Part 81: A Global War
  • Part 81: A Global War


    The British Baltic Fleet off the Coast of Finland
    In many ways, 1855 would be the high-water mark for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the Great Eurasian War as it brought the full might of its Empire to bare against the Russians. As the main theater of the war, the bulk of Britain’s resources would go towards the Ottoman Empire as the British Expeditionary Force - originally consisting of the 1st Infantry Division and the Regiment of Royal Horse Guards - was reinforced substantially with the arrival of the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions, and the remainder of the Cavalry Division over the Winter and Spring. The 4th Infantry Division and the Light Division would also be mustered later that Spring, joining their comrades by the end of the Summer. All told the number of British soldiers in the Balkans would rise fourfold from 18,000 men in the Fall of 1854 to over 78,000 men by the middle of August 1855, making it the single largest concentration of British soldiers since the Napoleonic Wars.

    In addition to this, the British Empire formed two Naval Brigades (comprised of Royal Marines and sailors from the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet) stationed in Thrace and Northern Anatolia. They would be tasked with raiding Russian possessions along the Black Sea coast, harassing their lines of supply, and cutting their lines of communication to the front. They would also attempt to open lines of supply and communication with their nominal allies, the Circassian Confederation and the Caucasian Imamate through their capture of Fort Navaginsky in the Summer of 1854, flooding the Kuban with weapons, munitions, food, clothing, and coin. While this buildup of military assets in the Balkans and Anatolia was certainly a welcome development for the Ottoman Empire, Britain’s main objective in 1855 would be to expand the war away from the lands of the Sublime Porte and into those of the Russian Empire itself.

    The British had begun to do just this in the August of 1854 as the Royal Navy’s Baltic Squadron entered the Baltic Sea unopposed, scared the Russian Baltic Fleet into hiding, and blockaded Russian ports across the region. They would even survey the fortresses of Sveaborg and Kronstadt for any weaknesses, but would ultimately withdrawal to Spithead, Hampshire before the sea froze over in early October. Despite the brevity of the 1854 Baltic campaign, the results were rather impressive, as many thousands of Russian soldiers slated for deployment along the Danube were instead ordered North to guard the Gulf of Finland against potential British incursions. Moreover, the damage to the Russian economy was immense as the great entrepots of Riga, Reval, and St. Petersburg were blockaded by the Royal Navy, effectively silencing Russian commerce in the Baltic.

    Encouraged by the prior year’s successes, the British would double down on the Baltic Front in 1855 as the Admiralty allocated a monstrous flotilla of 93 warships to the Baltic Squadron and tasked it with liberating the Åland Islands and the coast of Finland if possible. This fleet sent to the Baltic in 1855 would also represent the most advanced flotilla of the Royal Navy, sporting newly developed 32-pounder cannons, 68-pounder Lancaster guns, and 24 steamships, including the imposing 131-gun HMS Windsor Castle. They would even assign their most experienced Admiral to command it, Sir Charles Napier, signifying the great importance that this mission had in the eyes of Westminster.


    Sir Charles Napier, Commander of the British Baltic Fleet
    While some would preface the British campaign in the Baltic as a necessary step towards a future coup de main against St. Petersburg - which it theoretically was, the real objective behind Britain’s Baltic thrust in 1855 was to attract allies to its side in its war against Russia. Many within Westminster believed that a strong British presence in the Baltic Sea and the capture of a few islands would be enough to entice the Kingdom of Prussia and the United Kingdom of Sweden and Norway into the war against Russia as British allies. With its professional and relatively large army, Prussia would be a great boon to the Anti-Russian Coalition, while Sweden’s support was particularly important as St. Petersburg could not be truly threatened without Stockholm’s support, nor could Britain hold any captured Baltic territory to entice Prussia without Swedish assistance.

    There was also strong consideration given to instigating another revolt among the Polish, Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian peoples of the Russian Empire, which the British could support through a campaign in the Baltic. The Poles were certainly receptive to the idea as their hatred for Russian rule was well knowned across Europe, however, Britain’s failure to adequately support the last Polish Rebellion in 1848 had significantly weakened support for Britain among the Polish community. More than that though, many Poles had been killed or exiled in the last war and their ability to assemble and legally own armaments had been greatly reduced following the suppression of the recent revolt. Simply put, although the Poles likely had the will to rebel against the Russians, they lacked the means and ability to do so on the same scale as the 1848 Rebellion.

    Such an overture to the Poles also ran the risk of antagonizing the Austrians and Prussians who were both formally allies of Russia, yet presently neutral in the current war. Were Britain to overtly support another Polish uprising, they risked provoking Austrian and/or Prussian intervention against Britain, thus dooming their current . Ultimately, the idea of instigating another Polish revolt was shelved. Therefore, the British Baltic Strategy in 1855 would largely be limited to raiding, blockading, and bombarding Russia’s Baltic coast from Courland to Oulu and everything in between. Once the ice had finally begun to melt in late April, the Admiralty ordered the greatly strengthened Baltic Fleet to set out for the Baltic.[1]

    Their first target would be the Åland Archipelago located between Sweden and Finland, with the fortress of Bomarsund being their primary objective of this first assault. The main structure of the fortress was an imposing building with its curved granite cyclopean walls and its 162 casemates (most of which faced towards the sea). The fortress would have also featured 14 roundel guard towers surrounding Bomarsund proper, but by the time the British arrived in Lumparn Bay on the 8th of May only three had been finished, while a fourth was in the midst of construction. The fortress was also located on the flatlands near the shore rather than the nearby hills, which combined with the rather poor range of its guns made it a good target for a concentrated naval bombardment.


    Bomarsund Fortress

    Taking this into account, Admiral Napier would immediately open fire on the citadel as soon as his ships came into firing range, striking the walls of Bomarsund with nearly 20,000 shells in less than two short hours. Despite this impressive show of force and material might, the scattershot bombardment had done remarkably little damage to the fortress’ stout walls which steadfastly withstood the British attack. Unwilling to needlessly endanger his ships by advancing any closer, Napier instead ordered the fleet to pull back while they pursued other avenues of reducing Bomarsund.

    In the ensuing days, Napier’s main contingent of ships would establish a tight blockade of Fasta Åland, preventing the Russian garrison from being resupplied or reinforced, while his deputies seized the neighboring islands in the archipelago. This blockade would hurt the Russians mightily as their food supplies soon began to run out. Faced with starvation, many resorted to eating their horses, dogs and cats, and even rodents found within the fortresses’ walls to sate their increasing hunger. Their stores of gunpowder and munitions were also running low, but when Napier pressed them to surrender after two weeks of blockade, the Russians boldly refused, firing all their seaward guns at once in defiance.

    This standoff would continue for nearly four weeks until a largely undefended inlet leading behind the main fortress was discovered. From this shallow inlet, the British could safely fire upon the rear of the fortress which was not as well protected as the seaward side - its only defense being a single roundel called Notvik Tower.[2] Upon learning of this, Admiral Napier immediately ordered his shallower draft steamships to traverse through the narrow inlet, while the remaining ships would remain in front of the fortress, continuing the barrage from afar. Simultaneously, a third group of sailors and marines would land far to the West of Bomarsund, near the fishing hovel of Estvik and drag several 32 pounders and howitzers into position on the heights above the fortress.

    Once in position, Napier signaled his steamships to open fire on the granite walls of Bomarsund from the near, releasing a withering enfilade upon the Russian defenders in Notvik tower, which was reduced to rubble within mere moments. The bombardment on the main fortress commenced soon after as the mighty ships of the line opened fire on Bomarsund. Like before, the damage inflicted on the fort was rather minimal, but with the British attacking from two separate directions the Russians’ already meager resources were divided in two. The Russians’ position soon became worse as the British sailors and marines would finally finish hauling their guns into position above the fortress by midday and immediately opened fire on Brännklint Tower which was quickly destroyed much like its counterpart, Notvik Tower. Soon after the Naval Brigade would set their sights upon Bomarsund itself, raining cannonballs down into the fortress’ interior.


    The Bombardment of Bomarsund

    The bombardment that followed was relatively brief, lasting only a few short hours as 1261 guns of the British Baltic Squadron pounded the Fortress’s defenses into dust. The blistering cannonade blew holes out of the walls of Bomarsund and successfully silenced all but 11 of the fortresses’ 162 casemates, many of which couldn’t retaliate given the oblong shape of the fortress. With his losses mounting, his defenses crumbling, and his ability to resist quickly diminishing, the Russian commandant, Colonel Yakov Badisko ordered his garrison to strike their colors and surrender to the British bringing an end to the battle.

    The fall of Bomarsund would spell the end of Russian resistance in the Åland Archipelago as the few remaining holdouts either surrendered to the British or fled to nearby Finland in the following days. Overall, the battle of Bomarsund was a minor victory for Great Britain in the grand scheme of things as it would do little to convince the Swedes to join the war on its own. However, it would help kick start negotiations with Sweden which had been stalled for the better part of the past year. Sweden had initially refused to involve itself in the war when first approached by Britain in early 1854, having long since written off their claims to Finland and not wishing to antagonize Russia. Yet, when they learned of the supposedly indomitable Bomarsund’s capitulation, the Swedish Government began changing its tune in favor of intervention especially as public sentiment was widely in favor of Scandinavism.

    Although Scandinavism was nothing new, it had been greatly strengthened by the success of their counterparts in Germany and Italy in the 1848 Revolutions, prompting Swedish and Norwegian nationalists to begin stirring for a stronger union between their two countries. They called for the abolition of trade barriers between their two states, the amendment of the Acts of Union, the abolition of the office of Viceroy for the Kingdom of Norway, the creation of a permanent Union Legislature, and ultimately, the reform of the two states into one new state, Scandinavia.

    The conservative Swedish Government would initially oppose these demands, as it would effectively end their admittedly nominal dominance over Norway, but as pressure continued to build against them, they gradually gave way, abolishing their internal trade barriers with Norway in 1849, dissolving the hated Viceroyalty of Norway in 1851, and establishing a shared Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1854. The Norwegian Government was similarly pressured into a tighter union following these concessions by Sweden, leading to the ending of their own trade barriers and a minor revision to the Acts of Union in 1855 resulting in closer cooperation with the Swedish Government. Despite the fervor of the Scandinavian nationalists, and these initial concessions by the Swedish and Norwegian governments, it would take more time before their aspirations came to reality.


    The New Flag of Sweden and Norway​

    Although much of this debate was centered on Sweden and Norway, there was also considerable thought given to including the Kingdom of Denmark in this burgeoning Scandinavian Union. Acting on feelings of kinship, Sweden-Norway would side in favor of Denmark during the 1848-1849 Schleswig War, sending a contingent of Swedish and Norwegian troops to aid the Danes during the closing months of the conflict, however their involvement was strictly limited to Danish territory and were not sent to the disputed Duchy of Holstein. Sweden would also play a prominent role in mediating the Peace talks between the German rebels and the Danish Government ending the conflict. Following the war, the two states would sign a series of trade deals and agree to a defensive pact with one another, they would also dispatch a pair of cultural missions to each other’s country all in the name of fraternity and Scandinavism.

    With Denmark and Sweden-Norway becoming closer after 1848, some Scandinavian Nationalists believed Union was inevitable and began considering the expansion of Scandinavia to include Iceland, Greenland and Finland as well (Nordism). But given Russia’s great strength, the latter was deemed impossible and tabled for the time being. However, when war between Russia and Britain erupted in mid-1854, many within Sweden-Norway considered this as a golden opportunity to win Finland’s liberation from barbarian occupation. Further successes by Britain in the Baltic in 1855 capturing Bomarsund and the Åland Archipelago in May, followed by the neighboring Åboland Islands and reducing the defenses of Hanko and Turnu in the following weeks would only heighten these feelings further resulting in public demonstrations in favor of war with Russia.

    Ultimately, by the end of September 1855, King Oskar and his representatives finally presented a tangible list of demands to British Ambassador Sir Arthur Magenis for Sweden-Norway’s entrance into the war against Russia. Among other things, Sweden called for the immediate annexation of the Åland Archipelago (currently under British occupation), the Grand Duchy of Finland, a guarantee of British protection against Russian aggression in the future, a loan of 10,000,000 Sovereigns (paid out in three installments over the next three years), and the deployment of nearly 40,000 British troops to the Baltic during the present conflict.[3] Perhaps most crucially, however, the Swedish Government stated that it would only join the war alongside Britain if Prussia could be brought on board as part of a broader coalition against the Russians.

    Although Palmerston was agreeable towards Sweden’s territorial claims as part of his greater effort to dismantle the Russian Empire and drive it to the fringes of Europe, he was less so of their other demands. The loan, while certainly large, was not a problem in and of itself, but when combined with Britain’s considerable financial commitments to the Ottoman Empire and their other allies, it would be an increasing strain on the British Empire’s coffers. The guarantee of Sweden’s independence was more contested, however, as it would create a lasting entanglement with a continental power that Britain had historically avoided in the past. Most of all, despite Palmerston’s boastings of a Pan-European front against Russia, Lord Clarendon and the Foreign Office were quite pessimistic of gaining Prussian support against Russia. A considerable amount of coin had already been spent in Berlin and Vienna to buy their favor, but it would take time before these efforts would bare any fruit. Unable or unwilling to fulfill these terms at present, the negotiations between Britain and Sweden came to a halt, for now.

    The Barbarian Menace Marches West; Europe Rises to Meet it!
    -British Propaganda depicting Russia as a harbinger of death and barbarism.

    Undeterred by the slow progress with Sweden-Norway, Lord Clarendon and the Foreign Office would work wonders elsewhere on behalf of the Empire in 1855. As mentioned before, the British would narrowly avoid war with the Kingdom of Greece when it traded the Ionian Islands -along with several provinces of the Ottoman Empire – for its continued neutrality and logistical support. While they had succeeded in averting one crisis, they very nearly sparked another as the Sublime Porte was none too pleased with Britain’s diplomacy. To smooth over the ruffled feathers in Kostantîniyye, Britain would open its lines of credit to the Ottoman Government, along with a sizeable loan of ten million Sovereigns up front and another 5 million in 1856 to support the Turkish war effort.[4]

    The Foreign Office would also approach the Second French Empire to help arm the Ottomans Nizamis with their new rifles, the high quality Minié Rifle. Although France was formally neutral in the conflict between Russia and Britain, Emperor Napoleon was partial to the British having spent several years living in the country. He was also deeply concerned by Russian advances into the Balkans and Anatolia, advances which he considered a threat to French interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    With his rule secured and his country at peace, the transfer of several thousand excess rifles and cannons to the Ottomans was of little consequence for the French Emperor who readily agreed to Clarendon's request. Together with his Minister of War, Marshal Bernard Pierre Magnan, and his Minister of Finance, Jean-Martial Bineau they would scrounge together nearly 46,000 Minié rifles and roughly half a million Minié balls which would be shipped to the Ottoman Empire for a “reasonable” fee. They would also provide the Turks with 40 newly developed Canon de L' Aigle field guns in order to gauge their potency in combat against the Russians.

    Beyond this, they would meet with some moderate success recruiting allies from among the Germans and Italians, with several thousand volunteering to assist the British and Ottomans in their fight against Russia. However, their efforts to construct a coalition of concerned powers to combat the “Barbarian Menace” was thwarted by indifference and fear. Aside from Sweden, the British would attempt to woo France, Prussia and Austria to little or no effect with the latter two barred from doing so by treaty and France by politics. Moving on, they would look to the countries of the Italian Confederation and the German Empire, which while supportive of Britain’s aspirations, lacked the means to truly aid them in their efforts. Lombardia-Piedmont would however, dispatch a token force to assist the British and Ottomans, but it would be primarily concentrated in the Balkans where it generally played a supporting role. Looking further afield, Clarendon and the Foreign Office would approach the nascent Kingdom of Hungary in an attempt to bring it into the Anti-Russian Coalition.


    George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon and British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

    Hungary was no stranger to hostilities with the Russians, having fought against them in the Hungarian War of Independence just five years prior. Many hundreds and thousands of Hungarians had died fighting Russian encroachment into Galicia-Lodomeria and many more had died protecting the Hungarian homeland in the Carpathian Mountains. Similarly, Russia held a great contempt for Hungary which had defiantly supported and defended the Poles in 1849 and 1850. In retaliation, the Tsar refused to acknowledge Hungarian Independence, recalling the Russian consuls from Buda, and ordering that all maps in Russia continue to depict Hungary as a province of the Austrian Empire.

    For their part, Hungarian King Louis III (Count Lajos Batthyány), Prime Minister Lajos Kossuth, and the Hungarian Government would prove to be quite receptive to the idea of war, as Russia’s encroachment into the Balkans was an existential threat to the young state. Although not its intention – at least initially, Russia’s provocations of Pan-Slavic revolts across the Balkans had proven quite unsettling for the Kingdom of Hungary which lorded over several million Slavs (Serbs, Slovaks, and Croats) itself. Protests had emerged in Transylvania and Banat, forcing the beleaguered Hungarian Army to pacify these borderlands at great cost. Were Russia to win in its present conflict against the Turks, then th “liberation” of Hungary’s oppressed Slavic peoples would almost certainly be the next target of Russian aggression, bringing the Hungarian state to an untimely demise. Even if Russia were not to attack them directly, Russia’s occupation of the Danubian Principalities would be still be a great disaster for Hungary’s economy.

    With Croatia surrendered to Austria as the price of its freedom, the Danube River was Hungary’s only remaining link to the sea and thus the global market. Naturally, this made the continued neutrality of the Danubian Principalities an issue of great concern for the Kingdom of Hungary especially in light of the current conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. A Russian victory in the war would almost certainly entail the annexation, or at the very least political, diplomatic, and economic subjugation of the Wallachian and Moldavian Principalities, giving St. Petersburg incredible influence over the Lower Danube from the Iron Gates to the Black Sea. Were this to happen, Buda’s only artery to the outside world would be put in jeopardy, forcing Hungary to kowtow to St. Petersburg’s demands lest its finances be ruined, and its people impoverished.


    Map of the Danube (circa 1800)

    In spite of these concerns of Russian encroachment, many within Hungary were opposed to antagonizing the Russians any further and wished to remain neutral in the current conflict as they had still not fully recovered from the Hungarian War of Independence. Although nearly five years had passed, the devastation of the War for Independence still lingered across much of the country. Thousands had been slain in battle against the Austrians and Russians, thousands more had been maimed, and an untold number had been left destitute in the fight for Hungarian liberty. Hungary’s standing army was also rather small, at only 62,000 men – with another 120,000 in reserve. Many of these soldiers were preoccupied chasing partisans throughout the hills and mountains of Transylvania and Banat whose populaces would almost certainly rebel against Buda if Hungary went to war against Russia. More than that though, attacking Russia would run the risk of inviting Austrian intervention against them.

    Although Vienna had been badly bloodied and battered during the Revolutions of 1848 (losing both Lombardy and Hungary to Revolutionaries and making considerable concessions to the Croats and Czechs), it still remained a considerable power deserving of respect and consideration. Without a guarantee of Austrian neutrality, Hungary could not in good confidence march to war against Russia with a hostile power at its back. Nevertheless, the Hungarian Government remained open to joining the war against Russia if, and only if Austrian neutrality could be confirmed. To London’s and Buda’s aggravation, however, Vienna remained conveniently aloof, as it avoided making a firm decision in favor of either Britain or Russia. Unable to guarantee Austrian neutrality, the negotiations in Buda sadly came to a halt in the Summer of 1855.

    While the British could not get the Hungarians to fight alongside them at present, the British envoy to Buda, Lord John Russell would still manage to achieve a similar result without their actual involvement. Contending that the very presence of the Hungarian Honvéd Army on the border with Russian occupied Galicia-Lodomeria and Wallachia would be enough to satisfy Britain’s requests and spit in the eye of Russia at the same time; Prime Minister Kossuth agreed to mobilize the Hungarian Army in late July. Under the pretext of policing their eastern and southern borders against brigands and seditionists, Buda raised some 120,000 Hungarian soldiers to send eastward, conveniently stationing them right on the frontier with Russia.

    The sudden presence of the Hungarian Army on their Northern flank would set off alarm bells in the headquarters of Count Ivan Paskevich at the Princely Palace of Bucharest. Ever a cautious man, Paskevich would react swiftly to counter this apparent threat with overwhelming force, dispatching four divisions from the front along the Danube to counter this new threat, while another four would be sent to guard Russia's border with Hungary in Galicia-Lodomeria.[5] After a month of posturing and sabre rattling, the Hungarian Army would stand down, its job finished as the Russian offensive on Silistra had stalled once again (its reserves having been sent north to guard the border with Hungary).

    Britain’s last diplomatic success in Europe during 1855 would be the formation of the Polish Legion, a large brigade sized unit of Polish exiles living in Hungary and prisoners of war captured during the fighting in Bulgaria. Many had no love for Russia and willingly signed up with the British and Ottomans as soon as the offer was made. Some, particularly the few Polish officers in Russian service, captured in the fighting around Silistra, required a little more persuasion however, usually in the form of bribes or threats before they would join with the British. To avoid arousing suspicion with Austria and Prussia that this was an Army of Polish Liberation, the unit would officially be christened the Sultan’s Cossack Brigade and fight under the banners of the Sublime Porte.


    Members of the Polish Legion

    The Ottoman Empire would not be idle in the search for additional allies either as in early February 1855, the Mufti of Constantinople at the urging of the Sublime Porte issued a Fatwa against the Russian Empire, calling on all Muslim faithful to wage war with the heathen Russians. Heeding the call were tens of thousands of Muslims from across the Middle East who flocked to the Ottoman Empire, joining arms with the Turks in their fight against the Russian infidels. Although their quality was dubious, their numbers were greatly appreciated by the beleaguered Turks with nearly 30,000 Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Libyans, Egyptians, Arabs, Syrians and Kurds making the journey to the Ottoman Empire in 1855 alone.

    While their numbers were certainly appreciated, they were generally undisciplined and rather poor soldiers, more interested in plunder and glory than discipline and cohesion. More often than not, they would been found plundering Christian villages in the Balkans and Eastern Anatolia, killing the men, raping the women and carting the children away to sell into slavery. They were Ghazis more than soldiers, but in desperate need of more men to throw against the Russians, the Sublime Porte looked the other way much to the chagrin of their Christian subjects. The zeal of holy war would also spread to the Caucasus as Imam Shamil and his followers took the fight to the Christian communities of Ciscaucasia, massacring entire towns in retaliation for Russian transgressions against them.

    More important than this, however, was the Porte’s decision to dispatch Mussad Giray, last scion of the Crimean Khanate’s House of Giray to the Crimean Peninsula in the Spring of 1855. With the aid of the British Royal Navy, Giray and his compatriots landed at the relatively undefended Kalamita Bay and set to work organizing a general uprising by the Crimean Tatars against Russian rule. In the span of a few short weeks, Giray would successfully mobilize between 30,000 to 40,000 fighters who were dedicated to driving the Russians from their lands. Their ferocity and animosity were unmatched as they ruthlessly butchered Russian men, women and children by the hundreds. The Greeks and Armenians of the Crimea were not spared either, resulting in a number of deaths at Tatar hands.

    Attempts by the Russians to quell the Crimean Tatar revolt were hampered by the Royal Navy and Ottoman Black Sea’s Fleet which frequently raided the Crimean coast with impunity. British and Turkish marines and sailors would seize the initiative on several occasions, swiftly occuppying and destroying the ports of Yevpatoria, Feodosia, and Balaclava before retreating in the face of approaching Russian reinforcements. Combined with the Tatars, the British and Ottoman raids on the Crimean Peninsula ingrained in the Russians a looming sense of invasion by Allies causing Russian civilians to flee in droves. If they had the men to spare, perhaps the British and Ottomans would have attempted such a course of action, but instead their resources were focused elsewhere. Nevertheless, the fear of such an act paralyzed three Russian Divisions which were forced to remain in the Crimea for the remainder of the year.

    London and Kostantîniyye would also find great success in Central Asia as the Emirate of Bukhara, and the Khanates of Khiva and Kokand would declare war on the Russian Empire in May of 1855. London and Kostantîniyye had been courting the tribes of Central Asia since the beginning of the War the previous year, but in truth they needed little encouragement as the annexation of the Kazakh Khanate and the subjugation of Khiva in recent years had alarmed them greatly. Fearful of further Russian encroachment into their lands and under the mediation of British and Ottoman diplomats; many of the Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Kyrgis, Tajiks, and Turkmen of Central Asia agreed to temporarily set their differences aside and align with London and Constantinople against the Russian threat.

    To aid them in their struggle, Britain would funnel several thousand excess, and largely obsolete, Brown Bess and Baker Rifles to Central Asia, along with a loan of one million Sovereigns to each of the local rulers to help buoy their resolve. Armed with British weapons and flush with British cash, Khiva, Kokand, and Bukhara would muster around 22,000 horsemen and another 20,000 footmen for the Anti-Russian Coalition and swiftly crossed the border into Russian occupied Kazakhstan in the Spring of 1855. Upon crossing the border, they would pillage the steppe far and wide, from the border of Qing China to the shores of the Caspian Sea. In their wake, they left scorched earth, slaughtered flocks, and ruined settlements mirroring the Mongol invasions of the Middle Ages.

