{short description of image}  

Return topart 9.


Meantime Evans had been rejoined by the two regiments detached under Adams. The Scots Fusiliers had resumed their place in the centre of the brigade of Guards. The Light Division, reformed, had followed the advance of the Duke of Cambridge. Sir Richard England, pushing forward towards his right front, had taken up ground on one of the eastern spurs of the Telegraph Height. At the opposite extremity of our line Sir George Cathcart had established his troops on the left rear of the Highland Brigade. Facing almost due south, and pushed forward to the reverse of the slopes which made the strength of the Russian position, and ranged upon a front of two miles, the British infantry looked down upon the enemy's retreating masses.
At this time Lord Raglan sent the Adjutant-General with his orders to the cavalry. Those orders, however, did not authorise the operations by which it is usual for horsemen to gather in the fruits of a victory. A commander, even in battle, must not forget the campaign. The Western Powers were invading a province of Russia with forces which had to march through an open country. Their pretension to wage such war as that depended upon their having at their command all the three arms of the service; therefore the strength of the arm in which they were the most weak was the measure of their power as invaders. The French, as we saw, had no cavalry, and the English had rather more than a thousand sabres and lances. With such a force, thrown forward to intercept the enemy's retreating masses, many prisoners, if not also some guns, might have been assuredly taken; and it was to be expected that blows of this kind would aggravate the despondency of the beaten army. But Lord Raglan judged that no practicable capture of trophies or prisoners was worth the risk of losing a material part of his small brilliant cavalry force. He therefore declined to let his horse-men push forward without the support of a powerful artillery; and the orders he sent by the Adjutant-General directed that the cavalry should escort the foot-batteries to the front. In delivering this instruction, Estcourt cautioned Lord Lucan and told him 'that the cavalry were not to attack'.
Lord Cardigan, with one-half of the cavalry force, was directed to escort the guns which were to go to the right whilst Lord Lucan in person went forward with the rest of the cavalry, and escorted the guns advancing on our left. Lord Lucan, riding in advance of the guns with a squadron of the 17th Lancers, came upon many of the enemy's stragglers in retreat, and he ordered the horsemen who were with him, supported by another squadron, to pursue and take prisoners. A troop of the 11th Hussars had been ordered (it was said by Lord Raglan himself) to do the same thing, and the 17th had already taken a great many prisoners, when the operation was stopped by special orders from Lord Raglan What Lord Raglan had meant was, that the troopers employed in taking prisoners should be spread out as skirmisbers; and when he saw that they were acting in serried ranks, and were going on far in advance, he became anxious lest some of the enemy's guns should be brought to bear upon them, and occasion him a loss in that one description of force with which the Allies were scantily provided. He therefore sent first one and then another Staff officer to the commander of the cavalry, with orders to give up the pursuit of prisoners, and return to the duty of escorting the guns. Thereupon, Lord Lucan recalled the troopers in advance, and the prisoners they had taken were set free.
Go to maps. Go toillustrations.


It will be remembered that at the time when the head of the first French Division was pushed back by the 'great column of the eight battalions,' General Canrobert was still without his artillery. But these batteries having been sent down to Almatamack, and having there crossed the river, had at last been brought up to the plateau, and (along with some guns belonging to Bosquet's Division) they were now travelling eastward. In the part of the field where Bosquet stood, and from which this long train of artillery had commenced its eastward journey, there was no enemy at hand; and even when the guns had come to within a short distance of the ground in front of Canrobert's right wing, there was no Russian battalion which could be seen by the French artillerymen; for the train was moving along a hollow which, so long as a man rode low down, was deep enough to hinder him from seeing far either on his right hand or on his left. But some of the officers who were with the guns now thought it was time to obtain a wider view of the ground, and they therefore rode part way up the slope which overhung the ravine towards their right. Before they had yet got quite up to the flat ground above the ravine, they suddenly stopped; for, monstrous, immense, and obtruded before them on the plateau, at a distance of only a few hundred yards, they saw a grey, oblong-cut block-saw what in one moment they knew to be a mass of Russian infantry-a mass of unwonted size standing rigidly built in close column. This was the great 'column of the eight battalions '-the dumb, gliding phantasm of the Telegraph Height, whose bare aspect had given strange speed to the breathless French aide-de-camp on the knoll, and had just been constraining the head of Canrobert's Division to fall back, and drop under the crest. With that warlike swiftness of thought which is natural to the French in the hour of battle, the officers who caught sight of this apparition darted straight upon the perception of what ought to be done. Some of the guns were brought up to a part of the slope from which, without being easily seen, they could throw their fire into the column.*
* See the Plan. It is taken from a sketch which was made for me by a French officer who was present with the artillery thus brought to bear on the column.

Suddenly Kiriakoff found that his close mass of eight battalions was cruelly rent by shot and shell coming from the west. Without stopping to find out by calm scrutiny the quarter whence the fire really came, Kiriakoff hastily accepted the belief that it came from the sea; and in order to place his troops out of the reach of the ships, he began to move off his column in an inland or easterly direction, taking nearly the same route as that by which he had advanced.*
* My knowledge of the exact way in which these guns were brought to bear upon the hapless column is derived from a French officer who was present with the guns, and who took part in seizing the occasion which was presented by the sudden discovery of the column. With respect to a statement at one time put forward - statement that 'the column of the eight 'battalions' had been defeated by infantry, see No. VIII. of the Appendix.

Whilst he thus marched, shot and shells continued to cut their way into the midst of his hapless column, inflicting a dreadful slaughter. This trial-the trial of men who have to march under a shattering fire without being able to strike one blow at their slayers-was borne by the Russian soldiery with a great fortitude. Order was maintained; and, torn as it was from moment to moment, the column marched grandly. Along with the column there were two batteries; but, far from helping to cover its retreat, these guns were suffered to become a burthen; for, several of the horses having been wounded or killed, the task of dragging off the cannon was thrown upon soldiers. It would seem, however, that the natural awe with which Canrobert's troops had looked upon the advance of the huge column was not lifted off from their minds when first they saw it withdrawing, for no French infantry moved forward to press the retreat of the eight battalions. 'The French,'says Kiriakoff; 'did not follow us. I am ignorant 'of the reason why. Maybe they did not want 'to stand between the fire of their ships and our 'regiments; maybe the sight of the two bodies of 'Hussars, headed by Colonel Wailinovich, may have checked them.* In fact, I cannot explain their conduct.'
* The translation I have used says 'annoyed them,' but I gather from the context that the word I have ventured to substitute more accurately represents the General's meaning.

