There was but little order in the British ranks as they struggled forward up the hill. Even under this tremendous fire the men paused to pick grapes, and all the exertions of their officers could not maintain the regular line of advance. From a rising ground a Russian regiment kept up a destructive fire upon them, and the guns in the batteries on their flank fired incessantly. The slaughter was tremendous, but the regiments held on their way unflinchingly. In a few minutes the 7th had lost a third of their men, and half the 23d were down. Not less was the storm of fire around the 33d. Confused, bewildered and stunned by the dreadful din, Harry Archer struggled on with his company. His voice was hoarse with shouting, though he himself could scarce hear the words he uttered. His lips were parched with excitement and the acrid smell of gunpowder. Man after man had fallen beside him, but he was yet untouched. There was no thought of fear or danger now. His whole soul seemed absorbed in the one thought of getting into the battery. Small as were the numbers who still struggled on, their determined advance began to disquiet the Russians. For the first time a doubt as to victory entered their minds. When the day began they felt assured of it. Their generals had told them that they would annihilate their foes, their priests had blessed them, and assured them of the protection and succor of the saints. But the British were still coming on, and would not be denied. The infantry behind the battery began to retire. The artillery, left unprotected, limbered up in haste, and although three times as numerous as the men of the Light Division, the Russians, still firing heavily, retired up the hill, while, with a shout of triumph the broken groups of the 23d, the 19th, and 33d burst into the battery, capturing a gun which the Russians had been unable to withdraw.
Not long were the Light Division to enjoy the position they had won. Breathless, exhausted, bleeding, they were but a handful; and the Russians, looking down upon them and seeing that they were unsupported, again advanced in heavy masses, and the Light Division fell back.
Had their division had the whole of their strength they might have been enabled to hold the position they had won. But just as they crossed the river, there was an unfounded alarm of a cavalry attack on the flank, and the 77th and 88th were halted to repel this, and took no share in the advance by the rest of the division.
As the shattered regiments fell back before the Russians in a state of disorder, they saw advancing up the slope behind them the brigade of Guards in as regular order as if on parade. For a moment the splendid formation was broken as the disordered troops came down upon them. But opening their files they allowed the Light Division to pass through them, and then closing up again moved forward in splendid order, the Highland Brigade keeping pace with them on their left, while the regiments of the Light Division reformed in their rear and followed after.