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The Russian ("Crimean") War of 1854 - 1856
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W.L. Clowes on the 1854-56 Russian ("Crimean") War (3/4)
CAPTAIN EDMUND MOUBRAY LYONS.
(From Colnaghi's lithograph by J. H. Linch, 1855.)
On June 5th Mariopol, and on June 6th Gheisk (Eisk on the map) were taken possession of without opposition; and all government property in them was destroyed. Similar work was done by detached vessels at Temriouk and at Kiten; and the light squadron then returned to Kertch, whence the Miranda, Captain Edmund Moubray Lyons, went back to her station before Sebastopol. In one of the night engagements with the forts there, on June 17th, the gallant Captain of the Miranda was severely wounded. He was sent to hospital at Therapia, and, though he at first affected to make light of his injury, the wound cost him his life within a week. When the light squadron resumed its operations in the Sea of Azof, his place at the head of it was taken by Commander Sherard Osborn, of the Vesuvius.
In the interim, Vice-Admirals Lyons and Bruat had planned descents upon Soujak Kaleh and Anapa, the Russian ports on the Circassian shore of the Black Sea. Ere, however, they could complete their preparations, they learnt that both places had been evacuated and burnt, and their fortifications destroyed. All they could do was to detach Rear-Admirals Houston Stewart, and Charner along the coast to show their flags. At Anapa, the Circassians were found to be already in possession. Such few Russian guns as had not been rendered useless were thrown over the cliffs. By June 14th, the whole of the Kertch expedition, save half-a-dozen vessels and some troops that were left to guard the neighbourhood, had set out on its return to Balaclava and Kamiesh.
During this absence of the Kertch squadron from before Sebastopol, Rear-admiral Edward Boxer, C.B., died of cholera on board the Jason. To him was largely due the improvement which had been by that time effected in the arrangements at, and in the sanitation of, Balaclava. He was ultimately succeeded as commander of that port by Rear-Admiral Charles Howe Fremantle, pending whose arrival the position was held by Captain Cospatrick Baillie Hamilton, of the Diamond, 27. In the general bombardment of Sebastopol between June 6th and 10th, and again on June 16th and 17th, the allied navies took some part from seaward, and the Brigade ashore, under Captain Stephen Lushington, earned the special commendation of Lord Raglan. (Lushington K.C.B. July 5th, 1855; he attained flag-rank on July 4th, 1855, and on July 19th was succeeded in command of the Naval Brigade by Captain the Hon. Henry Keppel, who assumed his duties two days later). (In addition to Capt. Edmund Moubray Lyons (mortally wounded), the Navy afloat lost 3 killed and 13 wounded). Besides working its guns, the Brigade supplied four parties, each of 60 men, to carry scaling-ladders and wool-bags for the troops detailed to storm the Redan. Two of these parties were kept in reserve. The others were sent forward, and lost 10 killed, 41 wounded, and 1 missing. Among the killed was Lieutenant Thomas Osborne Kidd, of the Anglia, who, after the repulse, returning to succour a wounded soldier, was shot through the breast (he was bravely carried back to the trenches by Mate John Barker Barnett, the only officer with him, and two privates, but survived a very short time). Among the slightly wounded was the brave Captain Peel. On June 28th Lord Raglan died, and was ultimately succeeded as military commander-in-chief by General Simpson.
In the Sea of Azof, Commander Sherard Osborn still carried forward the work of destruction that had been begun so successfully by Captain Lyons. On June 22nd, the boats of the Vesuvius destroyed a vessel, and repulsed a body of Cossacks, at Kamieshwa; on June 24th, the vessel herself silenced some guns at Petrovski; and on June 27th, landing-parties from the Vesuvius, Curlew, and Swallow destroyed a convoy of wagons near Genitchi, which place was the scene of a more spirited affair on July 3rd.
On that day, Lieutenant William Nathan Wrighte Hewett, then commanding the Beagle, 4, screw, made a careful examination of the floating bridge which joined the town to the extremity of the long spit of Arabat, and which thus formed part of one of the military roads southward to the Crimea. Determining to destroy it, he despatched his gig, under Gunner John Hailes, and a paddle-box boat, under Midshipman Martin Tracey (Vesuvius), covering their approach with a hot fire directed upon the troops which lined the beach and occupied the neighbouring houses. The boats were riddled with bullets, the enemy being not more than eighty yards from the bridge hawsers, which had to be severed; and two of their people were wounded. The actual work of cutting was most coolly accomplished by a seaman, Joseph Trewavas, lent from the Agamemnon. This gallant fellow, who was slightly hit, was subsequently given the Victoria Cross. At about the same time, the Weser, 6, paddle, destroyed some stores in the neighbourhood. There was afterwards a period of bad weather, during which the squadron had to seek refuge under the spit of Berutch, to the north-east; but coaling, provisioning, and completing stores were proceeded with; and, as opportunity offered, fisheries, guard-houses, barracks, and stores on that spit, and on the spit of Arabat, were destroyed. The only remaining floating bridge between Arabat Spit and the Crimea was, during that period, burnt by the Curlew. From two long and interesting dispatches from Osborn, dated respectively July 17th and July 21st, the following passages, descriptive of the operations of the week then ended, are taken:-
"A lull in the weather enabled me to put to sea on July 13th for a sweep round the Sea of Azof, the Ardent, Weser, and Clinker being left under the orders of Lieutenant Horton (Lieut. William Horton, promtd. Com. Aug. 18th, 1855) to harass Genitcbi and Arabat. ... Delayed by the weather, we did not reach Berdiansk until July 15th. ... I hoisted a flag of truce, in order, if possible, to get the women and children removed from the town; but, as that met with no reply, and the surf rendered landing extremely hazardous, I hauled it down, and the squadron commenced to fire over the town at the forage and corn-stacks behind it; and I soon had the satisfaction of seeing a fire break out exactly where it was wanted. ... It became necessary to move into deeper water for the night; and, from our distant anchorage, the fires were seen burning throughout the night.