By pursuing his easterly march for some time, Kiriakoff brought his column out of the artillery-fire which had been tearing it, and he came at last to a halt upon a spot on the right rear of the Telegraph. Although it was the destiny of this column of the 'eight battalions' to be able to put a great stress upon the French army, and afterwards to be cruelly shattered by cannon, yet, from first to last, the body which thus did and thus suffered was without an occasion for firing a shot.


Moved from west to east along the top of the plateau, the French guns, which had dealt with the column, were now once more in battery, and upon ground from which they threw a flanking fire in the direction of the troops which still remained on the slopes in front of the Telegraph Height. The only infantry forces which had been placed in that part of the field were the four Taroutine and the four 'Militia' battalions; but, supposing that the breaking-up of the 'Militia' battalions was by this time virtually complete, Kiriakoff had no infantry on the whole Telegraph Height except the four Taroutine battalions, and the stricken, the bleeding column which he had just withdrawn from the front. Yet at this time, though Kiriakoff evidently did not know of the proximity of many of the French battalions which were hanging back close under the plateau, there were in reality some thirty thousand Frenchmen and Turks standing on ground from which, in a period of only a few minutes, they might close in both upon his front and his left flank. Without apprehending the extent to which he was encompassed, Kiriakoff came to see that the troops he had in front of the Telegraph must not be left standing under a cross-fire of artillery. He had not in his own hands the means of repelling or silencing the guns which were pouring their fire from the west along the summit of the plateau; and being without orders, and even, it seems, without tidings, he tried to find a clue for the guidance of his conduct by learning the course which the battle was taking in the English part of the field. Hitherto his glances in that direction had brought him no comfort. Even so early as the time when he pushed back the head of Canrobert's Division, he had found that the English were gaining the ascendancy over the centre and right wing of the Russians. 'When,' he writes-when the first success of the enemy had been stopped on the left wing, in the centre* and the right wing* the turn of affairs was beginning to be against us. I cannot judge the particulars of that part of the battle, being fully occupied by doing my own duty, and I could not observe as well the events on my right; but thus far I could see, that the enemy had taken up a strong position on the left bank of the Alma.'
* i e., those portions of the Russian army which were opposed to the English.
** When he said that the English 'had taken up a strong position on the left' [i.e., the Russian] 'bank of the river.'

This, at the moment of his success against Canrobert, had been Kiriakoff's perception of the course which events were taking in the English part of the field; and now, when he looked once more to where the red-coats were moving, he saw that in that part of the field the battle was lost to the Czar. He saw not only that the Causeway batteries had been withdrawn, and that upon their site English regiments were established (apparently he had seen that before*)- but that Mentschikoff's infantry reserves were in retreat; and that, looking eastward along the Russian side of the river as far as his eye could reach, he was unable to see the end of the slender red line which marked the advance of the English. Even if he did not observe or understand the ominous silence of the Great Redoubt, he could not fail to see that the withdrawal of the Causeway batteries, and of the infantry reserves, was not only an abandonment of the great 'position on the Alma,' but was also a retreat with which it was his obvious duty to conform. For that reason he first ordered his troops to retire to a part of the Great Post-road which lay on the right rear of his position; and when he got to that spot, he found that the victory won by Lord Raglan was by that time so well assured as to oblige him to continue his retrograde march, and conform at once to the movements of the seven-and-twenty battalions then yielding to their English assailants.
'Impossible,' writes Kiriakoff; after speaking of the direction in which French artillery had been brought to bear upon his troops in front of the Telegraph- 'impossible to leave the left wing thus exposed to a cross-fire, and I could not send or wait for orders from the Commander-in-Chief. The right wing* having already begun a very decisive movement of retreat, I commanded the march towards the main road, on either side of which I ranged the troops.
This road was beyond the height where our principal reserves had stood. Then I became aware that our right wing* was indeed retreating; and, wishing to conform as much as possible with their movements, I ordered a second march towards a height beyond the road.** The enemy did not follow us.'
* i.e., troops opposed to the English.
** If full faith be given to this testimony of Kiriakoff, it is of course conclusive of the question es to where the Russian retreat began; for he speaks as an eyewitness of the retreat which had taken place in front of the English, and he was the actual ordainer of the retrograde movement which he deemed to be the necessary consequence of the defeat which his countrymen had sustained at the hands of our people. It may be said that it was for his interest to make this statement, and that therefore he is not an impartial witness. This is true: but, besides that his character for honour and high spirit places him above the suspicion of gross and intentional misstatement, it happens that his account is corroborated in the most distinct terms by Anitchkoff, an apparently impartial narrator. Anitchkoff, when he wrote, was an officer on the General Staff of the Russian army, writing under circumstances which gave him considerable means of knowing the truth, and which made it his duty to hold the balance evenly between Gortschakoff, Kiriakoff, and Kvetzinski; yet in clear words he corroborates Kiriakoff. After speaking of the centre and right wing of the Russians-the troops with which the English had been dealing-and of their retreat 'to the former position two versts to the 'south,' he adds immediately these words: 'Whither they were' (remark the word presently coming) 'whither they were 'followed by the left wing, who had withstood and repelled the attack of the whole of the four French Divisions until the moment of the general retreat.

In their retreat the Taroutine battalions-the troops wbich marched in what was then the rear of Kiriakoff's force-were plied with the fire of cannon, but were not at all vexed by French infantry.*
* Chodasiewicz. This writer was a field-officer in the Taroutine corps, and his statements (almost all of them valuable) are an excellent authority in all that relates to the operations of his own regiment.

