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The New Move In The Crimea[148]

Frederick Engels

The letter of our Paris correspondent published yesterday gave the outlines of the plan which, according to the best sources of information at Paris, the Allies propose to follow in the Summer campaign in the Crimea; and a scheme substantially the same having been divulged by Gen. Canrobert in the camp, we may fairly conclude that in this respect at least the truth is now known. It is simply that 25,000 men of the French reserves now distributed at Maslak, Gallipoli and Adrianople, are to be brought to the Crimea, to be followed by from 30,000 to 40,000 additional troops—Piedmontese and French. As soon as the reserves arrive, and without waiting for the additional reenforcements, the French army will proceed to cross the Chernaya, flog the Russians on the field if it can penetrate to Sympheropol and then with the coming reenforcements to help out the operation, go on to clear the peninsula of Russians, and to occupy and fortify Perekop; after which the main army will return and finish the siege of Sevastopol at leisure[a]. In the mean time the steamers of the fleets are to attack Kaffa and Kertch, and if they succeed in reducing those places, to occupy them as possible pivots or points of retreat for the active army in the field.

This is certainly the only thing to be done by the Allies if they expect ever to bring the operations in the Crimea to a satisfactory conclusion. But thus to act in the field requires that the balance of forces should be considerably in their favor; otherwise they cannot expect to obtain any important advantage over the Russian army of observation. How, then, does the balance of strength stand at present?

The French have in the Crimea nine divisions of infantry and one brigade of cavalry (Chasseurs d'Afrique[b]). At 7,000 men to a division, this gives a force of 63,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry. The English have five divisions of infantry amounting at a very high estimate to 6,000 men each, and a division of say 2,000 horse. Then there are the remains of the Turkish force originally sent to the Crimea, which cannot possibly exceed 6,000 infantry. Add to these the troops which Omer Pasha can withdraw from Eupatoria, where he must leave at least 15,000 men to garrison the extensive works erected there, and we shall increase the number of the allied army by say 20,000 infantry and perhaps 3,000 or 4,000 cavalry. These troops, as we learn from our correspondent at London, have already been transported to the Chersonese and are encamped at Kadikoi, back of Balaklava, ready for the expected field movements. This is a much more judicious disposition than to attempt to effect a junction by a separate inland movement of both the Anglo-French and Turkish armies, exposing them to be separately attacked by a superior Russian force. Our correspondent states the number of men Omer has brought to Kadikoi at a higher figure than we have estimated it, but he allots a corresponding English force to make up the garrison at Eupatoria, so that on the whole his estimates do not vary from ours[c]. With these forces we must take into our account 20,000 men of the French army of reserve who may be expected to arrive by the time Canrobert intends to take the field, and the 4,000 Piedmontese landed on the 9th of May. The allied strength in the Chersonese will then be as follows:

Infantry and ArtilleryCavalry

Whether the French reserves have any cavalry with them we do not know, or if they have, whether it will arrive in season for the commencement of operations is uncertain; however, to make as liberal a calculation as possible for the Allies, let us add 2,000 horse to the above figures, which would give a total cavalry force of 9,500.[e]

A part of the plan is to continue to carry on the siege, and for this at least as many troops will be required as are now engaged in that service that is to say:

Four French divisions at7,000each 28,000 men
Three English divisions at6,000each 18,000 men
Total46,000 men

To this number must be added the sailors and the troops intrusted with guarding Balaklava and the line of intrenchments to Inkermann, and who at the same time serve as an army of reserve to the besieging corps. We put these down at a low estimate at 12,000. Estimating the sailors and marines at 4,000, we shall therefore have to deduct 56,000 men from the above 143,000, leaving available for field operations 87,000 infantry and artillery and 9,500 cavalry, or altogether about 96,500 men[f]. And this, as we have said, is a very liberal computation.

