This material graciously had been shared with the Victorian Web by the Green Howards. Thanks are due to the Green Howards Regimental Museum, Richmond, North Yorkshire and to Mr. Kenneth Usherwood, the living relative of Charles Usherwood.
The Brigades of the Division moved off by Regiments by fours and in such a manner that when fronted each line faced outwards that is on either flank of the advance, and I think as far as I can remember the 19th & 23rd marched together, then the 88th & 33rd and lastly the 77th & 7th so that when they deployed on the leading files to the front, each Regiment would bring up right and left shoulders forward, the companies moving in an echelon direction into line, the cavalry, what few there were, protected the left flank of the march and sometimes to the front. The other Divisions with their artillery followed in succession the 1st immediately in rear of the Light Division. There was nothing during the march to impede us and the day was exceeding fine. Not even a single hedge or ditch for all the way we came was upon a sandy soil plain the grass being half withered, until late in the afternoon when approaching the brook named Buljanak, where for the first time the Russians shewed themselves (a column with some field pieces appearing on the other side of the river) our cavalry having observed the enemy they at once opened a fire and just at the time the Light Division entered the river, the Horse Artillery came galloping to the front having ascended the rising ground unhindered and threw shot and shell into the columns which in return sent theirs rolling through the lines of the Light Division who at this time had formed a little below the top of the hill on the left bank of the Buljanak.
After a few rounds of Artillery fire had been exchanged between each party, wounding several horses and a Sergeant of Cavalry the Russian column drew off yet as it was supposed not without some loss the shots from our side having plunged through their columns. The Russians it would appear had been waiting our approach at this spot, for on the right side of the river stood a burning house which apparently had been an Inn or Post house and had been chosen as their advanced lookout.
On arrival of the other Divisions with their Artillery Battalion. the Armies halted — the French on the right in rear of whom were some Turkish troops and bivouacked for the night.
20th Sept l854. Up this morning ready formed were the Allies at the break of day, but as no enemy appeared in night to molest us, we piled arms to cook and eat what scanty breakfasts each individual had at his command, for lo and behold it was everyone for himself and none to help him. Officers and men alike, breakfasted where he could and of what he could catch, so to speak; however after going through the performance of breakfast the bugle sounded to fall in for the march. We had heard previously to this day that the enemy were awaiting us in an entrenched camp and rumour had it 40,000 to oppose us tho' of course as soldiers we knew nothing to the contrary.
The day being fine and our spirits in good order we tramped along very well and never expecting (except it might have been those better acquainted with present circumstances) that in a few hours many of us were to bid goodbye to all earthly joys, we seemed to forget the awfulness soon to behold.
Marching in similar order as we had done the previous day we gradually felt our way but as we approached nearer to the heights seen at a distance every now and then orders were given to halt changing our formation with that of contiguous columns by Brigades in Divisions we at last received the order to halt and for the first time since our landing to load. Quickly were our rifles loaded and as soon as the last ring of returning ram rods had died away with the passing breeze, again we moved the Light Division leading the advance of the British covered by the Rifle Brigade in extended order. By this time large black masses were observed on the heights in front and Aides-de-Camp riding furiously from one position to another tho' as yet no shots had greeted us.
This map is taken from Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan, (Longmans, 1961), p. 10, with the author's kind permission. Copyright, of course, remains with Dr Hibbert.
Click on the image for a larger view
Shortly after our advance the French who occupied the right of the Allies became engaged driving as they appeared to be the skirmishes of the enemy who strongly opposed their advance along the shore of the Sea and mouth of the river Alma who assisted by the Fleet throwing shells among the enemy's masses were facilitated thereby.
In the meantime the advance of the British received no check but as the Light Division got nearer it deployed and advancing in this order were received with rounds shot at a long range and which as we still advanced ploughed through its ranks one shot smashing the leg of a Grenadier named Keogh and the leg of Lieut Wardlam of the 19th Foot. Advancing still further covered by the 2nd Battn Rifle Brigade who had now opened fire upon the enemy skirmishers in their front leaving every now and then behind them a fallen comrade or two, orders came that we were to lie down so that the shots from the enemy might not do as much damage, and as the ground upon which we advanced had no cover for us being one extended plain till reaching the Village and which latter the cute enemy had set on fire.