General Kiriakoff's retreating artillerymen were not called upon to fend off a pursuit, but they seized what they judged an apt moment for facing about to plant some guns in battery, and we shall presently witness their fire reaching back to the Telegraph Height.


When Kiriakoff's battalions had withdrawn, Canrobert's Division and D'Aurelle's brigade-that brigade followed close by Prince Napoleon -moved straight upon the Telegraph. It was whilst our Grenadier Guards in a distant part of the field were stepping up from the river bank to engage the enemy in their front, that this advance of the French took place.*
* Sir Thomas Troubridge of the Royal Fusiliers, saw both the movements, and marked that they took place simultaneously.

The two Zouave Regiments (which stood, as we know, side by side on the left front of Canrobert's force), and, almost at the same moment' the 39th regiment of the line-the regiment which formed the head of D'Aurelle's column-pushed swiftly forward towards the Telegraph. These troops for a while continued to be sheltered by the steepness of the hill they were ascending, but upon gaining its crest, the heads of their columns incurred the artillery fire hurled back, as we saw, from the ground to which Kiriakoff's force had retreated; and on closely approaching the Telegraph, they all at once came on some riflemen whom the enemy, when about to move off; had neglected to withdraw from the spot;* but, undaunted by the cannonade which thus greeted them, and overwhelming the helpless riflemen-not without a free use of the bayonet-the French masses continued their onset; and three agile soldiers running forward in advance of their comrades, reared the colours of their three several regiments on the stump of the unfinished pillar, or the scaffolding which surrounded its sides.
* It is not with the gallant French army that the construction of warlike fables originate. The record of this encounter, by one of the gallant Zouave officers who took part in it states these Russian Riflemen found at the Telegraph to be a force consisting of 'two companies.' See footnote post in which the passage is given. In each Russian battalion there were twenty-four men armed with rifles; and founding myself partly upon the recollection of a conversation on this subject with General de Todleben, I am led to conjecture that the Riflemen found at the Telegraph belonged all to the 'Minsk' regiment, which, out of its four battalions, might have furnished as many as ninety-six Riflemen.

Whilst in the very act of thus planting the standard of his regiment, Lieutenant Poitevin of the 39th Regiment was struck dead by a cannon-ball, and a grape-shot killed Serjeant Fleury of the 1st Regiment of Zouaves, the flag-staff supporting its colours being also at the same time broken by a fragment of shell.*
* The military reader will not fail to observe that all the above-mentioned missiles, 'round-shot,' 'grape,' and 'fragment of shell,' were of the kind discharged only by artillery, and will see how far that circumstance goes towards negativing the supposition that the Russians were intentionally making a stand with infantry on the summit of the Telegraph Height. The hapless riflemen, plainly left by mistake at the Telegraph, must have suffered under the artillery fire directed upon that part of the ground by their own fellow-countrymen.
So, the substance of what here occurred was the converging onset of thousands of high-mettled soldiery springing forward to reach the goal without suffering themselves to be daunted by a pelting fire of artillery; and their merit, one need hardly say, was neither augmented nor lessened by the presence of the few hapless riflemen whom they found left behind -left behind, we may infer, by mistake -on ground near the foot of the Telegraph.
Still, there yet remained the fact that some Russian foot-soldiers, however few, and whether owing or not to mistake, had been left behind and exposed to the fate of being overwhelmed and bayoneted when the French came up thronging upon them; and accordingly their presence at the Telegraph, when conjoined with the other occurrences which we saw attending its capture, became the evident basis,or rather the sound part of the basis, on which the story of an arduous fight between French and Russian infantry was some time afterwards built.
The other part of the basis on which the fable long rested was unsound, it is true, but still specious.
When soldiers in battle break loose from the guidance of their commanders, they so feel the need of a purpose, that a tree, a house, or a windmill -any object, in short, which stands out plain in the landscape-may have power to draw them towards it; and if a conflux like this has once set in, the eddy soon begins to run strong. First three or four eager and venturous men, then clusters, then scores, then hundreds, rushed panting for the goal that they saw in the conspicuous pillar on the Telegraph, now surmounted with flags; and soon, thousands and thousands of vehement soldiery were thronging from many quarters upon this single point. There could not but be a great turmoil, and there is reason to fear that, with the shouts of the victors, there mingled the voices of the hapless riflemen crying vainly for quarter; and although the Russian guns were withdrawn, French batteries, pursuing with fire, still maintained the roar of artillery. With such sights and sounds to guide them, observers might easily imagine that the Telegraph Height was the theatre of a struggle which must include in its area the clash of hostile battalions; but, as from the battle-field itself, so also from the imaginations of men brooding over it the smoke after some time was lifted; and for that assemblage of facts which was needed to constitute a real infantry fight, one essential ingredient proved wanting. No Russian battalion was present; and accordingly the impetuous Zouaves, no less than their more gentle comrades of the line, were precluded by sheer want of opponents * from the means of engaging in that desperate strife of infantry against infantry which, under the description of 'the combat at the 'Telegraph,' has found a place in French annals.**
* So far as concerned the notion of a serious fight at the Telegraph itself, I find that I might have averted the controversy to which the above statement gave rise. In the 'Souvenirs d'un officier du 2me Zouaves,' published in 1859, the 'opponents' are thus estimated :-' The 1st Regiment of Zouaves operates the same movement; the two regiments' [i.e., the 1st and 2d Zouaves which had together a strength of about 3000-they kept a strength of no less than 2768 even so late ss the following November] 'arrive at the foot of the 'tower, of which they take possession, notwithstanding the resistance of two companies of sharpshooters armed with large rifles,' pp.144, 145. Considering that the Zouaves were 3000, followed close by many thousands more of French troops, and that the Russians attempting to obstruct them were estimated by their assailants at 'two companies,' it will hardly be denied any more that there was that 'sheer want of opponents' which is suggested in the text. -Note to 5th Edition.
** The narratives which French historians have given of this supposed fight, together with my reasons for excluding their stories from my text, will be found in the Appendix. -Note the 1st Edition.

