Wednesday, 11 July 2012

More on Inkermann

Letters in the Journal de Toulouse, 24 November 1854


From an anonymous officer

"The 4th, before the battle, the besieged having received about 50,000 reinforcements, it was decided by the Russian generals, would, the next day, sally forth, supported by an attack that would be directed against the besiegers by the Russian army in the country.
The fifth, in the morning, the Russians favoured by the fog that prevailed, marched in consiberable numbers against us and fell on  a British division, before they could be recognised, even before the sentinels could have given the alarm signal. It seems that this is the second division  of the British army, who first received the shock of the attack, All other [British] divisions ran immediately to their aid and joined battle. The struggle was well supported by 8-10, 000 English against fifty thousand Russians, until nine o'clock morning.

Right at that point, General Canrobert, bringing reinforcements arrived on the battlefield and,
putting himself at the head of a regiment of Zouaves, he burst with real French impetuosity upon the Russians. It would be difficult to give an idea of ​​the fury, the fury with which both sides fought until two o'clock in the afternoon.

Around this time, the Russians began to retreat, leaving the battlefield littered corpses. Part of the French troops pursued the Russians to the walls of Sebastopol and entered in the same city. But the were not enough, and this small  column withdrew and regained its position.

From correspondance we have analysed, approximately 5,000 Russians were killed."

From an anonymous officer

"Before Sevastopol, November 7th.

Again a new battle which you will learn about before you receive my letter, which I hope gives you some details.

You know about our strategic position since we set siége before Sevastopol. We occupy the entire
part of the Crimea in the south of the city, until the Road from Sebastopol to Balaklava, which we guard to protect the landing of the provisions, equipments and army reinforcements, which is also done by the English.

The French Army of the Siege besieged the city from the sea to the harbour of Balaklava in the
South, the British army, from this port to the Valley of Inkerman, through which flows the Tchernaya.
As for our army of observation, it occupies a position behind the English camp, on the road to Balaklava where it is fortified in lines that Russians do not want to attack. The English
placed in front of us, are much less fortified, which forces them to be constantly alert
and exposes them to continual attacks of the  Russian army.

 Also, on the 5th, at three occasions, they are seen, attacked at seven o'clock in the morning,
organised by the columns in front of them, and after refusing our help, they came at a gallop, at
8 o’clock, asking for reinforcements. It was time! When our first horse artillery  batteries came
to meet the enemy, which became too threatening, and before which the British lost
much ground, the affair was engaged in the the camp of the English, whose tents were all
reversed. Our artillery, which was not supported by anything, it was so fast in arrival, suffered horribly at the beginning, they struggled alone against all the Russian artillery, and yet, in two hours, they
was mistress of the land on which they left more than 100 horses and 40 men. Fortunately the emergency crews arrived, because we ran out of ammunition in these batteries.

The Russian army withdrew in some disorder before our infantry and batteries of division which
gave chase in the valley of Inkerman. The battle lasted until 4 o’clock  in the evening, and was even hotter than the Alma!

The Valley had the most horrible spectacle. Three Russian battalions, who had vainly tried
to resist by not retreating with the others, were cut down by our musketry And in the valley  of cadavres it was not possible to pass without stepping on a dead horse or man. These poor fellows were left where they had been ordered to stay. It is difficult to assess the losses made on both sides: those of the Russians probably exceed six thousand, ours are quite small compared to those of English.

While this affair was going on on our right on the road to Balaklava and the heights that court
 the English camp, around a thousand Russians came out, close to the sea trying to take our siege batteries. Arriving before them they were able to cross our lines and take our batteries from behind. But, in less time than it takes to write, our  trench guards and our gunners massacred them; many of these unfortunates, who could escape only with great difficulty,  suffered great loss, and then the division of General Forey, whose brigades are commanded by Generals Lourmel and D’Aurelle, pursued them even under the strong batteries of the city in their killing lots of people. Our batteries were littered with Russian corpses and wounded and full of prisoners who had surrendered.

The brave General Lourmel, who was the momentum and spirit and triumphed 800 men agaisnt  3,000,
was hit by a bullet in the shoulder which raises concerns for him. However he is better today. This
attack all along the line is due to the arrival of reinforcementsRussian from Wallachia, and especially the two great characters, they say, Prince Michel and the Grand Duke Nicolas. For their first battle, these Princes are not happy."

From an anonymous letter

"The 5th of this month, we had a big land battle. The Russes wanted to honour the arrival
among them  of two Grand Dukes, in attacking us all along our lines. Profiting from a strong mist
they surprised us on our left a battery of sailors which unfortunately was not well
guarded. A company, and later a battalion, of the Foreign Legion arested them, have suffered much. A
brigade led by General de Lourmel soon arrived on the battlefield and strongly drove the Russians back in Sevastopol by a great slaughter. If we had been able to deliver an assault, this time would have beenbeen favorable, but by withdrawing our troops came under fire of Russian grapeshot that made them feel significant losses.

On our right, 30,000 Russians, under the eyes of the Grand Dukes, surprised the English, in which
there was a period of disorder. Already the Cossacks plundered their camp, when our 1st and 2nd
divisions arrived brining succour and admirably pushed back and crushed the Muscovites. The latter
have abandoned the field of battle,  leaving 12,000 weapons of all kinds, from 5 to 6.000 and a dead
number of prisoners on the field. The British had two generals killed and five injured.
We had a colonel and 30 officers killed, one General and two battalion chiefs of the 26th, badly
injured. Our soldiers and sailors are enthusiastic; they want to mount an assault to finish it, but final arrangements are notstill taken to capitalize on their bravery. Our sailors are working miracles."

