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The Times 1.2.1875 p 7

REVIEW


THE INVASION OF THE CRIMEA

(Continued from The Times of January 26.)

In our last notice of this volume, which comes out simultaneously with the announcement of the opening of the railway from Simferopol to Sebastopol, and just four years after the “denunciation” of the Treaty of Paris by Russia, we observed that Mr Kinglake had shown in it an intention to prove that certain popular notions concerning the Battle of Inkerman were erroneous, and that he had, moreover, in dealing with the demeanour and operations of the enemy, whether intentionally or not, made them appear in an aspect so ludicrous as greatly to diminish the glory of having conquered such a contemptible enemy; that he laughed to scorn the notion that the French had lent such substantial assistance to their allies as has been generally supposed, and gratefully acknowledged; and that he asserted flatly that they did not contribute to the successful termination of the battle. Indeed, he expressly states that Canrobert left the Russians in possession of seven-eighths of Mount Inkerman, and adds that “in this truce, if so one may call it, between the French and the Russians, Lord Raglan did not concur.” In making such charges, Mr Kinglake throws discredit on the testimony of the British Commander-in-Chief, whose despatches are warm with expressions of gratitude and admiration for our allies and their help. We may have been inordinately grateful to French generals and soldiers at the time. Let us not seek to atone for an error which, if it were one, was at least generous, by mockery, carping, and a sneering praise. Having briefly set forth in a few pages the difficulties connected with the retention of Balaclava after the events of October 25, the anxiety of Lord Raglan on that score, the neglect of the Inkerman defences, the danger impending over the Allies as the Russians received reinforcements, and the position the besieging and covering corps occupied on the plateau, Mr Kinglake enumerates the forces on both sides, describes the plans of the enemy, and prepares his readers for the storm of fire, iron, and lead which was to beat on our sleeping camp — for sleeping it was. There were zealous chiefs like Codrington and Brown awake or to the front, there was a solitary officer riding about in the dark to receive reports, there were officers and men going to and returning from picket, and there were, of course, the trench guards — we hope awake — but, as a matter of fact, most of the officers and men not actually on duty were deep in slumber when the first patter of musketry broke through the fog. The writer, having thus cleared his stage, “raises” the curtain on a scene of hurried orders and departures, puts Lord Raglan in the saddle, sends him off towards Inkerman, then suddenly drops a slide in order to pull it up and reveal to us the array of Gortschakoff in the plain and of Möller in the city, and next gives us a glimpse of Bosquet and his force and a glance at the Guards. Then the scene changes, and we are hurried off to the extreme west of the allied position. Timovieff’s sortie and repulse, the death of De Lourmel, and all the hard work in that brisk affair having been disposed of in two pages, and the general failure of the auxiliary operations of the enemy, such as Gortschakoff’s ascent to the plateau and Möller’s attack on the trenches, having been anticipated, the curtain is lowered again (p. 88). When next it is raised we are landed, not in the middle of a battle, but on top of “Mount Inkerman,” part of the Sapouné or “Breather” heights, and carried round to engage in that supreme delight of amateur strategists called “studying the position.”

Mr Kinglake’s description of ground is always minute and trustworthy, even to a knoll. There is in the present volume a very ingenious piece of topographical writing as an introduction to the battlefield, to enable the reader to understand the ground; and no one can complain of such names as Kitspur, Home Ridge, West Jut, Inkerman Tusk, the Isthmus, Saddle-back Ridge, and the like used for that purpose, when they are duly set down in the maps which elucidate the descriptions in the text. Then comes the marshalling of the Russian array in front and flank and rear, and as we follow the stolid match of their surging columns and the rumble of the long trains of artillery we renew our ancient wonder that no ear could hear, no voice could utter an alarm to prepare our men against the coming of that flood of sullen soldiery. Nothing between them and their unsuspecting enemies! Nothing. On their flank far down on the right a battery without guns; on their right front a loose wall of stones and earth running for a few feet, and a cut in a road leading from the enemy’s position. Right down on them then was marching in mist and darkness, Soimonoff with 19,000 infantry and 38 guns, while on his left Pauloff was leading up 16,000 infantry and 97 guns, and the two bodies, each larger than the whole force of English in the Crimea, under the fire of their 137 guns planted over our camp, were to swoop down and roll us up towards the sea, giving the hand on the plateau itself to Gortschakoff’s 22,000 men and 88 guns from the Valley of the Tchernaya, while the garrison of Sebastopol attacked our trenches! The total force of the Russians was 120,000 men. To meet this might the English had on the points assailed 3,000 men, reinforced to the strength of 7,464 British and 9,000 French before the day was won. The allies had 76,000 men, including 11,000 Turks, before Sebastopol, but they were widely dispersed, and the brunt of the fighting was borne by the 2d Division, the Guards, and detachments of the Light of the 3d Division and of the 4th Division, till the French appeared.

