British Foreign Policy 1815-65

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General Order after the Fall of Sebastapol: Prince Gortschakoff

New York Times, 19 October 1855

This document has been shared, most graciously, with the Victorian Web by David Stewart of Hillsdale College, Michigan; it has been taken from the College's website. Copyright, of course, remains with Dr. Stewart. This document has been copied from its primary location on The Victorian Web.

Headquarters, Heights of Inkermann, 30 August 1855

Valiant Comrades: On the 12th September last year a strong enemy's army appeared before the walls of Sebastopol. Despite its numerical superiority, despite the absence of obstacles which military science might have opposed to it in the town, that army did not dare attack it openly and undertook a regular siege.

This map is taken from Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan, (Longmans, 1961), p. 94, with the author's kind permission. Copyright, of course, remains with Dr Hibbert.

Click on the image for a larger view

Since then, despite the formidable means at the disposal of our enemies, who by their numerous ships constantly received reinforcements, artillery, and ammunition for eleven months and a half, all their efforts failed before your bravery and firmness. It is a fact unexampled in military annals that a town hastily fortified, in presence of the enemy, should have been able to hold out so long against a force, the means of attack of which have exceeded everything that hitherto could have been foreseen in calculations of this nature.

And with means so enormous, and on such a description, after the ruinous effects of an artillery of colossal dimensions, continued for nine months, the enemy having frequently had recourse to prolonged bombardments of the town, firing on each occasion many hundred thousand rounds, they became convinced of the inadequacy of their efforts, and resolved to take Sebastopol by a combat.

On the 6th of June they made the assault on different sides, entered courageously into the town, but you received them with intrepidity, and they were driven back on all points in the most brilliant manner.

This check forced them to return to a continuation of their first plan of siege, multiplying their batteries, and increasing the activity of their trench works and mining operations.

Since the memorable day upon which you repulsed the assault two months and a half have elapsed, during which, animated by sentiments of duty and love to the throne and to your country, you have heroically disputed each inch of ground, forcing the assailants to advance only foot by foot, and paying with torrents of blood and an incredible loss of ammunition each yard of ground gained.

In this obstinate defence your courage did not flag; on the contrary it rose to the highest degree of self-denial.

But if your intrepidity and your patience were without bounds there are such in the nature of the possibility of defence. As the approaches of the enemy gradually advanced, their batteries were erected nearer the walls. The circle of fire which surrounded Sebastopol grew daily narrower, and sent death and destruction upon the courageous defenders still further into the town.

Taking advantage of the superiority of their fire at short range, the enemy, after the concentrated action of their artillery during thirty days - which cost our garrison from 800 to 1,000 men per day - commenced that terrible bombardment from their innumerable engines of war, and of a calibre hitherto unknown, which destroyed our defences, which has been repaired at night with great labor and at great loss, under the incessant fire of the enemy - the principal work, the Kerniloff Redoubt, on the Malakoff Hill, having experienced considerable and irreparable damage.

To continue under these circumstances the defence of the south side would have been to expose our troops daily to a useless butchery, and their preservation is today, more than ever, necessary to the Emperor of Russia.

For these reasons, with sorrow in my heart, but with a full conviction, I resolved to evacuate Sebastopol, and take over the troops to the north side by the bridge constructed beforehand over the bay and by boats.

Meantime the enemy beholding on the 27th of August at 10:30, the half ruined works before them and the Korniloff redoubt with its ditches filled up, resolved upon a desperate assault, first on Bastions No. 2, Korniloff, and No. 3, and after about three hours upon Bastion No. 5, and the Belkin and Schwartz redoubts.

Of these six attacks, five were gloriously repulsed. Some of the points of attack, like that on Bastion No. 2, on which the enemy had succeeded in bringing guns by flying bridges, having at various times been taken and retaken, remained finally ours. But the Korniloff redoubt, more damaged than the others by the bombardment, was taken by the French, who brought more than 30,000 men against it, and could not be retaken after the great losses we had suffered at the commencement of this combat, for it would have been necessary to ascend in the midst of the ruins a very steep incline, and then cross a narrow ridge above a deep ditch of the rear face occupied by the French. Such an undertaking might have prevented us achieving the proposed object, and would have cost us, without the slightest doubt, incalculable losses.

