1800 Jan 1
, İstanbul

In the early 1800s, the Ottoman Empire suffered a number of existential challenges. The Serbian Revolution in 1804 resulted in the autonomy of the first Balkan Christian nation under the empire. The Greek War of Independence, which began in early 1821, provided further evidence of the empire's internal and military weakness. The disbandment of the centuries-old Janissary corps by Sultan Mahmud II on 15 June 1826 (Auspicious Incident) helped the empire in the longer term but deprived it of its existing standing army in the short term. In 1827, the Anglo-Franco-Russian fleet destroyed almost all of the Ottoman naval forces at the Battle of Navarino. The Treaty of Adrianople (1829) granted Russian and Western European commercial ships free passage through the Black Sea straits. Also, Serbia received autonomy, and the Danubian Principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia) became territories under Russian protection.

Russia, as a member of the Holy Alliance, had operated as the "police of Europe" to maintain the balance of power that had been established in the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Russia had assisted Austria's efforts in suppressing the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and expected a free hand in settling its problems with the Ottoman Empire, the "sick man of Europe". However, Britain could not tolerate Russian dominance of Ottoman affairs, which would challenge its domination of the eastern Mediterranean.

Britain's immediate fear was Russia's expansion at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. The British desired to preserve Ottoman integrity and were concerned that Russia might make advances toward British India or move toward Scandinavia or Western Europe. A distraction (in the form of the Ottoman Empire) on the British southwest flank would mitigate that threat. The Royal Navy also wanted to forestall the threat of a powerful Russian Navy. French Emperor Napoleon III's ambition to restore France's grandeur initiated the immediate chain of events that led to France and Britain declaring war on Russia on 27 and 28 March 1854, respectively.

Russian army during the Russo-Turkish War

Ottoman declares war on Russia

1853 Oct 16
, Romania

Russian Empire had obtained recognition from the Ottoman Empire of the Tsar's role as special guardian of the Orthodox Christians in Moldavia and Wallachia. Russia now used the Sultan's failure to resolve the issue of the protection of the Christian sites in the Holy Land as a pretext for Russian occupation of those Danubian provinces.

Shortly after he had learned of the failure of Menshikov's diplomacy toward the end of June 1853, the Tsar sent armies under the commands of Field Marshal Ivan Paskevich and General Mikhail Gorchakov across the River Pruth into the Ottoman-controlled Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The United Kingdom, hoping to maintain the Ottoman Empire as a bulwark against the expansion of Russian power in Asia, sent a fleet to the Dardanelles, where it joined a fleet sent by France. On 16 October 1853, having obtained promises of support from France and Britain, the Ottomans declared war on Russia.

The Danube campaign opened brought the Russian forces to the north bank of the River Danube. In response, the Ottoman Empire also moved its forces up to the river, establishing strongholds at Vidin in the west and Silistra in the east, near the mouth of the Danube. The Ottoman move up the River Danube was also of concern to the Austrians, who moved forces into Transylvania in response. However, the Austrians had begun to fear the Russians more than the Ottomans. Indeed, like the British, the Austrians were now coming to see that an intact Ottoman Empire was necessary as a bulwark against the Russians. After the Ottoman ultimatum in September 1853, forces under Ottoman General Omar Pasha crossed the Danube at Vidin and captured Calafat in October 1853. Simultaneously, in the east, the Ottomans crossed the Danube at Silistra and attacked the Russians at Oltenița.

Caucasus theatre

Caucasus theatre

1853 Oct 27
, Marani

As in the previous wars, the Caucasus front was secondary to what happened in the west. Perhaps because of better communications, western events sometimes influenced the east. The main events were the second capture of Kars and a landing on the Georgian coast. Several commanders on both sides were either incompetent or unlucky, and few fought aggressively.

In the north, the Ottomans captured the border fort of Saint Nicholas in a surprise night attack on 27/28 October. They then pushed about 20,000 troops across the River Cholok border. Being outnumbered, the Russians abandoned Poti and Redut Kale and drew back to Marani. Both sides remained immobile for the next seven months.

In the centre the Ottomans moved north from Ardahan to within cannon-shot of Akhaltsike and awaited reinforcements on 13 November, but the Russians routed them. The claimed losses were 4,000 Turks and 400 Russians.

In the south about 30,000 Turks slowly moved east to the main Russian concentration at Gyumri or Alexandropol (November). They crossed the border and set up artillery south of town. Prince Orbeliani tried to drive them off and found himself trapped. The Ottomans failed to press their advantage; the remaining Russians rescued Orbeliani and the Ottomans retired west. Orbeliani lost about 1,000 men from 5,000. The Russians now decided to advance. The Ottomans took up a strong position on the Kars road and attacked-only to be defeated in the Battle of Başgedikler.

Battle of Oltenița by Karl Lanzedelli

Battle of Oltenița

1853 Nov 4
, Oltenița

The Battle of Oltenița was the first engagement of the Crimean War. In this battle an Ottoman army under the command of Omar Pasha was defending its fortified positions from the Russian forces led by General Peter Dannenberg, until the Russians were ordered to withdraw. The Russian attack was called off just when they reached the Ottoman fortifications, and they retreated in good order, but suffered heavy losses. The Ottomans held their positions, but did not pursue the enemy, and later retreated to the other side of Danube.

The Battle of Sinop, Ivan Aivazovsky

Battle of Sinop

1853 Nov 30
, Sinop

The naval operations of the Crimean War commenced with the dispatch in mid-1853 of the French and the British fleets to the Black Sea region, to support the Ottomans and to dissuade the Russians from encroachment. By June 1853, both fleets had been stationed at Besikas Bay, outside the Dardanelles. Meanwhile, the Russian Black Sea Fleet operated against Ottoman coastal traffic between Constantinople and the Caucasus ports, and the Ottoman fleet sought to protect the supply line.