The action of the battle of Inkerman is spread by Mr Kinglake over seven periods — First Period, from 5.45 am to 7.30 am; Second Period, 7.30 am to 8.30 am; Third Period, 8.30 am to 9.15 am; Fourth Period, 9.15 am to 10 am; Fifth Period, 10 am to 11 am; Sixth Period, 11 am to 1 pm; Seventh Period, 1 pm to 8 pm. These divisions appear to us to be constructed on arbitrary principles, but they serve to encadrer the narratives, and are skilful adjuncts to the general conception of the battle. Mr Kinglake, beginning with the advance of Soimonoff up the Careening Creek Ravine, leads his legions with much skill, and describes every step of the attack, we think, with accuracy; but he somehow omits to notice that there was a great outcry after the battle about a certain road which wound along the shore from the city, and which was used too well by the enemy, and he does not mention how the unfortunate Upton was rated and suspected because he did not report the existence of this road, which he did not know of, and which we should have found out for ourselves as a vital fact. That by the way. Rarely has Mr Kinglake excelled some of the passages in this part of the book; but if the hard facts he sets forth be true — and it would be difficult to disprove them — it is plain that the praises he bestows elsewhere on the Russian soldiery for bravery must be sarcastic or undeserved. Not to blink the matter, their conduct, not only at, but before, Inkerman, was, according to this history, exceedingly bad. Thus, we read, on they 26th of October, how a column of 600 or 800 Russians in the Careening Creek Ravine was checked by 60 men of the Guards, under Goodlake, “and after a lengthened combat desisted from advancing.” On the same day 2,000 Russians were repulsed by 240 men under Champion, who is represented as being “in one of the warlike ecstasies which alternated with his pious emotions.” “ ‘Slate ’em, my boys!’ was his exulting and oft-repeated adjuration as he moved in great bliss along their line,” and also in perfect impunity. Alas! he fell on the fatal 5th of November.

At the Greater Inkerman the Russians were not better behaved than at the Lesser Inkerman. The fire of a picket proved sufficient to turn aside thousands. At the very outset of the morning’s work, Rowlands, of the 41st, is warned by a sentry that they are coming on:—

“Rowlands instantly ran up to the brow; and the atmosphere then clearing a little, he was able to detect the approach of two Russian battalions, each seemingly gathered in column. Upon these he soon caused the men of his picket to deliver their fire; and the two battalions, thus suddenly greeted, were taken, it would seem, by surprise, for they turned and fell back.”

There was, according to Mr Kinglake, a certain column moving up the Careening Creek Ravine on Soimonoff’s right, not mentioned in the Russian official accounts. He says one “may conjecture that, besides a hundred or so of riflemen, it included one or two battalions, perhaps, of sailors or marines.” This is vague enough, but what happened to them was explicit:—

