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A. W. Kinglake
Sixth Edition
Volume III

CHAPTER 1. The position on the Alma

Return to Introduction. Go to maps. Go to illustrations.


For an army undertaking to withstand the march of invaders who come along the shore from the north the position on the left bank of the Alma is happily formed by nature, and is capable of being made strong. The river springs from the mountain-range in the south-east of the peninsula, and its tortuous channel, resulting at last in a westerly course, brings it down to the sea near the headland called Cape Loukool. In that region the right or northern bank of the stream inclines with a very gentle slope to the water's edge; but on the south or left bank, the river presses close against a great range of hills; and the rocky acclivities at their base have been so visibly scarped by the action of the river in its swollen state, that they almost afford a measure of the loud, red torrent thrown down in flood- times from the sides of the Tchatir Dagh. Yet, so long as it flows in its summer bed, the pure, grey stream of the Alma, though strong and rapid even then, can be crossed in most places by a full- grown man without losing foot. There are, however, some deeps which would force a man to swim a few strokes; and, on the other hand, the river is passed in several places by easy and frequented fords. Near the village of Bourliouk, at the time of the action, there was a good timber bridge.
Along the course of the stream, on the north or right bank, there is a broad belt of gardens and vineyards fenced round by low stone walls, and reaching down to the water; but on the left or south side there are few enclosures, for in most places the rock formation, which marks the left bank of the river, has its base so close down to the water's edge as to leave but little soil deep enough for culture.
The smooth slopes by which the invader from the north approaches the Alma are contrasted by the aspect of the country on the opposite bank of the river; for there, the field is so broken up into hills and valleys,-- into steep acclivities and narrow ravines -- into jutting knolls and winding gullies, -- that with the laboring power of a Russian army, and the resources of Sebastopol at his command, a skilled engineer would have found it hard to exhaust his contrivances for the defense of a ground having all this strength of feature.
It is the high land nearest to the shore which falls most abruptly: for when a man turns his back to the sea, and rides up along the river's bank, the summits of the hills on his right recede from him more and more -- recede so far that, although they are higher than the hills near the shore, they are connected with the banks of the stream by slopes more gently inclining.
The main features of the ground are these: first and nearest to the sea-shore there is what may be called the 'West Cliff '-for the ground there rises to a height of some 350 feet, and not only presents, looking west, a bluff buttress of rock to the sea, but on its northern front also rises up so abruptly that a man going eastward along the bank of the stream has at first an almost sheer precipice on his right hand; and it is only when he all but reaches the village of Almatamack that he finds the cliff losing its steepness. At that point, the ground becomes so much less precipitous, and is besides so broken, as to be no longer difficult of ascent for a man on foot, nor even impracticable for country wagons. In rear -- Russian rear -- of the cliff there are the villages of Hadji-Boulat, Uhukul Tioucts, and Uhukul Akles.
Higher up the river, but joined on to the West Cliff, there is a height, which was crowned at the time of the war by an unfinished turret intended for a telegraph. This is the Telegraph Height. At their top, the West Cliff and the Telegraph Height form one connected plateau or table-land; but the sides of the Telegraph Height have not the abrupt character which marks the West Cliff·.
They are steep, but both towards the river and towards the east they are much broken up into knolls, ridges, hollows, and gullies. At all points they can be ascended by a man on foot, and at some by wagons. These steep sides of the Telegraph Height are divided from the river by a low and almost flat ledge with a varying breadth of from two to six hundred yards. The ledge was a good deal wooded at the time of the war, and on some parts of it there were vineyards or orchards.
To the east of the Telegraph Height the trending away of the hills leaves a hollow or recess, so formed and so placed that its surface might be likened to a huge vine-leaf -- a vine-leaf placed on a gentle incline, with its lower edge on the river, its stem at the bridge, and its main fibre following the course of the great road which bends up over the hill towards Sebastopol This opening in the hills is the main Pass; and through it (as might be gathered from what has just been said) the Causeway or great post-road goes up, after crossing the bridge. (1) At right angles to the line of the Pass, and crossing it at a distance of a few yards from the bridge, there are small natural mounds or risings of ground, having their tops at a height of about sixty feet above the level of the river. These are so ranged as to form, one with the other, a low and uneven but almost continuous embankment, running from east to west, and parallel with the river. The natural rampart thus formed controls the entrance to the Pass from the north; for it not only overlooks the bridge, but also commands the ground far and wide on both sides of the river, and on both sides of the great road. Behind, the ground falls and then rises again, till it mingles with the slopes and the many knolls and hillocks which connect it with the receding flanks of the Telegraph Height on the one side, and the Kourgane' Hill on the other.
Still higher up the river, but receding from it in a south - easterly direction, the ground rises gradually to a commanding height, and terminates in a peak. This hill is the key of the position. (2) It is called the Kourgane' Hill. Around its slopes, at a distance of about three hundred yards from the river, the ground so swells out as to form a strong rib - a rib which bends round the front and the flanks of the bastion there built by nature, giving a command towards the south-west, the west, the north-west, and the north-east. Towards the west, this terrace, if so it may be called, is all but joined to those mounds which we spoke of as barring the entrance of the Pass. Behind all these natural ramparts there are hollows and dips in the ground, which give ample means for concealing and sheltering troops; but from the jutting rib down to the bank of the river, the slope is gentle and smooth like the glacis of a fortress. It was on this Kourgane' Hill that Prince Mentschikoff established his headquarters.
The immediate approach to the river from its right bank is everywhere gentle, but the ground on its south side is a good deal scarped by the action of the water; and all along that part of the river which flows opposite to the Kourgane' Hill and the main Pass, the left bank rises almost vertically from the water's edge to a height of from eight to fifteen feet.
On the north bank of the river, and at a distance of about a mile from its mouth, there is the village of Almatamack. On the same bank, but more than a mile and a quarter higher up the stream, there stood at the time of the war a large white homestead. Yet a mile higher up the river on the same bank, and nearly facing the entrance of the Pass, there stands the large straggling village of Bourliouk. The cottages and farm buildings which skirt this village on its eastern side extend far up the river. From Bourliouk to the eastern-most part of the position the distance is two miles.
To ascend the position from the north there are several frequented ways :

