After only retiring so far as to be nearly abreast of the Great Redoubt,
the column defeated by Lacy Yea's Fusiliers was able to rally and again show a
front to the English;* for it had on its right the great Vladimir column, which
still stood halted near the parapet of the Great Redoubt. On the right rear of
the Vladimir men there was a, double- battalion column, formed out of the Kazan
* After their defeat, the two battalions which composed the column seem to have
parted from one another. The two bodies into which it resolved itself remained,
bravely lingering on the hillside, though, having lost most of their officers,
they were in a helpless condition.
** The column defeated by the 19th Regiment, and by some of the men of the 23d.
On the right of that last column, but still further held back, there was
another double - battalion column, formed of the Sousdal corps; and next to
these, but much more in advance, and standing on the extreme right of the whole
of the Russian infantry, there were posted the two remaining battalions of the
Sousdal corps. Somewhere in this part of the field, there were the two
battalions of sailors. As an immediate reserve, or rather as a support for all
these forces, the four Ouglitz battalions were kept in hand on the higher
slopes of the Kourgane' Hill, and were still, as before massed in column. At
some distance on the extreme right of the Russian position, the enemy's cavalry
stood posted as before, confronting from afar, but never provoking, the
horsemen of our Light brigade. After allowing for casualties, and especially
for the heavy losses sustained by the column which engaged our 7th Fusiliers,
it may be conjectured that these Russian forces on the Kourgane hill amounted
to some 15,000 men. Except the Kazan battalions, none of these troops had been
hitherto engaged in hard fighting, for the triumphant Vladimir column had not
yet encountered formed troops. Nearly all the Russian artillery had been taken
away from the front, and, except that there were five pieces of ordnance not
yet withdrawn from the Lesser Redoubt, the enemy had no guns now remaining in
battery. The impending struggle was a fight -a sheer fight -of infantry.
At the moment when the troops which had stormed the redoubt began to retreat,
the 1st Division had not yet emerged from the cover afforded by the river's
bank; but General Codrington's message hurried the advance of the Scots
Fusilier Guards.* The battalion climbed up the bank, formed line with a good
deal of haste, and began to move forward.
* We saw that, at the time of passing the river, the left- flank company got
parted from the rest of the battalion. That separation lasted during the period
of the struggle which followed; and when, therefore, in this Note I speak of
the Scots Fusilier Guards in general terms, it must be understood that I mean
to designate that body of seven companies which remained together, when the
left-flank company had got parted from the rest of the battalion.
At this time, there were numbers of stragglers of the Light Division standing
about near the bank of the river; but in front of the left centre of the
Fusilier Guards there was a large disordered body (men chiefly, I believe, of
the 23d and 95th Regiments), who had just let go their hold of the redoubt.
These men had faced about to the front, and were firing in the direction of the
great column of the Vladimir corps then halted within the redoubt. The moment
the heads of the Fusilier Guards rose clear of the ground which till then had
been giving them shelter, the men found themselves under a flight of the
enemy's missiles, and the higher they marched, the more they incurred the fire
which seemed to be directed against the light infantry men in their front. Many
of the Fusilier Guards were struck down. Still, their onward movement was
Suddenly the parapet of the redoubt became thickly lined with Russian soldiery;
and, in the next instant, the fire of the enemy's musketry came heavily pouring
down into the confused body of light-infantry men who had been hitherto making
a stand in front of the Fusilier Guards. The crowd of light-infantry men which
received this fire gave way; and in another instant, it was coming down in a
mass towards the left centre of the Fusilier Guards. Perhaps the haste with
which the Fusilier Guards had been pushed forward was one of the causes which
hindered them from meeting the emergency by a fitting manoeuvre. It does not
appear that any step was taken to make the battalion open out. So presently,
the descending crowd came into bodily contact with the Fusilier Guards; and
this so heavily, that the crowd broke through a great part of the left wing of
the advancing battalion.
The weight of the retreating throng at that one spot was so great and so
unwieldy, that a soldier of the Scots Fusilier Guards was thrown, it is said,
to the ground with such force as to break his ribs.* The part of the Scots
Fusilier Guards which had thus been thrust out of line by physical pressure was
of course in a state of confusion.
* His name, I have heard, was Hesketh.
The remnant of the battalion thus maimed was, at the moment, without support;
for, directly in its rear, there were no formed troops coming on; and of the
two battalions on its right hand and its left, neither one nor the other had
hitherto come up abreast of it. On the other hand, the force which our Fusilier
Guards undertook to attack was that majestic Vladimir column which had just
been defeating Sir George Brown. With a strength of no more than perhaps some
four or five hundred men, the remnant of what had been the centre battalion of
the brigade of Guards was advancing all alone, not merely against a breast-work
thick lined with Russian soldiery, but also against a hitherto victorious
column which was nearly 3000 strong. Still, the maimed battalion pushed on; but
by this time it had so far lost its symmetry that it had come to be, as it
were, two sides of a triangle - two sides of a triangle whereof the salient
pointed straight to the front.