    Their greatest success, however, would be the capture and destruction of Novopetrovskoe and Guriev. In the case of the latter, the garrison of Guriev was caught completely unprepared by such an audacious attack and were quickly overwhelmed by the Central Asian horsemen and quickly fled to the western half of the city across the Ural River, destroying the city’s bridges in their wake. Those Russian soldiers and settlers unfortunate enough to be left in the eastern half of Guriev were slaughtered by the Central Asian horsemen who left the cobblestone streets awash in blood and bodies. After a day of looting and wanton destruction the riders withdrew as fast as they had arrived. Overall, the damage from the attack on Guriev was quite minimal, only 850 Russian soldiers and civilians would lose their lives in the raid, while a few buildings were burnt to the ground and unmeasured booty was carted off by the attackers.[6] Nevertheless, the boldness of the assault on Guriev, combined with the lacking Russian response encouraged several thousand Kazakhs to rise in revolt across the region, adding their forces to those of the invaders.

    For the Russians, the events in Central were a nuisance, a distraction from the main events taking place to the West. As such, minimal resources were allocated to the defense of the region initially. Only after the raid on Guriev and the revolt of the Kazakhs soon after would the Tsarist Government take matters there more seriously, dispatching a Division of Infantry under the command of General Alexander Andreevich Katenin to reinforce the overstretched Separate Orenburg Corps, of which he would assume control in late August. The arrival of the 16th Infantry Division under General Katenin would stabilize the situation, but little else as the Russians continued to prioritize their other fronts in the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the Baltic over Central Asia.


    Battle between Russian Soldiers and Kokand Horsemen

    If Central Asia received minor interest from St. Petersburg, then their possessions on the Pacific Coast received little to none as the region was effectively written off by the Tsarist Government in the opening days of the war. That is not to say that the Russian Government did not care for this front (they almost certainly did), but given the extreme distances involved, the rather undeveloped nature of the region, and Britain’s unquestioned naval supremacy; they had little recourse against British activities in the Pacific. Operating out of Valparaiso, Chile initially and then Honolulu, Hawaii, the British Royal Navy’s Pacific Station would quickly arrive off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula in early May 1855, effectively daring the Russian Okhotsk Military Flotilla to come out and fight them. Believing they had an advantage over the British, the Russians would oblige them.

    The British fleet the Russians faced was rather small, numbering only five ships; the frigates President (52 Guns), Trincomalee (46 guns), Amphitrite (46 guns), and Pique (36 guns), and the paddle sloop Virago (6 guns). The Russians in contrast had more ships and more guns with three frigates; the Diana (54 guns), the Pallada (52 guns) and the Aurora (44 guns), the corvette Olivutsa (20 guns), and four converted transport ships, the Dwina (16 guns), the Sitka (14 guns), the Irtysh (10 guns), and Baikal (6 guns). Despite their advantage in numbers and firepower, the Russian fleet was quickly scattered by the Royal Navy in the Battle of Kamchatka on the 11 of May 1855, with most retreating to the safety of Okhotsk where they would remain for the remainder of the war.

    However, two Russian ships, the frigate Pallada and the corvette Olivutsa would escape from the battle relatively unscathed and made a beeline for Novo Arkhangelsk, from where they would harass British commerce up and down the Pacific coast of North America. A third ship, the Russian Frigate Aurora would attempt to join them, but as it made its trek east across the sea towards the Aleutian Islands, it would find its path blocked by HMS President and HMS Virago which had actually been chasing Pallada and Olivutsa, only to encounter Aurora by random chance. Deeming his previous goal of reaching Novo Arkhangelsk now compromised, the captain of the Aurora, Lieutenant Commander Ivan Izilmetyev would abrubtly change course, choosing to retreat back to Okhotsk.

    The ensuing chase would encompass the better part of the next week as the British and Russian ships traded shots with one another, to relatively little effect. The fifth day of fighting would be different, however, as the Aurora would take a cannonball below the waterline causing it to begin taking on water, while a lucky strike on Virago’s rudder would force it to temporarily abandon the pursuit while they made repairs. HMS President would take a series of blows to its hull and suffer extensive damage to its rigging, but in spite of this it would continue to chase the wounded Russian warship southwest right until it reached the island of Sakhalin. With his ship taking on water and his escape route to the open sea repeatedly blocked, Commander Izilmetyev would make one last attempt to escape his pursuers by traversing the narrow, and largely unknown Strait of Tartary.

    Unaware of the strait's existence (they believed it was a bay), HMS President, soon rejoined by HMS Virago, waited for the Aurora to attempt its escape from the mouth of the bay, only for that escape to never come. Having successfully eluded the British ships, Izilmetyev would attempt to make repairs to his ship and set anchor off the coast of Sakhalin, however, his jubilation quickly turned to horror as his ship was soon overcome by Japanese soldiers. The Aurora had unwittingly landed on the Japanese half of the island.

    Having only recently started opening itself up to the outside world, Japan was a foreign land for most Europeans as it fiercely guarded its neutrality and isolationism. By landing on the southern half of Sakhalin, the Aurora had -unwittingly - violated Japan’s neutrality for its own gain. While had succeeded in escaping the British, representatives of the Tokogawa Shogunate would soon order the Aurora impounded and its crew detained for the remainder of the war as a penalty for violating their neutrality. Not wishing to spark a diplomatic crisis, HMS President and Virago would patrol the waters off Sakhalin for the better part of two weeks before abandoning their watch and rejoining the main contingent at Petropavlovsk.

    As this was taking place, the Royal Navy ships HMS Trincomalee, Amphitrite, and Pique would be joined by Rear Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby aboard his flagship the Fourth Rate HMS Portland (60 guns) and the sixth rate HMS Imogen (28 guns) significantly bolstering their capabilities. After the Battle of Kamchatka, the fleet would sail to the port of Petropavlovsk located near the southern tip of the peninsula, Russia’s primary port on the Pacific. Moving quickly the British would strike against the town, which had been largely abandoned by the Russian Okhotsk Flotilla after the recent naval battle.

    A few townsfolk and sailors from the schooner Andray and transport Bot would attempt to hold off the British attack and even constructed rudimentary gun batteries and redoubts with a half dozen guns that had been hauled off their ships, but under heavy cannon fire from the British fleet they could do little to resist. When sailors and marines from the British fleet landed north of the city, they faced meager resistance from the town’s defenders, ultimately culminating in Petropavlovsk’s surrender on the 28th of May.[7] The capture of Petropavlovsk would be a minor strategic victory for the British as it had largely been evacuated before the British arrived, but it would serve to isolate the Russian Pacific Fleet to the Bay of Okhotsk.

    The fighting in the Pacific would also indirectly result in the end of Russian Alaska which would be targeted by the Royal Navy in the aftermath of Petropavlovsk. As the Russian Frigate Pallada and Corvette Olivutsa had escaped to Novo Arkhangelsk, the once forgotten Russian colony soon became a high priority for the British Pacific Station which now moved to subdue it. Together with troops from Fort Victoria, the British fleet would successfully capture Novo Arkhangelsk (Sitka) and Kad’yak (Kodiak) before year’s end, resulting in the capitulation of Russian America. The real objective of this assault, the sinking of the Pallada and Olivutsa in late October would mark the end of major hostilities in the Pacific, as the last remaining threats to Britain in the Pacific– the remaining ships of the Russian Okhotsk Military Flotilla - were blockaded at Okhotsk. Despite the successes London had found on these fronts, their real focus would remain on the Balkans and the Caucasus, whose great battles and campaigns far outweighed these pin prick strikes on Russia’s periphery.

    Next Time: Mire of Misery
    [1] The British Government seriously considered attacking Russian possessions in the Baltic as a means of gaining Sweden’s support IOTL. However, France was largely dismissive of the endeavor and refused to commit significant resources to the front, beyond a token naval detachment to blockade Russian ports alongside the British Baltic Fleet. Without France ITTL and in desperate need for additional allies, Britain is more willing to pursue this course of action here.

    [2] When designing the fortress in the 1820’s and 1830’s, the Russians didn’t anticipate that ships would eventually be able to traverse the shallow waters surrounding Bomarsund, hence the lack of defenses behind it.

    [3] This is comparable to the subsidy provided to Sweden during the Napoleonic Wars which was 1 million Sovereigns in 1813.

    [4] During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain provided its allies around 22 million Pounds in subsidies in 1813. Adjusted for inflation it comes out to around 14.1 million Pounds in 1855 in OTL. Here Britain would be asked to provide the Ottoman Empire 10,000,000 Pounds Sterling per year and if Sweden were to join the war it would be another 5,000,000 Pounds Sterling per year. While this would be more than Britain provided all of its Coalition Allies at the height of the Napoleonic Wars in 1813, its important to note that the British Economy is much larger and stronger in 1855 than it was in 1813. It will definitely hurt Britain, but it can manage it for a time.

    [5] In OTL, Paskevich believed that an attack across the Danube would provoke an Austrian intervention against Russia, resulting in his half-hearted attempts to besiege Silistra in OTL. The collapse of the Austrian Empire ITTL mitigates these fears, resulting in his more determined attack into Ottoman Bulgaria, but he still remains cautious of his Northern flank and moves to secure it when it is threatened.

    [6] Guriev was primarily populated by Kazakhs and Tatars throughout most of its history, although by the 19th Century there would be a moderate Russian population, they were primarily located on the Western side of the River in Samara Guriev.

    [7] Given its remote location, the city of Petropavlovsk was considered indefensible by the Russians IOTL, who promptly evacuated it in May 1855. Here the final result is more or less the same, except the British take it through force of arms, thus presenting it as this great strategic victory, when in truth its really a minor event.
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    Part 82: Mire of Misery
  • Part 82: Mire of Misery

    The Siege of Silistra

    The campaigning season in 1855 would begin rather early as General Nikolay Muravyov departed from his winter quarters in late February, hoping to catch the Ottomans off guard. Advancing from their encampment outside Horasan with the 5th, 18th, and 21st Infantry Divisions, the Caucasian Grenadier Division, 2 regiments of cavalry (His Majesty’s Nizhny Novgorod Regiment of Dragoons and His Majesty’s Tver Regiment of Cuirassiers), 24 cannon batteries, and a contingent of Armenian and Georgian volunteers; his target would be the city of Erzurum which had narrowly eluded him only a few months prior. The trek westward would be incredibly difficult for the Russians as they battled both Kurdish partisans and Ottoman sentries, but their worst adversary would be the terrain, as the snow-covered trails and dirt paths of Eastern Anatolia were a mess of ice and mud making them a poor avenue for an army over 90,000 strong. Nevertheless, they continued in spite of it all, driven onward by the indominable will of General Muravyov.

    His efforts would be for naught however, as Abdi Pasha would discover Muravyov’s lumbering advance well before the Russians reached Erzurum and began preparing for their arrival. Arraying his well-rested army before the walls of Erzurum, Abdi Pasha hoped to repeat the successful defense of the previous December, by making the Russians bleed themselves white against his stout fortifications. Muravyov would not disappoint, as he launched an immediate assault on the Ottoman fieldworks outside Erzurum in what was quickly becoming a trend for the aggressive Russian general. Waves of men charged towards the Ottoman lines with muskets raised and bayonets fixed. The Turks, numbering around 53,000 men were greatly outnumbered, but with their strong defensive works, they hoped to hold firm against the Russians for some time. Even still, the Turks were hard pressed all along the line in the face of such an overwhelming attack.

    With his line becoming increasingly thin, Abdi Pasha elected to fall back to a secondary line of defenses nearer the city, but in the din of the battle, this information would not be properly relayed to all his troops. Seeing many of their compatriots leaving the battlefield, several Turkish irregulars presumed they had been abandoned and predictably panicked, choosing to flee rather than stand and fight. Naturally, this left a noticeable hole in the Ottoman line, a hole that Muravyov quickly found and broke through with relative ease. With that, the battle of Erzurum was well and truly lost for the Ottomans. That defeat very quickly became a disaster as the victorious Russians surged forward, capturing or killing nearly one third of the Ottoman Army including the unfortunate Abdi Pasha who died whilst attempting to rally his men.

    Around a quarter of the Ottoman army would escape behind the walls of Erzurum where they would choose to make their stand. Most, however, would flee to the South under the direction of Abdülkerim Nadir Pasha where they would later rendezvous with Selim Pasha’s Army of 24,000. Together, Abdülkerim Pasha hoped that their united front could counter Muravyov’s host, trapping it between the walls of Erzurum and their army. For this plan to work, however, they would need to act fast, unite their forces, and attack the Russians before they took the city. To their credit, they would meet six days later near the ancient castle of Hasan Kale and began quickly marching their combined army to relieve Erzurum. However, to their dismay, Erzurum had fallen in less than ten days despite the valor of its defenders and the strength of their defenses as General Muravyov launched assault after assault on the city until it fell. Although a few hundred men remained holed up within the city’s citadel, the fall of Erzurum was now all but assured.


    The Assault on Erzurum

    Worse still, Muravyov’s scouts would soon learn of the Ottoman army marching against them, prompting the Russian General to ready his army for battle, while he left behind a small screening force to continue besieging Erzurum’s citadel. Demoralized and exhausted after twelve days of hard marching, Abdülkerim Pasha’s and Selim Pasha’s army would be brushed aside with relative ease. But in a surprising moment of restraint and caution, Muravyov refrained from pursuing the defeated Turks, choosing instead to return to the siege of Erzurum’s citadel. With their only hope of salvation now dashed, the remaining Ottoman defenders within Erzurum’s keep finally surrendered to Muravyov’s men, opening the gateway to the Anatolian heartland.

    Emboldened by his success, General Muravyov would opt to plunge deeper into the Ottoman countryside, after giving his men a day to rest and recuperate. Departing Erzurum on the 14th of March, Muravyov’s advance towards Erzincan would be made harder by the poor condition of the roads and growing opposition from the local Turkish and Kurdish partisans who resist him with increasing fanaticism. The weather also continued to turn against the Russians as much of the snow had now begun to melt, turning the dirt roads of Eastern Anatolia into bogs of mud, slowing Muravyov’s already glacial pace considerably. Worse still, many of Muravyov’s carriages and wagons became lodged in this muck, including most of his heavy artillery, forcing further delays. For a man who built his reputation on aggressive charges and forced marches, this snail’s pace was incredibly infuriating for the brash Russian commander.

    After three days of limited progress - having only moved two and a half miles, the old General had had enough and simply pushed on ahead without his baggage and artillery trains, leaving several hundred irregulars behind to aid in their recovery, while he and the main contingent continued marching westward. With his wagons and carts now unhitched, Muravyov’s pace improved, as the Russians would reach the outskirts of Erzincan after another nine days of hard marching. Unlike Erzurum, however, the Ottomans defending the town, had elected not to face off against the Russians in a field battle. Instead, they would choose to remain holed up behind their walls.

    Taking the initiative, General Muravyov ordered an assault on the town, but this time things were different as the Russian soldiers had been worn ragged by a month of forced marches and constant fighting across difficult terrain. Moreover, Erzincan’s defenders were in good spirits and in a strong position to repel the Russian attack, albeit at a considerable cost. Another attempt to storm Erzincan the following day would see some progress, but was ultimately driven back when the city’s garrison - aided by several hundred civilians - counterattacked in force. When he pressed his deputies to make another assault the following day, Muravyov’s subordinates threatened to mutiny. Faced with no other option, the old general rescinded his previous orders and began establishing proper siegeworks.[1] Complicating matters for Muravyov, however, was his lack of artillery, most of which was still stuck on the road between Erzincan and Erzurum. Unable to take the city by storm or bombard it into submission, Muravyov was forced to starve it into surrendering instead, a process that would take far longer than he ever expected.


    General Nikolay Muravyov, circa 1854

    Contrasting greatly with General Muravyov’s aggressive campaigning in Eastern Anatolia, Count Paskevich would take a far more cautious approach in the Balkans having learned the hard way where reckless attacks and foolhardy valor led the previous year. In preparation for this year’s offensive, his newly vaunted “Army of the Danube” had been significantly augmented over the Winter to well over 246,000 men, most of whom were divided between Prince Mikhail Dimitrievich Gorchakov’s Army of Wallachia and Count Alexander von Lüders’ Army of Moldavia. Comprised of 12 Infantry Divisions (including 2 Grenadier Divisions), 4 Cavalry Divisions (three Light Cavalry and one Cuirassier Divisions), 4 Artillery Divisions (equipped with 56 artillery batteries), and an unspecified number of Wallachian, Moldavian and Bulgarian “volunteers”, properly supplying such a massive force was simply beyond Russia’s means, even during times of peace.

    To minimize the material shortages and quality deficiencies of his troops, Count Paskevich would construct a series of supply depots over the Winter, and stocked them with as much powder, cannonballs, musket balls, food, and uniforms that he could find. He would also build a series of new roads from Bucharest and Iasi to the Danube, in an attempt to ease the movement of munitions and foodstuffs to the front. To protect these depots against British naval raids, the Namiestnik would erect a series of forts and outposts near the Black Sea’s coast and large portions of the Danube Delta to ward off British ships. It was far from a perfect solution as supply shortages would continue to plague the Russians for the remainder of the war, but Paskevich’s efforts would help minimize some of these issues to a degree.[2]

    Paskevich’s efforts to improve his army’s logistic network would do little to address some of the more pressing problems of the Russian Army, namely the sordid camp life many of his soldiers endured, nor did he improve the medical treatment his troops received. Like most military encampments prior to the modern day, little attention was given to a camp’s cleanliness. Contamination of water supplies was a common issue for most pre-modern bivouacs due to poorly positioned privies upstream of the camps. Little concern was given to removing trash and human waste from the campgrounds, making them prime breeding grounds for disease carrying rodents and insects.

    Added to this was the poor personal hygiene many soldiers of the day exhibited and the inadequate rations most received, all of which made them incredibly susceptible to ailments and illness. Cholera was particularly prevalent at Silistra, targeting Russian, Ottoman, and Briton alike without prejudice. The rather crude medical practices of the time which still relied heavily on bloodletting and pseudoscience rather than proven medicines or tested techniques would only make matters worse. Many sick and wounded would become invalidated or die after receiving this misguided “treatment”, when they could have recovered completely or survived with better medical care. Before the fighting in 1855 even began, the effective fighting strength of the Russian Army of the Danube had been sapped by nearly a quarter from an official total of 246,523 men to an actual strength around 184,000 soldiers for much of the campaigning season.[3]

    The Russians at Silistra

    Standing against Paskevich’s still considerable host was the Ottoman “Army of Rumelia”, led by the old Serbian exile, Omar Pasha Latas. Like its Russian counterpart, the Ottoman Army had been reinforced from 97,000 soldiers in November 1854 to a little over 131,0000 by March 1855. However, unlike the Russians, these reinforcements represented the last veteran reservists available to the Porte who would now be forced to call upon fresh conscripts and irregulars for additional manpower. Moreover, many of these soldiers were forced to guard a large stretch of the Danube from Silistra to Turnu in order to fend off Russian crossings further upstream. Many were also stationed far from the front in Serbia, Thessaly, Epirus, and Macedonia keeping the peace in these rowdy provinces and contending with the multiple revolts which had erupted since the war began.

    Fortunately for the Ottomans, they were supplemented by the British Army’s “Balkan Expeditionary Force” led by Field Marshal Fitzroy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan. Lord Raglan was a veteran officer of the Napoleonic Wars who had served with distinction on the Duke of Wellington’s staff during the Peninsular War and the Hundred Days. Although he had seen very little combat since the Battle of Waterloo, Raglan remained one of Great Britain’s most experienced commanders, if a rather cautious and indecisive one. Like its Turkish counterpart, the British Army had been bolstered from around 18,000 men to just under 52,000 with the arrival of the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions and the remainder of the Cavalry Division over the Winter. A further two Infantry Divisions (the 4th and Light Divisions) were scheduled to muster later that Spring and would arrive in theater by mid-Summer. There were also several thousand volunteers from across Europe, North Africa and the Levant assisting the Ottomans, with the Poles, Germans, Italians, and Tunisians forming the largest contingents. Even still, the Allied Army in the Balkans barely stood at 200,000 men in the Spring of 1855, many of whom were invalidated by disease or garrisoned in provinces far from the front.

    Despite their inferiority in numbers, both Omar Pasha and Lord Raglan favored fighting a field battle against the Russians as they believed that the superior discipline and firepower of their troops would more than make up for their numerical short comings. This belief was vested in the fact that their more advanced weaponry, specifically the Pattern 1852 Enfield Rifle and the 1848 Minié Rifle, would outperform their Russian counterparts. By the Spring of 1855, around 70% of the British Army in the Balkans was equipped with the new Enfield Rifle, whilst more than 30% of the Ottoman Army of Rumelia was touting the Enfield or French made Minié Rifle. In comparison, only 5% of the Russian soldiers possessed rifles and many of these men were in Guard units stationed far away from the front in Bulgaria. Field testing over the previous year had shown that the Enfield rifle had a maximum viable range of nearly 1250 yards and could hit targets with great accuracy from as far away as 900 yards when wielded by a skilled marksman. Similarly, the Minié Rifle used by nearly a third of Omar Pasha’s Army, could hit targets as far out as 1200 yards and could reliably hit a target under 600 paces. In contrast, the Russian M1845 Infantry Musket-Rifle only had a maximum range of 600 paces and was highly inaccurate beyond 300 meters, thus explaining their penchant for bayonet charges.[4]

    The British could also outpace their Russian rivals in rate of fire, reliably shooting 4 rounds per minute on average with their Enfields and in some rare instances, firing as many as 5 or even 6 rounds after extensive practice and drilling. The Russians could only manage 2 to 3 rounds per minute on average with their older guns, while the Ottomans could generally shoot between 3 or 4 rounds in a minute with their newer weapons. The ammunition used by the British and Ottomans was also superior to the Russians as they utilized the new Minié ball which held far more destructive potential than the spherical musket ball still used by the Russians. The bullet could rend flesh and shatter bones with ease and still possess enough potency to wound another man on the opposite side. Finally, the British and Ottomans had a moderate advantage in cannons, especially heavier caliber siege guns thanks to such cannons as the rifled Dundas and Lancaster 68-Pounder Guns, and the formidable Millar and Dickson 32-Pounder guns. Although their accuracy was dissapointing, their destructive firepower was capable of terrifying even the most hardened veteran.

    The British and Ottoman commanders need not wait long to test their theories as on the 15th of March, Count Paskevich ordered his army out of its winter quarters and into action. Like the previous year, his main objective for this campaigning season would be the fortress city of Silistra, whose capture would open the route south into the Balkans. Their first opponent would be the Danube, however, as Prince Gorchakov’s Army of Wallachia needed to cross the river to join Count Lüders’ Army of Moldavia which had wintered on the left bank of the Danube. This would prove more difficult than expected, as Omar Pasha had razed all the nearby bridges still under his control over the winter (and even some of the bridges held by the Russians). Similarly, the various fords in the region had been fortified by Omar Pasha, depriving Gorchakov of an easy route across the Danube.

    Undeterred, Prince Gorchakov ordered the construction of several pontoon bridges across the river, beginning in early March, but once again, Omar Pasha proved his mettle by dispatching several hundred soldiers aboard rowboats to harass the Russian engineers as they were built their bridges. In response, Gorchakov was forced to send out his own boats to counter the Turkish raiders. Their efforts were further hindered by the British heavy siege guns outside Silistra, which peppered the Russian engineers on an hourly basis. Although they missed more shots than they hit, their massive size and power struck fear into the average Russian soldier causing the construction to slow to a crawl.


    Fighting on the Danube between Russian and Ottoman Troops

    To take pressure off Gorchakov, Count Lüders stirred his Army of Moldavia from its camp outside Cernavodă and began marching on Silistra several days later on the 24th of March. To his surprise, however, he would find the British Balkan Expeditionary Force and half of the Ottoman Army of Rumelia arrayed against him near the town of Oltina as if inviting an attack. Believing that the British were only good at fighting the savages in their colonies and that the Turks were cowards who would break before the fighting even started, many Russian officers were confident in their looming victory and pressed Lüders to attack the Anglo-Ottoman Army.[5] Lüders complied and order his men to advance.

    The Allied position was also quite strong, however, anchored on the left by the Danube and on the right by Lake Oltina, thus mitigating the Russian’s advantage in cavalry. Moreover, this would be one of the few instances in the Great Eurasian War where the Russians would be outnumbered, only fielding 101,398 men and 168 cannons against 51,873 British soldiers and 64,711 Ottoman troops with 234 guns between the two. The British would position themselves on the left side of the road with the 1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions positioned next to each other in the front, while the 3rd Infantry and Cavalry Divisions were held in reserve in the rear. The Ottomans and their Arab allies would form themselves up on their right, with Ahmed Pasha arranging his divisions in three rows of infantry, with their cavalry protecting their flank, and their artillery in the rear alongside the British guns. Opposite them, Count Lüders massed his force in two large columns; 3rd Corps which was standing against the Ottomans and 5th Corps which was counter to the British.

    Leading the charge against the British would be the Russian 14th Division which boisterously advanced on the scarlet line of the Guards, Grenadiers and Fusiliers. Once in range of their Enfield Rifles, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Coldstream Guards, and Royal Grenadiers unleashed a withering volley of leaded death on the charging Russians who fell in heaps upon the ground. They would fire off four volleys before the Russians even made it into range of their antiquated muskets at which point, only getting a single volley off upon their oppressors, who promptly stepped back in the face of the Russian advance. In their place emerged, the mighty men of the Highland Brigade who charged through the Guard’s ranks; bayonets fixed and battle cry raised. Their vicious onslaught broke the wavering Russian line who soon fled the field in a panic.


