How 600 British Horseman Overthrew the Russian Cavalry – The Battle of Balaclava 1854

The Battle of Balaclava is one of the most famous in British history. The plight of the men engaged in Battle was immortalized in the poem by Tennyson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.

The Battle of Balaclava was a classic illustration of how the aristocratic leaders of the Allies disdain for each other and their complete incompetence, cost many lives. It was a futile battle, where little strategic advantage was gained for either side.

The Battle of Balaclava took place during the Crimean War. The Allies comprised the British, the French and the Turks of the then crumbling Ottoman Empire.

The port of Sevastapol was a crucial strong hold for the Russian army. It was an essential supply line to and from the Black Sea. If the Allies could break this supply line it would be a significant turning point in the war. If they could gain control of Sevastapol the Russians would be severely weakened.

In September 1854 the Allies began to attack Sevastapol, but the siege was at a stalemate for six weeks with little progress being made.

During the night on October 24 1854 the Russians decided to go on the offensive and encircle the Allies. They had intelligence that the British side of the siege was not as strong as that of the French, and therefore the Russians should strategically attack the British side to gain the advantage.

With 25,000 troops being deployed, the Allies stood little chance, but what followed was a series of blunders and incompetence which resulted in huge loss of life.

The British leaders in the Crimean War were some of the most incompetent in history. They didn’t take the movement of the Russian troops seriously – preferring instead to enjoy their dinner and ignore the impending attack.

At sunrise the Russians attacked. The 500 Turkish defenders did not stand a chance against the 25,000 Russians with 78 canons. Within a short time only 100 Turks were still standing. The British did not intervene as it was seen as futile against these huge forces. The 6 Turkish fortifications were soon destroyed by the Russians.

The remaining Turks were joined by the valiant Scottish 93rd Highlander Regiment. Their valiant fight gave the British the time to actually saddle their horses to prepare to engage in battle. The Heavy Cavalry were finally given the order to attack.

The incompetence of the British leaders was not yet over. During the battle the Light Brigade were in a position to attack and assist the Heavy Brigade, but Lord Cardigan refused to give them the order to do so. This gave the Russians the time and opportunity to take the captured Turkish canons back to their own lines. It was only at this late stage that Lord Raglan sent orders that Lord Cardigan must order the charge of the Light Brigade.

More spectacular incompetence and confusion ensued. Captain Lewis Nolan was given the responsibility of conveying the orders – despite the fact that he hated the men of the cavalry. Not exactly the best person for the task of commanding them into a suicidal battle.

Nolan was unclear in his orders and simply told the men to capture the guns – unfortunately from their position they could no longer see the canons. He was directing them to run into a no man’s land with heavy enemy artillery on either side of the valley.

Lord Lucan could only see the guns at the end of the valley. He insisted that Cardigan ordered his Light Brigade into battle ahead of the Heavy Brigade. There is no military logic to that decision, and it is thought that it was motivated by Lord Lucan’s intense dislike of Lord Cardigan.

It is thought that Captain Nolan, leading the charge, may have noticed his mistake that he was leading the men to the wrong guns. He reportedly broke formation and began waving his arms. No one will ever know what his intention was as he was hit by an artillery shell and killed soon after his either bold, or foolish move.

Remarkably some of the cavalry did reach the Russian guns at the other side and ran through the heavy artillery. Their numbers were heavily depleted and it is thought that more than half of the horses had been killed by the time they had reached the other side of the valley. The men who did make it began to engage the Russian forces on the ground with remarkable success.

At this point the Allies were making amazing progress at fighting the stunned Russian forces. However, they realized that the Heavy Brigade was not following to help. Lord Lucan had ordered them not to go ahead as he said “there was no reason the whole cavalry should be destroyed”.

Not surprisingly, the surviving forces of the Light Brigade were not impressed by being left alone without reinforcements, but tried to fight their way back across the no man’s land. Fortunately, the French observed what was happening and attacked the guns to the right of the valley, giving the Light Brigade a chance to make it back to their own lines.

The Battle of Balaclava only lasted for 20 minutes, but it’s casualties were high. It is thought that 673 men of the Light Brigade were ordered to charge into the valley. Many did not survive. There is no agreement on exactly how many casualties there were, but it is estimated that at least 116 men were killed and 131 wounded. 60 were taken captive by the Russians. The horses fared very badly with 475 animals killed.

In a spectacular illustration of the appalling attitude of some of the British military leaders, Lord Cardigan retreated back to the British lines as soon as he could. He then found solace in the luxury and comfort of his yacht and enjoyed a glass of fine champagne. Hundreds of his men were lying dead on the battle field, but he failed to show any remorse for his incompetent orders.

The Battle of Balaclava resulted in no significant territorial gains for either the Russians or the Allies.

