Battle of the Alma

The Battle of the Alma was a battle in the Crimean War between an allied expeditionary force made up of French, British and Turkish forces and the Russian forces defending the Crimean Peninsula on 20 September 1854. The allies had made a surprise landing in Crimea on 14 September. The allied commanders, Maréchal Jacques Leroy de Saint-Arnaud and Lord FitzRoy Somerset Raglan, then marched towards the strategically important port-city of Sevastapol, 45 kilometres (28 mi) away. The Russian commander, Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov rushed his available forces to the last natural defensive position before the city, the Alma Heights, south of the Alma River.

The allies made a series of disjointed attacks. The French turned the Russian left flank with an attack up cliffs which the Russians had considered unscalable. The British initially waited to see the outcome of the French attack, then twice unsuccessfully assaulted the Russians' main position on their right. Eventually superior British rifle fire forced the Russians to retreat. With both flanks turned the Russian position collapsed and they fled. The lack of cavalry meant that there was little pursuit.

The battle cost the French 1,600 casualties, the British 2,000 and the Russians some 5,000.

The Allied fleet of 400 ships left the Ottoman port of Varna on 7 September 1854 with no clear objective or specified landing point. The allies had been planning to capture Sevastopol in a coup de main, but they decided instead to sail to Evpatoria, which a landing party captured on 13 September. Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov, the commander of the Russian forces in the Crimea, was taken by surprise. He had not thought the allies would attack so close to the onset of winter, and had failed to mobilise sufficient forces to defend Crimea. He had only 38,000 soldiers and 18,000 sailors along the south-western coast, and 12,000 troops around Kerch and Theodosia.

The Allied forces reached Kalamita Bay on the western coast of the Crimean, 45 kilometres (28 mi) north of Sevastopol, and started disembarking on 14 September. The French disembarked first, and by nightfall General François Canrobert's 1st Division, General Pierre François Bosquet's 2nd Division, and Prince Napoleon's 3rd Division were ashore with their artillery. The British landing took much longer to complete compared to the French, as the infantry was landed first, when the sea was calm, but by the time the British tried to get their cavalry ashore, the wind was up, and the horses struggled in the heavy surf.

It took five days for the British troops and cavalry to disembark. Many of the men were sick with cholera and had to be carried off the boats. There were no facilities for moving equipment overland, so parties had to be sent out to collect carts and wagons from the local Tatar farms. The only food or water for the men was the three days’ rations they had been given at Varna. No tents or kitbags were offloaded from the ships, so the soldiers spent their first nights without shelter, unprotected from the heavy rain or the blistering heat of the next days.

This page was last edited on 27 April 2018, at 01:46.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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