"On the 16th the allied squadron" (It included the two French steam sloops Milan and Mouette, under Capt. de Cintre, who put himself, though senior officer, at Osborn's disposal) "proceeded to Fort Petrovski, between Berdiansk and Mariopol. ... There were evident symptoms of an increase to the fortifications. ... At 9.30 A.M., all arrangements being made, the squadron named in the margin (Vesuvius, 6, padd., Com. Sherard Osborn; Curlew, 9, scr., Com. Rowley Lambert; Swallow, 9, scr., Com. Frederick Augustus Buchanan Craufurd; Fancy, scr. g.b., Lieut. Charles Gerveys Grylls; Grinder, scr. g.b., Lieut. Francis Trevor Hamilton; Boxer, scr. g.b., Lieut. Samuel Philip Townsend; Cracker, scr. g.b., Lieut. Joseph Henry Marryat; Wrangler, 4, scr., Lieut. Hugh Talbot Burgoyne; Jasper, scr. g.b., Joseph Samuel Hudson ; and Beagle, 4, scr., Lieut. William Nathan Wrighte Hewett) took up their positions, the light-draught gunboats taking up stations east and west of the fort, and enfilading the works in front and rear, whilst the heavier vessels, formed a semicircle round the front. The heavy nature of our ordnance ... soon not only forced the garrison to retire from the trenches, but also kept at a respectable distance the reserve force, consisting of three strong battalions of infantry, and two squadrons of cavalry. We then commenced to fire with carcasses, but, although partially successful, I was obliged to send the light boats of the squadron to complete the destruction of the fort and batteries, a duty I entrusted to Lieutenant Hubert Campion. ... Although the enemy, from an earthwork to the rear, opened a sharp fire on our men, Lieutenant Campion completed this service in the most able and perfect manner, without the loss of one man. ... Leaving the Swallow ... to check any attempt of the enemy to reoccupy the fort ... the rest of the squadron proceeded to destroy great quantities of forage, and some most extensive fisheries, situated upon the White House Spit, and about the mouth of the river Berda." ...
"On July 17th, in consequence of information received of extensive depots of corn and forage existing at a town called Glofira" (properly Glafirovka) " upon the Asiatic coast, near Gheisk, I proceeded there with the squadron. ... The Vesuvius and Swallow were obliged to anchor some distance off shore. I therefore sent Commander Rowley Lambert (Curlew), with the gunboats Fancy, Grinder, Boxer, Cracker, Jasper, Wrangler, and boats of Vesuvius and Swallow. ... Lambert found Glofira and its neighbourhood swarming with cavalry. ... He therefore very properly confined his operations to destroying, upon Glofira Spit, some very extensive corn and fish stores. ... From Glofira, I next proceeded to the Crooked Spit, in the Gulf of Azof, the French squadron parting company to harass the enemy in the neighbourhood of Kamieshwa aud Obitochna. The squadron reached Crooked Spit the same day (July 18th); and I immediately ordered Commander Craufurd, in the Swallow, supported by the gunboats Grinder, Boxer and Cracker, and the boats of Vesuvius, Curlew, and Fancy, under Lieutenants Grylls, Rowley and Sulivan" (this was Lieut. George Lydiard Sulivan, Vesuvius), "to ... clear the spit ... and destroy the great fishing establishments situated upon it. Commander Craufurd executed this service with great vigour. ... While this service was being executed, I reconnoitred the mouth of the river Mious, fifteen miles west of Taganrog, in H.M.S. Jasper. ... The shallow nature of the coast would not allow us to approach within a mile and three-quarters of what in the chart is marked Fort Temenos. ... I returned to the same place, accompanied by the boats of H.M.S. Vesuvius and Curlew, and H.M. gunboats Cracker, Boxer, and Jasper. ... When we got to Fort Temenos, aud the usual Cossack picket had been driven off, I and Commander Lambert proceeded at once with the light boats into the river. When there, and immediately under Fort Temenos, which stands upon a steep escarp of eighty feet, we found ourselves looked down upon by a large body of both horse and foot, lining the ditch and parapet of the work. Landing on the opposite bank, at good rifle-shot distance, one boat's crew, under Lieutenant Rowley" (Lieut. Charles John Rowley, Curlew), "was sent to destroy a collection of launches and a fishery, whilst a careful and steady fire of Minié rifles kept the Russians from advancing upon us. Assuring ourselves of the non-existence of any object worth hazarding so small a force any further for, we returned to the vessels, passing within pistol-shot of the Russian ambuscade. ... The gig of the Grinder, under Lieutenant Hamilton, had a narrow escape upon the same day from a similar ambuscade, at a place called Kirpe, ten miles east of Mariopol. ... On July 19th, I reconnoitred Taganrog in the Jasper gunboat. A new battery was being constructed on the heights near the hospital, but, although two shots were thrown into it, it did not reply. ... To put a stop ... to all traffic ... and to harass the enemy in this neighbourhood, I have ordered Commander Craufurd to remain in the Gulf of Azof with two gunboats." ...