    The Coldstream Guard at the Battle of Oltina

    Further down the line the Russian 15th Infantry Division was fairing better against the British 2nd Division, successfully firing off three volleys upon their tormentors, but here too the British proved their superiority, shooting off a blistering 23 rounds in five minutes. The commander of the 2nd, British General George de Evans Lacy had tenaciously drilled his division into an excellent instrument of war, capable of waylaying the Russians as they charged across the field of Oltina. In the face of such a withering cacophony of smoke and lead, the Russians of the 15th Division would begin to crumble and then ultimately break. On the other side of the battlefield, the Ottomans were having more trouble as their outdated guns generally proved inferior to the British Enfields, but those few soldiers with Minié Rifles would manage much better, inflicting a butcher’s bill upon the approaching Russians. Nevertheless, it was apparent that the Russian hammer had fallen the hardest upon the Ottomans.

    With his right being driven back in disarray and his left blunted, Count Lüders saw that victory was slipping through his grasp, but still hoping to force a favorable outcome he readied his reserves for battle. Unfortunately for Lüders, the British would make their move first as the Highland Brigade - continuing their earlier charge, followed soon after by the Guards Brigade and 2nd Division - advanced upon the Russians position, guns blazing, cannons blasting, and men roaring. The Russian 9th Infantry Division’s attempt to halt their advance would see it crack in the face of the British rifles. Recognizing that he had lost the initiative, Lüders ordered his remaining troops to break off their attack and withdraw. The Battle of Oltina was over, with upwards of 13,000 casualties for the Russian army, at a cost of only 5,500 dead and wounded for the British and Ottomans.

    While Oltina was certainly a solid victory for the Allies, it could have been a much greater triumph as Raglan would make a critical mistake during the battle’s last moments, by refusing to unleash the Light Brigade cavalry on the retreating Russians. Many of his subordinates would later criticize Lord Raglan for this decision, but according to his own report, the British Field Marshal claimed to have seen the similarly unbloodied Russian Cavalry amassed on the far side of the battlefield, ready to ambush the Light Brigade if they made such an attack. Reports by Raglan's deputies refute this however, portraying the Field Marshal as a doddering fool. Regardless of his rationale, Raglan’s decision not to release the Light Brigade on the fleeing Russians enabled them to retreat in good order, turning what could have been a major rout into a moderate defeat at best. Still, had he followed up this victory with an aggressive campaign against Lüders beaten army, Raglan could have inflicted further defeats upon them, likely driving the Russians from Rumelia entirely.

    Instead, Lord Raglan delayed pursuing Lüders Army of Moldavia for the better part of a week while he allowed his men time to rest and time for his scouts to recon the Russian position. By the sixth day, Raglan finally decided to advance against Lüders Army encamped west of Cernavodă, but when they arrived on the 3rd of April, he would find that the Russians had been reinforced with an extra division from Paskevich making good all their losses from Oltina and then some. Worse still, while he had been dithering, the Russians under Prince Gorchakov had finally finished the first of their bridges across the Danube, reaching the isle of Păcuiul lui Soare and were now in the process of reducing the isle’s Byzantine fortress to rubble. Despite his best efforts, Omar Pasha’s men were being pushed back, necessitating Raglan's and Ahmed Pasha's withdrawal back to Silistra to aid in its defense. By the 6th of April, the islands northeast of Silistra had fallen to the Russians and the following day, Russian troops began streaming across the Danube en masse; the Second Siege of Silistra had officially begun.

    Unlike the First Siege in 1854, the defenses surrounding Silistra had been strengthened immensely over the previous months, with the construction of multiple lines of fieldworks before the city. The first of these lines was the Omar Line, 11 detached forts running in a narrow channel around the city of Silistra, the keystone of which was the impressive Mejidi Tabia, a polygonal fortress in the Prussian style which generally proved itself impervious to all but the heaviest artillery fire. In front of this were several other lines of increasing length and stoutness, the last of which was the Burgoyne line running from the banks of the Danube to the village of Akkadınlar over 20 miles to the south. The left flank of the Allied lines was anchored on the Danube as Omar Pasha’s fleet of river boats impeded any efforts by the Russians to outflank their defenses from the north. The Right end of the Allied line was protected by the British whose position was centered on the twin redoubts Victoria and Wellington.

    Perhaps most important to the Allied defense was a rudimentary railroad running southward out of Silistra to the city of Shumen, before jutting eastward to the port of Varna.[6] This single track of rail would be the most significant supply route into and out of the City for the duration of the second siege. Although it was dangerously exposed to Russian raids (hence the considerable effort by the British to defend it), this track would provide an immense boon to the Allied defense of Silistra as it constantly transported men and munitions to the city over the coming months.

    Because of this, the battle for Silistra would begin as a war of maneuver as the Russians attempted to turn the Allied flank, pushing further south to in a bid to cut this artery into the city. Efforts by the Russians to turn the Allied flank in the south would meet with resistance, however, as the British troops took up position on the right, guarding their railroad with the utmost ferocity and determination. After a week of continuous cannon bombardment, the Russians would launch an all-out assault on Silistra’s outworks all along the Burgoyne line. Their goal was not to take these positions, however, but to pin down Allied resources in their forts, thus preventing them from aiding the British in the South, where the Russian attack would fall the hardest as the 9th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th Infantry Divisions would be concentrated against the British.

    Redoubt Victoria was an impressive sight, however, as it boasted 52 cannons, including all of the British 64-Pounders, and the entirety of the British 2nd Division under the capable command of General George de Lacy Evans. The Russian 14th Division was given the honor of leading the attack, with General Moller personally leading the charge. However, the General’s courage would soon fail him as a British bullet quickly stuck his horse, sending him to the ground in a huff. His wits now lost, Moller requisitioned an aide’s horse and promptly fled to the rear, where he would remain for the remainder of the battle; he would be summarily stripped of his command and removed from active duty the following day. The loss of the Russian commander would not delay the Russian attack, but merely disorganize it as the Russian wave became separated in places, resulting in a piecemeal attack upon the British, who repelled them with relative ease. Not all went well for the British as Lord Raglan would be incapacitated rather early in the battle.

    Despite the inherent dangers, Raglan and his aides had perched themselves above the redoubt to get a better view of the battle unfolding before them. [7] The battle very quickly came to him however, as a squadron of Russian Cossacks spotted Raglan's company and charged the careless British Commander. Were it not for the quick action of his guards and aides who intervened to save him, it is likely he would have been captured or killed that day, irreparably harming the British war effort in the Balkans. Instead, he would only suffer a superficial wound that would quickly heal on its own, but would later withdraw to Constantinople for further medical treatment on orders from Whitehall. He would not return to the field again. While he would technically remain in overall command of all British forces in theater, field command was temporarily shifted to Raglan’s Chief of Staff, Sir John Fox Burgoyne before shifting permanently to General George Brown, commander of the Light Division once he arrived in early July.

    The Three Commanders of the British Balkan Expeditionary Force - Lord Raglan (Left), Sir John Fox Burgoyne (Center), and Sir George Brown (Right)​

    The Russian attack in the North would meet with more success, as they would succeed in punching through portions of the Burgoyne line. The defenders, after having driven off three prior attacks, were running low on ammunition and were simply exhausted following hours of constant fighting. When the fourth attack came, they bravely held their ground for as long as they possibly could, but gradually gave ground in the face of the overwhelming Russian numbers. Ultimately, with their allies unable to come to their aid and the Russians continuing to pour in, they broke and streamed out of their trenches towards the city of Silistra seeking safety.

    The Russian attack in the North would only be halted due to their own poor planning. As the lion's share of their resources had been dedicated further south against the British, they had few if any reserves with which to throw into this unexpected opening in the North. Unable to fully exploit this opportunity, the Russians were soon forced out when the Ottomans and British redirected their reserves to plug this gap in their lines. The Russians of the 10th and 11th Divisions would retreat from the Burgoyne line, carting off the captured cannons, rifles and any captives they had found within.

    A second assault two weeks later would yield a similar result, with the Russians making good initial gains, only to be thrown back with heavy casualties. Although these two assaults had failed, Paskevich would determine that Silistra could still be taken by force, but it would likely be done at a high cost in blood and lives. Not wishing to pay such a price at this time, Paskevich and his deputies considered alternatives to this stratagem. Speaking first, Count Lüders proposed bypassing Silistra altogether and advancing on Dobrich from their bases in Dobruja. This proposal would be shot down almost immediately, however, as their supply lines would be jeopardized by an Ottoman controlled Silistra and British naval dominance in the Black Sea. Moreover, Dobrich was a formidable fortress in its own right; implying that an attack against Dobrich would essentially be a repeat of their current situation, but in a far less favorable position. Most importantly though, the Emperor, Tsar Nicholas had explicitly ordered them to take Silistra no matter the cost. Their objective was clear, Silistra must fall.

    Gorchakov would then suggest expanding the front to the west of Silistra, thus drawing defenders away from the city. This would work to Russia’s strength of numerical superiority, an advantage that was currently being wasted with their concentration on Silistra, but to do so, they would first need to secure a crossing further upstream. Unfortunately, Omar Pasha had destroyed all the bridges between Călărași and Turnu still under his control, and even a few under Russian occupation were destroyed as well. Similarly, the Ottomans and their allies had gone to great lengths to fortify all the known fords along their stretch of the Danube. For the Russians to cross the Danube upstream of Silistra, they would need to fight their way across, a prospect many did not find appealing, or construct another set of pontoon bridges as they had done in the east. Given the great resistance they had encountered back in March and April spanning Călărași and Păcuiul lui Soare, this strategy was met with skepticism by Paskevich and his staff officers. But, when a third assault on Silistra failed the following week, Paskevich ultimately gave Gorchakov his approval.

    Moving decisively, Prince Gorchakov ordered 4th Corps under General Dannenberg to attempt a crossing opposite the city of Oltenița on the 3rd of June. Once in position, they would then advance upon Silistra from the West, whilst the remainder of the Russian Army would attack from the East and North. Faced with an attack from multiple directions, the Allied Army would be destroyed, Silistra would be captured, and the road to the Balkan Mountains would be opened, thus putting Constantinople at great risk. Of course, not everything would go according to plan as Dannenberg’s advance would be slowed by early Summer storms which roiled the Danube, greatly delaying his efforts to cross the river. When they finally began crossing in late June, they would be quickly discovered by local Turkish herders who quickly relayed this information to Omar Pasha and General Burgoyne at Silistra.

    Despite this potential disaster, they would be saved by British overconfidence as General Burgoyne dismissed the report out of hand, as there had been several such rumors of a Russian crossing further upstream, all of which had turned out to be false or little more than Cossack raids that were easily repulsed. Omar Pasha would prove more diligent than his British counterpart, however, and dispatched two newly raised brigades to determine the accuracy of this report. Two days later, they would encounter elements of the Russian vanguard west of the village of Popina. Despite their inferior numbers, the Ottomans bravely held their ground and repelled the Russian advance until dusk, at which time Dannenberg arrived with the remainder of his Corps.

    Instead of immediately pushing his advantage, however, Dannenberg would delay and dither, choosing to let his own troops rest after their long march and arduous crossing, rather than immediately attack the beleaguered and outnumbered Turks. His caution was worsened by erroneous reports from his scouts that greatly overestimated the size of the Turkish contingent to nearly twice their actual numbers, prompting the General to delay the following day’s attack until mid-day, whilst he formulated a grand battle plan to overcome the supposedly stout Ottoman army opposing him.This delay would enable the Turks to dig in and send word to Omar Pasha requesting reinforcements.

    When General Dannenberg finally made his move late in the afternoon of the following day, he would find the Ottoman position bolstered by the arrival of the newly arrived British Light Division which had forced marched through the night to arrive in time for the battle. Despite this, the Russians still greatly outnumbered the British and Ottomans by nearly three to one. Confident in his superior numbers and the elan of his men, Dannenberg readied his soldiers for an attack on the Allied position at mid-day. Dannenberg’s efforts would be for naught however, as the commander of the 10th Infantry Division, Lt. General Soimonov disagreed with Dannenberg's orders and would instead implement his own by attempting a wide flank around the Ottoman position. Yet, in the midst of this maneuver, two of Soimonov's brigades would become lost and march past the battlefield entirely, while the remaining brigade wouldn’t arrive until well after the battle had begun.

    This error in judgement was compound by his decision not to inform his counterparts General Pavlov of the 11th Division, and General Liprandi of 12th Division that he was diverging from Dannenberg’s prepared stratagem. With one of their three divisions missing in action for most of the battle, the balance of power between the two forces was evened greatly. Nevertheless, the fight was hard fought on both sides, with the Russians slowly, but steadily advancing and the British and Ottoman soldiers gradually giving ground. The turning point in the battle would come late in the day when a stray bullet struck General Liprandi in the shoulder. In spite of pleas from his lieutenants to withdraw from the front and receive medical attention for his wound, the Russian General continued to lead his men from the front, inspiring them with his bravery and valiance. Moments later, another shot would find its way into his skull, killing him instantly.


    Russian Soldiers attacking at Popina

    With General Liprandi’s death, command of 12th Division would pass to his deputy General Alexander Friedrichs, but at this time he was several miles from the battlefield and would not arrive on scene until well after nightfall. During this period of time, the 12th was effectively leaderless, and command devolved to its constituent regiment commanders who failed to fill the role of their late leader as they constantly bickered with one another. With their losses continuing to mount and their Generals proving indecisive, the demoralized men of the 12th would ultimately elect to retreat, leaving the 11th to face the Allied Army by itself. Faced with this setback, General Dannenberg ordered General Pavlov to withdrawal his division and promptly dispatched his cavalry to fend off an Allied pursuit. At this late hour, General Soimonov’s men would finally arrive at the battle, but as they were now alone on the battlefield, they were easily cut to pieces by the British and Ottoman sharpshooters, destroying whatever cohesion the unit still had.

    Despite the Allied victory at Popina, their position was steadily deteriorating as they simply lacked the men to drive the defeated Russians from their new beachhead. Although initially disappointed at Dannenberg’s setback, Gorchakov’s stratagem had proven its worth and he would soon receive permission to dispatch 2nd Corps to reinforce Dannenberg’s thrust. However, news from the north would disrupt this when elements of the Hungarian Honved Army appeared along the border with Wallachia, as if threatening to attack. Concerned that the Hungarians would intervene against them, Count Paskevich recalled 2nd Corps and redirected it northward to the Carpathian Mountains where it would remain for the better part of the next three months. Now short one Corps, Gorchakov's western offensive came to an untimely end.

    With the campaigning season more than half way over and pressure from St. Petersburg building, Count Paskevich turned to Count Lüders’ Army of Moldavia and grimly ordered it to prepare for an advance against Silistra. Lüders stoically accepted his orders and readied his men as best he could for their glum task. Over the next two weeks, the Russian artillery used its entire stockpile of cannonballs upon the Allied lines, firing nearly 320,000 shells to admittedly little effect as many fell short, while others overshot their targets by a mile. The British and Turkish guns in contrast, found their marks more often than not, and would actually outpace their Russian adversaries in number of cannonballs fired at over 40,000 a day. Despite this inauspicious start, the Russian attack would commence at dusk on the 18th of July as Count Lüders ordered his men to advance against the Allied lines and continue their advance until Silistra fell or they perished. Before departing their trenches, many Russian soldiers knelt down to pray and confess their sins to the priests passing through their lines, and in return they received promises of paradise for their service in this holy war. With that, the Russian Army leapt from their holes and marched forward until victory or death.

    Aided by the night, the Russians emerged from the darkness unexpectedly and fell upon the helpless British and Ottoman soldiers forcing them into a violent melee. Drunk like demons, they attacked their adversaries. Driven on by their priests and excited by their ardent liquors, the Russian troops rushed forward, beating, bayoneting, bashing, and brutalizing all they found in their path. Some had their heads taken off at the neck, as if they had been removed with an axe. Others were missing their legs or their arms. A few were even hit in the chest or stomach by the British 18 pounders at point blank range, blasting their bodies to bits as if they had been smashed by a machine. In one instance, 5 Russian grenadiers were all killed by one round shot as they charged their enemy. On their faces were a myriad of emotions ranging from anger and rage to sadness and pain. On the fields of Silistra were mountains of dead and dying men, some as old as 50 and others as young as 14.

    An hour into the attack, the Russians would finally succeed in taking several parts of the Burgoyne Line, forcing the British and Ottomans to scrape together their invalids and arm them with whatever weapons they could find, before rushing them into battle. This desperate measure would succeed in blunting the Russian assault as exhaustion, illness, and most crucially, a lack of munitions wore down the Russian juggernaut. Even still, they very nearly broke through and by all accounts it is a miracle that the Allied Line held as long as it did.

    If the Russians had any more men to throw at the Allies they very likely could have taken Silistra that day, yet Paskevich did not have more men, having sent a quarter of his Army northward to guard against the Hungarians. With the Allied Line holding, albeit barely, and the toll in lives continuing to mount, the Russian soldiers gradually began to lose heart. As dawn broke over Silistra, some exhausted men simply gave up the fight and left the battlefield, followed soon after by more and more of their compatriots. By dawn, the Russian attack evaporated, their soldiers leaving the field in a huff, their officers powerless to stop them.

    The battle was over, the Allies had won, but the bloodshed would continue for several more hours as the Turks and their Arab cohorts brutally slaughtered any Russian that they had come across, before looting the dead of all their valuables. The British response would differ only slightly, in that they looted the Russian wounded before leaving them to die at the hands of angry Ottomans or exposure to the elements. Some more charitable Britons would initially offer water and first aid to their wounded adversaries. Yet this philanthropy would not last long as rumors quickly circulated that the Russians were murdering these good men when they went to offer aid. Angered by this, they too would resort to butchering the Russian wounded just like their Turkish counterparts. When the Russians learned of these massacres, they would respond in kind killing the few Ottoman captives they had taken completing the atrocity.

    When Paskevich learned of the heavy toll in Russian blood he had paid for a few meters of dirt, he became visibly sick and weak. In the coming days, his condition continued to worsen to the point where he asked the Tsar to relieve him of his post and let him die in peace. The Tsar would initially refuse Paskevich’s request, but on the council of his Chief of Staff Prince Menshikov, he would later reverse his decision, permitting Paskevich to retire with full honors. As this debate was taking place between Count Paskevich and Tsar Nicholas, the fighting in the Balkans slowed to a halt as Paskevich had neither the will nor the fortitude to continue the battle and simply left the matter to his successor. When Paskevich was finally permitted to resign his post on the 13th of October, he handed command of the Army of the Danube over to Prince Gorchakov and retired to his estates in Gomel; he would be dead by the end of the year, likely of some camp sickness he had caught while on campaign. By this late hour, little could be done by Gorchakov before the onset of Winter, but unlike the previous year, the Russian Army would Winter outside Silistra, continuing the siege (albeit sporadically) over the coming months.


    Prince Mikhail Dmitievich Gorchakov, 2nd Commander in Chief of the Army of the Danube

    Back in the East, however, the fighting was still ongoing as General Muravyov’s siege of Erzincan had met with some success after more than four months. Unable to take the city by storm, Muravyov had been forced to put the city under siege, but as he had abandoned most of his cannons to the muddy roads of Eastern Anatolia, he was forced to blockade the city and starve its defenders into submission. Unfortunately, the city had been well stocked with food and munitions prior to the Russians arrival giving them the strength to resist for some time. Yet, by early September, the defenders’ will to fight was nearly exhausted as help was nowhere to be seen and their supplies were running out. Some even considered surrendering the city to the Russians if help did not come soon.

    Conditions in the Russian camp were not good either as their numerical advantage soon became a hindrance for the Russian Army as its lines of supply were quite long and dangerously exposed to raids by Ottoman irregulars hiding in the surrounding hills and valleys. Muravyov’s attempts to counter these attacks met with little success as the raiders simply retreated into the surrounding mountains when the Russians approached en masse, then returned to harass the Russian stragglers when the Army turned away. By September, Muravyov’s army was starved of bullets and gunpowder, while Food was fast becoming an issue as the surrounding countryside had been desolated after four months of scavenging and looting.

    The arrival of Mehmed Rushdi Pasha and an Ottoman 46,000 strong on the 22nd would complicate matters for the beleaguered Russians as it bolstered the resolve of Erzincan's defenders and concerned Muravyov's exhausted men. However, this show of force by Rushdi Pasha was little more than an illusion. His host was not an army of veteran soldiers, but a mob of greybeards and fresh faced youths, irregulars and bandits. A few had rifles, most had antiquated muskets, while some didn't even have that, often wielding pikes or swords. Most of the Ottoman troops had very little if any formal military training and their discipline was nonexistent. Rushdi Pasha knew all this and thus refrained from picking a fight with Muravyov, instead erecting fieldworks and hoping to attrite the Russians into withdrawing. Muravyov would have none of it, however, and readied his men to fight.

    The Battle of Erzincan would be surprisingly evenly fought engagement despite the differences in troop quality as the exhausted Russian soldiers flung themselves at the relatively fresh recruits of the Ottoman Army. The end result was never in doubt, however, as the Russians slowly and methodically pushed the Turks back until finally they broke and fled the field. With the defeat of Rushdi Pasha's relief army, the city of Erzincan lost its last remaining hope of rescue and surrendered to the Russians the following morning, thus removing the last Ottoman bastion in the Erzurum valley.


    Battle of Erzincan

    With Erzincan now under his control, General Muravyov moved to solidify his gains in the region before the end of the campaigning season. As such, the coming days and weeks would be spent occupying remote hilltop villages and securing the roads across the Erzurum Valley which fell almost entirely under Russian control. The Fall of Erzurum, followed by the fall of Erzincan was a disaster for the Sublime Porte, who was now forced to recall its troops from Georgia and Armenia. Mehmed Pasha's army was forced to abandon its gains in Abkhazia and Mingrelia, before retreating to the Eyalet of Trabzon, which now came under threat from both the East and the South. Similarly, Ali Pasha's army was recalled from Akhaltsike and positioned between Mehmed Pasha and Rushdi Pasha's armies. Finally, the remnants of Selim Pasha's host were ordered to defend Northern Mesopotamia. Overall, the Ottoman Army had less than 80,000 men stationed across the Pontic Mountains to Sivas and from Sivas to Lake Van.

    Muravyov's attempts to push westward and secure the mountain passes to Sivas in late October would be repulsed however, as Rushdi Pasha had reformed his green force and entrenched itself near the village of Refahiye in the easterly foothills of the Anatolian Plateau. While the Russian Army could have likely taken theses passes on a second assault, the strength of the Russian army had been thoroughly sapped after eight months of constant fighting and hard marching. Nearly a third of its number lost to disease, desertion, and battle, while many thousands more were stuck garrisoning the newly conquered cities and towns across Eastern Anatolia. Moreover, Muravyov's supply lines were at their limits as munitions and food were increasingly scarce. With winter only a few weeks away, General Muravyov had no choice but to halt his offensive; this was as far as he would advance this year.

    By all accounts, 1855 had not been a good year for the Russian Empire as they suffered great losses and terrible setbacks on almost every front, whilst the one front they did achieve success on was greatly dimmed by the cost in men and material needed to attain it. Neither was it the great triumph that the British and Ottomans needed, as they had failed to attract powerful allies to their side in the fight against Russia. Nor had they followed up on their battlefield successes with offensives of their own, which might have forced Russia onto the defensive. Instead, they had allowed Russia time to recover and regroup, and when the campaigning season in 1856 arrived the Russian Bear would be poised to get its revenge.

    Next Time: Desperate Measures
    [1] A similar incident happened in OTL, during the Russian siege of Kars.

    [2] The more I look into it, the more I discover just how bad the supply situation for the Russian Army in the OTL Crimean War really was. Of the 1.2 million troops listed on the rolls of the Imperial Russian Army, only around 5% had rifles, most of which were prescribed to members of the Life Guards. In contrast, more than 50% of the British troops possessed rifles during the OTL Crimean War. ITTL, I would probably say its even higher for the British owing to the extra year of preparation by the British, putting it somewhere around 60 to 70%. Worse still, according to the official stocks of the Imperial Russian Army, they only had enough guns for around half their listed troops when the war started in 1853. These shortages weren’t limited to rifles as carbines and pistols were also in short supply. There also appears to have been a rationing of ammunition prior to the war, with the average soldier only receiving 10 rounds per year for training. I would assume it would be higher during the war, but I haven’t found anything definitive on this. That being said, the Tsarist Government would likely prioritize their units in the Balkans, the Baltic, and the Caucasus over those in Central Asia and the Far East, alleviating their shortages somewhat. Even still, they fall incredibly short of the British material advantage who could fire close to 100,000 cannonballs with regularity during the final stages of the OTL Siege of Sevastopol.

    [3] The Ottomans and British were also affected to a lesser degree, with roughly 1 in 10 suffering from one disease or another.

    [4] I’m pretty sure the Russian weapon used during the Crimean War was a muzzle loading musket, but the Russian sources I’m using refer to it as a rifle.

    [5] Ironically, British propaganda depicted the Russians as savages. So, if anything, this would be a backhanded compliment for the British.

    [6] Interesting, the British had constructed a similar railroad from Balaclava to their camp overlooking Sevastopol in the OTL Crimean War to improve their supply situation, which this railroad achieves as well. Obviously, this railroad is much longer than the OTL one, but I’m handwaving this thanks to it being built in friendly territory and Britain having to pick up the slack that France held in OTL, which largely takes the form of engineers and technicians. I’m also giving the British more time to build it, about 4-5 months as opposed to the 7 weeks it took them to build the dual track railroad in OTL.

