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Æ Firestone's Crimea: Chapter 7

       


The 20th Foot at the Battle of Inkerman by David Rowlands


November 5th, 1854, 


A hundred thousand Russians 

greatly outnumbered the allied armies.

The British and allies had a mere 

fifty thousand in strength

as they were spread over a thin line 

some 20 miles in length.


The night of the 4th passed without alarm, 

but early on the morning of the 5th 

of November, the battle began.


It had rained during the night 

and the morning was damp and cold,

some men we're shaking with fright.

A heavy mist covered the field of view

that the grass was wet with dew.

The mist covered the whole valley

that it was no longer a game of battledore

but the fog of war.




The Second Division of the British army 

we're already fighting Russian forces 

while the Fourth Division was standing by 

under General George Cathcart.


They were over hundreds in the division, 

divided into many regiments.

One of the regiments is the 20th Regiment of Foot

also called the Lancashire Fusiliers. 


They were equipt with a Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-musket,

that was far more advanced than the Russian M-1828/44 Tula Musket,

that was technically inferior, 

offering less firing range than the British's counterpart.

But there were some using old Brown Bess muskets.


A group of 5 young men we're 

in the Fourth Division's camp 

sitting down next to a fire trying to be warm,

waiting for their next orders.

Most of them had basic training,

but we're never really trained or prepared for war.

The boys were half-starved, clothed in rags,

and exposed to all the inclemencies of the rigorous climate.


One of them was a red-haired/green-eyed 

Irishmen named Liam Berry,

a shy and quiet fellow from Dublin with a rank of Fusilier,

was staring at the fire holding his musket 

and thinking with his stomach.

Berry was with other Fusiliers, 

Hatman, Chips, Temples, and Raynott.


Hatman, an Englishmen,

was checking his rifle-musket.


Chips, a Scot, was using his flute 

performing a movment, Allemande, 

from Partita in A minor 

for solo flute by Bach.


Raynott, a Welsh, was writing reading 

his latest letter from his wife.


Temples, another Englishmen, was looking 

at a photo of his mother & father from his Locket.


Hatman looked at Raynott and asked.


"What did your lady write this time, Raynott?"


"We're going to have a child."


"Congratulations, mate."


Hatman patted him in his back, shook his hand

and was happy for him.


"Thanks, Hatman," Raynott replied with joy.


Berry looked at Temples, as he 

was still looking at his parent's photo.


"You miss them?"


"Yeah, they must be worried sick."


"Don't worry, Temples, 

you'll see them when this war is over."


Hatman interrupted.


"Yeah, when will this war ever be over?"


"Something on your mind, Hatman?" said Berry.


"Yes, Berry, I do.

When we first arrive here, 

we've layed all day and night on the beach,

in drenching rain with no tents at all,

our rations are often short 

because of lack of transport,

and many of our lads died 

of cholera than a single bullet 

and took us days to dig and bury them.

I hate this bloody shithole!"


"Well, get used to it, Hatman, or get shot!" said Berry.


Hatman was getting aggravated by Chip's flute and said.


"Shut the flute, Chips, or I'll shove it up your arse!"


Chip's stook his tongue his Hatman

for ruining his flute moment.


Raynott said to Hatman.


"You don't have to act like the devil, Hatman."


Hatman replied.


"I am the bloody devil."


A French officer carrying a Minié rifle approached the boys, 

he was a Zouave, a light infantry of the French army.

His uniform consisted of red baggy pants, 

a short blue open jacket, white leggings,

and a colorful sash and a red hat.


He asked Berry in his thick French accent.


"Bonjour, Fussiler Berry."


"What do need Corpral Côté?"


"Do you we're General Cathcart is?"


"He's out back."


"Merci. See you in frontlines, monsieur."



General George Cathcart was in his camp observing the foggy field

with his telescope made out of steel.

They couldn't see the enemy 

but it was also an advantage to hide from them.


"I can't see a bloody thing!"  said the general.


A British officer on horseback arrived and spoke.


"General Cathcart."


"Yes, Quartermaster general?"


"Support the Brigade of Guards. 

Do not descend or leave the plateau... 

Those are Lord Raglan's orders."


"Understood."


The Quartermaster left, then the General look at offers and said.


"Gentlemen, prepare our men for new orders."



The Fourth Division under Cathcart's command was on the offense.

The fog was still thick that the men couldn't see past 20 yards.

Cathcart and his mounted officers lead the soldiers marching to the enemy, 

but something didn't fill right with the General as there was some confusion

with the orders he received.


Then in broad daylight, 

the Russians committed a counter-attack 

shots everywhere left and right

that it gave everyone a fright.

The Fourth Division fired back with their guns hard.

standing their ground while they had no support 

having to defend using musketry fire alone.


