Captain Maximillian Montague Hammond, 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade. Killed in the assault on the Great Redan at Sevastolpol in the Crimea on 8th September, 1855.

William Osmund Hammond by Henry Tanworth Wells. An 1855 portrait in chalks
William Osmund Hammond by Henry Tanworth Wells. An 1855 portrait in chalks

Maximillian Montague Hammond  was born on 6th May, 1824, the third son of William Osmund Hammond, Esq.,  of St. Alban’s Court in Nonington and Mary Graham, eldest daughter of Sir Henry Oxenden of Broome Park near Denton.

His older brothers were William Oxenden Hammond, born in 1817, his father’s heir, and Egerton Douglas Hammond, who became a clergyman and was the editor of  “Memoir of Captain M.M. Hammond, Rifle Brigade” published in 1858 in memory of Maximilian after his death in the Crimea. This memoir is the main source of the information used  in this article about the life and death of Maximilian Hammond. It is composed of Captain Hammond’s letters to various family members and friends with explanatory notes and comments added by his brother. The letters are not always in chronological order, and the memoir is sometimes confusing to read.

Despite having lost the thumb of his right hand in a boyhood accident involving a powder flask, Maxy, as he was known by his family,  became a career soldier and studied at The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. On  leaving Sandhurst, aged around 16,  Mazy was awarded “without purchase” an ensigncy in the 66th Regiment of Foot, later The Berkshire Regiment, but never joined the 66th as before he could do so he gained a second lieutenancy, probably by purchase, in the 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade {known as The Rifles].

William Osmund Hammond, Maxy’s father,  had held a commission in the East Kent Yeomanry Cavalry in the 1830’s and  William Oxenden Hammond, Maxy’s eldest brother, had joined the Rifles as a cornet in August of 1838 before transferring as a 2nd lieutenant into the more fashionable 17th Lancers in January of 1840. In the early 1840’s two cousins of Maxy’s, Julius Richard Glyn and Charles Vernon Oxenden were also commissioned into The Rifles, in 1841 and 1844 respectively, and Maxy and his cousins all served with The Rifles in the Crimea. A nephew of Maxy’s, William Whitmore Hammond, who was the son of Egerton Hammond, Maxy’s older brother and biographer, also served in The Rifles, and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel and on his death in 1918 was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Nonington, where there is a stained glass window to his memory.

Until the Cardwell Reforms of 1871 the most common way of obtaining a commission in the British Army was by purchase. In 1837 a cornet’s or ensign’s commission, the lowest commissioned ranks, could be purchased from around £400 [now around £40,000-£45,000] for a commission in an unfashionable regiment, whilst a lieutenant-colonelcy in a similar regiment would cost from £4,500 [now around £450,000-£500,000]. In 1832 the Earl of Cardigan, of Charge of the Light Brigade fame, was said to have purchased the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 15th  Regiment of Calvary,  later The King’s Hussars, at a reported premium of £35,000 (equivalent to £3,500,000-£4,000,000) before later being granted command of the 11th Hussars in 1836.

Maxy had a life long love of dogs and  he tearfully bid goodbye to his dog, Boxer, when the newly commissioned Lieutenant Hammond, some fellow officers, and 100 volunteers from the 1st battalion embarked at Dover in June of 1840 bound for service with the 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade,  in Nova Scotia in Eastern Canada. The 1st Battalion at that time was based in Dublin. so the 100 men appear to volunteer  re-enforcements for the 2nd battalion in Nova Scotia.

