War in the East – 20 Jun 1855

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We’re coming to the close of this series of posts from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper -giving a daily account of events during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

War in the East – 20 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

Wednesday 20th June 1855

In my former letter*, written hastily and under the depression of our ill success, I could not do more than give a very meagre sketch of the failure of the attack of the allies on the principal points of the Russian defences, and I am not now able to entirely amend my defects.

*A previous letter, communicating the failure of the attack upon the Malakoff and Redan, was not received. The present letter, however, contains full particulars of the assault.

The plan of attack originally proposed was that the allies were to open a cannonade for three hours on the Malakoff and Redan after dawn on the morning of the 18th; that the French were to assault the Malakoff, and that when they had gained possession of it we were to attack the Redan. As the latter work is commanded by the former, it would not be possible to carry or to hold it till the Malakoff was taken.

The fire which we opened on Sunday morning (the 17th) preliminary to the assault was marked by great energy, weight, and destructiveness. In the first relief the Quarry Battery, commanded by Major Strange, threw no less than 300 8-inch shells into the Redan, which is only 400 yards distant, and the place must have been nearly cleared by the incessant storm of iron splinters which flew through it. Throughout Sunday our artillery fired 12,000 rounds of the heaviest ordnance into the enemy’s lines, and on the following day we fired 11,946 rounds of shot and shell. The Russian fire was weak and wild. Had the three hours’ cannonade and bombardment which Lord Raglan decided on administering to the Russian batteries before we assaulted been delivered to them, it is very probable that we should have found but a small body of troops prepared to receive us at the parapets; and it must be esteemed a very unfortunate circumstance that his Lordship was induced to abandon his intention in deference to the wishes of General Pelissier. General Pelissier, in requesting the English General to change the original plan of attack and to forestall the hour which was at first agreed upon, is not stated to have assigned any specific reason for the alteration, but it is reported that he wished to anticipate the enemy, who were about, as he was informed, to make an assault on the Mamelon. He felt, too, that the masses of French whom he had prepared could not be concealed from the Russians for any length of time, and that they would soon be revealed by the noise which always attends the movements of large bodies of men. 

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.


Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil