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The Results in The Crimea[79]

Frederick Engels

The illusions with which official incapacity and national self-love have surrounded the military operations in the Crimea[a], now begin to melt away, along with the sheet of snow which has covered the scene of action through the winter months. The recent pamphlet of Napoleon Bonaparte[b] says distinctly, that while in the Crimea everything went wrong, the generals-in-chief

"must have been in possession of orders from their governments enjoining them to pass under silence and to dissimulate the obstacles which opposed themselves to the taking of Sevastopol".

This supposition is fully borne out by the reports of these generals[c], and especially by the repeated reports which they caused to be sent, indirectly, from the camp[d], as to the assault being fixed on such and such a day. Everybody recollects that from the 5th of November down to the beginning of March the European public was kept in constant expectation of this grand and final spectacle. Though continually postponed, every adjournment was to be for a short time only, and public curiosity was but increased by it. But now matters begin to take a different turn[e], and the length of the siege has at last called into existence a sort of public opinion in the camp, based upon the views publicly expressed by officers who know something about these matters, and the gentlemen of the staff are no longer able to whisper about the camp, with all the importance and oracularity inherent to their position, that on such and such a day the assault will take place and the town will be overwhelmed. Every private now knows better. The nature of the defenses, the superiority of the enemy's fire, the disproportion of the besieging forces to the task before them, and, above all, the decisive importance of the North Fort, are by this time too well understood to admit of such preposterous tales being successfully repeated.[f]

About the end of February, the Allies are said to have had before Sevastopol 58,000 French, 10,000 English, and 10,000 Turks—all together about 80,000 men, which agrees pretty nearly with our own computations at various epochs[g]. Supposing they had even 90,000 men, they would still be unable to maintain the siege with one portion, and to detach the other upon an offensive movement against the Russians at Bakshiserai; for this field army of the Allies could not arrive before Bakshiserai with more than 40,000 men, while the Russians could bring at least 60,000 against them in an open field, where the advantages of the position between Inkermann and Balaklava would not exist, and where, therefore, the moral superiority of the allied army would be considerably affected by maneuvers which could not be effectually employed by superior numbers of Russians either at Balaklava or at Inkermann[h]. Thus, the Allies must remain besieged on their Chersonese, until they are strong enough to advance beyond the Chernaya with something like 100,000 men. This shows the vicious circle in which they move: the more men they bring into this pestilential mouse-trap, the more they lose by sickness; and yet, the only way to get successfully out of it, is to send more men thither.

The other expedient they have hit upon to get out of the scrape the Turkish Expedition to Eupatoria[80]—now turns out to be a perfect repetition of the original Crimean blunder. The Turks landed at Eupatoria are far too weak to advance into the interior. The intrenchments around the place appear to be so extensive that an army of some 20,000 men is required for their defense. The reports of the "battle" of February 17, before Eupatoria, lead to the conclusion that at least one-half of the 40,000 men assembled there found active employment in the defense[i]. The extent of an intrenched camp intended to shelter 40,000 men must, besides, be such that about one-half of the men will be required for active service in case of an attack. Thus the town will require about 20,000 men for its defense, and 20,000 only remain disposable for field operations. But 20,000 men cannot venture more than a few miles out of Eupatoria without exposing themselves to all sorts of flank and rear attacks from the Russians, and to the risk of having their communications with the town intercepted. Now the Russians, having a double line of retreat either toward Perekop or toward Sympheropol, and being, besides, in their own country, can always avoid a decisive action with the 20,000 Turks who may emerge from Eupatoria.

Thus, 10,000 Russians, placed at a day's march from the town, will always be able to keep in check the 40,000 Turks concentrated in it; if they retreat for another ten or twelve miles they will be a match for any number of Turks who can venture to advance to that distance from their base of operations. In other words, Eupatoria is another Kalafat; but with this difference, that Kalafat had the Danube in its rear, and not the Black Sea, and that Kalafat was a defensive position, while Eupatoria is an offensive one. If 30,000 men at Kalafat could maintain a successful defense, with occasional and equally successful offensive sallies, extending to a limited distance, 40,000 men at Eupatoria are far too many to defend a place which about 1,000 English and French held for five months; while they are far too few for any offensive operations. The consequence is, that a Russian brigade, or at the outside a Russian division will be abundantly sufficient to check the whole Turkish force at Eupatoria.

