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The Crimean Campaign[429]

Frederick Engels

The reason for this appears to be the knocking up of the horses in dragging heavy guns and provisions from Balaklava, both the artillery and commissariat being destitute of draught animals. The mud, however, is so deep that the transportation of cannon and ammunition had ceased, and a supply of food, such as it was, was all that was being brought up. The average number of daily admissions to the hospitals was 150, and of deaths about 50. In the meantime the trenches have been brought up nearer the enemy's works, and a third parallel constructed, which cannot be armed yet, though it must be defended against sorties. How near the trenches are now to the nearest attacked points, it is impossible to say, as reports are so contradictory, while nothing official, of course, is published; some say 140 or 150 yards, but a French report states that the nearest point is as far distant as 240 yards. The French batteries, which are completed and armed, have to wait, because the desultory, and as now appears, perfectly useless cannonade of November has reduced the stores of ammunition, and a repetition of such desultory firing would be equally useless. Thus the Russians have had ample time not only to repair all the damage done by the former attack, but to construct new works, and they have done so with such application, that Sevastopol is now stronger than ever. A decisive assault is entirely out of the question, where several succeeding lines of defense have to be taken in succession, and where, behind the last enceinte, the large stone buildings of the scattered town have been turned into as many redoubts.

The siege, whenever it is recommenced, will have to be done over again, with the only difference that the batteries are considerably more advanced toward the town, and consequently more efficient. But at the price of how many lives, lost by the hand of the enemy or by sickness, has this advantage been bought! It is the very work of guarding these extensive trenches which, by depriving the men of sleep, has produced many of the casualties by sickness in the British army. And the Russians have been active enough in sorties, which, if not always successful, have had their full effect as far as harassing an already overworked enemy is concerned.

It appears, too, that the reenforcements of the British and French have nearly all arrived, and unless fresh regiments are ordered for embarkation, very small additions will be made to the strength of either army in the Crimea. The Turkish army is getting very leisurely transported to Eupatoria, whence it is to operate toward Simferopol, observing, at the same time, the north side of Sevastopol. This operation, by entirely separating the Turks from their Allies, and forming two distinct armies, is another strategic blunder, inviting the Russians to defeat each army separately. But it could not be avoided; it would have been still worse to collect more troops on the little Heracleatic Chersonese. Thus, we see, the consequences of the celebrated flank march to Balaklava are developing themselves again and again in fresh false moves. That the Turks will get well beaten is very likely; they are no longer the army of Kalafat and Silistria. Disorganization, neglect, and want of everything have transformed that army, and Turkey has no second to replace it. Under these circumstances, nothing is so improbable as that the negotiations for peace should be disturbed by the fall of Sevastopol. There has been no time since the Allies landed when that event was not more likely than at present. It is not too much to say that in all military history there is no more signal failure than this Crimean campaign.

Written on January 19, 1855
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4304, February 3;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1012, February 6, 1855 as a leader
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[429] This article was written by Engels for the New-York Daily Tribune at Marx's request (see Marx's letters to Engels of January 12, 17 and 19, 1855).

The first paragraph and the first sentence of the second were added by the New-York Daily Tribune. They read as follows:

"A more gloomy picture of disaster and suffering, consequent on blundering and imbecile mismanagement, was never presented than in the letter of our correspondent at Constantinople, published in this morning's paper. It is true his account of the condition of the British army in the Crimea communicates no general facts with which we were not before acquainted, but some of his details are as new as they are painful, while he expresses the feelings of the army thus decimated, and of the English at Constantinople, with a freedom and vividness equaled by few English writers. The indignation at the Government and its agents, at the Field-Marshal commanding, the Commissariat, and the system under which affairs are thus frightfully misconducted, must, indeed, be deep and ardent. We are confident that it is not in the least exaggerated by our correspondent; as our readers will learn from one of our London letters, this feeling is shared by the people of England.

"We yesterday quoted The London Times to the effect that the British cavalry before Sevastopol had ceased to exist as a force."

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 13 (pp.596-597), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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