War with Russia - Alliance of England, France and Turkey
The British batteries were more successful. The principal works opposed to them were on their right front, the Round fort, a Martello tower, which had been faced up with earth. A battery of twenty heavy guns was planted on the top of this tower, and exterior earthwork intrenchments had been thrown up around it, mounted with artillery of heavy calibre.
Next, nearly opposite the British centre, was the three-decker, the Twelve Apostles, placed across the harbor creek; and facing their left was the Redan redoubt, carrying about forty cannon, likewise surrounded by entrenchments armed with numerous guns. On the British side, the principal redoubts were the Crown battery, of 27 guns, in the centre, fronting the Twelve Apostles, and the Green-Mound battery, opposite the Redan redoubt.
At half-past three, a red-hot shot from the Russian three-decker, the Twelve Apostles, struck a powder wagon in the Crown battery, which exploded, killing one or two men, but leaving the works of the battery uninjured. The Russians cheered as before, imagining the same injury had been done, as previously to the French.
But while they were still cheering, a shell from the Green Mound battery lodged in the powder magazine of the Redan redoubt, and blew it up with a tremendous explosion. A white livid flame suddenly shot high into the air, followed by a report that made the very earth tremble in the Allied lines, and the next minute its garrison of hundreds, blown to atoms, were discovered strewing the ground to a distance around. 'In the midst of a dense volume of smoke and sparks,' says an eye-witness, ' which resembled a water-spout ascending to the clouds, were visible to the naked eye, arms, legs, trunks, and heads, of the Russian warriors, mingled with cannons, wheels, and every object of military warfare, and, indeed, every living thing it contained.' So powerful was the effect which this explosion produced on the moraleof the besiegers, which had been somewhat depressed by the misfortunes of the day, that the enthusiasm displayed was almost of a frantic nature. Both the English and French troops, as well as officers, doffed their caps, and threw them high into the air, at the same time giving a shout which might have been heard at Balaklava, a league off. The Russians, however, were nowise daunted, and resumed their fire with undiminished energy.
While this terrific cannonade was going on by land, the Allied fleets were seen bearing down upon the strong forts which defend the mouth of the harbor. It had been arranged between the Admirals and Generals, that as soon as the attention of the Russians had been attracted to the landward attack, the fleets should move forward and take part in a general assault. The French took the Quarantine fort, and other works on the south side of the entrance to Sebastopol bay, and the British took Fort Constantine and the works on the north side.
By half-past one o'clock, the action was fairly commenced, and the con joined roar from the guns of the fleet and in the forts, echoed by the thunders of the rival batteries on shore, baffled the imagination. Never before in the world's history was such a cannonade witnessed even the tremendous cannonade of Leipsic and Trafalgar fades into insignificance before so gi g antic a strife. The fleets advanced to the attack in two lines - the British from the north, the French from the south.
Directly the vessels came within 2,000 yards, the forts opened fire, which the Allies never attempted to reply to until they took up their positions. The cannonade of the French was terrific and continuous; enveloped in smoke, they kept up whole salvoes, which was terrific, the smoke being lit up by the volleys of flashes, and the roar of cannon continuous. The Turks followed the French in this sometimes in whole broadsides, again their fire running continuously along the line. There was less of this with the English ships, whose style of firing appeared less awful, but more business-like. The Russians used red-hot shot, rockets, combustible shell, and bar-shot; and the terrible effects of these soon made themselves apparent. The bar-shot cut the masts, spars, and rigging to pieces, and the rockets and red-hot shot raised conflagrations in many a the attacking vessels.
The allied vessels met with but little success, and towards night stood out to sea, the Russians cheering vociferously, and redoubling their fire.
Such were the incidents of this memorable opening day of the bombardment.
On the 18th, the fleet did not renew the attack; and as the French batteries were wholly silenced for the time, the enemy were enabled to concentrate a terrific fire upon the British trenches. During the previous day's firing, the Russians had discovered the weak points of their opponents, as well as their own, and before morning, had erected, with sandbags, batteries on new and commanding positions.
During the night of the 18th, the French worked incessantly, repaired all their batteries, and again opened fire on the morning of the 19th. Still they were unfortunate. About eleven o'clock a shell from the Russian ten-gun battery once more blew up one of their magazines, killing most of the men in the battery, and dismounting most of the guns; thus most of the French works were again silenced before two o'clock.
The British lines kept up a hot fire throughout the whole day; but though at times nearly one hundred shot and shell were thrown per minute, little or no effect was produced upon the Russian intrenchments. The enemy were provided with a perfectly inexhaustible supply of all the materials requisite for a desperate defense. The instant a shot or shell struck their works the hole was filled up with sand-bags; so that the besieged built up as fast as the besiegers knocked down.