A Russian squadron attacked and decisively defeated an Ottoman squadron anchored in Sinop's harbor. The Russian force consisted of six ships of the line, two frigates and three armed steamers, led by Admiral Pavel Nakhimov; the Ottoman defenders were seven frigates, three corvettes and two armed steamers, commanded by Vice Admiral Osman Pasha.

The Russian navy had recently adopted naval artillery that fired explosive shells, which gave them a decisive advantage in the battle. All the Ottoman frigates and corvettes were either sunk or forced to run aground to avoid destruction; only one steamer escaped. The Russians lost no ships. Nearly 3,000 Turks were killed when Nakhimov's forces fired on the town after the battle.

The one-sided battle contributed to the decision of France and Britain to enter the war, on the side of the Ottomans. The battle demonstrated the effectiveness of explosive shells against wooden hulls, and the superiority of shells over cannonballs. It led to widespread adoption of explosive naval artillery and indirectly to the development of ironclad warships.

Battle of Başgedikler

Battle of Başgedikler

1853 Dec 1
, Başgedikler/Kars Merkez/Kars

The Battle of Başgedikler occurred when a Russian army attacked and defeated a large Turkish force near the village of Başgedikler in the Trans-Caucasus.The Turkish loss at Başgedikler ended the Ottoman Empire's ability to seize the Caucasus at the start of the Crimean War. It established the border with Russia over the winter of 1853–1854 and allowed the Russians time to reinforce their presence in the region.

More importantly from a strategic viewpoint, the Turkish loss demonstrated to the allies of the Ottoman Empire that the Turkish military was not capable of resisting the invasion of the Russians without assistance. This resulted in a deeper intervention of the western European powers in the affairs of the Crimean War and the Ottoman Empire.

Distribution of the Medjidie, after the Battle of Cetate | ©Constantin Guys

Battle of Cetate

1853 Dec 31 - 1854 Jan 6
, Cetate

On 31 December 1853, the Ottoman forces at Calafat moved against the Russian force at Chetatea or Cetate, a small village nine miles north of Calafat, and engaged it on 6 January 1854. The battle began when the Russians made a move to recapture Calafat. Most of the heavy fighting took place in and around Chetatea until the Russians were driven out of the village.

The battle at Cetate was ultimately indecisive. After heavy casualties on both sides, both armies were back at their start positions. The Ottoman forces were still in a strong position and barring contact between the Russians and the Serbs, to whom they looked for support, but were themselves no nearer driving the Russians from the Principalities, their stated aim.

Battle between the Russians and Ottomans outside of Calafat, Wallachia | ©Fabrique de Pellerin

Siege of Calafat

1854 Feb 1 - May
, Vama Calafat

The Ottomans had several fortified fortresses on the southern side of the Danube river, of which Vidin was one. The Turks made several plans to advance into Wallachia. On 28 October their army in Vidin crossed the Danube and established itself at the village of Calafat, and started building fortifications. Another army crossed the Danube at Ruse on 1-2 November in a feint attack to lure the Russians away from Calafat. This operation was unsuccessful and they retreated on 12 November, but in the meantime Calafat's defenses and the communication with Vidin had been improved.

In response to these events, the Russians marched towards Calafat and unsuccessfully engaged the Turks at the end of December. They then entrenched themselves at Cetate, where they were attacked by the Turks. The Turks were led by Ahmed Pasha, the Russians by General Joseph Carl von Anrep. There were several days of fighting until 10 January, whereupon the Russians retreated towards Radovan. After January the Russians brought troops to the surroundings of Calafat and started the unsuccessful siege, which lasted 4 months; they withdrew on 21 April. During the siege the Russians suffered heavy losses from epidemics and attacks from the fortified Ottoman positions. The Russians unsuccessfully besieged the Ottoman army at Calafat for four months before finally withdrawing.

The Åland Islands during the Crimean War.

Baltic theatre

1854 Apr 1
, Baltic Sea

The Baltic was a forgotten theatre of the Crimean War. Popularisation of events elsewhere overshadowed the significance of this theatre, which was close to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital. In April 1854, an Anglo-French fleet entered the Baltic to attack the Russian naval base of Kronstadt and the Russian fleet that was stationed there. In August 1854, the combined British and French fleet returned to Kronstadt for another attempt. The outnumbered Russian Baltic Fleet confined its movements to the areas around its fortifications. At the same time, the British and French commanders Sir Charles Napier and Alexandre Ferdinand Parseval-Deschenes although they led the largest fleet assembled since the Napoleonic Wars, considered the Sveaborg fortress too well-defended to engage. Thus, shelling of the Russian batteries was limited to two attempts in 1854 and 1855, and initially, the attacking fleets limited their actions to blockading Russian trade in the Gulf of Finland. Naval attacks on other ports, such as the ones in the island of Hogland in the Gulf of Finland, proved more successful. Additionally, allies conducted raids on less fortified sections of the Finnish coast. These battles are known in Finland as the Åland War.

The burning of tar warehouses and ships led to international criticism, and in London the MP Thomas Gibson demanded in the House of Commons that the First Lord of the Admiralty explain "a system which carried on a great war by plundering and destroying the property of defenceless villagers". In fact, the operations in the Baltic sea were in the nature of binding forces. It was very important to divert Russian forces from the South or, more precisely, not to allow Nicholas to transfer to the Crimea a huge army guarding the Baltic coast and the capital. This goal Anglo-French forces have achieved. The Russian Army in Crimea was forced to act without superiority in forces.

Turkish troops at the defence of Silistria 1853-4 | ©Joseph Schulz

Siege of Silistria

1854 May 11 - Jun 23
, Silistra

In early 1854, the Russians again advanced by crossing the River Danube into the Turkish province of Dobruja. By April 1854, the Russians had reached the lines of Trajan's Wall, where they were finally halted. In the centre, the Russian forces crossed the Danube and laid siege to Silistra from 14 April with 60,000 troops. Sustained Ottoman resistance had allowed French and British troops to build up a significant army in nearby Varna. Under additional pressure from Austria, the Russian command, which was about to launch a final assault on the fortress town, was ordered to lift the siege and retreat from the area, thus ending the Danubian phase of the Crimean War.