The attempt was the more needless, as for reasons already mentioned I had resolved to evacuate the place. Therefore, as the success of the enemy was confined to the sole capture of the Korniloff Redoubt, I ordered that no attack should be made on that Redoubt, and to remain in front of it to oppose any continuation of the enemy's attack on the town itself, an order which was executed despite all the efforts of the French to get beyond the gorge of the redoubt.

At dusk the troops were ordered to retire according to the arrangements previously made.

The examples of bravery you gave during that day, valiant comrades, aroused such a feeling of esteem in the enemy, that, despite the knowledge they must have had of our retreat by the explosion of our mines, which our troops exploded one after the other as they gradually retreated, they not only did not pursue us in columns, but even ceased firing with their artillery, which they might have continued with impunity.

Valiant Comrades, it is painful, it is hard to leave Sebastopol in the enemy's hands. But remember the sacrifice we made upon the altar of our country in 1812, Moscow was surely as valuable as Sebastopol - we abandoned it after the immortal battle of Borodino. The defence of Sebastopol during 349 days is superior to Borodino, and when the enemy entered Moscow in that great year of 1812, they only found heaps of stones and ashes. Likewise it is not Sebastopol which we have left them, but the burning ruins of the town which we ourselves set fire to, having maintained the honor of the defence in such a manner that our great-grandchildren may recall the remembrance thereof with pride to all posterity.

Sebastopol kept us chained to its walls; with its fall we acquire freedom of movement, and a new war commences, a war in the open field, that most congenial to the Russian soldier. Let us prove to the Emperor, let us prove to Russia, that we are still imbued with the spirit which animated our ancestors in our memorable and patriotic struggle. Wherever the enemy may show himself we will present our breasts to him, and defend our native land as we defended it in 1812.

Valiant warriors of the land and sea forces! - In the name of the emperor, I thank you, for the unexampled courage, firmness and constancy you have displayed during the siege of Sebastopol.

I think it my duty to express more individually my gratitude to your courageous chiefs:

To Aide de - Camp General Count Osten-Becken, who has commanded the garrison for nine months; to Lieutenant-Generals Chopoleff, Chrouleff, Pacoloff and Semiaka; to Vice-Admirals Nevotilsky and Pamphiloff; to Major Generals Martinau, Pichelstein and Lyasenko I.; to Aides-de Camp Generals Ouroussoff, Schulze, Kroustcheff, Gdavon, Sabachinsky and Scheidemann; to Prince Wassilchikoff and to Totleben, both in the suite of the Emperor; to Colonels Kostianinoff II., Kennerich and Gardner; to Captains Korine, Mikrouko, Perelechine I, and Perelechine II; to Lieutenant-Colonel Zimmermann; to Captain-Lieutenants Alinsky and Tchebicheff; and to all the officers who participated in the siege.

The limits of this Order of the Day do not permit me to insert here the names of many other generals and officers to whom belong more or less the honor of having participated in the grand deed of the defence of Sebastopol; but every one of them has acquired a claim to the gratitude of his Sovereign and country.

I shall confine myself to naming the principal co-operatives among those not belonging to the garrison - the heads of the staff of the force entrusted to me; Aide-de-Camp General Kotzebue, Lieutenant-Generals Serjoupowsky-Buchmeyer; Ouchakoff, and Boutounin; and Major-General Kryjanowsky. The Lieutenant-General of the Engineers rendered an essential service by the excellent construction of the bridge across the harbor, which ensured the retreat of the troops.

In thus expressing the gratitude your worthy commanders are entitled to who are still living, let us also honor, comrades, those who have fallen honorably for our faith and for our country on the ramparts of Sebastopol.

Let us remember the immortal names of Nachimoff, Korniloff, and Istomine, and let us address prayers to the Most High that He will grant them peace and eternalize their memory as an example to the future generations of the Russians.

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