Maxy appears to have enjoyed the scenery of Nova Scotia but there were conflicts between locals and the garrison in Halifax. In late summer of 1842 Maxy wrote home to England, describing his new posting: “I continue to think this is the stupidest place in the world; the people are not in the least civil to us and do not seem to show any desire to become acquainted with us; but what can’t be cured must be endured.”  This view would have probably been short lived as in 1844 Maxy Hammond came under the influence of the well known  Dr. J. T. Twinning, an officiating chaplain in the Halifax garrison and an active evangelical. Maxy “converted” to Dr. Twinning’s evangelical Christianity and with other well-meaning officers was soon teaching in the garrison’s Sunday school. However, this was disapproved by senior officers of as it was believed to encouraged familiarity with the men, and Maxy and his fellow officers were  forbidden by specific order from teaching in the Sunday School.  After the teaching was forbidden Maxy began to use his own money in furtherance of his newly acquired Christian beliefs by funding temperance lectures, founding reading rooms, and awarding prizes for attendance at evening classes.
Maxy Hammond served in and around Halifax in Nova Scotia until 1849 when the now Captain Hammond returned to England to a posting at Parkhurst Barracks on the Isle of Wight. Within a year or so of his return he married Rosa Ann Pennington and they honeymooned in the Lake District. In 1851 Maxy was posted to Chatham in Kent where he was active in The Army Prayer Union and other Christian activities to improve soldiers spiritual well being. 

1853-55 Contemporary satiracal map of the crimean conflict
A contemporary satirical map of Europe showing the principle combatants of the Crimean War and the “neutral” Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Crimean War (1854-56) was fought by an alliance of Great Britain, France, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia against Imperial Russia. The Austro-Hungarian Empire under Franz-Josef I was keen to expand its influence and territories in the Balkans at the expense of Ottoman Turkey and while taking no military action  active part in the conflict they did strongly influence  Russia’s military strategy in the Balkans.
Since 1852 France had been ruled by the self-proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte who had similar empirical ambitions to his uncle. The Crimean War was the only major European conflict the British Army engaged in between 1816 and 1914 and the campaign revealed the military and logistical incompetence of the British Government and the British Army leadership as well as highlighting the bravery and endurance of its soldiers.

The hostilities began with Russia’s invasion of the Turkish Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia (now Romania). Great Britain and France both wanted to prop up the ailing Ottoman Empire, known as the Sick Man of Europe, and resist Russian expansionism in the Balkans and the Near East. Russia was also seeking a freely accessible naval port in the Mediterranean as the Mediterranean from its Black Sea ports via the Bosphorus, which was under Ottoman control. Russia was also interested in gaining a port on the Indian Ocean and had plans to expand through Central Asia into Afghanistan and on to the coast of Persia or Baluchistan in British controlled India.
Russia attempted an invasion of the Ottoman Empire through the Caucus Mountains and fought a largely successful war against the Turks in Armenia, whilst at the same time the British and French fleets operated in the Baltic Sea and blockaded Russia’s Baltic ports and its capital St. Petersburg.
British and French armies concentrated at Varna on the Black Sea in June of 1854 to assist the Turks in repelling the Russian invasion of Moldavia and Wallachia in what became known as the Danube Campaign. The Russians were defeated by Ottoman Turkey at Silistria in the summer of 1854 and retreated to the northern side of the River Danube. This retreat made the presence of British and French forces at Varna unnecessary, and the British government, influenced by public opinion at home, decided that the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s base at Sevastopol should be taken. The French government of the recently self-proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte with familial empirical ambitions,    agreed with the British and  on 14th September, 1854,  the Allies landed on the north-west coast of the Crimea at Calamita Bay and began the Crimean War proper.

Soon after the outbreak of hostilities against Russia in early 1854 Captain Hammond and the 2nd battalion embarked at Portsmouth for Malta, and  after a short stay on the island sailed on “The Golden Fleece” to near Gallipoli in the Dardanelles where the battalion disembarked and encamped. After the arrival of Lord Raglan, the British commander, along with re-enforcements the battalion marched with the rest of the army to Constantinople [Istanbul] and then on into what is now present day Bulgaria where they joined with  Turkish and French forces  to advance towards Silistria, near the Black Sea port of Varna,  which was then besieged by an invading Russian army as part of what became known as the Danube Campaign, the pre-cursor to the Crimean War proper.
When the besieging Russian commanders became aware of the advancing allies they became fearful of entrapment  between the advancing relief force and a sally by the town’s Turkish garrison and ordered a retreat to secure positions north of the River Danube. After the relief of Silistria the British troops encamped on marshy ground near to the port of Varna and cholera soon broke out, affecting large numbers of British soldiers and causing many fatalities. Captain Hammond succumbed to and survived a bout of cholera, but  it was some weeks before he was able to resume his duties as an officer.