On July 20th, the Beagle, which had been detached, rejoined Sherard Osborn, and reported that a landing-party from her had destroyed further stores and granaries in the neighbourhood. A few days later, the Jasper, screw gunboat, Lieutenant Joseph Samuel Hudson, having grounded on the Krivaia, was, perhaps somewhat hastily, abandoned and blown up. She was the only craft that was lost during the whole of the Azof operations, although these did not cease until some time after the fall of Sebastopol. Before the end of July, the Ardent wrought fresh destruction at Genitchi, where the enemy had built new storehouses; and Sherard Osborn, with his flotilla, paid another visit to Berdiansk. On August 5th, he reappeared off Taganrog, and captured some guns; on August 6-7th, he destroyed barracks and stores at Petrushena; on August 23rd" (Sherard Osborn was posted on Aug. 18th, 1855), having returned to Genitchi, his ships shelled the camp and trenches there; on that day and the following, in spite of a brisk fire from the enemy, he wrecked some stores at Kiril and Gorelia; on August 27th, he repulsed the Russians, and did new damage, at Genitchi and at Kiril; and on August 30-31st, while the Weser and Cracker destroyed a bridge and government buildings in the bay of Arabat, the Wrangler and the boats of the Vesuvius burnt some dep6ts of supplies at Mariopol, losing however, as prisoners, two officers; and the Grinder made a reconnaissance of Taganrog under fire. On September 13th, the Cracker's boats destroyed the fishing establishments and forage stores at Perebond.
Towards the end of September, operations in a new direction were undertaken, the Azof flotilla lending its co-operation to a somewhat similar force under Captain Robert Hall, of the Miranda, 15, screw, senior officer in the Strait of Kertch. This latter flotilla consisted, besides the Miranda, of the Lynx, 4, screw, Arrow, 4, screw, Snake, 4, screw, Harpy, 1, paddle, and Sulina, together with the French gunboats Mitraille, Alerte, Alarme, Bourrasque, Rafale, Mutine, Stridente, and Meurtrière, under Commandant Bouet; and it had on board three companies of the 71st British regiment, and six companies of French infantry. On the peninsula of Taman, to the east of the Strait of Kertch, the enemy had built at Taman and Fanagoria (Fanagorinsk) barracks capable of sheltering a large number of men, the idea apparently being to assemble a small army there at the approach of winter, with a view to crossing the strait upon the ice, and falling upon Kertch. Leaving that place, the expedition arrived opposite Taman at about 11 A.M. on September 24th, and disembarked the troops under cover of the fire of the vessels without accident. Taman was observed to have been abandoned. The force then advanced to Fanagoria, where the fort and buildings were occupied. They contained sixty-two pieces of artillery, all of which were rendered unserviceable. In the meantime a body of about six hundred Cossacks assembled, only, however, to be scattered by shells from the ships. In the following night the same force attempted a surprise, but found the Allies alert, and so retired. All useful stores were sent across to Kertch, the rest, with all public buildings, being destroyed.
To make a diversion, and to harass and check the enemy at Temriouk, Sherard Osborn's Azof flotilla entered Ternriouk Lake on the morning of September 24th, and was joined by the French steamers Milan, Caton, and Fulton. The town could not be reached, even by the boats, owing to the extreme shallowness of the water; but a body of 2000 troops was detained in Temriouk, and prevented from moving towards Taman; and a bridge, across which it might have advanced, was burnt.
On October 9th, Sherard Osborn set out on a series of fresh raids. He was, however, temporarily without most of his smaller gunboats, which had been withdrawn by Lord Lyons to assist in the operations against Kinburn. On the night of October 10th, a boat belonging to the Weser stole up the Salgir river, burnt some stacks of corn and forage, and got away without loss, though heavily fired upon by Cossacks. On October 15th at Crooked Spit, and on October 18th at White House Spit, the Recruit, under fire, did much damage among boats and fishing establishments. On October 20th, at Crooked Spit, the Ardent destroyed more boats, and dispersed a body of cavalry. On October 24th a landing-party, supported by the Vesuvius, wrecked some rifle-pits and small vessels at Bieloserai Spit, and scattered a weak force of troops. And on the same day, at Mariopol, the Recruit wrought further destruction.