The Will to Win! Success in the Battle of V Rorke’s Drift

The British saw Zululand as an obstacle to their expansionist policies in Southern Africa. They realized that before their hopes of a British Controlled Confederation of South Africa could be made into reality, they had to defeat Zululand and it’s 40,000 strong army of warriors.

The Zulu War was not sanctioned by the British government, but was contrived by the actions of Sir Bartle Frere. He had been given the job of bringing the British strongholds in South Africa into a Confederation. The British government wanted to avoid conflict. Frere had other ideas. He told the Zulu King that he must disband his army or war would be declared. The inevitable result of this unacceptable request was the Zulu War which was declared on January 11 1879.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift followed the disastrous defeat which the British suffered at Isandlwana on January 22 1879. In this devastating ambush over 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked 1,800 British troops and 400 civilians. Losses for the British were huge – over 1,300 troops were killed.

The defeat was seen as all the more remarkable as the Zulus were perceived to have primitive weapons compared to the British. However, this was largely a myth. The Zulus did have spears, but they were also equipped with a large quantity of muskets and rifles. They were not as well trained in their use as the British were, but many of the British troops who died were shot, not speared.

Following the devastating defeat at Isadlwana the British had little warning that the Rorke’s Drift attack was about to take place on the same day. A small group of 150 British troops fended off an attack by an estimated 4,000 Zulu warriors. They held strong and remarkably only 17 British soldiers were killed. 351 Zulu bodies were counted following the battle.

There is some evidence that war atrocities were committed in the aftermath of Rorke’s Drift. These are of course controversial, but are backed by a number of documents held in museums and most notably at Windsor Castle. It is alleged that the British covered up what happened in the aftermath of the battle. There is evidence that the Zulu death toll was much higher than officially acknowledged and that as many as 500 men were killed after the battle had ended.

It is alleged that a British relief force was responsible for executing the wounded and captured Zulus. Some were hanged and others were buried alive in mass graves. The British were said to have been incensed by the massacre that they had seen in the aftermath of Isandlwana. None of the troops involved in the Rorke’s Drift Battle were said to be involved in the atrocities as they were resting after the battle.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift became one of the most notable British victories in history. The extreme bravery shown by the British troops led to the awarding of a total of 11 Victoria Crosses – this is more than ever awarded before or since at any single battle.

The Battle of Waterloo, Defeating the French and Ending Napoleon’s Reign

Napoleon Bonaparte was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th 1815. Napoleon is a fascinating character in European history. His rise to power and subsequent downfall and exile are one of the most interesting studies in history. The Battle of Waterloo marked the end of his reign of power.

Following the French Revolution of 1892, Napoleon spent the next decade rising to power and consolidating his position. His meteoric rise was impressive. He was born to the Corsican nobility, but this gave him little advantage as money did not come with his status.

Napolean proved to be a talented military strategist and graduated from a French military school in 1785. It was not long before he could put these talents to the test, as he quikcly rose up through the ranks to become a respected military leader.

Until 1912 Napoleon’s military and political success had been huge, and largely unchecked. Napoleon took control of France in 1799 and became Emperor in 1804. His title was self proclaimed, but it was largely accepted by the people of France. His military and political success was outstanding. Napoleon’s rise and fall is a fascinating chapter of European history.

Napoleon made the mistake that many have in history which has caused their downfall. He invaded Russia in 1912. This proved to be a disaster. Napoleon was also suffering significant defeats elsewhere in Europe. The Peninsula War drove him from the Iberian Peninsula. Napoleon also suffered defeat in the Battle of Leipzig.

By 1914 Napoleon had suffered devastating and humiliating defeat. The collation forces had captured Pairs by March 1914. Napoleon was forced into exile on the island of Elba.

Most would agree that there are few places in the world better to spend a period of exile than the beautiful Italian island of Elba. Napoleon did not agree with this sentiment and plotted his escape back to the French mainland. He returned to Paris in March 1815.

His return sent shock waves around the rest of Europe. The British, Prussians, Russians and Austrians formed an alliance to stop Napoleon returning to power.

Napoleon wanted to launch an attack as a preemptive strike upon the Allies, so he invaded Belgium in March 1815. The British and Prussian armies were already stationed there in anticipation of an attack from Napoleon.

Initially Napoleon was successful and defeated the Prussian army. His battle with the British proved to be his final stand. The British army were well prepared and had noble assistance from Holland, German and Belgian forces. The numbers of troops on each side were pretty evenly matched, but the strategic operations of the Allies won the Battle of Waterloo.

Strategic errors allowed the Allied forces to muster support and the arrival of Prussian troops to assist in Napoleons defeat was a major factor.