1. Close to the sea and to the mouth of the river, there is a singular fissure in the rock through which there bends a path leading up to the top of the cliff. [JS - see photo, this fissure is still there]
2. From the ford at the village of Almatamack there is a wagon-road which leads up to the top of the plateau. It was difficult but still practicable for artillery.
3. From the white homestead there is a road which crosses the river and goes up to the plateau; but, either owing to the want of a good ford, or else to the ruggedness of the ascent beyond it, this road could not be used for artillery. The want of a road for their guns in this part of the field was a circumstance which grievously hampered the advance of the French army.
4. On the western side of the village of Bourliouk there is a frequented ford across the river, and from that spot two wagon- roads, forking off at no great distance from one another, lead up to the Telegraph and the villages in its rear. The western-most of these roads was found to be practicable for artillery.
5. Opposite to Bourliouk two almost parallel wagon-roads lead up from the bank of the river to the top of the plateau.
6. The Great Causeway, or post-road leading from Eupatoria, goes through the eastern skirts of Bourliouk, there crosses the bridge, then enters the Pass, and ascends by a gentle incline towards the low chain of mounds higher up. After piercing that natural rampart, it bends into the southerly course which leads it to Sebastopol.
7. To the east of the main Pass there were other roads leading up from the banks of the river; but they need not be specially designated, because, even where no road existed, the hill-side in this part of the field was accessible to the march of artillery.

Except at the West Cliff every part of the position can be reached by men on foot.
In the rear - Russian rear - of the hills which form this position, the ground falls, and it rises again at a distance of two miles.
Down to the edge of the vineyards, the whole of the field on the north or right hank of the river is ground tempting to cavalry; and although the south side of the stream is marked, as we saw, by stronger features, still the summits of the heights spread out broad, like English Downs. Except the sheer sides of the Cliff, and the steeps of the Telegraph Height, there is little on the higher ground to obstruct the manoeuvres of horsemen.
From the sea-shore to the eastern-most spot occupied by Russian troops, the distance for a man going straight was nearly five miles and a half; but if he were to go all the way on the Russian bank of the river he would have to pass over more ground; for the Alma here makes a strong bend, and leaves open the chord of the arc to invaders who come from the north. (3) Go to maps. Go to illustrations.


