Memoirs of a Former Artilleryman

(This is a translation of a memoir by an unknown officer of the Don Cossack artillery. It was first published anonymously on pages 136-152 of the book Material for the History of the Don Artillery, compiled by B. M. Kalinin, printed in Novocherkassk in 1907. These memoirs are remarkable for containing eyewitness accounts of the Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman. In my translation I have added footnotes where I have additional information. The anonymous author makes some obvious errors regarding certain aspects of the English and French forces, but I have left these stand since they demonstrate what kind of rumors and misconceptions were current in the theater of war. This source is not referred to by Seaton or Curtiss, or indeed any other English-language historian, and I suspect by no Russian historians either. As an addition to the literature available on the Charge of the Light Brigade, it should be especially valuable. Dates have been converted to the Western calendar. – Mark Conrad.)


In 1854, when war with the French, English, and Turks became unavoidable, Highest orders directed some Don regiments and batteries to the Caucasus and others to the Crimea. At this same time Don No. 3 Battery was ordered to reorganize into a heavy battery (1), and I was assigned to this unit on 8 April, 1854. The battery commander was Colonel Modest Alekseevich Yagodin and the division (2) commanders were: First Division – Yesaul (3) Gleb Ivanovich Pozdeev; Second – Sotnik (4) Afanasii Ivanovich Ponomarev. Platoon commanders were: First - Sotnik Ivan Vasil’evich Popov; Second – Khorunzhii (5) Gulakov; Third – Khorunzhii Mikhail Matveevich Kalinin; and Fourth – Sotnik Rebinin. The sergeant major (6) in the battery was Yeremkin.

Men and horses joined the battery in the town of Novocherkassk, while guns and all the battery’s matériel was supplied from the city of Riga. Forming the battery lasted over two months. Gun horses were gotten from the Manych Steppe. They were wild and so evil tempered that we had to lay them down in order to put on their harness and nosebags. The caisson horses, though, were bought in Voronezh and were docile. Taming the wild horses demanded much effort and time. Nevertheless, by May enough horses were assembled together and trained so that the battery could be inspected by the government host ataman, General-Adjutant Khomutov (7), at an eight-gun strength. During this we executed battle firing against targets with exploding shell and canister shot (8). This attracted crowds of spectators who wanted to view the maneuvers of a heavy battery. The inspection was highly successful and the targets were blown to pieces. The review ended with live canister fire at a distance of 600 yards. The government host ataman thanked the commander for the inspection, as well as the officers and lower ranks.

By the end of June the battery was fully formed and completely equipped with everything needed. On 2 July, after a prayer service on the fairgrounds, the battery set off on campaign by marching to Feodosia. In the towns and villages along the entire route, the inhabitants greeted us with honors. The towns of Mariupol, Berdyansk, Melitopol, and Genichesk were especially hospitable. After crossing the spit between Sivash and the Sea of Azov, the battery finally arrived at Feodosia, where it was presented to the force commander, General Zhabokritskii (9), who gladly welcomed all the officers and lower ranks.

Our posting in Feodosia was quiet and no different from a peacetime assignment. The battery busied itself in drilling the lower ranks and took part in one-sided maneuvers with two plastun (9) battalions, the Moscow Infantry Regiment, and the Black Sea Reserve Battalion. These ended with a repulse of pretended enemy forces that were supposed to be making a landing near Feodosia.

Around the end of August, the government host ataman, General-Adjutant Khomutov, arrived in Feodosia. He reviewed the troops and then moved on to Sevastopol. One and a half months of quiet and comfortable duty in Feodosia went by in no time, and left the most pleasant indelible impression on our officers’ hearts.

At the beginning of September, word came of the enemy fleets’ appearance off the coast of the Crimea, which no one had expected.

Early on the morning of 13 September, a courier arrived from the commander-in-chief, Prince Menshikov, with orders for General Zhabokritskii’s force to immediately make a forced march to the village of Burlyuk on the Alma River. Upon receiving this order, the battery commander gathered his officers together and ordered that ammunition be inspected and the battery’s equipment be loaded onto the supply wagons. I myself was sent that night to Arbat (15 miles from Feodosia), where Khorunzhii Gulakov was engaged in buying oats for the battery, with orders to immediately stop purchases and deliver what had already been bought back to the battery. I reached Arbat about midnight, and by three in the morning was already back at the battery. That same day I was sent with five cossacks to act as billeting officer on the march route to Simferopol. The battery’s first stopping place was the dacha of the famous artist Aivazovskii (10), where I (after the battery commander and officers) was received with extraordinarily kind generosity. Aivazovskii’s wife, who was French and the most beautiful of women, was indignant with the actions of her countrymen and criticized Napoleon III’s politics. Here we also saw the artist’s picture gallery, which gave the officers great enjoyment. In particular, we were all interested in the painting of the Battle of Sinope, created by Mr. Aivazovskii with unequalled skill.

