Crimean War

1854 to 1856
Russian Empire — versus — Ottoman Empire, France and Britain

Russian Offensive in the Balkans — 1853-1854      Crimean Campaign — 1854-1856     


The Crimean War is so called, because many of the most important battles, in which Britain and France were involved, were fought on the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea. In reality however, it was just one of a series of Russo Turkish Wars that occurred between the Russian and Ottoman Empires, from the age of Peter the Great to the first world War. There were issues of chronic dispute between the two empires, including control of the Black Sea, and also the rights of the Slavic Christians of the Balkans, who were under the control of the Ottoman government.

The reason France and England became involved in this particular dispute was because they perceived that the Ottoman Empire was very weak, and it was politically beneficial the them to act as its protector. The alternative was to allow Russia to conquer Turkey, and they feared that allowing that already enormous empire to grow in power would ultimately threaten their other colonial interests in Asia. On the other hand, if they protected the Turks, they assumed they could dictate terms to the Ottoman government and essentially rule the region by proxy.

The actual results of the war, however, were not quite what Britain had hoped. It was a controversial war at home because the policy of backing the Islamic Ottomans against a Christian power was not necessarily a popular one, and also because the actual war was conducted in a somewhat incompetent fashion. The technical difficulties of the war, from Britain's point of view, arose from the fact that Britain had been at peace for nearly forty years, most of its colonial wars having been carried out by the trading companies rather than by the central government. The national army, therefore, had very little battle-field experience, and was run by aristocratic bumblers.

The fighting was carried on on several fronts, the siege of Sebastopol in the Crimea being the most famous. The primary antagonists, Turkey and Russia however, fought most of their battles in the Balkan region, but also in the Baltic Sea and off the coast of Turkey in the Black Sea.

Russian Offensive in the Balkans : 1853-1854

The War began when Russia invaded the Danube Provinces on the Balkan peninsula. Soon after, she attacked, and virtually destroyed the Turkish fleet in the harbor of Sinope, off the north coast of Turkey. At sea the Russians prevailed, but their invasion of the Balkans was contended successfully by the Turks. Britain's first major involvement in the war, was a naval action in which she bombarded the Russian arsenal at Sveaborg on the Baltic Sea. Once Britain and France threatened to enter the war, Russia agreed to withdraw its army from the Danube provinces, but the West had resolved upon destroying Russias power in the Black Sea, and so demanded concessions that Russia was unwilling to make.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Sinope (Turkey ) Russians victory
Fought 1853, when the Russian fleet attacked the Turkish fleet of 9 sail, lying in the harbour of Sinope. No quarter was given, and the Turkish fleet was totally destroyed. Over 4,000 Turks were killed, and it is said that only 400, almost all wounded, escaped the massacre.
Battle of Oltenitza (Balkan ) Turks victory
Fought 1853, when a Turkish army, superior in numbers, under Omar Pasha, totally defeated the Russian army which had invaded the Danubian Principalities.
Battle of Ostrolenka (Balkan ) Turks victory
Fought 1853, between the Turks, under Omar Pasha, and the Russian army which had invaded the Danubian Principalities. The Turks, who were considerably superior in numbers, gained a complete victory.
Battle of Chetaté (Balkan ) Turks victory
Fought January 6 to 9, 1854. On the 6th the advanced Russian post of 6,000 men at Chetaté under General Fischbuch was attacked by 6,000 Turks under Ahmed Pasha, and after heavy fighting, in which the Russians lost 3,000 killed and wounded, and many prisoners, and the Turks 1,000, was driven out of the village. On the following days the Russians made desperate attempts to recover the position, General Anrep, on the 9th, bringing up some 20,000 men from Cragova. All their efforts, however, failed, and the three days' fighting cost them a further 2,000 men, the Turks losing about 1,000.
Siege of Calafat (Balkan ) Turks victory
This position, strongly entrenched and held by 30,000 Turks under Ahmed Pasha, was invested by the Russians, 40,000 strong, under General Aurep, about the middle of February, 1854. The Russians delivered assault after assault upon the place, without effect, and finally withdrew their forces in May; having suffered a loss from disease, privation, and battle of 20,000 men. The Turks lost 12,000.
Siege of Silistria (Balkan ) Turks victory
This fortress was besieged by the Russians in 1854, and was defended by a Turkish garrison, who received valuable assistance from two English officers, Captain Buller and Lieutenant Nasmyth. Many attempts to storm the place were repulsed, and though no efforts were made to relieve them, the garrison held out until June 22, when the Russians raised the siege, having suffered a loss of over 12,000 men.
Battle of Sveaborg (Baltic ) British victory
The town, which had become an important Russian arsenal, was bombarded by a British fleet, under Admiral Dundas, August 9 to 15, 1854. By the latter date, the arsenal and storehouses had been destroyed, and Dundas withdrew, making no further attempt to destroy the fortifications.