Against any plan for occupying the whole of this range of hills by the forces of the Czar there were two cogent reasons: for the summits of the West Cliff, and even of part of the Telegraph Height, were exposed to fire from the ships, and the ground was too wide for the numbers that could be brought to defend it.
But the whole of the naval and military resources of the Crimea had been entrusted to the direction of Prince Mentschikoff. With him it rested to make head against the invasion; and it seems he had been so forcibly struck with the great apparent steepness of the West Cliff and the heights connected with it, that he thought it must be wholly inaccessible to troops. He conceived, therefore, that he might safely omit to occupy it, and might be content to take up a comparatively narrow position, beginning on the eastern slopes of the Kourgane' Hill, and terminating on the west of the Telegraph Height at a distance of two miles from the sea. In that way he thought he might elude both of the objections above stated; for his extreme left would be comparatively distant from the shipping, and the whole ground occupied would be so far contracted that the troops which he had at his command might suffice to hold it. Upon this plan he acted. So, although the position of the Alma, as formed by nature, had an extent of more than five miles, the troops which stood charged to hold it had a front of only one league. Prince Mentschikoff's resolve was based upon an assumption that the whole of the ground which he proposed to leave unoccupied was inaccessible to troops but if he had walked his horse into the wagon track, which was within half a mile of his extreme left, he would have found that it led down to a ford opposite to the village of Almatamack, and that, although it is true very steep, the road could still be ascended by artillery. His army had been on the ground for several days, yet, with a strange carelessness, he not only omitted to break up or to guard this road from Almatamack, but based all his dispositions upon the apparent belief that the natural strength of the ground secured him against any hostile approach attempted in that part of the field.
The forces brought forward to defend this position for the Czar were 16 squadrons of regular cavalry, besides 11 sotnias of Cossacks, with 44 battalions of infantry supported by 10 bat teries (4) and, unless there be some grave source of error in computations long accepted as sound, these bodies comprised altogether a strength of 39,000 (of whom 3600 were horsemen), with as many as 96 guns. (5)
Prince Mentschikoff commanded in person. He was a wayward, presumptuous man, and his bearing towards the generals under his command was of such a kind that he did not or could not strengthen himself by the counsels of men abler than himself. (6) In times past, he had been mutilated by a round-shot from a Turkish gun. He bore hatred against the Ottoman race; he bore hatred against their faith. He had opened his mission at the Porte with insult; he had closed it with threats. And now --a sequence rare in the lives of modern statesmen -- he was out on a hill-side, with horse and foot, having warrant -- full warrant this time -- to adduce 'the last reason of kings.'
So far as regards the general scheme of the campaign, his conception, it seems, was this: he would suffer the Allies to land without molestation, because he desired that the defeat which he was preparing for them should be, not a mere repulse, but a crushing and signal disaster. He would not attack them on their line of march, because he liked better to husband his strength -for the great position on the Alma. It seemed to him that there he could hold his ground against the invaders for three weeks; and his imagination was that, baffled for many days by the strength of his position, drawing their supplies from the ships with pain and uncertainty, and encumbered more and more every day with wounded men, the Allies would fall into evil days. In the mean time, the troops long since despatched from Bessarabia would begin to reach him by way of Perekop and Simpheropol; and thus reinforced, he would in due season take the offensive, inflicting upon the Western Powers a chastisement commensurate with their rashness.
Prince Mentschikoff rested this structure of the of hope upon the assumption that he could hold the position on the Alma for at the least many days together, and against repeated assaults. Yet he took little pains to prepare the ground for a great defense. (7)
On the jutting rib which goes round the front of the Kourgane' Hill, at a distance of about 300 yards from the river, he threw up a breastwork -- a work of a very slight kind, pre senting no physical obstacle to the advance of troops, but sufficiently extended to be capable of receiving the twelve heavy guns with which he armed it. (8) This work, on the day of the battle, was called by our people the 'Great Redoubt. (9)
Prince Mentschikoff was delighted with it. 'Is 'not this a grand thing?' said he to General Kiriakoff the day before the action; 'see, it will do mischief both ways.' And he then pointed out how, whilst the face of the redoubt commanded the smooth slope beneath it, the guns at the shoulder of the work would throw their fire across the great road on either side of the bridge.
On the same hill, but higher up and more to his right, the Prince threw up another slight breastwork, which he armed with a battery of field-guns. This was the Lesser Redoubt.
The vineyards at some points were marked and cleared so as to give full effect to the action of the artillery; but except the two redoubts, no field works were constructed by the Russian General. Wilful and confident, he was content to rest mainly upon the natural strength of the ground, the valor of his troops, and the faith that lie laid in his own prowess as a commander. He even omitted, as we have seen, to break up or to guard the wagon- road which led up from Almatamack to the left of his position. The Prince did not attempt to occupy the West Cliff; but some days before the action, a battalion (Second Minsk Bn). supported by half a battery had been placed overlooking the sea in the village of Ulukul Akles, in order, as was said, to 'catch marauders,' or to prevent a descent from the sea in the rear of the Russian Army; and the detachment remained in that part of the field until the time when the battle began.
On the ledge which divided the river from the steep broken side of the Telegraph Height Prince Mentschikoff placed four Militia (10) battalions, and supported them by three battalions of regular infantry, (No's 2, 3, 4 of Taroutine Regiment) placed only a hundred and fifty yards in their rear, and by a fourth battalion (No 1 of Taroutine Regt.) drawn up in a neighboring ravine. (Chodasiewicz) Further still in rear, he held in hand, as a reserve for his left wing, the four battalions of the 'Moscow' corps which had joined him that morning. (JS - Moscow Regiment, Antichkoff, Chodasiewicz) At the commencement of the action, these thirteen battalions, with one or two companies of the 6th Rifles, and a ten-gun battery of artillery, ( Viz·, the No. 4 battery of the 17th brigade of artillery. -Todleben, p.77.) were the only forces occupying the part of the position then about to be assailed by the French. They formed the left wing of the Russian army, and were commanded by General Kiriakoff.
In this western part of the position the ground at the time of the battle had not been strengthened by field-works.
In the main Pass, facing the bridge, and destined to confront the 2d Division Of the English army, Prince Mentschikoff placed four battalions of light infantry, (4 bns of the Borodino Regiment with also some portion of the 6th Rifles; (Antichkoff, Chodasiewicz, Todleben) and some of these troops had orders to advance and skirmish in the vineyards. Near the bridge, and with materials in readiness for destroying it, there was posted a battalion of sappers and miners. (11) Astride the great road, and disposed along the chain of hillocks which runs across the Pass looking down on the bridge, there were planted the sixteen pieces of field-artillery which are here termed 'the Causeway batteries,' (12) whilst eight other guns placed further eastward connected the defenses here ranged with those of the Kourgane' Hill. (13) The force in this part of the field formed the center of the Russian line of battle, and was practically under the orders of Prince Gortschakoff (14) who also, however, commanded the whole of the enemy's right wing.
The right wing of the Russian army was the force destined to confront, first our Light Division, and then the Guards and the Highlanders. It was posted on the slopes of the Kourgane' Hill. Here was the Great Redoubt, armed with its twelve heavy guns; (No 1 12-gun battery of position, 16th Artillery Brigade - Todleben) and Prince Mentschikoff was so unsparing of efforts to defend this part of the ground, that he gathered, on the slopes of the hill, a force of no less than sixteen battalions of regular infantry, (15) besides the two battalions of sailors, (16) and in addition to the twelve guns last mentioned, four batteries of field-artillery. (17) The right of the forces on the Kourgane' Hill rested on a slope to the east of the Lesser Redoubt, (18) whilst their left touched those other defenses which barred, as we saw, the great road. Twelve of the battalions of regular infantry were posted on the flanks of the Great Redoubt; whilst the other four battalions, drawn up in one massive column, were held as a reserve for the right wing -on the higher slope of the hill. One of the field-batteries armed the Lesser Redoubt, another was on the high ground commanding and supporting the Great Redoubt, and two were held in reserve. (19) Though subordinated to Prince Gortschakoff, General Kvetzinski was in immediate command of the troops in this part of the field.
As regards the formation Of the Russian infantry in this and other parts of the field, it may be said, speaking generally, that those battalions which operated in the immediate rear of the skirmishers were broken up into columns of companies, whilst the battalions supporting them stood massed in columns of attack.
On his extreme right, and posted at intervals along a curve drawn from his right front to his center rear, Prince Mentschikoff placed his sixteen squadrons of regular cavalry and his eleven sotnias of Cossacks, making up altogether a force of 3600 horsemen.
Thus, then, it was to bar the Pass and the great road, to defend the Kourgane' Hill and to cover his right flank, that the Russian General gathered his main strength; and this was the part of the field destined to be assailed by our troops. That portion of the Russian force which directly confronted the English army, consisted of twenty-seven squadrons or sotnias of horse, with twenty three battalions of infantry, besides the before mentioned part of the 6th Rifles, and was supported by sixty-eight guns.(20)
But besides this force, Prince Mentschikoff, at the commencement of the action, had posted across the great road leading down to the bridge a force of seven battalions of infantry, 21) with two batteries (22) of artillery. These troops he called his 'Great Reserve;' and they were, in fact, his last.(23) Yet he held them so closely in rear of the battalions facing the bridge, that they might be regarded as forces actually operating in support. Plainly this disposition of his troops was governed by a keen anxiety to defend the great road and the Kourgane' Hill - for it was so ordered that, to sustain the struggle there, it would cost him but a few moments to bring his last reserves into action; and, in truth, he committed himself so deeply to this, his favorite part of the battle that, when he afterwards endeavored to shift a portion of the Great Reserves towards his left, he was unable to make their strength tell.