“The head of the column had already climbed up past the spot which Clifford had reached, and the nearest part of the long, trailing, snake-like body thus defiling before him was its neck. Clifford seized the moment. Calling out to the men who formed the extreme left of the 77th line, he asked them in simple, nay, almost boyish language, ‘to come and charge with him.’ Then galloping forward himself, he rode straight at the nearest of the enemy’s troops, struck into the throat of the column, and was followed so loyally by the score or two of the 77th men who had heard his sudden appeal, that they too, no less than their youthful leader, broke through the opposing files, and were received into the midst of the hostile soldiery. Among the surmises which aimed at an explanation of the result, one was that from the apparition of a single horseman coming suddenly out from behind the mist and galloping into their ranks, the Russians inferred a great charge of Cavalry delivered against their unprepared flank; but whatever might be the particular form of their dominant apprehension, they plainly were taken by surprise. Some, indeed, it is true, held firm for a while, defending themselves with the bayonet as well as with fire, but the great bulk of them stood and looked helpless, with the air of brave soldiers bewildered and seeking in vain for guidance. Thus though only at one contested spot between its head and its trunk the integrity of the column was disturbed by a medley of intermingling combatants, and Clifford’s handful of men having soon obtained an ascendant, the Russians who had struggled against him disengaged themselves now from the strife, and before many moments the soldiery advancing still from below were met and borne down by a descending torrent of fugitives.”

But their misfortunes were not over. Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, on the other side of the ravine, ordered his company of Grenadier Guards (a watch) to open fire on these “Sailor-Marines,” and thus by 20 men on one side and 80 or 90 men on the other side

“the enemy’s turning movements were altogether defeated, and that too at a moment when he seemed to be on the verge of a signal achievement. The defeat of the Under-road Column proved final and no second enterprise was attempted in this part of the field.”

Instances like these — as when Bellairs with 183 of the 49th charges a battalion of the Kolivansk Regiment which “turned and fled,” or when Mauleverer with 200 men of the 30th Regiment dashed with the bayonet at a mass of 6,600 Russians at the Main Picket — are, we think, rather too numerous and too much insisted upon for the character of our Inkerman laurels.

Pennefather, whose joyous excitement in this action is described con amore, had his own notions of the way in which it was to be fought. Instead of drawing in his line of pickets and concentrating them in front of his camp, so as to lure them under his guns, as Evans did, he was unwilling to stake the fate of the day on the rib of ground on which he was encamped:—

“Governed much by that aspect of the question, and being of such temperament as to become quickly heated in battle by his inborn passion for fighting, he inclined to dispute with the enemy for every step of ground, and so to keep the strife raging, however unequally, on ground more or less in advance of his own heights. Pennefather’s instinctive desire to follow this last plan of action was quickened from moment to moment by the evident life and stir of the fights which his obstinate pickets stood waging on the slopes of Shell-hill; for the mist or incumbent cloud which obscured all else did not shut out from view the flashes of the musketry, and by these the whole tenour of the strife carried on by the unseen combatants was plainly disclosed. Fired by the sight, and enchanted with the evident tenacity of the resistance, Pennefather began to push forward little bodies of troops in order — for so he expressed it — in order ‘to feed the pickets’ ”

Mr Kinglake has omitted to observe the great difference between the circumstance. On the 26th of October Federoff’s relatively small column had only six light guns and was smashed by vastly superior battery power. On November 5th the Russians had it nearly their own way in artillery until the 18-pounders were brought up, and had their troops been allowed to advance the gunners must have desisted from their immobility on Shell Hill, for which they have been so justly blamed. A concentrated fire on the narrow rib where Pennefather’s force would have been congregated would have soon swept it clean.

Owing to the fog Pennefather’s plan had the merit of deceiving the enemy by the show of a great front. There was nothing behind it. The inconvenience which the author points pout in the mode of defence lay in the difficulty of supplying ammunition — one which had at times a very distressing effect on the aspect of the field, and induced the belief that there were many men going to the rear and falling out of the fighting line, but, judged by one test, the merits of the method were in the end placed beyond dispute.