Now, according to a Russian military correspondent of the Augsburg Gazette, who has always put down the Russian forces at very low estimates, the Russians have now in the Crimea, of

Regular Infantry93,000Regular and irregular Cavalry20,000
Sailors, Marines, &c.8,000  
Chornomorski[g] Cossacks6,000  
Artillery, Engineers, &c.13,000  
Total Infantry120,000Total Cavalry[h]20,000

The distribution of this force may be approximatively stated as follows:

For the defense of the south side of Sevastopol (infantry, artillery, &c.), men26,000
As Garrison to the North Fort and Intrenched Camp24,000

This leaves as available for the field, 70,000 infantry and artillery and 20,000 cavalry.

In point of infantry the Allies will thus have a striking superiority, their numbers exceeding those of their antagonists by 26,500 men[j]. As to the relative strength in artillery we are in the dark; but from the difficulty the Allies have always found in procuring horses, and from the large proportion of guns accompanying every Russian army, it is probable that the Russians will be superior to their opponents. In cavalry they will certainly have the advantage. Even if from their 20,000 horse we must subtract 8,000 Cossacks, who would at all events come in for patrolling, outpost and orderly duties, they still retain 12,000 cavalry intact from detachment service, against 9,500 of the Allies, of which number, on a day of battle, no more than 7,000 can be brought forward in line.[k]

The advance of the Allies toward the interior can hardly be made otherwise than on the road toward Mackenzie's farm and the space between this road and the head of Sevastopol Bay or Inkermann; because east of Mackenzie's farm the steep ridge encircling the Baidar Valley extends south-eastward until it joins the southern ridge of the Crimea near Yalta, forming a rocky barrier impassable for cavalry and artillery, and practicable for infantry by a few footpaths only. From Yalta there is indeed a road crossing the hills, but this can be defended by a very few troops, and has no doubt been fortified by the Russians long since, as well as the footpath passes. Besides, the direction of this road, the distance of Yalta from Balaklava, and the chance it offers to the Russians to cut off any corps operating on this line, will hardly admit of its being used by the Allies as their main line of operations.[l]

The road by Mackenzie's farm to the Alma and Sympheropol is defended by a double row of intrenchments; first on the ridge overhanging the Chernaya, and secondly on the north side of a ravine running down from the edge of the rocky range, near Mackenzie's farm, to the head of Sevastopol Bay. This second and main line of defense, which is not more than two English miles in extent, is said to be very strongly intrenched, and here the first decisive action will have to be fought—an action deciding whether the Allies are to continue imprisoned on the Heracleatic Chersonese or to gain the interior of the country. This position will cost a harder struggle to carry than the Alma, for the forces will be more equally balanced, unless the Russians commit the mistake of dispersing their troops. They can easily concentrate 75,000 men for the defense of these intrenchments, and if the Allies attack with from 80,000 to 90,000 men, this superiority will in a great measure be made up by the intrenchments, and by the narrow front on which the Allies must necessarily act. If the Russians behave as they should, they must here check the advance of the Allies at once and force them back into their stronghold on the Chersonese[m]. But if the Russians are defeated and the position carried, there remains nothing for them but to retire upon the Belbek and attempt to hold that line[n]. In this case the garrison of the north side of Sevastopol would have to be observed by the Allies, whose army in the field would thereby be weakened by some 8,000 or 10,000 men; and if even then the Russians suffered a second defeat, their superiority in cavalry would secure them a safe retreat, although their line of retreat would lie in the prolongation of their left wing—a very unfavorable position unless made up for by some countervailing advantage.

These are a few of the considerations offering themselves on this new turn of affairs in the Crimea. They are far from exhausting the subject, to which we shall therefore soon return.[o]

Written about May 11, 1855
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4402, May 29, 1855;
Re-printed in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1045, June 1, 1855 as a leading article;
the German version was first published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 221, May 14, 1855,
marked with the sign x
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] Instead of the preceding text, the version published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung has: "London, May 11. The impatience of the French army has forced Canrobert to divulge the Allies' plan of operations. The 25,000 men of the reserve army are to be brought to the Crimea, to be followed by another 30,000 to 40,000 men—French and Piedmontese. As soon as the reserve army arrives the French will take the field, cross the Chernaya, attack the Russians wherever they encounter them, try to link up with Omer Pasha's troops somewhere near the Alma and Kacha and then act according to circumstances."—Ed.