The forces with which the Allied commanders prepared to assail this position were thus composed: There were some 30,000 French infantry and artillerymen, (24) with sixty-eight guns; and, added to this force, under the command of the Marshal St. Arnaud, was the division of 7000 Turkish infantry. (25) With Lord Raglan, and present under arms, there was a force of fully 1000 cavalry, 25,000 (26) infantry and artillerymen, and sixty pieces of field-artillery. (27) In all, the Allied armies advancing upon the Alma comprised near 63,000 men and 128 guns.
St Arnaud, with his 37,000 infantry and artillerymen and sixty-eight guns, and effectually supported by the fire of nine war-steamers, (28) was destined to confront at the commencement of the action much less than one-third part of the Russian force; (29) whilst much more than the other two-thirds of it was left to the care of the English. St Arnaud, with his Frenchmen alone, was to his then confronting adversaries in a proportion not very far differing from that of three to one and the 7000 Turks that he also commanded increased yet further his great numerical preponderance, whilst, moreover, of guns he had sixty-eight to ten. Lord Raglan, on the other hand, was upon the whole fairly matched by his appointed antagonists in numbers of men and guns; (30) but the distinguishing characteristic of the task that awaited him was this: -he had to attack troops entrenched, and entrenched too upon very strong ground.
The heights about to be invaded by the French presented grave physical obstacles to their advance, but the greater part of them were undefended by troops, and had nowhere been strength. respectively by field-works. The ground attacked by the English did not oppose great physical obstacles to the advance of the assailants, but it had been entrenched, and, besides, was so formed by nature as to give great destructive power, and, by con sequence, great strength, to an enemy defending it with the resources of modern warfare. (31)
The French were covered and supported on their rightly the sea and the ships; on their left, by the English army. The English were covered on their right by the French, but they marched with their left flank quite bare. The French advanced upon heights well surveyed from the sea. Except in an imperfect way from maps, the English knew nothing of the ground before them. No deserters, no spies had come in.
(1) In speaking of this opening as a 'Pass,' I have followed the example of one whom I regard as a great master of the diction applicable to military subjects but it is not, of course, meant that there is anything at all Alpine in the character of this range of low hills - hills less than 400 feet high.
(2) This assertion was denied by a commentator in the 'Quarterly Review,' who professed to write with military knowledge. It may therefore be well to give here the following extract from Lord Raglan's published despatch: 'The high pinnacle and ridge before alluded to was the key of the position, and, consequently, there the greatest preparations ben been made for 'defense.' - Published Despatch of the 28d September 1854. Probably no living man is a better judge of what is the true 'key' of a position than Sir John Burgoyne. Now, I have before me a manuscript in his handwriting, which he wrote at the time, and whilst he was, still on the banks of the Alma. In that paper he says: 'The high pinnacle and ridge on the 'right' [he is speaking of the Russian right, and of the Kourgane' hill] 'was the key of the position if attacked in front. '-Note to 4th Edition.
(3) See the maps at the end of the volume. [JS - we include the two main maps that show in detail all the terrain Kinglake describes.] I am aware that in distances, and in other material points, this description of the position differs widely from the result of the hasty surveys which were made soon after the battle, by English officers. The French Government plans bear such strong marks of having been made with great care and labor, that, in general, I have ventured to take them for my guide in preference to those of my own countrymen.
(4) General Todleben puts the number of battalions at 42 ½ instead of 44 but except as regards that small difference (which I deal with elsewhere) his conclusion as to the number of squadrons, sotnias, battalions, and guns is exactly the same as the one above stated.
(5) See No. II. of the Appendix. General Todleben puts the cavalry at 3600, in accordance with this statement; but, as re gards this computation resulting in the sum above stated, he differs very widely Indeed, and therefore it Is that I have re sorted to the carefully qualified, and even conditional, language above appearing. The subject will be found fully treated in No. I. of the Appendix.
(6) I infer this from the fact that, the day before the action, General Kiriakoff, an officer of high reputation, was attempting indirect methods of calling Prince Mentchikoff's attention to the defectiveness of his arrangements. Kiriakoff's Statement.
(7) I say this in the teeth of the English dispatches, and, I - fear, of many written and oral statements from officers but I am sure that every engineer who saw the ground will support my assertion.
(8) In speaking of this field-work, one of the Reviewers ex pressed a belief 'that its armament consisted of six or eight, not guns of 'position, but field-guns and howitzers.' As to the number of the guns, I rely upon Prince Gortschakoff himself, as well as upon General do Todleben, p. 173. And in proof that they were 'guns of position' I say that the two of them which were captured by our army are now at Woolwich, and have been duly measured. The report from Woolwich says 'These calibers of the guns taken at the Alma were as follow :-
Brass shot~gun, 4.52 inches.
Brass howitzer, 6.12 inches
(9) The work was formed by cutting a shallow trench and throwing up the earth in front of it. In calling this and the other entrenchment 'redoubts,' I follow the language very generally used by our officers on the day of the battle; but they were open towards the rear, and therefore, of course, the use of the term in its special sense would be inaccurate. The word, however (like some others, as, e. g., the word 'ship '), has a general, as well as a special, meaning, and, accordingly, St Arnaud, in his official despatch, calls these works 'redoutes.' Sir Colin Campbell, in his despatches, also calls the greater of the two works a 'redoubt.'
(10) I adopt this inaccurate term, as the best I can find to describe these semi-regular troops, because to call them, as the Russians do, 'reserve battalions,' would tend to confuse, by suggesting the idea of 'reserves' in the ordinary sense· I thought at one time I might have called them 'depot battalions' but upon the whole it seemed to me that the term 'militia' would be less likely to convey a wrong notion than the tern' 'depot.' They are troops regarded as very inferior in quality to troops of the line. The four battalions which I call militia ' were the 'reserve' battalions of the 13th Division.- Anitchkoff, Chodasiewicz·.
(11) Anitchkoff speaks of this body as a whole battalion, but General de Todleben calls it only a half battalion
(12) Prince Gortschakoff says that the Causeway guns were eighteen in number.
(13) The 24 guns above mentioned were furnished by the two 12- guns Light batteries, Nos. 1 and 2 of the 16th Artillery brigade -Anitchkoff, Chodasiewicz, Todleben.
(14) The Borodino corps formed part of General Kiriakoff's command but the nature of the ground and the course which the action took prevented him from having it in his actual control; and Gortschakoff was the General to whom the corps had to look for guidance
(15) The four battalions of the Kazan, or Prince Michael's Corps, the four battalions of the Vladimir corps, the four battalions of the Suzdal corps, and the four battalions of the Ouglitz corps. - Anitchkoff, Chodasiewicz, Todleben.
(16) Chodasiewicz. Anitchkoff calls this force a half battalion only; and Todleben speaks of it as one battalion; but Chodasiewicz saw the two battalions in march with their four guns, and I accept his statement, for he was an admirably accurate observer. Before the action began these seamen were thrown forward as skirmishers, and endeavored to operate in the vineyards which belt the right bank of the river, but were afterwards withdrawn to the Kourgane' Hill.
(17) Two of the 14th Artillery Brigade, and two of the Don Cossack Batteries. The five batteries altogether numbered 44 guns.- Todleben.
(18) From the Lesser Redoubt there were only fired five guns at the time when the Highlanders advanced; but it is believed that the three additional guns requisite to complete the battery were in the work at the beginning of the action.
(19) Although I necessarily gather the numbers and descriptions of these forces from Russian authorities, I draw much of my knowledge of the way in which they were disposed from the observation of our officers; and it should be observed that the above description, so far as concerns the cavalry, applies rather to the state of the field at the time when the battle was going on, than to the dispositions which Prince Mentschikoff may have made in the earlier part of the day.
(20) Todleben, p. 178. Viz. :-
Causeway batteries --16
Adjoining battery -- 8
Kourgane' battery - 44
Total - 68
(21) The four battalions of the Volynia Regiment, and three battalions, Nos. 1, 5, 4, of the Minsk Regiment. -Anechkoff, Chodasiewicz, Todleben.
(22) No. 5 light battery of the 17th brigade of Artillery, and at the No. 12 troop of Horse-Artillery.- Todlebn p. 173.
(23) The sixteen squadrons of regular cavalry were also considered a part of this 'Great Reserve;' but, as we have seen, they did not remain posted on the same ground as the infantry reserve..
(24) Precis Historique, pp. 101, 102, which gives 30, 204 as the total, but that is a computation of the force embarked; and, since cholera was prevailing, the deductions from strength between the 7th and the 20th of the month must have brought tbe numbers below 30,000.
(25) Ibid.
(26) Or, speaking more closely, 24,400. The 'morning state' which I have before me is of the 18th oh September, and it gives as present under arms (without including the cavalry, of which there was no 'state') a total of 26,004 officers and men, and, deducting the 1600 men detached under Colonel Torrens, there remained 24,404 infantry and artillerymen.
(27) The official 'state' prepared for Lord Raglan gives two troops of horse-artillery, and only seven batteries, but it omits the battery attached to the 4th Division.
(28) Official despatch of Admiral Hamelln.
(29) The proportion changed afterwards, as will he by and by shown.
(30) In the Appendix No. II, the proportions are shown with more particularity; and the two last footnotes annexed to the Table there given show the changes that those proportions underwent in the course of the action.
(31) In these days, mere inert physical obstacles are commonly overcome or eluded; and the security of the defender depends not in general upon those geographical features which would make access difficult for travellers, but rather upon such a conformation of ground as will give him the means of doing to his assailants.