At about that time the gunboats which had been temporarily detached to share in the Kinburn expedition rejoined Sherard Osborn, who, late in the evening of November 3rd, anchored with his whole force, in sixteen feet of water, off Gheisk-Liman, with designs against the enormous stores of corn, forage and fuel which he knew to be in the neighbourhood. He took all available men out of the Vesuvius, which he left in the offing; and he drew strong parties from the Weser, Curlew, and Ardent, which remained in charge of Lieutenant John Francis Ross (Weser), who had orders to close in on the north side of Gheisk, and to be prepared to cooperate. With the boats in tow of the Recruit, Lieutenant George Fiott Day, Boxer, Lieutenant Samuel Philip Townsend, Cracker, Lieutenant Joseph Henry Marryat, Clinker, Lieutenant Joseph Samuel Hudson, and Grinder, Lieutenant Francis Trevor Hamilton, Sherard Osborn departed at dawn on November 4th, and, at 6.30 A.M., appeared off Vodina, three miles north of Glofira. Commander John James Kennedy (Curlew), covered by the gun-vessels, was sent in with the boats, and, landing, soon set fire to numerous stores. He retired safely, just as a force of Cossacks rode up. Glofira was next attacked. Since it had been visited in the previous July it had been much strengthened, and larger supplies than ever had been accumulated there. While the Recruit, Grinder, Boxer, and Cracker opened on the entrenchments with shrapnel, and on the cornstacks with carcasses, some boats under Kennedy, towed in by the Clinker, endeavoured to outflank the defences; but not until Lieutenants George Fiott Day, and Hubert Campion, supported by a howitzer boat and two rocket boats, had been landed with seamen and Marines, and had executed a very gallant charge, were the defenders dislodged from their works, and driven back, and all the stores set in flames. This landing-party re-embarked with but one man wounded. By that time, Lieutenant Ross and the vessels off Gheisk were seen to be engaged. They succeeded in keeping off the enemy while Commander Kennedy burnt additional stores. During the night, the fires extended over a front of two miles. Early on November 6th, Sherard Osborn, with the gunboats and boats, entered the Liman, the gunboats, thanks to the skill of actg. Master George David Perry (Vesuvius), and Second Master William Hennessey Parker (Recruit), were anchored as far in as possible at the east end of Gheisk, near which stores were stacked along a front of four miles. Covered by the gunboats, four separate parties were landed, respectively commanded by (1) Lieutenants George Fiott Day, and Samuel Philip Townsend; (2) Commander John James Kennedy, with Lieutenants Francis Trevor Hamilton, Hubert Campion, Joseph Henry Marryat, and Richard Charles Mayne (actg.); (3) Lieutenants Augustus Chetham Strode, and Joseph Samuel Hudson; and (4, from the Weser's division) Lieutenants John Francis Ross, and Gover Rose Miall. Each party met with some slight resistance; but each accomplished its object; and, by 2 P.M., the entire force was re-embarked, having lost only 6 men wounded. Sherard Osborn then burnt some stores at Glofira that had escaped the conflagration of the 4th, and returned to the Vesuvius. He says:-
"I despair of being able to convey to you any idea of the extraordinary quantity of corn, rye, hay, wood, and other supplies so necessary for the existence of Russiau armies, both in the Caucasus and in the Crimea, which it has been our good fortune to destroy. ... During these proceedings we never had more than 200 men engaged. The enemy had, from the concurrent testimony of Lieuts. Ross and Strode, and from my own observation, from 3000 to 4000 men in Gheisk alone."
This was practically the end of the operations in the Sea of Azof. Among the honours and promotions consequent upon the good work done there may be mentioned : - To be C.B., Captain Sherard Osborn (Feb. 4th, 1856). To be Captain, Commander Sherard Osborn (Aug. 18th, 1855), Commander Rowley Lambert (Sept. 29th, 1855); Commander John James Kennedy (Feb. 1st, 1856), Commander Cowper Phipps Coles (Feb. 27th, 1856); Commander Frederick Augustus Buchanan Craufurd (May 10th, 1856). To be Commander, Lieutenant John Francis Campbell Mackenzie (May 29th, 1855); Lieutenant William Horton (Aug. 18th, 1855); Lieutenant Joseph Henry Marryat (Nov. 5th, 1855); Lieutenant George Fiott Day (Nov. 19th, 1855); Lieutenant Hubert Campion (Dec. 7th, 1855); Lieutenant William Cecil [should be: Cecil William] Buckley (Feb. 27th, 1856); Lieutenants John Francis Ross, Augustus Chetham Strode, Charles Gerveys Grylls, and Hugh Talbot Burgoyne (May 10th, 1856).
In addition, seven or eight Victoria Crosses were won in the course of the expeditions to Kertch and the Sea of Azof.
