Both parties still worked steadily at their trenches. The French were fortunate in having soft ground before them, and were rapidly pushing their advances up towards the Malakoff. This position, which could without difficulty have been seized by the allies at the commencement was in reality the key of the Russian position. Its guns completely commanded the Redan, and its position would render that post untenable, while the whole of the south side of Sebastopol would lay at our mercy. In front of the English the ground was hard and stony, and it was next to impossible to advance our trenches towards the Redan, and the greater portion of the earth indeed had to be carried in sacks on men’s backs from points in the rear.
The working parties were also exposed to a cross-fire, and large numbers of men were killed every day.
On the 31st a tremendous storm broke upon the camp, but the soldiers were now accustomed to such occurrences, the tents were well secured, and but little damage was suffered. Save for a few sorties by the Russians, the next fortnight passed quietly.
The cavalry were now pushed some distance inland, and the officers made up parties to ride through the pretty valleys and visit the villas and country houses scattered along the shores.
THE BATTLE OF THE TCHERNAYA
On the evening of the 15th of August several Tartars brought in news that the Russians were preparing for an attack; but so often had similar rumors been received that little attention was paid to their statements. It was known indeed that they had received very large reinforcements, and the troops had been several times called under arms to resist their repeated attacks. These, however, had all passed off quietly, and when the troops retired to rest none thought that a great battle was going to take place on the morrow.
The Tchernaya, after leaving the valley of Baidar, flows between a number of low swells of ground, and formed the front of the allied armies on the plains. On the extreme right the Turks were stationed. Next them came the Sardinians, whose position extended from a stream flowing into the Tchernaya at right angles to an eminence known as Mount Hasfort. In front, and divided from it by an aqueduct which, too, ran parallel to the river, was another hillock accessible from the first by a stone bridge at which the Sardinians had a breastwork. Their outposts extended some distance on the other side of the Tchernaya. The French occupied a series of hillocks to the left of the Sardinians, guarding the road leading from Balaklava to McKenzie’s farm. The river and aqueduct both flowed along their front. The road crossed the former by a bridge known as the Traktia Bridge, the latter by a stone bridge. In front of the Traktia Bridge was a breastwork.