Rifle Brigade: Battle of Inkerman on 5th November 1854 in the Crimean War: print by Ackermann
Officer and Riflemen of the Rifle Brigade: at the Battle of Inkerman on 5th November 1854 in the Crimean War: print by Ackermann

In late August of 1854 Captain Hammond and his battalion boarded the “Pride of the Ocean” in the port of Varna where the vessel remained until early September with the troops still on board. During this delay Maxy once more became ill, and when the “Pride of the Ocean” finally sailed he was too ill to disembark with his men when the ship arrived at its destination near the port of Sevastapol to the Crimea and Maxy had to return to the hospital at Scutari to recuperate for a second time. Captain Hammond was very disparaging about the medical facilities at Scutari and wrote home about the horrific loss of life due to the conditions and woeful medical attention given to British soldiers and sailors in the infamous hospital there. These losses  in the hospital at Scutari continued until Florence Nightingale, who became known as “The Lady of the Lamp”, was able after much hinderance by the medical establishment to introduce and enforce standards of nursing and hygiene that greatly reduced fatalities from disease and infection in the hospital. In the Crimea itself Mary Seacole, a lesser known but equally important Jamaican born nursing pioneer, ran “The British Hotel” for convalescing officers behind the lines in the Crimea and also tended to the wounded on the battlefield.

Captain Hammond made an incomplete recovery from his illness and was not deemed fit enough to serve with his battalion in the Crimea.  A medical board recommended his return to England and he landed there in early October of 1854 to begin his convalescence at home at St. Alban’s Court in Nonington, and in Southsea, where he had taken a house. When Maxy was well enough he returned to duties at the regimental depot and throughout the early part of 1855 he was somewhat in limbo as a  series of orders for him to return to active duty in the Crimea were made and then countermanded. The finally confirmed orders for him to go to the Crimea, despite a request by his commanding office that he should remain in charge of the depot, came through in early August of 1855.

After  farewell dinners at St. Alban’s Court and  Southsea for family and friends Maxy embarked for service in the Crimea on the “Harbinger”. After stopping of at Malta in late August the ship sailed on to the Crimea via Constantinople and arrived in the Balaklava anchorage off the coast of the Crimea on 5th September where Captain Hammond disembarked and joined his regiment.

Plan of the Great Redan, Crimean War 1855
Plan of the Great Redan defending Sevastapol, Crimean War 1855. A redan is a V-shaped defensive feature which points towards an expected attack,

On 8th September, 1855, the 2nd battalion of the Rifle Brigade took part in an assault on the Great Redan as part of the Light Division’s covering force. The Great Redan was one of the two main strong points of port of Sevastopol’s defences which British and French forces had been unsuccessfully besieging since the 18th of June of that year, the other being the Malakoff Redoubt. Sevastapol was heavily fortified and defended as it was the capital of the Crimea and the home port of the Russian Black Sea fleet.
In the early part of the siege the British and their French allies mounted an unsuccessful assault on Sevastopol’s main defensive positions and subsequently dug in for a protracted siege. During this second assault upon Sevastapol’s defences French forces were to attack and take the Mallakoff Redoubt and another strongpoint known as the Little Redan at the same time as the British were to assault and capture the Great Redan.

The assault was to take place on Captain Hammond’s first day on duty. When he rejoined his battalion he had requested to be restored to the command of his old company, and this request was granted. The battalion’s commanding officer had decided that due to a lack of familiarity with the Great Redan and its environs newly arrived officers, such as Captain Hammond, and their soldiers should be assigned to act as a reserve. The 2nd battalion, The Rifle Brigade, were a part of the 2nd Brigade of the Light Division, and were on detachment from the 1st Brigade of the Light Division to provide a covering force during the assault.