Bidding farewell to our friendly and generous hosts, on 16 September the battery set off for the Alma through the lush gardens of the Crimea that were abundantly draped with all kinds of fruits. Not yet having reached the village of Burlyuk, we received word of the enemy’s landing at Yevpatoria and his movement towards Sevastopol. It must be admitted that at the time there were few who had allowed the possibility of landing a 60,000-man invasion force on the Crimean coast.

In order to bar the enemy from Sevastopol, Prince Menshikov took up a position on the Alma River. The center of the position was opposite a stone bridge over the Alma, over which went the road from Yevpatoria to Sevastopol. The army’s left flank did not rest on the sea and was kept relatively weak in view of the Alma’s steep banks here being impassible for troops. The right flank, however, was stronger, so as to deny the enemy the possibility of pushing our forces towards the sea. Besides the river, our position was strengthened by vineyards and orchards occupied by a dense line of riflemen. Burlyuk was a mile from the sea and also occupied by our troops.

At the bridge, Colonel Zimmerman (11) of the General Staff met the battery and directed it to a place on the heights to the left of the bridge, near the Black Sea sailors’ unit. This was about noon on 19 September. The famed Black Sea sailors invited our commander and officers over for lunch. Here they demonstrated true Russian hospitality and such joviality that could only strengthen and further camaraderie and friendship between the two different branches of service. Captain Pereleshin (12), Prince Ukhtomskii (13), and Admiral Nakhimov (14) himself made all our officers welcome, and their sincere friendliness towards us can never be forgotten. The navy men, from admiral down to simple sailor, formed a single family, tightly bonded by duty and love of the fatherland, which they indeed showed during the difficult year-long Crimean campaign.

Upon returning to the battery from lunch, we met the officers of Lieutenant Colonel I. I. Klunikov’s 4th Reserve Don Battery (16). We sat down around Colonel Yagodin’s tent and exchanged our impressions of our campaign life. Suddenly, at 7 o’clock in the evening, we heard the sound of musket fire being exchanged in the direction of Yevpatoria, and then cannon shots. Everyone looked up and turned toward the line of posted guards, lances in hand, who now dispersed and now came together in groups, obviously in an agitated state. Soon a messenger galloped up and informed us that the enemy was advancing in dense masses and that the 4th Reserve Battery was needed in position. When it got this order, Klunikov’s battery swiftly passed over the bridge without being covered by other units and disappeared into the folds of the terrain. Then we could see them fly up a small hill, uncouple their limbers, and open fire. The cannon fire continued until it was completely dark. It turned out that the enemy had desired to reconnoiter our troops’ positions and moved cavalry forward, but was forced to withdraw back to Yevpatoria upon meeting the cossack regiments of Tatsyn and Popov, supported by Klunikov’s battery. With the onset of darkness, the 4th Reserve Battery returned to their bivouac. On this same day an order to the artillery required that by 8 o’clock in the morning each battery was to send one officer to Prince Menshikov’s command post to act as an aide. Kryukov and I were the ones detailed from the Don batteries.

Kryukov and I went to the commander-in-chief’s post and presented ourselves to the chief of artillery, General Kishinskii (17), a cheerful and very pleasant old gentleman, and we were told to stand easy but not go off anywhere. Here we met the son of the government host ataman, Junker (18) Konstantin Khomutov, serving as an aide to Prince Menshikov. He was standing next to a large observation telescope mounted on a tripod and pointed right at Yevpatoria. At about 10 o’clock in the morning, when only the aides were standing around the telescope, I went up to it and took a look towards the enemy. I saw a mass of troops with cavalry moving from Yevpatoria towards our position. I announced this to my comrades and ran to the chief of artillery and reported the enemy’s advance. General Kishinskii sent aides to the foot batteries with an order to immediately limber the guns and drive out to their assigned positions, but the Don batteries stayed in reserve. A little later, Prince Menshikov came up to the telescope, looked through it, and ordered that the infantry units occupy their positions.

The enemy was advancing in two columns: on the right on the sea came the French, and on the left—the English. In reserve remained the Turks. The French and English main forces were covered in front by a dense line of riflemen, who at about noon initiated an exchange of fire with our forward units. At this time cossacks brought a colonel of the French general staff up to the command post. He handed his carte de visite to Prince Menshikov and followed him into his tent. The cossacks had taken the colonel prisoner while he was reconnoitering. On his person was found an order to the French forces that spoke of the steadiness of Russian soldiers.

At around 2 o’clock, musket fire again broke out along the whole line. Enemy riflemen quickly moved forward to try to force our troops out of Burlyuk village and its gardens, but our sailors and infantry stubbornly contested every step. Only the great number of casualties inflicted by rifled weapons compelled our soldiers to fall back a little. The English then moved a good deal of artillery onto the heights, and under its protection dense masses of riflemen threw themselves on the bridge over the Alma River. But all their efforts to seize the bridge were in vain; a lightened foot battery entrenched in a very advantageous position repelled all the English attacks. The firing of this battery caused horrific damage to the enemy; the wounded and dead lay in heaps on and around the bridge.

