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From The Crimea[187]

Frederick Engels

The arrival of the Asia's mail at a late hour on Thursday night enabled us yesterday to publish the dispatch of Gen. Pélissier concerning the fight which took place before Sevastopol on the night of May 22, as well as an authentic account of the allied advance upon Chorgun, which was accomplished on the 25th of that month. Some 25,000 men under Canrobert crossed the Chernaya and occupied the line of that streamlet, expelling the Russian outposts from their positions on the hights immediately overhanging the right bank. The Russians fell back as a matter of course, this not being their proper field of battle, in order to concentrate all their forces on the strong line between Inkermann and the range of cliffs to the east of that place. By this advance the Allies have nearly doubled the extent of ground occupied by them—giving them room of which their increased forces stood greatly in need—and managed an opening into the valley of Baidar which may prove very useful. The first step toward a resumption of field operations has been accomplished with success, and should be followed by actions of greater importance.

As for the affair of May 22, the scene of the struggle was between the Quarantine Bay and the Central Bastion—No. 5 of the Russians. It was a very hard-contested and sanguinary conflict. The Russians, as we now learn from Pélissier's report, have occupied all the ground from the head of the Quarantine Bay to the Cemetery, and thence to the Central Bastion by detached works and rifle trenches, though the official British Admiralty plan of the siege-works shows that there are trench-works all over this important ground. But the truth now appears to be that as soon as the Flagstaff and Central Bastions were seriously menaced and the outworks protecting them taken by the French, this piece of ground was turned by the Russians into one vast works. In a couple of nights long lines of connecting breastworks were thrown up inclosing the whole ground, and thus forming a large place d'armes or protected space where troops could safely be concentrated in order to act upon the flanks of any French attack, or even to attempt strong sorties on the flanks of the advanced French works. Pélissier knew by experience the rapidity with which the Russians proceed in structures of the sort, and the tenacity with which they defend their works when once completed. He fell upon them at once. On the night of May 22 an attack in two columns was made. The left column established itself in the Russian trenches at the head of Quarantine Bay, and effected a lodgment; the right column also got possession of the advanced trenches, but being unable to work under the heavy fire of the enemy, had to withdraw at daybreak. On the following night the attempt was renewed with stronger columns and with complete success. The entire work was carried and turned against the Russians by transplanting the gabions from one side of the trench to the opposite one. In this action the French appear to have fought with the greatest gallantry—with some sort of revival of that old furia francese which made them so celebrated in former times, although it must be confessed that the statements of Gen. Pélissier as to the odds they had to contend against have some little show of brag about them.

With regard to the third bombardment of the city, which our Halifax dispatch reported as having commenced on the 6th, followed by the storm and capture of the Mamelon and White Tower[a] on the 7th, the Asia's mail furnishes no new information, and enables us to add nothing to our remarks of Wednesday last. We learn however that 25,000 men had been transported to the Chersonese from Omer Pasha's army at Eupatoria, with a view evidently to operations in the field, since if another bombardment and an assault were contemplated, these Turks had better have been left in their former quarters. But it also appears that the allied army was very insufficiently furnished with means of transport and supplies for a campaign in the interior; and the probability is that while waiting for them to be provided, Pélissier has occupied the troops with this active renewal of the siege operations, not with the intention of really undertaking to storm the place at present, but to keep up the morale of the men.

From the conduct of Pélissier since taking the command, it seems certain that he is determined to be guided by his own judgment only and to take no notice of whatever plans and projects the imagination of Louis Bonaparte may be inclined to hatch. Plan-making for Crimean campaigns seems now to be a fashionable occupation at Paris; even old Marshal Vaillant has sent one or two; but Pélissier at once telegraphed that if Vaillant thought his plans so good he had better come to the Crimea to carry them out himself. How this energetic but obstinate and brutal Commander will go on we shall see very shortly; at all events, if it be true, as we see it intimated, that he has ventured to forward "orders" to the British, Turkish and Sardinian Chiefs of the Staff without even taking the trouble to inform the respective Commanders of their contents, he will very soon get up a pretty squabble in the allied camp, where hitherto no single General, but the Council of War, composed of all the Commanders, has been considered supreme. Imagine old Field Marshal Lord Raglan under the command of a single French Lieutenant-General!

Meantime the Russians are not idle. The "expectant" position into which Austria has relapsed and the arrival of reserves and new levies from the interior have enabled Russia to send fresh troops to the Crimea. The 3d, 4th, 5th and 6th Infantry Corps are there already, beside several Cavalry Divisions. Now the 2d Infantry Corps, which was said to be in the Crimea six weeks ago, has actually left Volhynia for the seat of war, followed by the 7th Light Cavalry Division, attached to the Grenadier Corps. This is a pretty sure sign that the infantry and artillery of the Grenadier Corps are next on the list to march to the Crimea; and indeed they are already moving to Volhynia and Podolia to take the place of the 2d Corps. This latter body, commanded by Gen. Paniutin, who in Hungary[b] commanded the Russian Division attached to Haynau's army, will bring to the Crimea 49 battalions of Infantry, beside Artillery and Light Cavalry—in all, about 50,000 or 60,000 men—for there can be no doubt that these corps, which have not yet been engaged, have been raised to the full war-complement. The troops of the 2d Corps will successively arrive on the seat of war from June 15 to July 15, at a time when decisive operations will very likely be taking place, and thus they may take a very important part in the coming Crimean campaign.

The month of June must bring some decision into this Crimean warfare. Before June, or at the outside July, has elapsed, either the Russian field-army will have had to leave the Crimea, or the Allies will have to prepare for their own retreat.

Written about June 8, 1855
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4424, June 23, 1855;
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1052, June 26, 1855
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 720, June 30, 1855 as a leading article


[a] The Selenghinsk and Volhynsk redoubts.—Ed.

[b] In 1849.—Ed.

[187] The opening lines of the first and third paragraphs (the references to the reports brought by the Asia and to those received from Halifax, as well as to the publication in the preceding issue—No. 4424, June 22, 1855—of reports on the fighting in the Crimea) were added by the Tribune editors. The article was reproduced by Marx in German translation and with some alterations in his report published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung on June 11, 1855, under the heading "Zur Kritik der Vorgänge in der Krim" ("A Critique of the Events in the Crimea").

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.249-252), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME0906en.html