Just prior to receiving the order to make haste for cover under the wall several round shots passed through the ranks of the 19th Foot two of these passing through my own company, one of which grazed my pouch as I turned to avoid it and striking the hind leg of Carden's horse immediately in rear of myself wounded it severely, the other shot alluded to striking the front part and at the top of Pte Patrick Budgen's Chaco, which coming so suddenly not a little astonished him, tho' it did him no bodily harm at this time and while the round shots were plunging through our ranks the men of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade had reached near to the wall and as we were still further advancing in line the enemy's sharpshooters who it appeared were concealed behind the wall, poured into us a volley of musketry which coming upon us suddenly and unperceived startled us very much tho' owing I should imagine to their haste in retreating after the volley was delivered, not a shot took effect, the whole flying over our heads with a rushing noise similar yet still more powerful to a large flight of small birds. Feeling a little nervous I looked about to see if anyone had fallen but as far as I observed I saw none. Our Riflemen and those of the enemy in front of our line being pretty free in their mutual exchanges we of course felt our position not at all comfortable for as the shots aimed at the intended Rifle Brigade missed their object, they nevertheless came very unwelcomed among us, who at this time were mere spectators of the duel going on in front of us. However the word having been passed along to each regiment of the Division to double and lay under cover of the wall that ran along the front we did so pretty cheerfully the enemy's sharpshooters hurrying there from across the vine gardens to the banks of the river who finding that we did not follow them beyond this point immediately began to annoy us, their batteries also trying to drop shells upon us as we lay under the cover; the annoyance being greater than was desirable orders were given for the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade to advance and drive them out of the gardens and which was done with much spirit, tho' it cost the Battalion some of its men.
While as we lay thus inactive awaiting orders to advance and which was understood to be when the French on our right had somewhat established themselves, our other Divisions especially the first approached nearer also in line and became targets for the enemy's cannons, besides receiving those intended for the Light and 2nd Divisons.
To combat with the practice at long range our Artillery did all in its power to effect what it there found was impossible to do owing to the ground occupied by us and the advantage the enemy had over this aim by the Russians being entrenched on the heights overlooking the plains along which we were marching. The Artillery however situated as they were took up every position which they thought would be of any avail and as a small rising piece of ground on the left of the 19th Foot appeared protected by the walls of a burning house the officer brought up a gun while we set to and pulled down a portion of the house so as to make a gap, but just as the Artillerymen were engaged in loading their piece Sir Geo Brown espied them and galloping up to the officer in charge expostulated with him in undignified terms on the unreasonableness of the attempt peremptorily ordering him to limber up and take his gun away as he had not only drawn the enemy's fire upon himself but upon the Division also while at the same time he could effect nothing; the gun being withdrawn relieved us a little bearing out the truth of Sir George's remark and our own opinion.
The French having now been engaged for some time and which must have been severely judging from the heavy fusillade going on, Aides-de-Camp rode up to Lord Raglan who with his Staff were near the Light Division stating that the French had established themselves and that St. Arnaud wished the British to attack. Immediately the order to advance ran through the Division and all as one cleared the wall and pushed their way across the vine gardens whose vines here and there still bore their beautiful fruit. The gardens greatly exposed to the fire of all kinds of missiles, we hurried along so as to reach the Russian side of the river with all the haste we could as there we saw some cover would afford itself to us. Reaching the bank of the river through, one might really say, a storm of iron, we saw nothing for it but to plunge into the water and struggle across in the best way possible never waiting to learn the shallowest part and which afforded numbers who had the luck to drop on these points better chances to wade over at only knee deep while others more unfortunate (of whom I was one) got more or less a deeper immersion tho' the river was but a few yards wide. Owing greatly to the bending of the river, the excitement in what was going on, the heavy losses experienced and the natural obstacles in the way aided by the increasing and terrible fire of artillery and musketry from the enemy, the Division could not keep its correct formation and as the first Brigade had better ground to advance upon than the 2nd they at once in the best line possible under the circumstances joined by the 19 Foot of 2 Brigade rushed up the slope at the double joined upon its right by 95 Reg and for the first time opening fire charging the enemy into and beyond the earthworks and the Battery which latter had simultaneously attacked by various men of 19th 23rd and 33rd Regiments. The Russians not expecting such determination from the British immediately betook themselves to flight who when in the act of extricating their cannons out of the Battery alluded to lost two pieces together with some of their horses attached as they were to the guns. In this affair within the Battery several men made themselves very conspicuous Pte Pat Bulger of the 19th Regiment being one and Troughton of No 3 Company another. Bulger during the rush made for the guns killing his man while sitting on the horse's back. Both beaten however tho' the trench and battery were in our hands. The Russians reattacked us by bringing up fresh masses and who as I observed myself did not deploy into line but opened fire as they stood in column the two leading ranks firing from the hip after which opening out right and left ran to the rear and which they did in successive ranks with rapidity thus throwing into us who were very close to them a heavy fire of musketry then charged us out of the works.