At the foremost point or apex thus formed, Lindsay was carrying the Queen's
colour; and the swiftness of his onward movement, coupled with the eagerness of
those who were near him to keep up with the colour, may have been the cause
which refracted the line. There was a good deal of impetuosity at this time,
and it would seem that the conception of what was the needful thing to do
was-not so much to labour after the restoration of complete order, but
rather-to carry the redoubt, and break down the great column by a rush; for in
the midst of such shouts as 'Forward Guards! Forward Guards'- Hugh Annesley was
heard cheering thus- the bent and irregular line pressed on; and at length it
had moved so far up the slope as to be within some thirty or forty yards of the
Work. Then numbers of the Russians burst out over the parapet, and some, it is
said, came straight on, with their bayonets down 'at the charge.' The Queen's
colour seemed to be in danger; for it was difficult to imagine that these
imperfectly formed companies of the Fusilier Guards could maintain themselves
long against the overwhelming weight of the column in their front. But the
immediate cause which brought about the retreat was, after all, the word of
command. I believe that the order to retire which now reached the battalion was
given by the authority of General Henry Bentinck, the officer commanding the
brigade. It was delivered to the line by the Adjutant of the Fusilier Guards.
With pistol in hand- for some of the Russian soldiery were coming close down-
Drummond, the Adjutant of the battalion, rode up and gave the order to retire.
By these words, as I gather, the battalion was stopped; but it did not
instantly obey the command to retire. There was a reluctance to fall back; and
it would seem that the feellug which caused this reluctance was not altogether
a false instinct; for, however imperative the necessity for retreating may have
been, the order had come too late to avert the impending disaster; and it is
likely enough that, being, as they were, in the close presence of a powerful
enemy, our men may have fancied there must needs be some mistake in an order
which directed them to go about at a moment when no due arrangements had been
made for covering their retreat. Be this as it may, the Adjutant (as it was his
duty to do) repeated the order. It seems he repeated it thrice; and the last
time, be was no longer content to say, 'the battalion will retire!' for he told
it with force that it 'must.'
I know of no means that were taken for covering the retreat. If any were tried,
they failed; for, the moment the battalion obeyed the word of command, it
lapsed into a state of disorder, and then fell back in confusion. Seeing this,
the soldiery thrown out by the Russians in advance of their great column pushed
forward with in-creasing boldness, and the Queer's colour was now in greater
danger than ever. But borne by a resolute officer, and surrounded by resolute
men, it was guarded with care to the last, and kept safe from the enemy's
touch.* At one moment, the foremost of the assailants were so close, that a
soldier of the Fusilier Guards received a wound in the hand from, a bayonet. It
was then that the Fusilier Guards suffered the chief part of their losses. By
its retreat, the battalion seemed, as it were, to draw the enemy forward; for
the great Vladimir column, which had hitherto stood halted within the redoubt,
now broke out over the parapet, and undertaking pursuit, began to glide down
* It was for his resolute defence of the colour at this juncture, that Lindsay
received the Victoria Cross.
For some time, a great part of the Fusilier Guards remained in confusion on the
lower part of the slope; but Dalrymple's, and also, I think, Jocelyn's
companies, were rallied so quickly as to be enabled to partake of the fight
which engaged the Grenadier Guards; and, before long, the main part of the
battalion had not only been reformed in advance of the road running parallel
with the river, but was briskly resuming its place in the centre of the brigade
** In the report which the Duke of Cambridge addressed to headquarters the day
next hut one after the battle, H. R. H. states that the Fusilier Guards
reformed 'with the greatest alacrity.' Holograph MS. Report of the 22d
September 1854, by H.R.H.
In the course of this struggle grave losses befell the Scots Fusilier Guards.
Lord Chewton and 3 sergeants were killed. Colonel Dalrymple, Colonel Berkeley,
Colonel Hepburn, Colonel Haygarth, Astley, Buiwer, Buckley, Gipps, Lord
Ennismore, and Hugh Annesley,* and 13 sergeants, were wounded; and of the rank
and file 17 were killed and 137 wounded.
* It happened to me afterwards to see and wonder at the high courage and
composure with which Annesley bore his dreadful wound. A musket-shot had
entered his jaw, and passed, tearing its way through the mouth. The wound was
of such a kind that it seemed as though nothing but death could be of use to
him. Yet he was not only uncomplaining, but able to think and act for others.