    [7] A similar incident very nearly happened in OTL during the battle of Alma. There, Raglan rode ahead of the Army to scout out the battle, but in doing so very nearly came under fire from Russian gunners.
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    Part 83: Desperate Measures
  • Part 83: Desperate Measures


    The Hospital of Scutari

    The end of the 1855 campaigning season would be met with a sigh of relief in London, but also some concern as the war against Russia was far from what they had originally envisioned. Thus far, Great Britain itself had been spared the worst effects of the war thanks to its distance from the battlefronts and vaunted Royal Navy, but the same could not be said for their ally, the Ottoman Empire who was in dire straits with the collapse of the Anatolian front earlier that year. Defeat after defeat by the Ottomans in the East had seen them pushed from Abkhazia and Erivan in the Spring to Trabzon and Erzincan by the Fall. At the end of the year, the Russians were on the doorstep of the Anatolian Plateau, threatening the very heartland of the Ottoman Empire. The situation in the West was not looking good either as their gallant defense of Rumelia had left their armies there depleted and exhausted, whilst the Russian losses were made good with the arrival of fresh conscripts later that Winter.

    By December 1855, a small minority within the Ottoman Government were openly calling for peace with the Russians. They argued that the Sublime Porte had been strong armed into this disastrous war by the British, only to bare the brunt of the fighting and the majority of the cost. Moreover, their supposed ally would coerce them into ceding their own territory to Greece, a non-belligerent who actively aided the Russians with their seditionism. Therefore, it was only right and just that London contribute more to the war effort, either in men, material, or money, preferably all three. If they did not, then they saw no reason to continue paying the price for “Britain’s war”. Whilst the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Sir Stanford Canning would report that this opinion was only a minor one in 1855, he would remark that it was growing at an alarming rate and recommended immediate action to alleviate Ottoman concerns.

    Unfortunately for Canning, Britain was already providing a substantial amount in aid to the Turks, already providing millions of pounds in loans to the Ottoman Government. They were also supplying the Ottoman Army with dozens of cannons, thousands of rifles, and tens of thousands of Minié balls, cannon balls, and other such munitions. More than that, around 90,000 British soldiers and sailors were deployed in the Ottoman Empire, aiding in its defense, while another 20,000 sailors and marines were fighting in the Baltic and 4,000 more were in the Pacific. Yet this considerable commitment was not enough to overcome Russia, nor was it enough to satisfy the Sublime Porte and with the Turks recent defeats in the East, London was hesitant to offer more.

    The declaration of war by the Qajari Empire, followed soon after by the revolt of the Sepoys in India would only complicate matters for Westminster. Now pulled in two different directions, Great Britain simply did not have the manpower to fight and win both the war against Russia and the Revolt in India at the same time.[1] It would have to choose which to give up and which to fight for if it wanted to salvage a rapidly deteriorating situation. Naturally, India would win out over the Ottomans as it was the crown jewel of the British Empire, but neither did they want to abandon all their investments in the Ottoman Empire to the Russian barbarians. In the end, Palmerston and Parliament resolved not to draw down their forces in Rumelia or Anatolia. Instead, they would draw upon new units to reinforce their soldiers in India and hope that they could satisfy the disgruntled Turks with additional coin and weapons.

    There was only one problem with this, Britain itself was running out of trained soldiers to call upon. Of the prewar Army of 160,000 soldiers, around two thirds were almost always in the colonies enforcing Westminster’s will across the globe. Several regiments had been recalled to Europe prior to the war with Russia, but a dozen regiments were still in the UK at the outbreak of the Sepoy Mutiny, while nearly a third remained overseas. Firstly, those regiments still in the United Kingdom would be mobilized and immediately sent to India. Next, orders were dispatched to the colonial garrisons of British North America and British Australia. These units would be pared down to the absolute minimum in the Spring of 1856, with local militias assuming control over local defense and policing. Similarly, the garrison in the Cape Colony would also be reduced, albeit not to the same degree as the Canadian and the Australian colonies given the recent unrest by the Xhosa people. The garrisons of New Zealand, West Africa, the Caribbean, and China, however, were explicitly left intact given their high importance and general restlessness at the time.

    There was also significant consideration given to mobilizing the British volunteer guards; the Militia, the Yeomanry Cavalry, the Royal Veteran Battalions, and the Fencibles. However, as their deployment would leave the Home Isles virtually defenseless, their deployment was not seriously considered. Nevertheless, Whitehall and Westminster would permit volunteers from these units to serve overseas in the Balkans or India. Overall, the British Government would succeed in organizing another 2 divisions worth of men from their colonial garrisons and home units, yet this massive mobilization of Britain’s entire standing army for two separate conflicts would stretch their manpower dangerously thin.


    Members of the Yeomanry Cavalry
    To combat this, Parliament would enact a number of “War Acts”, providing lucrative enlistment bonuses and shorter enlistment contracts in an effort to entice new recruits.[2] These initiatives would find some success among the Scots and Welsh, but overall they gained few English or Irish volunteers. Typically, members of the military generally came from the poorer strata of society with little chance for upward economic or social advancement as it provided a steady wage and opportunity for adventure that couldn’t otherwise be earned on a homestead or in a mine. On the whole, the English were wealthier than their Scottish, Irish, and Welsh neighbors thanks to the bustling industry and trade of their lands. Moreover, army life was looked down upon by most Englishmen as a crude and unpleasant existence, prompting many respectable men to shy away from the service. The Irish in contrast, were generally the poorest of the British peoples, and often subject to intense discrimination by their English landlords, making Army life a good option for many. Yet in this instance, they refrained where they had normally would have jumped at the opportunity.

    The reasoning for this was largely political as the Irish Independence organization, Young Ireland compelled the Irish people not to heed Westminster’s Blood Tax. Young Ireland had gained an immense following on the Emerald Isle after it openly challenged Parliament’s botched handling of the recent Potato Famine, a tragedy that had killed over half a million people and prompted another half million to emigrate abroad. Even in 1856, eight years after the onset of the Great Famine, many Irishmen were still suffering from its lingering affects; orphaned girls resorted to prostitution to survive, while orphaned boys often turned to lives of brigandry. Entire villages were wiped out by the famine, cities were depopulated and the countryside was emptied. Thousands continued to leave Ireland every year since, owing to poor prospects at home and better opportunities abroad.

    Beyond the economic and demographic repercussions of the Famine, there were also the political ramifications to consider within Ireland as the poor management of the crisis by Parliament sparked a national reawakening among the Irish people. They no longer wished to be treated as second rate citizens or indentured servants by the English, they wanted equality and representation, and if they couldn’t get that within the United Kingdom then many suggested that Ireland move towards independence. The message to Parliament was clear, if they wanted more Irish sons to fight its wars, then they wanted something in return and what they wanted was autonomy.

    Not wanting to give in to seditionists and partisans, Westminster initially refused to make concessions to the Irish and the matter was shelved for several weeks until ominous reports from India prompted Parliament to reconsider their stubborn position. Desperately short of manpower and being pressed hard on multiple fronts, Prime Minister Palmerston had little choice but to made peace with the Irish if it hoped to gain their support. However, many within Parliament, particularly Palmerston's own Tories supporters were apoplectic, believing such a measure would mark the end of the British Empire as other groups would be encouraged to seek their own autonomy. Some, however, specifically those in the Irish Brigade (Irish MPs) and the Whigs considered this to be a defining moment for the Empire to reform itself. Lastly there was the Duke of Wellington’s deathbed plea to Parliament in 1849, calling upon them to preserve the Union between Ireland and Great Britain.

    Ultimately, the Irish Dominion Act of 1856 would pass, endowing upon Ireland the legal authority to form its own local legislature. This legislature would be empowered to enact legislation and regulations over local matters, paving the way for land reform, ecclesiastical reform, and more in the years to come. The Irish Parliament would remain subordinate to the Parliament in Westminster, but for now the Irish Nationalists were largely appeased, and with mild trepidation, they gave their blessing to Irish men lending their lives to the British war effort. By year’s end, around 23,000 Irish men and boys would enlist, providing a sizeable boost to the beleaguered British Army. Most would be used to reinforce the depleted regiments in the Balkans, but enough would be formed together into a sixth Division of Infantry under the command of Major General George Bell, which would be sent to India later in the year. However, the raising of this “Irish Division” would completely exhaust Britain’s native manpower. Short of conscription, there was no one else willing to serve.

    Conscription was an immensely unpopular proposal in Britain and had been vehemently opposed by the public in the Summer of 1855, when a bill legalizing conscription was floated in the Commons. Fears of public unrest became quite serious, forcing Parliament to table the measure less than a fortnight after it first emerged. Attempts to revive the conscription issue in early 1856 would meet a similar fate, forcing Parliament to look the Continent for more men. The idea of a Foreign Legion was not a new one in Britain as the Empire had fielded a German Legion during the Napoleonic Wars to great effect. Despite its potency, public opposition to foreigners in the army and sharp reductions in military spending would to lead to its dissolution shortly after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.


    Members of the King’s German Legion
    Here too, the proposal of establishing a new Foreign Legion was met with opposition by members of the British public and Members of Parliament, who had come to view continentals with suspicion and contempt for their inaction against the Russian Barbarians. British wartime propaganda would be particularly harsh towards the Germans, specifically the Prussians and Austrians for their overt friendliness towards St. Petersburg. But with the Spring campaigning season fast approaching and the situation in India worsening, Parliament pushed ahead in spite of public resistance passing the Foreign Enlistment Act into law in early March 1856.[3]

    Over the next month, Britain would dispatch nearly 500 recruiting agents across the continent, accepting volunteers from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Sweden-Norway, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. Despite initial pessimism on the part of Westminster and Whitehall, they would find many more volunteers than they originally bargained for. All told they would successfully raise another five brigades of line infantry, three brigades of light infantry, a brigade of cavalry, and a brigade of artillery for military service for a grand total of over 24,000 men. Around a third of these recruits were of German origin, most of whom were former fighters of some defeated cause from the Revolutions of 1848, making for an odd grouping of liberals and conservatives. There were also several thousand Swiss, Swedes, Italians, Spaniards, Hungarians and Danes rounding out the formation. However, nearly half of the Legion's men were Poles.

    Having suffered persecution and humiliations at the hands of the Russians for many years, most recently in 1850, the Poles were quite eager to fight against the Russians, if for no other reason than spite and revenge. The added benefit of British gold certainly helped too. In the end, the British would enlist nearly twelve thousand Polish volunteers between March and June, to the point they had to turn many willing recruits away. Most of these men were veterans of the recent Polish Revolution and were quite talented fighters who had experience fighting against the Russians.

    These men of the British Foreign Legion would be paid a generous enlistment bonus of 20 Pounds Sterling upon signing a contract of military service. After which, they would receive free passage to Britain to begin their training. At the end of the war they would be allowed to return to their countries of origin at the expense of the British Government, or if they so desired, they could remain in British military service. The contingents of this British Foreign Legion would be organized by nationality and led by their own officers - provided they could speak passable English, resulting in the formation of 12 regiments of Poles, 8 regiments of Germans, 4 regiments of Italians, 2 regiments of Swiss, a regiment of Swedes, and a mixed regiment of the other nationalities. Once they were sworn into the service, they would be issued their uniforms and rifles, receive a month of intensive military training, and then be shipped off to fight against Russia in the Ottoman Empire.

    The arrival of the Foreign Legion in the Balkans in mid-July would free up the depleted 3rd Infantry Division to withdrawal to Constantinople for two weeks of rest and recuperation, before shipping out for India later that Summer. Of particular note, the men of the 3rd Division would be among the first to travel through the now mostly completed Suez Canal. After receiving permission from the Khedivate Government, the 3rd Division would sail more than three quarters of the way down the unfinished canal, before marching overland for the remaining 29 miles of the journey. They would arrive in Bombay before the end of August. However, the raising of all these new soldiers, not to mention the cost of their uniforms, weapons, and continued upkeep would create a massive new expenditure for the already encumbered British Treasury.

    As of January 1856, Britain had spent over 100 million Pounds Sterling financing the war effort against Russia between the payment of wages for its military personnel, the payment of enlistment bonuses, the purchasing and production of munitions, the maintenance of the Royal Navy, the loans to the Ottomans, and the bribes to key Austrian and Prussian politicians to keep their states neutral in this fight. Even before this rapid expansion of the Army, the Government’s debt was expanding at a rapid rate. The British Government had attempted to overcome this problem by encouraging the public to buy war bonds, and this had met to moderate success when public enthusiasm for the war was at its height and victory seemed possible. Now in the Spring of 1856, the public had begun to sour on the war; victory seemed unlikely at best and impossible at worst. Worse still, deficit spending was increasing at a such a rate that the UK could only continue its current spending for another year or two at most before it would run out of money and be forced to make peace.

    To cover the increased costs of the war, Parliament would enact Sir Robert Peel’s proposal of a progressive tax on income for all households making more than 100 Pounds Sterling a year. The tax rate would increase depending on the income of the household in question. Those at the bottom of the scale would pay approximately 5 pence whereas those nearer the top would pay considerably more. Although it wouldn’t completely solve Britain’s money shortfalls, it would buy them precious time to end this war. Unfortunately, the measure was also incredibly unpopular among the British people who did not appreciate another added cost for the war with Russia. The people would ultimately accept the measure, albeit begrudgingly, when Palmerston and his government declared that it would only be a temporary measure that will be repealed at the end of the current conflict and that reforms would come after the war's end.

    The final obstacle facing the British Empire during the opening months of 1856 was the abhorrent medical and logistical systems utilized by the Army in the Balkans, which sapped the fighting strength of the Balkan Expeditionary Force. Many thousands of British troops had succumbed to battle wounds or illness, costing the Army immensely. Tragically, most of these deaths and maimings could have been prevented with better treatment or better conditions in the Allied camp. However, many deaths were also the result of criminal negligence and incompetency on the part of British leadership in Whitehall and Westminster who had originally envisioned a short war that would see the backwards Russians beaten by Christmas. When this failed to happen, the rank and file were left to suffer the consequences of their leader’s overconfidence.

    Winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots were in short supply despite the great quantity of weapons and munitions in the British camp. Similarly, bread and meat were quite plentiful, but cooks were a rarity in besieged Silistra, forcing many soldiers to cook for themselves. While this was generally not an issue for those who had grown up in the British countryside, those from the cities of England and Scotland were woefully unprepared, leading many to grow weak and become increasingly vulnerable to sickness. Doctors were also few and far between as many of the civilian physicians had fled the area at the onset of the war, while those that remained were worked to the bone. Army doctors collapsing from exhaustion was a common occurrence and in one instance, a surgeon would even die from over exertion. As a result, many sick and wounded would be sent to Scutari for further medical treatment.

    Unfortunately, the conditions at the hospital at Scutari were just as deplorable; the floors were awash in blood and dirt, while the air was stagnant with the stench of death. News of this travesty would quickly make its way to the British Isles over the Winter, prompting a great public outcry condemning the Government for its failings and called for immediate action to save the lives of British soldiers. Caught off guard, the British Government would make a few half-hearted reforms to improve the conditions for the Army and sending whatever winter uniforms, coal, and stoves it had on hand to the Balkans – most of which wouldn’t arrive until the middle of Spring. Beyond that, however, little else was done by Parliament as it simply lacked the wherewithal to act upon such a crisis. With the Government proving incapable of lending proper aid in a timely fashion, many women, young and old would volunteer their services as nurses and cooks for the Army in its stead, often traveling to the Ottoman Empire at their own expense to aid in the war effort. Over the Spring, several hundred women, often times the mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of soldiers made the long journey from all across the Empire to aid their men.


    Several Nurses who served in the Balkans
    There was also considerable diplomatic pressure applied to the nearby Kingdom of Greece to offer medical and logistical support to the British Army. Per the terms of the Treaty of Corfu, signed between British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston and Greek Deputy Prime Minister Panos Kolokotronis, the Greek State was inclined to offer its support to the British war effort, short of providing war materials. In return, the British Government would invest several hundred thousand Pounds Sterling into the modernization and expansion of Greek infrastructure, an act which also benefited the British as the Greeks were providing the Royal Navy with unrestricted access to their ports.

    Athens would have to walk a fine line, however, as providing too much aid to the British could risk alienating St. Petersburg, whereas providing too little could endanger their relationship with London. They would manage to work around this problem somewhat, by transporting supplies to the Allies via their merchant marine, while a few Greek smugglers would slip past the Allied blockade, delivering goods into and out of Russia’s Black Seas ports. It was a dangerous game that could backfire terribly if any Greek smugglers were caught, but these men were capable seamen who knew how to handle themselves on the sea and had little difficulty evading the sluggish warships of the British and Ottomans with their agile sloops and cutters.

    The current health crisis in the Allied Camp would provide Greece with another opportunity to fulfill its end of the bargain with Britain. Under the guise of providing humanitarian aid, the Dean of the Kapodistrian School of Medicine at the University of Athens, Dr. Konstantinos Karatheodori proposed sending several of his professors and students to help improve the flagging health of the British Army at Silistra in order to test their skills and learn invaluable lessons. The Greek Government and British Ambassador would agree to Karatheodori’s proposal and began preparing a mission for the front. The leader of this medical mission would be Dr. Konstantinos Vousakis, a professor at the University of Athens' Kapodistrian School of Medicine, and the nephew of former Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Kolettis.

    Overall, around 30 Greek doctors and medical students would make the journey from Athens to Scutari where they would be immediately put to work fixing the abhorrent environment many of the sick and wounded found themselves in. Together with the newly arrived nurses from Great Britain, the Greek Doctors and medical students would improve hospital in-processing, bedding, ventilation, and overall cleanliness. By the end of the war, the deaths from illness and disease would drop by a third while deaths by battle wounds dropped by over 50%. Nevertheless, many thousands would still die as the intensity of the 1856 campaigning season increased. One group that did not benefit much from greater Greek involvement in the war were the Ottomans, as tensions between the Greeks and Turks sadly precluded any attempts at cooperation.


    One of the Wards in the British Hospital at Scutari

    To appease the Sublime Porte, London provided another loan of 10 million Pounds to the Ottoman Government at the beginning of 1856 and promised to deliver another loan every year until the end of the conflict. Britain also made assurances to the Porte that Hungary and Sweden would join the war soon – an ambitious assumption at best and an outright lie at worst. Britain would also appeal to France for further material aid, purchasing another 37,000 Minié rifles, 460,000 Minié balls, and 42 cannons which would be delivered to the Turks before the end of May.

    The Sultan's Polish Legion would also see its numbers increased with the arrival of nearly 7,400 Polish patriots from Hungary aiding the Ottomans and British in their fight against the Russians. Many of these men were veterans of the Revolt of 1848, who had extensive experience fighting the Russians and when equipped with modern British Rifles, they would make for an incredibly deadly force, killing scores of Russian infantrymen. The Porte would receive another 8,600 volunteers from North Africa and the Levant over the Winter of 1856, with another 3,200 arriving in the Spring. Although this number was far smaller than the 28,000 men they received the year prior, the extra manpower was certainly welcome in Constantinople, which was in desperate need for more men.

    The Porte would receive further good news in late March, when they learned that Ibrahim Pasha, Khedive of Egypt had suddenly died, plunging Egypt into a bitter succession crisis, thus removing a great threat from their southern provinces. The matter of Ibrahim’s succession had not been resolved prior to his untimely demise, leaving his supporters to rally between two very different candidates for the throne. The first and most obvious candidate was Ibrahim’s eldest surviving son, Isma’il Pasha who found great support among the Army, the liberals, and the French as he vowed to continue his father's and grandfather's policies of modernization and westernization. However, under Ottoman law, Isma’il Pasha was not entitled to inherit the Eyalet of Egypt on his father’s death bringing him into conflict with the legalists in Egypt. Moreover, claims of Ibrahim Pasha’s own illegitimacy threw Ismail’s claim into doubt among the conservative elements of Egyptian society.

    These caveats allowed his cousin Abbas Pasha, son of Ibrahim’s younger brother Ahmed Tusun Pasha, to make a rival claim for the Egyptian throne owing to his pristine legitimacy and his seniority – he was 43, whereas Ismail was only 25. Abbas had boisterously opposed his grandfather’s and uncle’s economic, political, and societal reforms, and instead favored a return to the traditional values and customs of Egypt. This included a reduction in the Egyptian military, the abolition of Egypt’s monopolies, and perhaps most crucially, better relations with the Caliph (Sultan Abdulmejid) and the Sublime Porte which served him. He was also distrustful of the French who had essentially abandoned Egypt to the mercy of the Turks in 1841. Moreover, he opposed what was clearly becoming more of a master and servant dynamic as opposed to a relationship of two equals that had existed under his illustrious grandfather.

    This Francophobia would earn him the support of the British Government which sought to replace French influence in Egypt. To earn the support of Constantinople, Abbas Pasha also promised to return Palestine and Hejaz to the Sultan's direct control, although how truthful these promises were, none can truly say. Despite these bold promises, the Porte would refrain from supporting either candidate at this time, owing in large part to the ongoing conflict with Russia which occupied most of their energies. Moreover, Ismail Pasha was incredibly popular among the Egyptian people, and more importantly, the Egyptian Army would likely revolt if they attempted to force Abbas upon them. More than this, however, the Porte was content to let the dispute resolve itself. If push came to shove and the two scions of the house of Kavalali bled each other white in civil war, then so much the better as it would only aid the Porte in reconsolidating their grip on Egypt once the current war with Russia ended.


    The contenders for the Egyptian throne: Isma'il Pasha (Left) and Abbas Pasha (Right)​

    If nothing else, this dispute in Egypt enabled the Porte to shift several regiments northward from Syria and into Eastern Anatolia. Although it was a dangerous gambit given Egypt's past behavior, it was deemed a necessary risk in light of the current crisis. Similarly, the recent treaty with Greece would enable the Ottoman Government to recall their garrisons from the Dodecanese Islands, Thessaly and Epirus, freeing them up for service along the Danube. Finally, an agreement would be reached with the Prince of Serbia, Milos Obrenovic to remove the Ottoman troops from Serbia in return for increased Serbian autonomy, effectively making it independent in all but name. Although it was a hard decision to make, and an incredibly unpopular one at that, it would free up several thousand soldiers while also ensuring continued Serbian neutrality. Overall, the measures enacted by the British and Ottomans over the Fall of 1855 and Winter of 1856 would help, but they merely slowed the rate of bleeding, as the Russians made moves of their own in preparation for this upcoming campaigning season.

    Unlike the Allies, the situation for the Russians was not quite as dire, at least from a military standpoint. Over 100,000 soldiers had been lost to sickness, injury, or desertion in 1855 alone, but these losses would be easily replaced. The Army of the Danube would actually see its number increased by another 64,000 with the arrival of four reserve divisions, raising its nominal strength to 312,000 men. Similarly, the Army of the Caucasus would be reinforced back to its original strength of 100,000 soldiers with the arrival of two new reserve divisions. Still, at their current rate of casualties, the Russians could sustain another two to three years of fighting before their losses began to truly impact their fighting ability.

    There was also the matter of supplying their army as valuable weapons and munitions had been lost on campaign in 1855, weapons which could not be replaced easily. Many soldiers carried antiquated muskets, which were greatly outmatched by the rifles of the British and Ottomans and ammunition was also becoming an increasing problem for the Russian Army, as the average soldier only had a handful of bullets. Even if they possessed rifles and the bullets to fire them, it likely would have made little difference as most of these soldiers wouldn’t be able to fire them owing to the nature of the Russian Army. Their officers had little respect for the serfs serving under them, viewing them as cheap fodder that could be easily expended for victory on the battlefield. This belief was reinforced by Russian military doctrine which favored the bayonet charge over fire fights, essentially pinning the outcome of a battle on the elan of their soldiers. While this strategy was effective at times, it was also extremely costly in lives lost resulting in untold numbers of dead and wounded.

    The biggest issue facing the Russian Empire at the start of 1856, however, was the utter collapse of its economy. With its major Black Sea, Baltic Sea, and Pacific ports blockaded by Allied ships, the Russian export market had all but evaporated. While some products would continue to make their way out of Russia via Greek smugglers or across the land border with Prussia or Austria, their economy effectively imploded as they were product rich and cash poor. To pay for the increasingly costly war - over 600 million rubles had been spent thus far - the Russian Government resorted to printing unsecured bank notes. Naturally, this caused the value of the Ruble to depreciate at an astounding pace, loosing nearly half its value by January 1856. At this rate, the Russian Empire would run out of money far sooner than it would run out of men.

    To get around this issue, taxes on the serfs were increased, but this alone was not enough to balance the Russian Government, forcing the Tsar's ministers to look for other solutions. Several alternatives were proposed such as levying taxes on the nobility or raising the tax on government monoplies, but each was rejected in kind, until finally, the Governor-General of occupied Galicia-Lodomeria, Count Fyodor Ridiger suggested taxing the occupied province.

