Farsi    Arabic    English   

War Prospects[253]

Frederick Engels

At our last advices there was a lull in the warlike operations in the Crimea. No more assaults had taken place; the guns were all but silent; and but for the rifle-firing carried on constantly between the two lines of intrenchments, for the sapping and mining by which the Allies were pushing on toward the Malakoff hill, and for an occasional sortie by the Russians, we might suppose that hostilities had been suspended. But this can be nothing but the calm that precedes the storm; and ere this, that storm must have burst. There is every probability that a struggle more savage than Inkermann, the Mamelon Vert, or the assault of June 18[254], has already been consummated at Sevastopol.

In fact the month of August must to a certain degree decide the result of the campaign. By this time the great part, if not all of the Russian reenforcements must have arrived, while the ranks of the Allies cannot but be thinned by sickness. If they hold their ground on the plateau of the Chersonesus it will be as much as they can do. That they will not take the south side of Sevastopol this year is a notion abandoned now even by the British press. They are reduced to the hope of knocking the place to pieces bit by bit, and if they manage to proceed at the speed they have hitherto exhibited, the siege will equal in duration that of Troy. There is no reason to expect that they will do their work with increased rapidity, for we are now all but officially informed that the vicious system hitherto followed is to be obstinately continued. The Crimean correspondent of the Constitutionnel of Paris, a man of high rank in the French army, and believed to be Gen. Regnault de St. Jean d'Angély, Commander of the Guards, has announced the fact, that the public may spare themselves the trouble of making speculations as to a field campaign and eventual investment of the north side of Sevastopol. Under present circumstances, he says, this could not be done without raising the siege and abandoning to the Russians the entire plateau; and therefore it has been decided to knock away as hard as possible at the position already attacked, until it is completely destroyed[a]. Now, the announcements of this letter may be relied on, as there is every reason to believe that the French Emperor[b] not only approves, but even revises every letter from this source before it is printed, and as Regnault is one of his special pets.

What is to be the consequence of all this we can easily discover. The Russian army at and about Sevastopol now consists of the third and fourth corps, two divisions of the fifth and one of the sixth corps, beside marines, sailors, local troops, Cossacks and cavalry—presenting a force under arms of 180 battalions, or 90,000 infantry, with 30,000 artillery and cavalry, beside about 40,000 sick and wounded. Even the French Moniteur estimates their effective strength under arms at 110,000 men[c]. Now the whole of the second corps (50 battalions, 32 squadrons, 96 guns) and two divisions of grenadiers, with one division of cavalry (24 battalions, 32 squadrons, 72 guns), are on the march or already at Sevastopol, representing an additional force of 55,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and Cossacks, and 5,000 artillery. The Russians thus will shortly have concentrated a force of at least 175,000 men or considerably more than the Allies can have left after their recent losses by combats and disease. That with these the Russians should be able at least to hold their own, particularly as they can constantly relieve the garrison by fresh troops after the old ones are exhausted by fatigue, is certainly the least that is to be expected from them.

The Allies, on the other hand, have no chance of receiving similar reenforcements. They now number 21 divisions of infantry (12 French, 4 English, 3 Turkish, 2 Piedmontese), or about 190 battalions; 3 divisions of cavalry (1 French, 1 English, 1 Turkish), or about 60 squadrons; and a corresponding number of guns. But as their battalions, and especially their squadrons, are very much thinned by the losses of the campaign, the whole force will not exceed 110,000 infantry, 7,500 cavalry, and 20,000 to 25,000[d] artillery, train, and non-combatants fit for duty. Now if the forces of the two contending parties were so nicely balanced before the arrival of the Russian reenforcements, the scale must evidently turn against the Allies as soon as they arrive. All the allied reenforcements arrived and now being sent out are merely detachments from the depots to keep up the battalions and squadrons engaged; and they are not very strong if we are to believe the statements of the Press. However, three divisions are said to be on the march to Marseilles and Toulon, where steamers are concentrating; while, in England, the regiments intended for the Crimea are ordered to be ready for immediate embarkation. They will perhaps amount to another division of infantry and one of cavalry. Thus about 33,000 infantry, with perhaps 2,500 cavalry and artillery may be gradually arriving in the Crimea during August and September; but all this depends very much upon the celerity with which they are got off. At all events, the Allies will find themselves once more in a numerical inferiority, and may again be locked up on the plateau where they spent the last dreary Winter. Whether the Russians can now succeed in driving them off that stronghold we will not undertake to say. But to hold their own is evidently the only thing the Allies can expect, until they receive reenforcements on a gigantic scale. Thus the war promises to be reduced to a series of resultless and bloody encounters, in which each party will send forth fresh bodies of troops, day after day, to meet the enemy in hand-to-hand struggles, whether on the ramparts of the town, on the parapets of the trenches, or on the escarped heights around Inkermann and Balaklava. No position of hostile armies can be imagined in which the shedding of more blood can lead to results less important than we must expect from such fights.

