Spotlight: The Best Defense

The British Second Division at Inkerman

What do you do if you are attacked at dawn, by a force more than triple your strength? Why, if you’re Major-General John Pennefather, you order an advance at once!

5th of November 1854

The Russian Army under General Soymonov launched a heavy assault across the Tchernaya River, with the aim of destabilising the allied siege lines around Sevastopol. Around 15000 Russian troops advanced on the British 2nd Division, dug in on Home Hill. Partially concealed by the fog, they were opposed by a mere 2700 British soldiers…

The British Engage

The British pickets engaged the Russians, and their fire alerted the rest of the British forces. Command of 2nd Division fell to Major-General Pennefather, the hero of the Battle of Miani, as General Evans had fallen from his horse and been injured. Eschewing Evans’ strategy of retreating to draw the Russians into range of the British guns, Pennefather ordered his forces to advance into the valley in support of the pickets!

Upon meeting the Russians on the foggy valley floor, the 2nd Division opened fire. Their Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-muskets gave them a clear advantage in range and accuracy over the Russians, who were still equipped with smoothbore muskets of Napoleonic vintage, and they were able to drive the enemy back up the valley. The Russians then mounted a fierce counterattack en masse, which was bloodily repulsed but at great cost.

At this point, the British line was stretched thin, and it seemed certain that another attack would break them. At this critical juncture, however, Soymonov hesitated. Unable to see just how weak the British line was, due to the thick fog, he chose to wait for his reinforcements, which he knew were approaching the battlefield. Such was the ferocity with which the 2nd Division had thrown him back that he must have believed he was facing a far larger force!

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The Counterattack

As the British awaited the coming assault, salvation arrived in the form of General Brown’s Light Division. Entering the area on the Russian left flank, they launched an immediate counterattack, throwing the enemy back in disarray. Soymonov was killed by the lethally accurate British fire, followed shortly by Colonels Pristovoitov and Uvazhnov-Aleksandrov who took up command after him. The Russian attack soon became a confused slaughter.

The heroic resistance of the 2nd Division, coupled with the Light Division’s timely arrival, utterly stalled the momentum of the Russian army’s attack, directly contributing to their overall defeat across the wider battlefield. Despite this, the attack slowed the progress of the Allied siege of Sevastopol – this led to another winter of suffering for the troops outside the city, exacerbated by a great storm a little over a week later, which wrecked many ships, costing the Allies valuable winter supplies.

Recreate the Heroic Defense

Can you recreate Pennefather’s heroic aggressive defence? Perhaps you think you can succeed where Soymonov failed? Will the Light Division arrive in time? Our new range of Crimean War figures are perfect for answering these questions once and for all!

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