When Colonel Hood consented to move forward his battalion against the column
just defeated by Lacy Yea, he at once caused his men to ascend the bank which
had hitherto sheltered it;** and, as soon as the battalion was on the top, its
left wing began to incur a good deal of fire from men acting with the Vladimir
column. Burgoyne, carrying one of the colours, was wounded; and, the charge of
the colours then devolving on Lieutenant Robert Hamilton, he also in the next
minute was struck down by shot; but he quickly rose from the ground, recovered
his hold of the standard, and was able to carry it to the end of the battle.
Under this fire, the battalion dressed its ranks with precision, and marched
forward in faultless order.*** This perfect order it kept till its left wing
encountered some of the clusters of men coming down from the Great Redoubt.
** Colonel Hood had not failed to seize the precious opportunity which was
offered to his battalion by the sheltering steepness of the bank. In a private
letter he writes: 'Under the steep bank of the river, we closed in to our
centre; and to this manoeuvre our after-success was mainly attributable.'
*** 'We formed in perfect and compact order on the top of the bank, and then
advanced steadily up the intrenched position-.' -Colonel Hood, private letter.
Then the battalion neatly opened its ranks for the passage of the retreating
soldiery, and afterwards formed up anew.* This done, it marched on.
* 'Our 6th and 7th companies opened out to let them pass, and closed up as
coolly as if in Hyde Park. '-Colonel Hood, Private letter.
Meanwhile, General Codrington had been labouring to bring together the remnant
of his brigade. Sergeant O'Connor, despite his grievous wound, still bore the
colour of the Royal Welsh, which he had been carrying with loving care
throughout the worst stress of the fight. The missing colour of the Royal
Fusiliers, now committed to the honour of the Welsh regiment, was borne by
Captain Pearson. Around these two standards General Codrington rallied such men
as he could gather, and made them open out and form line two deep. The body
thus formed numbered about 300 men, and General Codrington wished to place it
on the left of the Grenadiers, in order to fill a part of the chasm at that
moment lying quite open in the centre of the Brigade of Guards.**
** Of course it is not intended that these words 'chasm' and 'interval' (which
occur in several places) should be taken as indicating that the Scots Fusilier
Guards were far away, but merely that for the moment, the main body of the
battalion had lost its formation, and was reforming upon an alignment little in
rear of that on which the Grenadiers were standing.
But it occurred to him -for he was himself a Guardsman, and he knew the
feelings of the corps- that to place soldiers of the line a breast of the
Grenadiers, and in the room of the broken regiment, might give pain to a
battalion of the Guards; so be sent to the Grenadiers to know if they would
like troops to come up to fill the empty space. The answer was a proud one. It
was also, perhaps, a rash answer; for the Vladimir column -compact and strong,
with a sense of the power it had just put forth- was not only impending over
the left front of the Grenadiers, but also in part confronting the vacated
interval. However, the answer was 'No!' and the Grenadiers, with their left
flank stark open, but in beautiful order, contentedly marched up the slope.*
* It was in disobedience to the contingent orders he had received that Colonel
Hood thus advanced with the Grenadiers.In his journal he writes: 'Last order
received by me was from Captain Fielding, Brigade-Major (when battalion was
lying down under cannonade and shelling) "The Brigadier desires you to
conform to any movements on your left."' Now the movement on Colonel
Hood's left, to which, by the words of General Bentinck's orders, he thus found
himself told to conform, was the retreat of the Fusilier Guards. In other words
there had occurred an event which placed Colonel Hood under orders to retire.