Austrian Hussars in the field, 1859

Peace attempts

1854 Aug 1
, Austria

Czar Nicholas felt that because of Russian assistance in suppressing the Hungarian revolution of 1848, Austria would side with him or at the very least remain neutral. Austria, however, felt threatened by the Russian troops in the Balkans. On 27 February 1854, the United Kingdom and France demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from the principalities. Austria supported them and, without declaring war on Russia, refused to guarantee its neutrality.

Russia soon withdrew its troops from the Danubian Principalities, which were then occupied by Austria for the duration of the war. That removed the original grounds for war, but the British and the French continued with hostilities. Determined to address the Eastern Question by putting an end to the Russian threat to the Ottomans, the allies in August 1854 proposed the "Four Points" for ending the conflict in addition to the Russian withdrawal:

  1. Russia was to give up its protectorate over the Danubian Principalities.
  2. The Danube was to be opened up to foreign commerce.
  3. The Straits Convention of 1841, which allowed only Ottoman and Russian warships in the Black Sea, was to be revised.
  4. Russia was to abandon any claim granting it the right to interfere in Ottoman affairs on behalf of Orthodox Christians.

Those points, particularly the third, would require clarification through negotiations, which Russia refused. The allies, including Austria, therefore agreed that Britain and France should take further military action to prevent further Russian aggression against the Ottomans. Britain and France agreed on the invasion of the Crimean Peninsula as the first step.

Dolby's Sketches in the Baltic. A Sketch on the Quarter Deck of H.M.S. Bulldog Augt 15th 1854 Bomarsund. | ©Edwin T. Dolby

Battle of Bomarsund

1854 Aug 3 - Aug 16
, Bomarsund

The Battle of Bomarsund, in August 1854, took place during the Åland War, which was part of the Crimean War, when an Anglo-French expeditionary force attacked a Russian fortress.

Battle of Kurukdere | ©Fedor Baikov

Battle of Kurekdere

1854 Aug 6
, Kürekdere

In the north Caucasus, Eristov pushed southwest, fought two battles, forced the Ottomans back to Batum, retired behind the Cholok River and suspended action for the rest of the year (June). In the far south, Wrangel pushed west, fought a battle and occupied Bayazit. In the centre. the main forces stood at Kars and Gyumri. Both slowly approached along the Kars-Gyumri road and faced each other, neither side choosing to fight (June–July). On 4 August, Russian scouts saw a movement which they thought was the start of a withdrawal, the Russians advanced and the Ottomans attacked first. They were defeated at the Battle of Kürekdere and lost 8,000 men to the Russian 3,000. Also, 10,000 irregulars deserted to their villages. Both sides withdrew to their former positions. About then, the Persians made a semi-secret agreement to remain neutral in exchange for the cancellation of the indemnity from the previous war.

Russians withdraw from Danubian Principalities

Russians withdraw from Danubian Principalities

1854 Sep 1
, Dobrogea

In June 1854, the Allied expeditionary force landed at Varna, a city on the Black Sea's western coast, but made little advance from its base there. In July 1854, the Ottomans, under Omar Pasha, crossed the Danube into Wallachia and on 7 July 1854 engaged the Russians in the city of Giurgiu and conquered it. The capture of Giurgiu by the Ottomans immediately threatened Bucharest in Wallachia with capture by the same Ottoman army. On 26 July 1854, Nicholas I, responding to an Austrian ultimatum, ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from the principalities. Also, in late July 1854, following up on the Russian retreat, the French staged an expedition against the Russian forces still in Dobruja, but it was a failure.

By then, the Russian withdrawal was complete, except for the fortress towns of northern Dobruja, and Russia's place in the principalities was taken by the Austrians as a neutral peacekeeping force. There was little further action on that front after late 1854, and in September, the allied force boarded ships at Varna to invade the Crimean Peninsula.

Crimean campaign

Crimean campaign

1854 Sep 1
, Kalamita Gulf

The Crimean campaign opened in September 1854. In seven columns, 400 ships sailed from Varna, each steamer towing two sailing ships. Anchoring on 13 September in the bay of Eupatoria, the town surrendered, and 500 marines landed to occupy it. The town and the bay would provide a fallback position in case of disaster.

Allied forces reached Kalamita Bay on the western coast of the Crimea and started disembarking on 14 September. Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov, commander of 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 mobilize sufficient troops to defend Crimea.

The British troops and cavalry took five days to disembark. Many of the men were sick with cholera and had to be carried off the boats. No facilities for moving equipment overland existed, so parties had to be sent out to steal 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.

Despite the plans for a surprise attack on Sevastopol being undermined by the delays, six days later on 19 September, the army finally started to head south, with its fleets supporting them. The march involved crossing five rivers: the Bulganak, the Alma, Kacha, Belbek, and Chernaya. The next morning, the Allied army marched down the valley to engage the Russians, whose forces were on the other side of the river, on the Alma heights.

The Coldstream Guards at the Alma, by Richard Caton Woodville 1896

Battle of the Alma

1854 Sep 20
, Al'ma river

At the Alma, Prince Menshikov, commander-in-chief of Russian forces in the Crimea, decided to make his stand on the high ground south of the river. Although the Russian Army was numerically inferior to the combined Franco-British force (35,000 Russian troops as opposed to 60,000 Anglo-French-Ottoman troops), the heights they occupied were a natural defensive position, indeed, the last natural barrier to the allied armies on their approach to Sevastopol. Furthermore, the Russians had more than one hundred field guns on the heights they could employ with devastating effect from the elevated position; however, none were on the cliffs facing the sea, which were considered too steep for the enemy to climb.

The allies made a series of disjointed attacks. The French turned the Russian left flank with an attack up cliffs that 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 little pursuit occurred.