At length the state of the smoke allowed men to see that no Russian battalion was near. Then the close of what resembled a fight was joyfully hailed as a victory.
From the time when the bulk of the French advanced to the banks of the river, Marshal St Arnaud had placed himself in the midst of Prince Napoleon's battalions; and, the Prince's Division having been kept low down in the bottom during the critical period of the battle, it must have been hard for a man who remained jammed down with those troops to obtain a fair view of what was going on;* but the Marshal, it seems, now galloped up to the Telegraph, and sharing, no doubt, in the belief that there had been a hot fight there, and inferring also that the fight had been won by the thousands of eager Zouaves whom he saw thronging round the pillar, he turned, it is said, to these his most trusted soldiery, and said to them, 'I thank you, my Zouaves!'
Canrobert's and Prince Napoleon's Divisions, with D'Aurelle's brigade betwixt them, were then massed about the Telegraph upon a very small space of ground.
* See the Plan (taken from the 'Atlas Historique'), which shows the Marshal's position.
Go to maps. Go toillustrations.


At this time, two messengers came in haste from different parts of the English field of battle:they both came with the same object. The first of these was an aide-de-camp sent straight from Lord Raglan to the nearest French troops he could find; the other was Colonel Steele, who came charged with the request which General Airey from another part of the field had taken upon himself to address to Marshal St Arnaud. Whilst the Russian battalions were retreating before the English infantry, Lord Raglan in one part of the field, and General Airey in another, had, almost at the same moment observed the same opportunity, and fastened upon the same mode of seizing it. Each of them had seen that masses of the retreating infantry were moving in such a direction, and through a gorge which so straitened their movements, that their retreat could be cut off or turned into a ruinous disaster by the immediate advance of a few battalions pushing forward from the left of the French line, and bearing towards the great road.
When Lord Raglan's aide-de-camp reached the Telegraph, he found that the troops he came upon had just halted two hundred yards in front of the building, and that the column with which he sought to find the Prince was under a good deal of excitement. Used to the silence of English troops, the aide-de-camp was a good deal struck with the effect produced by thousands of soldiers in heavy masses talking all at the same time. The aide-de-camp was accompanied by Vico, the French Commissioner accredited to the English Headquarters. Vico conveyed Lord Raglan's wishes to the General commanding the brigade, and was told in answer that the troops would advance. This, however, they did not do.
The similar request which Colonel Steele addressed to St Arnaud was met by a refusal. The Marshal excused himself for declining to advance by saying that his troops had left their knapsacks in the valley below.
Marshal St Arnaud was able to remain all day on horseback; and it does not appear that the state of his health at this time was such as to hinder him from using his intellectual powers; but he did not place himself in a part of the field from which a general could hope to be able to govern events; and from the time when he dispatched his ill-devised orders to the 4th Division, I have not been able to perceive that his mind at all touched the battle.


General Forey, perhaps, had hoped that in the presence of the enemy he might be able to cover over the mark which his reputation contracted on the 2d of December - on the day when, along with Maupas's commissaries of police, he suffered himself to be publicly used as the assailant and the jailer of the unarmed legislature of France; but if by chance this man shall be brought some day to his account, it will not be by an appeal to the memory of the Alma that he will be able to avert his punishment. With Lourmel's brigade, as we saw, he had followed the steps of Bouat, marching off to the peaceful sea-shore, and becoming null in the battle. When D'Aurelle was aleady at the Telegraph, Forey, with Lourmel's brigade, had but just crossed the river at its very mouth, and was more than two miles distant from the nearest of the enemy's forces. But with the exception of this annulled brigade under Forey, and the two Turkish battalions which had been left to guard the baggage, the whole of the French and Ottoman troops were now ranged upon the plateau of the Telegraph Height. Their array was upon ground less advanced than that taken up by the English. It fronted towards the east.


When Kiriakoff's movement of retreat had brought him to the ridge which lay at a distance of nearly two miles in rear of the Telegraph, be forthwith took up a position, and once more showed a front to the Allies. Having with him not only his own artillery, but that also which Prince Mentschikoff had brought from the centre at the commencement of the action, and being in company at this time with some of the cavaly, be was able to complete the semblance of something like a defensive stand by placing thirty guns in battery, and covering his left-front with several squadrons of hussars. By this wise and soldierly attitude, Kiriakoff masked the confusion into which the rest of the Czar's army had been thrown, and caused the Allied commanders to believe that they had still a formidable enemy in their front.
Not only did Kiriakoff thus face round, but he even caused the body of cavalry which he had on his left to move forward; and it happened that this advance of the Russian hussars brought them down to a spot which was near the ground where Lord Cardigan rode with his squadrons. It seems, however, that there was an intervening bend or rise in the formation of the ground which prevented these two hostile bodies of cavalry from being visible the one to the other.
Lord Raglan, with some of his Staff, had ridden forward to this part of the field. He met the advance of the enemy's squadrons with an almost cold gaze. The joyous animation with which, from the summit of the knoll, he had watched and governed the battle-this now had passed. He wore the look-men came to know it too well before he died-the look which used to show that he was feeling the stress of the French Alliance, and dissembling the pain of his anger.


