1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alma
ALMA, a river of Russia, in the S.W. of the Crimea, entering the Black Sea 17 m. N. of Sevastopol. It gives its name to a famous victory gained over the Russians, on the 20th of September 1854, by the allied armies in the Crimean War (q.v.). The south bank of the river is bordered by a long ridge, which becomes steeper as it approaches the sea, and upon this the Russians, under Prince Menshikov, were drawn up, to bar the Sevastopol road to the allies, who under General Lord Raglan and Marshal St Arnaud approached from the north over an open plain. The Russian commander massed his troops in heavy columns after the fashion of 1813, and drew in his left wing so that it should as far as possible be out of range of the allied men-of-war, which were sailing down the coast in line with their land forces. The allied generals decided that the French (right wing) and the Turks should attack Menshikov's left, while the British, further inland, were to assault the front of the Russian position. The forces engaged are stated by Hamley (War in the Crimea) as, French and Turks, 35,000 infantry, with 68 guns; British, 23,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry and 60 guns; Russians, 33,000 infantry, 3800 cavalry and 120 guns; by the Austrian writer Berndt (Zahl im Kriege) the allied forces are reckoned at 57,000 men with 108 guns, and the Russians at 33,600 men with 96 guns. The French advance met at first with little opposition, and several divisions scaled the cliffs of the lower Alma without difficulty. Menshikov relied apparently on being able to detach his reserves to cope with them, but the assailants moved with a rapidity which he had not counted upon, and the Russians only came into action piecemeal in this quarter. Opposite the British, who as usual deployed at a distance and then advanced in long continuous lines, the Russians were posted on the crest of a long glacis-like slope, which offered but little dead ground to an assailant. The village of Burliuk, and the vineyards which bordered the river, were quickly cleared by the British skirmishers, and the line of battle behind them crossed, though with some difficulty. On emerging from the cover afforded by the river-bed the British divisions, now crowded together, but still preserving their general line, came under a terrible fire from heavy guns and musketry. The enemy's artillery was three hundred yards away, yet the British pressed on in spite of their losses, and as some of the Light Division troops reached the “ Great Battery ” the Russians hurried their guns away to safety. In the meantime, on both sides of this battery, the assailants had come to close quarters with the Russian columns, which were aided by their field guns. A brave counter-attack was made by the Russian Vladimir regiment, 3000 strong, against the troops which had stormed the great battery, and for want of support the British were driven out again. But they soon rallied, and now the second line had crossed and formed for attack. The Guards brigade attacked the Vladimir regiment, and on the left the Highland brigade and the cavalry moved forward also. Some of the field artillery, which had now crossed the Alma, fired steadily into the closed masses of the Russian reserve, and the Vladimir regiment lost half of its numbers under the volleys of the Guards. The French were now severely pressing the Russian left, and one-third of Menshikov's forces was drawn into the fight in that quarter. The success of the frontal assault had dispirited the remainder of the defenders, and Menshikov drew off his forces southwards. He had lost 5700 men (Berndt and Hamley). The British had about 2000 killed and wounded; the French stated their losses at 1340 men.