War with Russia - Alliance of England, France and Turkey

Connected with the barren steppes of the mainland of Southern Russia only by the narrow strip of flat and sandy land, not five miles across, which constitutes the Isthmus of Perekop, the Crimea stretches out in a nearly northerly direction, in the form of a diamond-shaped peninsula, about one third the size of Ireland. At its western point is Cape Tarkham; at its eastern, Kertch and Kaffa, and in the south, the bay, town, and fortress of Sebastopol.

At least one third of the Crimea consists of vast waterless plains of sandy soil, rising only a few feet above the level of the sea, and in many places impregnated with salt; but all along the south-eastern side of the peninsula, from Sebastopol to Kertch and Kaffa, there extends a chain of limestone mountains. Beginning at Balaklava, nine miles east of Sebastopol, precipices fringe all this north-eastern coast; but at the foot of these limestone precipices extends a narrow strip of ground, seldom half a league in width, intervening between the hills and the shore. It is in this picturesque and delightful region that the Allied army established its base of op orations. A luxuriant vegetation descends to the water's edge. Chesnut trees, mulberries, almonds, laurels, olives, and cypresses grow along its whole extent. Numbers of rivulets of the clearest water pour down from the cliffs, which effectually keep off cold and stormy winds. Thickly studded with villages, and adorned with the villas and palaces of the richest Russian nobles, this tract offers a most striking contrast to the remainder of the peninsula or indeed to any part of Russia.

The possession of the Crimea, and the construction of a maritime fortress of the first order in the magnificent harbor of Akhtiar (for such was the former name of Sebastopol) were prominent parts of that vast scheme of policy, by which the genius of the Czar Peter, and his successors, transformed Muscovy into the Russian Empire.

The ever-memorable expedition of the Allies, designed to wrench this fortress and fleet from the possession of the Czar, set sail from Varna in the first week of September, 1854. No naval expedition ever before equaled it.

In the bay of Baltjik, where the expedition first rendezvoused, the sea was literally covered for a space of eight miles long with splendid shipping. Thirty-seven sail of the line - ten English, sixteen French, and eleven Turkish, about a hundred frigates and lesser vessels of war, and nearly two hundred of the finest steam and sailing transports in the world, lay at anchor, in one immense semicircle, nine or ten deep. The great line of battle-ships, with lights gleaming from every port, looked like illuminated towns afloat; while the other vessels, with position-lights hoisted at the main and fore, shed a light upon the sea, twinkling away until lost in the distance. Each division of the army carried lights, corresponding to the number of their division, and at night, when every ship was lighted up the scene was of the most extraordinary and interesting description. Constantinople, during the feast of Bairam, or the feast of Lamps, described in Moore's poems, would have been a worthy illustration.

On the 4th of September, 1854, six hundred vessels sailed from Varna, bearing the combined army of 60,000 in the direction of Sebastopol: at the same time intelligence was received by the commanders of a signal victory obtained by Schamyl at Tiflis, over the Russians under Prince Bebutoff. They lost on this occasion many men and horses, seven guns, 3000 tents, all their amunition, baggage, provisions, and retreated in some disorder from Kutais and Kars to Taflis.

On the 14th September, 58,000 men were landed at Eupatoria, about forty-five miles N. W. of Sebastopol. They subsequently advanced some distance inland without meeting with any opposition.

The place of debarkation had many advantages. It is a small town, containing only 4,000 inhabitants, weakly defended by a garrison of about 12,000 men, and in no condition to resist an invasion such as this. The commanders had intended, in the first place, to have thrown up entrenchments sufficiently strong to secure the place; but having experienced no resistance, the troops marched at once towards their destination. In this march they proceeded for about eleven miles, along a slip of land, having on the left the salt lake Sasik, and the sea on their right.

The country traversed is fertile, and well supplied with water by three rivers, the Alma, the Katcha, and the Balbek. On the left, or southern bank of the latter stream, the first obstacles encountered were the outworks recently thrown up by the Russians, and an old star fort. Having surmounted these, the Allies found themselves in possession of the high ground commanding the rear of the defenses on the northern shore of the inlet, and they were scarcely adapted to resist a strong attack.

As the Black Sea expedition was departing from Varna for the Crimea, the Baltic fleet, or the greater part of it, received orders to " bear up" for England.

On the night of the 18th September, 1854, orders were given by Lord Raglan that the troops should strike tents at daybreak. An advance had been determined upon, and it was understood that the Russian light cavalry had been sweeping the country of all supplies up to a short distance from the outlaying pickets.