The world was old enough to know that in order to be made to yield its natural fruits, a victory ought to be followed up; and that, in general, a victorious army is made to press on in pursuit, until nightfall or other good cause makes it needful or prudent to halt. But the maps of this Crim Tartary gave no indication of the existence of any fresh water between the Alma and the Katcha-a stream some seven or eight miles distant. It seemed that unless the troops which might be pushed forward could reach the Katcha -and reach it, too, in strength enabling them to establish themselves on its banks-they would have to bivouac on the hills without the means of allaying the rage of thirst. Except at the mouth of the Alma, or at the month of the Katcha, the nature of the coast did not allow free communication between the Allied armies and the ships. It was half-past four o'clock. Soon after six the sun would set. Since morning the soldiery of both armies had toiled under a burning sun. They were very weary; and many of them-indeed almost all the English-were in a weakly state of health. These were reasons which made it needful for the Allies to effect their further pursuit of the enemy by preconcerted arrangements, yet did not apparently warrant a protracted halt of the whole of the Allied armies on the heights of the Alma. Lord Raglan had been swift to see what ought to be done by the Allies, and not less swift to determine what he himself could offer to do. He deemed that the Allies ought to push forward instantly with such portions of their force as were the least wearied. We have seen the share which the English soldiery had had in the work of the day; but, compared with the troops of the 1st, the 2d, and the Light Division, Sir Richard England's Division was fresh. With that force of infantry, together with the whole of his cavalry and horse-artillery, Lord Raglan desired to press forward;* but be required that a portion of the French army should take part in this movement, for he did not understand that the rout of the enemy's forces was so complete and irremediable as to put them in the power of one English division of infantry and a thousand horsemen. Besides he well knew that (even though the aid should be given for mere form's sake and not for actual use) there was a political reason which forbade him from pressing forward without making sure that his advance would be accompanied by a portion of the French army; for it was nearly certain that an English general advancing on the afternoon of a battle, and leaving his sensitive allies in the rear, would so mortify the French people as to put the alliance and even the ruler who contrived it, in grievous peril.
* He would then have still had with him (besides his fatigued troops) the chief part of the 4th Division under Cathcart.

Accordingly, General Airey proposed to General Martimprey, the Chief of the French Staff; that the whole of our cavalry, together with one English division of infantry, and such portion of the French army as the Marshal might think fit, should move forward and press the enemy's retreat.
The answer was that any further advance of the French on that day was 'impossible;' and the necessity of returning to where the knapsacks had been laid was once more used as the reason which forbade all forward movement. Men may fairly surmise that a sterner method than that which Lord Raglan took would have served his purpose better, and that if he had simply ordered his cavalry and Sir Richard England's Division to advance, M. St Arnaud would have been compelled to follow. But to act upon such a speculation as that would have been hardly consistent with the duties imposed upon the English General. Lord Raglan, it is true, was a soldier acting against an enemy in the field; but he was something more: he was a diplomatist specially charged with the care of that fragile structure on which the war was resting; he was charged with the care of the French alliance. Except on grounds of paramount cogency, he had no right to break loose from the fetters by which his Queen's Government had thought fit to bind their country.


Lord Raglan watched the advance of the Russian cavalry until he saw it come to a halt. Then it seemed-he was used of old to read such signs -it seemed that he regarded this movement and this halt of the enemy's horse as a kind of farewell gesture which marked the end of the battle; for, turning his horse's head, he slowly rode back to the ground where his infantry stood.
When our soldiers observed the approach of the Headquarter Staff, they looked eagerly into the group that they might see if amongst the plumed horsemen the Chief himself were coming; and the moment they got a sure sight of the frock with the half-empty sleeve, it came into their hearts to offer to their General that which is of other worth than vulgar treasures-nay, that which in common times the world cannot give. They brought him the greeting which a proud soldiery can bestow upon their chief in the hour of victory and upon the field of battle. Begun at first by one corps, taken up by the next, and then by the next again, the cheers flew on from regiment to regiment, and tracked the chief in his path, till, all along from the spurs of the Telegraph Height to the easternmost bounds of the crest which had been won by the Highland Brigade, those desolate hills in Crim Tartary were made to sound like England. And the sound travelled back to the plateau on which the French were halted, and descended also the slopes where our dead and wounded lay thick. There, many a red-coat, so wounded that the roar of artillery and the tramp of battalions had become to him mere idle sounds, would yet find his heart stirred anew by the English cheers on the heights, and would raise himself on his arm, and strive so to use his last strength that, in the swelling tumult of the voices above, his own faltering hurrah!' might be one.
But, pensive and intent on sad thoughts, Lord Raglan now rode down into the valley, recrossed the river and entered the village of Bourliouk. The flames had been extinguished; and in some of the farm-buildings not wholly destroyed by fire, there lay many wounded officers. Amongst the painful scenes in those barns and sheds Lord Raglan passed a long time, giving tender care to the sufferers. Yet of the sunlight of that day there were nearly two hours remaining. There was a routed enemy in front; and, beyond? there lay the huge prize for which the invaders had come.
Ambition lends strength and momentum to the purposes of a general. Lord Raglan gave his heart to wounded men. A commander wrapped in self and burning for fame, would have risked a breach of the French alliance, would have hardened his heart, and, killing perhaps some few of his people with cruel fatigue, would have drunk of the Katcha that night. If he had done thus, the reconnaissance of the next morning would have brought him some knowledge of hardly less worth than a victory.
The Allied forces bivouacked on the ground they had won. The French were on the Telegraph Height; the English headquarters were established on the left bank of the river near the road leading up from the bridge, and almost on the site of that Causeway battery which, until it was touched by the mastering key, had barred the mouth of the Pass.
In the evening our army was joined by Colonel Torrens with the troops which had been left at Kamishlu to clear the beach; and at about nine o'clock, whilst Lord Raglan was dining in his little marquee with only one man for his guest, Torrens came to report his arrival. A third cover was laid for him. He had made a forced march, and was in bitter pain because his great haste had not availed to bring him up in time for the battle. With kind, frank, thoughtful words Lord Raglan strove to soothe him.