Therefore it was that, immediately after the sentence above quoted, he wrote in
his journal these words: 'Thank God, I disobeyed!!" Advanced steadily in
The sentiment which had thus rejected the aid proffered by General Codrington
was not one universally entertained by the officers of the Guards. A little
later, and at a moment when the Grenadiers were halted on the slope, with the
Vladimir column impending over their left flank, Major Hume of the 95th, and an
ensign of the same corps, came bearing the colours of their regiment, and
having with them eight men. Hume, accosting Colonel Hamilton, who commanded the
left wing of the Grenadiers, said that the eight men then following the colours
of the 'Derbyshire' were all that remained together, and that he wished to take
part with the Grenadiers in continuing the fight. Colonel Hamilton, assenting,
told Hume to fall in on the left of the Grenadiers. Afterwards, other men of
the 'Derbyshire' came up and joined their colours. A few moments later, Colonel
Berkeley came up, bringing with him some men of the Scots Fusilier Guards, and
Colonel Dalrymple also acceded with a company of the same regiment which he had
held together from the first. With General Bentinck's sanction, all these
portions of what had been the centre battalion formed line on the left of the
Grenadiers. These accessions, of course, did but little towards filling the
vacated interval; but on the left of the chasm still open, there stood the
'Coldstream' battalion. This battalion of the Guards confronted the centre and
right of the great Vladimir column, and was drawn up in line with beautiful
precision. It had been much less exposed to fire and mishaps than either of the
other battalions of the brigade; and, besides, had not been pressed forward (as
each of the two other battalions had been) to meet any especial emergency. So
it fell to the lot of this Coldstream battalion to become an almost prim sample
of what our Guards can be in the moment which precedes a close fight. What the
best of battalions is, when, in some Royal Park at home, it manoeuvres before a
great Princess, that the Coldstream was now on the banks of the Alma, when it
came to show its graces to the enemy. And it was no ignoble pride that caused
the battalion to maintain all this ceremonious exactness; for although it be
true that the precision of a line in peace-time is only a success in mechanics,
the precision of a line on a hillside with the enemy close in front is at once
the result and the proof of a steady warlike composure. And it ought to be
borne in mind that what our troops were now undertaking in this part of the
field was -not to swell the tide of a victory, but -to try to retrieve
Happily, it is then, just then, after a discomfiture sustained in their front,
that English soldiery advancing in support often give superb proof of their
quality; for by nature they are so constituted, that the ill fortune of their
comrades does not commonly affect them with feelings of discouragement, but, on
the contrary, is apt to heat their blood by rousing an emotion like anger; and,
when they have thus been wrought upon, they are sterner men for a foe to have
to do with than they are when all has gone well.
The extreme left of the Coldstream was nearly in the centre of the troops which
the Duke of Cambridge commanded, and with this battalion, accordingly, His
Royal Highness was present in person. With it, also, there was a visitor, whose
presence showed the strength of the tie between the officer and his regiment.
Colonel Steele had broken loose from his duty at Headquarters, and was riding
with his own beloved "Coldstream".*
* He was military secretary to Lord Raglan.
Further to the left, and in the same formation, the three battalions of the
Highland Brigade were extended. But the 42d had found less difficulty than the
93d in getting through the thick ground and the river, and, again, the 93d had
found less difficulty than the 79th; so, each regiment having been formed and
moved forward with all the speed it could command, the brigade fell naturally
into direct echelon of regiments, the 42d in front.
Go to maps. Go to illustrations.
And although this order was occasioned by the nature of the ground traversed,
and not by design, it seemed, nevertheless, so well suited to the work in hand
that Sir Colin Campbell did not for a moment seek to change it.
These young soldiers, distinguished to the vulgar eye by their tall stature,
their tartan uniforms, and the plumes of their Highland bonnets, were yet more
marked in the eyes of those who know what soldiers are by the warlike carriage
of the men, and their strong, lithesome, resolute step. And Sir Colin Campbell
was known to be so proud of them, that already, like the Guards, they had a
kind of prominence in the army, which was sure to make their bearing in action
a broad mark for blame or for praise.
From the time when General Buller had judged it right to abstain from bringing
his force to the support of his comrades in the Great Redoubt, the two
battalions which remained under his control had stood halted near the bank of
the river, and one of them, the 88th, was still formed in a hollow square, as
though expecting a charge of cavalry. Sir Colin Campbell conceived that this
attitude of the 88th was unsuited to the time and the place, and, not knowing
that General Buller in person was directing the regiment, Sir Colin, in some
anger, took upon himself to request, nay, almost to command, that the hollow
square should be instantly changed into line-formation. When the ranks of the
Highlanders came up to this part of the ground, and still went on continuing
their advance, a man of one of the halted regiments - a man speaking perhaps in
a coarse cynic spirit, perhaps in the deep, honest bitterness of his
heart-cried out, 'Let the Scotchmen go on! they'll do the work!' Then the
Highlanders marched through, and continued their forward movement.
After this, the 88th, although still formed in square, and the 77th, then
extended in line, were both of them for the moment falling back; and: meanwhile
the now dispersed soldiery who had been forced to relinquish the redoubt were
spread out along the lower part of the slope firing powerless shots towards the
earthwork. It seemed to Sir Colin Campbell that this state of discomfiture; on
the part of Sir George Brown's troops was fast involving the fate of the
battle, and that it was a thing of great need to show, and to show at the very
instant, a steady and well-formed battalion ranged frank and fair on the slope.
