Antiqua Print Gallery Battle of Chernaya River
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Battle of the Chernaya River

The Battle of the Chernaya River (Battle of Tchernaïa) was a battle by the Chernaya River fought during the Crimean War on August 16, 1855. The battle was fought between Russian troops and a coalition of French and Sardinian troops. The Chernaya River is on the outskirts of Sevastopol.
The battle began as an offensive by the Russians with the goal of regaining Sevastopol. 58,000 Russian troops in two army corps under Prince Michael Gorchakov fought against 60,000 French and Sardinian troops under French General Aimable Pélissier. Although the British correspondents were amazed with the courage of Russian soldiers and the impetuosity of their attack, the assault of the Russian army was poorly organized. It is known that Gorchakov sent a note to his generals with the words "Let's start it." By this, Gorchakov only meant that the Russians should start to deploy their forces. Unfortunately his generals interpreted his words as his order to attack and they acted accordingly. The attacking Russians immediately met stiff resistance from the French and Sardinians. The bravery of French soldiers of the 50th, 82nd, 95th, 97th of line; the 19th Chasseurs at foot; and the 2nd and 3rd Zouaves was especially noted. The battle ended in a Russian retreat and a victory for the French and their Sardinian allies.
Russian Count Leo Tolstoy was a participant in the Battle of the Chernaya River. He witnessed as the Russians crossed the river and started up the hillside in the morning sunlight. Tolstoy saw the lives of the Russians ending in clusters as French and Sardinian shells exploded around them. Before the morning was over, the Russians were forced to retreat. They left thousands of their dead comrades behind. Tolstoy was depressed and angered by the slaughter. He believed much of it was due to incompetent generals and staff. Tolstoy vented his anger by composing some satiric stanzas. His humorous song soon gained widespread popularity among the Russian soldiers. It is the only piece of verse Tolstoy is known to have written.

(Source Wikipedia)