Short Biography
Ahmed Pasha Ottoman Commander during the Crimean War.
Omar Pasha Serbian General who had converted to Islam. Led the Turks against the Russians in the Crimean.

Crimean Campaign : 1854-1856

The French and British Allied began to besiege the fortified city of Sebastopol on the Crimean Peninsula in September, 1854. They hoped for a short siege, but the Russians had sunk ships to protect their harbor, and taken aggressive measures for defense. In the battles of Inkerman and Balaclava, Russian forces attempted to lift the siege but failed. As the winter set in, the allies suffered terrible casualties due to their lack of preparation. It was during this difficult winter that Florence Nightingale arrived with a group of British nurses to tend to the sick and wounded in the region. It took an entire year however, for many of the logistical problems in the British army to be resolved so that Sebastopol was not effectively carried until the autumn of 1855. The conditions of peace, negotiated in 1856 were difficult for Russia. She had to recognize the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, and was not allowed to establish any military or naval base on any of her Black Sea ports. The terms of the treaty however, only lasted until the government of France fell fourteen years later, in the Franco-Prussian War.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Alma (Crimea ) British victory
Fought September 20, 1854, between the Russians, 40,000 strong, under Prince Mentschikoff, and the allied British and French armies, 26,000 strong, under Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud. The bulk of the fighting fell upon the British Second and Light Divisions and the Guards, who carried the heights held by the Russians at the point of the bayonet, and utterly routed them. The Russians lost 1,200 killed, and left 4,700 prisoners, many of them wounded, in the hands of the allies. The British loss amounted to 3,000 killed and wounded; that of the French to 1,000.
Siege of Sebastopol (Crimea ) British victory
This fortress was besieged by the allied French and British armies, under Marshal St. Arnaud and Lord Raglan, September 28, 1854. It was defended by a large force of Russians, under Prince Mentschikoff, with General Todleben as his principal engineer officer. The besiegers were too few for a complete investment, and though the harbour was closed by the British fleet, under Sir Edmund Lyons, the Russians were throughout the siege enabled to obtain reinforcements and provisions from the north side. The batteries opened on October 17, and from that time till September 8, 1855, the town was more or less continuously bombarded. On that day the Malakoff, an important part of the southern defenses, was stormed by the French, and the place became untenable, the allies entering it unopposed on the following day. The Russians, during the later days of the bombardment, are said to have lost as many as 3,000 men a day.
Battle of Balaclava (Crimea ) British victory
Fought October 25, 1854, between 30,000 Russians under Prince Mentschikoff, and the British under Lord Raglan. The Russians, having driven the Turks from their redoubts at Kadikoi, entered the valley of Balaclava, where they were encountered and driven back by the Heavy Cavalry Brigade under General Scarlett. Later in the day, acting under a mistaken order, Lord Cardigan at the head of the Light Brigade, charged the Russian guns at the head of the valley, and captured their batteries. Being, however, shelled from all sides, he was compelled to retire with heavy loss. Of this famous feat of arms, General Pelissier is reported to have said, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." Another feature of this singular battle was the repulse by the Highland Brigade, in line, of a charge of the Russian cavalry. The British losses were small, except in the case of the Light Brigade, whose casualties amounted to 272 out of 673 who took part in the charge.
Battle of Inkerman (Crimea ) British victory
Fought November 5, 1854, when 50,000 Russians, under Prince Mentschikoff, attacked the British position at Inkerman, held by about 8,000 troops. There was a dense fog, and the battle was chiefly a series of detached hand-to-hand combats some of the most serious fighting being round the Sandbag Battery, where the Russians lost 1,200 killed. At 10 o'clock, the French arrived on the scene, and the Russians were soon in full retreat, having suffered very heavy loss.
Battle of Tchernaya (Crimea ) French victory
Fought August 16, 1855, between three Russian divisions, under General Gortschakoff, and three French and one Sardinian division, under General Marmora. The Russians attacked the allies' position on the Tchernaya, and after severe fighting, were repulsed with a loss of 5,000 killed and wounded. The allies lost 1,200.
Battle of Malakoff (Crimea ) French victory
This fort, forming an important part of the southern defenses of Sebastopol, was stormed by 30,000 French, under General Pelissier, September 8, 1855. The Russians being taken by surprise, made but a feeble resistance.
Battle of Redan (Crimea ) British victory
This fort, forming part of the southern defenses of Sebastopol, was attacked by the British Second and Light Divisions, September 8, 1855. The ramparts were stormed, but the assailants were unable to make good their footing, and were eventually repulsed with heavy loss. The fall of the Malakoff, however, rendered the southern side of Sebastopol untenable, and the Russians retired during the night. The British losses amounted to 2,184 killed and wounded.
Siege of Kars (Turkey ) Russians victory
This fortress, held by a Turkish garrison under General Williams, was besieged by the Russians in the course of the Crimean war. The place was most gallantly defended. But was finally forced by famine to capitulate, November, 1855.