Late in the evening of the 19th, Marshal St Arnaud, attended by Colonel Trochu, rode up to the little post-house on the Bulganak in which Lord Raglan had established his quarters. He came to concert a plan of attack for the following day.
From on board their ships the French had long the been busily engaged in surveying the enemy's position, and by this time they had gathered a good real of knowledge of that part of the ground which lies near the sea-shore. They had ascertained, or found means of inferring, that the stream was fordable at its mouth, and they moreover assured themselves that, at the time of their last observations, the West Cliff was not occupied in strength by the enemy. Upon these important discoveries Marshal St Arnaud based his plan of attack. He proposed that the war- steamers, closing in as nearly as was practicable, should move parallel with the land-forces, and a little in advance; that, under cover of their fire, a portion of the French force should advance along the shore and seize the West Cliff; and that this movement should be followed up by a resolute, vigorous, and unremitting attack upon the enemy's left flank and left front.*
* The plan was like that of the great Frederick at Leuthen, but with the difference that the force advancing to turn the enemy 5 left was to be covered and supported by fire from the shipping.

M. St Arnaud was at this time free from pain; and, knowing that now, at last, he had an enemy in his front, and that a great conflict was near at hand, he seemed to be fired with a more than healthy energy. Sometimes in English, sometimes in the rapid words of his own tongue, and always with vehement gesture, he labored to show how sure it was that the attack from his right centre would be fierce, unrelenting, decisive. Lord Raglan, cast in another mold, sat quiet, with governed features, restraining- or only, perhaps, postponing - his smiles, listening graciously, assenting, or not dissenting, putting forward no plan of his own, and, in short, eluding discussion. This method, perhaps, was instinctive with him; but, in his intercourse with the French, he followed it deliberately and upon system. He never forgot that to keep good our relations with the French was his great duty; and, studying how best to avert the danger of misunderstandings, he had already made it his maxim that there was hardly any danger so great as the danger of controversy. Whether in any even small degree the English General had been brought to share the opinion entertained of M. St Arnaud in the French capital and in the French army, the world will never know. Of a certainty, Lord Raglan dealt as though he held it to be a clear gain to be able to avoid entrusting the Marshal with a knowledge of what our army would be likely to undertake; but my belief is that this, his seemingly guarded method, was not so much based upon anything which may have come to his ears from Paris or from the French camp, but rather upon his desire to ward off controversy, and upon his true native English dislike of all premature planning. He was so sure of his troops, and so conscious of his own power to act swiftly when the occasion might come, that, although he was now within half a march of the enemy's assembled forces, he did not at all long to ruffle his mind with projects- with projects for the attack of a position not hitherto reconnoitered.
M. St Arnaud's plan of turning the enemy's left was to be executed by the French army, with the aid of the shipping; and the part which the English land-forces should take in the action was a matter distinct. But for this, also, the French commander and his military counsellors had carefully taken thought.
To illustrate the operations which he proposed, M. St Arnaud produced a rough map,-a map slightly and rapidly drawn, yet traced with that spirit and significance which are characteristic of French military sketches. In this sketch Bosquet's Division and the Turkish troops were represented as effecting the turning movement on the enemy's left; and the 1st and 3d French Divisions were shown to be so deployed, and so placed, that, in the order of attack assigned to them by the sketch, they would confront almost the whole face of the enemy's position, leaving only one or two battalions to be dealt with in front by the English troops.*
See the facsimile of this plan, taken from the 'Pieces Officielles,' published by the French Government. -End of -Note to 1st Edition. ]
My justification for saying (in the corner of the plan) that it was untruly stated to have been accepted by Lord Raglan,' will be found in succeeding pages, and in particular at pp. 219, 276, 277.-Note to 4th Edition"..