    Officially, the Kingdom of Galicia-Lodomeria remained a province of the Austrian Empire on paper, but in truth they exercised little authority in the region, effectively leaving its governance to the Russians in all but name. This situation had suited both parties well enough over the last few years, but following Austria’s refusal to join the Great Eurasian War as per the terms of their alliance with Russia, relations between the two states gradually worsened. The Austrians would attempt to excuse their neutrality with claims of a ruined economy and an exhausted army, but the Russian ambassador in Vienna would report that British diplomats had bribed certain members of the Emperor Franz Joseph’s cabinet to ensure their neutrality in the present conflict. Regardless of the truth behind these allegations, the Russian Government would not look favorably upon this Austrian duplicity and in a fit of rage, Tsar Nicholas agreed to the measure taxing Galicia-Lodomeria as if it were any other province of the Russian Empire. While it would not resolve their money problem completely, it would give them enough time for one final push.

    Next Time: Breaking Point

    [1] ITTL Westminster was planning on using the Sepoys in their fight against Russia, prompting the East India Company to enact the General Service Act which would have allowed Sepoys to serve overseas, which contributed somewhat to their later revolt. Obviously, this won’t be happening now as it would only worsen the situation in India, which is already quite strained.

    [2] Parliament enacted similar policies during the Napoleonic Wars only to repeal them in 1829, so if they really needed to they could have done something like this if they needed to increase recruitment without resorting to conscription.

    [3] There was in fact a British German Legion that was raised during the OTL Crimean War, but owing to public opposition and the fact that they were winning the war, there was less of a necessity to recruit a large number of them. Nevertheless, they still raised around 6,000 men, but by the time they were ready to fight, the war was over. Most would return to their homelands after the Crimean War, but around 2,000 would remain in the British Empire, settling in the Cape Colony and then later helping to put down the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857.
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    Part 84: Breaking Point
  • Part 84: Breaking Point


    Russian Cavalrymen Pursue Fleeing Ottoman Soldiers

    The start of the 1856 campaigning season would begin a little later than the previous year. Having already fulfilled most of his objectives, and much more, General Nikolay Muravyov would instead allow his exhausted soldiers time to rest and recuperate after a year and a half of almost constant fighting and marching in extremely difficult terrain and weather. Beyond this, however, his dreadfully long supply lines simply made it impossible to keep pushing westward at the rate he had in 1855. Instead, the Russian Army of the Caucasus would be refocused outwards once Spring arrived in Anatolia, expanding its narrow salient to both the North and the South.

    In the south, a portion of the Russian Army under Prince Vasily Osipovich Bebutov would successfully reduce the Beyazit salient by the end of May. Resistance in the area had been rather sporadic as the Ottomans had largely evacuated their remaining troops from the region over the Winter. After Beyazit’s fall on the 15th of April, Bebutov was instructed to begin pushing southwards toward Lake Van and then onward to the cities of Mush and Van if possible. However, his offensive here would run into increasing trouble, more so from the rugged terrain and local Kurdish bandits than any official Ottoman resistance. Prince Bebutov’s detachment would eventually reach the northeastern corner of Lake Van by the end of June, near the submerged town of Ercis.[1] However, rather than press onward as originally instructed, Bebutov would receive new orders from St. Petersburg to halt his advance in place and began digging in.

    Another Russian detachment under Prince Ivan Andronikashvili would press against Reshid Pasha’s forces stationed in the hills west of Erzincan. His efforts were largely focused on tying down Turkish forces in the region, rather than making a concerted push in any particular direction. Despite this, the general weakness of the Ottoman defenders enabled relatively modest gains for the Russians along this front. Their largest drawbacks were constant supply shortages, which gave the Ottomans a slight advantage in firepower, but overall, the Russians still maintained the edge here. By the end of June, Prince Andronikashvili had managed to reach the outskirts of Gercanis, roughly 18 miles West from where he first started his campaign in April. Even still, he had succeeded in his primary objective, as Reshid Pasha and Selim Pasha were unable to send any significant reinforcements to assist in the defense of the Lazistan or the Van Eyalets.

    The main Russian objective of the Anatolian front in 1856 was the Pontic coast, however, with the port of Trabzon being of particular importance to St. Petersburg given its status as a prominent commercial hub. As the Porte’s premier Black Seas port, it would provide Russia with great wealth and influence over all trade in the region if captured. The Ottoman commanders in the region recognized Russia’s interest in the port and had used the extended lull in the fighting to fortify the passes through the Pontic Mountains against the coming Russian offensive. But with their shattered armies and dreadful morale, there was little the beleaguered Ottomans could do in the face of the impending Russian juggernaut.


    The Port City of Trabzon

    Beginning on the 10th of April, General Muravyov took 54,000 men northward and began his assault on the Pontic Coast. Despite significant support from the British Royal Navy and the Ottoman Black Seas Fleet, the port of Batumi would fall within a month’s time. The nearby town of Rize would also come under considerable pressure soon after. Like Batumi before it, Rize would surrender to the Russians after a month-long siege at the end of May. Muravyov’s attempts to take Trabzon, however, would encounter more resistance as the last battered remnants of Mehmed Pasha’s Army along with various British marines and sailors, and a number of Circassian, Crimean, Dagestani, and Lazi irregulars stood against them.

    Moreover, the British Royal Navy and Ottoman Black Seas Fleet would position several ships off the coast of Trabzon. Despite the risk from Russian guns on land, the allied ships frequently bombarded the approaching Russian Army, effectively deterring any concentrated attempts to take the city by storm. Similarly, a constant stream of supply ships into and out of Trabzon’s harbor ensured that the city was well provisioned, mitigating the risk of it falling to starvation. Nevertheless, Muravyov was a tenacious general and continued the siege, steadily moving his lines forward, inch by inch over the course of several weeks. By mid-June, the threat to Trabzon was real enough that the British dispatched several regiments from the Balkans to help defend the city despite the perilous situation in Rumelia.

    The arrival of these British soldiers in Trabzon would ironically coincide with a decisive shift in priorities by the Russian Government away from the Caucasus and Anatolia. Men and resources previously allocated to the Caucasus Front were now being drawn off to fight in other areas, with entire divisions now being recalled for service in the Balkans, the Baltic and Central Asia. Even General Muravyov was ordered northward to lead the upcoming Fall campaign against the Caucasian Imamate and the Circassian Confederacy. His departing address to his soldiers was brief and blunt, but still a highly emotional event for his soldiers who had come to respect and admire the Old Bear, General Muravyov.

    Despite the great success for the Russians on the Anatolian front, it came to a quiet end in early July 1856. Barring Trabzon, all of Russia’s pre-war objectives for this front had been fulfilled and then some after two years of bitter fighting. As such few, if any, in St. Petersburg had the will or the interest to continue investing desperately needed resources into this theater, beyond what was necessary to hold their new gains. Tsar Nicholas was personally against a continued offensive into the increasingly Muslim countryside of Central Anatolia especially when more vital fronts like the Balkans needed further support. In truth, this decision had been made over the Winter; the continued success by Muravyov’s men in the Spring and Summer only quickened this process.

    1856 PGBaF Anatolian Frontline Map.png

    The Anatolian Front in the Summer of 1856
    As a result of this, Prince Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov’s Army of the Danube would receive the bulk of Russia’s remaining resources in 1856. Reinforced with four newly raised Reserve Divisions, Gorchakov’s army was boosted well above three hundred thousand soldiers by the start of Spring Campaigning season. It would also receive priority over the other field armies for munitions and equipment, helping to sure up their lacking stockpiles of musket balls, cannon balls, powder, food, clothing, shoes and other commodities. A few of its units would even receive the newly minted Model 1856 Six Line Rifle-Muskets which had been rushed out of development to counter the British Enfields. Finally, Gorchakov was given free rein to expand the front to the entire stretch of the Danube from Silistra to the Iron Gates. With his army reinforced, resupplied, and redirected, Prince Gorchakov readied his men for the fight of their lives in late mid-April.

    This year’s offensive in the Balkans would begin with another Russian assault on Silistra’s defenses by Count Alexander von Lüders’ Army of Moldavia, supported by General Karl Schilder’s extensive Corps of Artillery. Boasting over 400 cannons (mostly smaller calibers and older vintage guns), the Russian bombardment peppered the Allied lines with fire and iron in preparation for the Russian offensive. The ensuing attack on the 24th of April would be directed against the entirety of the Anglo-Ottoman line, probing it for vulnerabilities and searching for any openings. However, unlike the foolhardy attacks of the year prior, this onslaught would be a meticulous campaign meant to wear down the resolve and the strength of the Allied defenders over time. Although it would cost them a tremendous amount in blood, the Russians had blood enough to spare.

    They need not try too hard, however, as the British rank and file were in dismal spirits by the start of 1856. Many of their comrades had died of cholera and typhus over the last year, while many more were sent to Scutari to recuperate or invalidated home before being unceremoniously discharged from the service. Several leading officers would abandon the Army under the guise of illness or injury, while others like the Duke of Cambridge were recalled for political reasons further weakening British morale and discipline.[2] The continuous skirmishing with the Russians over the Winter didn’t help either. Were it not for the stalwart leadership of General Brown, many of his men would have likely mutinied or deserted in the face of the looming Russian attack.


    British Soldiers “Celebrating” Another Year in Silistra

    Defeatism was also quite rampant in the Turkish ranks as the continuous stream of bad news from Eastern Anatolia poured in over the Fall and Winter, destroying the already fragile Ottoman morale. Similarly, relations with London had soured immensely after they had coerced the Sublime Porte into ceding territory to the Kingdom of Greece. Although, the influx of additional British coin and weapons into the Ottoman Empire would help soothe the ruffled feathers in Constantinople, many of the Ottoman troops along the Danube were now distrustful of their British allies, whom they considered fair weather friends and opportunists. Despite this, many troops in the Ottoman Army remained committed to the war effort if for no other reason to defend their homes and their families. Some were motivated purely by spite, with the Poles largely fighting to injure the Russians after decades of oppression and persecution.

    Fortunately, the Allies would receive a desperately needed boost in late April/early May with the arrival of the British 6th Infantry Division - the “Irish Division” - and the British Foreign Legions which would help restore the British Army’s flagging morale and strength. The British Army in the Balkans would in fact top 100,000 soldiers briefly before attrition and redeployments to India reduced it to around 68,000 men. Most of the British reinforcements would be stationed along the Danube front, with most being allocated to the defense of Silistra. A handful of regiments were sent to fortify the ports of Varna and Burgas, and the fortress of Shumen, while a brigade was sent to help defend the river crossings further west. The collapse of the Anatolian front the year prior, would also force General Brown to dispatch a few brigades of the British Foreign Legion eastwards to aid in the defense of Trabzon.

    The Ottomans would also call up the garrisons of Thessaly, Epirus, and Serbia for field duty after the recent treaties with Serbia and Greece. Unfortunately, while these men were trained fighters, they were generally second-rate troops who had been relegated to guard duty and police work. They would also receive another 11,000 volunteers from Albania, Bosnia, North Africa, and the Levant, but nearly two thirds were directed to the Anatolian front, providing little assistance to Omar Pasha. Moreover, these men were Bashi-bazouks, undisciplined mobs more interested in plunder and personal glory than victory or strategic gains. Despite their rowdiness, the Porte could not turn these men away when it desperately needed bodies to hold the line against Russia.

    Through some miracle, the Anglo-Ottoman lines outside Silistra held against Count Lüders’ attack as they rushed these new arrivals into the fray. In doing so, however, they had fallen for Prince Gorchakov’s trap as Lüders’ offensive was merely the anvil to Gorchakov’s hammer. As this offensive was taking place, Prince Gorchakov dispatched the Russian Army of Wallachia under General Fyodor Sergeevich Panyutin to force additional crossings upriver. General Dannenberg and the Russian 4th Corps would resume their offensive from last year, marching on Silistra from the village of Tutrakan. Simultaneously, the 2nd Reserve Division under General Alexander Adlberberg and the 3rd Reserve Division under General General Wilhelm Bussau would move against the cities of Vidin and Oryakhana respectively. However, General Panyutin’s true hammer blow would fall on the fortress city of Ruse.[3]


    The City of Ruse in the early 19th Century

    The city of Ruse was a major port along the Danube river, serving as both a prominent trade hub in the region and a crossroads for all traffic going up and down and across the Danube. Most importantly it sat on the road between Bucharest and Constantinople, giving it incredible value to both sides. As a result of its strategic location; Romans/Byzantines, Bulgarians, and Ottomans alike would all invest much into securing this region against any northern aggressors. Under the Ottomans, Ruse developed a thriving shipbuilding industry and quickly became their chief administrative center along the lower stretch of the Danube.

    Like Silistra, Varna and Shumen, it had been heavily fortified during the 1830’s and early 1840’s seeing the construction of several polygonal fortresses outside the city’s medieval walls, which were themselves updated and expanded as well. It also boasted a sizeable garrison prior to the war, with two regiments of infantry and a regiment of artillery for a total of 8,000 soldiers. However, the War would see the infantry regiments drawn away to aid in the defense of Silistra, reducing Ruse’s garrison by more than two thirds. Fortunately, the garrison would be reinforced with the arrival of troopers from Thessaly and Serbia along with volunteers from Macedonia and Albania boosting their number well above 5,000 just in time for Russian General Stepan Khrulev’s attack on the 1st of May.

    The attack by General Khrulev’s Russian 2nd Corps would meet with some moderate success initially as the Russians quickly reclaimed the Wallachian island of Ciobanu which had been had captured by Omar Pasha at the very start of this War. However, their efforts to reach the walls of Ruse would be repelled after a fierce firefight as the Ottoman garrison released a small fleet of boats and barges to disrupt the Russian crossing here. Eventually, the Russians would cross the river, but here they fell into an Ottoman trap as Ruse's riverside defenses were especially strong, with dozens of cannons and carefully prepared kill-zones which cut the Russian vanguard to ribbons. Unable to make much progress against Ruse, General Khrulev dispatched the 1st Infantry and 2nd Grenadier Divisions to force another crossing further West near the port of Sistova (Svishtov).

    Unlike at Ruse, the Russian crossing at Sistova would meet with much more success as the town was only protected by a company of Turkish soldiers stationed at old Tsarnevets castle. As was the case in 1810 and 1829, the Russian soldiers quickly stormed the castle’s medieval walls, brushing aside the undermanned and unprepared Ottoman garrison with relative ease. With a firm beachhead across the Danube now secured, Khrulev released the 1st Uhlan Division to fan out across the countryside, searching for any Turkish pickets on the road to Ruse. When they returned with no such news, Khrulev ordered his Corps across the Danube, leaving the 4th Division behind to screen Ruse from the North. Seven days later on the 15th of May, Khrulev’s Corps would reconverge outside the southern outskirts of Ruse, effectively surrounding it from all sides.


    Russian Soldiers crossing the Danube near Ruse

    Whilst Ruse’s defenses were quite robust, aided as they were by the swift Danube currents and months of preparation; the city’s garrison was still quite undermanned, numbering only 5,671 men at this point, compared to the nearly 68,000 Russians gathered outside their walls. In spite of these tremendous odds, the Ottoman garrison was able to resist the Russian onslaught for several days. Moreover, Khrulev’s siege lines were not air tight during the first few days of the siege, enabling Ottoman messengers to escape to Silistra.

    Word about Ruse’s plight would soon reach the ears of Omar Pasha and General Brown, but given their own dire situation at Silistra, there was little the Allied Commanders could do. They simply lacked the resources to counteract Lüders’ ongoing offensive from the East, Dannenberg’s continued push from the West, and now this maneuver by Khrulev against Ruse. Nevertheless, they endeavored to send whatever help they could to Ruse, but their effort would come too late. With Ruse surrounded, Khrulev steadily chipped away at the Ottoman defenses, until finally, on the 5th of June he released his entire Corps upon the city of Ruse. The defenders fought desperately, but eventually succumbed to the insatiable tide of the Russians, leading to their surrender.

    With Ruse’s fall, the Russians had gained a major junction across the Danube, albeit one that was further West than they would have preferred. Nevertheless, its capture provided an alternative to Silistra, enabling the Russians to ferry over large quantities of men and munitions unhindered. It also forced the already beleaguered British and Ottomans to stretch their forces even further to defend their now dangerously exposed western flank, lest Panyutin's Army march on Constantinople unopposed. After a week’s pause to rest his forces, General Khrulev directed his cavalry southward towards Tarnovo and westward against Pleven, inciting the local Bulgarians to revolt as they went.

    Several days later, General Panyutin would send word to Khrulev instructing him to travel eastward with his Corps and link up with General Dannenberg’s 4th Corps. Thereafter, they would converge on Silistra from both the West and South, cut its supply lines, and finally surround the city. Unfortunately for Panyutin, a deserter from the Russian camp, believed to be a Polish officer, leaked much of this battleplan to Omar Pasha and General Brown. Although the exact extent of the Russian operation was unknown to them, they recognized that they would be doomed if Panyutin’s Army was allowed to reach Silistra uncontested. Despite the risk, they knew that this was their last chance to force the Russians back. Pinning everything on this next campaign, both Omar Pasha and General Brown opted to march out of Silistra and face the Russians head on.


    Ottoman Soldiers Receive their New Orders

    The Ottoman Army of Rumelia, under Omar Pasha would sally out against Count Lüders’ Host, holding it in place whilst General Brown’s Balkan Expeditionary Force would march against General Dannenberg’s 4th Corps - which was dangerously exposed - and destroy it before it could rejoin with the rest of Panyutin’s army. Setting out on the 9th of June, Brown’s Army would catch Dannenberg by surprise outside the village of Vitren. In the ensuing battle, the Russian 4th Corps would be thoroughly defeated by the British, but in spite of its extensive losses - losing over a quarter of its men to death, desertion, or capture – Dannenberg’s Corps would manage to retreat in relatively good order. Opting to pursue it, General Brown and the British Army would chase the fleeing 4th Corps for the next four days, fighting a series of skirmishes and minor engagements with the Russian rearguard before finally catching them near the hamlet of Ryakhovo located on the banks of the Danube.

    With Dannenberg’s men now trapped between the British Army and the Danube, General Brown hoped to smash them to pieces and then turn his attention to Khrulev’s 2nd Corps. Unfortunately, much of his own army had become strung out across the countryside over the last few days, leaving him with three divisions (1st, 4th, and 6th) to fight against four weakened Russian divisions. Whilst he initially contemplated waiting for the rest of his army to catch up, time was now against him as his scouts reported that Panyutin’s Army of Wallachia had left Ruse and was now marching to Dannenberg’s aid. Spurred on to crush Dannenberg’s weakened Corps before the rest of the Russian Army arrived, General Brown ordered an immediate attack on the Russian position.

    Despite their dire predicament, the Russians were in relatively good spirits, and held their ground against the advancing British for several hours. As the day progressed, the fighting grew more desperate as the veteran Highlander Brigade smashed through the thin Russian line in multiple places. While it seemed as if the battle was lost for the Russians, a steady stream of reinforcements began arriving on scene, jumping straight into the battle to aid their embattled comrades. After force marching for eight hours straight, General Panyutin and the vanguard of the Army of Wallachia had arrived at Ryakhovo.

    By this time, most of the British Army had also converged on Ryakhovo, bringing the two forces to a rough parity once again as much of the Russian 2nd Corps was still absent from the battlefield. With the half of the Russian Army still away from the battlefield, General Brown remained committed to the fight and pressed his men to keep pushing as dusk began to settle over the bloody plain. The fighting would only end as the thick darkness of night descended on the battlefield, resulting in several incidents of friendly fire on both sides. Although total victory had eluded Brown, the possibility still remained for the British to inflict a great blow upon the Russians and drive them from Rumelia.

    When dawn broke the following morning, it was Brown and the British who took the offensive yet again, hoping to break through the Russian line before their reinforcements arrived. The battle that followed would be relatively even for much of the day, with a slight edge given to the British owing to their superior rifles and cannons. However, once again Russian reinforcements continued to arrive as the day wore on, turning the tide against the British. No matter their personal valor, nor their great weapons of war, the British were simply being overwhelmed by the sheer number of Russian soldiers facing off against them. No matter how many men they shot down, another would eventually emerge to take their place. Eventually, the unending waves of Russian men began to exhaust the thin red line. As dusk began to fall over the battlefield, General Brown recalled his men and made preparations for a third day of fighting.


    The British Advance against the Russians at Ryakhovo

    By the end of the second day of Ryakhovo, almost all of the Russian Army of Wallachia had assembled opposite the British, bringing their total strength to nearly 142,000 soldiers. All told, Brown’s Army of 64,000 men was outnumbered by more than 2 to 1. With his opportunity of victory lost, Brown elected to take the defensive on the third day at Ryakhovo; his men would make the Russians pay for every inch of dirt they took. General Panyutin was more than willing to oblige him, ordering a dawn offensive against the weakening British.

    As the Russian soldiers approached the British line, the British artillery released a cannonade of grapeshot upon the advancing Russians, ripping their advance echelons to shreds. Entire units were wiped out, while regiments were decimated as mounds of bodies began to litter the battlefield. Within a few brief moments, over 4,000 Russians had fallen to the British artillery and rifle fire. It wasn’t enough as the Russians kept advancing. Eventually, the Russian infantry reached the thin British line and began to inflict their revenge upon their oppressors. The vicious melee that followed would see both sides suffer extensively, but outnumbered as they were, the British were gradually losing ground. At around noon, after five hours of bitter fighting, the Russians finally punched through the British center, forcing General Brown to order a retreat.

    General Panyutin was not inclined to let the British flee unmolested, however, and immediately ordered his cavalry to pursue them. As the 1st Uhlan Division and a division of Don Cossacks came into sight, all remaining discipline within the British Army collapsed, leading to a general rout. The Russian horsemen gazed upon the terrified Britons with devilish delight and whipped their ponies into a hellish frenzy. Cutting down stragglers and foolhardy heroes as they went, their trot quickly turned into an all-out charge as they chased the fleeing British soldiers. Desperate to escape the coming cavalry, many Englishmen threw themselves into the Danube, choosing a watery grave to a Cossack's torture.

    They are only spared from total annihilation by the sacrifice of the British Heavy Brigade which counter charged the approaching Russian cavalry with a thunderous roar, blunting its attack with a great and awesome fury. For the better part of an hour, the Heavy Brigade fought a bitter war of attrition with the Russian horsemen. Aided by their thick wool coats, their large chargers, and the rather dull weapons and small ponies of their Russian adversaries, the British cavalrymen suffered relatively few casualties initially, while they in turn inflicted gruesome losses on their opponents. It was only when General Panyutin ordered his infantry into the fray that the British cavalry were decimated. With bayonets fixed, the Russian soldiers speared the poor British horses, killing them from underneath their riders and without their steeds, the men of the Heavy Brigade were quickly cut down, bringing an end to the Battle of Ryakhovo.


    Charge of the Heavy Brigade

    Overall, the battle of Ryakhovo was a decisive Russian victory as the British Army was effectively broken as a threat, losing over a third of its men in the battle with most of their losses coming on the third day of battle. However, this victory had only been won at an enormous cost for the Russians. Over the three days of fighting, nearly 17,800 Russians lay dead or dying, another 41,300 were wounded, and nearly 11,000 were captured or missing. Moreover, the Army of Wallachia’s Cavalry contingent was utterly gutted after their prolonged fight with the British Heavy Brigade, losing more than half their number in the scuffle. Nevertheless, with the British Army finally defeated, the road to Silistra was thrown open and after two days of rest, Panyutin’s Army set out in pursuit late on the 19th of June.

    Back in Silistra, the Ottomans met with some moderate success, holding their ground against Count Luder’s Army of Moldavia and even driving it back in some places. However, with the defeat of the British at Ryakhovo, the situation in Silistra was now untenable. Racing ahead of his army, General Brown would meet with Omar Pasha, informing him of his defeat and advising him to immediately abandon Silistra before the Russians surrounded them. Despite his great reluctance to do so, Omar Pasha agreed with the merits of Brown’s suggestion and ordered the evacuation of Silistra. Anything of value in the city was to be destroyed, buried, or carted off by the retreating Anglo-Ottoman Army; they would leave nothing of value to the Russians.

    When the British Army finally arrives at Silistra later that evening, they are immediately ordered to destroy their precious railroad, spike their heavier siege guns, and set out for the Balkan Mountains as fast as they were able, from where they would establish a new defensive front. For the next few hours, a great dread hovers over Silistra as the Anglo-Ottoman Army desperately scrambled to vacate the city before the Russians arrived. Fortunately for the Allies, news of Panyutin’s victory over the British at Ryakhovo would prompt excessive celebration within Lüders’ camp. Soldiers and officers alike ate, drank, and sang well into the night, reveling in their comrades’ great victory. They would only awaken late in the morning of the 21st, by which time most of the Allied host had already evacuated Silistra. When the Russian Army finally stirred from its trenches and began moving into Silistra around mid-afternoon, it would discover an abandoned city.

    The Fall of Silistra and Ruse would mark the effective end to any remaining Ottoman interest in this terrible war. In their eyes, the war was now completely lost. Their northern and eastern defenses had been captured and their armies had been smashed to pieces. Further resistance at this point would only result in further losses now and further concessions in the ensuing peace treaty. Despite British pleas to continue fighting, no amount of British coin or shipments of British weapons would convince them otherwise. On the 13th of July, Ottoman envoys arrived in the Russian camp outside Silistra requesting a ceasefire, but to their horror, they would learn from Prince Gorchakov that his eminence, Tsar Nicholas was not yet interested in peace. The war would continue.

