The Battle of the Alma (20 September 1854), which is usually considered the first battle of the Crimean War (1853–1856), took place just south of the River Alma in the Crimea. An Anglo-French force under General St. Arnaud and Lord Raglan defeated General Menshikov's Russian army, which lost around 6,000 troops.
The Anglo-French forces landed on the western coast of the Crimean peninsula some 35 miles (56 km) north of Sevastopol, on 13 September 1854. Prince Alexander Menshikov, Commader-in Chief of the Russians forces in the Crimea, decided to make his stand on the heights above the south banks of the River Alma. Although the Russian Army was numerically inferior to the combined Anglo-French army (35,000 Russian troops as opposed to 60,000 British and French troops), the heights they occupied were a natural defensive position—indeed the last natural barrier to the allied armies on their approach to Sevastopol. Furthermore, the Russians had more than 100 artillery field guns on the heights.
The Crimean War was the first war in which the Minié ball was employed. Most British regiments in the Crimea had been fitted with the new type of shot that took advantage of the rifling inside the barrel of the new British guns. Thus, a spin was placed on the Minié ball in flight on its way to the target. This produced much more accuracy, over a much greater range,than the old style smooth bore muskets with which the Russian Army was supplied. Here at the Battle of the Alma, the Minié ball was to have a devastating impact on the Russians. The Russians had to be within 300 paces of the British to attain any kind of accuracy with their smooth bore muskets while the British began firing their rifled Minié balls accurately on the Russians at a distance of 1200 paces.
In the United Kingdom "Alma", as a girls' name, became popular as a result of the victory. Also numerous public houses and streets bear the name. In Paris, Pont de l'Alma is a bridge over the River Seine and other French streets are named after the battle. After the battle the Manx survivors made a pact that each man would name their first-born son Alma as a permanent reminder down the ages. Each son named Alma was to pass on the tradition to their own first-born son and name him Alma, and so on. A popular folk ballad of the time, The Heights of Alma, celebrates the battle.