In England, the work done by Lyons and Sherard Osborn was the subject of some unfavourable criticism on the part of certain excellent people who professed to believe that hostilities could best be carried on by sparing the enemy as much as possible. Tenderness in war is, unfortunately, no better than a very refined form of cruelty. It leads to a prolongation of resistance, and so to increased sacrifice of life and treasure on both sides. Moreover, it encourages false hopes. When war has once been entered upon, it should be carried forward, like every other work that is to be performed economically and effectively, with energy, thoroughness, and unbending sternness. Even when such a policy upon occasions involves hardship to individuals who are not directly offensive, it still tends to effect its object, which is an early attainment of a definite result. No doubt, much private property, and some civilian lives were incidentally destroyed by the Azof flotilla. On the other hand, the work of that flotilla, while it deprived the Russian army of many of its most necessary supplies, and so crippled the military power of the Tsar, also inclined the coast populations most ardently to desire peace. In 1855 the Russian people had still less nominal influence than they have now upon the policy of their rulers; yet, in despotisms as well as in constitutional lands, the people have ever been the supreme arbiters; and that which they have willed with determination has almost invariably been the policy which the government has ultimately deemed it wise to pursue. It is foolish, therefore, to pretend that war is made upon governments and not upon peoples, and that distinction ought to be made between the two. Humanity and civilisation demand that women and children should not be wilfully or directly exposed to the actual ravages of shot and shell; but they demand also that women and children, as well as men and actual fighters, should be made to feel the general pressure of war as acutely as possible; for the sooner the majority of a people agree that the situation has become intolerable, the sooner submission and peace will come.
Before Sebastopol, the Naval Brigade ashore, and the fleet afloat continued to afford grateful support to the allied armies. From July 16th to July 19th, there was some bombardment of the forts from seaward, and again from August 6th to August 9th. In the trenches there was hot work almost continuously. There were almost daily alarms of intended sorties; and Captain the Hon. Henry Keppel, with his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (afterwards Admiral Count Gleichen; "He shod his own horses, and, I think, was sorry when the war was over." Keppel, ii. 291), was kept fully employed. On August 17th, the day after the battle of the Tchernaya, a general bombardment was opened with the object of covering some advance of the French approaches. The Russians replied with their usual spirit, and, besides disabling two of the naval guns, killed Commander Lacon Ussher Hammet, of the Albion, and 6 others, and wounded 16.
On August 27th, in the course of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe's visit to the Crimea, several naval officers, including Rear-Admirals Sir Edmund Lyons, and Houston Stewart, were invested with the insignia of the Bath, as evidence of Her Majesty's approval of their conduct at the front. The recipients had been nominated on the previous July 5th, on which occasion more naval appointments to, and promotions in, the Most Honourable Order had been made than on any one date since the enlargement of the Order in 1815. The number of naval G.C.B.s thus conferred in a single Gazette was four; of K.C.B.s, twelve; and of C.B.s, no fewer than forty-five. Among the G.C.B.s were Vice-Admiral Sir James Whitley Deans Dundas, and Rear-Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons; among the K.C.B.s, Rear-Admirals Houston Stewart, Hon. Montagu Stopford, Henry Ducie Chads, Michael Seymour, Henry Byam Martin, and Stephen Lushington; and among the C.B.s, Captains Frederick Thomas Michell, Lord George Paulet, Lord Edward Russell, Sydney Colpoys Dacres, Thomas Matthew Charles Symonds, George St. Vincent King, Hastings Reginald Yelverton, Bartholomew James Sulivan, George Giffard, John Moore, William Peel, Astley Cooper Key, William Moorsom, William Robert Mends, William Houston Stewart, Lord John Hay, and Richard Ashmore Powell. In addition, a K.C.B. and two C.B.s were given to officers of the Royal Marines.
Towards the end of August, the Russians manifested an intention of preparing for the abandonment of the south side of Sebastopol. This circumstance was probably not without its influence upon the engineer and artillery officers of the allied armies; and they eventually induced the military commanders-in-chief to order that a general bombardment of the place should be begun on Wednesday, September 5th, kept up for three days, and followed by a vigorous assault upon the Malakoff and the Great Redan, close to which the trenches had by that time been pushed. Accordingly, a heavy fire was opened at daylight on the appointed day, and was continued, with but short periods of partial intermission, until the morning of the 8th. On the evening of the 5th, a Russian two-decker, moored off the dockyard sheers, burst into flame; and, during the night, she was completely destroyed. On the 7th, another Russian two-decker was burnt. At noon on the 8th, the French troops successfully stormed the Malakoff. The British attack, made a little later on the Great Redan, was bloodily repulsed, chiefly because it was made in insufficient force, and because the approaches had not been carried so close to that work as to the Malakoff. French assaults on the Central Bastion, and on the Little Redan of Careening Bay, were also repulsed. But the key to the entire position had been taken; and the Russian commander-in-chief, at about 8 P.M., began to withdraw quietly from the south side of the fortress which he had so long and so well defended. At midnight some British soldiers crept into the Redan, and found it abandoned. A little later fires broke out in the town, followed by terrible explosions. At 5.30 A.M. on the 9th, two of the southern forts were blown up. By 7 A.M. the last of the Russian troops had crossed to the north of the harbour, and the bridge of boats over which they had passed had been dragged after them. Daylight showed that all the men-of-war in the harbour, save one frigate and two small steamers, had been sunk or destroyed. Even these three were destroyed by the Russians on the 10th or 11th. It had been intended that the fleets should take part in the final bombardment; but they were prevented by a strong N.W. gale from weighing to do so. Says General Sir James Simpson, in his dispatch of September 9th:-
"The boisterous weather rendered it altogether impossible for the Admirals to fulfil their intention of bringing the broadsides of the allied fleets to bear upon the Quarantine batteries; but an excellent effect was produced by the animated and well-directed fire of their mortar-vessels, those of Her Majesty being under the direction of Captain Willcox" (Capt. James Willcox was made a C.B., Feb. 4th, 1856), "of the Odin, and Captain Digby" (Capt. George Stephen Digby, R.M.A.) "of the Royal Marine Artillery. ... The Naval Brigade, under the command of Captain the Hon. Henry Keppel, aided by Captain Moorsom" (Capt. William Moorsom, C.B.) "and many gallant officers and seamen, who have served the guns from the commencement of the siege, merit my warmest thanks. The prompt, hearty, and efficacious co-operation of Her Majesty's Navy, commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons, ably seconded by Sir Houston Stewart, has contributed most materially to the success of our undertaking."