    Next Time: Coalition

    [1] The old city of Ercis was steadily submerged by the rising waters of Lake Van over the course of the 18th Century, until it was completely submerged by the middle of the 19th Century.
    [2] In OTL, nearly all the original British Division commanders and many of their deputies left the army for home. Some were genuinely sick or wounded like Sir George de Lacy Evans and the Duke of Cambridge, but many simply made-up excuses to leave the Crimea.
    [3] The city of Ruse formed a part of the Ottoman Quadrangle, a series of fortress cities comprised of Ruse, Silistra, Shumen and Varna. These fortifications were made at the suggestion of Helmuth von Moltke in OTL and were largely built by local Bulgarians laborers. They were incredibly strong fortifications that even managed to repel the Russians in 1877 for several months, despite being severely outdated by that time.
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    Part 84: Coalition
  • How much money has Greece made by the British buying supplies for the war? Also how big is the Greek national debt right now? Are you also going to show the process of integrating Greece new territories. Will land reforms happen there?
    1.we don't know as of yet. 2. Down to 2 million pounds from around 5 to 6 million pounds. 3 and 4 yes the author Said that after the war he will turn his focus back to greece and land reforms should be the government's top priority
    I don't have an exact figure in mind, but I'd say somewhere between 1 million to 1.5 million Pounds Sterling (£). The reasoning for this relatively low figure is that the British are still shipping the majority of their supplies from the Home Islands and they can still service their ships at Malta (or any number of Ottoman ports if they really wanted). Basically, they've been making an effort not to spend money if they don't have to. That said, they are still buying Greek products in abundance, particularly foodstuffs, wines and oils which the British officers are consuming at an increasing rate. The upgrades to Greece's ports are relatively minor, with the larger ports of Piraeus, Patras, Chios, and Heraklion receiving the bulk of Britain's attention and resources. They are also not funding the renewed construction of the Corinth Canal, they're only providing technical support and oversight for the canal.

    Emperor Joe is correct, the Greek National debt is hovering around 2 million Pounds after several adjustments by the British over the past few decades.

    Yes. Once this current War is over (I only have two updates left on it, technically three if I include the post war update on India), I'll have several updates in a row going over Greece and the integration of these new territories, which will include land reform among many other things.

    How large is Leopold fortune? And does Jewish people have rights in Greece?

    Leopold is a very wealthy man.

    Prior to becoming King of Greece, Leopold was the third son of a minor German duke, with few prospects in his native Saxe-Coburg. The invasion of France in 1807 would force him from his homeland and he would then spend the next 8 years of his life serving in the Imperial Russian Army as a cavalry officer, earning him a decent salary. In 1816, he would marry Princess Charlotte of Great Britain, which entitled him to a very generous allowance of 60,000 Pounds Sterling per year. This continued even after her untimely death in 1817 all the way to 1830 ITTL, when he had to forsake it as part of the deal for the Greek Crown.

    As King of Greece, he initially received a stipend of around 400,000 Drachma/Phoenixes (~£15,000) in 1830, which increased gradually to 1 million Drachma (~£36,000) by 1854. However, a sizeable chunk of this is used to finance the Crown's affairs namely the payment of courtiers and the royal household staff, the maintenance on the Royal Palace and Royal yacht, and providing allowances to his children among other things. Generally, Leopold has been very careful with his money and has shrewdly invested his money into Greece's nascent industrialization which is now paying significant dividends for him. He has also patronized several Greek artists, writers, and sculptors over the course of his now 26 year reign. Overall, I'd estimate his personal net worth to be around £2.5 million to £3 million by 1855, making him one of the wealthiest men in Greece at this time.

    The Jews do indeed have rights in Greece. According to the Greek Constitution of 1831, the Romaniote Jews were given full Greek citizenship and equal protection under Greek law.

    Part 84: Coalition


    The Northern Colossus; A Caricature of Tsar Nicholas of Russia

    The Russian Government’s decision to continue the war with the Ottoman Empire and United Kingdom in early July 1856, was met with great concern across the European continent. The Anglo-Ottoman Alliance had been clearly defeated both in the East and in the West permitting Russia to make gains at their adversaries’ expense in any peace deal between them. Yet for some reason, the war continued, a decision that would only lead to more suffering and more death in the days that would follow. Many came to believe that it was the vile Russian Emperor, Tsar Nicholas who ordered the continuation of the war against his beaten foes. Perhaps they did so out of a desire for vengeance, seeking justice for years of abuse and past indignities by the Turks. Or perhaps it was some ploy meant to better their standing at the ensuing peace conference against Britain who remained largely unharmed by the war’s events. Ironically, many Russians were equally confused by the decision to continue the war, with the Tsar’s Cabinet splitting itself in twain over the issue in the days and weeks following the capture of Silistra.

    Count Karl von Nesselrode and his supporters, the so-called German Party – a reference to Nesselrode’s German heritage and his pro German diplomatic leanings, supported ending the war with the Ottomans and the British as they had achieved the most of their pre-war goals. In the East, they had repelled the Ottoman invasion of Russian Caucasia and had occupied much of Eastern Anatolia in retaliation, marching up to the walls of Trabzon and the foothills of the Anatolian Plateau. In the West, they ousted the Turks from the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, and they had secured the southern shore of the Danube River from Sistova to the Black Sea. The British had been decisively defeated at Ryakhovo and the Ottomans were at their complete mercy after the loss of their great strongholds.

    Moreover, with their fleets unable to overcome the Royal Navy in the Baltic or the Black Sea, the war had reached its logical conclusion. The Russian Empire was triumphant on land, whilst the British were undefeated on water. Their attempts to counter this paradigm had all failed, the Baltic Fleet was blockaded in their ports, the Black Seas Fleet had been thoroughly defeated, and the Pacific Fleet (the Okhotsk Station Flotilla) had been completely annihilated. Without naval superiority, Russia could not carry the war over to the British Isles or their many colonies, and with Ottoman resistance effectively broken – as evident by their recent truce proposal - there remained little reason to continue the war.

    The Russian Minister of Finance, Pyotr Fedorovich Brock also stressed the need to make peace now as the continued blockades of their Black and Baltic Sea ports by the British and Turks was causing untold damage to the Russian economy. The Government was deeply in debt and many of their soldiers were in arrears. Unable to pay their bills, they had resorted to taking out loans and printing more banknotes to make ends meet. However, this in turn led to a rampant rise in inflation, which would see the cost of bread increase fivefold between the Spring of 1854 and the Autumn of 1855. Because of this, bread riots became an increasingly common occurrence across the countryside in late 1855. Not willing to risk internal unrest while at war with a rival power, the Russian Government quickly reversed course, ending its inflationary policy in early 1856. Now forced to look elsewhere, the Government began embezzling tax and tariff revenue from occupied Galicia-Lodomeria. This would help lessen the Russian Government’s growing deficit, but in doing so they were playing a dangerous game with Vienna as their duplicity could not be hidden forever. Rumors of this were already circulating throughout Schönbrunn Palace, indicating that Austria was conscious of Russia's deception.

    Even without this looming diplomatic catastrophe, pressure to end the war was already building across Europe. The Emperor of the French, Napoleon II Bonaparte was leading the effort to end the war, offering “amicable terms” for all involved. Beneath his honeyed words, Nesselrode would report subtle undertones of hostility in the French Emperor’s words, although he personally doubted that the French would declare war at this late hour. The Kingdoms of Hungary and Sweden-Norway were more vocal in their demands for peace and would go so far as to threaten war against Russia if they continued their present course against the Turk. Even their nominal ally Prussia was quietly suggesting that Russia come to terms with the defeated Ottomans. Most of all, the Turks themselves wanted peace and the reports from Tsargrad indicated they were willing to give quite a lot for it.[1]


    Count Karl von Nesselrode, Russian Chancellor and Foreign Minister

    However, rather than push them towards peace, the Ottoman truce proposal in earl July only emboldened the Russian war hawks even more. Led by the boisterous Commander in Chief, Prince Alexander Menshikov, and the Chairman of the Cabinet and State Council, Prince Alexander Chernyshyov; the Orthodox Party – called so for their overly religious rhetoric - demanded the war continue until the Turkish Empire was finally removed as a threat to the Russian state. With their adversaries on the run, the Balkans ripe for the taking, and the road to Tsargrad more vulnerable than it had ever been before, this was the moment they had had been waiting all their lives. If they made peace now, they would lose out on this golden opportunity to reclaim the City of Cities for Christendom, an opportunity they may never get again. Most of all, they had a moral obligation to destroy their ancient enemy, so that future generations would be spared from conflict with the Turk.

    They would argue that the decimation of the Russian economy - while certainly a tragic loss for the peasants and the serfs - was not a mortal wound from which they could not recover. Enough product was still being exported via Greek smugglers and land routes that the economy could limp along for a few months more, albeit in a greatly reduced state. Similarly, the naval blockades and coastal raids by the British were mere pinpricks, that caused little lasting damage to the Empire. If anything, these acts had only served to anger the Russian people and heighten their passions for revenge against the Britons. Much more so than the Ottomans, the British were the leading instigators of this terrible conflict. Their vile machinations had convinced their Turkish stooges into starting this awful war. They had stirred unrest in the Baltic, in the Caucasus, and among the Poles. They had armed the Turkmen hordes of the Steppe and they lined the purses of the German and Italian mercenaries who now fought against them. Their insidious actions had killed countless Russian sons, ruined countless Russian lives, and ravaged Russian land. No, there could be no peace with the perfidious Britons until they had been made to suffer as the Russians had.

    Menshikov would be especially vitriolic in his diatribe against Nesselrode, whom he disparaged as a coward and a criminal who had colluded in secret with the traitorous Germans (Austria and Prussia) to undermine Holy Russia. Under the terms of their Alliance; Austria and Prussia had pledged to lend their aid to Russia in times of war. Yet in this current War of Turkish Aggression, when Russia needed them, Austria and Prussia did nothing of the sort. Their concerns of Russian expansion should not then concern Russia, for they were craven liars and oathbreakers. Little concern was also given to the bluster of Hungary and Sweden-Norway for they were weaklings against the might of glorious Russia. Lastly, they would also dismiss France’s interjection into the peace process as well.

    Although their strength warranted increased respect and concern in St. Petersburg, many senior officers in their company proudly recalled the Patriotic War of 1812. The Corsican Devil had marched against Russia with a host far greater than France could boast of today, with men of greater stature and talent than those of today. If the French had joined with the British and the Turks in making war in 1854, things might have been very different for Russia. Instead, they had done nothing and now Emperor Napoleon II had the gall to play peacemaker. If he followed up on his threats and made war now, then he was a fool. The Son would share the same fate as the Father, and the Armies of Holy Russia would march through the streets of Paris once more.

    Finally, a flurry of good news had arrived in early June, lending its support to the War Hawk’s cause as General Alexander Baryatinsky reclaimed Fort Navaginsky from the British in late May. With its capture the Allied supply lines to the Circassian Confederacy and Caucasian Imamate were finally and completely cut. Although the fight with the Caucasus Muslims would continue for some time; the loss of their last major lifeline had all but doomed them to destruction. More good news would arrive from their nominal ally, the Qajari Empire who had joined the war at the behest of St. Petersburg in late 1855. The Qajaris had provoked a war with Britain when they invaded the Emirate of Afghanistan and within a month’s time, the entire country had fallen to Persian arms. The British in neighboring India would attempt to respond to this transgression and would ready an army to liberate the country just as they had in 1848. However, in doing so they inadvertently sparked an uprising of the Indian Sepoys who feared they were instead being sent to fight against Russia – one complaint among many others. With all these events going in Russia’s favor, Menshikov and Chernyshyov saw little reason to stop the war now whilst they were ahead. Ultimately, the decision lay with Tsar Nicholas himself.

    Despite his penchant for militarism and his increasing support for Pan-Slavism, the conflict’s rising toll in blood and treasure ravaged his old heart and threw him into a deep depression. On many occasions, he would become quite bellicose, violently thrashing out at the nearest attendant for even the slightest offense. Other times, he would be rather somber and barely stir from his private chambers, only doing so to attend weekly mass. Coinciding with this marked decline in his mental faculties was an equally upsetting collapse of his physical health. Over the course of the conflict Nicholas would lose a tremendous amount of weight, becoming rather gaunt in appearance. Moreover, he would also suffer from frequent lightheadedness, routine chills, and the occasional coughing fit. This was made worse by his vehement refusal to seek proper medical attention, instead demanding that his physicians attend to his beloved soldiers.

    Although he was still far from death’s door, the Tsar’s declining health forced him to begin delegating his responsibilities to his son and heir, Tsarevich Alexander Nikolayevich who fell firmly on the side of Menshikov and Chernyshyov. Despite his “liberal” political views, Tsarevich Alexander was a devout Christian and a stout Pan-Slavic Nationalist who supported the continuation of the war to the gates of Tsargrad, which he would liberate for Christendom in the name of his father. Most of all, the Tsarevich firmly believed this is what his father would have wanted.[2] With the Cabinet reaching a decision, albeit a decision that was far from unanimous, orders were dispatched to Prince Gorchakov. He would march on Constantinople.


    Tsarevich Alexander Nikolayevich circa 1856

    By the time Prince Mikhail Gorchakov received the order to advance in mid-July, he would find that much of the Allied Army had escaped to the Balkan Mountains. Desperate to stop the Russian advance, the Sublime Porte declared a state of emergency and ordered Omar Pasha to hold the line no matter the cost. Short term conscription was enacted across the Empire and all men with military experience were recalled to the service no matter how old or infirm. The delay by the Russians would give Omar Pasha precious time to build up a series of defensive works in the passes of the Balkan Mountains. The surrounding countryside was despoiled, trenches were dug, stockades were hastily erected and roads were blocked with fallen trees and rocks. In spite of all these preparations, the situation in the Balkans still favored the Russians greatly.

    At worst, Prince Gorchakov still held a two to one advantage in numbers over the Anglo-Ottoman Army and unlike the Allied host now fleeing before him, his army still possessed its entire artillery corps. Defeatism was also rampant among the Allied ranks after their recent defeats and a deep divide had formed between the British and Ottomans after the latter's peace attempts. Nevertheless, Gorchakov still took a rather cautious approach southward, choosing to keep his two armies rather close to one another so that the Allies could not separate them or single one out as they had attempted previously. General Panyutin’s Army of Wallachia was ordered to march upon the fortress city of Shumen, whilst Count Lüders Army of Moldavia would proceed towards the port of Varna.

    Departing on the 18th of July, Panyutin’s march southward would take the better part of a week to reach the city of Shumen. The reasoning for his slow advance was twofold. First, the Russian Army of Wallachia had suffered extensive casualties over the last three months of fighting, losing close to 46,000 soldiers between battle, disease, or desertion. Another 65,000 were suffering from various injuries or ailments, of which roughly half were invalids. The arrival of 18th Division from the Anatolian Front in late June would help replace these losses boosting his total to around 73,000 men, but overall, Panyutin’s force was only slightly larger than the British Army he had just decimated a month prior.

    Another issue plaguing Panyutin’s Army were its increasingly long supply lines. With the sea still firmly in Allied hands and the countryside now increasingly hostile, Russian logistics were stretched to their limits.[3] It is also important to note that sizeable contingents of the Ottoman and British Armies still remained north of the Balkan Mountains and continually harassed the Russian columns. The Ottoman irregulars, the Bashi-Bazouks had performed quite poorly in the trenches and forts surrounding Silistra, but out in the hills and forests of Rumelia, they were free to run wild. They would frequently target the Russian baggage trains and supply lines before slipping away into the wilderness time and time again. Despite their slow progress, Panyutin’s Army would reach the outskirts of Shumen by the 24th of July and immediately placed the city under siege.

    Opposing the Russians once again was the Ottoman Commander, Omar Pasha who had elected to remain north of the Balkan Mountains and would personally lead the defense of Shumen as a bulwark against the Russian tide. Like Silistra and Ruse; Shumen was a part of the Ottoman Quadrangle Fortress system that guarded Northeastern Rumelia. Because of its strategic location along the main road from Silistra to Constantinople, the Sublime Porte had erected several polygonal fortresses around the city in the years leading up to the war. It would see additional fortification during the war as Omar Pasha would use the lull in fighting between the Fall of Silistra and the Siege of Shumen to dig connecting trenches around Shumen and would even make moderate repairs to the old citadel which he used as a temporary headquarters.

    Unfortunately, by the Summer of 1856, the Porte simply lacked the men to properly garrison Shumen. By the time Omar Pasha arrived in late June he found scarcely 3,400 soldiers and 1,700 swiftly organized militiamen ready to defend the city against the approaching Russians. Although the odds were stacked against them at nearly 15 to 1, Omar Pasha and his men remained in good spirits. Victorious Shumen had withstood three previous attacks by the Russians in 1774, 1810, and 1829. So long as Omar Pasha had a say in it, Shumen would not fall to them here either. Moreover, Shumen had become a safe haven for Muslim refugees fleeing Russian oppression and Christian reprisals. As such, many of his men were fighting to defend their own families, so they would not surrender without a fight.


    Muslim Refugees fleeing to Shumen

    As this was taking place, Count Lüders’ Army of Moldavia began its own advance towards the Black Sea coast, occupying the city of Hacıoğlu Pazarcık (modern Dobrich) on the 19th, before reaching the environs of Varna four days later on the 23rd. Unlike Panyutin’s Army of Wallachia, the Russian Army of Moldavia had fared much better despite enduring four months of almost continuous fighting, only losing around 32,000 men and suffering an equal number of wounded, giving him a fighting strength of well over 90,000 men. His adversary was more than up to the task of opposing him, however, as British General George Brown had sent General George de Lacy Evans and his 2nd Division to defend the port of Varna.

    Although General Brown’s Army had been thoroughly gutted in the Battle of Ryakhovo, losing nearly 23,000 men and almost all of its cavalry, the British 2nd Division had escaped the battle relatively intact thanks to the skilled leadership of General de Lacy Evans. In the heat of the battle, the “Fighting Second” had kept their discipline and formed Infantry squares to fend off the approaching Cossacks, before retreating in good order under the cover of the Heavy Brigade’s counter charge. As it was one of the only British units still in fighting shape, General Brown felt it pertinent to dispatch them to Varna, where the Royal Navy had made its base the past two years. Many British warships were still in port at Varna, receiving repairs or routine maintenance and could not be evacuated before the Russians would arrive. Fortunately, Varna was a formidable fortress in its own right, as it made up the last quarter of the Ottoman Quadrangle. With its strong landward fortifications and its back to the sea – seas still controlled by the British and Ottoman Navies – it was an ideal redoubt against the approaching Russian hordes.

    This did not deter Count Lüders, who immediately ordered an assault on Varna’s outer works. Four time's Lüders men would attack Varna's defenses and four times they would be driven back. A fifth attempt would finally succeed in securing one of the outer redoubts surrounding Varna, but a timely counterattack by the soldiers of 95th Derbyshire Regiment would drive them from the fort. Despite their nearly six to one advantage in numbers, the Russians would ultimately be forced back by the British defenders after several hours of bitter fighting. A second assault the following day would meet with much less success as the Russian soldiers conducted three attacks on Varna before returning to their camp, disgusted and disgruntled at the continuing war. Their homes were safe, the honor of their beloved Motherland had been upheld, their adversaries had been punished, and yet, for some unknown reason they continued to fight and suffer and die. Although they were loyal to the Tsar and hated the Turk, many were simply tired of the war and wanted nothing more than to go home. A third assault scheduled for the 28th of July was cancelled when it became known that their soldiers threatened to mutiny if ordered to do so. With the British able to resupply Varna by sea, the siege effectively came to an end as Lüders could neither assault the city’s defenses nor starve out its defenders.

    Outside Shumen, General Panyutin would be much less aggressive in pushing his exhausted soldiers. His once powerful army had been whittled down after months of campaigning and his men were simply spent after two years of hard fighting and campaigning. Nevertheless, the opposition facing him was far too weak to pose much of a challenge to his substantially larger force. As such, his army made progress merely by momentum. Over the course of two and a half weeks, Panyutin’s soldiers quickly surrounded the city, before beginning to reduce the Ottoman outer works one by one as they simply lacked the men necessary to guard every approach at once. By the middle of August, it was clear to all that Shumen would eventually fall to the Russians despite the great heroism of its defenders; it was only a matter of time. Unfortunately, time was not on the Russians’ side as a few days later, news arrived from Vienna that would upend everything.


    Russian Soldiers storm an Ottoman redoubt outside Shumen

    In early January 1856, new Austrian Finance Minister, Baron Karl Ludwig von Bruck ordered a cursory review of the Empire’s taxation system. Austrian tax collection had never been a very efficient process as money would often change hands between the taxpayer and the Government’s treasury – up to 27 times in extreme cases - making the Austrian Empire’s tax collection system a bureaucratic nightmare. Because of this, it would actually cost more to collect the taxes, than not in some rare instances. Having only assumed the office a few months prior, Bruck was immediately struck at the inefficiency of it all and began looking for remedies to the antiquated and highly corrupt system; hence the review. The results of this review were within the expected norms; corruption and inefficiency were rampant across the board, but one outlier that stood out was Galicia-Lodomeria.

    Austrian Guldens had continued to flow out of Galicia-Lodomeria throughout the Winter as it normally had over the past five years of Russian occupation, only to slow dramatically in late February before stopping entirely by early April. A second audit of Galicia-Lodomeria’s records conducted in May would return the same results. Were it simply a matter of a few hundred or even a few thousand missing Guldens, Baron Bruck might have written it off as a simple clerical error or a corrupt tax collector pocketing a few coins. In this case, however, it was on the scale of several million Guldens, a figure that could not be ignored so easily.[4] Moreover, the entire earnings of Galicia were missing, not just a single city or county.

    An investigation on Bruck’s part would reveal that the Russians had collected the missing revenue in Galicia as they had done for the last five years on Austria’s behalf, only for it to disappear somewhere on the road to Vienna. Unsure how to proceed, Bruck would report the matter to Austrian Chancellor, Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg and Foreign Minister, Count Karl Ferdinand von Buol who in turn submitted an inquiry with Russian Ambassador Prince Alexander Gorchakov about the issue.[5] Having spent the better part of the last two years fending off British machinations in Vienna, Gorchakov had only the slightest inkling of his government’s activities in Galicia. Nevertheless, he did his part to not incriminate his government and offered the full support of the Russian Government in this matter and sent word to his superiors in St. Petersburg.

    Upon receiving Gorchakov’s missive, Count Nesselrode would promptly travel to Vienna to meet with his Austrian colleagues in person. Arriving in mid-June, Nesselrode would lay the blame squarely at the feet of Polish Partisans. Polish brigands were known to hide out in the forests and mountains of Galicia-Lodomeria, from which they routinely raided Russian outposts. Given the war with the Turks and the British, Nesselrode claimed that troops stationed in Galicia were now being ordered elsewhere, emboldening the Poles to greater acts of resistance. As such, the Russian Governor General of Galicia, Count Fyodor Ridiger had chosen to withhold the money so as not to risk its loss to brigands and thieves.

    Although they were rather annoyed that the Russians had not informed them of this earlier, Schwarzenberg and Buol accepted Nesselrode’s account at face value. However, they requested that the Russians dispatch the funds as soon as they were able. Nesselrode agreed to their request and promised to send word to Count Ridiger, ordering him to dispatch the coins at once. For a brief moment in time, it would have appeared that the issue was at an end. Nesselrode had bought his government invaluable time to settle their affairs before Venna learned the truth of Russia’s deception. But for the whimsy of a British diplomat, Lord John Russell this could have been true.


    Lord John Russell, British Plenipotentiary to the Austrian Empire

    Seeking to stir up tensions between Austria and Russia, Lord Russell began paying off several low-level figures in Schönbrunn Palace to spread salacious rumors of Russian infidelity. Through his contacts within the Austrian Government, Russell had learned of Vienna’s missing money and sought to add fuel to the dying fire by insinuating that St. Petersburg was the true culprit. Although he thought nothing of it at the time, he had unwittingly struck upon the truth. Soon the entirety of Schönbrunn was abuzz in rumors of Russian treachery, a logical conclusion for most given that Russian agents were the last seen actors with Vienna’s missing money. Making matters worse, a month had passed since Nesselrode's promise of action and yet no word had arrived from Galicia-Lodomeria regarding the delivery of Austria’s Guldens lending further credence to the rumors.

    Hoping to dispel these allegations and to hasten the delivery process, Austrian Foreign Minister Buol would travel to St. Petersburg in early July, hoping to meet with Count Nesselrode once more. Unfortunately, Nesselrode was away in Berlin at the time and would not return to St. Petersburg for several weeks. Instead, Count Buol would meet with Chairman Alexaner Chernyshyov. However, aside from a promise to send word to Count Ridiger, little was accomplished in their first meeting. A second meeting between the two was scheduled three weeks later on the 24th of July, but Chernyshyov would suffer a convenient stroke and would die soon afterwards, leaving Buol to meet with his deputy Prince Menshikov instead.

    Menshikov was no wordsmith and he was certainly no diplomat as he would essentially regurgitate Nesselrode’s earlier account only in a less articulate and flattering manner. Menshikov would also repeat Chernyshyov’s earlier promise to dispatch Austria’s money as soon as Count Ridiger was able. However, when Buol attempted to draw more decisive action from Menshikov, the latter abruptly adjourned their meeting and left without so much as an explanation, leaving the Austrian delegation thoroughly confused. Seeking answers, Buol would turn to Tsar Nicholas in the hopes he might do more to resolve the issue. However, the Tsar was suffering from another of his melancholic fits at this time and rejected Buol’s request out of hand. A second attempt to meet with the Tsar would instead result in a meeting with Tsarevich Alexander. The pair would exchange some pleasantries with one another, but otherwise their meeting only agitated the Austrian Foreign Minister even more. With the Austrians increasingly agitated by Russian misdirection and continued rumors of Russian fraud, Buol’s delegation naturally began to suspect the worst.