During the time that the English were trying to capture the bridge but being beaten off, French troops under the command of Bosquet, protected by the guns of the fleet, undertook to come around our position’s left flank, which was very weakly occupied because it was thought that the Alma’s steep banks would be very difficult to ascend. But the French infantry not only made their way up these steep slopes, they also managed to haul up artillery. The heavy enfilade fire from artillery and infantry gave another turn to the battle. In order to reinforce our left flank, the chief of artillery ordered me to gallop to the Don batteries and bring them to a position indicated to me. I met the 4th Don Reserve Battery on the road and put it into position. Right away it opened fire and in front of our eyes an enemy ammunition caisson exploded. In spite of this, the French artillery along with the fleet’s guns were tearing terrible holes in our ranks. Large caliber projectiles ripped into our infantry and cut them down mercilessly, all the more so since they stood and lay in columns. The heavy losses shook our troops, and the possibility of defending the field of battle was becoming more and more remote…

I overtook the chief of artillery at the naval signal tower and went with him to Burlyuk and the stone bridge where our troops were dying so heroically in refusing to yield their position to the enemy. Don No. 3 Heavy Battery, which had been summoned here by someone unknown, bombarded the bridge along with the lightened foot battery, not allowing the English to approach. The chief of artillery was very angry that the battery had been put into position here without his knowledge. The battery had suffered badly. Colonel Yagodin was seriously wounded by a bullet in his chest and had been carried off to the aid post. Many gun-crew members and horses were killed or wounded, two guns were damaged, and some guns had only a pair of wheel horses left. Seeing the battery’s condition, General Kishinskii ordered it and the lightened battery to remove themselves from this position, since the successful French attack on our left flank threatened to cut off their retreat. But if it was difficult for the batteries to stay in place, it was even more difficult to carry out the general’s orders. Four lightened guns in entrenchments could not be taken out of position and were left for the English, and thanks only to the help of the gun crews was the Don battery able to leave its position with great difficulty. With the enemy having occupied the bridge that was the center point of our position, our troops were ordered to begin withdrawing. Since the retreat route was not indicated in time, there was disorder and confusion among the units. General Kishinskii turned to me and said, "Ride to your battery. All the troops are retreating in disorder."

After joining the battery, where Yesaul Pozdeev had taken over command, I followed in the rear with my platoon, since it had taken fewer losses, and we kept off the enemy pressure with canister fire. Sotnik Ponomarev was with the platoon. Our guns moved slowly because we did not have enough horses, and in addition my platoon had to unlimber and stop the enemy by firing at him. If the enemy had had more cavalry, then our retreat could hardly have ended safely. The platoon’s repeated halts made it possible for the rest of the guns to move out of the range of fire and take cover. Dusk began to fall, and we guessed at which way to go, not knowing where Yesaul Pozdeev had withdrawn to. At the naval signal tower we met the Moscow Regiment, which could not retreat since it was under heavy rifle fire. Sotnik Ponomarev ordered me to fire canister to drive off the enemy riflemen approaching the regiment. A few good shots made the riflemen go back down, and the Moscow men used the opportunity to quickly run across the hillock and descend into a ravine. But it was very difficult for the platoon to withdraw, and only nightfall enabled it to distance itself from the enemy. At this point my horse was killed under me and I was contused in the leg. When we were withdrawing without anyone to cover us, since the Moscow men were going along the trackless ravine, we met a hussar brigade, and Ponomarev asked General Ryzhov (19) to provide just a platoon for cover, but the general refused. Going along the road to the Kacha River, we came across many dead and wounded, and we seated several of the latter onto the gun carriages. Firing ceased due the complete darkness, and thus ended the battle on the Alma River, so unhappy for us.

Late at night, my platoon rejoined the battery, which was bivouacked on the Kacha among the masses of troops from all arms who had crowded together here in disorder. Fatigue, hunger, and the mental shock subsequent to a lost battle greatly affected the troops’ morale. The proximity of a medical post from which came groans and cries from the wounded and dying, praying for relief, made the soldiers’ situation even harder to bear, and all the more so since there were far from enough medical supplies for our needs. In the darkness, lit only by small dim lanterns, medics had to work hard to search out the wounded. Since there were no more bandages here, they piled the wounded onto supply wagons and sent them to Simferopol.

The morning of 21 September lit up the place where the troops were gathered, and the confusion that prevailed among the soldiers showed more of its bad effects. The supply trains and artillery units ran into each other when crossing the Kacha River, and behind them pressed the infantry and cavalry, each one trying to pass the other and thus increasing the confusion. At first all troops went to the Inkerman Heights, but on 22 September they were ordered to go on to Bakhchisarai.

In the meantime the army’s long supply train and large artillery park remained in Sevastopol, forgotten in the confusion and haste. The first to remember them was the chief of artillery, who was following the troops in his carriage, and he sent three aides to find Prince Menshikov and ask His Excellency where he should send the train and park from Sevastopol, telling him also that if there was to be a new battle the artillery and infantry would be without rounds and cartridges. Menshikov was also to be told that if the supply train stayed in Sevastopol it might fall into enemy hands. The officers rode in various directions seeking the commander-in-chief, but by nightfall all had returned and reported that they could not find the prince anywhere. This greatly worried the chief of artillery, who well understood the danger our train and park were in. General Kishinskii summoned me, still not recovered from my contusion, and ordered me to immediately go out into the night to find the commander-in-chief wherever he might be and report to him that the park remained in Sevastopol and was in danger.