The dispatch of Rear-Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons, dated September 10th, adds very little to the information given in the above extracts. Captain James Willcox reported :-
"... Acting in pursuance of your directions, and in conjunction with Capt. Bachm, commanding four French mortar-vessels you did me the honour of placing under my command, a fire was kept up till 7 P.M. against the Quarantine Fort and outworks, as well as upon Fort Alexander and the upper bastions (where, near to the latter place, a large number of the enemy's reserve were posted), keeping their fire so completely under that only a few shot and shell were returned, and but few fired into the French batteries and works before us. A small number of carcasses were also successfully thrown into the town and upper bastions, which produced a conflagration of some extent. ... I am glad of the opportunity of bringing to your notice the indefatigable and zealous conduct of Mr. H.K. Leet (Henry Knox Leet, Lieut. Sept. 22nd, 1855), mate in charge of the Firm, who, from being the senior officer of the mortar-vessels, has always ably carried out my instructions; and I am happy to bear testimony to the praiseworthy conduct of Messrs. J. B. Creagh (John Brasier Creagh, Lieut. Sept. 22nd, 1855), T.L. Pearson (Thomas Livingstone Pearson, Lieut. Jan. 5th, 1856), H.W. Brent (Harry Woodfall Brent, Lieut. Jan. 5th, 1856), A. F. Hurt (Albert Frederick Hurt, Lieut. June 23rd, 1856) and Henry Vaughan (Henry Vaughan, Lieut. Feb. 22nd, 1856), mates in charge of the other mortar-vessels. I have also great pleasure in stating that no casualty occurred, and that neither the mortars or vessels were at all damaged by the heavy firing."
The mortar-vessels were stationed for this service in Streletska, or Arrow, Bay. Captain George Stephen Digby, R.M.A., in his report, made favourable notice of the ability displayed by First Lieutenants (R.M.) Edward Henderson Starr, Henry Hewett, Francis Worgan Festing, William Pitman, and Joshua Rowland Brookes.
The Russian ships destroyed from first to last at Sebastopol were stated to have been as follows :- Sailing ships of the line: five 120's, eight 84's, one 80. Sailing frigates: four 60's. Sailing corvettes and brigs: three 20's, two 18's. Sailing vessels, miscellaneous: eighty-two, including sixty-four gunboats. Steam-vessels: six large, including the Vladimir and Bessarabia, and six smaller. The above mounted about 2200 guns.
By September 19th, the Naval Brigade had been re-embarked. Such of the Royal Marines as had been landed were re-embarked early in the following mouth. A little later, nearly all the magnificent naval works, including the docks, at Sebastopol, were destroyed. A British naval officer who examined them in the interval wrote:-
"Walking round the edge of Dockyard Creek, we soon came to the docks. We arrived suddenly among the wonders of Sebastopol; and all that we had heard of the glories of the place faded away before the magnificent reality. First of all we inspected a dock where ships of the largest size were hauled up out of the water, or launched again, by means of a cradle, placed on a tram-road. This is the work of the Englishman, Upton. Then we came to the intended government foundry, whose walls were rising to the height of ten feet, over a space of nearly twelve acres. Part of this was obtained by cutting away the spur of a mountain. The remainder of the hill was upheld by a freestone wall, every stone beautifully squared and fitted, to the height of 350 feet. . . . We then went to see the famous docks. These consist of a series of locks, like canal locks, the upper end being twenty feet higher than the entrance lock, which is even with the level of the sea. The upper end has three locks abreast. Then comes a compartment equal in area to three; then again three more, the middle one of which is entered by three other locks from the harbour; making altogether nine chambers, as it were, and the large space in the middle. These are all dry, but can be filled with water pumped into them by two steam engines. Each chamber is 270 feet long, 60 feet wide, and contains from 25 to 37 feet of water at pleasure. A large ship can be floated into an upper lock; all the water can then be let off, and the ship left in her cradle as dry as if on shore. The docks, with their magnificent masonry casings of gigantic granite blocks, steam-engines, and iron gates, with the aqueducts for bringing down water from the Tchernaya, cost £20,000,000 sterling."
