At length, when night came on, the Russian general, seeing that the tremendous slaughter which his troops were suffering availed nothing, withdrew them from the attack.
As the French flag appeared on the Malakoff, the English covering parties leaped from the trenches, and rushed forward. As they did so a storm of shot and shell swept upon them, and a great number of men and officers were killed as they crossed the 250 yards between the trenches and the Redan. This work was a salient, that is to say a work whose centre is advanced, the two sides meeting there at an angle. In case of the Redan it was a very obtuse angle, and the attacks should have been delivered far up the sides, as men entering at the angle itself would be exposed to the concentrated fire of the enemy behind the breastworks which ran across the broad base of the triangle. The projecting angle was, however, of course the point nearest to the English lines, and, exposed as they were to the sweeping fire of the enemy while crossing the open, both columns of assault naturally made for this point.
The Russian resistance was slight, and the stormers burst into the work. The abattis had been torn to pieces by the cannonade, and the men did not wait for the ladders, but leapt into the ditch and scrambled up on the other side.
The Russians within ran back, and opened a fire from their traverses and works in the rear. As the English troops entered, they halted to fire upon the enemy, instead of advancing upon them. The consequence was that the Russians, who were rapidly reinforced, were soon able to open a tremendous concentrated fire upon the mass of men in the angle, and these, pressed upon by their comrades who flocked in behind them, impeded by the numerous internal works, mixed up in confusion, all regimental order being lost, were unable either to advance or to use their arms with effect. In vain the officers strove by example and shouts to induce them to advance. The men had an idea that the place was mined, and that if they went forward they would be blown into the air. They remained stationary, holding their ground, but refusing to go forward.
Every minute the Russians brought up fresh reserves, and a terrific fire was concentrated upon the British. The officers, showing themselves in front, were soon shot down in numbers, and success, which had been in their hands at first, was now impossible.
For an hour and a half the slaughter continued, and then, as the Russian masses poured forward to attack them, the remnant who remained of the storming parties leaped from the parapet and made their way as best they could through the storm of bullet and shot, back to the trenches.