The suddenness of the approach of this column together with a report being circulated that we were firing on the French threw us into disorder, it at this time being out of the question for any Regiment to keep its formation owing greatly to the losses each had sustained in Officers and men, our fire thereby slackened. The enemy noticing these circumstances instantly availed themselves to pour into us a heavier fire and to act with more boldness and summoning up all their vocal powers rent the air with their cheers whilst we, speaking of the Division, gradually retired toward the bank of the river in order to gain a formation and to allow the Brigade of Guards to engage who at this moment were marching up from the river. By some mistake or another some confusion occurred to one of the Battalions of Guards (Fusiliers) construing as they did the word of command given by the Officer Commanding the 23rd Foot into that for their own, the word being "Fusiliers retire" meaning the 23rd Fusiliers so as not to obstruct the attack of the Guards. However, the mistake having been corrected by the Officers and which certainly at the time might have been of serious consequence the whole body of the Guards advanced followed by the remnants of the Light Division and whom with trenches very few yards away threw into the masses of the Russians a dreadful volley following up immediately and before the smoke could clear away with a charge and a huzzar. Again the action at this point of the field became severe but as the Highlands appeared on the left of our attack and the probability of the French outflanking the left of the enemy together with the advantage already gained by the 2nd Division and the Divisions of Napoleon on their right the Russians beat a hasty retreat which when once commenced literally became a rout as great numbers in order to facilitate their flights threw not only arms, drums and accoutrements away but their knapsacks and portions of clothes and leaving not only their dead but also all the wounded whom they could not conveniently carry along with them, so precipitate did they hurry away that for days afterwards we found numbers of their wounded lying in ditches along the line of route, and had we not had a sufficiency of cavalry whom by the bye did nothing as regards fighting there is no doubt the result would have been more disastrous to the enemy.
During the action above described taken as it is only as an individual combattant passing under my own observation, I with many others had some exceedingly narrow escapes one of which I will only describe as of course I cannot remember them all. After we had crossed the river and the 1st Brigade Light Division was in the act of moving up the slope joined by the 19th Foot and where Colour Sergt Norris of my Company who together with myself were almost out of breath from exertion was uttering these words to me "This is awful work" a shell preceded by a shower of grape fell between both of us and which no sooner fell than exploded with a most dazzling light covering myself with earth and inflicting on my companion a most severe wound on the right side of his head whom after collecting together my scattered thoughts I found lying upon his face in a pool of blood only about seven yards distance from me. Lifting him up he appeared at first like one who had truly just departed this life tho' quickly afterwards coming to in all the vigour of manhood minus that strength of nerve and spirit as wont to be within himself. Handing to him a handkerchief which I had in my haversack I said you had better get down to the rivers bank out of the way and if possible see the doctor while I hurried on into the fight going on near to the Battery opposite to us. After the engagement was over I again met my friend with his head bound up and who shook me by the hand with a feeling of thankfulness so kindly flowing through his veins conveying as it did the same feeling when beholding human beings by hundreds in all attitudes of death, the dreadfulness of their wounds and the unceasing cry for help, what could have been more pleasing than to find oneself in the land of the living and especially when having escaped through such frightful carnage.
It would be impossible for me to describe the ground on which we fought, the positions of both parties and to illustrate minutely the various advantages and disadvantages, suffice to say that all I can remember of the positions went to establish in my mind the superiority of the British and French, and to convince me that I belonged to a nation second to none in the world.
Immediately after the flight of the enemy the Army moved forward a little beyond the battle field and after sending outlying picquets bivouacked there.
By some curious movement or another the 88 & 77th Regiments both of whom belonged to the same Brigade as the 19 Foot did not engage the enemy. Their loss therefore and which was but few would have arisen from stray shots than otherwise and whom at one time got into square being under an imaginary impression that the enemy's cavalry were coming down in great force, but who never shewed themselves or at least I did not see them.
While the fight was going on Lord Raglan could be seen in the thickest more to the right of the attack and near to the broken down bridge. How he escaped seemed to be a miracle but somehow or another he did while a number of his staff were killed and wounded. The loss in our Division was exceedingly severe as also it was in the 1st & 2nd.
