences; skirmish at the Bulganek river

 

20 September Battle of the Alma

23 September Southward advance resumes; Russian warships sunk to block Sevastopol harbour entrance

25 September Flank march commences; Canrobert succeeds St Arnaud as French C-in-C

27 September Siege of Sevastopol begins

29 September St Arnaud dies of cholera at sea

2 October British naval brigade lands

13 October Patriotic Fund founded for wives and orphans of servicemen lost in the Crimea

17 October First Bombardment of Sevastopol

25 October Battle of Balaclava

26 October Skirmish of Little Inkerman

4 November Florence Nightingale reaches Scutari

5 November Battle of Inkerman

6 November Allied Council of War decides to continue siege

14 November The Great Storm

 

1855

2 January Sardinia joins allies

5 January Omar Pasha lands in the Crimea with Turkish reinforcements

25 January J. A. Roebuck's resolution, critical of the conduct of the war, leads to resignation of Lord Aberdeen's government

5 February Lord Palmerston Prime Minister

17 February Russian attack on Eupatoria

24 February More Russian ships sunk at Sevastopol

2 March Death of Nicholas I; succeeded by Alexander II

5 March Sevastopol Select Comm commences work

4 April Second Baltic fleet leaves England

9 April Second Bombardment of Sevastopol

3 May Abortive first expedition sails for Kertch

22 May Kertch expedition relaunched

6 June Third Bombardment of Sevastopol

7 June Capture of the Quarries and the Mamelon

11 June White Sea again blockaded

13 June French troops leave Kertch

14 June British troops leave Kertch, Turkish garrison remains

17 June Fourth Bombardment of Sevastopol

18 June Failed attacks on the Great Redan and Malakov; report of Sevastopol Committee to Parliament

28 June Death of Lord Raglan; succeeded by Sir James Simpson

16 August Battle of the Tchernaya

17 August Fifth Bombardment of Sevastopol

5 September Sixth Bombardment of Sevastopol

6 September Omar Pasha leaves Crimea

8 September French capture Malakov; British fail at the Great Redan

9 September Allies occupy southern Sevastopol

7 October Combined force sails for the Dnieper river

17 October Capture of Kinburn on the Dnieper

11 November Sir William Codrington succeeds Simpson as British C-in-C

15 November Ammunition explosion in French lines

25 November Surrender of Kars

16 December Austrian peace plan submitted to St Petersburg

 

1856

16 January Tsar accepts peace terms

29 January Last major Russian bombardment across Sevastopol Bay from the north

28 February Armistice signed in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Battle of the

Tchernaya

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