March 27, 1854: The Crimean War begins.

The Crimean War was one of the first major conflicts to pit the Great Powers of Europe against each other following the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought between an alliance made up of the French, British, and Ottoman Empires (with support from Sardinia)  and the Russian Empire, with much of the action taking place on the namesake peninsula of Crimea, and it arose as a result of a number of different factors (though much of it centered around the slowly-decaying Ottoman Empire). In the summer of 1853, Tsar Nicholas I sent troops to Moldovia and Wallachia, principalities then under the control of the Ottomans, leading the Ottoman Empire to declare war on the Russians in October 1853, followed by the belated France and Great Britain on March 27 and 28 of the next year after Russian ships destroyed an Ottoman force at the Battle of Sinop. 

Like the American Civil War a decade later and an ocean away, the Crimean War was one of the first “modern” wars. Railroads, armored warships, and telegraphs were used, and William Howard Russell acted as one of the world’s first modern war correspondents when he covered the action for the Times; similarly, Roger Fenton presented some of the first examples of war photography to the public - his famous photo “Valley of the Shadow of Death" is pictured above. Wedged between the Napoleonic Wars and the 20th century, the Crimean War was also a conflict that combined elements of both, most obviously in that tactics had not yet caught up with technology. In addition, Russia’s defeat in the war proved to be one of the factors that led to Tsar Alexander II’s emancipation of Russia’s large population of serfs. The war cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides, and it was tremendously unpopular on both sides as well. 

Many of the cultural aspects of the war have outlived the military and political - for example, women like Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale (both of whom treated soldiers at the famous Siege of Sevastopol) are better-known than the conflict they served during, and the “Charge of the Light Brigade” at the Battle of Balaclava was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem

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    The founder of my family immigrated to America after he fought in this war (for the British).
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