Speaking only to the numbers of my own Corps we found that the following is pretty correct tho' none were asserted killed except those who were found dead on the field.
One subaltern - One drummer - 36 Privates killed
2 Field Officers - 1 Captain - 2 Subs - 1 Staff - 16 Sergeants -12 Corporals - 2 Drummers - 175 Privates wounded
and had every one who were contused and slightly wounded reported themselves at the time (of whom I was one having been shot in the leg) the sum total would have doubtless amounted to 300 killed and wounded including Officers.
With regard to the Subaltern killed whose name was Stockwell, an Ensign, who while unfurling one of the Colours of the Regiment on the bank of the river endeavouring to cause a reformation, received a ball in the forehead and falling dead by the side of Ensign Thompson, this latter Officer coolly picked up the Colour and carried the same throughout the remainder of the action - the cross belt being covered with blood.
Of the Field Officers wounded were Col. Saunders commanding (whose horse was shot) & Major McGee, Captain Harding, Lieut Wardlaw and another and Ensign and Adjutant Cardew who not only received a ball in the leg but another also in the neck which passed and lodged near his eye, his horse being also shot. Col. Unett too was hit on the wrist and his mare Bessy wounded on the nose. As always is the case many of the men became anxious to know the contents of the knapsacks of the enemy which were lying about in great numbers. I among them of course being as much so to satisfy my curiosity strayed into the work or battery lately held by enemy and observing a heap of dead Russians whose knapsacks were still fastened to their backs rolled one or two over and on opening one of these having receptacles which bie the bie did so at the top, discovered no less than 4 loaves of black bread there being nothing else whatever inside. Considering this a great boon having no commissary of my own and not likely to get any that evening I at once set to work to divest the corpse of his load by cutting the shoulder straps and carrying away the knapsack and its valuable commodity loading in the meantime myself more so with as much wood and empty knapsacks as I could conveniently carry lugging them off to the bivouack already forming on the hills at a short distance from thence.
On arrival at the bivouack where it now soon became dark, I at once commenced work to make myself as comfortable as circumstances admitted. Seeing within a few yards from where I intended to roost for the night a large heap of straw and hay I nothing daunted collected sufficient to form a kind of three cornered embankment so as to shelter me from the cold breeze which together with the dampness of the night and my saturated clothes demanded something of this kind when having done so I placed the heavy knapsacks on the ground and lay upon them (having previously kindled a fire) to ruminate upon the past.
Keeping awake for a length of time I managed to have a meal of the loaves of bread I had brought with me tho' I must confess I was not satisfied with my repast owing to the flavour of the bread which to me tasted like chopped straw. Nevertheless as the bread was better than nothing. I ate it and falling off asleep with a piece in my mouth I slept till morning when to my great surprise I found that I had not only been robbed of my fuel and the very walls of my nest, but that I had been sleeping in the middle of the road and wondered still more that I had not been run over so near was I to the wheels of a passing artillery waggon and which certainly aroused me from my slumbers.
21 Sept 1854 Daylight having broken all hands excepting those for other duties were sent on fatigues in removing wounded and burying the slain the former being carried on board the various transports for conveyance to Scutaria and Constantinople and the latter laid in ditches made for this purpose. Owing to many of the Russian wounded using their arms orders yesterday were given that all muskets belonging to the enemy were to be broken so as to render them useless, and today in addition to collecting the human beings dead and alive all description of arms and their appendages were likewise collected and removed to the ships off the coast.
22 Sep 1854 Fatigue parties still employed in removing wounded, burying the dead and collecting arms.
23 Sep 1854 Today the allies commenced their march from their bivouac and after marching for some distance, halted a little before dusk, and taking up a position bivouacked for the night. Early this morning before we commenced our march Ensign Thompson who was acting Adjutant in view of Cardew wounded, came to me stating that I was at once to assume the duties of Orderly Room Clerk in place of Sergeant Newell tho' I strongly objected to becoming Orderly Room Clerk at that time. However as my name appeared in Regimentl orders as such I was obliged to act accordingly.
24 Sep 1854 Again at an early hour the Allies moved and as the ground over which they marched was more diversified by hill and dale the march became exceedingly picturesque for in addition to the beauty of the scenery enlivened by a cloudless blue sky and the lukewarm rays of a brilliant sun the uniforms of the various bodies of men advancing in compact and easy order gradually descending the slopes at different elevations to the green valleys below rendered the scene not only attractive but imposing to a degree beyond the conceptions of a painter or the abilities of an author to describe.
