Battle Report – The Battle of Inkerman 5 November 1854
Whilst project Battle Cry gets underway, up in the spare room the Inkerman wargame has been played out over the last four nights. Just to set the scene here is the map of the battlefield and the Russian plan of attack:
The action starts at 6am as General Soimonov and some 6000 troops begin their slog up the Careenage Ravine, which is masked by a dense mist. The plan calls for an attack to be coordinated with Gen Paulov, who will strike up the Quarry Ravine and sweep around the Sandbag Battery. In the real battle Paulov is delayed crossing the Tchernaya River. Using random dice he is awarded a one and a quarter hour delay; Soimonov is unaware of this. The British pickets on the heights above initially do not detect the movement (again random dice, with likelihood increased each roll).
At 6:30am, the British Guards picket at the head of the Careenage Ravine spots movement and open fire. Figures can be seen tumbling amongst the Russian ranks and the dense column falters for a few minutes. The Guards picket continues to pour fire into the tight packed ranks.
By 7am, alerted by the firing, the 2nd Division forms up under Brigadier Pennefeather, who tries to assess the situation.
At 07:30am the 2nd Division begins to deploy towards the firing and the pickets near the barrier. By this time the Russian artillery has established itself on Shell Hill and begins to target the 2nd Division camp.
The British pickets on Victoria Ridge join the fray pouring volleys into the flank of the Russian columns. By now nearly two hundred Russians lie dead on the field.
On the other side of the field, General Paulov’s forces begin their assault up the Quarry Ravine.
Lord Raglan arrives on the field from his headquarters and he immediately orders an 18pdr battery to move forward to home ridge.
The Guards picket begins to sustain losses from Russian skirmishers; however on that flank, troops from the Light Division start to arrive on the field.
At 8:00 am, Lord Raglan receives word from the French that they will support the British and are on their way. At the same time some troops from the 4th Division under General Cathcart begin to arrive. Around the Barrier the 2nd Division are now fully engaged with the advancing Russian. Their commander Brigadier Pennefeather is shot from his horse seriously wounded.
A Russian column advancing from the Tchernaya valley assaults the Sandbag Battery, but is held off by the weakened pickets. Help is on the way as Cathcart and his 4th Division hurry towards this fight.
The British Guards Brigade arrives on the field.
At 08:15am, the Light Division work around to the flank of the advancing columns coming out of the Careenage Ravine and pour volley after volley into their flank. The nearest column loses 25% of its strength, stutters and then falls back. A second column also staggers back under the heavy fire. Soimonov’s right has collapsed.
In the centre the Scots Fusilier Guards (SFG) arrive in the area of the 2nd Division camp and come under heavy fire from the Russian guns on Shell Hill (the first shots miss).
Meanwhile the British 18pdr battery unlimbers on Home Ridge and immediately engages the Russian artillery.
On the Russian left, Paulov’s columns storm out of the Quarry Ravine onto the ridge. With virtually nothing in front of them they are in reach of Home Ridge, as the Barrier is taken by the Russians.
The pressure on the remaining pickets at the Sandbag Battery is too great and they fall back. The Russians capture the Sandbag Battery.
By 08:30am Paulov’s columns are relentlessly pushing onto Home Ridge. The remnants of 2nd Division are reduced to isolated companies that buckle under the pressure.
Seeing the danger around the Sandbag Battery, Cathcart orders his 4th Division to block Paulov’s advance, as the remainder of the Guards Brigade move up behind him in support.
At 08:45am, in the centre, two huge Russian columns move around the Barrier and reach Home Ridge and crash into the remaining 2nd Division companies. Caught by a volley, General Soimonov is wounded and carried to the rear. Much to his relief, Lord Raglan spots French troops coming up behind the Guards, as a Regiment of Light Infantry march into view.
The Scots Fusilier Guards wheel left away from the Guards Brigade to support 2nd Division, but continue to receive heavy fire from the Russian guns, losing around 100 men in 15 minutes.
At 9am the Russians capture Home Ridge and the 18pdr battery is overrun, but not before it destroys one of the Russian batteries. The 4th Division is assaulted by a massive Russian column and is carved up by bayonets and is pushed back away from the Sandbag Battery.
The Russians are now in control of the key positions; the Barrier, the Sandbag Battery and Home Ridge, They decide to launch their reserves to take advantage of the successful assault. A huge block of fresh infantry moves forward.
By 09:30 both the British 2nd and 4th Divisions have broken as the relentless push of the dense Russian columns continues. Russian skirmishers harry the Scots Fusilier Guards as they position themselves to block the onslaught.
On the Russian right the British have some success as the light Division pour intense fire into the Rusians causing one column to disintegrate. The allied left is now secured, but the main threat is to their centre and right.
At 09:45, the Russian commander spots the threat developing from the French and orders a Regiment of Grenadiers to reinforce in the area of the Sandbag Battery. The French, however, do not hesitate and the light infantry assault the Russian Grenadiers.
At 10am, Russian infantry are now descending off Home Ridge into the 2nd Division camp area, slowly forcing the British Guards brigade back. The Scots Fusilier Guards have lost around one third of their number.
On the Russian left, the French light infantry recapture the Sandbag Battery, and are joined by a regiment of Zouaves and another line infantry regiment.
By 10:15 am the French attack checks the Russian advance on their left, although two fresh Russian Regiments are about to join the fray.
Meanwhile, in the area of the 2nd Division camp the Guards cling on under increasing pressure. A Russian surge forward sees the Colonel of the Scots Fusilier Guards fall and their colours are lost too. The Russian guns can no longer see targets around Home Ridge, so they turn their attention towards the French. The French light infantry in the Sandbag Battery begin to suffer heavily.
At 10:30am, the British Guards finally collapse as the Russian sweep around them. The Coldstreams and Grenadiers fall back. At the same time Russian reinforcements and heavy artillery fire blunt the French attack.
By 10:45 the Russians sweep the remaining British Guards from the field. The Russian reserve assaults the French and once more captures the sandbag Battery; the light infantry break and fresh Russian troops slam into the Zouaves forcing them back too. The French attack crumbles.
At 11am the fighting dies down. The Russians are in possession of all of the key terrain features of the Inkerman position. The allies would now need to organise a major assault with fresh troops to dislodge the Russians.
The battle is declared a Russian victory. I thought that this would be a dull game and as we saw during the Alma and Balaclava games the Russians would be swept aside by the superior fire of the British; however; to my surprise the dogged columns stormed onto the ridge and after a bitter struggle were victorious. The pickets fought well and the game mechanisms worked fine. Inkerman provided an interesting and exciting battle.