Siege of Sevastopol | ©Franz Roubaud

Siege of Sevastopol

1854 Oct 17 - 1855 Sep 11
, Sevastopol

Believing the northern approaches to the city too well defended, especially because of the presence of a large star fort and the city being on the south side of the inlet from the sea that made the harbour, Sir John Burgoyne, the engineer advisor, recommended for the allies attack to Sevastopol from the south. The joint commanders, Raglan and St Arnaud, agreed. On 25 September, the whole army began to march southeast and encircled the city from the south after it had established port facilities at Balaclava for the British and at Kamiesch for the French. The Russians retreated into the city.

The siege of Sevastopol lasted from October 1854 until September 1855, during the Crimean War. During the siege, the allied navy undertook six bombardments of the capital. The city of Sevastopol was the home of the Tsar's Black Sea Fleet, which threatened the Mediterranean. The Russian field army withdrew before the allies could encircle it. The siege was the culminating struggle for the strategic Russian port in 1854–55 and was the final episode in the Crimean War.

The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari. | ©Jerry Barrett, 1857

Florence Nightingale

1854 Oct 21
, England

On 21 October 1854, she and the staff of 38 women volunteer nurses including her head nurse Eliza Roberts and her aunt Mai Smith, and 15 Catholic nuns were sent to the Ottoman Empire. Nightingale arrived at Selimiye Barracks in Scutari early in November 1854. Her team found that poor care for wounded soldiers was being delivered by overworked medical staff in the face of official indifference. Medicines were in short supply, hygiene was being neglected, and mass infections were common, many of them fatal. There was no equipment to process food for the patients.

After Nightingale sent a plea to The Times for a government solution to the poor condition of the facilities, the British Government commissioned Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design a prefabricated hospital that could be built in England and shipped to the Dardanelles. The result was Renkioi Hospital, a civilian facility that, under the management of Edmund Alexander Parkes, had a death rate less than one tenth of that of Scutari.

Stephen Paget in the Dictionary of National Biography asserted that Nightingale reduced the death rate from 42% to 2%, either by making improvements in hygiene herself, or by calling for the Sanitary Commission. For example, Nightingale implemented handwashing and other hygiene practices in the war hospital in which she worked.

The Thin Red Line by Robert Gibb. Campbell's 93rd Highlanders repel the Russian cavalry.

Battle of Balaclava

1854 Oct 25
, Balaclava

The Allies decided against a slow assault on Sevastopol and instead prepared for a protracted siege. The British, under the command of Lord Raglan, and the French, under Canrobert, positioned their troops to the south of the port on the Chersonese Peninsula: the French Army occupied the bay of Kamiesch on the west coast whilst the British moved to the southern port of Balaclava. However, this position committed the British to the defence of the right flank of the Allied siege operations, for which Raglan had insufficient troops. Taking advantage of this exposure, the Russian General Liprandi, with some 25,000 men, prepared to attack the defences around Balaclava, hoping to disrupt the supply chain between the British base and their siege lines.

The Battle of Balaklava began with a Russian artillery and infantry attack on the Ottoman redoubts that formed Balaclava's first line of defence on the Vorontsov Heights. The Ottoman forces initially resisted the Russian assaults, but lacking support they were eventually forced to retreat. When the redoubts fell, the Russian cavalry moved to engage the second defensive line in the South Valley, held by the Ottoman and the British 93rd Highland Regiment in what came to be known as the "Thin Red Line". This line held and repelled the attack; as did General James Scarlett's British Heavy Brigade who charged and defeated the greater proportion of the cavalry advance, forcing the Russians onto the defensive. However, a final Allied cavalry charge, stemming from a misinterpreted order from Raglan, led to one of the most famous and ill-fated events in British military history – the Charge of the Light Brigade.

The loss of the Light Brigade had been such a traumatic event that the allies were incapable of further action that day. To the Russians the Battle of Balaclava was a victory and proved a welcome boost in morale—they had captured the Allied redoubts (from which seven guns were removed and taken to Sevastopol as trophies), and had gained control of the Worontsov Road.

Battle of Inkerman | ©Graham Turner

Battle of Inkerman

1854 Nov 5
, Inkerman

On 5 November 1854, the Russian 10th Division, under Lt. General F. I. Soymonov, launched a heavy attack on the allied right flank atop Home Hill. The assault was made by two columns of 35,000 men and 134 field artillery guns of the Russian 10th Division. When combined with other Russian forces in the area, the Russian attacking force would form a formidable army of some 42,000 men. The initial Russian assault was to be received by the British Second Division dug in on Home Hill with only 2,700 men and 12 guns. Both Russian columns moved in a flanking fashion east towards the British. They hoped to overwhelm this portion of the Allied army before reinforcements could arrive. The fog of the early morning hours aided the Russians by hiding their approach. Not all the Russian troops could fit on the narrow 300-meter-wide heights of Shell Hill. Accordingly, General Soymonov had followed Prince Alexander Menshikov's directive and deployed some of his force around the Careenage Ravine. Furthermore, on the night before the attack, Soymonov was ordered by General Peter A. Dannenberg to send part of his force north and east to the Inkerman Bridge to cover the crossing of Russian troop reinforcements under Lt. General P. Ya. Pavlov . Thus, Soymonov could not effectively employ all of his troops in the attack.

When dawn broke, Soymonov attacked the British positions on Home Hill with 6,300 men from the Kolyvansky, Ekaterinburg and Tomsky regiments. Soymonov also had a further 9,000 in reserve. The British had strong pickets and had ample warning of the Russian attack despite the early morning fog. The pickets, some of them at company strength, engaged the Russians as they moved to attack. The firing in the valley also gave warning to the rest of the Second Division, who rushed to their defensive positions.

