No attack on the Redan would have been undertaken by the English as an isolated operation.
Continuing Capture of Sevastopol Ends Crimean War,
with a selection from by Edward B. Hamley published in . For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. This selection is presented in 2 easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Capture of Sevastopol Ends Crimean War.
Place: Sevastopol, Crimea
Accordingly, a council of war considered the matter. After the members had delivered their opinions, Pélissier expressed himself thus: “I too have my plan, but I will not breathe it to my pillow.” There is, however, no need to be so reticent with the reader. The French commander had learned that the relief of the troops in the works before him took place at noon, and that in order to avoid the great additional loss which would be caused by introducing the new garrisons before the old ones moved out, the contrary course was followed of marching out most of the occupants before replacing them. Thus noon was the time when the Malakoff would be found most destitute of defenders, and noon was to be the hour of the assault. Also another advantage was offered to the French. The salient of the Malakoff had been adapted to the form of the tower which it covered, and was therefore circular; consequently there was a space in it which could not be seen or fired on from the flanks; that was the space upon which the troops were to be directed.
Roadways twenty yards wide were made through the trenches, and then masked by gabions, easily thrown down, by which the reserves could be brought up in the shortest time. The Malakoff, the curtain, and the Little Redan were each to be attacked by a division, supported by a brigade; and four divisions, with other troops, were destined to attack the central bastion and works near it, and break thence by the rear, into the flagstaff bastion. But first the cannonade was to be renewed. It began on September 5th, and this time it encircled the whole fortress, the French batteries before the town opening no less vigorously than the rest. At night a frigate in the harbor was set on fire by a shell, and the conflagration for hours lighted up the surrounding scenery. On the 6th and 7th the feu d’enfer went on, the Russians replying but feebly; on the night of the 7th a line-of-battle ship was set on fire by a mortar, and burned nearly all night; it contained a large supply of spirits, the blue flames from which cast a lugubrious light on the ramparts from the harbor to the Malakoff, producing, says Todleben, “a painful impression on the souls of the defenders of Sevastopol.”
Daylight on the 8th found the Russian defenses completely manned, the guns loaded with grape, and the reserves brought close up. But the assault was not yet begun, and the result of these preparations to receive it was increased havoc in the exposed ranks of the defenders.
The attack on the Redan was to be directed by General Codrington. His division, and the Second, under General Markham, were to supply the column of attack, of which the covering party, the ladder party, the working party (to fill up the ditch and convert what works we might gain to our own purpose), and the main body were to number seventeen hundred, and the supports fifteen hundred. The remainder of these two divisions, numbering three thousand, was to be in reserve in the third parallel. Also, in the last reserve, were the Third and Fourth Divisions.
No attack on the Redan would have been undertaken by the English as an isolated operation. Our compulsory distance from that work, the want of a place of arms (that is to say, a covered space in the advanced trenches of sufficient extent to harbor large bodies of troops), the construction of which was forbidden by the rocky soil, and the still unsubdued fire from the ramparts, all condemned an assault. But it was deemed necessary as a distraction in aid of the French, and it fulfilled the purpose.
The portion of Codrington’s troops destined to head the attack on the Redan moved rapidly and steadily across the open space, though suffering much loss from the heavy fire of round-shot, grape, case, and musketry now directed on them from every available point, and those in front passed with ease over the battered rampart and entered the work. But the rest, with too strong a reminiscence of their mode of action in the trenches, lay down at the edge of the ditch and began firing, alongside of the covering troops, who alone should have performed this duty. The supports also reached the ditch, and some of them entered the work. But the great reserves, in moving through the inches toward the point of issue, were obstructed and discouraged by meeting the numbers of wounded men and their bearers, who were of necessity brought back by the same narrow route, a difficulty which also hindered some of the French attacks. Colonel Windham, the leader of the attacking troops, finding that his messages for support produced no result, took the ill-advised step of going back himself to procure reinforcements. It was not surprising that before he returned his men also had withdrawn. It is probably in reference to this that the Engineer Journal said, in excusing the troops, that “they retired when they found themselves without any officer of rank.”
They had been overwhelmed by the numbers which the Russians brought into the open work; and as they hurried back they suffered not less heavily than in their advance. It was unfortunate for them that the French had spiked the guns in the Malakoff instead of turning them on the enemy moving into the Redan, as they ought to have done. With the immense increase of difficulties in making way through the crowded trenches, and renewing the attack against works now fully armed and manned, the attempt was postponed till next day, when fresh troops, headed by the Highlanders, were to renew it.
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