Battle
of the
Alma


The following information is based on an article written by the Webmaster and published in Volume XV, No. 1 (April, 1997) of The War Correspondent, the journal of the Crimean War Research Society.


The 46th Regiment served in the Crimea as part of the 2nd Brigade of the Fourth Division, initially coming under the command of Brigadier-General Arthur Wellesley Torrens. When the allied armies marched south on the 19th September, not all of the regiments of the Fourth Division had arrived in the Crimea, and Torrens was left with only the 63rd Regiment, two companies of the 46th, and a troop of 4th Light Dragoons on detachment, after several of his regiments had been attached to the 1st Brigade of the Fourth Division to make up numbers. Torrens' men remained on the beaches near the Old Fort to clear up after the landing. He was instructed "to follow in the army's tracks" once this job had been completed. Robins tells us that this body of men bivouacked on the night of 19th September 1854 at the village of Tuzla; noticed the next day that they were on the wrong road, and "after much fatigue... regained the right route", probably following the Simpheropol road for a period.

Major Robins found it hard to believe that the Brigade had got so totally lost, marching at least three miles in completely the wrong direction, and suggests that perhaps Tuzla had been deliberately selected as the most salubrious spot for the night's camp.

Somerset Calthorpe, a nephew of Lord Raglan serving on his staff, met Torrens and his Brigade on their arrival at the Alma at "about seven o'clock in the evening" of the 20th September. He explains, "it was late in the afternoon [of the 19th] when they started [from the beach], they could only march a few miles, and bivouacked, I think, near the village of Tagailii. The morning of the 20th they marched at daybreak, and General Torrens made every effort to get up in time for the action, which he felt sure would take place on the Alma, but without success. They picked up a great many stragglers on the march; and as these men were more or less ill, and the day hot, and there was no water, they could not march fast, and consequently the brigade did not arrive until the evening."

Calthorpe knew Tuzla, having passed through the village on the 18th September, on his way to appropriate "a large store of Government corn", reportedly held at Sak, on the Simpheropol road, yet he does not mention this village in the context of Torrens' explanation for his delayed arrival. He also knew Tagailii, having visited it with Lord Raglan and the rest of the staff on the 14th. He describes it in some detail, "The 2nd battalion of the Rifles had been pushed on to a village five miles inland, called Tagailii: here they had established themselves in capital quarters, and, as it was situated on rather higher ground than any in the neighbourhood, it was well adapted as an advanced post... Another advantage this village had, viz. plenty of good water, and it has not yet [18th Sept.] been found elsewhere." In other words, Tagailii was the ideal encampment, and it would certainly have made more sense for Torrens to head for Tagailii (almost due East of the landing site) than for Tuzla (almost due North), about which place, incidentally, Calthorpe had nothing positive to say.

If we accept that Calthorpe is reporting Torrens' explanation accurately, and I see no reason to doubt this, it is possible that Torrens had been deliberately vague. One can almost hear the "We spent the night the other side of Tagailii..." from Torrens, which, while strictly true, has elements of suggestio falsi as well as suppressio veri. This would certainly explain Calthorpe's "they... bivouacked, I think, near the village..." The long list of problems which Torrens' Brigade had to face on the march, "...a great many stragglers... these men were more or less ill... the day hot... no water" smacks of a schoolboy's string of excuses for not having done his prep. It seems unlikely that the "stragglers" were anything other than members of his own Brigade, falling out from their exertions on the extended march, since the route they were following was completely different to that taken by the main body. The "no water" plea is also extremely questionable, since the Brigade would have crossed several rivers or streams during the day, and would never have been more than a few miles from the next source of fresh water.

Had the troops of Torrens' Brigade actually started their march from Tagailii, they would have had about as far to march to the Alma as the rest of the army had had from Old Fort. The three armies, English, French and Turkish, over 50,000 in number, complete with personal baggage and commissariat stores, and consequently slow and unwieldy, covered the distance in two marches of about five hours each. A "Brigade" of barely more than 1,000 men should have been able to move much faster, and leaving Tagailii at daybreak could have expected to reach the Alma around noon, and certainly before the first shot of the battle was fired at 1.30 p.m.

In fact, it would appear that Torrens' Brigade, including the two advance companies of the 46th Regiment, had marched the three miles north to Tuzla (perhaps even under the mistaken impression that they were heading for Tagailii), on the evening of the 19th September and there bivouacked for the night. The following morning they must have then marched three miles east along the watercourse until they hit the Simpheropol road, followed this for two miles until they were able to turn south for a three-and-a-half mile march to Kentugan, another mile to Tagailii, and then eleven-and-a-half miles south-south-west to the Alma, a total of twenty-four miles, all but three on the day of the battle. As one of the officers of the 46th Regiment recorded in a letter to his mother, it was "a tremendous day's march," and all for no purpose.

It is extraordinary to note that officers and men of Torrens' Brigade were awarded Alma clasps to their Crimea Medals, despite arriving on the battlefield three hours and twenty minutes after the last shot had been fired, and that most histories record their presence at the battle.

Sources

Calthorpe, Lt. Col. S. J. G. Letters from Headquarters John Murray, 2nd Ed., 1857

Dallas, Lt. Col. G. F. Unpublished letter 21st September 1854

Robins, Major C. D. The Fourth Division at Alma War Correspondent Vol 12, No. 2


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