Before the close of the First Period 6,000 of Pauloff’s column had seized the Sandbag Battery and the enemy captured three of our guns owing to a wing of the 49th, under Grant, being obliged to fall back, and to a certain disorderly retrograde movement of the Connaught Rangers — according to Mr Kinglake; but the guns were “subsequently recovered” and the 6,000 were disposed of by two remarkable feats of arms already alluded to, which are thus described:—

“The enemy’s masses approached, and the head of his foremost column was already within a few yards, when Colonel Mauleverer himself and Major Walker, and, indeed, as it seems, all the officers who were acting with this wing of the 30th, rose and mounted to the top of the wall. Yet there they stood hardly a moment. With scarce a glance back to their people, they frankly leapt down to the enemy’s side of the barrier. In an instant the men were up, and following over the wall. Without further recourse to their wetted firelocks, but welcoming with a joyful hurrah the sudden time for the bayonet, they sprang at the nearest battalion whilst still in its company columns, and were presently tearing their way through the loose, shapeless swarm. Mauleverer himself was gravely wounded, and numbers of his officers and men fell killed or disabled; but the encounter, if bloody, was short.

The shreds of the enemy’s company columns, thrown back in a heap of confusion upon the solid mass coming up in support, seemed to bring to it instant ruin, for that last body also, though it scarce could have felt English steel, began to fall back in disorder; and within a brief interval from the moment when Mauleverer and the rest of the officers sprang up to the top of the wall, the slender line of the 30th, with a remaining strength of perhaps some seven or eight score soldiers, was driving a broken throng from the head of the Quarry Ravine and up the slopes of Shell Hill. The immediate consequence of this exploit was not its only result; for the two unstricken battalions of the Borodino Regiment accept the defeat of their comrades as a blow which must rule their own fate. They turned and began to descend along the channel of the Quarry Ravine. Thus all four of the Borodino battalions were now in retreat.”

Adams, with 500 of the 41st Regiment on the right of Mauleverer on his way to the Sandbag Battery comes across 4,000 Russians of the Taroutine and Catherinburg Regiments —

“For the first time on that day the Russians were met by a whole English battalion, or one at least nearly complete; and it seems that at the very sight of this force approaching, the buglers of the Taroutine regiment began to sound ‘Left about.’ But, whether obeying their bugles, or yielding rather under the fire which presently crashed through their ranks from the extended front of the 41st, the loosened company columns of the Taroutine Regiment made haste to turn; and Adams pressing on his advance, it not only resulted that those subdivided masses fell back in confusion, and abandoned the site of the Sandbag Battery, but that the three solid columns which had stood in support were carried away with the rest down the sides if the nearest declivities  .  .  .  Thus the whole of the force, which (including the Borodino corps before overthrown) had been 6,000 strong, was now passing away discomfited from the field of strife. By what further wanderings the stray Catherinburg body made good its way back to Sebastopol, no record before me has told; but the eight battalions of the Borodino and the Taroutine Regiments descended to the foot of Mount Inkerman, drew off along the bank of the river, and were not again brought into action.”

But there were thousands of Russians still coming on, and thousands behind them thronging through the brushwood. The fighting in the First Period, destructive and demoralizing to the enemy as it was, left untouched a large mass of their bravest battalions, supported by an overmastering artillery, and at one time the left front of Pennefather was overborne, and it was obvious he was in sore need of aid. Although there were 20 battalions retreating out of action, and 16 more which made no effort to prevent or retrieve the overthrow of Soimonoff’s force, which thus early was checked with the loss of its leader, of General Villebois, and of “an appalling number of officers,” there was still a stern ordeal of battle for our scanty forces.

Neither the Russians nor the English “apparently knew the nature of the fight in which they were engaged;” nor would it seem from the author’s account that the English Commander-in-Chief knew much more than his men. Mr Kinglake says:—

“Although Lord Raglan had come very early, and although he remained on the ground, it did not result that General Pennefather’s control of the defence was forthwith superseded by the arrival of his chief. The General, temporarily commanding the Division and cheerily conducting the fight, was, as it were, on his own ground; while, on the other hand, the mist lay so thick that a newly arriving chief, who in such conditions had hastened to assume the immediate governance, would have been perplexing his subordinate by a blind, random exercise of authority. Far from so interposing, Lord Raglan, while proffering all the aid that Pennefather could ask, still left him to pursue his own plans without being disturbed by orders.”