    A second meeting with Menshikov would all but confirm Buol’s suspicions. As he attempted to repeat the Russian Government’s account of events, Menshikov erred and stated that Polish brigands had in fact stolen the Austrian’s missing money. When pressed to redress this inconsistency, Menshikov would attempt to reverse course and repeat Nesselrode and Chernyshyov’s account that they had withheld to protect it against Polish partisans. Unconvinced, Buol pressed further. At which point, Menshikov became hostile to the Austrian Foreign Minister, blaming corrupt Austrian bureaucrats for their missing money.[6] He would then berate the Austrians as ungrateful oath breakers who betrayed their ally Russia in their time of need. Incensed, Buol erupted into a similar diatribe against Menshikov and the Russian Government. Insults were thrown between the two men and fists would have too if not for the intervention of their aides. The meeting would end with one final insult from Menshikov all but confirming Russia’s robbery of Galicia. Thoroughly convinced of Russian treachery, Count Buol departed St. Petersburg in early August having all but confirmed Russia’s criminality.


    Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov, Commander in Chief of the Russian Military and acting Chairman of the Cabinet and State Council.

    As this was all taking place, rumors and reports from Galicia-Lodomeria continued to arrive in Vienna, providing further evidence of Russian malfeasance. Despite the ongoing war with the Turks, Austrian agents in Galicia would report that the Russian garrison in the region had not been reduced as Russia had claimed, but rather increase to slightly over 340,000 soldiers by the Summer of 1856. Moreover, they would also remark that the unrest in the region had been on the decline over the past four years, a process that accelerated once the War with the Turks began as many partisans would leave Galicia to fight against Russia in the employ of the Ottomans and the British. The final piece of evidence would come in late July as the nominal Austrian Governor of Galicia-Lodomeria, Count Agenor Gołuchowski reported that carriage traffic to and from the Russian Empire had increased dramatically over the past few months, carriages laden down with numerous chests under guard by the Russian Army. When Count Buol returned to Vienna in mid-August, the Austrian Government could no longer ignore the reality that was staring them in the face; Russia was embezzling their taxes and tariffs from Galicia-Lodomeria.

    Events began to move quickly in Vienna as Chancellor Schwarzenberg met privately with Russian Ambassador Alexander Gorchakov on the 20th of August and demanded an explanation for their duplicity. When he could not provide one, Schwarzenberg gave him an ultimatum: return every single Gulden that Russia stolen from them or the Austrian Landwehr would march on St. Petersburg. They had three months to comply. It was an impossible demand. Even if Russia wanted to, they simply lacked the time to scrounge up all the coin in question – much of which had already been spent on the ongoing war effort.

    Several weeks later in early September, the venerable Count Nesselrode journeyed to Vienna in a desperate attempt to soothe the Austrian Government’s ruffled feathers. Sadly, his efforts were in vain as Prince Schwarzenberg refused to see him and Count Buol repeated the same demands that they had made of Ambassador Gorchakov. With it now apparent that war with Austria was inevitable, Count Nesselrode sent word to St. Petersburg imploring them to make peace with the Ottomans and recall the Army of the Danube before it was too late. Unfortunately, the Tsar, or rather Prince Menshikov and his supporters simply refused to budge on the issue. Hoping to avoid a disaster, Nesselrode would go around him and sent word to Silistra, warning Prince Mikhail Gorchakov of Austria’s intentions to declare war. For General Gorchakov, this development was an unmitigated disaster.

    No matter Russia’s decision, it appeared as if Austria would be at war with Russia within a few weeks’ time. While they would normally be little threat to Gorchakov on their own, his armies were dangerously overextended in the Summer of 1856 with barely a quarter million men scattered between the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains. Moreover, many of these soldiers were exhausted, they were severely undersupplied and reports from Count Lüders army reported that the troops were increasingly restless and disobedient. Fortunately, Gorchakov still had the better part of two months to prepare and immediately requested permission from Menshikov to recall his armies to a more defensible position. Menshikov refused, however, declaring that the Austrian ultimatum was merely a bluff and the Gorchakov needed to continue his push on Constantinople at once.

    The situation would be made much worse for Russia in late September as Count Ridiger - acting under orders from Menshikov - closed the border with Austria. He would then place his Austrian counterpart, Count Gołuchowski under house arrest effectively ending any remaining notion of Austrian authority in Galicia-Lodomeria, annexing the province to the Russian Empire in all but name. In response, the Austrian Government would reveal Russia’s criminal behavior to the world, eliciting a wave of condemnations and rebukes from across the European continent.

    The Emperor of the French, Emperor Napoleon II would denounce Russia as a barbarous country, with no respect for the laws or rights of men. In early October, he would travel in person to Vienna where he would meet with his cousin, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph and promised his country’s aid in Austria’s pursuit of justice against Russia. The Hungarians and Swedes would take a more definitive approach, agreeing to formal military alliances with Britain on the 4th and 16th of October respectively and promised to join the war against Russia before the end of the year. The Italian and German states would also lend their voices to those condemning Russian thievery. Even Russia’s nominal allies, Prussia and Greece could no longer abide by Russian actions and began applying their diplomatic and economic pressure upon them.

    With events reaching a fever pitch, Prince Gorchakov once again wrote to Menshikov urgently requesting, no begging him to recall his soldiers to a more defensible position along the Danube River. Once again, Menshikov refused to budge on the issue, accusing Gorchakov of cowardice and defeatism. With the situation to his North rapidly deteriorating and his superior proving obstinate, Gorchakov would unilaterally order General Panyutin and Count Lüders northward to the Danube. When Menshikov learned of this, he immediately reprimanded Gorchakov and sent orders for his arrest, only to be reprimanded in turn by Tsar Nicholas who finally emerged from his self imposed isolation. Having seen the damage wrought by his absence, the Tsar would rebuke Menshikov’s belligerency and order his resignation, which the latter reluctantly agreed to. After which, Nicholas would instruct Count Nesselrode to reach out to the British; Russia was finally ready for peace.

    Next Time: The New Order

    [1] The Russian/Slavic term for Constantinople.
    [2] In the OTL Crimean War, Alexander pushed his diplomats to reject the Anglo-French peace terms, despite the very real threat of Austrian and even Prussian intervention against him. With Russia clearly winning this war ITTL, I don't think he would be very inclined to make peace as he has a golden opportunity to finally end the Ottoman Empire as a real threat to Russia. Moreover, Alexander was a very religious man and was quite supportive of the Pan-Slavic cause in his youth.
    [3] A large plurality of the population in Eastern Bulgaria at this time was Muslim, particularly the region between Silistra and Shumen.
    [4] Sadly, I don’t find any mid-19th Century Austrian tax records to look through, so I had to resort to GDP instead. According to the Contours of the World Economy, Galicia-Lodomeria would have had a GDP somewhere in the ballpark of 7 billion dollars or about one fifth of Triune Austria’s total economy. Given there was a rebellion there recently and a brutal subjugation by the Russians, along with an exodus of several thousand people I'd estimate its around 5 billion dollars as of 1856 ITTL, which would still result in annual tax of several million Guldens per year.
    [5] A distant cousin of the Russian General, Prince Mikhail Gorchakov.
    [6] Prince Menshikov was not the best diplomat, as evident by his OTL diplomatic mission to Constantinople in 1853 where he essentially provoked the Ottomans into starting the Crimean War.
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    Part 85: The New Order
  • Sorry for the extended delay between this part and the last. I actually had this chapter ready a couple weeks ago, but I wasn't really happy with the final product and essentially rewrote the entire chapter from scratch. My main issues were what to do with Bulgaria and Galicia. Originally, I intended on making Galicia a part of Russia, but later decided against that given the great backlash against Russia. Bulgaria was a bit more difficult to decide upon as Russia effectively controlled all the territory in question, barring the Mountains in the South, and the Bulgarians were active participants in the war (at least at the beginning). Ultimately, with Russian making great gains elsewhere and the building coalition against Russia, I don't think they would have been able to get everything they wanted here. Hopefully, what I settled upon in this chapter is reasonable for you all.

    Part 85: The New Order


    Scene from the Paris Peace Conference of 1857

    Having become entirely convinced of their own wartime propaganda of Russian depravity and barbarity, the sudden arrival of a Russian peace overture at the end of October 1856 would catch the Palmerston Government completely off guard. Some, particularly British Prime Minister Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston suggested rejecting the Russian proposal outright as the “Rape of Galicia” had galvanized the whole of Europe against Russia. Austria was readying its Armies, whilst France was moving to support them and other countries such as the Netherlands, Bavaria, and Denmark were offering financial and material aid. The Kingdom of Hungary would signed a military alliance with Britain on the 4th of October, followed shortly thereafter by the United Kingdom Sweden-Norway on the 17th, with both promising to join the war by year’s end. Against such a coalition of Powers, Russia would be destroyed.

    However, the Earl of Clarendon, Lord George Villiers and the Earl of Aberdeen, Lord George Gordon supported accepting Russia’s offer for peace. Britain was exhausted after two and a half years of war, while the Ottomans were a completely spent power incapable of providing even the meagerest resistance to the advancing Russians. Even with the added strength of Hungary and Sweden to their cause, and the potential intervention of Austria and France, the odds would only be balanced in theory as the Russians still had a million men under arms. Moreover, the Russians would be supported by an untold number of Armenian, Bulgarian, Cossack, Georgian, Greek, Moldavian, Serbian, and Wallachian auxiliaries. While Clarendon and Aberdeen did not doubt the skill and bravery of their own soldiers, nor their capacity to suffer and die for their country; the Russians would be equally prepared to fight and die in the defense of their Motherland.

    The British people were also tired of this dreadful war, a war that had seen them make tremendous sacrifices for little apparent gain. Britain had suffered more than 60,000 casualties in two years of fighting, with 9,627 dying on the battlefield or from battlefield related injuries, whilst another 16,251 dying from illness and disease. 35,476 British soldiers would suffer from various injuries, many of whom were maimed losing arms or legs, hands and feet, eyes and ears. Others suffered from unseen injuries to the heart, the mind, and the soul, becoming little more than husks of their former selves.

    Many Britons back home had also contributed to the war effort, donating money, clothing, or foodstuffs with little expectation of recompense or restitution at the end of the war. Taxes had been increased and war time bonds had been issued by the British Government to raise revenue for the war effort. By late 1856, many Britons simply had nothing left to give to their government. In their eyes, continuing the war would only worsen their suffering and their sacrifices, and for what? A small chance to dismantle the Russian Empire, to liberate Poland and Finland and the Muslims of the Caucasus and Central Asia. Their independence would not help the Yorkshire farmers or the London merchants, nor would their freedom appease the grieving mothers and wives whose menfolk had died to liberate them.

    Finally, there was the matter of India. For the past eight months, the Indian Subcontinent had been embroiled in revolt by mutinous Sepoys and traitorous Nawabs. India was the Jewel of Britain’s burgeoning Empire – generating tens of millions in revenue via Company loan repayments and priceless trading commodities such as opium, tea, spice, silk, gold, and much, much more. If the reports of this past Summer were true, however, then the situation in the Subcontinent was becoming incredibly dire. The forces on the ground loyal to London and the East India Company (EIC) were outnumbered more than three to one and were in desperate need of reinforcements. If help did not arrive soon, then those few remaining Princely states still loyal to Britain might then rethink their loyalties to London and join with the rebels.

    It was clear to Palmerston and his supporters that they could not pursue both the War against Russia and the Subjugation of the Indian Rebels at the same time. They had tried and they had failed. If they continued to pursue the war with Russia, they could likely succeed - with further costs in blood and treasure, but in the process, they would likely lose everything in India. Ultimately, Palmerston would agree to make peace with Russia with the hope that foreign pressure would limit Russian gains.


    British Prime Minister - Lord Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

    Initial armistice talks would take place in the city of Berlin on the 15th of November. In attendance were the ambassadors from the War's primary belligerents; Baron Bloomfield (Britain), Count Brunnow (Russia), Yusuf Kamil Pasha (the Ottoman Empire), as well as representatives from Austria, Count Friedrich von Thun und Hohenstein, and France, Auguste de Tallenay. Before the proceeding officially began, Russian diplomat Count Philipp von Brunnow would offer a formal apology to the Austrian Government on behalf of the Russian government, laying the blame for the entire Galician Incident squarely at the feet of Prince Alexander Menshikov and the deceased Prince Alexander Chernyshyov.

    Nesselrode hoped to avert war between Austria and Russia by scapegoating the dead Chernyshyov and the disgraced Menshikov, who had been swiftly cashiered and forced into an early retirement by Tsar Nicholas. The Russian Government also offered restitution for the wayward province of Galicia, even going so far as to suggest purchasing the state outright. Austrian pride compelled von Thun to reject the offer out of hand, however, he did promise to relay the offer to his superiors for further consideration. This would certainly not erase the irrevocable damage that had been inflicted, nor did it completely alleviate the threat of war between them, but it was a necessary step towards reconciliation between their two states. With that awkward exchange out of the way, the Armistice talks officially began.

    These hearings would cover a wide range of topics from an official armistice date - set for the 24th of December – ceasing all hostilities between belligerent states, and a return of all prisoners taken on both sides over the course of the conflict. Britain would also agree to immediately vacate the Kamchatka Peninsula and end its naval blockades in the Baltic Sea – minor concessions given the fast approach of the Winter sea ice. In return, all Russian troops outside Varna, Shumen, and Trebizond would break their siege works and withdrawal 10 miles from the cities’ walls – movements that were already well underway in the Balkans. However, Britain would not vacate the Åland islands nor end its blockade of Russia’s Black Sea ports, which would remain in place until the start of the Armistice to incentivize Russian compliance. Similarly, the Russians kept their troops on the southern bank of the Danube and scattered across Eastern Anatolia -albeit scaled down considerably - in the event Britain attempted to back out of the peace talks or the Austrians invaded. Lastly, both sides would agree to attend a formal peace conference in three months-time.

    However, the debate over the location of where exactly this Peace Conference would take place was perhaps the most contentious as neither side wished to have a hostile power host such an important event. For that reason, cities within the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Great Britain were rejected almost immediately. Similarly, the Kingdom of Greece’s candidacy was opposed due to strong Ottoman opposition, whilst Sweden-Norway and Hungary were naturally blocked by Russia for their own apparent hostility to St. Petersburg. Prussia would be strongly considered by both parties initially, but ultimately rejected as the British felt it was too friendly to the Russians over the course of the war and had only condemned Russia’s illegal actions in Galicia once the rest of Europe had already done so. The cities of Spain and Portugal were considered too far, and the Italian and German states were considered too insignificant.

    Ultimately, the choice came down to two cities: Vienna and Paris. With Austria still threatening war with Russia, however, the Russian delegation was hesitant to name Vienna as the site of the conference. Britain too did not fully trust the Austrians either, for while they were at odds with St. Petersburg now, their historical friendship and natural affinity might predispose them towards the Russians.[1] Moreover, Vienna as a city was on the decline in the years following the 1848 Revolutions. Many of the Hungarian elements of the city departed following the war and its separation from the rest of Germany only worsened this deterioration. The French diplomat Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski would put it best, stating that Vienna was a city on the decline, a city of the past; whereas Paris was a city on the rise, a city of the future, with a booming population, great history, exquisite art, and a vibrant culture.

    Great Britain and the Ottoman Governments had no qualms with selection of Paris given their good relations with the French during the war. The Austrian ambassador, von Thun also gave his support for Paris after some persuasion from his French counterpart. However, the Russian ambassador, Count Brunnow was more distrustful of Napoleon II than his counterparts, as the French Emperor had used the distraction of this war to sure up France’s position across the globe. The Egyptian succession crisis was quickly resolved in his favor, with the ascension of Ismail Pasha to the Khedivate’s throne. He had also expanded French holdings in Algiers, whilst Algerian and Berber ghazis were ferried to the Balkans and Anatolia to fight against Russia on the Ottoman Porte’s behalf. France had similarly expanded its influence into Southeast Asia, establishing colonies in the South Pacific and forging commercial ties with the countries of Indochina.

    Moreover, French material support for the Anglo-Ottoman alliance during the war had resulted in thousands of additional Russian casualties and needlessly extended the war for many weeks and months. Finally, they had applied significant financial and diplomatic pressure on St. Petersburg during the latter stages of the war, refusing to provide loans for Russia and convinced several of its allies to do the same. However, France had not taken up arms against Russia directly, nor had it imposed extreme demands upon St. Petersburg even after the Galician Incident. There was also a degree of flexibility that could be found in the French Government towards Russia as opposed to the British or Turks. After careful consideration, Count Brunnow would accept Paris’ candidacy for the ensuing Peace Conference, bringing the armistice talks to an end.

    With the Armistice finally agreed to, the cursory skirmishing and raiding that had characterized the Balkan and Anatolian front lines over the last few months of the war gradually gave way. When the Armistice Day finally arrived, many Russian and British soldiers cheered for their trials and tribulations were now at an end. Former enemies would even congregate together, trading souvenirs, sharing drinks, and singing festive songs for their war was over and their reasons to fight were gone. Word would soon arrive in Tehran of Russia’s move towards peace, convincing the Qajari Government to dispatch their own emissaries to the British. Although they considered the Persians to be vile opportunists that had taken advantage of Britain’s momentary weakness, London had more pressing matters to attend to in India and quickly acquiesced to the Qajari request for peace. Nearly two months later in mid-February 1857, the representatives of Great Britain, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, the Qajari Empire, Austria, Hungary, Prussia, Sweden-Norway and Greece arrived in Paris to finalize the terms of the Peace between them.[2]

    Attendees of the Paris Peace Conference of 1857:

    Representing the Russian Empire –

    - Russian Foreign Minister, Count Karl von Nesselrode,

    - Russian Ambassador to France, Prince Alexey Orlov,

    Representing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland –

    - British Foreign Minister, Lord George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon

    - British Ambassador to France, Lord Henry Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley.

    Representing the Ottoman Empire –

    - Ottoman Grand Vizier, Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha

    - Ottoman Ambassador to France, Mehmed Cemli Bey.

    Representing the Austrian Empire –

    - Austrian Foreign Minister, Count Karl Ferdinand von Buol

    - Austrian Ambassador to France, Count Joseph Hübner.

    Representing the Empire of France –

    - French Foreign Minister Édouard Drouyn de Lhuys,

    - French Minister of State, Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski.

    Representing the Kingdom of Prussia –

    - Prussian Prime Minister, Otto von Manteuffel,

    - Prussian Ambassador to France, Count Maximilian von Hatzfeld.

    Representing the Qajari Empire –

    - Persian Deputy Chancellor, Mirza Aga Khan.

    Representing the Kingdom of Hungary –

    - Hungarian Foreign Minister, Count Kázmér Antal Ferenc Batthyány de Németújvár,

    - Hungarian Ambassador to France, Count László Teleki IV de Szék

    Representing the United Kingdom of Sweden-Norway –

    - Swedish Foreign Minister, Gustaf Algernon Stierneld,

    - Swedish Ambassador to France, Count Ludwig Manderström.

    Representing the Kingdom of Greece –

    - Greek Foreign Minister, Konstantinos Kolokotronis,

    - Greek Ambassador to France, Nikolaos Kanaris.

    Representing the German Empire –

    - Foreign Minister of the German Empire, August Giacomo Jochmus,

    - German envoy to France, Friedrich von Raumer.

    Representing the Italian Confederation –

    - Prime Minister of Lombardia-Piedmont, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour,

    - Prime Minister of the Two Sicilies, Prince Carlo Filangieri,

    - Cardinal Secretary of State for the Papal States, Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli.

    Although the Congress would not officially start until the 10th of February, talks had continued throughout the Winter, resolving many of the lesser issues at hand. Britain’s blockade of Russia’s Black Sea ports was ended on the 1st of January and both sides agreed to cease all financial and material support for partisans within the other’s countries. Most importantly, free navigation of the Danube River and Turkish Straits for commercial vessels of all nations were agreed to by the Congress’ participants. By the time the Conference’s attendees arrived in early February, the only issues remaining were those regarding territorial claims and suzerainty.

    As the Great Eurasian War had technically been started by the Ottomans on behalf of the Caucasian Muslims, this debate would begin with the North Caucasus. Unfortunately, events in the region had conspired against the Circassian Confederacy and the Caucasian Imamate as both were prevented from attending the Paris Peace Conference. This was by design as the Russian Government had vehemently opposed their attendance. In their eyes, the Caucasian Muslims were uncivilized mountaineers and tribesmen living on sovereign Russian territory as agreed to under the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople and had no grounds for representation in Paris. The other Powers of Europe had little interest in the plight of the Caucasians, either out of disdain for the Muslims or a general disinterest in the region. Only Britain and the Ottomans showed any significant interest in their inclusion, but they were dealt an incredibly bad hand by late 1856.

    With the fall of Fort Navaginsky earlier in the Spring, the Circassian Confederacy and Caucasian Imamate were effectively surrounded on all sides by the Russians. Things would only get worse from there as the Caucasian Imamate’s leader, Imam Shamil and many of his chief lieutenants were captured by the Russians during a raid in late October. The ensuing power vacuum would result in defeat after defeat for the already overwhelmed and leaderless Imamate. Although a few Chechens and Dagestanis would continue to resist the Russians for months and years to come, the loss of Shamil effectively decapitated the Imamate’s leadership, depriving it of a charismatic figure for his people to rally around and one that foreign nations could recognize and support.

    The situation was equally dire for the Circassian Confederacy which had fractured in recent months. Several of its tribes advocated submission to the Russians in order to safeguard what was left of their peoples and homeland, while others continued to push for war against Russia and refused any call for peace. Such a split became irrevocable for the Circassian resistance as those that wished for peace broke with their brothers and surrendered wholesale once news of the armistice between Britain, the Ottomans, and Russia arrived on the 11th of January. Those that remained opposed to the Russians would continue to fight, but their fate was effectively sealed by London’s decision to make peace with St. Petersburg.

    Unable to reach the Ciscaucasian Muslims, nor decide upon a proper authority in the region, the Russians were ultimately able to prevent Britain and the Ottomans from seating any representatives from these troubled lands at the Paris Peace Conference. Without their direct involvement, the session regarding their fate would move swiftly, as the British quickly traded their support for the North Caucasus Muslims in return for Russian concessions in Eastern Anatolia. Namely, the Russians would abandon their claims to the port of Trabzon. So long as Trabzon remained outside of Russian hands, Britain’s economic interests in Anatolia could be safeguarded. The Ottomans would be more reluctant to abandon their nominal subjects to Russian indignities, but without British support there was little they could do. Ultimately, they would surrender their claims of suzerainty over the Caucasus Muslims in return for “guarantees of their rights to practice their faith and live according to their own customs”. Although it was magnanimous of the Russians to agree to this concession, in truth this was little more than lip service by the Russians, as they would promptly violate the terms of this agreement before the ink had even dried.[3]


    Circassians Surrendering to the Russians

    With the North Caucasus largely settled, the discussion would turn southward to Eastern Anatolia/Western Armenia where Russia’s conquests were the most extensive. Utterly smashing the Ottoman frontier, the Russian Armies of General Muravyov had captured the fortress city of Erzurum and marched as far West as the Zara, and from the Black Sea coast to the shores of Lake Van. Outside of the port of Trabzon, however, Russia’s interests in Eastern Anatolia were rather mercurial given the poorness of the region and overly hostile demographics of its people. Their subsequent decision to abandon their claims to Trabzon came as a great surprise, but this was likely done out of pragmatism, trading Trabzon for peace in the Caucasus. So long as the Caucasus Muslims received foreign support, Russia could never truly pacify the region. Moreover, they did not hold Trabzon at War’s end, meaning any attempt to claim it would have required concessions elsewhere, which would have been steep given the great value both the British and the Ottomans held for the port city. Ultimately, Nesselrode and Orlov would agree to end their pursuit of Trabzon - for now.

    Instead, the Russian delegation would work towards consolidating their hold of the Armenian highland which Russia had occupied in its entirety during this war. By owning this region, Russia would strengthen their frontier with the Ottomans immeasurably, whilst denying the Turks many of the hills and valleys that had been their greatest defensive works in this last conflict. Moreover, it would leave the Ottoman provinces in Central Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Levant dangerously exposed to Russian attack, giving St. Petersburg tremendous influence over Ottoman policy. Finally, it would bring most of the Armenian peoples under Russian protection, leaving only a few far-flung communities outside its borders.

    These claims to the Armenian Highlands would not go unchallenged, however, as the Turks, the British, and the French all opposed Russia’s claims to the region. The Ottomans naturally opposed these demands, as accepting them would leave the Anatolian Plateau – the Ottoman heartland at great risk. It would also see Turkish lands and Turkish peoples fall under foreign occupation, a situation that would destroy the Porte’s legitimacy in the eyes of their people. The British opposed Russian expansion into Eastern Anatolia as doing so would render Russia’s earlier abandonment of Trabzon moot. With the Eastern Anatolian interior in Russian hands, they would control almost all the land routes to and from Trabzon – but for the western road, effectively making Trabzon a Russian port in all but name. Finally, the French opposed Russian expansion into the Armenian Highlands as it would leave Syria and Palestine under serious threat, potentially jeopardizing France’s influence in the region. Yet, even in the face of this staunch resistance, Russia could have forced the issue if they so desired, but in doing so, they would have had to forsake making gains elsewhere.

