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The Crimean War

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The Crimean war (1854-1856) demonstrates fundamental changes in the nature of warfare. * Identify the ways in which wars were changing with examples (tactical implications of the changes) * Explain root causes of these changes

The Crimean war demonstrated the fundamental changes in the nature of warfare. This essay will examine the changes in the nature of warfare. Looking at what caused these changes and how they differed from times before. The Crimean war represents the first major political war. Beforehand war had been about the glory of a nation not political gain.

The Crimean war marked a transition in the way war was fought. It is arguably the beginning of modern warfare. The Napoleonic era had preceded the Crimean war. Napoleon changed the meaning and tactics of warfare, of pre 1792. Men did not take up arms for a King, but for a nation, to defend ones nation from the horrors of being occupied, this can be seen in the French revolution. Napoleon created the concept of a large-scale war, with his ‘Grande Armee,’ to defeat the enemy, a concept adopted by the king’s armies of Europe at the end of this period. However, the armies fighting in the Crimea did not adopt this. This therefore demonstrates a fundamental change in the nature of warfare. No longer did we see the use of large armies, but small professional armies, such as the British expeditionary force. Armies were no longer large rabbles of largely untrained conscripted men, rather professional well-trained men.

Napoleons tactics such as ‘marching dispersed,’ proved effective and therefore was copied by the king’s armies. This was an effective tactic on large battlefields, however the small mountainous terrain of the Crimea, meant that warfare was more static. Pre-1854 men would fight on large expanses of land in formation; we would not have seen a dug in defensive position. But the Crimean war introduce the world to trench warfare. This is seen in WW1 and again illustrates a fundamental change in warfare since pre 1854. The Russians used this new style of trench warfare to their advantage at Sebastopol. Their weaponry was limited; they could not stand up to the heavy bombardment by the allies. The trenches provided much needed heavy protection, which also prolonged the war.

The period before the Crimean war was one of nationalism, liberalism and militarism, a time where men would fight for their rights and a nation, this can be seen in the reasons for the outbreak of French revolution. Times were changing leading up to the Crimean war. Nations wanted professional armies once more, people who could defend foreign interests, and increase ones power over Europe. This paved the way for political warfare, less about protecting a nation, like the French revolutionary armies wanted, and more about preserving political interests. The transition from impulse warfare to a political style of warfare also demonstrates a fundamental change in warfare because of the reasons of war are different.

The root causes of the changes demonstrated in the Crimean war are firstly and most importantly the impact of Industrial age on warfare. It can be argued that if the industrial revolution did not take place then the shape of Europe could be very different today. Before 1815 Europe saw large armies of men equipped with very standard mass-produced weaponry, this weaponry was very unreliable and inaccurate. The Crimean war demonstrated how mass production, the factory system and the improvement of technology all contributed to the vast improvements in warfare. Napoleons weapons e.g. rifles and artillery were all limited in comparison to the weapons used in the Crimea. These limitations included short-range firing, misfiring and a slow rate of fire.

The Crimean war was a testing ground for all the new weapon technology developed in the industrial age. These weapons demonstrated a fundamental change in the nature of warfare. Warfare was more destructive then the now (seen as limited) Napoleonic warfare. Rifled barrels gave grater range and accuracy to the firer, enabling warfare to be fought from longer distances. The minie bullet, increase the rate of fire, from 3 round a minute in the Napoleonic era to 6 rounds a minute in the Crimea. This show the impact the Industrial age had on the nature of warfare.

The allies at Sebastopol developed effective Siege tactics, by launching an artillery bombardment and then following it with an infantry assault this was a new style of warfare that had never been seen before, and therefore was effective. The Russians were still stuck in the past and persisted with a Napoleonic column charge, and other frontal assaults. Clearly, with new weaponry the allies were at an advantage. Therefore this for proves how far warfare has changed since the tactics of Napoleon, longer-range warfare had out shone frontal attacks. The advance in the technology of weapons is a clear root of how the ways warfare is fought, has changed.

The introduction of quicker means of transport and information gave the allies an advantage over the Russians in the Crimea. The allies used steamboats to transport supplies and men across to the Crimea in only weeks. In contrast, the Russians had not caught up with technology and had to march for months to reach the conflict. This clearly shows a fundamental change. The only comparison we can make to this speed is the policy Napoleon used to pillage and make his armies live of the land, wilts moving quickly across Europe. The telegraph had also never been seen before the Crimean war. It helped relay messages to a central command, however this did not work properly, as seen with the break down of communications, leading to the infamous attack of the light brigade. W.H Russell was the first war correspondent that brought the Crimean war to the public’s attention; therefore it was the first war to be scrutinized by the public every day. This was a new concept that had never been seen before and the Crimean war was the first to demonstrate it, how the people could influence a war.

The Crimean war demonstrates fundamental changes in the nature of warfare. Its roots of change grew from advanced weaponry which intern changed the tactics of warfare. New transport technologies increased the speed of deployment and supplies to the battle area never seen before. The telegraph and war correspondent showed the world what was happening in every battle of the war. Finally, the days of impulse warfare were over and political warfare was in full force at the Start of the Crimean war. Many people did not want the Crimean war as it was only a political war, it did not show the glory of the British Empire therefore, “(1) The end of the Crimean war, was marked by modest festivities in Britain. There was general disappointment that peace had come before the troops had scored a major victory to equal
that of the French at Sevastopol and that they failed to carry out a broader war against Russia.

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