Some information regarding Captain Hammond’s part in the attack can be gleaned from “Memoir of Captain M.M. Hammond, Rifle Brigade” published in 1858 by Egerton Douglas Hammond, Maxy’s older brother.  Letters written by participating army officers after the failed assault and eventual surrender of the Great Redan give some indications of Captain Hammond’s courage and devotion to what he believed to be his duty as a British officer. However, the letters are written in the romanticised “Christian” style of the period and depict some events accordingly.   The aforementioned “Memoir” has provided the greater part of the information used to compile the following description of the Assault on the Great Redan and subsequent death of Captain Maximilian Hammond.

British attack on the Redan on 8th September 1855: Siege of Sevastopol September 1854 to September 1855: picture by Robert Hillingford
British attack on the Redan on 8th September 1855: picture by Robert Hillingford

From its commencement the assault on the Great Redan met with heavy fire from its Russian defenders causing heavy losses to the attacking force, and the reserves were soon called into action, amongst them Captain Hammond’s detachment. When the 2nd Rifles were called forward through the British trenches they came under a heavy flanking fire from Russian defensive positions and on arrival in the front trenches they remained under fire until they left the shelter of the trenches to cross the open ground in front of the Great Redan to assail its defences. The 2nd Rifles  crossed the open ground in front of the Great Redan under more heavy fire and continued to take heavy casualties until they reached a glacis forming part of the Great Redans defences. [A glacis is an artificial slope of earth up to a fortified position constructed so as to keep any potential assailant under the fire of the defenders until the last possible moment]. On reaching the glacis Captain Hammond appear to have paused in the glacis ditch for a few seconds alongside another officer before ascending a scaling ladder up into the Great Redan. The captain was apparently helped over the Redan wall by an officer friend and after a short conversation with this friend regarding the rallying of the attacking troops Captain Hammond went forward into the Great Redan where for a short time he was observed endeavouring in vain to restore order amongst the British riflemen. On noting that Captain Hammond was in some pain from a wounded hand another officer to him he should return to the rear to receive attention but Captain Hammond refused to do so and told this officer he should try and collect some men together and attack the other flank of the Great Redan. After giving this order Captain Hammond went forward into the heart of the Great Redan where along with a colour sergeant, and one or two rifleman he was reported as engaging for a short time in initially successful hand-to-hand combat before finally being overwhelmed and bayoneted by Russian soldiers. Captain Hammond appears to have died whilst being tended to by an officer of the 41st Regiment.

Another record of of the events of the assault on the Great Redan by the 2nd Rifles 8th September of 1855  is to be found in an Ebook, “The History of the Rifle Brigade (the Prince Consort’s Own) Formerly the 95th” by William Henry Cope, released on 3rd August, 2019, which provides a more general account of the actions of 2nd Rifles  during the assault on the Great Redan, and a more comprehensive contemporary account of the death of  Captain Hammond.

“On September 8, when the assault was to take place, one half of the 1st Battalion being in the trenches under Colonel Norcott, the remainder, consisting of about 280 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Somerset, moved out of camp at eleven A.M. and took up a position in reserve on the Woronzow road.

The 2nd Battalion furnished a covering party for the assault of the Redan consisting of 100 men, under the command of Captain Fyers, who were to cover the advance of the ladder party, and to keep down the fire from the parapet; a party, also of 100 men, under Captain Balfour, occupied some broken ground and a Russian rifle-pit in front of and to the right of our most advanced works, who were also directed to keep down the fire from the parapet. With the same object two parties of 50 men each under Lieutenants Baillie and Playne, were stationed, one in the fifth parallel, and one in the Woronzow road. The remainder of the Battalion, about 230 men under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonell, took part in the general attack.