[b] African riflemen.—Ed.

[c] In the Neue Oder-Zeitung the text beginning with the words "Add to these the troops" and ending with the words "do not vary from ours" does not occur.—Ed.

[d] The Neue Oder-Zeitung gives the following figures:


[e] In the Neue Oder-Zeitung: "5,500".—Ed.

[f] The Neue Oder-Zeitung gives the following calculation: "Estimating the sailors and marines at 4,000, we shall have to deduct 54,000 from the total of 119,000, leaving available for field operations 65,000 infantry and 5,500 cavalry, altogether somewhat more than 70,000."

The Neue Oder-Zeitung further has: "One should also take into account Omer Pasha's corps at Eupatoria, roughly 35,000 infantry and 3,000 or 4,000 cavalry. Of these, 15,000 must stay back for garrison duty, so that Omer Pasha will probably take the field with 20,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, 24,000 all told.

"Hence we have the following sum total of allied troops for field operations in two separate corps:

Army at Sevastopol65,0005,50070,500
Army at Eupatoria20,0004,00024,000

[g] Black Sea.—Ed.

[h] The source in question—the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 125 (supplement), May 5, 1855—gives the following figures: infantry, 90,000; artillery, 15,000.—Ed.

[i] Instead of the two preceding paragraphs the Neue Oder-Zeitung has: "At the lowest estimate, the one the Russians themselves give of their present forces in the Crimea, we get 120,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry. One must deduct 50,000 of these for the defence of Sevastopol—26,000 for the south side and 24,000 as garrison for the North Fort and the entrenched camp."—Ed.

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

[k] Instead of the last sentence the Neue Oder-Zeitung has: "As regards infantry, the Allies' joint forces are superior to the Russians', but separately each of their two fighting corps is weaker. The Russians' greatest advantage, however, is their position. Deployed over the triangle between the Alma, Sevastopol and Simferopol, they hold a consolidated position against Omer Pasha along that river in the North, which can be maintained with 15,000 infantry along the front, while a flanking movement of the Russian cavalry threatens to cut off the Turks from Eupatoria. If therefore Omer Pasha himself advanced up to the Alma, he would never be able to cross it until the English and the French had thrown the Russians back to Simferopol and thus forced them to give up the Alma. In this case the two corps could link up. An advance of the Anglo-French army is therefore the basic condition of any success."—Ed.

[l] The text beginning with the words "and the space between this road" to the end of the paragraph does not occur in the Neue Oder-Zeitung.—Ed.

[m] Instead of the text beginning with the words "This position will cost" and ending with the words "their stronghold on the Chersonese", the Neue Oder-Zeitung has: "The narrow front on which the Allies must act here is to the Russians' advantage."—Ed.

[n] The Neue Oder-Zeitung further has: "while a detached corps keeps the Turks in check on the Alma".—Ed.

[o] In the Neue Oder-Zeitung the article ends as follows: "Even if the Russians were defeated here, their superiority in cavalry and the Allies' inadequate transport facilities making it impossible for the latter to take up positions far from the coast, would enable the Russians to retreat from the area controlled by the Allies. Their line of retreat would lie in the prolongation of their left wing, which is of course a very unfavourable route. However, it is probable that the Russians will try from the beginning to keep the Allies busy on the Chernaya and throw the bulk of their forces against Omer Pasha in order to encircle and crush him with their cavalry and then turn their total forces against the Anglo-French troops."—Ed.

[148] A German version of Engels' article "The New Move in the Crimea" appeared in the Neue Oder-Zeitung under the heading "Der Feldzug in der Krim" ("The Campaign in the Crimea"), dated May 11. The translation and editing were done by Marx.

The opening lines and further passages in the English version show alterations made by the editors of the New-York Daily Tribune. A comparison of the two versions reveals changes in the estimate of the strength of the Allied forces in the Crimea and a somewhat different presentation of figures, which was probably based on the reports of other Tribune correspondents, including A. Pulszky. However, the overall conclusions in the two versions are identical.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.180-185), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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