There is, however, one chance of something decisive occurring. If the Russians, beside the troops they have sent, can afford to send another 50,000 men, so as to insure to their army an incontestable superiority, serious defeats may be incurred by the Allies, so as to force them to reembark. To judge of this possibility we must look at the force the Russians have under arms on the whole extent of their frontier. The Crimean army, including the reenforcements mentioned above, we set down at about 175,000 men. In the Caucasus, where, beside the local troops and Cossacks, the 16th and 17th divisions are engaged, they may have about 60,000 men. In Bessarabia they are said to have 60,000 men under Lüders—mostly combined battalions and reserves, as we should say, since only one division of the infantry of the fifth corps is there, and nothing has ever been stated about troops of the first or second corps having marched in that direction. In Poland and Volhynia there would remain two divisions of guards, one of grenadiers, three of the first army-corps, and various reserves—amounting to about 160,000 men. The greater portion of the reserves and part of the guards are concentrated on the Baltic in the following manner: 50,000 men under Sievers in the German Baltic Provinces, 30,000 in Finland under Berg, and 50,000 men in and about St. Petersburg, as an army of reserve under Rüdiger; in all about 585,000 men. The remainder of the Russian forces, about 65,000 men, are in the interior; and thus the total armed force would make up 650,000 men. Considering the enormous levies made by Russia, this number does not appear at all exaggerated.

Now, it is clear that at this advanced season of the year no serious danger of a landing on the Baltic coast is to be apprehended, and a general shifting toward the south of the various detachments placed there might be effected so as to liberate say 30,000 men, to be replaced by the militia or other troops from the interior. These 30,000 men marching toward Poland, would liberate in that country an equal number, and by the time the Austrians have reduced their army on the frontier to the harmless number of 70,000 or 80,000 men, which must soon be the case, another 30,000 to 40,000 men from the Polish army might be spared. Thus the troops might be found for such a reenforcement as would preclude all possibility of the Allies ever mastering the Crimea single-handed, and they might be brought to the scene of war by the middle of October. But the question arises whether it will be possible for the Government to feed such a large number of troops during the Winter, especially since the Sea of Azoff has been cleared of Russian vessels. As to this we have not sufficient data to venture an opinion; but if that can be done, and the measure be adopted, the Allies might as well batter away at the rocks that surround Balaklava harbor as at the ramparts of Sevastopol defended directly and indirectly by a force of 250,000 men.

Russia has hitherto been held in check by 300,000 Austrians on the flank of her line of communication with the Crimea. Let her once get rid of that trammel, and the Allies will soon see what a power they have to deal with. They have allowed the time to slip away when, aided indirectly by Austria, they might have taken Sevastopol. Now, that Russia begins to be safe on that side, and has only the Allies to deal with, it is too late.

Written about July 20, 1855
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 4459, August 4, 1855,
Reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1064, August 7, 1855
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 726, August 11, 1855 as a leading article;
an abridged German version was included in the report by Marx and Engels published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 337, July 23, 1855,
marked with the sign x


[a] "Devant Sébastopol, 26 juin", Le Constitutionnel, No. 192, July 11, 1855.—Ed.

[b] Napoleon III.—Ed.

[c] Le Moniteur universel, No. 198, July 17, 1855.—Ed.

[d] Marx and Engels give other figures—30,000 to 35,000—in their article "From Parliament.—From the Theatre of War" (see this volume, pp. 363-66).—Ed.

[253] Marx included the text of this article, in an abridged German translation, in his report of July 20 for the Neue Oder-Zeitung. It appeared on July 23 under the heading "From Parliament.—From the Theatre of War" (see this volume, pp. 363-66). In the present edition this report is given as a joint item by Marx and Engels.

[254] For the battle of Inkerman (November 5, 1854) see Note 35↓.
On the fighting for the Mamelon (the Kamchatka lunette) and other outlying Russian fortifications at Sevastopol in June 1853 see Engels' article "From Sevastopol" (this volume, pp. 313-19).

On the assault of June 18, 1855 see Engels' article "The Late Repulse of the Allies" (this volume, pp. 328-32) and Note 215↓.

[35] In the battle of Inkerman in the Crimea (November 5, 1854) the Anglo-French forces defeated the Russian army, but the Russians' vigorous action compelled the enemy to refrain from storming Sevastopol and instead lay siege to the city. Engels described the battle in detail in his article "The Battle of Inkerman" (see present edition, Vol. 13, pp. 528-35).

[215] On June 18, 1855, one of the major battles of the Crimean War was fought at Sevastopol, ending in defeat for the Allies. The nearly nine-month-long siege of the city, the destruction caused by the bombardment, and the capture by French and British troops on June 7, 1855 of the outlying fortifications, the Selenghinsk and Volhynsk redoubts and the Kamchatka lunette (which had been erected by the defenders in the course of the siege) induced the Allied command to undertake a full-scale assault on the Southern (Korabelnaya) part of the city. It was launched on the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18, 1815. The assault was preceded by massive bombardment of the city from land and sea. Despite the Allies' substantial superiority in numbers, their attack, launched along the whole line of Russian fortifications at dawn on June 18, 1855, was repulsed at every point. The attackers suffered heavy losses. The fighting on June 18 showed the strength of Sevastopol's defences and the staunchness of the Russian troops. Marx gave a detailed account of the battle in his report "The Mishap of June 18.—Reinforcements"; Engels described it in his articles "From Sevastopol" and "The Late Repulse of the Allies" (see this volume, pp. 297-301, 313-19 and 328-32).

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.358-362), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME0931en.html