Taking Cossack Savost’yanov of the Yekaterinskaya Settlement with me, I set off across the MacKenzie Heights along the road to Bakhchisarai. I had not yet reached the MacKenzie Heights when I met Don No. 3 Heavy Battery and learned from its officers that the prince had very early gone along the road to Bakhchisarai. I changed horses and my cossack escort here, and at 11 o’clock at night I galloped toward Bakhchisarai with Corporal Popov, overtaking the troops silently marching to that place. When crossing the Belbek River, I saw a small light off to the right and went toward it. This turned out to be an infantry bivouac. Here I learned from the officers that if I rode about a mile and a half to the left of the road I would be able to see a green light set up at the tent of Prince Menshikov. With this information I galloped along the indicated path. At the headquarters I announced myself and was immediately received by Prince Vasil’chikov (20), who learned my mission and took me to Prince Menshikov. The prince was not yet asleep, and upon hearing my report he turned to Vasil’chikov and said, "I think it would be useless to send one of our orderly officers to Colonel Khamrut, since they could lose the road in such darkness, and there is no time to lose. Therefore I suggest that it would be more sure to give this assignment to this officer here." Turning to me, His Excellency said, "Ride right away to Sevastopol and find the chief of the parks, Colonel Khamrut, and order him in my name to immediately take the park to join the army. To escort the park, take a company of the Reserve Black Sea Battalion that is traveling in the rearguard and have the battalion commander leave this company at the bridge across the Chernaya River to wait for the park. Don’t lose a minute. By dawn the park must have crossed the MacKenzie Heights. That is all. Go with God."

Upon receiving this order, I took my messenger, Popov, and galloped—as much as the horses had strength left—to Sevastopol. It was 12 o’clock at night. The darkness was impenetrable and in my hurry I lost the road and almost ran into the enemy. Only musket fire stopped me and forced me to turn to the left. I rode through a small woods and met a sailor’s wife with a cart who told me she was going from Sevastopol to Bakhchisarai. I was heartened that I had not lost the way and hurried along the road to Sevastopol as fast as my horse’s remaining strength allowed. At the Chernaya River I met the Black Sea Battalion and gave the commander-in-chief’s orders to its commander, Prokopovich (21), and then pressed onward. I reached Sevastopol at about 2 o’clock in the morning, found the park quietly arranged in bivouac, and reported to Colonel Khamrut, transmitting the commander-in-chief’s orders. The park commander immediately roused everyone to their feet. Soon it was a beehive of activity and in no more than half an hour all the wagons were harnessed and moving along behind my cossack, Popov, who was showing them the road. Descending into the Balaklava Valley, the park turned left along the dirt road, raising clouds of dust. It crossed the Chernaya River and began to move uphill, where a mass of supply wagons from all arms of service were crowded together, blocking the way for the park. It took much work and effort to reestablish order in the wagon trains and enable the park to get further on. Day had begun to dawn when the first transport wagons reached the top, turned off the road, and stopped at a farmstead to rest the horses. I slid off my horse and waited for Colonel Khamrut, who was following behind the park in his carriage. At this moment a small group of cavalry quickly rushed at the train and caused great confusion and disorder. The company from the Black Sea Reserve Battalion occupied the woods and opened fire on the enemy with their flintlocks. Seeing that the train and park wagons were in real danger, I galloped toward the Belbek River, where I found the chief of artillery and reported the enemy’s attack on the train. He sent me to the commander-in-chief. After hearing me out, Prince Menshikov ordered me to go to Don No. 4 Reserve Battery and take them to the MacKenzie Heights to help the Black Sea Reserve company. Even though the battery quickly formed up, nimbly got into position, and immediately opened fire, part of the supply trains belonging to the Leuchtenberg and Weimar regiments (22) and Don No. 2 Battery were seized by the enemy.

Thus ended an episode in my service to which I now recognize as very serious, because the saving of the park wagons was in large part due to my determination and initiative. All of my orders from higher authorities on that memorable night were carried out exactly, but I did lose two of my service horses, which collapsed from overexertion. The chief of artillery submitted my name for a decoration but I did not receive any since those tragic days were not a time for awards.

