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Battle of Balaclava Area Today

A map of the area around the battle positions

Battle of Balaclava summary

The Battle of Balaclava, fought on 25 October 1854 during the Crimean War, was part of the Anglo-French-Turkish campaign to capture the port and fortress of Sevastopol, Russia's principal naval base on the Black Sea.

  1. To the Russian commanders, and, belatedly, to the Royal Engineers , the redoubts were recognised to be too far forward of the inner defensive line of Balaclava to be adequately defended and supported by the British. The Ottoman defenders were on their own.
  2. In his first report of the action for The Times , William Russell wrote that the Turks 'received a few shots and then bolted', but afterwards admitted that he had not been a witness to the start of the battle, confessing, 'Our treatment of the Turks was unfair … ignorant as we were that the Turkish in No.1 redoubt lost more than a fourth of their number ere they abandoned it to the enemy'
  3. The Ottoman forces in the other redoubts, having already watched their compatriots flee the first redoubt and realizing that the British were not coming to their aid, retreated back towards Balaclava, pursued by the Cossacks who had little trouble dispatching any stray or isolated men,
  4. The Ottoman forces had gained some time for the Allies, but in the end the Turks were forced to abandon the redoubts
  5. The Russian cavalry crossed in a south-westerly direction and, at about 09:00, streamed into the North Valley
  6. Ryzhov detached 400 men of the Ingermanland Hussars to turn and head straight for the Allied infantry position
  7. Colin Campbell, commander of the Highland Brigade and thus the 93rd Highlanders, brought his men forward from behind the hillock that had sheltered them from the Russian artillery
  8. Campbell had such a poor opinion of the Russian cavalry that he did not bother telling his men to form square. Instead, he lined them up 2 files deepBarely five minutes after it had begun the Ingermanland Hussars were in retreat.
  9. Meanwhile, the main part of Ryzhov's cavalry remained static on the southern slopes of the Causeway Heights, some 800 yards (~730 m) from Scarlett's Heavy Brigade still moving south-east in the South Valley
  10. Although outnumbering the British by two or three to one and having the advantage of the high ground, the Russians seemed shaken by the unexpected presence of Scarlett's cavalry
  11. The charge of the Heavy Brigade was anything but a charge – the brigade had launched uphill from a standing start, and the short distance between the two combatants had hardly allowed their horses to reach the trot
  12. The Russians retreated in the direction of the Causeway Heights before halting at the east end of the North Valley
  13. Raglan was anxious to exploit Scarlett's success and drive the Russians off the Causeway Heights, but Cathcart's and Cambridge's infantry divisions had still not arrived,
  14. The British commander believed that the enemy had retreated in such disorder that a show of force by his cavalry – in advance of the infantry's arrival – would be enough to persuade the Russians to abandon the Causeway Heights
  15. Raglan wished his cavalry to advance immediately, but the ambiguity of the order had again resulted in a misunderstanding
  16. Instead of inclining to the right towards the redoubts on the Causeway Heights and the captured British guns, the Light Brigade continued towards Obolensky's battery at the end of the valley
  17. The Heavies were also hit – Lucan himself was slightly wounded, and his horse hit twice – but these men would have suffered more casualties had it not been for the charge of the 150 men of the Chasseurs d'Afrique
  18. The French cavalry had formed up to the left of the British position. When they had seen the Light Brigade cut up, Major Abdelal led an attack up the Fedioukine Heights to charge the flank of the Russian battery, forcing them to drag away their guns
  19. Lucan – concluding that the Light Brigade would be wiped out before they reached the Russians at the end of the valley – ordered the Heavy Brigade to halt their advance and retire, leaving Cardigan's men without support
  20. Having fired their last shot of canister some of the Russians turned to run. Others, knowing the consequences of turning their backs on cavalry, drew their sabres
  21. Ryzhov had expected to mop up any Light Brigade survivors but his hussars and Cossacks, unnerved by the British horsemen, panicked and wheeled to escape
  22. Russian officers, noticing how vastly superior their numbers were, managed to halt their retreat near the Chernaya, and edge forward their men
  23. The Russian lancer regiments waiting on heights were now ordered down into the valley to form a line behind the British (the 13th, 17th, and 8th on the right of the valley, the 11th and 4th on the left) and block their route of escape
  24. Those watching with Raglan thought the Light Brigade completely lost, but unexpectedly the two groups of survivors managed to break through the Russian trap
  25. Most of the survivors were back at the British lines by 12:00 – the whole affair had lasted no more than 20 minutes