The position which Kiriakoff had taken up was not held for many minutes. To any calm man who looked from that ridge towards the north it must have been plain that the Allies were making no movement in pursuit. But - for thus powerful and thus wayward is the imagination of man in his fears-the Russians were no sooner in safety than vague terrors came assailing their minds, and Panic began to drive them. The brave soldiery who had stood superbly firm when shot were tearing their ranks were scared by phantom thoughts; and the square-built, hard, rigid battalions which had checkered the hillsides on the Alma, now dissolved into shapeless masses. Even when, after accomplishing several miles of retreat, the troops at length reached the hillsides which looked down on the banks of the Katcha, they had no belief that the Allies would suffer them to drink of its waters in peace; and the army of the Czar, degenerating into a helpless throng-officers, men, horses, guns, tumbrils, carts laden with stores, carts laden with the wounded- all pressed into a gorge leading down to the ford; and then the disorder was so complete, and the masses which choked the gorge were so dense and helpless, that it seemed as though a small force of cavalry and horse-artillery would have sufficed to make the whole army prisoners, or bring it to utter ruin.
When they had crossed the Katcha, the bulk of the troops still hurried on, though with no idea of the direction they were to take, except that their course ought to be a prolongation of the line of the retreat already accomplished.
But presently even that poor clue failed them; for some got to imagine that, instead of falling back upon Sebastopol, they were to make for Baktchi Serai. Then darkness came; and there being no landmarks, the army was as a child that has lost its way at night in a trackless moor. Sometimes the masses were bent in their course by a voice shouting out, 'To the right!' and then again they would swerve the other way under the impulse of a cry, 'To the left!' All idea of bearings was so utterly lost, that even in their flight the fugitives could no longer be sure that they were retreating; for they did not know but that they might be marching all the while towards an enemy. Afterwards the uselessness of this wild movement in the dark got to be understood; and, shouts for a halt becoming general, the masses at length stood still.*
* One day at Balaclava I had some conversation with Lord Raglan respecting the panic which seized the Russian army on the banks of the Katcha, and he told me that he thought the panic may have been occasioned by the appearance of his patrols; but I have never heard from any other source that our cavalry patrolled to the neighbourhood of the Katcha on the evening of the battle; and I imagine that Lord Raglan must have spoken rather from what he inferred than from what he knew.

All this while, the Allied armies were quietly bivouacking upon the banks of the Alma, at a -distance of several miles from the enemy; and, the Staff of the Russian army having ascertained that no pursuit was going on, mounted officers and Cossacks were sent to announce to the wandering battalions that the Katcha was the rendezvous. But some of the messengers having received these directions before they crossed the river, carried on the very words entrusted to them with the servile exactness of a Chinese copyist, and told the troops which had long ago forded the stream, and were thence marching southward, that they were to 'go on to the 'Katcha.' Orders thus conveyed led to a belief that the stream already passed was not the Katcha; and although, in reality, the troops had overstepped the place of rendezvous, they imagined that they had not yet reached it.
Thus confusion was prolonged; but the halt began after a time to produce good effects. The officers called for men who could undertake to find the way back to the Katcha. Some were found. These acted as guides; and at midnight the wearied troops regained the river. For about two hours they rested; but then-by panic, it is believed, in the first instance, and afterwards by orders which the panic engendered - the army was hastily roused, and thrown once more into full retreat. It moved upon Sebastopol.*
* My knowledge respecting the enemy's retreat to the Katcha is mainly derived from Chodasiewicz; but on the 23d of September the peasantry of the village of Fakel, on the banks of the Katcha, described to me the scene of panic which they had witnessed in the night of the 20th.


In this action the French lost three officers killed;* and on grounds which he deemed, and (privately) stated to be, to his mind 'conclusive,' Lord Raglan came to the belief that their whole loss in killed was 60, and their number of wounded 500.**
* St Arnaud's Despatch.
** The French official accounts state the total loss of their army in killed and wounded at 1339 (or, according to M. St Arnaud's despatch, 1343), but those statements have not obtained such credence as to induce me to place the figures in the text. Lord Raglan, I know, believed not only that the French returns were grossly erroneous, but that they were intentionally falsified; for in the same letter in which he states it to be 'impossible' their accounts could be true' be also speaks of the 'pains' which the French authorities took to make him believe them. On the other hand, I think it right to say that I am acquainted with the grounds on which Lord Raglan based his low estimate of the French losses, and that, not thinking them quite so conclusive as he did, I have abstained from hazarding a positive statement on the subject. The field of battle did not give indication of considerable losses by the French; and I recollect that the morning after the battle a French soldier told me he estimated the whole loss of his people at fifty (une cinquantaine). As an actual estimate of the losses, of course, his statement was of no worth, but it went towards showing what was the first impression of the French army as to the extent of the carnage.

The English army lost 25 officers and 19 sergeants killed, and 81 officers and 102 sergeants wounded; and of rank and file 318 killed and 1438 wounded; making, with the 19 who were missing, and who are supposed to have been buried in the ruins of the houses in the village, a total loss of 2002. Including 5 generals, 23 field officers, and 170 officers of lower rank, the loss of the Russians in killed and wounded was officially stated at 5709; and of that number no less than 3121 were casualties sustained by one division alone-sustained by those 16 battalions of the Vladimir, the Kazan, the Sousdal, and the Ouglitz regiments which we saw engaged with our troops on the slopes of the Kourgane Hill. Except the Russians left wounded on the field, there were scarcely any prisoners taken by the Allies; and by the Russians none. Amongst the wounded Russians left on the field and taken by the English there were two general officers. Great quantities of small-arms were left upon the ground; but of prouder trophies there were few. The French captured a small four-wheeled open carriage, in which a clerk had been travelling with some official papers. The English had the gun taken by Captain Bell, and the howitzer abandoned by the enemy in the Great Redoubt.*
* On the following day the French quietly came with an artillery-team, and were going to carry off one of the guns taken by the English. An English officer caught them in the act, and prevented them from executing their purpose. This enterprising attempt was the more curious, since it happened that the gun was more than mile distant from the ground on which the nearest of the French troops had been moving. Apparently it was calculated that any Englishmen who chanced to observe the French drivers would assume that they were acting under authority from Lord Raglan, and that when once the gun was in the French lines, the transcendant importance of the alliance, and of a cordial feeling between the two armies, would he relied on as grounds which might prevent the English General from reclaiming it.


