Battle of Chernaya River
The Battle of the Chernaya (Battle of Tchernaïa, Сражение у Черной речки, Сражение у реки Черной) was a battle
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat in warfare between two or more armed forces, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign...

 by the Chernaya River
Chernaya River (Ukraine)
The Chorna, Chornaya or Chorhun River , which translates from the Ukrainian and Russian as "Black River", is a small river in Crimea, Ukraine. Its length is 34,5 km....

 fought during the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 on August 16, 1855. The battle was fought between Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n troops and a coalition of French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Sardinian and Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 troops. The Chernaya River is on the outskirts of Sevastopol
Sevastopol is a city on rights of administrative division of Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 . Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, after the Port of Odessa....

. 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 III
Alexander III of Russia
Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov , historically remembered as Alexander III or Alexander the Peacemaker reigned as Emperor of Russia from until his death on .-Disposition:...

 had ordered his commander in chief in the Crimea, Prince Michael Gorchakov
Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov
Prince Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov was a Russian General of the Artillery from the Gorchakov family, who commanded the Russian forces in the latter stages of the Crimean War and later served as a Namestnik of Kingdom of Poland from 1856 until his death....

 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 succes 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
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

 (Sardinians). The Russians hoped that because of these feasts the enemy would be tired and less attentive to the Russians.

The Battle

58,000 Russian troops in two army corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 under Prince Michael Gorchakov fought against 28,000 French and Sardinian troops under French General Aimable Pélissier 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 in stead 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.

The bravery of Sardinian troops and the French soldiers of the 50th, 82nd, 95th, 97th of line; the 19th Chasseurs at foot; and the 2nd and 3rd Zouave
Zouave was the title given to certain light infantry regiments in the French Army, normally serving in French North Africa between 1831 and 1962. The name was also adopted during the 19th century by units in other armies, especially volunteer regiments raised for service in the American Civil War...

s was especially noted.


Russian Count Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

was a participant in the Battle of the Chernaya River. He witnessed as the Russians crossed the river and started up the hillside in the morning sunlight. Tolstoy saw Russian soldiers being killed in clusters as shells exploded around them. Before the morning was over, the Russians were forced to retreat. They left thousands of their dead comrades behind. Tolstoy was depressed and angered by the slaughter. He believed much of it was due to incompetent generals and staff. Tolstoy vented his anger by composing some satiric stanzas. His humorous song soon gained widespread popularity among the Russian soldiers. It is the only piece of verse Tolstoy is known to have written.
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