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2014 marks several key anniversaries in world conflicts that we’ll be covering this month—with the first one being the Crimean War Siege of Sevastopol (160th anniversary in September), where Russia fought against Britain, France, and other nations. In 1855, Russian troops were defeated and retired from Sevastopol. In 2014, they are again invested in the city, but annexation has replaced retreat.

The conflict is remembered from Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” the “Thin Red Line” (a term coined by a famous war-correspondent), Florence Nightingale, and the British Army’s role.

But, it was also the first photographed war and the first time the railroad, percussion cap, minié ball, and telegraph were used in a major conflict. Via telegraph, the war correspondents beat official dispatches to the home front making public opinion a more powerful force than ever before.

ProQuest coverage of the Crimean War is extraordinarily rich. Researchers can gain invaluable insight from contemporary reporting, commentary, and primary source documents via British Periodicals:
-- The Examiner’s reflections on the Battle of Alma, featuring the premature declaration that  “victory of the Alma is the destruction of Russian power in the Crimea”
-- Official dispatches printed following the Battle of Balaklava, featuring Lord Raglan’s attribution of the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade to “some misconception of the instruction to advance” and inflated claim that the attack “committed much havoc on the enemy”
-- Letters from combatants at the Battle of Inkerman, including one Allied artilleryman’s description of the sight of Russian infantry at close quarters, “dressed in their long grey coats and flat-glazed caps, firing most deliberately at our poor gunners, and picking them down like so many crows”

Via ProQuest Congressional Serial Set, researchers can explore the aftermath of the War, when the U.S War Department sent an army officer to study the state of war in Europe, including the Crimean battlefields. The report was published as a congressional document and is available in the ProQuest Congressional Serial Set Digital Collection. Included are maps, illustrations, and analysis of the Siege of Sevastopol, including a report on the art of war in Europe in 1854, 1855, and 1856, by Major Richard Delafield, Corps of Engineers, from his notes and observations made as a member of a "Military Commission to the Theater of War in Europe," under the orders of the Hon. Jefferson Davis, Secretary of War. <
 
[Photo above: Excerpt from the map entitled “Theatre of war in the Crimea in 1854-55.” ProQuest Serial Set Maps Digital Collection]

In reviewing the massive amount of materials necessary for the siege of Sevastopol (80,000 gabions, 60,000 fascines, and nearly 1M sandbags) Major Richard Delafield of the U.S. Corps of Engineers stressed the importance of the railroad: “For the first time in the art of war, and during this siege, was the railroad resorted to as a means of transport in presence of an enemy, and I feel warranted in saying that the English army could not have performed its immense labor without its use.” Major Delafield continued with his battlefield analysis of the types of ammunition, use of the telegraph, and a myriad of other military technologies.

For the first time independent war correspondents could report back in a more timely way than the official government dispatches. This made British public opinion a more immediately important force and laid bare the pitiful state of British logistics, professionalism, and preparedness. ProQuest Historical Newspapers™ offer first-hand accounts from the front.

[Photo to right: War correspondent’s description of the poor quality of the boots given to the British soldiers during the Siege of Sebastopol. ProQuest Historical Newspapers™, The Manchester Guardian (1828-1900), Feb 28, 1855]

Explore world conflicts this month. Librarians: sign up for free trials of British Periodicals, ProQuest Congressional Serial Set Digital Collection, ProQuest Historical Newspapers™, and more.

04 Apr 2014

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