Whether it was wise to assail the enemy on his chosen ground, and to do so by a front attack instead of moving first so far eastward as to be able to come down on his left flank and compel him to fight with his back to the sea-this is a question highly interesting to soldiers;* but no such design was put forward at the time; and, if what Marshal St Arnaud definitely sought to do can he inferred from what he did, his intention as ultimately moulded was simply this: he resolved to possess himself of the unoccupied ground which lay between the Russian position and the seashore, to pit the rest of his forces against Prince Mentschikoff's left, and to leave to Lord Raglan the duty of dealing with the enemy's centre, as well as with his right wing.* Marshal Pelissier (the Duke of Malakoff) once spoke to me with immense vehemence on this subject, showing how, if he had been in command, he would have rolled up the Russian army from its right to its left and driven it to its utter destruction.


Told summarily, the battle of the Alma was this: - The French seized the empty ground which divided the enemy from the sea, and then undertook to assail the enemy's left wing; but were baffled by the want of a road for Canrobert's artillery, and by the exceeding cogency of the rule which forbids them from engaging their infantry on open ground without the support of cannon. Their failure placed them in jeopardy; for they had committed so large proportion of their force to the distant part of the West Cliff and the sea-shore, that for nearly an hour they lay much at the mercy of any Russian general who might have chosen to take advantage of their severed condition. But, instead of turning to his own glory the mistake the French had been making, Prince Mentschikoff hastened to copy it wasting time and strength in a march towards the sea-shore, and a counter-march back to the Telegraph. Still, the sense the French had of their failure, and the galling fire which Kiriakoff's two batteries were by this time bringing to bear on them, began to create in their army a grave discontent, and sensations scarce short of despondency. Seeing the danger to which this condition of things was leading, and becoming for other reasons impatient, Lord Raglan determined to order the final advance of the English infantry without waiting any longer for the time when Canrobert and Prince Napoleon should be established on the plateau. So the English infantry went forward, and in a few minutes the battalions which followed Codrington had not only defeated the two heavy columns which marched down to assail them, but had stormed and carried the Great Redoubt From that moment the hillsides on the Alma were no longer a fortified position; but they were still a battlefield, and a battlefield on which, for a time, the combatants were destined to meet with checkered fortune; for, not having been supported at the right minute, and being encompassed by great organised numbers, General Codrington's disordered force was made to fall back under the weight of the Vladimir column; and its retreat involved the centre battalion of the brigade of Guards. Nearly at the same time Kiriakoff, with his great 'column of the eight 'battalions,' pushed Canrobert down from the crest he had reached, obliging or causing him for the moment to hang back under the cover of the steep. At that time, the prospects of the Allies were overcast. But then the whole face of the battle was suddenly changed by the two guns which Lord Raglan had brought up to the knoll; for not only did their fire extirpate the Causeway batteries, and so lay open the Pass, but it tore through the columns of Prince Mentschikoff's infantry reserves, and drove them at once from the field. This discomfiture of the Russian centre could not but govern the policy of Kiriakoff, obliging him to conform to its movement of retreat; and he must have been the more ready to acknowledge to himself the necessity of the step he was taking, since by this time he had suffered the disaster which was inflicted upon his great 'column of the eight battalions' by the French artillery. He retreated without being molested by the French infantry, to take up a new position at a distance of two miles from the Alma; and soon afterwards, though the heads of their columns were struck by artillery fire, the French thronging up in great strength took possession of the Telegraph Height. At the moment when the French heads of columns appeared on the crest they had reached, Colonel Hood's Grenadiers in a distant part of the field were moving up to attack the battalions confronting them on the Kourgane Hill, and there, within a few minutes after a sheer fight of infantry, the enemy's whole strength was broken and turned to ruin by the Guards and the Highlanders. Thenceforth the slaughter that is wrought by artillery upon retreating masses was all that remained to be fulfilled.


The trophies, we saw, were scanty. But was there a gain of that priceless spoil which one nation takes from another when it proves itself the better in arms? The Western Alliance had the ear of Europe, and it awarded to itself an unstinted measure of glory. Was this glory honestly taken?
The Allies were more than 60,000, and of that strength the Russians fell short by a difference exceeding one-third. This was a disparity which made it unbecoming for the Great Alliance of the West to indulge in the language of a boisterous triumph. But, besides that the strength of the ground went some way towards making the conflict equal, the very faults and shortcomings of the Allies had the effect of putting a heavy stress upon some portions of their united army; for, by sending two-fifths of his army to the seashore, and by crowding the remainder of it upon a narrow front, the French Marshal placed Prince Gortschakoff and General Kvetzinski upon a numerical equality with their English foes;* and, the ground that our people assailed being entrenched and singularly strong by nature, the Russians in that respect had of course a great advantage over their English adversaries. Besides, though our forces were about equal in numbers to the part of the Russian army with which they had to deal, yet it happened that in each distinct infantry fight the English battalions were almost always confronted by masses far, far greater in numerical strength. Justly, therefore, there may be rendered to some of the components of the Allied army a part of the glory which history must refuse to the aggregate host.
* See Appendix, No. 11

At three o'clock, as we saw, the battle had been suffered to lapse into such a condition that there was then bitter need of a general, and of troops so placed in the field, and so inclined towards the practice of close fighting, as to be able to restore- to restore, as it were, by sheer force-the waning fortune of the day. How the occasion was met this History has shown. I narrate, and soldiers will comment. They must judge, and say whether, for simplicity's sake, it be better to pile up a heap of praise, and distribute it, like a cargo of medals, amongst all the French, English, and Turks who heard the sound of the guns; or, in a harsher and more careful spirit, to part off the troops which fought hard from the troops which scarce fought at all, and to show by whose ordering it was that the course of the battle was governed.
I have been eager to acknowledge the valour and the steadiness of the Russian infantry. If I had caused it to appear that, upon the whole, Marshal St Arnaud and the troops he commanded had done marvels on the day of the Alma, I should have been helping to prolong a belief in that which I know to be false, and should be even running counter to what, with good reason, I hold to be the opinion of the French army;* but I have tried to do careful justice to those who were then our allies by marking and commending the warlike quality which was displayed by their artillerymen, as well as by their keen, bold, active skirmishers. Of my own countrymen I have hardly once suffered myself to speak in words of praise. I have only told what they did.
* I speak in great measure from knowledge acquired long subsequently to the battle, but the conviction of which I speak was not slow to show itself in the French army. Writing three days after the battle, Lord Raglan said, 'The French army accomplished what they undertook perfectly well;' but then, and speaking of the conviction which was produced upon the English army by the fact that Marshal St Arnaud had not 'kept moving on after he had turned the enemy's left,' he adds, 'I have reason to believe that the same feeling is prevalent amongst the officers of the French army.' See extract~I the Appendix, No. X.