Soon after the park’s arrival, the troops were called away to the Kacha River and set up camp there. Three Don batteries—No. 2, Reserve No. 4, and Heavy No. 3—occupied a place to the right of the wide road going from Simferopol to Sevastopol, below the bridge over the Kacha. The hussar brigade was also located here. The weather turned dry and hot. We suffered from a great shortage of fodder, which we got by foraging. However, the infantry encampment on the Kacha did not stay long. After taking Balaklava, the allies straight away undertook a formal siege of Sevastopol. In a few days they established strong batteries armed with the largest caliber guns, and began a bombardment of the town from land and sea. This situation caused our infantry to quit the Kacha River and move to Sevastopol to occupy the south and north sides. The cossack units, however, with part of the infantry occupied the MacKenzie Heights and set up observation posts on the Chernaya River. Mounted patrols reconnoitered the area towards the Baidar Valley. Under the command of the brigade commander, Flügel-Adjutant Colonel Obolenskii, the Don batteries remained inactive on the Kacha River for a long time. Only Don Heavy No. 3 Battery, at the end of September, was specifically demanded in Sevastopol, but Prince Obolenskii arranged that it was sent not to Sevastopol, but to the Inkerman Heights where Colonel Popov’s Don Cossack Regiment was already located. This unit’s mounted patrols kept the Saksk lakes under observation, past which went the road to Simferopol.

In October reinforcements from Russia began to arrive, and around the 20th General Liprandi’s (23) division entered the Crimea and occupied the MacKenzie Heights, the village of Chorgun, and other places in the Baidar Valley. At night on 23 October, Don Heavy No. 3 Battery received the order to hurry to Chorgun and join General Liprandi’s force. The battery broke camp and moved toward the MacKenzie Heights, only at dawn beginning to descend into the valley of the Chernaya. The descent was very steep and went by zigzags. It was only thanks to help from the gun crews that the caissons safely made it down the mountain, except for that of the 4th Platoon. This caisson was drawn by excitable horses that ran away downhill and flew full into the rocks where all fell down. The gun crew galloped up to the caisson and, to their surprise, found the caisson, horses, and driver all unhurt. Having descended the slopes, the battery came out on the road going a little above the Chernaya River to Chorgun village. Here they saw enemy posts on the other side of the river, but these were so surprised by the appearance of the guns that they did not fire a single shot at the battery.

Early in the morning, the battery came to Chorgun where it was met by an adjutant who said that the force commander ordered it to immediately cross the Chernaya River and open fire on enemy redoubts Nos. 1 and 2. The horses had been working the whole night, so after watering them, the battery made a prayer to God and moved under the cover of a light mist towards Redoubt No. 1, which could be clearly seen against the heights. After selecting a position, Yesaul Pozdeev gave the battery the command, "Unlimber" (24), and at that moment a shot burst forth from the redoubt and hissed over the battery without causing any damage. The Second Division under Sotnik Ponomarev, whom I was with, moved forward. As the fifth gun was moving into position, a cannonball tore off the head of the driver on the first lead horse, Cossack Sazonov from the Veshenskaya Settlement. He did not fall from his horse right away, but rode some distance without his head and then fell off onto the ground. A headless man sitting on his horse made a horrifying picture. The battery quickly registered in on the redoubt, blew up a powder store, and overturned several guns. The explosion of the powder magazine in the redoubt served as the signal to advance. After a lively exchange of fire, General Liprandi’s infantry entered the bushes and things became quiet. Suddenly an "Ura!" broke forth and the redoubt was taken. The Turks and Sardinians (25) ejected from the redoubt ran towards Balaklava. Noting the infantry’s success, the battery’s most junior commanders took the initiative to leave their positions and follow the infantry to Redoubt No. 2. The horses were exhausted and moved at a walk, and the advance had to be done at this pace. This greatly helped our firing accuracy, since the crew numbers were calm and not excited by a fast ride. The battery was positioned along a commanding line of terrain. Each gun tried as much as possible to get behind cover, either a mound or a hillock, which resulted in significant intervals between the guns, and the crews and horses suffered less from enemy fire. At a calculated range of 1400 yards, the battery’s accurate fire silenced the redoubt. Supported by the Don battery, which moved up closer to the redoubt, our infantry quickly took it and killed all its defenders.

At about 11 o’clock in the morning, Prince Obolenskii rode up to the battery and in General Liprandi’s name thanked it for the well-done affair. After obtaining permission to water the horses, which were so tired they could hardly move, the battery left its position and drew towards the Chernaya River. Along the road it was greeted by the cavalry brigade, and as soon as the cossacks approached the Weimar Regiment, General Ryzhov himself commanded, "At ease! Officers!" He rode up to the battery, embraced Yesaul Pozdeev, and congratulated the officers and cossacks for their excellent firing.

The battery had not managed to give the horses their needed watering when General Liprandi’s adjutant galloped up and relayed the force commander’s order to immediately go to the relief of No. 12 Horse-Artillery Battery, which had opened fire on Redoubt No. 3 but whose rounds were not reaching the target due to their small caliber. The battery carried out its orders by setting off again into position at a walk, opening fire with its heavy guns, destroying one of the enemy cannons, and blowing up an ammunition caisson. The fire from the enemy guns slackened after a short but rapid bombardment from our side. Taking advantage of this, our infantry bravely moved into the attack and seized the redoubt, cannons, and tents.