The Russian infantry, advancing through the fog, were met by the advancing Second Division, who opened fire with their Pattern 1851 Enfield rifles, whereas the Russians were still armed with smoothbore muskets. The Russians were forced into a bottleneck owing to the shape of the valley, and came out on the Second Division's left flank. The Minié balls of the British rifles proved deadly accurate against the Russian attack. Those Russian troops that survived were pushed back at bayonet point. Eventually, the Russian infantry were pushed all the way back to their own artillery positions. The Russians launched a second attack, also on the Second Division's left flank, but this time in much larger numbers and led by Soymonov himself. Captain Hugh Rowlands, in charge of the British pickets, reported that the Russians charged "with the most fiendish yells you can imagine." At this point, after the second attack, the British position was incredibly weak. The British reinforcements arrived in the form of the Light Division which came up and immediately launched a counterattack along the left flank of the Russian front, forcing the Russians back. During this fighting Soymonov was killed by a British rifleman.

The rest of the Russian column proceeded down to the valley where they were attacked by British artillery and pickets, eventually being driven off. The resistance of the British troops here had blunted all of the initial Russian attacks. General Paulov, leading the Russian second column of some 15,000, attacked the British positions on Sandbag Battery. As they approached, the 300 British defenders vaulted the wall and charged with the bayonet, driving off the leading Russian battalions. Five Russian battalions were assailed in the flanks by the British 41st Regiment, who drove them back to the River Chernaya.

General Peter A Dannenberg took command of the Russian Army, and together with the uncommitted 9,000 men from the initial attacks, launched an assault on the British positions on Home Hill, held by the Second Division. The Guards Brigade of the First Division, and the Fourth Division were already marching to support the Second Division, but the British troops holding the Barrier withdrew, before it was re-taken by men from the 21st, 63rd Regiments and The Rifle Brigade. The Russians launched 7,000 men against the Sandbag Battery, which was defended by 2,000 British soldiers. So began a ferocious struggle which saw the battery change hands repeatedly.

At this point in the battle the Russians launched another assault on the Second Division's positions on Home Hill, but the timely arrival of the French Army under Pierre Bosquet and further reinforcements from the British Army repelled the Russian attacks. The Russians had now committed all of their troops and had no fresh reserves with which to act. Two British 18-pounder guns along with field artillery bombarded the 100-gun strong Russian positions on Shell Hill in counter-battery fire. With their batteries on Shell Hill taking withering fire from the British guns, their attacks rebuffed at all points, and lacking fresh infantry, the Russians began to withdraw. The allies made no attempt to pursue them. Following the battle, the allied regiments stood down and returned to their siege positions.

Winter of 1854

Winter of 1854

1854 Dec 1
, Sevastopol

Winter weather and a deteriorating supply of troops and materiel on both sides led to a halt in ground operations. Sevastopol remained invested by the allies, whose armies were hemmed in by the Russian Army in the interior. On 14 November, the "Balaklava Storm," a major weather event, sank 30 allied transport ships, including HMS Prince, which was carrying a cargo of winter clothing.

The storm and the heavy traffic caused the road from the coast to the troops to disintegrate into a quagmire, which required engineers to devote most of their time to its repair, including by quarrying stone. A tramway was ordered and arrived in January with a civilian engineering crew, but it took until March before it had become sufficiently advanced to be of any appreciable value. An electrical telegraph was also ordered, but the frozen ground delayed its installation until March, when communications from the base port of Balaklava to the British HQ was established. The pipe-and-cable-laying plough failed because of the hard frozen soil, but nevertheless 21 miles (34 km) of cable were laid. The troops suffered greatly from cold and sickness, and the shortage of fuel led them to start dismantling their defensive gabions and fascines.



1855 Jan 21
, England

Dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war was growing with the public in Britain and other countries and was worsened by reports of fiascos, especially the devastating losses of the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. On Sunday, 21 January 1855, a "snowball riot" occurred in Trafalgar Square near St Martin-in-the-Fields in which 1,500 people gathered to protest against the war by pelting cabs and pedestrians with snowballs. When the police intervened, the snowballs were directed at the constables. The riot was finally put down by troops and police acting with truncheons. In Parliament, the Conservatives demanded an accounting of all soldiers, cavalry and sailors sent to the Crimea and accurate figures as to the number of casualties sustained by all British armed forces in Crimea, especially concerning the Battle of Balaclava. When Parliament passed a bill to investigate by the vote of 305 to 148, Aberdeen said he had lost a vote of no confidence and resigned as prime minister on 30 January 1855. The veteran former Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston became prime minister. Palmerston took a hard line and wanted to expand the war, foment unrest inside the Russian Empire and reduce the Russian threat to Europe permanently. Sweden–Norway and Prussia were willing to join Britain and France, and Russia was isolated.

Main street of Balaclava showing the railway. | ©William Simpson

Grand Crimean Central Railway

1855 Feb 8
, Balaklava

The Grand Crimean Central Railway was a military railway built in Feb 8, 1855 during the Crimean War by Great Britain. Its purpose was to supply ammunition and provisions to Allied soldiers engaged in the Siege of Sevastopol who were stationed on a plateau between Balaklava and Sevastopol. It also carried the world's first hospital train. The railway was built at cost and without any contract by Peto, Brassey and Betts, a partnership of English railway contractors led by Samuel Morton Peto. Within three weeks of the arrival of the fleet carrying materials and men the railway had started to run and in seven weeks 7 miles (11 km) of track had been completed. The railway was a major factor leading to the success of the siege. After the end of the war the track was sold and removed.

Bataille d'Eupatoria (1854). | ©Adolphe Yvon

Battle of Eupatoria

1855 Feb 17
, Eupatoria

In December 1855, Tsar Nicholas I wrote to Prince Alexander Menshikov, the Russian Commander-in-chief for the Crimean War, demanding that the reinforcements being sent to Crimea be put to a useful purpose and expressing a fear that enemy landings at Eupatoria were a danger. The Tsar feared rightfully so that additional Allied forces at Eupatoria, located 75 kilometers north of Sebastopol, could sever Crimea from Russia at the Isthmus of Perekop cutting-off the flow of communications, materials, and reinforcements.

