The Connaught Rangers—the 88th Regiment of Foot—were popularly known as the ‘Devil’s Own’ and have been a notable and redoubtable infantry regiment within the British Army since their creation in 1793. Principally comprised of Irishmen they had a mixed reputation as being exactly what was required on the field of battle but something of a burden to commanders on other occasions. They saw much action under Wellington during the Peninsular War and by the time the conflict in Russia broke out, in the campaign in the Crimea in the middle of the 19th century, they were once again ready to show their mettle. The author of this book was an officer in the regiment and the account in this book is based on eye witness experience. The Connaughts were in action at The Alma, Inkerman, Sevastapol and the assault on the Redan. The regiment, true to its tradition, started their campaign with a strength of 931 strong and ended it having after sustained 769 casualties as a result of battlefield deaths, wounds and disease.
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On the 6th, the third bombardment opened in the afternoon, and continued all night for the first time; I walked up to the picket-house and saw it commence; at a given signal all the batteries opened from right to left, and a brisk fire was kept up upon the various Russian works, but the enemy were not to be caught napping, and their batteries replied very warmly.<br>
The enemy’s guns in the “Mamelon” were fired all together in salvos, at certain intervals, indicative, it was said, that the Russians were short of gunners; our shelling during the night was very heavy, and considerably hindered the enemy from repairing damages. The firing continued throughout the 7th, and we were all confined to camp after one p.m.<br>
As the time had now arrived for the works of our Right Attack to be extended towards the town, it was decided to storm the rifle-pits and trenches which the enemy had thrown up in front of our intrenchments, and which not only impeded the progress of our siege works, but from which also they maintained such a continuous musketry fire upon our trenches as to cause numerous casualties among our covering-parties. That part of the Russian works which was immediately opposite the extreme left of our most advanced trench we called the “Quarries;” it was an “ambuscade” which the enemy had constructed by strongly intrenching a quarry, which, as already stated, was situated on rising ground, about 110 feet above our nearest trench, and not more than 600 feet from it. The elevated position and close proximity of this ambuscade gave the Russians the advantage of a commanding fire, of which they persistently availed themselves with very harassing effect; many of our brave fellows here lost their lives, by incautiously exposing little more than their heads to the unerring aim of the ever-vigilant Russian marksmen.<br>
It was therefore arranged that the attack upon the Quarries and adjoining Russian trenches should take place on the evening of the 7th June, at the same time that the French—on our right—stormed the Russian intrenched position on a hill in their front. For this attack upon the Quarries, &c., a force of 1000 British troops were told off, under the command of our colonel (Shirley), who, on this day, was acting general officer in charge of the Trench Guard Right Attack: this storming party was divided as follows:—400 men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell (90th Regiment), consisting of—<br>
100 men (7th Fusiliers), under Major Mills (7th Fusiliers).<br>
200 men (49th Regiment), under Major Armstrong (49th Regiment).<br>
100 men (88th Regiment), under Major Bayley (88th Regiment).<br>
This portion was to attack the Quarries.<br>
Also 300 men, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson, 34th Regiment—viz., 200 men 34th Regiment, and 100 men of the 88th Regiment, commanded by Captain Corbett; this latter party was told off to attack the trenches and rifle-pits which adjoined the Quarries.<br>
With the 200 men of the 88th Regiment, engaged on this occasion, were the following officers:—<br>
Major Bayley, Captains Corbett, Maynard and Wray, Lieutenants Beresford, Webb, Pearson, Kenny and Grier.<br>
Colonel Shirley was accompanied by his aide-de camp. Captain Day (88th Regiment).<br>
300 men, under the command of Major Urquhart (1st Royals), were in reserve; and two working parties were told off (to accompany the attacking forces), composed of detachments of the 7th and 77th Regiments, under Major Grant (49th Regiment), and also of the Royals and 55th Regiment.<br>
The attacking force was thus distributed:—Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell’s party was placed in the most advanced portion of our trenches on the left of our Right Attack, with Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson’s men on their right. The assault took place about eight p.m., on a preconcerted signal being given from a spot in rear of Chapman’s Battery, Left Attack. The 400 men under Lieutenant Campbell advanced to the attack in two divisions, one on each flank of the Quarries; the 100 men of the 88th, under Major Bayley, being sent out to the front, assaulted the enemy’s intrenchment, supported by the remainder of the 400 men under Major Armstrong; meanwhile, the 300 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson attacked the trenches and rifle-pits adjoining the Quarries, aided by the working party of the Royals and 55th, who had been ordered to lay down their tools and to assist this portion of the attacking force.<br>
Major Bayley and his party having gallantly carried the enemy’s position in the Quarries—at the first rush and without much loss—pushed rapidly on and joined their comrades under Captain Corbett, who had meanwhile driven the enemy out of their trenches and rifle-pits, and had pursued them to the furthest part of their works.<br>
As soon as our force had succeeded in establishing themselves in the Quarries, the working party, under Major Grant, advanced with gabions, and commenced reversing the parapet and constructing a covered way—from Egerton’s Pit to the Quarries—under the superintendence of Colonel Tylden, R. E.<br>
Shortly after it was dark the Russians, having rallied, advanced in great numbers—under cover of showers of grape—vigorously assailed our force, and succeeded in driving back into the Quarries those who were placed in advance; Colonel Shirley then sent in the reserve of 300 men, and the enemy was repulsed with heavy loss; he also telegraphed for reinforcements, which soon arrived and rendered the greatest assistance.<br>
The enemy renewed their attacks no less than six times during the night, and the 88th, with the 7th and 34th, repeatedly advanced and retired, fighting gallantly and stubbornly, across the ground occupied by the Russian trenches; not, however, without experiencing severe losses, for many a brave fellow fell in repelling these persevering and violent assaults. The last attack made by the enemy took place about three a.m.; shortly before this Colonel Shirley, when looking out over the parapet of the Quarries, observed the flat cap of a Russian soldier, who was creeping stealthily along so close to him, that the gallant colonel could easily have hit him over the head with the stick he habitually carried; an alarm being raised, the intruder was quickly disposed of. Notwithstanding the persistent attempts made by the enemy to retake their lost intrenchments, our force successfully repulsed all the attacks, and finally succeeded in keeping possession of all the works, so gallantly, though so dearly, captured.