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A blog of Nineteenth Century history, focusing, but not exclusively, on the American Civil War seen through the prism of personal accounts, newspaper stories, administrative records and global history.
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A Capitol View

A Capitol View
Images of 1861 juxtaposed- Union Square, New York vs. Capitol Square, Richmond

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

McClellan's Crimean Report VI

Plan des Attaques by Capitaine Charles Alexandre Fay, French staff officer

The general configuration of the harbor of Sebastopol, and the peninsula to the south of it, is too well known to require description. The most striking and, in their bearing upon the siege, the most important features are: First. The complete isolation of the high plateau of the peninsula from the main Crimea by the nearly continuous valleys of Balaklava and the Tchernaya. Second. The lofty and almost inaccessible escarpment which limits the plateau towards the east, south, and to a great extent on the north. Third. The deep and difficult ravines which intersect this very irregular surface.
Some points of the plateau exceed 700' in elevation the average height of the escarpment above the valleys of Balaklava and the Tchernaya may safely be taken at 400'. It need scarcely be stated that this plateau formed for the allies a position of great strength.
Of the many ravines by which it is intersected, it is only those from the Careening to the Quarantine bays, inclusive, that have an immediate bearing on the works of attack and defence. All of these have their origin quite close to the eastern border of the plateau.
The most important is the great central ravine, the main branch of which commences quite near the "Col de Balaklava"-the depression through which the main road from Balaklava to Kamiesch ascends the plateau -then runs a little west of north, forming, where it enters the town, the inner harbor, which separates Sebastopol from the Karabelnaia suburb. During nearly the first half of the siege the French approaches were confined to the west of this ravine, occupying all the space thence to the sea; while the English were on the east, occupying the ground only as far as the Otchakoff ravine; in other words the original French attack was directed against the city proper, while that of the English was against a portion of the Karabelnaia suburb.
It is now time to state that when the allies reached Balaklava the land defences of Sebastopol, on the south side, consisted of a loopholed wall, 4' 8" thick, and from 18' to 20' high, extending from the western point of Artillery bay to the position afterwards occupied by the Central Bastion; thence around the Karabelnaia suburb to the main harbor, the only defence consisted of the Malakoff tower, a semicircular structure, with two stories of loopholes and 5 guns in barbette.
To resume the description of the ground west of the central ravine: the Artillery Bay ravine commences about three-quarters of a mile outside of the city, and at first runs nearly north, being separated from a spur of the central ravine by a ridge about one-eighth of a mile wide; on the highest point of this ridge was situated the Flag-staff Bastion (Bastion du Mat;) the French approaches followed this ridge, and extended across the Artillery Bay ravine, which is here by no means steep or difficult, but becomes much more pronounced upon entering the city, when it for some distance runs off to the west of north.
Just before this ravine enters the city there commences to the west of it, and separated from it by a ridge about one-eighth of a mile wide, another ravine which runs into the Quarantine bay, and which we will call the Central Bastion ravine; the direction of this ravine is nearly northwest; near its head, and on the highest point of the ridge which separates it from the Artillery Bay ravine, is situated the Central Bastion, at an elevation of 217' above the sea.
The loop-holed wall, and the works constructed to replace or strengthen it, follow this ridge for about three-quarters of the distance to the Quarantine batteries, and then turn off to the north; from this angle to the batteries a line of works called the Quarantine redans was erected during the siege.
The French attacks against the Central Bastion followed the ridge on which it was built, and to the westward occupied the irregular ridge between the Central Bastion ravine and the Quarantine Bay ravine, then crossed this last ravine and terminated at the shore of the Black sea, where powerful batteries were erected. The Central Bastion ravine has rather gentle slopes, and is by no means so difficult as those on the eastern side of the great central ravine; in fact, approaches could be carried over it, and did, indeed extend into it.
Passing to the east of the central ravine, Cathcart's hill, which will be found on all the maps, may be taken as a starting point.
On the west and east sides of this hill two difficult ravines commence; the first, called by the English the Valley of Death, unites with the central ravine about one mile from the southern extremity of the inner harbor; the second, by which the Woronzoff road enters the city, joins the central ravine at the very end of the inner harbor. The isolated spur thus formed was occupied by the English lelt attack, the only object of which was to establish batteries to assist the French attack upon the Flag-staff Bastion, and the English right attack upon the Redan, as well as to protect the flanks of those attacks; for the ravines bordering this spur are so deep and difficult as to render it impossible to cross them either by trenches or assaulting columns.
Further to the east is the Otchakoff ravine, running nearly parallel to the Woronzoff ravine, much less difficult and directed upon the Dock Yard bay. On the highest point of the ridge separating the two ravines last named, and at its end nearest the town, were situated the Redan and the Barrack battery; the English right attack followed the ridge. To the eastward of the Otchakoff ravine, and nearly parallel to it, is the Careening Bay ravine, the most difficult of all. On the highest point at the end of the ridge thus formed was placed the Malakoff, at an elevation of 333'; the Little Redan (Batterie Noire) occupied a considerably lower point to the northeast of the Malakoff, while the work known as the Mamelon Vert, or Brancion redoubt, crowned a hill on the same ridge, about three-eighths of a mile to the southeast of the Malakoff, and 40' more elevated; the French attacks against the three works named occupied the summit and higher slopes of the ridge. 
Between the Careening Bay ravine and the main harbor is situated the high and narrow ridge known as Mount Sapoune. Points of this ridge were occupied by the Volhynia and Selenghinsk redoubts, (ouvrages blancs,) which acted upon the flank of the French approaches against the Mamelon, and would have taken in reverse the approaches thence against the Malakoff. The French approaches against the redoubts wound along the summit of the Sapoune ridge. In rear of the Redan and Malakoff, more especially in the latter case, the ground fell rapidly to the level of the Karabelnaia and the bay in rear of the loopholed wall the ground also soon fell rapidly into the Artillery Bay ravine, leaving, however a plateau of some little width immediately behind the defences, which thus screened the greater part of the town and harbor from the view of those in the trenches.    

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