In fact, Lord Raglan was not on the ground till Mr Kinglake’s First Period was nearly over. It was ten minutes to 7 am, according to Colonel Calthorpe, before Lord Raglan was in the 2d Division Camp, and we do not think his Lordship saw much of Pennefather till the Russians who made the first attack on their right had been nearly disposed of. If we are to credit Colonel Calthorpe’s narrative and contemporaneous evidence together, indeed, it would be still later. The “Staff Officer” says in his Letters (page 354) “Lord Raglan and his Staff had arrived just in time to see the attack of the Guards” (on the Sandbag Battery), and Mr Kinglake assigns that attack to his Second Period, which is between 7.30 am and 8 am. However, this point does not matter very much, as Mr Kinglake does not attempt to prove that the English General in Chief left “the impress of his mind” on this part of the battle. But in relation to Dickson’s guns there is an attempt to assign undue credit which calls for a few observations. After the 26th of October the Artillery officers in charge of the Siege-train-park had kept a pair of 18-pounder gums with tackle and waggons ready to move at a moment’s notice, and there is a curious discrepancy between accounts of the way in which these guns came into such effective use. It would have been strange indeed had a General not used the guns ready to his hand. Mr Kinglake says that Lord Raglan ordered them up “in the earliest hour of the fight.” This is an obvious misstatement. Calthorpe in the most positive way marks the time when Lord Raglan thought of the guns, as far as speech and orders went, to have been after 10.30 am, when he had been more than three hours on the field; and Kinglake puts their appearance in action in his Fourth Period — 9.15 to 10 am. Calthorpe gives the very words of the conversation, and, after mentioning the effect of the guns on the Russian artillery, says (page 373):— “It was now about midday; it was certainly very little, if at all, before 11 o’clock that the boom of these guns first broke through the tumult of battle.”

Lord Raglan, whose indifference to danger was of the very finest and highest kind, was generally on the Ridge near the camp of the 2d Division or over the Sandbag Battery. We have in our previous notice adverted to the theory of Mr Kinglake that the Sandbag Battery on the ground which he calls the Kitspur was “wrong ground” — that it was not part of the position or of the defences. It is plain either that Lord Raglan thought it was part of our position or that he was quite helpless that morning in regulating the movements of the fiery Pennefather. And it is very plain, too, that Lord Raglan was right in allowing the ground to be defended. The Sandbag Battery was of no value except as a rallying point such as any tree or a big stone may be, but it does not seem possible to maintain that the ground around it could or should have been left ungarnished by troops. At the very outset 4,000 Russians dashed at it and the 700 English under Adams who defended it.

However, we anticipate the course of events, and must rest content with summing up the results of the First Period according to the history we have in hand.

By 7.30 am 1,539 British troops had brought to sheer ruin with terrible slaughter 20 Russian battalions, with a strength of 15,120 men, and — it must be remembered that we are now dealing with Mr Kinglake’s statement — all this carnage had been incurred by attempting to overwhelm a small number of steady resolute soldiery with the weight of gross columns. As an example of the loss of the enemy we are told that of two battalions which went into action with 1,400 men there came out after less than 30 minutes 200 men in charge of a captain! Mr Kinglake, when he comes to deal with the next great struggle, says, “It is believed that the advancing battalions had the singular advantage of not even seeing the discomfited soldiery (Russian) who only a few minutes before had been crowded over the same ground.” But what of the dead and wounded? Surely the brushwood and the fog had not swallowed them up! And as these fresh troops advanced they must have seen the bleeding carcases of thousands of their discomfited comrades. In point of fact, we doubt if there be any sure foundation for this alleged belief.

At this point we must suspend our notice of the book, promising not to dwell at so much length on all the other periods, some of which may be indeed very summarily dismissed, and reserving the right of making a few remarks on certain points to which we have already drawn attention.


* The Invasion of the Crimea: Its Origin, and an Account of its Progress down to the Death of Lord Raglan. By A W Kinglake. Vol. V.— Battle of Inkerman. William Blackwood and Sons. Edinburgh and London. 1875

(Continued February 4)


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