Shortly thereafter, Prince Menshikov informed his officers on Crimea that Tsar Nicholas insisted that Eupatoria be captured and destroyed if it could not be held. To conduct the attack, Menshikov added that he had been authorized to use the reinforcements currently en route to Crimea including the 8th Infantry Division. Menshikov then acted to select a commanding officer for the attack to which his first and second choices both declined the assignment, making excuses to avoid leading an offensive that neither believed would have a successful outcome. Ultimately, Menshikov selected Lieutenant General Stepan Khrulev, an artillery staff officer described as willing to "do exactly what you tell him," as the officer in overall charge of the undertaking.

At approximately 6 am, the first shots were fired when the Turks began a general cannonade supported by rifle fire. As quickly as they could respond, the Russians began their own artillery fire. For about an hour both sides continued to bombard each other. During this time, Khrulev reinforced his column on the left, advanced his artillery to within 500 meters of the city walls, and began to concentrate his cannon fire on the Turkish center. Although the Turkish guns were of a larger caliber, the Russian artillery began to have some success in the cannonade. Shortly thereafter when the Turkish fire slackened, the Russians began to advance five battalions of infantry toward the city walls on the left.

At this point, the attack effectively stopped. The ditches were filled with water at such a depth that the attackers quickly found themselves unable to scale the walls. After numerous failed attempts to cross the ditches and ascend their ladders to the top of the walls, the Russians were forced to retreat and seek shelter back at grounds of the cemetery. Seeing their enemy's difficulties, the Turks took advantage of the situation and sent a battalion of infantry and two squadrons of cavalry out of the city to pursue the Russians as they fell back.

Almost immediately, Khrulev deemed the ditches as an obstacle that could not be overcome and came to the conclusion that Eupatoria could not be taken given its defenses and complement of defenders. When asked with regard to the next steps, Khrulev ordered his forces to retreat. The order was communicated to the commanders of the right and center columns, neither of which had engaged in the fight to the degree as the effort of the left column.

Bersaglieri halt the Russians during the Battle of the Chernaya.

Sardinian expeditionary corps

1855 May 9
, Genoa

King Victor Emmanuel II and his prime minister, Count Camillo di Cavour, decided to side with Britain and France in order to gain favour in the eyes of those powers at the expense of Austria, which had refused to join the war against Russia. Sardinia committed a total of 18,000 troops under Lieutenant General Alfonso Ferrero La Marmora to the Crimean Campaign. Cavour aimed to gain the favour of the French regarding the issue of uniting Italy in a war against the Austrian Empire. The deployment of Italian troops to the Crimea, and the gallantry shown by them in the Battle of the Chernaya (16 August 1855) and in the siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855), allowed the Kingdom of Sardinia to attend the peace negotiations for ending the war at the Congress of Paris (1856), where Cavour could raise the issue of the Risorgimento with the European great powers.

A total of 18,061 men and 3,963 horses and mules embarked in April 1855 on British and Sardinian ships in the harbor of Genoa. While the infantry of the line and cavalry units were drawn from soldiers, who had volunteered for the expedition, the Bersaglieri, artillery and sapper troops were dispatched from their regular units. i.e. each of the army's 10 regular Bersaglieri battalions dispatched its first two companies for the expedition, while i.e. the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Provisional Regiment consisted of volunteers from the army's 3rd Line Infantry Regiment. The corps disembarked at Balaklava between 9 May and 14 May 1855.

Azov campaign

Azov campaign

1855 May 12
, Taganrog

In early 1855, the allied Anglo-French commanders decided to send an Anglo-French naval squadron into the Azov Sea to undermine Russian communications and supplies to besieged Sevastopol. On 12 May 1855, Anglo-French warships entered the Kerch Strait and destroyed the coast battery of the Kamishevaya Bay. Once through the Kerch Strait, British and French warships struck at every vestige of Russian power along the coast of the Sea of Azov. Except for Rostov and Azov, no town, depot, building or fortification was immune from attack, and Russian naval power ceased to exist almost overnight. This Allied campaign led to a significant reduction in supplies flowing to the besieged Russian troops at Sevastopol.

On 21 May 1855, the gunboats and armed steamers attacked the seaport of Taganrog, the most important hub near Rostov on Don. The vast amounts of food, especially bread, wheat, barley and rye. that were amassed in the city after the outbreak of war were prevented from being exported.

The Governor of Taganrog, Yegor Tolstoy, and Lieutenant-General Ivan Krasnov refused an allied ultimatum by responding, "Russians never surrender their cities". The Anglo-French squadron bombarded Taganrog for more than six hours and landed 300 troops near the Old Stairway in the centre of Taganrog, but they were thrown back by Don Cossacks and a volunteer corps.

In July 1855, the allied squadron tried to go past Taganrog to Rostov-on-Don by entering the River Don through the Mius River. On 12 July 1855 HMS Jasper grounded near Taganrog thanks to a fisherman who moved buoys into shallow water. The Cossacks captured the gunboat with all of its guns and blew it up. The third siege attempt was made 19–31 August 1855, but the city was already fortified, and the squadron could not approach close enough for landing operations. The allied fleet left the Gulf of Taganrog on 2 September 1855, with minor military operations along the Azov Sea coast continuing until late 1855.

Siege of Kars | ©Thomas Jones Barker

Siege of Kars

1855 Jun 1 - Nov 29
, Kars

The siege of Kars was the last major operation of the Crimean War. In June 1855, attempting to alleviate pressure on the defence of Sevastopol, Emperor Alexander II ordered General Nikolay Muravyov to lead his troops against areas of Ottoman interest in Asia Minor. Uniting disparate contingents under his command into a strong corps of 25,725 soldiers, 96 light guns, Muravyov decided to attack Kars, the most important fortress of Eastern Anatolia.

The first attack was repulsed by the Ottoman garrison under Williams. Muravyov's second assault pushed the Turks back, and he took the main road and the heights over the city, but the renewed vigour of the Ottoman troops took the Russians by surprise. The ferocious fighting that had ensued made them change tactics and start a siege that would last until late November. Upon hearing news of the attack, Ottoman Commander Omar Pasha asked for Ottoman troops to be moved from the line at the siege of Sevastopol and redeployed to Asia Minor mainly with the idea of relieving Kars. After many delays, primarily put in place by Napoleon III, Omar Pasha left the Crimea for Sukhumi with 45,000 soldiers on 6 September.