So, to find some occupation for the English, the sketch represented our army as filing away obliquely, in order to turn the enemy's right flank. Of course this plan rested entirely upon the assumption that the enemy's front would be fully occupied (as represented in the sketch) by the French attack.
Lord Raglan's experience or instinct told him that no such plan as this could go for much until the assailing forces should come to measure their line with that of the enemy. So, without either combating or accepting the suggestion addressed to him, he simply assured the Marshal that he might rely upon the vigorous co-operation of the British army. The French plan seems to have made little impression on Lord Raglan's mind. He foresaw, perhaps, that the ingenuity of the evening would be brought to nothingness by the teachings of the morrow. Whilst the French Marshal was striving in his vehement way, to convey an idea of the vigour with which he would conduct the attack, his appointed adviser, Colonel Trochu, whose mission it was to moderate the fire of his chief, thought it right to interpose with a question of a practical kind - a question as to the time and place for relieving the French soldiers of their packs. Instantly, if so one may speak, St Arnaud - reared, for Trochu had touched him with the curb, - and in the presence, too, of Lord Raglan. He angrily suppressed the question of the packs as one of mere detail. Yet, on the afternoon of the morrow, that question of the packs was destined to recur, and to govern the movements of the whole French army. Before the Marshal and Lord Raglan parted, it was agreed that Bosquet with his Division should advance at five o'clock in the morning, and that two hours later, the rest of the Allied forces should begin their march upon the enemy's position. This determination as to the time for marching was almost the only fruit which St Arnaud drew from the interview. He had thought to engage his colleague in the plan contrived for the guidance of the English at the French headquarters but when he came to be in the presence of the English General, he unconsciously yielded, as other men commonly did, to the spell of his personal ascendancy; and although he showed the sketch, and may have uttered, perhaps, a few hurried words to explain its meaning, he did not effectually bring himself to proffer advice to Lord Raglan. Either he altogether omitted the intended counsel, or else be so slurred it over as not to win for it any grave notice from even the most careful of listeners.
When the conference ended, Lord Raglan came out with his guests to the door of the hut. M St Arnaud mounted his horse, and was elate; but he was elate, not with the knowledge of having achieved a purpose, but rather, it would seem, from the sense of that singular comfort which anxious men always derived from the mere power of Lord Raglan's presence. Perhaps, when the Marshal reached his quarters, he began to see that, after all, there was a gulf between him and the English General, and that, notwithstanding his energy and boldness, be had been unaccountably hindered from passing it.
Go to maps. Go to illustrations.