It appears that Napoleons skills as a major tactician deserted him and he made mistakes in the Battle of Waterloo. He suffered a major defeat and was forced to abdicate once more in June 1815. This time he was exiled to the British held island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. We can speculate that he must have missed the idyllic island of Elba in the Mediterranean. He died aged 51 on May 21st 1821.

 

The Battle of Inkerman: The Russians Retreat

Pristovoitov, a colonel who was immediately shot in the course of the battle, immediately succeeded him. When he was killed, another Russian named Colonel Uvazhnov-Aleksandov was appointed the commander of the Russian forces. He was also killed shortly and another Russian was appointed in a continuous British attack. When this happened no officer was interested in taking control of the army, and captain Andrianov was asked to go and consult different generals of that problem.

This forced the rest of the column down the valley where the pickets and the artillery attacked them and they were eventually driven off. British resistance was brutal. The Russian command under General Paulov led 15,000 Russian men attacked the allied forces at the Sandbag battery. When they were coming, 300 men British soldiers defended aggressively and by vaulting the wall. With a charged bayonet, they drove the first battalion away. The 41st regiment of the allied forces attacked five other battalions. They succeeded in sending them away from River Chernaya.

Home Hill was the center of the battle. The command of the Russian army finally falls into the hands of General Peter Dannenberg. In addition to the soldiers under his control, he inherited an uncommitted 9,000 men who sprayed after the initial attack. These soldiers launched an attack against the British position and series of fierce battles was fought. The Russians started by attacking the British at the Home Hill. The British held that position for a very long time. The second British division who was in charge of that sector needed help and the fourth division and guards’ brigade were assisting them.

The British withdrew before men of the Russian forces took it. The Russians launched an attack with 7,000 men, and they launched the attack at Sandbag Battery. 2000 allied forces confronted these 7,000 men. A very fierce battle was fought and the control of the Sandbag Battery changed hands at different times. The British were such determined that they held their position strongly and stubbornly. The British infantry was so determined in their defense that they never shifted ground despite the aggressive Russian attack.

When the fourth division finally arrived, they were under the command of General Catheart and they did not waste time to go into action against the Russians. They launched a heavy offensive against the Russians in several fronts. Their courage motivated the other allied forces and they had to attack the Russians on all sectors.

However, Russians cut the forces from the middle and this led to the death of the commander Cathcart. This was devastating to the British and this led to the premature end of the British attack. This helped the Russians a lot and they were able to gain enough ground. French soldiers who arrived immediately pushed the Russians back. The fifth French division reinforced the allied forces and this brings down the advantages already had by the Russians.

The allied forces further repelled the Russian army. It is good to point out that the timely intervention of the French soldiers helped a lot. By this time, the Russians have deployed all their forces and they do not have more to deploy.

The Russians managed to repel all the allied forces attack and they began to withdraw from their positions. As they withdrew, the allied forces did not pursue them, but the Russians never attempted to attack them at that sector. Allied forces defended that sector out of their determination. This is why it was regarded as the soldier’s battle.

The Battle of Inkerman: The British Respond to the Russians

The British were able to confront the Russians as they moved for the attack. The firing was also enough to warn the rest of the army, especially those of the second division and this made them to rise to their defensive positions in a good time. The British commander De Lacy Evans was wounded in the battle and the leadership of the command fall to his second in command. Pennefather, who took over, was known to be a very aggressive officer, and this changed the pace of that battle.
When he took over the command, hardly did he know that equipped and superior Russian soldiers were confronting him. He decided to abandon the war plan initiated by his boss. The initial order was to fall back from the surging Russian soldiers and he decided that his 2,700 men should confront the Russian challengers. When he decided to carry out the attack, 15,300 soldiers to confront faced the second division. Russians reacted by bombarding everywhere in the Home Hills, however, no troops were left in the crest during this time of bombardment.

The second division of the allied forces under British control confronted the attacking Russian soldiers. As the Russians advanced through the fogs, the advancing second division encountered them. The second division was armed with Pattern 1853 Enfield riffle. The Russians on the other side were armed with smoothbore muskets. However, because of the bottleneck of the place, the Russians were forced to withdraw. The British were fierce in the battle and they did everything to outdo the Russian attack.

As the Russians were forced out of the bottleneck, the British gunned them down. However, those soldiers who were able to survive that were forced out to a very far place beyond the bayonet point. Eventually they were forced out of the way to a very far place at their artillery positions.
The Russians initiated a second attack immediately. This time the attack was launched against the second division of the allied army. This attack was on a larger scale and they used a greater number of soldiers in launching the attack.