For any one who was not in the Crimea during the month which followed the battle of the Alma, it would be difficult to form a conception of the state into which the repute of the French army had fallen. Later events (and the first of these was the brilliant charge of two squadrons of the Chasseurs d'Afrique at Balaclava) showed that the warlike spirit of France was not extinct in her army.


It was thus that, during three sunny hours, a French and an English army fought side by side on the Alma but in comparing the conduct in battle of the two allied forces, it ought to be always remembered that the French were under a ban.
It would be unjust to look upon the action between Marshal St Arnaud and the Russian left wing as a fair sample of what a French army can do. That glance at the things done in Paris which helped us to understand the origin of the Anglo-French alliance, will now serve to teach us the cause of any shortcomings which may be attributed to the army commanded by Marshal St Arnaud.* We saw something of a strange decree which enacted that services rendered by military -men in their operations against Frenchmen should hold good as titles to advancement in the same way as though they were deeds done in war against the foreiguer.*
Incredible as it may seem, that decree was long observed to the full;** and the shameful principle which it involved was made to weigh heavily upon France during several of the months which followed the landing at Old Fort. Indeed, the principle, though partly waived for a time in 1855, was found to be still in dire operation long after the close of the Russian war. Just as in a later year the French Emperor entrusted to a scared and bewildered literary man the command of a whole French army in Italy, so now he committed the honour of the flag - committed it almost exclusively -to men who had shared with him in the adventure which put France under his feet. His reckoning was, that whether it were led by honourable and skilled commanders, or were tossed and flung into action by him and his December friends, a French army engaged in a short, brisk war against a Continental State would always be likely to push its way to more or less of success; and that if it should chance to do this under the leadership, or apparent leadership, of him and his friends, he and they would become similar to heroes. If they could attain to be thus thought of for a time, they might hope that for a still longer period they would enjoy the immunity and the thousand rewards which nations are accustomed to lavish upon victorious commanders.
* 'Invasion of the Crimea,' vol i chap. xiv.
** Ibid. Decree of 5th December 1851.
*** It was carried to the length of making Maguan and St Arnand Marshals of France.

This was the principle which governed the choice of the man to whose charge, on the day of the Alma, the honour of the French arms was left. He who commanded the army was St Arnaud, formerly Le Roy, the person suborned by Fleury. Under him in the Crimea there were four Divisions of French infantry. He who commanded the first of these Divisions was Canrobert. This officer, as I have said was not without honest titles to military distinction; but whilst he had a professional repute which would have earned him the approval of even the most loyal of monarchs, he had also the qualification which entitled him to the favour of the French Emperor. He had commanded one of the brigades which operated against the gay boulevards on the 4th of December. The 2d Division was commanded by Bosquet. Bosquet was a man without a stain; but he was the only French General of Division at the Alma who could say that he did not owe his command to the December plot; and since it happened that he was left isolated with only one brigade during the whole time when the issue of the battle was pending, his presence at the Alma was only an imperfect exception to what was, as it were, the general rule. He who commanded the large detached force of some 9000 men* which first crossed the river at its mouth was General Bouat; and Bouat, it seems, was an officer who earned his command by exploits against Parisians in the boulevard, the Rue St Denis, or the neighbourhood of the Nouvelle France He who commanded the 3d Division was Prince Napoleon. He who commanded the 4th Division was Forey; and no man could come within the principle of selection more clearly than he did, for it was he of whom I spoke when I said that he had suffered himself to be used as the assailant and the jailer of an unarmed Legislature. There were, besides, the Lourmels, the Espinasses, and numbers of others, no doubt, whose names could be easily found in their Emperor's list of worthies. Therefore it is that the part which was taken by Marshal St Arnaud and his troops in the battle of the Alma was no fair sample of what could be done by a French army. It was only a sample of what a French army could manage to do when it laboured under the weight of a destiny which ordained that all its chiefs should be men chosen for their complicity in a midnight plot, or else for acts of street slaughter.* Because they had perpetrated an extensive massacre of their own fellow-country-men, there was no certainty, perhaps, that they might not be men firm and able in honest war against the foreigner; but also there was no such close similarity between what these men had done in Paris and what they were meant to do in the Crimea, as to warrant the notion of entrusting to them almost exclusively the honour of the French flag. There was a salient point of difference between the boulevards and the hillsides of the Alma,- the Russians were armed.
* One of Bosquet's brigades and the whole of the Turkish Contingent, except the two battalions left to guard the baggage.
** With the 33d Regiment.
*** Prince Napoleon's complicity was only, as I am inclined to believe, a complicity after the fact; but it is, of course, clear enough that be owed his command entirely to the Coup d'Etat.

No! The Power which fought that day by the side of England was not, after all, mighty France, -brave, warlike, impetuous France;-it was only that intermittent thing which today is, and tomorrow is not;-it was what people call 'The French Empire.'*
* This was first published in January 1863, and in exactly the same words as now.


The battle of the Alma seemed to clear the prospects of the campaign and even of the war. It: confirmed to the allies that military ascendancy over Russia which had been more than half gained already by the valour of the Ottoman soldiery. It lent the current sanction of a victory to the hazardous enterprise of the invasion. It ended the perils of the march from Kamislu, and made smooth the whole way to the Belbec. It established the Allies as invaders in a province of Russia It did more. It offered them even Sebastopol, but always, nevertheless, upon condition that they would lay instant hands on the prize.
Return toIntroduction.

For further information about Crimea and the Crimean War please go to Crimea.
For complete listing of our material on Russian and military history please go to Xenophon. Return to Russian history main page.