Battle of Alma - Prelude

Prelude

The Anglo-French forces landed on the western coast of the Crimean peninsula some 35 miles (56 km) north of Sevastopol, on the 13 September 1854, at Calamita Bay ("Calamity Bay"). Although disorganised and weakened by disease (mostly cholera and dysentery), the lack of opposition these landings met allowed a beachhead of four miles (6 km) inland to be made. Six days later the two armies headed south. The march involved crossing three rivers. It was at the second of these, the River Alma, that the Russians decided to stand. Although the Russian Army was numerically inferior to the combined Anglo-French army, they occupied a natural defensive position.

The British and French bivouacked on the northern bank, where the ground sloped gently down to the river. Running along the Russian southern bank of the river were precipitous cliffs, 350 feet (107 m) high, continuing inland from the river's mouth for almost two miles (3 km) where they met a less steep, but equally high hill known as Telegraph Hill across the river from the village of Bourliouk. To its east lay Kourgane Hill, a natural strongpoint with fields of fire covering most approaches, and the key to the whole position. Two redoubts had been constructed to protect Kourgane Hill from infantry assault; the Lesser Redoubt on the eastern slope and the Greater Redoubt on the west. The road to Sevastopol ran between Telegraph and Kourgane Hill, covered by Russian batteries sited on the hills and in the narrow valley between them.

The Russians had only to hold their ground and keep the pass closed to achieve victory. The French, however, had a plan. Positioned on the allies' right (the western section of allied line, nearest the sea) they would assault the cliffs across the river. In theory, such an obvious attempt to turn the Russian flank would so concern the Russians that they would fail to notice a British attack on their centre and left.

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