The British commander was overwhelmed, as he did not know what to do with the fierce forces of the Russians. When this second attack was launched, the British were already depilated and weak. It appears that the Russians did not do their calculations very well, because if they had, the allied forces were already depilated and they would have ordered the third attack immediately. However, they did not do so; they delayed and waited for the British reinforcement to arrive. If the Russian commander Soymonov knew about the situation of the British forces, he would have ordered a third attack. Because he could not see through the fog, he could not read the situation accurately.

However, instead of launching an attack, he decided to wait for the arrival of his reinforcement before he could launch a third attack. Before his reinforcement could arrive, the British reinforcement arrived first and launched an attack immediately. The attack was such successful that the Russians were beaten back and forced out of their position. Thus, they were forced out of that place. However, the battle claimed the life of the Russian commander General Soymonov as the British soldier killed him.

The Battle of Inkerman: The Russians Move In

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The battle started raging on the 5 November and the 10th division of the Russian army coordinated the attack. General Soymonov commanded it. This division launched a heavy assault on the allied forces starting from the Home Hill. The attack was carried out using 134 field artillery guns, as well as 35,000 men consisting of two columns of the military regiment. When these are combined with other Russian soldiers who were mobilized for the war, you would find out that the number would be overwhelming. The number would be overwhelming for the 2,700 British soldiers with 12 guns who were supposed to confront these huge numbers of the Russian army.

It appears that the Russians did their calculations as they did move in two franks against the allied army with the hope of dealing deadly with them before they could reinforce. The early morning fog aided the Russians who were very used to that environment; this is because it was impossible for their colors to be detected by the allied forces as they emerged.

The route to the battleground was about 300 meters wide and that was not narrow enough to accommodate the large numbers of army, which the Russians wanted to use to carry out that war. To carry out the war, the Russian general had to follow the orders earlier passed to him by Prince Alexander Menshikov. The prince had wanted him to send some of the soldiers to Careenage Ravine. In addition, before the battle was to commence, the commander had ordered him by the supreme commander General Peter Dannenberg, to split his soldiers into two that is north and east and to the Inkerman Bridge. This is to ensure that they provide support for other soldiers and they are to provide support to Lt General Pavlov. This means that Soymonov could not deploy all the soldiers under his control to ensure that they achieve their objectives.

However, Soymonov moved into action using 6,300 men, and the soldiers were drawn from Tomsky, Elakerinburg, and Kolyvansky and they confronted the allied forces at Home Hill. They were unfortunate enough, because before they moved, the British seemed to have a predomination of what was about to happen. Apart from that, the number of soldiers they already have, the British had strong pickets in different locations. The early morning fog did not disturb this apart, the British. Apart from the 6,300 soldiers, the Russians had other 9,000 men on reserve. When the attack started, the British were able to mobilize.

The Battle of Inkerman: Before the Battle

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The Inkerman Battle was one of the series of battles fought for the control of the Crimean. The battle of Inkerman started in November 5, 1854 and it was during the Crimean War. The war was fought between the Russian military forces and allied armies, which include the Great Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire. The battle was very significant as it defeated the will of the Russians not to fight the allied forces.

Sometimes, the battle was named the soldier’s battle, because of the wiliness of the allied forces to fight on their own volition, despite the difficult conditions they faced. The soldiers were determined and that determination sealed that war.

Before the battle, soldiers of the allied forces had landed in the Western Coast of Crimea; they landed there on 14 September 1854. The aim of their encampment was to invade the Russian naval base located at Sevastopol. The battle was devastating as the allied forces inflicted heavy injuries on the Russian army and defeated them. The battle was mainly fought at Alma. Because of the heavy injuries inflicted on the Russians, they fled in disarray towards the Kacha River. The allied forces missed their opportunities of attacking the Sevastopol. The British commander of the forces was Fitzroy Somerset. Commander of the French army was Francois Certain Canrobert. Both commanders could not coordinate their actions very well, and as a result, they could not agree on joint action against the Russians at Sevastopol.

They misjudged the Russians and decided to put the city into a siege instead of attacking that base immediately. However, they were able to establish a supply base within the Crimean peninsula. The supply port established by the allied forces was located in Balaclava. Before they could start their operation of laying siege on the city, the Russian forces under the command of Prince Menshikov moved out of the city with significant number of soldiers. He left behind only one garrison to defend that city against the planned invasion by the allied army.

Because of the delay by the allied army to strike the city, it created unique opportunities for the Russian army to move into the city on October 25 and attacked the allied soldiers in their base at balaclava. The attack was strategic to the Russians. They could not achieve their aims before they reached the heart of the allied base, but they managed to capture a significant portion of their base.
Balaclava battle was very revealing to both soldiers. Allied troops learnt many reasons from that attack. It revealed the weaknesses of the allied forces. They had a very thin hold line; this means that they do not have sufficient soldiers to control that line. Their opponents who launched an attack through the Techernaya River explored this weakness. This attack started on November 4, 1854.