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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

Friday, April 4, 2014

McClellans Crimean Report III

Eupatoria by George Byrant Campion (1796- 1870)

                               REPORT  OF OPERATIONS IN THE CRIMEA

Believing that the officers of the army have a right to know the opinions formed by one of their number who enjoyed the opportunity of visiting, in an official character the scene of the recent contest in the East, I somewhat reluctantly undertake the task of attempting to give a succinct account of those general points of the operations in the Crimea which are most important and interesting in their professional bearing.
For many and obvious reasons no attempt will be made to enter into details. The task would be an endless one were the means at hand; and nothing but an accurate survey or very minute and frequent examinations of every part of the vast field on which these operations occurred, combined with the advantage of having been an eye witness of the events themselves and the circumstances under which they took place, could justify any one in undertaking to give a detailed account of the campaign of the Crimea. It is known that circumstances rendered it impossible for the commission to reach the seat of war until a short time after the fall of the Malakoff. I have reason to expect that the other members of the commission will enter into considerable detail with regard to the condition and nature of the Russian defences as they existed at the close of the siege the amount calibre and effect of the artillery employed, &c. ,
Although fully aware that it is much easier to criticize operations after the result is known than to direct them at the time, I shall not hesitate to invite attention to what appear to be evident mistakes on either side; this, not for the purpose of finding fault, or instituting comparisons, but with the hope that it may serve to draw the attention of our officers to the same points, and perhaps assist in preventing similar errors on our own part hereafter.
From the general interest felt in the late war, it is more than probable that every officer of our army followed step by step the movements of the allies from Gallipoli to Varna, from Varna to Old Fort, and thence to the scene of the gigantic strife in the Heracleidan Chersonese.
It may seem absurd to compare small affairs with great, but it cannot fail to be a source of satisfaction to reflect upon the fact that in the operations against Vera Cruz, the first thing of that nature we had ever undertaken, we completed a difficult line of investment on the second day after landing while the experienced troops of the allies required nearly seven days to land and march about 15 miles to the Alma; bearing in mind that they landed, without knapsacks, (the English at least,) with nothing but a scanty field material, and that they were in constant communication with their fleet. It was twenty-seven days after the battle of the Alma that they opened fire upon Sebastopol, although the distance from the Alma to Balaklava did not exceed 30 miles; and their siege train was with the fleet and landed in the secure harbors of Kamiesch and Balaklava. In spite of the delays arising from mistakes in forwarding our siege train which was landed on an open beach, at a time when violent norther frequently suspended work and cut off all communication with the fleet, we opened fire upon Vera Cruz on the thirteenth day after landing.
Before entering upon the siege of Sebastopol, it may be well to refer to the battles which varied the monotony of that long period, during which both parties evinced so much gallantry and endurance in the usual operations of attack and defence relieved often by the gallant sorties of the garrison on the one hand, and on the other by the desperate assaults of the besiegers. In the battle of the Alma, important chiefly because it established the morale the attacking party, the allies seem to have been, judging from the statements of both sides of about double the force of the Russians. It does not appear that the position was really a remarkably strong one nor that it was at all improved by artificial means. The only field works were a few trifling barbette parapets in front of some of the batteries; while the slopes leading to the position seem often to have been particularly on the Russian left too steep to permit the effective operation of the weapons of the defenders Of the relative gallantry of the troops composing the allied army this is no proper place to speak. It need only be said that the column conducted by General Bosquet decided the retreat of the Russians, since it turned their left flank. Of the propriety of this movement doubts may be entertained, considering always the subsequent movements of the allies. It would seem natural that two plans ought to have been considered by the allied generals: the first, to cut off the Russian army from Sebastopol, and following the battle by a rapid advance upon the city, to enter it, at all hazards over the bodies of its weak garrison, effect their purposes and either retire to the fleet or hold the town; the second, to cut off the Russian army of operations from all external succor on the part of troops coming from the direction of Simpheropol to drive them into the city, and enter at their heels.
To accomplish the first plan, the attack of Bosquet, but should have been followed up by such an unremitting pursuit as that which succeeded the battle of Jena. To gain the second object, it would have been proper to attack the Russian right, and endeavor not only to cut them off from Simpheropol, but to throw them into the sea by pushing forward the allied left so far and so rapidly as to cut them off from Sebastopol, and thus annihilate them. Neither of these plans was fully carried out. The Russians retired in perfect order, abandoning only one or two dismounted guns, thus justifying the supposition that their general appreciated much more fully than did the allies the delicate nature of his position.
It must be stated that during the battle, the garrison of Sebastopol consisted merely of four battalions and the sailors of the fleet. The condition of its defences at that time will hereafter be alluded to.

Allied march to Sevastopol. Crimean War, September 1854. 


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