These men had to advance 150 yards, exposed to a most terrible fire in front and flank. This attack, most gallantly carried out, was not entirely successful; though, as is well known, the operations of this day led to the abandonment of the works by the Russians, and the fall of the place.

During the night following this attack Major Woodford (who had been slightly wounded) and Captain Balfour, with about 150 Riflemen, occupied the stone screen, the rifle pit, and the cave above mentioned. Major Woodford (it is said) had obtained a promise from Sir Colin Campbell that, if his Highlanders assaulted the Redan on the next morning, these men should again form a covering party. But the dawn of the 9th revealed the fact that the Russians were abandoning the flaming town; and the services of these Riflemen, utterly exhausted by the fighting and excitement of the assault, were not required.

The 2nd Battalion lost 2 officers, Captain Hammond and Lieutenant Ryder, 4 sergeants and 19 rank and file killed. And 8 officers, Major Woodford, Captain the Hon. B. R. Pellew, Lieutenants Eyre, Riley, Eccles, Moore, Borough and Playne, 8 sergeants, 1 bugler and 128 rank and file were wounded.

The following interesting account of Captain Hammond and Lieutenant Ryder is extracted from a letter written by Staff Assistant-Surgeon Walter Clegg, dated September 9, 1855:

‘With Captain Hammond’s name you will be familiar, as I frequently mentioned to you the many acts of kindness I received from him when he commanded the Depôt at Fort Cumberland. A braver soldier never on that day mounted the Redan; a Christian of more unaffected piety never entered the presence of God.

‘He had only been in the Crimea forty-eight hours when he was killed. When the Rifles were forming for the assault, a young subaltern, going into action for the first time, who had come out with Hammond, addressed him: “Captain Hammond, how fortunate we are! we are just in time for Sebastopol.”

‘Hammond’s eye was gazing where the rays of the sun made a path of golden light over the sea, and his answer was short and remarkable, and accompanied by the quiet smile which those who knew him so well remember: “I am quite ready,” said he.

‘The next that was seen of Hammond was when his sword was flashing at one of the embrasures of the Redan. He was indeed at the head of his company, fighting to gain an entrance for them.

Interior of the Redan, Sevastopol, 1855 Photograph by James Robertson (1813-1888). National Army Museum, Study collection
The aftermath of the failed British assault. The scene within the defences of the Great Redan, Sevastopol, 9th September, 1855. The photograph was taken immediately after the Russian’s withdrew from it. Photograph by James Robertson (1813-1888). National Army Museum-Study collection

A dozen bayonets were at his heart and once he was dragged in a prisoner. In a few minutes he was recognised again outside the embrasure, still hacking with his sword. The next morning at six o’clock Captain Balfour found him in the ditch beneath a dozen of the slain, with a bayonet wound through his heart.

‘Hammond and Ryder were buried this afternoon in the burial-ground of the division, rendered sacred long ago by the sepulture of brave men. Ryder was barely eighteen years old.

‘Before the assault had lasted an hour he was shot in the throat and fell, and was carried to the rear and consigned to the surgeon. But as it happened the surgeon was engaged at the moment that Ryder was brought in, and the young Lieutenant tied his handkerchief round his throat, and was seen again on the ladder, and when he was found the next day in the ditch a bayonet thrust had transfixed his forehead.’

The deaths Captain Hammond and some 2,270 other  British officers and men during the storming of the Great Redan were in vain. British troops did breach the fortifications but became pinned down by  Russian fire from a barricade at the rear of the Redan that was so effective that the British attackers refused to advance further against the deadly fire and were subsequently forced to retreat and leave the Redoubt in Russian hands. 