With this intent he was carrying forward the 42d, and placing it in advance of
the alignment which the Coldstream was taking up on his right. The 42d had just
been taking ground to its left, and was still in the formation which had been
resorted to for effecting the change -that is, it was in open column of
companies, 'right in front,' and facing westwards, but was preparing to wheel
into line. So far as concerned all this part of the field, the fight was in its
crisis. The Staff of the 1st Division were near the left, or left front of the
Coldstream, and not far from the ground where the grenadier company of the 42d
stood ranged. It was in this condition of things that men heard a voice
exclaiming, and uttering mischievous words.
'The brigade of Guards will be destroyed,' said one adviser; and he asked
whether it ought not to fall back a little in order to recover its formation?
These words, as I hear, were not spoken by an officer holding any high rank,
and accordingly owe all their importance to the answer they quickly elicited
and the change which thereupon followed.
He who answered the question* was a veteran soldier, and it was with a
deference no less wise than graceful that the Duke of Cambridge loved to seek
and to follow his counsels.
* He answered the question the moment he heard its purport told to him. He had
not himself heard it fall from the lips of the officer with whom it originated.
Note to 3d Edition.
Whilst Ensign Campbell was passing from boyhood to man's estate, be was made
partaker in the great transactions which were then beginning to work out the
liberation of Europe. In the May of 1808 he received his first commission -
commission in the 6th Foot; and a few weeks afterwards -then too young to carry
the colours -he was serving with his regiment upon the heights of Vimieira.
There, the lad saw the turning of a tide in human affairs; saw the opening of
the mighty strife between 'Column' and 'Line';* saw France, long unmatched upon
the Continent, retreating before British infantry; saw the first of Napoleon's
stumbles, and the fame of Sir Arthur Wellesley beginning to dawn over Europe.
* In his most interesting and most valuable 'Life of the Duke of Wellington,'
Mr Gleig repeats the description of Vimieira, which the Duke once gave in his
presence at -Strathfieldsaye. The Duke's words are thus given by Mr Gleig: 'The
French came on, on that occasion, with great boldness, and seemed to feel their
way less than I always found them to do afterwards. They came on, as usual, in
very heavy columns, and I received them in line, which they were not accustomed
to, and we repulsed them three several times.'
He was in Sir John Moore's campaign, and at its closing scene-Corunna. He was
with the Walcheren expedition; and afterwards, returning to the Peninsula, he
was at the battle of Barossa, the defence of Tarifa the relief of Taragona, and
the combats at Malaga and Osma. He led a forlorn hope at the storming of St
Sebastian, and was there wounded twice; he was at Vittoria; he was at the
passage of the Bidassoa; he took part in the American war of 1814; he served in
the West Indies; he served in the Chinese war of 1842. These occasions he had
so well used that his quality as a soldier was perfectly well known. He had
been praised and praised again and again; but since he was not so connected as
to be able to move the dispensers of military rank, he gained promotion slowly,
and it was not until the second Sikh war that he had a command as a general:
even then he had no rank in the army above that of a colonel. At Chilianwalla
he commanded a division. Marching in person with one of his two brigades, he
had gained the heights on the extreme right of the Sikh position, and then
bringing round the left shoulder, he had rolled up the enemy's line and won the
day; but since his other brigade (being separated from him by a long distance)
had wanted his personal control, and fallen into trouble, the brilliancy of the
general result which he had achieved did not save him altogether from
criticism. That day he was wounded for the fourth time. He commanded a division
at the great battle of Gujerat; and, being charged to press the enemy's
retreat, he had so executed his task that 158 guns and the ruin of the foe were
the fruit of the victory. In 1851 and the following year he commanded against
the hill-tribes. It was he who forced the Kohat Pass. It was he who, with only
a few horsemen and some guns, at Punj Pao, compelled the submission of the
combined tribes then acting against him with a force of 8000 men. It was he
who, at Ishakote, with a force of less than 3000 men, was able to end the
strife; and when he had brought to submission all those beyond the Indus who
were in arms against the Government, he instantly gave proof of the breadth and
scope of his mind as well as of the force of his character; for he withstood
the angry impatience of men in authority over him, and insisted that he must be
suffered to deal with the conquered people in the spirit of a politic and
After serving with all this glory for some forty-four years he came back to
England; but between the Queen and him there stood a dense crowd of families -
men, women, and children -extending further than the eye could reach, and armed
with strange precedents which made it out to be right that people who had seen
no service should be invested with high command, and that Sir Colin Campbell
should be only a colonel. Yet he was of so fine a nature that, although he did
not always avoid great bursts of anger, there was no ignoble bitterness in his
sense of wrong. He awaited the time when perhaps he might have high command,
and be able to serve his country in a sphere proportioned; to his strength. His
friends, however, were angry for his sake; and along with their strong devotion
towards him there was bred a fierce hatred of a system of military dispensation
which could keep in the background a man thus tried and thus known.