After the occupation of the south side of Sebastopol and the complete destruction of the Russian fleet, the allied navies in the Black Sea were left at liberty to strike a blow at some other part of the coast. It was not, however, until after a council of war held on September 30th that the naval and military commanders-in-chief determined to make an attack upon Kinburn.
The fortress of Kinburn occupies the western extremity of a spit which forms the southern boundary of a considerable basin known as the Liman of the Dnieper. Into this basin, in addition to the Dnieper, flow the united streams of the rivers Bug and Ingul; and, at the junction of the Bug and Ingul, at some distance from the sea, stands the important naval arsenal of Nicolaief, while near the mouth of the Dnieper is Kherson, one of the richest of the commercial centres of Russia. The narrow channel into the Liman passes between the fortress of Otchakof on the north, and the fortress of Kinburn on the south, but lies closer to the latter than to the former. Consequently, the possession of Kinburn by the Allies would completely close the navigation of the Bug and Dnieper. It would also menace the communications and rear of the large Russian army which was still in the Crimea.
In 1855, the defences at Kinburn consisted of a citadel of masonry, with earthen parapets, washed in some places by the sea and in others by the waters of a deep ditch, and mounting about sixty guns, some in casemates, and some in a barbette battery above. This citadel, which had an all-round command, was supported by two batteries placed at the extreme end of the spit, on a narrow strip of sand. The entire armament of the works, according to French accounts, was 80 guns and 20 mortars. Of these, 81 pieces only appear to have been in position.
The expedition, which was commanded by Admirals Lyons and Bruat, was a far more powerful one than was absolutely necessary for the contemplated work. It comprised 10 screw ships of the line, with about 80 other vessels - frigates, sloops, gunboats, mortar-boats, tenders, and transports; it had on board 4000 British, and a rather larger number of French troops; and it is remarkable as having included the three French armoured floating batteries Tonnante, Lave, and Devastation, which, built for the attack on Sebastopol, had arrived on the scene a few days after the fall of the place. These batteries were constructed after plans which had first been advocated in 1842 by Captain Labrousse, of the French navy, and which, in 1855, were improved upon under the personal superintendence of the Emperor Napoleon. They were the earliest armoured steam-ships; and their appearance in action marks the first beginning of, perhaps, the greatest revolution which has ever been experienced in the science of naval warfare. The fleets sailed from the neighbourhood of Sebastopol on October 6th and 7th, and arrived at a rendezvous off Odessa on the 8th. Fogs and strong S.S.W. winds prevented their appearance off Kinburn until the afternoon of the 14th. Rear-Admiral Sir Houston Stewart then transferred his flag from the Hannibal, 90, screw, to the Valorous, 16, paddle, and, in pursuance of orders, stationed his division of steam-vessels off the entrance to the Liman, being assisted in his selection of positions by Captain Thomas Abel Bremage Spratt, of the Spitfire, 5, paddle. The corresponding French division was commanded by Rear-Admiral Odet Pellion. The Commander-in-Chief, with the larger vessels, anchored further out. When it became dark, the Cracker, gunboat, Lieutenant Joseph Henry Marryat, with two boats of the Tribune, and Masters Edward Wolfe Brooker (Promtd. to be Lieut., Nov. 5th, 1855) (additional of Spitfire), and Thomas Potter (Furious, but lent to Valorous), was sent to buoy the channel between the mainland and the end of the spit; and, as soon as he signalled that the operation had been effected, he was joined by the gunboats Fancy, Lieutenant Charles Gerveys Grylls, Boxer, Lieutenant Samuel Philip Townsend, and Clinker, Lieutenant Joseph Samuel Hudson, as well as by the French gunboats Tirailleuse, Stridente, Meurtrière, and Mutine, which together passed the forts and anchored within, so as to afford as much protection as possible to the right flank of the troops upon disembarkation taking place. The enemy fired shot, shell, and musketry at them as they went in, but caused them no damage. Sir Houston Stewart, outside, was, of course, left in some doubt as to how far the channel had been buoyed for larger ships. At 10 A.M. on the 15th, therefore, Marryat and Brooker, in the Cracker, most gallantly repassed the batteries under a heavier fire than before, and personally reported to the Rear-Admiral on the subject of the difficult navigation (it would appear from a passage in Sir H. Stewart's disp. of Oct. 18th, that the Grinder, Lieut. Francis Trevor Hamilton, went in and took the Cra cker's place). That morning the troops, under the orders of General Bazaine, and Brigadier-General the Hon. A. A. Spencer, were landed about three miles to the southward of the citadel, so as to cut off the retreat of the Russian garrison by land. In the evening the mortar-vessels tried the ranges of their mortars against the main fort. The 16th brought a brisk wind from the southward, and a heavy swell, and prevented the opening of a bombardment; but the day was well spent by the troops ashore. ... to be continued