The artillery battle ended with the taking of Redoubt No. 3, and Don Heavy No. 3 Battery withdrew to Redoubt No. 1 to deploy with an extended front across the Balaklava Valley. On its right it had the Fedyukhin Heights on which were deployed General Zhabokritskii’s infantry, while on the left, in the redoubts, was the infantry of General Liprandi. In the battery’s rear were the two hussar regiments: in echelon behind (26), on the right flank – the Leuchtenberg, and on the left – the Weimar in columns by squadron (27). Ural Cossack No. 1 Regiment stood at the foot of the Fedyukhin Heights, with a sotnia of Aleksandrin’s Regiment to its left, under the command of Voiskovoi Starshina (28) Kon’kov. To the right of the Don battery was deployed Colonel Brombeus’s Horse-Artillery No. 12 Battery.

In order to counter our success in occupying the three redoubts, the enemy prepared a cavalry attack on our forces. For this he sent forward a regiment of French dragoons and Queen Victoria’s Guards Cuirassier Regiment, under the command of Lord Cardigan. Upon noticing the movement of the enemy cavalry, General Liprandi sent his adjutant to tell our battery to prepare to receive a cavalry attack. In fact, as soon as the adjutant galloped off, the English cavalry passed by the redoubts at a trot in orderly formation and then at a gallop fell onto the right flank of Don Heavy No. 3 Battery, which opened up with rapid canister shell fire (29). The cavalry closed up its torn-open files and pressed forward, as brave as a whirlwind, with all the officers in front. The battery started canister fire (30), managing to fire some 32 rounds, which tore out whole files from the regiment, so that barely a third of the Englishmen reached the battery. Lord Cardigan on a white horse was far ahead of the regiment, and he galloped up to the battery and brandished his saber at the guns… Although the First Division limbered up in time, Sotnik Rebinin used the command, "Pull back" (31) instead of "Limbers back" (32), and the gun trails plowed into the ground and the tired horses halted (33). Surrounded by the English, the division defended itself as best it could. All the crew members with ramrods worked them with a will, defending themselves and the guns. In this hand-to-hand fight the first ramrod number, Cossack Studenikin, especially distinguished himself. Of great physical strength, he struck the English with terrible blows of his ramrod, felling eight men and saving Sotnik Rebinin when several cavalrymen rushed at him, wounding him twice in the neck and stabbing him once in the right side with a broadsword. The rear driver of the first gun, Cossack Nikulin of the Veshenskaya Settlement, had his throat run through by an Englishman’s lance; he lost his voice, but is still alive today.

In the meantime, the Second Division successfully limbered up on the command "Limbers back!", and rode off in time, except for the fifth gun, whose horses got tangled in their harness. I was with the gun, and after the horses were freed and the guns hooked onto the limber, I took hold of the lead horse’s traces and shouted, "Go!" The gun drew away at a full trot, but after withdrawing about 100 yards, it was surrounded by enemy cuirassiers. One of them even swung his long straight sword over my head, but Cossack Popov covered me with his shashka sword, and Cossack Sherstyugin, a ramrod number, wounded my attacker in the arm with a pistol shot. I picked up the wounded man’s sword and struck his horse’s nose so hard that it reared up and threw its rider onto the ground, where the cossack ran him through. At this time, on Sotnik Ponomarev’s command, the horse tenders led the horses to the guns, the crew numbers quickly jumped onto them, and along with the Second Division’s remaining crew that had galloped up, they threw themselves to the rescue of the First Division, shashkas in hand and commanded by Ponomarev and myself. Now a desperate hand-to-hand fight ensued. Under the command of Voiskovoi Starshina Porfirii Kon’kov, the sotnia from Colonel Aleksandrin’s Regiment hurried to aid the artillerymen, and from this moment there began a general slaughter of the English, who would lose consciousness and be dragged along the ground and perish. Lord Cardigan, seeing the destruction of the cavalry he was leading, turned back and was quickly carried toward the redoubts by his thoroughbred steed, but he was not destined to reach them. His horse was hit by crossfire from the infantry and fell down while galloping at full speed, killing the earl. The next day his body was turned over to the allies and buried with great honor.

The French dragoons attacked General Zhabokritskii’s troops on the Fedyukhin Heights, but their attack ended even less successfully that that of the English. Rushing onto riflemen deployed behind cover, the dragoons were met by such a murderous fire that they could not endure it and turned back.

The notable English cavalry attack was carried out with such courage and daring that our cavalry under General Ryzhov and the battery under Baron Brombeus turned around long before coming into contact and only halted at the Chernaya River. This circumstance made it possible for the English to charge onto the Don Heavy No. 3 Battery.

After the cavalry attacks were beaten off, General Liprandi ordered General Ryzhov’s brigade to attack the allied cavalry. The cavalry regiments passed the redoubts, deployed, and went into the attack, but they were repulsed with losses.

The heroic feat of Don Heavy No. 3 Battery in the described battle was at great cost: casualties were 1 officer, 32 crew numbers, and many riding and draft artillery horses. The battery’s trophies amounted to 6 captured Englishmen and 45 horses. When the Grand Dukes Nicholas Nicholaevich and Michael Nicholaevich (34) were reviewing the troops the next day, in the name of the Sovereign Emperor they thanked all the military units which took part in the battle, but especially Don No. 3 Battery. For this action, the battery’s commander, Yesaul Pozdeev, was promoted to voiskovoi starshina, Sotnik Ponomarev to yesaul, and I—to sotnik, while Sotnik Rebinin was decorated with the order of St. Vladimir with swords and bow. Lower ranks were awarded eight medals of the Military Order. Sotnik Popov and Khorunzhii Gukalov did not take part in the action; both had left the battery before the battle because of illness.