When there was no time to reload,

there was hand-to-hand combat.

they closed upon them with the bayonet 

and stuck to the Russians like wax 

until they were hurled from the field.


As they had drubbed the enemy terribly, 

their blood was fueled up; still hungry, 

many of them had had nothing to eat for hours,

and they were wet through to the skin.


Far from home, they had no friends and no family to be with.


What did they have to lose?


Their highest martial interest, honor, was at stake, 

but it was safe withal, from the much-respected

Commander-in-Chief to the drummer-boy. 

They had all made up their minds to conquer or to die.


No exceptions.



21st Royal North British Fusiliers defending the Barrier at the Battle of Inkerman, picture by Marjorie Weatherstone


In the darkness and fog, the men were falling very fast, 

for the enemy were in overwhelming strength, 

particularly in guns.


The 41st and 49th regiments of the Fourth, 

held the Russians back fighting like lions

but were mobbed out by the overwhelming numbers of the enemy

who were exulting in their victory with yells of triumph. 

As true Russians, die for the Motherland and their Tsar.

The glory of conquering and fighting for their home

would open the gates of heaven, even at the expense of life. 


This is what kept the Russians going 

as they repeatedly urged on to the attack, 

and as often beaten back.


The ammunition by this time was all gone, 

but they still advanced, taking ammo from the pouches of dead men 

who lay as thick as sheaves in a cornfield.


Revolvers and bayonets were used heavily that foggy morn 

and when some of the men were short of ammunition,

they pitched stones at the enemy without hesitation.


Hatman aimed his musket and shot an enemy dead.

He checked his ammo pouch with only 3 shells left.


He said to Berry.


"We'll be almost out of ammo!" 


"Then there is nothing for it but the bayonet! At them, my lads!"


"Crazy madmen," Hatman replied as he was reloading his musket.


Berry was shot on the side of his right wrist as he cried in pain.

Blood was showing with an open wound he gain.


"Berry, are you alright?!" asked Raynott.


"Don't worry about me, Raynott. 

Shoot the Muscovite bastards!"



Death of General Sir George Cathcart at the Battle of Inkerman


While the rest of the Fourth Division we're continuing the fight,

Cathcart ordered the 20th of the foot to march up the hill with him.

As the men marched to the top, 

then Cathcart was shot in the heart

and fell through his horse.

Thus he died honorably.


Victory hung in the balance, and the weak battalions had 

to resist the enemy's heavy columns bayonet to bayonet.

It was now a bloody contest, but this little band,

now reduced to about 700 unwounded men,

showed the enemy an undaunted front.


But now with the general gone and the other high-ranking officers shot dead, 

it left his troops disorganized, and the attack was broken up into mini bands, 

not caring which Regiment or Corps they came from.


It was every man for himself.


For the true character of the British soldier,

they only needed orders and a leader.



55th Regiment attacking the Russian infantry at the Battle of Inkerman picture by Stanley Wood


Berry and the 5 others were in their own group.

They followed Berry as they ran to the trenches into a defensive position.


Shells, cannonballs, and dirt were flying everywhere,

but the mist began to clear with despair,

as the masses of Russians were clearly visible

pressing up the slopes.


"Hatman!" said Raynott.


"Yeah?" Hatman replied.


"Is it clear?"


Hatman slowly moved his head above, 

to see the field from his point of view, 

but then a Russian cannon fired at the trench 

and exploded right through. 


"YOU TELL ME!" Hatman replied as he wasn't injured but covered in dirt.




"What's the plan, Berry?" Asked Temples.


"It will be suicide if the five of us head-on!" said Hatman.


"Yeah, there's too many of them," said Raynott.


"My rifle is out of ammo," said Chips.


Hatman gave chip's an extra musket 

and ammo from a dead Brit.


"Here, take it, poor lad didn't need it."


"Thanks, Hatman."


Hatman reloaded a revolver 

from another dead Brit.


Temples was sitting down crying 

while looking at his parent's photo locket.


Hatman thought he wasn't just a pathetic soldier 

but a pathetic human being.


"Are you seriously going to cry, Temples!

At this point of time, at this time of day, 

In this part of the world in a middle of a war. 

You're going to cry over your mommy and daddy!


"Hatman, shut up!" yelled Berry.


"No, you shut up Irishmen!"


Berry and Hatman fought each other like starved stray dogs

then Raynott and Chips broke the two apart.


"Enough, we should be fighting the enemy, not among ourselves.

You two are acting like children for God's sake, act like gentlemen!"


Berry went to Temples to calm the poor boy down.


"Temples, Look at me."


He looked at Chip's with his blue eyes in tears.


"...Do you want to see your mother and father again?'


"Yes." He replied as he sniffed.


Berry asked again.


"...Do you want to see your mother and father again?"


"Yes!."


And again, with a louder tone.


