The New International Encyclopædia/Crimean War

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CRIMEAN WAR. The name given to the war of 1854-56 between Russia on the one hand, and Turkey with her allies, France, England, and Sardinia, on the other. It was ushered in by the struggle between Russia and Turkey, which broke out in 1853, the immediate occasion of which was the assertion by Russia of a protectorate over the Greek Christians in the Turkish dominions. Coupled with this was a dispute between Russia and France over the guardianship of the holy places in Palestine. The real ground, however, for the attitude assumed by France and Great Britain was resistance to the aggressive policy of the Russian Emperor, Nicholas I. The latter believed that the other Powers of Europe were not in a position to interfere, and saw an opportunity to continue the Russian advance which had Constantinople for its objective. Accordingly, in the spring of 1853 he submitted to the Porte, through Prince Menshikoff, an ultimatum in regard to the Greek Christians and other matters. England and France prepared to sustain the Sultan against Russia, and stationed their fleets in Besika Bay. In July the Russian forces advanced into the Danubian principalities. The Vienna Note, prepared by Austria and signed by the neutral Powers as a basis of settlement, was so modified by Turkey as to be unacceptable to Russia, and on October 4, 1853, Turkey declared war. The English and French fleets thereupon passed through the Dardanelles. Though the Turks were at first victorious upon land, the Russian admiral, Nakhimoff, won an important naval victory at Sinope, November 30; on March 12, 1854, France and Great Britain concluded an alliance with Turkey, and two weeks later they declared war against Russia. Prussia stood firmly neutral. Austria, though desirous of checking the Russian advance across the Danube, dared not become involved in a war on the east, leaving its western frontiers open to possible attack by Prussia and other States of the Germanic Confederation, and contented itself, therefore, with mobilizing an army on the southern frontier. The allied Western Powers determined to assist the Sultan by a naval expedition against Kronstadt, in the Baltic, and by a combined attack with land forces in the south. The Baltic expedition proved a complete failure, achieving nothing beyond the capture of Bomarsund on August 16.

Early in the summer 20,000 English troops, under Lord Raglan, and 50,000 French soldiers, under Marshal Saint-Arnaud, assembled at Varna, on the Black Sea. Against the advice of the Turks, who wished to drive Russia out of the Caucasus, Saint-Arnaud and Raglan decided upon the siege of Sebastopol, Russia's stronghold and depot in the Crimea. The war was thus narrowed down to a limited sphere, and was fought in a long siege and a series of stubborn engagements. The first of these occurred at the river Alma, on September 20, 1854, six days after the landing of the Allies. Saint-Arnaud died on September 29, and was succeeded by General Canrobert. At the beginning of October the Allies began the regular siege of Sebastopol, the defense of which was directed by Todleben. On October 25th the Russians attacked the British at Balaklava (q.v.). The engagement was marked by bad generalship on the British side, and by the gallant but ill-advised charge of the Light Brigade. The Russians followed this up with an unsuccessful attack at Inkermann on November 5. The severe winter caused the suspension of active operations, and the English and Turks endured terrible hardships because of the inadecpiate commissary arrangements. During the winter an international conference attempted to adjust matters, but without avail. Austria entered into an alliance with France and Great Britain; but as Prussia could not be drawn into action unfavorable to Russia, Austria refrained from entering into hostilities. Sardinia, on the other hand, joined the Allies in January, 1855, and sent 10,000 men of her new army, under General La Marmora, to the Crimea. (See Cavour and Italy.) The Russians resumed activities in February, assailing the Turkish positions at Eupatoria, but without result. After the death of the Emperor Nicholas and the accession of Alexander II., in March, 1855, Prince Michael Gortchakoff succeeded Prince Menshikoff in command of the Russian forces.

Operations were renewed with great vigor in the spring, the Allies having 174,000 men in the field and the Russians about 150,000. General Pélissier succeeded Canrobert in command in May, and General Simpson succeeded Lord Raglan, upon the latter's death in June. A Russian army, advancing to the relief of Sebastopol, was defeated at the Tchernaya on August 10. From the 19th of August to the 8th of September a terrible bombardment of the besieged city was kept up, and was followed on the latter day by a general assault, in which the French took the Malakoff Tower and the British took the Little Redan. Gortchakoff now blew up the southern fortifications and evacuated the city, retiring into the hills. General Muravieff captured Kars, in Armenia, on November 28. All the parties were ready for peace, which was signed at Paris, where a congress of the Powers had been in session, on March 30, 1856. The integrity of the Ottoman Empire was guaranteed by the Powers, which also renounced all right of intervention in Ottoman affairs; reforms were promised by the Sultan; Russia renounced her protectorate over the Danubian principalities, and ceded a strip of Bessarabia to Moldavia; the navigation of the Danube was declared free to all nations under the supervision of a commission of members from the bordering States; the Black Sea was neutralized. The Congress united in the Declaration of Paris (q.v.), which laid down certain principles of international law. Consult: Hamley, The War in the Crimea (London, 1891), the best short treatment in English. The standard work is Kinglake, The Invasion of the Crimea (9 vols., London, 1863-87); also Russell, The War in the Crimea, l854-56 (London, 1855-56); Marx, The Eastern Question, 1853-56, trans. by E. M. and E. Aveling (London, 1897); Lodomir, La guerre de 1853-56 (Paris, 1857); Lysons, The Crimean War from First to Last (London, 1895); “Russian Side of the Crimean War,” National Review (November, 1864); Kovalevski, Der Krieg Russlands mit der Türkei in den Jahren 1853-54 (Leipzig, 1869).