Friday, June 19, 2015

The battle at Traktir Bridge.

The Battle of the Chernaya (Battle of Traktir Bridge,) was a battle by the Chernaya River fought during the Crimean War on August 16, 1855. The battle was fought between Russian troops and a coalition of French, Sardinian and Ottoman troops. The Chernaya River is on the outskirts of Sevastopol. The battle ended in a Russian retreat and a victory for the French, Turks and Sardinians.

The battle was planned as an offensive by the Russians with the aim of forcing the Allied forces (French, British, Sardinian, and Ottoman) to retreat and abandon their siege of Sevastopol. Czar Alexander II had ordered his commander in chief in the Crimea, Prince Michael Gorchakov to attack the besieging forces before they were reinforced further. The Czar hoped that by gaining a victory, he could force a more favorable resolution to the conflict. Gorchakov didn’t think that an attack would be successful but believed the greatest chance of success to be near the French and Sardinian positions on the Chernaya River. The Czar ordered the hesitating Gorchakov to hold a war council to plan the attack. The attack was planned for the morning of August 16 in the hope to surprise the French and Sardinians as they had just celebrated the Feast day of the Emperor (France) and Assumption Day (Sardinians). The Russians hoped that because of these feasts the enemy would be tired and less attentive to the Russians.

58,000 Russian troops in two army corps under Prince Michael Gorchakov fought against 28,000 French and Sardinian troops under French General Aimable PĂ©lissier and Sardinian General Alfonso La Marmora. Although the British correspondents were amazed at the courageousness and impetuosity of their attack, the assault of the Russian army was handicapped by poor organization and lack of experienced soldiers which, due to Sevastopol, forced their corps to consist mostly of militia.

In the cover of the morning fog, the Russians advanced on Traktirburg with 47,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 270 cannon under command of general Liprandi on the left and general Read on the right. The two generals had been ordered by Gorchakov not to cross the river until given explicit orders. Annoyed that things weren’t happening fast enough, Gorchakov sent a note to his generals with the words "Let's start it." By this, Gorchakov only meant that the Russians should start to deploy their forces. Unfortunately his generals interpreted his words as his order to attack and they acted accordingly, although reserve forces were still on route to the battlefield. The attacking Russians immediately met stiff resistance from the French and Sardinians. Read’s forces crossed the river near Traktirburg but without cavalry and artillery support, they were easily stopped by the French on the Fedjuchin Heights. Read then ordered his reserve formation, the 5th Infantry Division, to attack the Heights but instead of launching a coordinated assault, he fed them piecemeal in to the fray. Going in regiment by regiment, the assaulting reserve troops accomplished nothing. Seeing this Gorchakov ordered Read to deploy the entire division against the French. This forced the French back up the hill but the Russians could not capture the Heights. In the following retreat General Read was killed. Upon the death of Read, Gorchakov took personal command of the right and ordered 8 battalions of Liprandi’s left wing to reinforce the right wing. These forces came under fire from the Sardinians and were driven back. At 10 o’clock in the morning, Gorchakov concluded that the situation was hopeless and ordered a general retreat.

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