Upon the breaking-out of the war with Russia, Sir Colin was appointed-not to
the command of a division, but of a brigade. It was not till the June of 1854
that his rank in the army became higher than that of a colonel.
Campbell was not the slave, he was the master of his calling, and therefore it
was that he had been able to save his intellect from the fate of being drowned
in military details. He knew that although a general must have a complete
mastery of even the smallest of such things, still they were only a part -a
minute though essential part -of the great science of war. He understood the
precious material whereof our army is formed. He heartily loved our soldiery;
for he was a soldier, and had fellow-feeling with soldiers, and they had
fellow-feeling with him. Instinctively they knew that, together, they might do
great things -he by their help, they by his. Knowing the worth of their
devotion and their bodily strength, he cherished them with watchful care; and
they, on their part, loved, honoured, and obeyed him with a faith that all he
ordered was right. He set great store upon discipline, but it was never for
discipline's sake that he did so (as if that were itself an end), but because
he knew it to be one of the main sources of military ascendancy. So, although
the officers and soldiers serving under him got no more rest than was good for
them, they were never vexed wantonly; and in proportion as they grew in
knowledge of their calling, they came to understand why it was that their chief
compelled them to toil.
A bodily ardour for fighting may be more or less masked and hidden; but he to
whom this great passion has not been vouchsafed by nature, is wanting in one of
the qualities which go to make a general. For warfare is so anxious and complex
a business, that against every vigorous movement heaps of reasons can for ever
be found; and if a man is so cold a lover of battle as to have no stronger
guide than the poor balance of the arguments and counter-arguments which he
addresses to his troubled spirit, his mind, driven first one way and then
another, will oscillate, or even revolve, turning miserably on its own axis,
and making no movement straight forward. Now, it is a characteristic still
marking the Scottish blood, that often-and not the less so when it flows in the
veins of a gentle-hearted being-it is seen to fire strangely and suddenly at
the prospect of a fight. Campbell loved warfare with a deep passion; and at the
thought of battle his grand, rugged face used to kindle with uncontrollable
'The brigade of Guards will be destroyed, 'ought it not to fall back?' When Sir
Colin Campbell heard this saying, his blood rose so high that the answer he
gave -impassioned and far-resounding - was of a quality to govern event.
"It is better, sir, that every man of Her Majesty's Guards should lie dead
upon the field than that they should now turn their backs upon the enemy!'
Then speaking apart to H.R. H. the Duke of Cambridge, Sir Colin counselled him
to go straight on with the Guards, and at the same time he himself undertook to
turn the Redoubt by at once moving up with his 42d Regiment. Doubts and
questionings ceased. The advance was continued. Sir Colin Campbell rode off to
It was upon Sir Colin Campbell now, as on General Buller a short time before,
that there devolved the anxious duty of securing the Allied armies from any
flank attack which might be undertaken against them at a moment when our troops
were engaging the enemy in front; and Sir Colin, at one moment, judged that
with the battalion which formed his extreme left he ought to stand ready to
show a front in any direction. He, therefore, sent Sterling to direct that the
79th should go into column.*
* It is from a body of troops massed in column that the greatest variety of
manoeuvres can be quickly and safely evolved. When a battalion extended in line
is called upon to change its front, the radius of the segment in which it must
wheel is of course very long.
But, seen in the dim field of battle an enemy's force bears marked on its front
faint, delicate, momentous signs, analogous to those which, in speaking of a
man or a woman, are called 'expression of countenance;' and it is given to men
who know and love the business of war to be able to read those signs. Sir Colin
Campbell well understood that the enemy ought to assail his left flank with a
storm of horse, foot, and artillery; and, to deal with any such onslaught, he
at first took care to stand ready; but when he came to ride forward and gain
higher ground, the old soldier was able to divine that with all their horsemen,
and all their columns of infantry, the Russians would venture nothing against
his flank. He therefore recalled his order to the 79th, and allowed it to go
forward in line.
Including the chasm which divided the Grenadier Guards from the Coldstream, the
whole line in which the Duke of Cambridge now moved forward to the attack of
the Kourgane Hill was more than a mile and a half in length.*
* The 1st Division alone was upon a greater front than had been covered by the
47th Regiment, Pennefather's brigade, and the Light Division all put together,
yet it did not cover a foot more of ground than was right. We before saw the
effect produced by trying to put ten battalions upon ground which was now found
to be not more than enough for six. It is hardly necessary to say that a
knowledge of the quantity of ground covered by a single battalion in a
barrack-yard would not give a sufficient clue for getting at the extent of
ground which was covered by six battalions drawn up in line upon a field of
battle. Sir Colin Campbell was free to take ground to, his left, and he took it
amply, contriving to outflank, or almost to outflank, the enemy's infantry
It was only two deep; but his right regiment was supported by a part of Sir
Richard England's Division; and Sir George Cathcart was on its left rear with
the part of his Division then on the field. On the extreme left and left rear
of the whole force there was the cavalry under Lord Lucan.