In order to make good its losses in personnel and horses and put equipment back into order, Don Heavy No. 3 Battery received the order to go to the village of Orta-Karales, where under the eye of Flügel-Adjutant Colonel Obolenskii it received personnel replacements from the cossacks of Tatsyn’s and Popov’s regiments, while horses were obtained from the reserves of Batteries No. 2 and No. 4. Thanks to the warm interest of Prince Obolenskii, the battery was very quickly reformed and fully supplied with matériel, and it was again sent out to join the Chorgun force. On the Chernaya River the Don battery relieved Horse-Artillery No. 12 Battery and occupied a forward position with four guns behind the cossack advance posts. I had to serve in this forward position by myself since Yesaul Ponomarev stayed with the other division while Sotnik Rebinin was recovering from his wounds in the Bakhchisarai hospital. The weather became variable; heavy rains made way for thick fogs, and nights were so dark that nothing could be seen further away than three steps. The men at the forward position were relieved in three days, but I remained at the position continuously. Captain Schmid arrived at our location with a squadron armed with lances, and cavalry outpost duty began to be carried out in an efficient manner, thanks to the captain’s tireless activity.

When a grenadier division (35) arrived in the Crimea, talk went around about a large-scale sortie from Sevastopol and about an allied attack from the direction of the Belbek. The time for the attack turned out to be well chosen; our troops were in good order, had received reinforcements, and had a fine martial spirit, while the allied troops lacked warm clothing, were freezing in their tents, and falling sick in great numbers.

In the early morning of 5 November, 1854, the Chorgun force approached Sapun Mountain and Don Heavy No. 3 Battery was the first to open artillery fire. General Liprandi’s infantry went up to the mountain and only awaited the order to attack it. At the same time our main forces crossed the bridge over the Chernaya, set up a battery of 60 guns, and began a desperate artillery battle with the enemy. The artillery fought with such ferocity that gun crews had to be replaced three times, and losses in horses were so great that the batteries could not move out of their positions. Don No. 2 and Reserve No. 4 Batteries also took part in this action, with the main forces on the left flank. In spite of our troops’ magnificent morale and exemplary courage, the enemy repulsed our attacks and our forces had to withdraw. The sortie from Sevastopol was delayed, and the attacks did not occur simultaneously as planned, which the enemy took advantage of to defeat us separately. In this business Don No. 3 Battery had four cossacks wounded by shell fragments, and Cossack Sherstyugin suffered a contusion. A cannonball knocked him to the ground and tore off part of his boot. In addition, four gun horses were killed.

Soon after the unsuccessful affair of 5 November, for some unknown reason the horses of a dragoon regiment stampeded; they tore loose from their tethers and the ground shook from their galloping. The alarm was raised everywhere and musket and cannon fire broke out. Our side fired, the enemy fired, and in Sevastopol such a cannonade burst forth that the sky glowed like dawn. One must be amazed that in such confusion one did not kill one’s own people. When I ordered that four illumination rounds  (36) be fired to light up the area, one could see the cossack outposts bunching together in a group and the white dragoon horses running over the fields as if they had lost their heads. By midnight all became quiet; only the firing from much-suffering Sevastopol continued. Afterwards we learned that many horses ran into the enemy camp and Sevastopol, while others appeared in Simferopol and other places in the Crimea.

In November, there arrived at our battery Captain Arkadii Dmitrievich Stolypin, who had been assigned to manage the unit’s external affairs. The cossacks loved Stolypin; he was attentive to their needs and endeavored to help them not only in word, but in deed. Being a rich man, and seeing that their clothing was worn out and torn, he bought boots and burkas (37) on his own account and gave them out. Along with this, even the duties demanded of the cossacks became less burdensome. Instead of four guns at the forward position, we only left two. Then in view of the battery’s excellent battle service, he petitioned for and obtained a decision freeing it from duty in the forward position.

Around 22 November, the battery went to rest at the village of Mazankp, about a mile and a half from Simferopol, where it stayed for a week and from there moved to the town of Karasubazar, settling into winter quarters in the village of Arzamas. The battery made this march in freezing temperatures and deep snow. In Simferopol, Stolypin visited the hospital to comfort the wounded cossack gunners and give them 50 chervontsy (38). Here, too, Captain Stolypin was assigned to the staff of the chief of artillery of the Southern and Crimea Armies. He said good-by to the battery, and left behind the best of memories.

The village of Arzamas belonged to two landowners: General Kuteinikov (39) of the Don Host and Lieutenant Dul’vstav, an Armenian. This tract along the valley of the Saltyr River had lush gardens, and its heights were of the most fertile soil. This land had been given to Dul’vastav’s ancestors in perpetuity by Empress Catherine II. Mr. Dul’vstav lived on his property with his family and was distinguished by his cheerfulness and hospitality. Here our battery found an excellent location for men and horses. The food was wonderful, and in some two weeks the battery acquired a completely changed appearance. Our four-month stay in Arzamas was marked by complete tranquility with entertainment supplied by Mr. Dul’vstav and the district chief, Prince Zvenigorodskii.

