The Crimean War
|The Balkans, the Caucasus and the Crimean Penninsular||War|
|Russian vs French, British, Turkish & Sardinian|
|Russian vs Turkish|
|Russian vs Austrian|
decline of the Ottoman Empire badly affected the balance of power in Europe.
Russia saw it as an opportunity to gain a much-desired Mediterranean
port, and picked a fight with the Turks over the control of the Christian
shrines in Jerusalem.
their unreasonable demands weren’t met, Russian troops began to occupy
Turkish Moldavia and parts of Rumania in July 1853.
The Turks declared war in October, and a Turkish army crossed the
Danube, defeating the Russians at the battle of Oltenitza in southern
Rumania on 4th November 1853. On 30 November the Russians
obliterated a Turkish fleet at Sinope (shell guns were used by the Russians
for the first time), but their control of the Black Sea was short lived, as
a Franco-British fleet entered the Black Sea in January 1854. On 28th
March 1854, Britain and France declared war on Russia, both being eager to
curb the Tsar’s expansionist tendencies, and moved to help the Turks.
On 20th March 1854, the Russians invaded Turkish Bulgaria, but withdrew in August after Austrian intervention.
also took place in the Caucasus, where the Russians besieged the
Turkish-held fortress of Kars: forcing
it to surrender on 26th November 1855, only months before peace
negotiations ended the war.
the most important fighting was on the Crimean peninsular. Austria's
intervention had in effect achieved the British and French aims, removing
the Russian presence in the Balkans, but it was decided to reduce Russian
naval power in the Black sea by the occupation and destruction of the main
Russian naval base at Sevastopol.
campaign in the Crimea is most notable for the poor quality of the
leadership of both sides. This was amply demonstrated at the start of the
campaign: the allied expedition
sailed before the leaders - Lord Raglan for the British, the seriously ill
Marshal Armand de Saint-Arnaud for the French - had even decided where to
land, only picking their point once they had reached the Crimea:
choosing to land at Old Fort, an open beach 30 miles north of
landing took five days (13th to 18th September 1854),
and during this time the Russian commander, Prince Alexander Menshikov,
showed his lack of ability by failing to take the opportunity to attack the
British and French now started to move towards the Sevastopol, and only now,
with the allies outnumbering him, did Prince Menshikov attempt to stop them.
An attempt to hold the line of the River Alma on 20th September
1854 cost Menshikov 5,700 of his 36,400 men, and the allies 3,000 of their
52,000, although Russian reinforcements were already starting to reach the
pulled back to Sevastopol, which the allies approached on 25th
September, and when the idiocy of their landing point became apparent. With
no easy port in their hands, the allies were forced to march around
Sevastopol to Balaklava and Kamiesch, south of the city, before they could
begin a siege. At the same time Menshikov was moving the bulk of his army
away from the city to join with Russian reinforcements, and it was only by
chance that the two armies failed to collide. The allies regained contact
with their fleets, and established themselves in their new bases, the
British at Balaklava, the French at Kemiesch, where the death of Marshal St.
Arnaud raised General Francois Canrobert to command.
allies were now free to concentrate on the siege of Sevastopol, 17th
October 1854 to 8th September 1855, but to the amazement of the
Russian garrison, missed their chance to simply walk into the city before
its defences had been completed. Instead, while the bulk of the allied army
protected their flank against the Russian field army, the siege was slowly
put into place (8th to16th October), before the
bombardment began on 17th October. Over the previous weeks,
however, Colonel Frants Todleben, the Russian chief engineer, had built up
new fortifications that almost totally negated the allied efforts.
Russians made repeated attempts to disrupt the siege by attacking the
vulnerable supply lines between the besieging troops and their ports. The
first attempt resulted in the Battle of Balaclava on 25th October
1854, renown for three significant actions:
the “thin red streak” of Highlanders standing up to a Russian
cavalry charge of overwhelming numbers; the successful uphill Charge of the
Heavy Brigade, under General Scarlett, into even more Russian cavalry; and,
of course, the Charge of the Light Brigade.
main result of the battle was to leave Menshikov's army dominating the only
proper road between Balaklava and Sevastopol. A second Russian attempt led
to the Battle of Inkerman on 5th November 1854, which degenerated
into a formless melee after both the British and Russians lost effective
control of their armies. The battle was won by the late arrival of a French
division, which drove off the Russians, who suffered by far the heavier
casualties. Inkerman is also known as the Fight in the Fog.
fighting then ended for the winter, but the misery of the allied troops only
got worse. Neither the French nor British were fully prepared for a winter
siege, while the Russians still commanded the road between Balaklava and
Sevastopol. A storm sank thirty transport ships containing most of the
British supplies, and cholera raged through the camp, reducing the British
army to only 12,000 effective soldiers. For the first time, improved
technology allowed news to reach home very quickly, and the telegraph
reports sent by William Russell, war correspondent of the Times of London
enraged British public opinion to the extent that the government of Lord
Aberdeen fell: the first time
the condition of the fighting men had aroused such emotions.
slowly improved early in 1855. Florence Nightingale's famous nursing
innovations improved the military hospitals, while a newly constructed road
and railway improved the supply route between Balaklava and Sevastopol.
Russian attempt to intervene, under Prince Michael Gorchakov, on 17th
February 1855, was repulsed by the Turks in the Battle of Eupatoria.
Easter bombardment (8th to 18th April 1855) destroyed
a great deal of the Russian defences, while the resignation of Canrobert led
to the appointment of General Pelissier, a more able commander.
capture of Kerch on 24th May, which secured allied command of the
Sea of Azov, severed the Russian overland supply lines and, over the remains
of the summer, the allies slowly nibbled at the Russian defences.
The battle of the Traktir on 16th August 1855 saw the
final Russian attempt to relieve the city defeated by French and Sardinian
on 8th September 1855, the French launched one of the few
well-planned attacks of the war, aimed at the Malakoff, one of the two key
strongpoints of the Russian defence. A heavy bombardment was followed by a
well timed assault by an entire French corp. Surprise was achieved by the
first use of synchronised watches to time an assault, and after intensive
fighting the Malakoff was captured. This put the remaining strongpoint under
an intolerable strain, and so that night Prince Gorchakov evacuated the
The capture of Sevastopol was the last significant fighting of the war. Peace terms were agreed on 1st February 1856 at Vienna, and the final peace agreed at the Congress of Paris, 28th February to 30th March 1856.