Today’s installment concludes Capture of Sevastopol Ends Crimean War,
the name of our combined selection from Edward B. Hamley and Evelyn Wood. The concluding installment, by Evelyn Wood from , was published in . For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
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Previously in Capture of Sevastopol Ends Crimean War.
Place: Sevastopol, Crimea
After Bourbaki and St. Pol had been repulsed, the Voltigeurs and Grenadiers of the Guard and Marolle’s brigade were sent against the curtain and Redan respectively. These they carried, but were once more expelled from the Little Redan, Marolle and De Pontevès falling dead at the head of their brigades, and Mellinet, Bisson, and Bourbaki being wounded. The French still held the curtain, and Bosquet now ordered up the two field-batteries then standing behind the Victoria redoubt. They descended the ridge at the trot, unlimbered in front of the sixth parallel, and, coming into action, fired with great effect on the Russian infantry, which offered a broad target. Yet the batteries suffered terribly; the commanding officer (Souty) was killed, and out of the one hundred fifty men he brought down, only fifty-five returned when the guns were dragged back by hand because they lost all their horses except nineteen.
Bosquet, surrounded by several Russian officers, who were prisoners, and their guards, was interrogating the captives when a shell burst over them, killing or wounding both them and the guard — the General only escaping. Later, when leaning on the parapet watching the progress of the fight, he was struck in the face by a fragment of a shell. He had just strength to send word to General Dulac to take his place, when he fainted.
The struggle in and around the Malakoff was continued till three o’clock, when Gortschakoff withdrew his troops from the work which they had defended with such marvellous endurance for eleven months. The prize was now won, but at heavy cost.
MacMahon’s division, which assaulted with forty-five hundred bayonets and two hundred officers, lost in killed and wounded just half its strength.
Soon after the Russians had been driven from the salient of the Malakoff, the French troops occupying it were fired on from the lower part of the old masonry tower, which was loop-holed, and inside which five officers and sixty Russian soldiers had taken refuge. It was impossible to dislodge them, as the only entrance was strongly blocked on the inside. After a time some gabions were collected, and having been placed in position close to the loopholes, were lighted, but before the defenders could be smoked out, a mortar fired against the door blew it away, and the Russians surrendered. The gabions burning fiercely, the officers became alarmed lest the fire should be communicated to some of the surrounding magazines, and an attempt was made to extinguish the blazing fragments. As this was difficult, sappers were set to work to dig a trench and throw the excavated earth on the fire. While the men were digging, four wires, communicating with mines, were found and cut.
While the Russian officers were surrendering, a desperate struggle was carried on at the far end of the Malakoff enclosure, the Russians coming over the parapets in three heavy columns. Khrouleff, the “fighting general,” being wounded, had been replaced by General Martinau. The combatants fought hand to hand till, Martinau, losing an arm, and his men being out of ammunition, Gortschakoff ordered them to give up the struggle and fall back.
Between three and four o’clock a magazine blew up near the point where the curtain joined the Malakoff, and the division at once ran back to the French advanced trenches. This occurred at a moment when General La Motterouge was wounded, but his men were rallied and got back into position ere the smoke and dust of the explosion cleared away. The flag of the Ninety-first Regiment was buried so deep that it was not found till next day, when it was recovered still grasped tightly in the hands of the lifeless officer who was carrying it when the explosion took place.
When the Russians withdrew, General MacMahon, contemplating the possibility of further explosions from undiscovered mines, in order to minimize possible loss of life, sent back the brigade under Colonel Decaen, whom he ordered to hold himself in readiness, and, if Vinoy’s brigade should be blown into the air, to come forward immediately and replace it. Then, turning to General Vinoy, MacMahon observed, “It is possible, General, that your brigade will be blown up, but Decaen will replace you immediately, so we shall still hold our position.” MacMahon himself remained in the Malakoff with Vinoy’s brigade.
During the afternoon it was reported to General Pélissier that large numbers of Russian troops were crossing by the floating bridge to the north side of the harbor, but the allies did not yet feel confident that the end had quite come. About midnight one of the maritime forts was blown up, and explosions continued at intervals throughout the night, fires bursting out wherever any inflammable substance remained.
At 3 A.M. on the 9th Corporal Ross, Royal Engineers, who was employed in the advanced sap, being struck by the unusual silence within the Redan, crept across the ditch, and, climbing over the parapet, found that the enemy had evacuated the work.
At daylight all the Russian fleet except the Vladimir had disappeared under water, and the last of this heroic garrison was seen forming up on the north side of the floating bridge, which was then cut, leaving on the southern side two hundred or three hundred men, who had remained behind, setting fire to the houses. This was the last of the active operations. Gortschakoff withdrew his troops, and, placing the cavalry on the Belbeck, extended the infantry along the Mackenzie Farm heights position, which he proceeded to fortify.
The allies were now in possession of the bloodstained ruins of Sevastopol, and the last of the Black Sea fleet was at the bottom of the harbor. Perhaps it was well that peace ensued. Although we might have dislodged the Russians from their position on the heights, it would have been difficult to obtain any further material advantage in the Crimea.
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