At about 9.30 A.M. on the 17th, there being a fine northerly breeze, with smooth water, the French floating batteries, mortar-vessels, and gunboats, and the Valorous, 16, paddle, Captain Claude Henry Mason Buckle, C.B. (flag of Sir Houston Stewart), Gladiator, 6, paddle, Captain Charles Farrel Hillyar, Odin, 16, paddle, Captain James Willcox, Lynx, 4, screw, Arrow, 4, screw, Viper, 4, screw, Beagle, 4, screw, Snake, 4, screw, and Wrangler, 4, screw, with the mortar-vessels Raven, Magnet, Camel, Hardy, Flamer, and Firm, took up positions off the fort, and began a destructive fire, which was pluckily returned. The Tonnante and her consorts, stationed at less than one thousand yards from the enemy's guns, wrought much damage, and appeared to be themselves quite invulnerable. At noon, the Russian fire having been sensibly reduced, Sir Houston Stewart, with the British vessels above named, and also with the Furious, 16, paddle, Captain William Loring, C.B., Sidon, 22, paddle, Captain George Goldsmith, Leopard, 18, paddle, Captain George Giffard, C.B., Firebrand, 6, paddle, Commander Edward Augustus Inglefield, Stromboli, 6, paddle, Commander Cowper Phipps Coles, and Spiteful, 6, paddle, Commander Francis Henry Shortt, and Rear-Admiral Odet Pellion's division, passed through the channel. Each ship, as she got within range, engaged the forts from the northward, while, at the same time, the southern and western faces of the works were engaged by Lyons and Bruat, whose ships took up positions in the closest possible order, with but two feet of water under the keels of some of them (With Sir E. Lyons were the Royal Albert, 121, scr. (flag); Capt. William Robert Mends; Algiers, 91, scr.; Agamemnon, 91, scr.; Princess Royal, 91, scr.; St. Jean d'Acre, 101, scr.; Curacoa, 31, scr.; Tribune, 31, scr.; Sphinx, 6, padd.; Hannibal, 91, scr.; Dauntless, 31, scr.; and Terrible, 21, paddle). Having anchored inside, Stewart transferred his flag to the Cracker. The fire of such enormous forces as were brought against the defences soon produced its effect, and the Russian batteries gradually became silent, though they did not haul down their colours. Lyons, from motives of humanity, suggested to Bruat to discontinue the action; but the French commander-in-chief, prompted, perhaps, by motives as humane in reality though not in appearance, declined to cease firing until the garrison should surrender. Lyons, thereupon, ordered his own ships to discontinue; and Bruat, after pouring in a protesting broadside, also desisted. The Russian General Kokonovitch, upon being summoned, submitted; and he and his 1400 men presently marched out with the honours of war. He had lost 45 killed and 130 wounded. The British ships had but two people hurt; and even they owed their injuries to the bursting of a gun in the Arrow. On the following morning the enemy blew up their forts at Otchakof.
The operations at Kinburn are remarkable not only because they witnessed the first employment of armoured vessels in modern warfare, but also because they were among the earliest operations on a large scale in which steam-vessels only were employed. Both France and Great Britain entered on the campaign against Russia believing that sailing ships of the line might still be of some use. Sailing ships, accordingly, figured in the fleets of 1854 in the Baltic as well as in the Black Sea ; but the experience of a very few months on each scene of action determined that they had ceased to be of any practical value for fighting purposes. Thus may it be said that sails and wood went out, and steam and iron came in, in 1855.
After the capture of Kinburn, a military reconnaissance was made in the direction of Kherson; and Rear-Admirals Stewart (in the Stromboli), and Odet Pellion, with part of their divisions, proceeded to the mouths of the Bug and Dnieper. In the former river, on October 20th, the Stromboli, Cracker, Spitfire, and Grinder had a slight engagement with a battery. In the latter, two huge rafts of valuable timber, intended for the arsenal at Nicolaief, were captured. - Kinburn was occupied by the Allies; a division of ships, including the French floating batteries, was ordered to remain before it so long as the sea should be open; and the rest of the expedition returned to the neighbourhood of Sebastopol, where it arrived on November 3rd. During its absence there had been a slight brush between the Allies and a Russian force near Lake Tougla on October 26th. A little later, Bruat, with part of his fleet, sailed for Toulon, where he intended to winter. On the way he was struck down, as St. Arnaud and Raglan had been, by cholera, and he died at sea on November 19th. Lyons also quitted the Black Sea, chiefly to attend a great international council of war which was held in the winter at Paris for the purpose of advising the allied governments as to what naval and military operations could most advantageously be next undertaken. The council assembled, under the presidency of the Emperor, at the Tuileries, on January 10th, 1856, its British members, in addition to Sir Edmund Lyons, being H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, Lord Cowley, Rear-Admiral the Hon. Richard Saunders Dundas, C.B., and Generals Sir Richard Airey, and Sir Harry Jones. No conclusions were ever arrived at; for, soon after it met, events began to assume a pacific complexion, and, as early as January 16th, Russia paved the way for a settlement by unconditionally accepting certain proposals which had been made by Austria as preliminaries of peace. In the interim, the allied forces in the Black Sea confined themselves to holding such positions as they had won, to repelling attacks, and to destroying captured works and public buildings. The campaign, indeed, so far as the Navy was concerned, practically ended with the occupation of Kinburn.
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