These troops were going to take part in the first approach to close strife
which men had yet seen on that day between bodies of troops in a state of
formation deliberately marshalled against each other. The slender red line
which began near the bridge, and vanished from the straining sight on the
eastern slopes of the Kourgane Hill, was a thread which in any one part of it
had the strength of only two men. But along the whole line, from east to west,
these files of two men each were strong in the exercise of their country's
great prerogative. They were in English array. They were fighting in line
* The French had not been engaged in any conflicts of this sort for, though the
head of Canrobert's Division confronted formed troops for a moment at a
distance of a few hundred yards, it dropped back, as we saw, without fighting.
Evans's struggle had been in thick ground, not allowing regular array.
Codrington's people (including Lacy Yea's Fusiliers as well as the stormers of
the redoubt) had had hard fighting, and against troops in perfect order, but
they had gone through their struggles without the advantage of being themselves
in a state of formation.
After the rupture of the peace of Amiens, Sir Arthur Wellesley, being then in
India, became singularly changed, growing every day more and more emaciated,
and seemingly more and more sad. He pined; and was like a man dying without any
known bodily illness, the prey of some consuming thought. At length he suddenly
announced to Lord Wellesley his resolve to go back to England; and when he was
asked why, he said, 'I observe that in Europe the French are fighting in column
and carrying everything before them; and I am sure that I ought to go home
directly, because I know that our men can fight in line.' From that simple yet
mighty faith he never swerved; for always encountering the massive columns of
infantry, he always was ready to meet them with his slender line of two deep.
With what result the world knows.*
* An account of Sir Arthur Wellesley's pining sickness- his 'wasting away,' as
he himself described it-is given in published accounts of men who remarked it
(in Malcolm's book, I think, or Monro's), and his disclosure of the motive
which caused him to return to Europe was preserved and handed down by Lord
Wellesley. What I have ventured to do is to seem to connect the pining sickness
with the mighty resolve which was destined to change the fate of the world.
Long years had passed since the close of those great wars, and now once more in
Europe there was going to be waged yet again the old strife of line against
Looking down a smooth, gentle, green slope, checkered red with the slaughtered
soldiery who had stormed the redoubt, the front-rank men of the great Vladimir
column were free to gaze upon two battalions of the English Guards, far apart
the one from the other, but each carefully drawn up in line; and now that they
saw more closely, and without the distractions of artillery, they had more than
ever grounds for their wonder at the kind of array in which the English
soldiery were undertaking to assail them. 'We were all astonished,' says
Chodasiewicz -yet he wrote of what he saw when the English line was much less
close to the foe than the Guards now were -we were all astonished at the
extraordinary firmness with which the red-jackets, having crossed the river,
opened a heavy fire in line upon the redoubt. This was the most extraordinary
thing to us, as we had never before seen troops fight in lines of two deep, nor
did we think it possible for men to be found with sufficient firmness of morale
to be able to attack in this apparently weak formation our massive columns.
Beginning on our right hand with the Grenadier Guards, and the few men
brought up along-side them under Dalrymple, Berkeley, and Hume, and going
thence leftwards across the still open 'chasm,' to the Coldstream battalion,
and, lastly, going yet further leftwards to the array of the Highland Brigade,
we shall now see what manner of strife it was when at length, after many a
hindrance, five British battalions, each grandly formed in line, but imperilled
by the yawning gap at which tacticians might shudder, marched up to the enemy's
Advancing upon the immediate left of the ground already won by Pennefather's
brigade, the Grenadiers were covered on their right, but their left, or to
speak more exactly, the left of the few men aligning with them, remained
altogether uncovered; and it was over the very ground thus lying wide open
before them that the Vladimir battalions stood impending.