The so-called battle of Eupatoria was a mere reconnaissance on the part of the Russians. They advanced, 25,000 to 30,000 strong, against the place from the north-west, the only available side, as the south is sheltered by the sea, and the east by a marshy lake, called Sasik. The country to the north-west of the town is formed by low, undulating ground, which, to judge from the maps. and from the experience of this action, does not command the town within effective field-gun range. The Russians, with a force inferior by 10,000 men to the garrison, and exposed besides, on both flanks, and especially on the right one, to the fire from the men-of-war in the bay, could never have had any serious intention of taking the place by assault. They consequently confined themselves to an energetic reconnaissance, opening a cannonade on the whole of the line, at a distance which precluded the possibility of serious damage; they then advanced their batteries nearer and nearer, keeping their columns as much as possible out of range, and then moved up these columns as if for attack so as to force the Turks to show their strength, and made one attack at a point where the shelter afforded by the monuments and shrubbery of a burying-ground allowed of their approaching close to the defenses. Having ascertained the situation and strength of the intrenchments, as well as the approximative numbers of the garrison, they retired, as every other army, judiciously commanded, would have done. Their object was attained; that their losses would be greater than those of the Turks, they knew beforehand. This very simple affair has been magnified by the allied commanders into a glorious victory. People must be very much in want of something to boast of, if they attempt to impose upon the public in such a barefaced way.[j]

It certainly was a great mistake that the Russians allowed the Allies to maintain themselves in Eupatoria for five months, until the Turks came. A Russian brigade, with a sufficient number of twelve-pounders, might have driven them into the sea, and by a few slight earthworks on the shore, might even have kept the men-of-war at a respectful distance. If the allied fleets had detached an overwhelming force to Eupatoria, the place could have been burned down, and thus made valueless as a future base of operations for a landing force. But as it is, the Russians may be quite satisfied with having left Eupatoria in the possession of the Allies. Forty thousand Turks, the last remnant of the only respectable army Turkey ever possessed, blocked up in a narrow camp, where 10,000 Russians can keep them in check, and where they are exposed to all the diseases and sufferings of men crowded closely together—these forty thousand paralyzed Turks are a not inconsiderable deduction from the offensive forces of the Allies.

The French and English, after having lost 50,000 to 60,000 men, are still besieged on the Heracleatic Chersonese, and the Turks are besieged at Eupatoria, while the Russians are in full communication with both the North and South sides of Sevastopol, whose defenses are much stronger than ever[k]. Such is the glorious result of five months' experimenting in the Crimea![l]

Written about March 16, 1855
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4353, April 2, 1855.
Re-printed in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1028, April 3, 1855
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 708, April 7, 1855 as a leading article;
the German version was first published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 131, March 19, 1855,
marked with the sign x


[a] The Neue Oder-Zeitung has: "with which official incapacity, English ministerial intrigues and self-interested Bonapartism have surrounded the military operations in the Crimea".—Ed.

[b] Thus in the New-York Daily Tribune—presumably a mistake; the version in the Neue Oder-Zeitung reads: "The pamphlet of Jérôme Bonaparte (Jr.)", the reference being to the anonymous pamphlet De la conduite de la guerre d'Orient....—Ed.

[c] Raglan and Canrobert.—Ed.

[d] Instead of the passage "the repeated reports which they caused to be sent, indirectly, from the camp", the Neue Oder-Zeitung has: "the rumours which they repeatedly spread".—Ed.

[e] Part of this sentence and the preceding sentence do not occur in the Neue Oder-Zeitung.—Ed.

[f] The Neue Oder-Zeitung further has: "We have even had reports of letters by English officers which permit no doubt on this point."—Ed.

[g] The end of the sentence beginning with the words "which agrees..." does not occur in the Neue Oder-Zeitung.—Ed.

[h] The end of this sentence beginning with the words "and where, therefore the moral superiority..." does not occur in the Neue Oder-Zeitung.—Ed.

[i] This sentence does not occur in the Neue Oder-Zeitung.—Ed.

[j] Instead of this sentence the Neue Oder-Zeitung has: "What does this prove but the great demand for and the. small supply of real victories?"—Ed.

[k] In the Neue Oder-Zeitung the words "after having lost 50,000 to 60,000 men" and "whose defenses are much stronger than ever" do not occur.—Ed.

[l] The Neue Oder-Zeitung further has: "There are also military and political questions to be taken into account, which we shall consider in our next letter."—Ed.

[79] A version of this article headlined "Krimsche Angelegenheiten" ("Crimean Affairs") and dated March 16, 1855 appeared in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 131, on March 19, 1855. It was marked with the sign x. In translating Engels' article into German Marx abridged it slightly and made a few changes (the more important ones are indicated in the footnotes).

[80] This refers to the landing in Eupatoria on February 9, 1855 of Turkish troops transferred from Bulgaria and commanded by Omer Pasha. They comprised two Turkish and one Egyptian divisions, two squadrons and two field batteries with a total strength of 21,600.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.81-85), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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