Omar Pasha's arrival on the Black Sea coast north of Kars induced Muravyov to begin a third assault on the Ottoman forces, which had been nearly starved. On 29 September, the Russians undertook a general attack on Kars, which lasted seven hours with extreme desperation, but they were repulsed. General Williams remained isolated, however, as Omar Pasha never reached the city. Instead of relieving the garrison he plunged into prolonged warfare in Mingrelia and took Sukhumi in the aftermath. In the meantime, the Ottoman reserves in Kars were running out, and the supply lines had been thinned.

Heavy snowfall in late October made the Ottoman reinforcement of Kars quite impractical. Selim Pasha, Omar's son, landed another army at the ancient city of Trebizond, to the west, and began marching south to Erzerum to prevent the Russians from advancing further into Anatolia. The Russians sent a small force from the Kars lines to stop his advance and defeated the Ottomans at the River Ingur on 6 November. The garrison of Kars declined to face further hardships of the winter siege and surrendered to General Muravyov on 28 November 1855.

Battle of Suomenlinna

Battle of Suomenlinna

1855 Aug 9 - Aug 11
, Suomenlinna

The Battle of Suomenlinna was fought between Russian defenders and a joint British/French fleet during the Åland War.

La battaglia della Cernaia, Gerolamo Induno.

Battle of the Chernaya

1855 Aug 16
, Chyornaya

The battle was planned as an offensive by the Russians with the aim of forcing the Allied forces (French, British, Piedmontese, and Ottoman) to retreat and abandon their siege of Sevastopol. Tsar Alexander II had ordered his commander in chief in the Crimea, Prince Michael Gorchakov to attack the besieging forces before they were reinforced further. The Tsar hoped that by gaining a victory, he could force a more favorable resolution to the conflict. Gorchakov didn’t think that an attack would be successful but believed the greatest chance of success to be near the French and Piedmontese positions on the Chyornaya River. The Tsar ordered the hesitating Gorchakov to hold a war council to plan the attack. The attack was planned for the morning of August 16 in the hope to surprise the French and Piedmontese as they had just celebrated the Feast day of the Emperor (France) and Assumption Day (Piedmontese). The Russians hoped that because of these feasts the enemy would be tired and less attentive to the Russians. The battle ended in a Russian retreat and a victory for the French, Piedmontese and Turks. As a result of the slaughter that took place at the battle, the Russian soldiers had lost their trust in the Russian commanders and it was now only a question of time before the Russian army would be forced to surrender Sevastopol.

The Battle of Malakoff. | ©Adolphe Yvon

Battle of Malakoff

1855 Sep 8
, Sevastopol

For months the siege of Sevastopol continued. During July the Russians lost on an average of 250 men a day, and finally the Russians decided to break the stalemate and gradual attrition of their army. Gorchakov and the field army were to make another attack at the Chernaya, the first since the Inkerman. On 16 August, both Pavel Liprandi and Read's corps furiously attacked the 37,000 French and Sardinian troops on the heights above Traktir Bridge. The assailants came on with the greatest determination, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. At the end of the day, the Russians drew off leaving 260 officers and 8,000 men dead or dying on the field; the French and British only lost 1,700. With this defeat the last chance of saving Sevastopol vanished.

The same day, a determined bombardment once more reduced the Malakoff and its dependencies to impotence, and it was with absolute confidence in the result that Marshal Pélissier planned the final assault. At noon on 8 September 1855, the whole of Bosquet's corps suddenly attacked all along the right sector. The fighting was of the most desperate kind: the French attack on the Malakoff was successful, but the other two French attacks were repelled. The British attack on the Redan was initially successful, but a Russian counterattack drove the British out of the bastion after two hours after the French attacks on the Flagstaff Bastion were repelled. With the failure of the French attacks in the left sector but with the fall of the Malakoff in French hands further attacks were cancelled. The Russian positions around the city were no longer tenable.

Throughout the day the bombardment mowed down the massed Russian soldiers along the whole line. The fall of the Malakoff was the end of the siege of the city. That night the Russians fled over the bridges to the north side, and on 9 September the victors took possession of the empty and burning city. The losses in the last assault had been very heavy: for the Allies over 8,000 men, for the Russians 13,000. At least nineteen generals had fallen on the final day and with the capture of Sevastopol the war was decided. No serious operations were undertaken against Gorchakov who, with the field army and the remnants of the garrison, held the heights at Mackenzie's Farm. But Kinburn was attacked by sea and, from the naval point of view, became the first instance of the employment of Ironclad warships. An armistice was agreed upon on 26 February and the Treaty of Paris was signed on 30 March 1856.

The Attack on the Redan, Sebastopol, c.1899 (oil on canvas) Crimean War | ©Hillingford, Robert Alexander

Battle of the Great Redan

1855 Sep 8
, Sevastopol

The Battle of the Great Redan was a major battle during the Crimean War, fought between British forces against Russia on 18 June and 8 September 1855 as a part of the Siege of Sevastopol. The French army successfully stormed the Malakoff redoubt, whereas a simultaneous British attack on the Great Redan to the south of the Malakoff was repulsed. Contemporary commentators have suggested that, although the Redan became so important to the Victorians, it was probably not vital to the taking of Sevastopol. The fort at Malakhov was much more important and it was in the French sphere of influence. When the French stormed it after an eleven-month siege that the final, the British attack on the Redan became somewhat unnecessary.

The Dévastation-class ironclad battery Lave, c. 1855

Battle of Kinburn

1855 Oct 17
, Kinburn Peninsula

The Battle of Kinburn, a combined land-naval engagement during the final stage of the Crimean War, took place on the tip of the Kinburn Peninsula on 17 October 1855. During the battle a combined fleet of vessels from the French Navy and the British Royal Navy bombarded Russian coastal fortifications after an Anglo-French ground force had besieged them. Three French ironclad batteries carried out the main attack, which saw the main Russian fortress destroyed in an action that lasted about three hours.