It had been determined that the troops should get under arms without bugle or drum. Silently, therefore, on the morning of the 20th of September 1854, the men of the Allied armies rose from their bivouac, and made ready for the march which was to bring them into the presence of the enemy. It was so early as half-past five that Bosquet, with the 2d French Division and the Turkish battalions, began his march along the coast; and at seven o'clock the main body of the French army was under arms and ready to march. But the position taken up by the English for the defence of the Allied armies on the Bulganak had imposed upon Lord Raglan the necessity of showing a front towards the east; and for the Divisions so employed a long and toilsome evolution was needed in order to bring them into the general order of march.*
*Those divisions had been posted nearly at right angles to the front line, and the segment in which the troops would have to wheel in order to get into the line of march would be nearly 90 degrees.

At the time too, there was a broad interval between our extreme English right and Prince Napoleon's Division. More over, the line of the coast which the armies were to follow trended away towards the south-west, forming an obtuse angle with the course of the stream (the Bulganak) on which the Allies had bivouacked; and in the movement requisite for adjusting the front of the Allied forces to the direction of the shore, the English, marching upon the exterior arc, had to undergo more labour than those who moved near the pivot on which the variation of front was effected.**
**Several military reports and documents explain this, but the plan prepared by the French Government shows with admirable clearness the nature of the evolution which the English army had to perform. See the plan, No. 4, 'Invasion of the Crimea,' vol. ii. of Cabinet Edition.