"...Do you want to see your mother and father agian‽"


"YES!!!."


Berry grabbed him by his uniform 

and made him stand up on his feet and yell.


"Then act like solder like you're supposed to!"


All 5 men were exhausted, aggravated, hungry,

bloody, sweaty and want to finish this fight.


Unfortunately, at that very moment, 

an influx of fresh enemy infantry 

took its toll on the rapidly weakening force of the fourth division, 

exhausted and desperately short of ammo and supplies, 

they had to reluctantly give ground.


Berry looked at his lads and said.


"Don't forget your bayonets; they don't like cold steel!'


Berry was the admiration of all, for, though terribly wounded, 

he would not allow himself to surrender until victory had declared itself. 

Chips, Raynott, Temples, and Hatman nodded

and shook their heads yes as they stand with Berry.


"Fire away, my lads! 

Give them the steel if you get a chance! 

Stick to them, my men!"


The five men got on top of the trenches 

and were about to bravely charged at the hundred of Russians.


"For Britannia!" Cried Raynott. 


They were about to charge at the enemy

then Chip's yelled. 


"Wait, lads. Look!"


A great number of French allies arrived in assistance

in just the right moment of time.


It was the red-capped Zouaves 

they passed the boys saying. 


'Bon Anglais!'


 and 


'Vive l'Empereur!' 


Repeating over 

and over again.



A French mounted officer of rank, 

who was with them with, in a different uniform, stopped.


It was Côté, but he was promoted to Lieutenant.


"Fussiler Berry, are you alright?"


"Yes. General Cathcart was shot.

and our regiment was spread in disorder."


"That's unfortunate, but I'm am glad you 

and your men are alive."


He turned and spoke to his men in French,

they cheered to the Berry and the others

in the lustiest manner.


The officer kindly gave Berry a drink out of his flask

the incredible thirst revived him with so much relief. 


Côté spoke to one of his men.


"Soldat, a donné de l'eau à ces hommes."


"Oui Monsieur!" 


He ordered one of his men to give 

the boys some water 

and which they kindly did.


The boys were dehydrated,

and their mouths were dry as sand.

The water felt like a wave from an ocean

approaching the shore.


At that moment, 

a new allied force came to the rescue, 

Colonel Daubeney of the 55th Regiment 

arrived from a flank and fired into the Russians.


Côté said to Berry 


"We're marching forward; follow behind us.

And we'll finish this fight."


Côté shook Berry's hand 

and left with his men.

And the boys fellowed.


"Tambours à l'avant"

Said one of the Frenchmen.


Berry and his men rejoined with the 20th division 

as they were following the French behind.



French Zouaves by Orlando Norie


The French fought in a most dashing manner, 

side by side with the British, 

till the enemy were driven from the field. 

The Russians fought with desperation,

though their men hung back unless almost driven to it. 


The whole line, the British and French charged forwards, 

and after a moment's hesitation, the Russians fell back. 

The Brits and the Zouaves, together with courage,

charge and all met the enemy with unconquerable energy.


But Raynott fell to the ground as he could do no more, 

he was weak as the man had nothing to eat.

He told his brothers in arms to go and to fight the good fight. 

Temples stayed behind to help, 

the rest was about to go back to the charge until one by one

Berry, Hatman, and Chips stood there and hesitated 

as they all changed their minds and helped poor Raynott.


Hatman said to Raynott in a nicely manner.


"No soldier, no Brit, no one, get's left behind."


The whole line, 

British and French charged forwards, 

and after a moment's hesitation, 

the Russians fell back, 

hotly pursued by the rest of the exultant 20th.


The Russian army lost the battle

losing tens of thousands of men in their endeavors 

to take the Heights of Inkerman 

on that memorable Sunday.


That battle confessed that every man

that foggy morn had done his duty.



Soldier’s body from the Battle of Inkerman by Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins of the Coldstream Guards


All aspect of the field was awful,

dead and dying mutilated bodies in all directions.

There were piles of dead, 

lying in every posture one could imagine. 

But there was a lot that were greatly wounded

with ghastly wounds from sword, bayonet, 

grape, and round shot; poor fellows literally shattered, 

and yet a spark of life still remained.


Some were found dead with no fewer than twelve 

or fifteen bayonet wounds; 

the appearance of the poor fellows 

who had been thus tortured was painful

that it was horrible to look upon.


Others lay as if they had been asleep,

friend and foe mixed together,

one on the top of the other.


The dead Russians were buried

in large pits by themselves; 

and the Brits and their gallant allies,

the French were laid side by side

with crosses, crosses everywhere.



The tombs of the generals on Cathcart's Hill: a man standing at the grave of Brigadier General Thomas Leigh Goldie, who was killed in action at the Battle of Inkerman. LC-USZC4-9222


To be Continued...


©2021 Æ Firestone


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