However, the French were successful in their assault and captured both the Malakoff Redoubt and the Little Redan. The loss of these two defensive positions made the Russian defence of Sevastopol untenable and the Tsar’s forces abandoned the port the following day.
Before the British retreat an unsuccessful attempt  had been made at great risk  by a captain and men of the 72nd Highlanders to recover Captain Hammond’s body from the Great Redan, and it remained there until the following morning, presumably after the Russian had abandoned the defence works, when  a party of riflemen from Captain Hammond’s battalion found and recovered his body.
For a short time before his death Captain Hammond’s actions had, according to “The Memoir”, been observed by “a General W…, who, unaware of his fate,  subsequently recommended him in orders”. This “General W…” may have been General Sir Charles Ash Windham, “The Hero of the Redan”, whose personal bravery in leading the charge on the Great Redan was reported by William Howard Russell, the correspondent of The Times, as having “saved the honour of the army.”

Although  British troops breached the fortifications they became pinned down by Russian fire from a barricade at the rear of the Redan. The British troops refused to advance further against this deadly fire and were subsequently forced to retreat and leave the Redoubt in Russian hands.
The successful French assault and capture of the Malakoff Redoubt and the Little Redan made the Russian defence of Sevastopol untenable and the Tsar’s forces abandoned the port the following day.
According to “the Memoir”, “In one of the dark ravines near Sebastapol, undisturbed now by other sound than bell of browsing sheep, is the burial ground of The Light Division”, and “the Memoir” goes on to record:

The page in "the Memoir" recording the burial and subsequent memorials to Captain M.M. Hammond
Part of the page in “the Memoir” recording the burial and subsequent memorials to Captain M.M. Hammond of The Rifle Brigade.

I have found one other reference to Captain Hammond’s death in “A sketch of the life of Capt. Hedley Vicars, the Christian Soldier” by Catharine Marsh, an evangelical philanthropist and friend of Vicars, which was published in December of 1855.  Hedley Vicars arrived  in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the 97th Regiment in1847 so would have known Maxy Hammond. although both men were converted to evangelical  Christianity by Dr. J. T. Twinning, Hedley Vicars did not convert until 1851, some two years after Maxy returned to England. Lieutenant  Vicars  returned to England in May of 1853 and the two men would hane doubtless been in close contact in the furtherance of.their work with soldiers and, in the case of Hedley, civilian navvies. Lieutenant Vicars and the 97th  embarked at Southampton for the Crimea but were diverted to Greece  where they formed part of an Anglo-French occupation force suppressing the uprising in Epirus by Greek rebels seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire. Lieutenant Vicars was promoted Captain in November of 1854 and later that month the 97th  were selected to be one of six infantry battalions to form reinforcements for the forces in the Crimea, and after landing at Balaklava on 20th November  Captain Vicars and the 97th  took part in the siege of Sevastapol . It was on 22nd  March, 1855  in a skirmish with Russian troops during the siege of Sevastopol that Captain Vicars was killed. Captain Vicars had led his men in the retaking of trenches lost during a surprise Russian sortie during which he killed two Russian’s in hand-t-hand combat before being shot and fatally bayoneted, and for these actions Captain Vicars was mentioned in despatches on 6 April by Lord Raglan.  In the biography of Captain Vicars by Catharine Marsh  there is a footnote by the authoress to Captain Hammond’s name when it appears in a letter written by Hedley Vicars:

* CAPT. MAXIMILIAN HAMMOND, RIFLE BRIGADE.–This brave and Christian young officer fell in the Redan, while “making a pathway for his men, in the final assault upon Sebastopol, September 8th, 1855,” honored and beloved by all who knew him. Faithful unto death in the service of the King of Kings, as in his duty to his Queen and country, he has received, we doubt not, “a crown of glory, which fadeth not away.”

Captain Maximilian Hammond and Captain Hedley Vicars appear to have been well known and highly regarded in evangelical Christian circles at that time, with some evangelicals referring to them as “soldier saints” because of the two mens work in following their Christian beliefs and principles to try and improve the spiritual and physical well of ordinary soldiers in the British Army. 

The Hammond family of St. Alban’s Court in Nonington, Kent, erected a plaque in memory of Maximillian Montague Hammond in St. Mary’s Church in Nonington which can still be seen to this day.