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Siege of Sevastopol
Part of the Crimean War
Panorama dentro.JPG
Siege of Sevastopol by Franz Roubaud
Date October 17, 1854 – September 9, 1855
Location Sevastopol, Russian Empire (present-day Ukraine)
Result Pyrrhic Allied victory
France France
United Kingdom United Kingdom
 Ottoman Empire
Russia Russia
France General François Canrobert (later replaced by General Pélissier)
United Kingdom Lord Raglan (later replaced by General Simpson)
 Ottoman Empire

Omar Pasha Abdullah Pasha Marzioğlu Iskender Pasha Halil Pasha

Russia Admiral Kornilov (later replaced by Admiral Pavel Nakhimov)
Russia Lt. Col. Eduard Totleben
Oct 1854 67,000,[1]

July 1855 total strength 175,000[2]
of which:
French 75,000
British 35,000
Turks 60,000[3]
Piedmontese 15,000
Arriving in August:
British Turkish Contingent 22,000
German Legion 9,000
Swiss Legion 3,000
Polish Legion 1,500
Italian Legion 2,000[4] [5]
French Reserve Army at Constantinople 30,000
British Reserve Army at Malta15,000+

Oct 1854 garrison 36,600[6] ,

May 1855 garrison 43,000 and 42,000 army in the Crimea[7]

Casualties and losses
French: 10,240 killed in action; 20,000 died of wounds; 75,000 died of disease
British: 2,755 killed in action; 2,019 died of wounds; 16,323 died of disease
Piedmontese: 2,050 died from all causes[8]

Total Deaths: 128,387

102,000 killed, wounded and died from disease[9].

The Siege of Sevastopol (sometimes rendered "Sebastopol") was a major siege during the Crimean War, lasting from September 1854 until September 1855. Leo Tolstoy's early book The Sebastopol Sketches (1855–56) detailed the siege in a mixture of reportage and short fiction.



In September 1854, Allied troops (British, French and Turkish) landed in the Crimea and besieged the city of Sevastopol, home of the Tsar's Black Sea Fleet which threatened the Mediterranean. Before it could be encircled, the Russian field army withdrew.

At the start of October, French and British engineers, moving from their base at Balaclava, began to direct the building of siege lines along the Chersonese uplands to the south of Sevastopol. The troops dug redoubts, gun batteries and trenches.

With the Russian army and its commander Prince Menshikov gone, the defence of Sevastopol was led by Vice Admirals Vladimir Kornilov and Pavel Nakhimov, assisted by Menshikov's chief engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Eduard Totleben. The military forces available to defend the city were 4,500 militia, 2,700 gunners, 4,400 marines, 18,500 naval seamen and 5,000 workmen, totalling just over 35,000 men.

The Russians first began scuttling their ships to protect the harbour, then used their naval cannon as additional artillery and the ships' crews as marines. Those ships deliberately sunk by the end of 1855 included Grand Duke Constantine, City of Paris (both with 120 guns), Brave, Empress Maria, Chesme, Yagondeid (84 guns), Kavarna (60 guns), Konlephy (54 guns), steam frigate Vladimir, steamboats Thunderer, Bessarabia, Danube, Odessa, Elbrose and Krein.

By mid-October 1854, the Allies had some 120 guns ready to fire on Sevastopol; the Russians had about three times as many to return fire and defend against attacking infantry.

On October 17, 1854 (old style date, October 29 new style)[10] the artillery battle began. The Russian artillery first destroyed a French magazine, silencing their guns. British fire then set off the magazine in the Malakoff redoubt, killing Admiral Kornilov, silencing most of the Russian guns there and leaving a gap in the city's defences. However, the British and French withheld their planned infantry attack and a possible early end to the siege was missed.

At the same time, the Allies' ships pounded the Russian defences, taking damage but inflicting little in return before their retirement. The bombardment resumed the following day; but, working overnight, the Russians had repaired the damage caused. This would become the pattern repeated throughout the siege.

During October and November 1854, the battles of Balaclava and Inkerman took place beyond the siege lines. After Inkerman, the Russians saw that the Sevastapol siege would not be lifted by a battle in the field, so moved their troops piece by piece into the city to aid the defenders. Toward the end of November, the weather broke and winter brought a storm which ruined the Allies' camps and supply lines. Men and horses became sick and starved in the poor conditions.

