During the Crimean War (1853–56), Charles George Gordon took part in the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–55), calling it "the last of the old sieges".

What made Sevastopol so "old fashioned" for a comment like that?

I can think of two reasons:

Another possibility, of course, is Gordon was just being romantic, but I would like to know if Sevastopol really marked an era in siege warfare, and if so, why.

From the Wikipedia article about the siege, linked above:

Sevastopol is one of the classic sieges of all time.


The context is clear in the previous paragraph. Charles George Gordon was referring to the end of "old arms and tactics of Frederick and Napoleon". Here's the full context:

It was in the battle of the Tchernaya, fought in August 1855, that the first foundations of the present kingdom of Italy were laid; and while the arms of France, England, and Russia were proving at Alma, Inkermann, Balaklava, and in the ten weary months of toil and bloodshed of the trenches, that the old arms and tactics of Frederick and Napoleon had become wholly obsolete, Moltke was quietly watching the costly experiment, and had already begun to apply to the Prussian army the lessons of change and improvement which the errors and failures of the rival antagonists were teaching.

"The last of the old sieges," Gordon had called that of Sebastopol. Of the old battles, old arms, old cannon, he might have added, and sorrowfully also have said, "the last of the old army too." ...

Charles George Gordon by Lt.-General Sir William F. Butler

So he's probably referring to the siege as the last using those old arms and tactics. The Crimean War as a whole marked many turning points in military technology and tactics - the Charge of the Light Brigade being a famous example, arguably the last of its kind. The changes were brought about by advancements in firearms technology, which Moltke the Elder observed. These changes continued to be seen in the Civil War, where we saw repeating rifles. The devastating effect of newer cannons and firearms made it more effective and crucial to perform coordinated, enveloping attacks, and reduced the effectiveness of line-breaking charges.

  • Charge of the Light Brigade "arguably the last of its kind"? What exactly do you call "its kind"? Cavalry was attempting to charge enemy positions even in the early days of World War I (with disastrous results). If I remember correctly, there was even cavalry-on-cavalry combat as late as World War II. (Though not on the scale of the Crimean War, granted.)
    – DevSolar
    Nov 17 '16 at 9:22
  • 1
    @DevSolar don't read too much into that statement; I only meant to point out that the charge illustrated a turning point in cavalry vs artillery engagements. The cavalry managed to complete the charge and disengage although suffering heavy casualties and achieving very little. Before this, cavalry vs artillery tended to heavily favour the cavalry. After, successful charges against equally equipped enemies was extremely rare, the Death Ride probably being the true last example. Nov 17 '16 at 10:38
  • The charge of the light brigade was also likely a mistake or miscommunication - they were probably intended to pursue a group of cannons that were being repositioned, rather than intentionally being sent straight at an active battery. Dec 28 '16 at 2:22

C. G. Gordon died in 1885, so what was "last" for him is not necessarily last for us. So it is not clear what exactly you are asking. In what context he said this, and what he did exactly mean is also not clear. But long sieges happened in 20 century. For example:

Siege of Port Arthur, 5 months (1904-5).

Siege of the same Sevastopol (1942).

Siege of Leningrad 872 days (1941-44).

And there were many others in 20th century wars. All these sieges had most features of "classical" sieges: isolation of the city from supply routs, use of special siege artillery, repeated attacks, starvation of population (especially in the case of Leningrad).

  • Siege of Leningrad was really bad but Sevastapol was literally wiped off the map in World War 2. The Russians stilled believed in fortresses as late as then (1941-42.) Nov 17 '16 at 0:17
  • 3
    @user14294: Sevastopol was not wiped of the map. You can still see it on any good map, and even on Google Earth:-) I visited it in 1970s. and can confirm that it exists.
    – Alex
    Nov 17 '16 at 4:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.