After a dispute with the Ottoman Empire over the guardianship of several holy towns in Palestine and the protection of Orthodox Christians, Russia invaded Moldavia and Walachia, both semi-autonomous vassals of the Ottoman Empire, resulting in a declaration of war by the Ottomans in late 1853. The Russians, under the command of a hero of Navarino sea battle admiral Nakhimov, sank the Ottoman fleet at Sinope on November 30. The Ottomans were joined by Britain and France on March 28, 1854, and by Sardinia in January 1855. Austria also threatened to enter the war on the Ottoman side, causing the Russians to withdraw from the occupied areas, which were immediately occupied by the Austrians, in August 1854.
The following month, though the immediate cause of war was withdrawn, allied troops landed in the Crimea and besieged the city of Sevastopol, home of the tsar's Black Sea fleet and a threat of future Russian penetration into the Mediterranean. The Russians had to scuttle their ships and used the naval cannons as the additional artillery, and the ships' crews as the marines. Admiral Nakhimov was mortally wounded in the head by a sniper shot, and died on June 30, 1855. The city was finally captured in September 1855. In the same year, the Russians occupied the Turkish/Armenian city of Kars.
The war became infamously known for military and logistical incompetence, epitomized by the Charge of the Light Brigade immortalized in Tennyson's poem. Cholera undercut French preparations for the siege of Sevastopol, and a violent storm on the night of November 14, 1854 wrecked nearly thirty vessels with their precious cargoes of medical supplies, forage, clothing and other necessaries. In the desperate winter that followed, scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers, which was covered by war correspondents for newspapers, prompted the work of Florence Nightingale, introducing modern nursing methods. The Crimean War was also the first in which tactical use was made of railways.
Most Interesting Side Note: The Crimean War occasioned the invention of hand rolled "paper cigars" - cigarettes - by French and British troops who copied their Turkish comrades in using old newspaper for rolling when their cigar-leaf rolling tobacco ran out or dried and crumbled.
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