From an anonymous letter

"While a Russian division under the command General Liprandi made a false attack
on the outposts of the British at Balaklava, the bulk of the army fell at Inkerman on the English lines. The French army, whose position allowed them to observe the tactics of the Russians, sent
reinforcements. General Cathcart, who thanked but did not accept, claiming the he would suffice to
repel the enemy which he thought was less important.
Indeed, he marched with four thousand men and met them bravely and withstood the shock. For
two hours, thisbrigade fought heroically against the mass of the their enemies, undeterred;
ammunition soon ran out, and it was the bayonet and the butts of rifles they turned to in this unequal struggle, the officers, at the head  of their companies, killed by the sword all Russians who came. But this struggle could not last long and the English felt the number would overwhelm them, and they cried with rage, not to be defeated, for they were all resolved to die, but unable to overcome.

Finally, perceiving the danger faced by English, five or six French battalions arrived at the
 run, crossing the Russian lines, the Zouaves and the Chasseurs de Vincennes accompanied
with a thousand hurrahs. The two bodies meet, and then it happens an admirable scene and perhaps unexampled; the English soldiers and French kiss with cries of enthusiasm, unite, and this corps, barely
ten thousand men, embarked in turn, the bayonet forward on the enemy. The enemy tries in vain to resist this fury, three times he returned to the charge, three times he was repulsed, he finally beats a retreat

Protected by his artillery, General Monet comes in turn with his brigade and artillery; with Captain Claudet  he completely destoryed the Russians who fled about four o'clock, and go into hiding
at side of the Stvernaya Redbout

During this heroic struggle, four thousand of the garrison, supported by another body
of four thousand men, came out of Sevastopol and pounced on the first French lines one
one hundred meters from Sebastopol. Companies of grenadiers support the trench without getting killed retreat an inch, when the General Leurmel arrives at the head of three or four battalions, charges the Russians, pushing them back and continues until twenty metre from the Quarantine Bastion, whose cannon supported the Russian attack. The garrison of this fort, seeing how close  the French have got and are about to enter with the fugitives, hastily abandoned the fort, and our troops will be rendered masters of it when General de Lourmel receives serious injury to chest and had to retire with his handful of brave men."

A letter from the French squadron.

"Constantinople, 10th Novemvber

We have arrived at the Bay of Kamiesh (near Sevastopol) and taken Prince Napoleon on board and 400
wound. His Imperial Highness has chronic dysentery and is much fatigued. He comes to repose in Constantinople.

The important event of recent days is the battle on the fifth, which we call of Inkerman.
Favoured by a thick fog, the Russians on Sunday morning came, numbering 40,000 men, to attack on several points the allied army. Our troops are spread over a line three to four miles from Sevastopol to Balaclava whose heights are guarded by a British division and by all the Turks. Two French divisions, the lst and second, form the corps of observation, three are assigned to the siege. Our positions
are very well defended by intrenchments of complete construction. The English have not taken
our own precaution.

The main action was begun by them. They were identified, invaded by the enemy, three
times greater. Their resistance was brilliant, but they would have succumbed to the number without
the arrival of the French division sent to their help. They were greeted by cheers! The forced the Russians to withdraw, but  they returned to the charge. We fought hand to hand. The carnage
was awful.

Finally the rout began, and the Russians fled, running like a herd of sheep. Our Zouaves, tired from plunging the bayonet in the kidneys of the fugitives took their muskets by the cannon and assailed with the butts. During this debacle, a sortie of upto 4.000men, has captured a battery of marine artillery
and spiked seven pieces (which had been cleared  by the evening of the same day). A brigade of the 4th Division took over the trench, which was filled with Russian corpses. It pursued the fugitives into the suburbs of Sevastopol, where the General Lourmel was wounded seriously.
The ground, a soldier told me, was covered with gray coats. The gray cloak covers indiscriminately
all Russians, cavalry and infantry, from the commander in chief to the last man. In the general melee, where the officers played a major role, the enemy has targeted preferably on the brilliant uniforms and shot a number proportionately greater.

Total losses amounted to both sides about the figure of the Alma. - The Russians always 4 or 5 times more casualties than us. Teirs are bad troops. They cant do much, without the formidable artillery they possess. They have a large number of guns and good Gunners. Our Zouaves have worked wonders for they tell me the Zouaves were hurrahed! the English. – “You beaten on the head 30 thousand Russians”, they were told by the General Bosquet.

The Russian army is 100,000 men. One is assured that Nicolas and Michel arrived with strong reinforcements, and had announce to their masters they had beaten neither French nor English in the Crimea. But far from destroying us, they have doubled the moral force of our army, who feels his superiority. Also a new glory to our arms is in the making. General Canrobert will account a great battle, as soon as the reinforcements come. A few thousand have already arrived and the remainder will not be slow in coming.

Sevastopol  has been completely evacuated by the  civilian inhabitants.
Fortifications are established in interior and the Russians are tireless in this type of work.
All through into the night  they repair the damage of the Day. We destroyed a battery, and are very
surprised the next morning to see it remade,beautiful. - the streets, the houses are fortified, they
6-800 have guns in front. All these works of defence were made since our arrival, and are
very difficult to destroy.

The general opinion is that we should have entered immediately after the battle of Alma.
Anyway, we enter when we will want. We let a lot of people; but the army which calls loudly for the assault, willoverthrow all obstacles. It would not be all-in-fact impossible for when the Russian army defeated, for us to fall on Simpheropol, cut the lines and to occupy it during the winter, and we sent away Sevastopol next spring. This is a combination. The key issue is to have good weather. God is for us, give us the weather, and no wonder."

1 comment: