The Battle of Alma was a military engagement between the Russian Army and the Anglo-French coalition forces, on September 20, 1854, near the River Alma, in the Crimea, during the Crimean War. Outnumbered, the Russian Army was defeated by the Allies, losing about 5,500 men in the battle.
Commanded by Lord Raglan and Jacques St Arnaud, the expedition had reached the Crimea on the September 13, 1854. The five following days were occupied in landing troops and stores, and on September 19, the Allies moved southwards from the spot on which they had disembarked towards Sebastopol. They found the Russian army strongly posted on the banks of the Alma, a little river which rises in the highlands in the east, and flows, after a westerly course, into the Euxine. The Russians, who were under the command of Menschikoff, and who numbered some 40,000 men, occupied a strong position which had been fortified with much care. St. Arnaud, who commanded the right of the allied army, proposed to turn the Russian left by crossing the Alma at a point which the enemy had neglected to occupy, while the English by a similar movement would attack their right wing.
The idea which was thus formed was only partially carried out. The flanking movement of the French occupied time, and the troops who undertook it found themselves too far removed from the Russian columns to engage in any very serious fighting. So, the brunt of the battle fell on the left wing of the Allies, or the English army. Fighting in line against the Russians massed in column, the English enveloped their enemies with their fire, and forced them, after obstinate resistance, to withdraw. Their retreat was quickened into a disordered flight by the presence of the French on their left flank, and the allied armies found themselves undisputed masters of the field.
The battle reflected little credit on any of the commanders. Menschikoff, indeed, chose his position with prudence and strengthened it with judgment. But he displayed no tactical skill during the battle. He reduced the front of an army, too small for the ground which it held, by massing his men in needlessly heavy columns, and, like Napoleon on the day of Quatre Bras and Ligny, wasted whole regiments by marching and counter-marching them to points which he had either neglected to occupy or which were exposed to an unusually heavy assault. His subordinates made no effort to repair the errors of their chief. Although the Russians were superior in cavalry, they omitted to employ it as they never once attempted to deploy the regiments which were decimated by the English fire. To St. Arnaud a slightly higher praise may be given. His original conception of the battle was bold and skilful, but its execution was weak and tardy.