While Totleben extended the fortifications around the Redan, the Flagstaff Bastion and the Malakoff, the British chief engineer John Burgoyne sought to take the Malakoff, which he saw as the key to Sevastopol. Siege works were begun to bring the Allied troops nearer to the Malakoff; in response, Totleben dug rifle pits from where the Russians could snipe at the besiegers. In a foretaste of the trench warfare that became the hallmark of the First World War, these pits became the focus of Allied assaults.

Once winter subsided, the Allies were able to restore many supply routes. A new railway, the "Grand Crimean Central Railway" built by the contractors Thomas Brassey and Samuel Peto, was used to bring supplies from Balaclava to the siegelines, delivering more than five hundred guns and plentiful ammunition. Starting on April 8, 1855 (Easter Sunday), the Allies resumed their bombardment of the Russian defences. On 28 June (10 July), Admiral Nakhimov died from a head wound inflicted by an Allied sniper.

On 24 August (5 September) Allies started their sixth and the most severe bombardment of the fortress. 307 cannons fired 150,000 rounds, with Russians suffering 2,000 to 3,000 casualties daily. On 27 August (8 September) 13 Allied divisions and one Allied brigade (total strength 60,000) began the last assault. The British assault on the Redan failed but the French under General de Mac-Mahon managed to seize the Malakoff redoubt making the Russian defensive position untenable. By morning 28 August (9 September) Russian forces abandoned the Southern Side of Sevastopol.[11]

Although defended heroically and at the cost of heavy Allied casualties, the fall of Sevastopol would lead to the Russian defeat in the Crimean War.[1]

Most of the Russian defenders of the city killed during the siege were buried in Brotherhood cemetery in over 400 collective graves.

Battles during the siege

Fate of Sevastopol Cannons

The British sent a pair of cannons seized at Sevastopol to each of the most important cities in the Empire, additionally several were sent to the Royal Military College Sandhurst and the Royal Military Academy Woolwich. These cannons now all reside at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (renamed after the closing of RMA Woolwich shortly after the Second World War) and are displayed next to cannons from Waterloo and other battles in front of Old College. The Cascabel (the large ball at the rear of old muzzle loaded guns) of several cannons captured during the siege are used to make the British Victoria Cross , the highest award for gallantry in the British Armed Forces. The metal from these Cascabel is in danger of running out and there is some uncertainty as to what metal will be used once this occurs. There is also some doubt as to the origin of the metal used in some of the medals awarded during the First World War.


See also


  1. ^ a b Bellamy, Christopher; Ed. Richard Holmes (2001). The Oxford Companion to Military History: Crimean War. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198662092. 
  2. ^ Советская Военная Энциклопедия, М., Воениздат 1979, т.7, стр.279
  3. ^ Maule, Fox (1908). The Panmure Papers. London: Hodder and Stoughton, quoted in David Kelsey's Crimean Texts. 
  4. ^ David G. Chandler, Atlas of Military Strategy, Lionel Levental Ltd 1980, ISBN 0 85368 134 1, p.146
  5. ^ Blake, The Crimean War, Pen and Sword 1971, p.114
  6. ^ or 38,000: David G. Chandler, Atlas of Military Strategy, Lionel Levental Ltd 1980, ISBN 0 85368 134 1, p.145
  7. ^ Советская Военная Энциклопедия, М., Воениздат 1979, т.7, стр.279
  8. ^ John Sweetman, Crimean War, Essential Histories 2, Osprey Publishing, 2001, ISBN 1 84176 186 9, p.89
  9. ^ Советская Военная Энциклопедия, М., Воениздат 1979, т.7, стр.280
  10. ^ In this article the first date given is the old style date, the date following is the modern equivalent. Conversions using Calendar Converter by John Walker
  11. ^ Советская Военная Энциклопедия, М., Воениздат 1979, т.7, стр.280
  12. ^ Grant, Simon (2005). A Terrible Beauty from Tate etc magazine, issue 5, accessed 2007-09-27

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