    Although they held some interest in the lands of Eastern Anatolia, this paled in comparison to the value they held for the Balkans. Eventually, the Russian delegation would agree to limit their gains in Eastern Anatolia to the border Sanjaks of Alashkerd, Ardahan, Ardanuç, Beyazit, Hanak, Lazistan, Mahjil, Oltu, Posof, the eastern half of the Erzurum Sanjak, and a small sliver of the Trabzon Sanjak.[4] Despite this marked reduction from their earlier demands, this still represented a massive loss for the Ottoman Empire, one which the Ottoman delegation was hesitant to accept. Yet, given the difficult battle spent reducing Russia’s demands even this much, the Ottoman Grand Vizier, Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha reluctantly agreed to sign away many of his nation’s eastern provinces. The delineation of the new border between the Ottomans and Russians in Anatolia would thus run westward from the frontier with the Qajari Empire near Mount Tendürük, across the hilltops of the Agri Par west of Agri, and through the Erzurum valley just west of Erzurum. From there, the border would travel north to the Pontic mountains and proceed down the Ophius river to the town of Ofis on the Pontic coast.

    The decision by the Western Powers to accept Russian gains in the East was likely done with the express purpose of limiting their gains in the Balkans as much as possible, given the greater wealth and importance of the region. Unlike Anatolia, St. Petersburg’s objectives for the Balkans were quite clear; above all else they desired the city of Constantinople for themselves. However, failing this, they wished to drive the Turks from the Danube, thus nullifying their defenses there and securing a future invasion route. Clarendon recognized this and together with his French and Ottoman Allies, he sought to form a cohesive block against the Russians, forcing them to give up their claims and end their aspirations in the Balkans. To their credit, Nesselrode and Orlov had expected this opposition and would refrain from claiming any territory in the Balkans for Russia directly. Instead, they would look towards expanding Russia’s influence across the Balkans, by establishing a series of satellite states in the region, beginning with the Danubian Principalities.

    In an impassioned speech, Prince Alexey Orlov would argue that the Ottoman Government had voided their rights to suzerainty over the Danubian Principalities with its illegal and unprovoked invasion of Wallachia and Moldavia in early May 1854. Through its actions, several thousand innocents had been slain, while an untold number were left destitute by Turkish raids. This was not the behavior of a benevolent overlord, but a vindictive aggressor. In contrast, the benevolent Russian Tsardom had defended its brothers in faith and beaten back their attackers in self-defense. Therefore, the Russian Empire should be considered the rightful protector and benefactor of the Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, not the Ottoman Turks.


    Russian Ambassador to France, Count Alexey Fyodorovich Orlov​

    Despite the dubious authenticity of Orlov’s words (more Wallachians and Moldavians had actually died fighting for the Russians outside Silistra than in the entire Ottoman invasion), the Allied contingent to the Paris Peace Conference would concede this demand almost immediately. Even the Ottoman delegation recognized the Principalities were a lost cause and only offered a token resistance to the measure, if only to preserve their Government’s honor. Relatively speaking, it was a minor concession as the Porte’s authority over the two principalities had been thoroughly eroded in the years preceding the war; their inability to defeat Russia during this conflict only solidified this fact. Nevertheless, it was still a decisive development as the two Principalities were now nominally independent after nearly 400 years of Ottoman overlordship.[5]

    In truth, however, the two states would be little more than Russian protectorates, effectively trading an Ottoman suzerain for a Russian one. The loss of Wallachia and Moldavia to Russian rule was made easier for the Western Powers thanks to the protections given to commercial vessels on the River. Nevertheless, for countries such as Hungary and Austria, the “independence of Wallachia and Moldavia was an unwelcome development. With Wallachia and Moldavia secured, Russia turned its attention westward, across the Danube to the Principality of Serbia.

    Like the two Danubian Principalities to the East, Ottoman control over Serbia had gradually declined over the last 50 years following the outbreak of the Serbian Revolution and the establishment of the Principality of Serbia in 1815. In more recent years, the Prince of Serbia, Aleksandar Karađorđević had signed a treaty with the Porte, further reducing Ottoman influence within the country, thereby stripping their garrisons to the bare minimum. Although the Principality had remained neutral throughout the conflict, many of its citizens had journeyed abroad to fight alongside the Russians in their war against the Turks. Similarly, many Serbs within Ottoman territory would also rebel against the Sublime Porte. All told, nearly 31,000 Serbians would participate in the war, either as auxiliaries in the Russian Army or as brigands raiding Ottoman patrols.

    Despite this factor, Allied resistance to Serbian independence would be far stouter than it had been with Wallachia and Moldavia. Unlike the previous matter, Russia did not have a physical presence in Serbia, whilst the Ottomans still did, albeit to a limited extent. There was also the fear that an independent Serbia would encourage Serbian nationalists in both the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary to rebel against their overlords and join their lands with the Serbian state, a fact that greatly concerned Buda. Moreover, the reigning Prince of Serbia, Aleksandar Karađorđević was generally viewed as a Russophile by the British and French governments, one who would align his state with St. Petersburg if given the chance. Such a development would extend Russian influence into the Western Balkans and onto the Southern borders of Austria and Hungary, something which neither state could accept.

    However, according to reports from Belgrade, Prince Aleksandar was increasingly unpopular with members of the Serbian government over his increasing nepotism and flagrant disregard for the Legislature. Although he remained relatively popular with some elements of the Serbian people, his grip on power was still quite tenuous thanks in no small part to the machinations of his predecessor, Prince Milos Obrenovic. Prince Milos had been working tirelessly to reclaim his and his son Mihailo’s throne, using his connections and his vast wealth to spur unrest within Serbia against Prince Aleksandar. To further his own interests, Prince Milos and his son had journeyed to Vienna where they stayed for several years, before traveling to Switzerland in 1848, and then Paris in 1851 where he had spent the last few years petitioning the French Government for support.

    Following up on this lead, Lord Clarendon and his French counterpart, Edouard de Lhuys would meet in secret with Prince Milos during a brief recess in the Conference. Coming to terms with the exiled Serbian magnate, they reached a tentative agreement whereby the British and French governments would support a coup in Prince Milos’ favor in return for his alignment with the Western Powers of Europe, to which Prince Milos readily agreed. Clarendon and de Lhuys would then meet with the representatives of Austria and Hungary, gaining their support for Milos’ coup in return for promises to renounce Serbian claims on Hungarian or Austrian territory. With a secret arrangement established between Britain, France, Austria, and Hungary to support the deposition of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević and the return of Milos Obrenovic, they eventually agreed to Russia’s demand for an independent Serbia. However, the process would be a gradual one, with the Ottomans slowly transitioning power to the Serbians over the course of the next three years, before finally gaining its full independence in January of 1860, time enough for their plot to take effect.


    Prince Milos Obrenovic of Serbia

    The Plenum’s attention would then turn to the tiny Principality of Montenegro located southwest of Serbia. Ottoman control over the region had always been tenuous, owing to the mountainous terrain and warlike nature of its people – the poorness of the region did little to help matters. Recently, however, what little sway the Ottomans held over the region had been completely destroyed when a band of Montenegrins massacred an Ottoman regiment sent to police the region, near the town of Kolasin. Under normal circumstances, such an event would have warranted a major retaliation, but with the war with Russia raging to the East and revolts all across the Balkans, the Porte had few resources to divert to little, insignificant Montenegro. Effectively, the decision to now give Montenegro independence was merely a recognition of the reality that Montenegro was independent of Kostantîniyye’s control and had been for nearly two hundred years.

    The last major bone of contention in the Balkans were the lands of Bulgaria. Numerous Bulgarians had risen in revolt against the Ottomans, with nearly 47,000 volunteers joining the Russians in the early weeks of the war. Sadly, many of these partisans were ill equipped, and the Russians proved unable to support them given their early setbacks, leading to their brutal repression by the Ottoman authorities. Overall, some 18,000 Bulgarian men, women, and children would be slain in 1854 alone, many of whom having little to do with the revolt against the Porte, with many more falling in the years that followed. Such injustice could not stand in the eyes of St. Petersburg and they called on their counterparts to release Bulgaria from Turkish oppression. However, this was a step too far for the Western Powers.

    When combined with the independence of Serbia, Wallachia, and Moldavia; the liberation of Bulgaria would effectively make the Danube a Russian river in all but name. Such an outcome was simply unacceptable to Buda and Vienna whose economies were reliant upon free navigation of the Danube River for trade and commerce. There were also considerable concerns over the extent of an independent Bulgaria, with the Russian delegation proposing a Bulgarian state extending from the Danube to the Balkan Mountains and the Black Sea to the border with Serbia. Such a state would cause irrevocable damage to the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, leaving its European territories incredibly vulnerable to invasion and insurrection. Most of all it would leave the Turkish Straits dangerously exposed to the Russians, something which the British, French, Austrians and Ottomans vehemently opposed.

    Tensions over Bulgarian independence rose quickly to the point where Lord Clarendon and Mehmed Pasha threatened to walk out of the Peace Conference and continue the war no matter the cost, forcing Nesselrode and Orlov to walk back their demands considerably. Perhaps if Russia had made peace in the Summer when their enemies were at their weakest, then they may have had a better chance at winning Bulgaria. Instead, in the face of a united opposition, they would abandon their ambitions of a Bulgarian satellite in favor of the demilitarization of Dobruja, the rights of the Bulgarians guaranteed by the Ottoman Government, and the codification of Russia’s role as the protector and benefactor of the Ottoman Christians. With the fate of Bulgaria settled – for now, there remained one final measure in the Balkans, that of Greece’s treaties with Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire.

    Signed in the Spring of 1855, the Treaty of Corfu and the Treaty of Constantinople would have the Kingdom of Greece annex the Ionian Islands and the Dodecanese Islands respectively. A separate clause in the latter treaty would also see Thessaly and Epirus ceded to Greece by the Ottoman Empire in return for its continued neutrality in the war, which the Hellenes had – mostly - abided by. However, what should have been a simple matter of acknowledging the two earlier treaties and confirming Greece’s new borders, quickly became complicated as the British delegation under Lord Clarendon called for an abrupt recess in the congress before quietly calling aside his Greek counterparts, Konstantinos Kolokotronis and Nikolaos Kanaris. What was said exactly during this private exchange is unknown, but the subtext of their exchange is abundantly clear; London had known about Greece’s continued duplicity throughout the War – both smuggling and sedition - and was not happy about it.

    Greece’s illicit succor had buttressed the flagging Russian cause during the latter stages of the war, contributing in part to the Russian victory and increasing British casualties by an untold margin. While Britain promised not to take any overt actions against the Greek Government out of respect for their mutual friendship and a desire to maintain a united front against Russia, they reiterated that any future sedition within the Ottoman Empire would be interpreted as an act of aggression by the Greeks, thereby nullifying Britain’s defensive pact with Greece. This is not to say that Britain would attack Greece, merely that they would not aid Greece if the Ottomans retaliated against them. Beyond this thinly veiled threat, the British Government would also request that they receive a 40% stake in the Corinth Canal in return for their continued support of the canal’s construction. Finally, Clarendon asked that their lease on the port of Corfu be extended for an additional 10 years - later negotiated down to 5 - as recompense for their considerable investment in Greece’s other port facilities over the last two years.

    Reluctantly, Konstantinos Kolokotronis accepted these demands on behalf of the Greek Government, viewing British support for Greece’s annexations of Thessaly and Epirus as more important than a few, relatively minor economic concessions to London. However, this exchange would prompt a marked cooling off period in British-Greek relations for the next several years. Nevertheless, the British delegation quickly returned to the Conference Chamber and gave their assent to Greece’s annexation of Thessaly and Epirus, quickly followed by Russia, France, and all the other delegates in attendance. With the new borders in the Balkans established, the discussion moved northward to Galicia-Lodomeria.

    1858 Greece Timeline Map .png

    The Kingdom of Greece's borders post Paris Peace Conference

    Prior to the recent debacle over Russia’s illegal activities in the region, Galicia had been a de jure part of the rump Austrian Empire. In recent months, however, it was abundantly clear for all to see that Vienna’s authority in the province had waned considerably since 1848 as Polish rebels and poor infrastructure limited their ability to govern the far-flung country. Russia had a sizeable role in this as well, as they had moved their own officials into positions of power within Galicia, assuming roles previously held by their Austrian counterparts – tax collector being one of the most prominent. Despite their recent efforts to reinforce their position in Galicia, the Austrian Government simply had no power projection in the province by 1857 and could not realistically govern it as this recent scandal made apparent. For the good of all involved, it would have to be sundered from the Austrian crown and either made independent or subjected to Russia.

    The former option was deemed unacceptable by Russia and Prussia as a fully independent Polish state would only embolden their own Polish subjects to rebel. This was hardly an issue for Britain and France as they both supported an independent Poland, but the Russians - with considerable backing from the Prussians, would not budge on the issue. The Second option of Russian annexation was then considered with the earlier offer to purchase Galicia now given more credence. However, Austria was against the measure as doing so would effectively reward Russia for its infidelity. To mollify the Austrians and satiate the Russians, Galicia-Lodomeria would be established as a subject state of Russia, akin to the Danubian Principalities and under the rule of a Hapsburg Prince.

    This new country would be akin to the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, with the state being de jure independent, but financially, diplomatically, and militarily dependent upon Russia, making it a Russian province in all but name. The now detached Duchy of Bukovina would then be sold to the Principality of Moldavia for 2 million Pounds Sterling, paid for by their overlord Russia. St. Petersburg would also pay Vienna a grand total of 24 million Pounds Sterling for the province of Galicia-Lodomeria, effectively repaying Austria their missing funds for 1856 and much, much more.[6] However, for cash strapped Russia, this amount was far more than it could afford at present. To pay for this sum and to further appease the angered Austrians, Russia would be forced to make sales of their own, namely its lone colony in the New World, Alaska.


    A Map of Russian Alaska (circa 1854)
    Located on the far side of the Bering Strait, Alaska had always been a backwater, even for Russia. The colony had received little interest from St. Petersburg over the years and was only inhabited by a few thousand native Inuits and several hundred Russian fishermen, hunters and fur traders – the last of which had started departing Alaska after the exhaustion of the local sea otter population. Nevertheless, it was a vast territory spanning nearly 1.7 million square kilometers with countless forests and untapped natural resources whatever those resources happened to be. It was also completely indefensible for Russia – as made abundantly clear by this recent war when the British swiftly occupied the colony in a matter of weeks. Given the great distance and geographic boundaries separating it from the Russian heartland, there was no feasible way for St. Petersburg to exercise its authority over the colony, nor could it properly defend it. With the value of the province now on the decline with the decline of the sea otter population and Russia in desperate need of money, the decision was ultimately reached to sell the colony to the highest bidder.

    That bidder would be Britain for a grand total of 7 million Pounds Sterling, however, Britain’s interest in the colony was rather low despite the high price paid for it. Apart from a few extra ports, fishing rights, and timber, the colony would add very little to the British Empire. Its size was certainly nice as it would solidify Britain’s position on the Pacific, but most of the territory was frozen wasteland that was largely uninhabited and poorly developed. Nevertheless, Britain would be compelled to buy the colony from Russia as “recompense” for Russian gains elsewhere - the fact that the money used to buy Alaska would ultimately go to Austria, rather than Russia also helped the British people stomach the purchase.

    When this was still not enough to cover the costs of Galicia, the Russians would also be compelled to sell the Åland Islands to the Kingdom of Sweden-Norway for the sum of 2.5 Million Pounds Sterling. The sale of the Åland Archipelago was a modest loss for the Russian Empire, as St. Petersburg had invested much into the islands over the last 48 years with the construction of Bomarsund Fortress and its outlying redoubts. However, the islands were overwhelmingly Swedish demographically, they were relatively poor economically, and generally indefensible against a dominant sea power like Britain – a fact that had been humiliatingly exposed in 1855. Thus, selling the islands to a middling power like Sweden was of little consequence in the grand scheme of things as Sweden-Norway was nothing compared to the might of Russia. To sweeten the deal in St. Petersburg’s favor, Nesselrode would also force the Swedish Foreign Minister, Gustaf Stierneld into demilitarizing the islands and a renouncing any further Swedish claims on Russian territory.

    The final area of major territorial changes would be Central Asia, particularly the region between British India, the Qajari Empire, and the Russian Empire. The Khanates, Emirates, and nomadic tribes that inhabited this land had largely aligned themselves with the British against the Russians during the war as they opposed Russian expansion into their lands. However, given the greater importance of the Baltic, Balkan, and Anatolian theaters of war, little attention had been given to Central Asia during the first two years of the conflict, forcing the overwhelmed local garrisons to fend off the rebel Turkmen on their own. Only in mid 1856 would St. Petersburg begin shifting forces Eastward to subdue Turkestan and by the end of the year, most of the Kazakh lands had been pacified. However, the Emirate of Bukhara, the Khivan Khanate, and the Kokand Khanate were still free of Russian occupation by the start of the Paris Peace Conference.

    Although Britain had little capability of supporting the Central Asian Turkmen, Clarendon did not wish to completely abandon them either as the United Kingdom had established considerable financial and diplomatic relations with the tribes in the region. Moreover, they wished to preserve a series of buffer states between British India and the Russian Empire, a role which these states had previously occupied before the war. As British opposition was stiffest here, whilst Russian interest in the region was relatively low; the two would eventually reach a compromise restoring the status quo antebellum in the region. Whilst this did see the lands of the Kazakhs reincorporated into the Russian Empire and formally recognized by the other Powers as sovereign Russian territory, it would also see the Khanates of Kokand and Khiva, and the Emirate of Bukhara retain their nominal independence, albeit as Russian tributaries. Nevertheless, this did fulfill Britain’s goals of maintaining a buffer between British India and the Russian Empire, while also preserving their ability to trade with the Central Asian states.

    Moving southward, Persia’s invasion of Afghanistan in late 1855 would expand the conflict to Afghanistan and Northern India, although the former was quickly conquered and pacified by the Qajaris. Britain had attempted to ready a punitive expedition againt the upstart Persians, but the revolt of the Sepoys and Nawabs of India in early 1856 would derail Britain’s plans. Despite this setback, the indomitable British Royal Navy rained destruction upon the Persian Gulf ports and caused immeasurable damage to the Qajari economy with their blockades and interdictions forcing the Qajaris to the table on relatively generous terms. The deal reached by British and Qajari Governments would effectively partition the Emirate of Afghanistan between them, with the Hindu Kush mountain range serving as the boundary of their realms.[7]

    Although Britain had gone to war with the Qajaris to maintain the independence of Afghanistan, London valued the strategic nature of Afghanistan more than the Emirate itself, as its territory spanned many of the main passes into and out of Northwestern India. With these routes securd under British control, the importance of the Emirate diminished substantially, hence the concession to the British by the Qajaris. The two states would also agree to split the Khanate of Kalat, located to the south of Afghanistan, with the Qajari Empire receiving the Ras Koh and Chagai Hills, while the remaining rump state would fall under British suzerainty thus securing India’s Western approaches as well. Overall, the arrangement favored Tehran more than it did London, but given the ongoing revolt in Bengal and their previous failure in conquering Afghanistan in 1839, the deal was more than enough to satisfy London.

    With all outstanding border changes resolved and confirmed by the Conference’s participants, the Conference proceeded to the last major topic of discussion, that of the Turkish Straits. Debate over free passage of trading ships through the straits had been quickly resolved before the Conference, with commercial vessels of all countries being permitted free access through the Straits. However, the issue of warships would be much more contested and extended into the Congress for debate. Russia desperately wanted to secure the Straits against a hostile power, thus safeguarding their soft southern underbelly against foreign adversaries. They also wanted to send their own warships through the Straits as a means of exerting its influence in the Mediterranean.

    Britain abhorred the thought, as did the French and Austrians who came to see a Russian presence in the Mediterranean as a threat to their own interests on the Mediterranean. After much debate, and several threats of renewed war, costs be damned; both sides would reach a compromise. The Ottoman Porte would be forced to refuse all foreign warships passage through the Dardanelles, whilst Russian warships would be similarly banned from passing through the Bosporus Straits. This arrangement satisfied neither party, but of the two, Russia came out better as they had effectively made the Black Sea a Russian lake in the process. The last days of debate would go rather quickly and uneventfully resolving the remaining issues one by one, until the 15th of March when the Conference’s participants gathered together for one last meeting, to sign the Treaty of Paris.


    The Delegations sign the Treaty of Paris (1857)

    Ultimately, the Great Eurasian War, or War of Turkish Aggression as it is known in Russia, would go down as a great victory for Russian Emperor Tsar Nicholas. He had gained great territory in Anatolia and he had established several friendly satellites across the Balkans. He had also secured free shipping through the Straits and a denial of foreign warships from the Black Sea. Yet it was not as great as it could have been thanks to scandals and poor diplomacy in the last year of the war. Moreover, Russia had suffered over a half million casualties, its economy was crushed by blockades and embargoes, and it minorities in the Caucasus and Crimea had revolted, despoiling the countryside. In the end, Russia’s ascendancy, whilst slowed greatly by the war, would ultimately rebound in short order and continue to grow, faster than before thanks to their great gains in Anatolia, the Balkans and Galicia.

    For the Ottomans it was a solemn affair as their nation had suffered the worst out of all the war’s participants. Their armies were shattered, suffering well over a quarter million casualties. Their territories in the Balkans and Anatolia had been despoiled by war and revolt. Their economy was on the brink of ruin, driven deeply into debt by wartime expenditures. More annoyingly, they had been the only major belligerent in the war to lose territory (ignoring Russia's selling of Alaska and Aland), whilst their primary ally Great Britain had actually gained territory. They had also lost any remaining semblance of control in the Danubian Principalities, Serbia, and Montenegro, which only furthered unrest in their Balkan provinces. Their “victories” in the Paris Peace Conference had been relatively minor as well, having only secured the welfare of the Ciscaucasian Muslims - a provision that was quickly ignored by Russia in the following months, and the retention of Bulgaria, Erzincan, and Trabzon - regions thoroughly devastated by the war. Overall, there would be much for the Sublime Porte to contend with in the years ahead as they struggled to deal with their newfound anger and shame.

    For their part, the British would make out relatively well as they had made moderate gains in the war with their purchase of Alaska and their annexations in Afghanistan and Baluchistan. Their economy whilst exhausted from war, was largely intact and would recover in a few years’ time. Internally, the British Government would review their performance in the War poorly, resulting in a series of military reforms in the years ahead in the hopes of addressing many of their military’s shortcomings. Publicly, Westminster would lay the blame for their defeat at the feet of the Indian Rebels for distracting them and drawing away their resources. The soldiers and their families would be far harsher on their Government, however, blaming the Palmerston Government for their poor handling and poor preparations for the war, resulting in the Tories being ousted from Power in the 1857 elections. However, the Great Eurasian War was not over yet, not for Britain anyway as there remained one last theater of war for it to contend with.

    Greece Timeline World Map 1860.png

    The World in March 1857
    (Ignore the US, its borders depicted here aren't reflective of their current borders ITTL)

    Next Time: The Devil's Wind

    [1] The British were quite guarded towards the Austrians in OTL and resisted efforts to name Vienna as the Peace Conference’s locale.

    [2] Also in attendance were various observers from Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, Serbia, Montenegro, Wallachia and Moldavia.

    [3] Although Russia is formally agreeing to protect the rights of its Muslim populations, there are no enforcement mechanisms on this, nor are there any states willing to intervene on their behalf. As such, the fate of the Circassians will generally be the same. However, the earlier surrender by several tribes and clans (brought about by the Allied defeat against Russia) should save lives and preserve more of their communities relative to OTL.

    [4] This essentially represents Russia’s claims in the OTL Treaty of San Stefano plus a little more.

    [5] Although Wallachia was technically a tributary of the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1417, it was generally sporadic as the Voivodes usually resisted paying tribute to the Ottomans, only to be summarily invaded and deposed by Ottoman backed rival claimants. After Vlad the Impaler’s death in 1476, Ottoman suzerainty over Wallachia was formalized and would remain largely intact for the next four hundred years, apart from the reign of Michael the Brave in the late 16th Century. Similarly, Moldavia briefly became an Ottoman tributary in the 1450’s, but this would largely stop during the reign of Stephen the Great. However, by the end of Stephen’s reign, he was forced to accept Ottoman suzerainty once more, a state of affairs that would continue intermittently until 1876 in OTL.

    [6] I’m using the Gadsen Purchase as a reference for this pricing as the size of the territories in question are roughly the same at around 77,000 km^2 for the Gadsen Purchase and 78,500 KM^2 for Galicia-Lodomeria. The timing of this exchange is also very close to the OTL Purchase which happened in 1853 so the valuations should be relatively similar. However, I’d wager that Galicia and Lodomeria would cost far more than the desert that America purchased from Mexico. Firstly, Austria is not a defeated state that can be pushed around like Mexico post Mexican-American War, although it is believed that the US vastly overpaid for the region in question. Secondly, Austria has most of Europe supporting them in this matter so Russia can’t shortchange Vienna here. Finally, there are several million people living in Galicia and Lodomeria, albeit most are poor peasants and farmers, whereas the area of the Gadsen Purchase was largely inhabited by a few thousand people.

    [7] Roughly corresponding to the territory Britain would seize from Afghanistan in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
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