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Canton-McKinley Rifle and Pistol Club, Inc.

Club House (330) 877-9764

Postal Address: P.O. Box 1330
Hartville, OH 44632-1330

Club Address: 5527 Tyro St NE
Canton, OH 44721

The Crimean War: an overview

In the years 1854 to 1856, Britain fought its only European war between the ending of the Napoleonic conflict in 1815 and the opening of the Great War in 1914. Although eventually victorious, the British and their French allies pursued the war with little skill and it became a byword for poor generalship and logistical incompetence.

The war began as a quarrel between Russian Orthodox monks and French Catholics over who had precedence at the holy Places in Jerusalem and Nazareth. Tempers frayed, violence resulted and lives were lost. Tsar Nicholas I of Russia demanded the right to protect the Christian shrines in the Holy Land and to back up his claims moved troops into Wallachia and Moldavia (present day Rumania) then part of the Ottoman Turkish empire. His fleet then destroyed a Turkish flotilla off Sinope in the Black Sea. In an early instance of propaganda, British newspaper reports of the action said the Russians had fired at Turkish wounded in the water. Russian domination of Constantinople and the Straits was a perennial nightmare of the British and with the two powers already deeply suspicious of each others intentions in Afghanistan and Central Asia, the British felt unable to accept such Russian moves against the Turks. Louis Napoleon III, emperor of France, eager to emulate the military successes of his uncle Napoleon I and wishing to extend his protection to the French monks In Jerusalem allied himself with Britain. Both countries dispatched expeditionary forces to the Balkans. The British was commanded by Lord Raglan, who had last seen action at the Battle of Waterloo; the French by General St. Arnaud and, after his death from cholera, General Canrobert both veterans of France's Algerian wars.

The war began in March 1854 and by the end of the summer, the Franco-British forces had driven the Russians out of Wallachla and Moldavia. The fighting should have ended there, but it was decided that the great Russian naval base at Sevastopol was a direct threat to the future security of the region and in September 1854 the French and British landed their armies on the Crimean peninsula.

From their landing beaches the allies marched southward to Invest Sevastopol. On the way they fought their first major battle. At the River Alma Russian army tried unsuccessfully to prevent the allies crossing the river and scaling the heights beyond. The defeated Russians retreated inland and as the siege of Sevastopol began a regrouped Russian army hovered menacingly on the flank of the British army who were using the Inlet of Balaklava as its supply harbor. Sevastopol was invulnerable to any kind of seaborne attack and her landward defenses were also formidable. Soon the major strong points in the defenses, the Redan, the little Redan and the Malakoff bastion, would become household words In Britain.

As the British and French prepared their siege works the Russian army on the British right flank struck. They were flung back at this the Battle of Balaklavabut only with great loss and the near annihilation of the British light cavalry. A further attempt by the Russians resulted in the Battle of Inkerman, a murderous fistfight fought out In a fog so thick that sometimes the troops could only see a few yards ahead. Again the Russians were pushed back. The war settled down to one of spade and artillery as the allies pushed their trenches nearer the defensive lines of Sevastopol. The winter of 1854-55 brought great misery to the troops, particularly the British as their commissary department was grossly incompetent and for months the men were clothed in rags, cold, hungry and short of everything. The only bright light in this sorry tale of official negligence and stupidity was the work of Florence Nightingale who almost single-handedly drastically cut mortality rates for the British wounded at the hospital In Scutart.

Finally in early 1856, Sevastapol fell and the war was brought to a conclusion by the Peace of Paris.

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