The battle, although strategically insignificant with little effect on the outcome of the war, is notable for the first use of modern ironclad warships in action. Although frequently hit, the French ships destroyed the Russian forts within three hours, suffering minimal casualties in the process. This battle convinced contemporary navies to design and build new major warships with armour plating; this instigated a naval arms race between France and Britain lasting over a decade.

Congrès de Paris, 1856, | ©Edouard Louis Dubufe

Peace negotiations

1856 Mar 30
, Paris

France, which had sent far more soldiers to the war and suffered far more casualties than Britain had, wanted the war to end, as did Austria. Negotiations began in Paris in February 1856 and were surprisingly easy. France, under the leadership of Napoleon III, had no special interests in the Black Sea and so did not support the harsh British and Austrian proposals.

Peace negotiations at the Congress of Paris resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 30 March 1856. In compliance with Article III, Russia restored to the Ottoman Empire the city and the citadel of Kars and "all other parts of the Ottoman territory of which the Russian troop were in possession". Russia returned the Southern Bessarabia to Moldavia. By Article IV, Britain, France, Sardinia and Ottoman Empire restored to Russia "the towns and ports of Sevastopol, Balaklava, Kamish, Eupatoria, Kerch, Jenikale, Kinburn as well as all other territories occupied by the allied troops". In conformity with Articles XI and XIII, the Tsar and the Sultan agreed not to establish any naval or military arsenal on the Black Sea coast. The Black Sea clauses weakened Russia, which no longer posed a naval threat to the Ottomans. The Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia were nominally returned to the Ottoman Empire, and the Austrian Empire was forced to abandon its annexation and to end its occupation of them, but they in practice became independent. The Treaty of Paris admitted the Ottoman Empire to the Concert of Europe, and the great powers pledged to respect its independence and territorial integrity.


1857 Jan 1
, Crimea

Orlando Figes points to the long-term damage the Russian Empire suffered: "The demilitarization of the Black Sea was a major blow to Russia, which was no longer able to protect its vulnerable southern coastal frontier against the British or any other fleet... The destruction of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol and other naval docks was a humiliation. No compulsory disarmament had ever been imposed on a great power previously... The Allies did not really think that they were dealing with a European power in Russia. They regarded Russia as a semi-Asiatic state... In Russia itself, the Crimean defeat discredited the armed services and highlighted the need to modernize the country's defences, not just in the strictly military sense, but also through the building of railways, industrialization, sound finances and so on... The image many Russians had built up of their country – the biggest, richest and most powerful in the world – had suddenly been shattered. Russia's backwardness had been exposed... The Crimean disaster had exposed the shortcomings of every institution in Russia – not just the corruption and incompetence of the military command, the technological backwardness of the army and navy, or the inadequate roads and lack of railways that accounted for the chronic problems of supply, but the poor condition and illiteracy of the serfs who made up the armed forces, the inability of the serf economy to sustain a state of war against industrial powers, and the failures of autocracy itself."

After being defeated in the Crimean War, Russia feared that Russian Alaska would be easily captured in any future war with the British; therefore, Alexander II opted to sell the territory to the United States.

Turkish historian Candan Badem wrote, "Victory in this war did not bring any significant material gain, not even a war indemnity. On the other hand, the Ottoman treasury was nearly bankrupted due to war expenses". Badem adds that the Ottomans achieved no significant territorial gains, lost the right to a navy in the Black Sea, and failed to gain status as a great power. Further, the war gave impetus to the union of the Danubian principalities and ultimately to their independence.

The Crimean War marked the re-ascendancy of France to the position of pre-eminent power on the Continent, the continued decline of the Ottoman Empire and a period of crisis for Imperial Russia. As Fuller notes, "Russia had been beaten on the Crimean peninsula, and the military feared that it would inevitably be beaten again unless steps were taken to surmount its military weakness." To compensate for its defeat in the Crimean War, the Russian Empire then embarked in more intensive expansion in Central Asia, partially to restore national pride and partially to distract Britain on the world stage, intensifying the Great Game.

The war also marked the demise of the first phase of the Concert of Europe, the balance-of-power system that had dominated Europe since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and had included France, Russia, Prussia, Austria and the United Kingdom. From 1854 to 1871, the Concert of Europe concept was weakened, leading to the crises that were the unifications of Germany and of Italy, before a resurgence of great power conferences.


References for Crimean War.

  • Arnold, Guy (2002). Historical Dictionary of the Crimean War. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-81086613-3.
  • Badem, Candan (2010). The Ottoman Crimean War (1853–1856). Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-18205-9.
  • Clodfelter, M. (2017). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015 (4th ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0786474707.
  • Figes, Orlando (2010). Crimea: The Last Crusade. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-7139-9704-0.
  • Figes, Orlando (2011). The Crimean War: A History. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-1429997249.
  • Troubetzkoy, Alexis S. (2006). A Brief History of the Crimean War. London: Constable & Robinson. ISBN 978-1-84529-420-5.
  • Greenwood, Adrian (2015). Victoria's Scottish Lion: The Life of Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde. UK: History Press. p. 496. ISBN 978-0-7509-5685-7.
  • Marriott, J.A.R. (1917). The Eastern Question. An Historical Study in European Diplomacy. Oxford at the Clarendon Press.
  • Small, Hugh (2007), The Crimean War: Queen Victoria's War with the Russian Tsars, Tempus
  • Tarle, Evgenii Viktorovich (1950). Crimean War (in Russian). Vol. II. Moscow and Leningrad: Izdatel'stvo Akademii Nauk.
  • Porter, Maj Gen Whitworth (1889). History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Vol. I. Chatham: The Institution of Royal Engineers.
  • Royle, Trevor (2000), Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854–1856, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 1-4039-6416-5
  • Taylor, A. J. P. (1954). The Struggle for Mastery in Europe: 1848–1918. Oxford University Press.