In December, Lieutenant-Colonel A. I. Klunnikov arrived and officially took over the battery from Voiskovoi Starshina Pozdeev. In February, orders came detaching me and Sergeant Yeremkim and putting us at the disposal of the chief of artillery.

In April of 1855, all three Don batteries gathered on the Kacha River and stayed peacefully here under the good care of Prince Obolenskii until the time Don No. 3 Battery joined the Yevpatoria force under General Konstandulaki (40). Under the walls of Yevpatoria the battery ended its military activities in the Crimea and in the spring of 1856 it left the peninsula.


End of translation.



 (1) Batareinaya batareya.

 (2) Two guns with their crews, horses, and vehicles made up a platoon [vzvod]. Two platoons made up a division [divizion], so that the eight-gun battery was divided into two such divisions.

(3) Cossack captain.

(4) Cossack lieutenant.

(5) Cossack cornet.

(6) Vakhmistr, from the German Wachtmeister.

(7) General of Cavalry Mikhail Grigor’evich Khomutov. He was not a cossack, but rather the Emperor’s representative ruling over the Don Cossack territory. Of individualistic character, for many years he managed the Don Host with his own style of forceful yet benevolent despotism.

(8) Granaty i kartechnye granaty.

(9) Major General Iosif Petrovich Zhabokritskii, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 14th Infantry Division, and later commander of the 16th Infantry Division.

(10) Cossack infantry.

(11) Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovskii (1817-1900), Russia’s most famous painter of maritime subjects.

(12) Lieutenant Colonel Apollon Ernstovich Tsimmerman (Zimmerman in German), later Chief Quartermaster of the 3rd Infantry Corps.

(13) This is either Captain 2nd Rank Mikhail Aleksandrovich Pereleshin (commander of the frigate Midiya [Media], or Captain 2nd Rank Pavel Aleksandrovich Pereleshin (assigned to the ship-of-the-line Parizh [Paris].

(14) This is either Lieutenant Prince Leonid Alekseevich Ukhtomskii or Midshipman Prince Esper Alekseevich Ukhtomskii. Both men were with the Black Sea Fleet at this time, the latter being assigned to the ship-of-the-line Velikii Knyaz’ Konstantine [Grand Duke Constantine] and serving as flag-officer to Admiral Kornilov.

(15) Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov, commander of the 5th Fleet Division. He, Kornilov, and Istomin were the three hero admirals killed defending Sevastopol.

(16) The Russian army list for majors for the year 1856 shows Voiskovoi Starshina (cossack major) Osip Osipovich Klunnikov (note spelling) as commander of Don Horse-Artillery Reserve No. 4 Battery, with a date of rank of 6 December, 1854. In Russian, Osip and Iosif are both forms of the name Joseph, which may account for the writer using the initials "I. I.". (This 1856 army list also shows Voiskovoi Starshina Aleksandr Osipovich Klunnikov as commander of Don Horse-Artillery No. 3 Battery, with a date of rank of 15 February, 1852.)

(17) Major General Lavrentii Semenovich Kishinskii.

(18) Officer candidate in cavalry, artillery, and light infantry units.

(19) Ivan Ivanovich Ryzhov, commanding the Composite Reserve Brigade of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Light Cavalry Divisions.

(20) Viktor Ilarionovich Vasil’chikov, soon to take on the position of chief of staff of the Sevastopol garrison.

(21) Lieutenant Colonel Prokofii Semenovich Prokopovich.

(22) The Kiev and Ingermanland Hussar Regiments, which at this time carried the names of their honorary colonels.

(23) Lieutenant General Pavel Petrovich Liprandi.

(24) "S peredkov."

(25) Of course, the Sardinian expeditionary force did not arrive in the Crimea until the following year. Perhaps the writer saw British artillerymen in dark-blue uniforms.

(26) Ustupom nazad.

(27) V kolonnakh po-eskadronno.

(28) Cossack major.

(29) Kartechnymi granatami.

(30) Kartechnyi ogon’.

(31) "Otvozi."

(32) "Nazad peredki."

(33) What had happened was that Rebinin had given the technical command to pull back using ropes connected from the gun to the limber without first hooking the trail onto the limber, which would have been done had the "Limbers back" command been given.

(34) Tsar Nicholas I’s younger sons.

(35) The identification of reinforcements as a grenadier division is an error; at this time the Russian army’s three grenadier divisions were in the area of St. Petersburg.

(36) Svetyashiya yadra.

(37) A long heavy hairy cossack cloak.

(38) Chervonets – a 10-rouble coin.

(39) Major General Stepan Stepanovich Kuteinikov, an old veteran of the Napoleonic Wars.

(40) Major General Grigorii Dmitrievich Konstandulaki, chief of the 2nd Horse-Artillery Division.