Descending one of these hills towards the afternoon we came in sight of a village situated on the banks of a small river similar in size to the Alma whose name I think was termed Katchka. On beholding the position before us and which was admirably adapted for defence we of course expected to meet with some resistance from the enemy tho' we had not encountered them since the 20th. As a precautionary measure and fearing that they might be lurking near to, our cavalry were sent to feel the way, but finding no signs of an enemy or an inhabitant the latter of whom had all fled, excepting a female who had hidden herself in a Baker's oven, the Allied passed through the village and bivouacked on the heights overlooking the river which flowed along the valley below.
Here we obtained an abundance of ripe grapes and vegetables, the grapes growing upon trees similar in size to the common blackcurrant berry ones in English gardens.
25 Sep 1854 Today we had a most tedious march through a mass of forest from early dawn to late in the afternoon when we verged out at a farm situated on the level of McKenzies heights where we beheld before us the ruins of a Russian column which had been attacked by our cavalry and whom in their flight had left the road which here was almost knee deep in dust strewn by overturned carts, clothes, bacon, unbaked bread and a host of other things. In this surprise the Russians not only lost their ammunition which was blown up but also 12 prisoners of whom one was an officer and a few carts and carriages.
Immediately after the troops had rested (and which they certainly needed) we began to move down the steep road leading from the heights to the valley below where the cavalry captured a large number of cattle and sheep. Moving along the green plain now familiar known as Badair we at dusk crossed the Tractic Bridge overstretching the Tchernaya and bivouacked for the night on the rising ground where in Aug. l855 the battle of Tchernaya was fought. During the night on account of some misapprehension a false alarm startled the bivouac.
26 Sep l854 When day broke we as usual were to be seen under arms ready formed in battle array, but as no enemy appeared to molest us we were allowed to cook and eat, after which the assembly sounded and on we moved in the direction of Balaklava before which at a respectable distance we again halted, selecting two Divisions, the Light and the 1st to drive out the paltry garrisons occupying the old tower overlooking the harbour. The rest of the army piled arms to watch the operations of the Divisions told off for this duty.
Immediately after Lord Raglan had held a conversation with a civilian prisoner brought from the village of Khadikoi by one of our men, the 1st Brigade of the Light Division were ordered to climb the heights on the right of the towns, while the 2nd Brigade with a couple of field pieces were told off to escale the heights on the left and near the old towers, leaving the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade supported by the 1st Division to prevent the enemy from coming out of the towns and to assail them of course with rifle practice in extended order.
Being of course thus separated the knowledge of what was going on would necessarily be confined to the respective Brigades and as the 19 Foot formed one of the 2nd Brigade Light Division its duty was to assist in the escaling of the left and to assault the tower. Wending our way through farmyards, among gardens and orchards and green looking fields, 'ere we could begin to climb the steep cliffs, occasion brought us near to a number of Beehives the occupants of which were very numerous and whether by a freak of nature or the handywork of some mischievous bayonet, one or two of these honey nests were overturned which greatly exasperated the whole hosts of bees that they at once set to to inflict upon us a chastisement whom to avoid created no great merriment at the trifling cost of painful eruptions and the stirring command of "Keep in the ranks ". Passing on further lay a pile of apples the same as shots are piled, of which on our return not one was to be seen those not engaged having stolen them.
Through great exertion at last we reached the summit of the heights, the enemy replying our visit with a few shots and having hoisted up the flag two guns opened round shot on the old tower walls, the Agamemnon assisting us with a shell now and then evidently intended for the tower but which generally dropped nearer to us.
After pounding away for a time our Brigade being in a semicircular line a Company or so of the 77 Regiment were sent crawling to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the harbour when after a few rounds from them, a white handkerchief became observable waiving in the breeze out of a window in the tower signifying surrender thro' which on ascertaining its correctness the firing on all sides dropped and the troops entered at the head of the town.
Balaklava and the surrounding country at this time was certainly nicely laid out being as it was the time when grapes in abundance abounded together with fruit of various kinds, plotted out into neat farmsteads and lovely gardens the scenery attracted the eye and brought it once more to view the objects around it with pity as to the circumstances under which soon it would desolve.
Khadikoi; close bie with its small church too presented a neat appearance and bore an air of comeliness combined with comfort but alas like its neighbour desolation and the tramp of war removed its beauty for a time.
What became of the garrison we of course left to them whose duties called upon them to remove the prisoners as judging from the resistance given they could not but have been few.
Last modified 21 May 2002