This was not all. The baggage-train accompanying our forces, though small in comparison with the encumbrances usually attending an army in the field, was large as compared with that of the French; and Lord Raglan (whose favourite anxiety was concerning his reserve ammunition) refused to allow the convoy to be stripped of protection. The oblique movement of the troops to wards their right was tending to leave the convoy uncovered; and in order that it should be again enfolded, as in the previous day's order of march, it was necessary to move it far towards our right. Lord Raglan insisted that this should be done; so on the morning of the long-expected battle, and with the enemy in front, St Arnaud and the whole French army, and the English army too, chafed bitterly at the delay they had to endure whilst strings of bullock-carts were slowly dragged westward into the true line of march. Besides, the enemy's cavalry gave the English no leave to examine the ground towards which they were marching; and whilst the French, being next to the sea, could make straight for the cliff already reconnoitered from the ships, the English army advanced without knowledge of that part of the position which it was to confront, and was twice compelled to make laborious changes in the direction of its march. Therefore, for much of the delay which occurred there were good reasons but not for all. Sir George Brown had been directed on the night of the 19th to advance on the morrow at seven o'clock, and he imagined-it is strange if he, of all men, with his great knowledge of such things, was wrong upon a point of military usage-he imagined that the order would be repeated in the morning, and he waited accordingly. Also the English troops moved slowly. Time was growing to be of high worth, and from causes which justified a good deal, though not quite all, of their delay, the English at this time were behindhand. In order that the operations of the day might be adjusted to the time which the English army required, orders were sent forward suspending for a while the advance of Bosquet's column; and at nine o'clock the main body of the French army came to a halt, and cooked their coffee. Whilst they rested, our troops, by moving obliquely towards their right, were slowly overcoming the distance which divided them from the French left, and were at the same time working their way through the angle which measured their divergence from the line of march.
Of those composing an armed force there are few who understand the hindrances which block its progress; and naturally the French were vexed by the delay which seemed to be caused by the slowness of the English army. They, however conformed with great care to the tardiness of our advance, and even allowed our army to gain upon them; for when the Allies reached the ground which sloped down towards the Alma, the heads of our leading columns were abreast of the French skirmishers.*
*Lord Raglan was amongst those who observed this fact, and he stated it in a letter which is before me.

Meanwhile the Allied steamers had been seeking opportunities for bringing their guns to bear, and at twenty minutes past ten they opened fire.*
*Private MS. by Mr Romaine, the Judge-Advocate. I may here say generally, to avoid repeated notes, that, whenever in my account of this battle I speak of an event as happening at a time stated with exactness, I do so on the authority of Romaine. He was a man so to gifted with long sight, as well as with power of estimating numbers, and, though a civilian, was so thoroughly apt for military business, that Lord Raglan used at a later time to call him 'the eye of the army.' During the action he rode an old hunter, steady enough to allow him to write without quitting his saddle: so, whenever he observed a change in the progress of the action, he took out his watch and pocket-book and made at the minute the memoranda on which I rely. I am, therefore, very certain that the spaces of time intervening between any two events spoken of in this precise way were exactly those which I give; but I have reason to think that the watches of men in the different camps had been differently set.
One or two of their missiles, though at a very long range, reached some of those Russian battalions which stood posted in rear of the Telegraph.
At half-past eleven o'clock the English right had got into direct contact with the French left, and our Light and 2d Divisions were marching in the same alignment as the 1st and 3d Divisions our French Allies.
Go to maps. Go to illustrations.


Twice again there were protracted halts. The last of these took place at a distance of about a mile and a half from the banks of the Alma. From the spot where the forces were halted the ground sloped gently down to the river's side; and though some men lay prostrate under the burning sun, with little thought except of fatigue, there were others who keenly scanned the ground before them, well knowing that now at last the long- expected conflict would begin. They could make out the course of the river from the dark belt of gardens and vineyards which marked its banks; and men with good eyes could descry a slight seam running across a rising~ground beyond the river, and could see, too, some dark squares or oblongs, encroaching like small patches of culture upon the broad downs. The seam was the Great Redoubt; the square-looking marks that stained the green sides of the hills were an army in order of battle.
That 20th of September on the Alma was like some remembered day of June in England, for the sun was unclouded, and the soft breeze of the morning had lulled to a breath at noontide, and was creeping faintly along the hills. It was then that in the Allied armies there occurred a singular pause of sound-a pause so general as to have been observed and remembered by many in remote parts of the ground, and so marked that its interruption by the mere neighing of an angry horse seized the attention of thousands; and although this strange silence was the mere result of weariness and chance, it seemed to carry a meaning; for it was now that, after near forty years of peace, the great nations Of Europe were once more meeting for battle.
Even after the sailing of the expedition, the been followed by reports that the war, after all, would be stayed; and the long, frequent halts, and the quiet of the armies on the sunny slope, seemed to harmonise with the idea of disbelief in the coming of the long-promised fight. But in the midst of this repose Sir Colin Campbell said to one of his officers, 'This will be a good time for the men to get loose half their cartridges;'* and when the command traveled on along the ranks of the Highlanders, it lit up the faces of the men one after another, assuring them that now at length, and after long expectance, they indeed would go into action. They began obeying the order, and with beaming joy, for they came of a warlike race; yet not without emotion of a graver kind-they were young soldiers, new to battle.
*The cartridges are delivered to each man in a packet, and, to avoid loss of time in presence of the enemy, a sufficient number should be 'shaken loose' before the troops are brought into action.

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