Short Biography
Lord Raglan Field Marshall of English Forces during the Crimean War.
Earl of Cardigan Leader of the Charge of the Light Brigade, at the Battle of Balaclava.
Alexander Menshikov Russian General in charge at the battles of Alma and Inkerman.
Mikhail Gorchakov Russian Commander and Chief during the Crimean War.

Story Links
Book Links
Lion and the Bear  in  Stories from English History, Part Third  by  Alfred J. Church
The Crimean War  in  The History of Russia  by  Nathan Haskell Dole
From Waterloo to Sevastopol  in  The Hanoverians  by  C. J. B. Gaskoin
The Lady-in-Chief  in  Red Book of Heroes  by  Mrs. Andrew Lang
Gordon's First Battles  in  The Story of General Gordon  by  Jeanie Lang
Crimean Monument  in  Back Matter  by  books/lord/stpauls/_back.html
Siege of Sebastopol  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Victoria—War  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Russia and the Crimean War  in  Nations of Europe and the Great War  by  Charles Morris
Charge of the Light Brigade  in  Historical Tales: Russian  by  Charles Morris
Fall of Sebastopol  in  Historical Tales: Russian  by  Charles Morris
Crimean War  in  Growth of the British Empire  by  M. B. Synge
War in the Crimea  in  The Reign of Queen Victoria  by  M. B. Synge
Fall of Sebastopol  in  The Reign of Queen Victoria  by  M. B. Synge
Balaclava  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Image Links

Captain Nolan Giving the Order for the Charge of the Light Brigade
 in Stories from English History, Part Third

The Thin Red Line'; 93rd Highlanders at Bakalava
 in  The Story of the English

The shell struck the ground five yards in front of him
 in The Story of General Gordon

Balaclava: There was no stopping that impetuous, hare-brained handful of heroes.
 in The Boy's Book of Battles