The Grenadiers were marching against the defeated but now rallied Kazan column
which had fought with the Royal Fusiliers, when Prince Gortschakoff rode down
to the two left battalions of the Vladimir, and undertook to lead them forward
in person. First sending his only unwounded aide-de-camp to press the advance
of any troops he could find, the Prince put himself at the head of the two left
Vladimir battalions, and ordered them to charge with the bayonet. The Prince
then rode forward a good deal in advance of his troops and his order for a
bayonet charge was so far obeyed, that the column, without firing a shot, moved
boldly down towards the chasm which had been left in the centre of our brigade
of Guards. The north west angle of this strong and hitherto victorious column
was coming down nearer and nearer to the file-the file composed of only two men
which formed the extreme left of the Grenadiers. Then, and by as fair a test as
war could apply, there was going to be tried the strength of the
line-formation, the quality of the English officer, and the quality of the
English soldier. Colonel Hood brought the line to a halt, and was about to
execute the manoeuvre which will be presently mentioned, when his troops had to
meet new peril in the apparition of that unknown 'mounted officer' who so often
comes riding up in moments of crisis, directs the troops to fall back, and then
all at once gallops away without having been surely identified. The horseman
approached the left flank company of the Grenadiers, and cried out 'Retire!'
But Colonel Henry Percy looking at the Vladimir column, and seeing at the
instant what ought and what ought not to be done, met the danger by promptly
insisting that the movement really meant to be enjoined by the mounted officer
must needs be that very one which the conjuncture seemed to require. 'Retire!'
said Colonel Percy. 'What the devil can they mean? They must mean 'dress back''
and in the next moment, Percy (acting under the authority of Colonel Hamilton
who commanded the left wing), aided by Neville his senior subaltern, began
causing the left subdivision of the left flank company to 'dress back' at such
an angle as to make it face the Vladimir column; and this, it quickly appeared,
was exactly what Colonel Hood wished, for he rode up and directed Colonel Percy
to go on with the operation.
The wound Percy received at this time did not hinder him from completing his
task, and in a few moments the subdivision stood ranged on a line so refracted
as to be forming an obtuse angle with the rest of the battalion. So whilst,
with the main part of his force, he still faced the Kazan battalions that had
confronted him from the first, Colonel Hood showed also a front - a small, but
smooth, comely front -to the Vladimir column now coming on with a mind to turn
his left flank, and march straight down through the chasm. In an instant, his
ready manoeuvre brought the Vladimir troops to a halt; and men seeing the
stately battalion thus adapting its front to the exigency, and stopping the
enemy's column, might well enough say that the colonel was handling his fine
slender English blade with a singular grace - with the gentleness and grace of
the skilled swordsman, when, smiling all the while he parries an angry thrust.
In the midst of its pride and strength, the Vladimir found itself checked, nay,
found itself gravely engaged with troops so few as to comprise but half a
company of our Guardsmen. They were aided, however, by Dalrymple with the
company of the Scots Fusilier Guards which we saw him bring up; for he put his
line into conformity with the change of front effected by Percy; and the like
was done also by those few other soldiers under Berkeley, and Hume who had
ranged themselves on Colonel Hood's left. Thus the fire of perhaps altogether
some six or seven score of men was brought to bear upon the Vladimir column,
and with effect, for it poured into a close mass of living men. Colonel
Dalrymple fired in volleys, and complacently counted them, reckoning up no less
than fifteen; but the Grenadiers chose another method, and stood file-firing
along their whole line. See diagram Second Fight for
On the left of the chasm still open in the centre of the brigade of Guards, and
on ground less advanced than that reached by Colonel Hood's Grenadiers, there
stood the Coldstream battalion commanded by Colonel Upton, and drawn up in
magnificent order; but to this spot, apparently, the 'unknown mounted officer'
must have sped, when he vanished from the sight of the Grenadiers, for down the
ranks of the Coldstream the word was passed to 'Retire;' and 'the retire,'
moreover, was sounded by buglers along the line ;* but the false command was
met by an outburst of regimental opinion expressed in loud cries of 'No No!'
This resistance alone, it would seem, proved strong enough to counteract the
false order, for the Coldstream battalion kept its ground, then advanced, and
was soon directing its fire upon the two more battalions which formed the right
wing of the Vladimir.
* With respect to the 'unknown mounted officer,' and the perturbing commands
often given to our troops in action without apparent authority, see Appendix,
We shall see the share that other Russian and other British troops were
destined to have in governing the result of the struggle; but if for a moment
we limit our reckoning to the troops which stood fighting at this time, it
appears that the whole of the four Vladimir battalions and the lessened mass of
the left Kazan column were engaged with the Grenadiers and the Coldstream. In
other words, two English battalions, each ranged in line, but divided the one
from the other by a very broad chasm, were contending with six battalions in
column. And although of these six battalions standing in column there were two
which had cruelly suffered, the remaining four had hitherto had no hard
fighting, and were flushed with the thought that they stood on ground which
they themselves had reconquered.
Go to maps. Go to illustrations.
Go to part 9.