This is an elaborately engraved view published as a supplement to the London Illustrated News in April of 1855, roughly in the middle of the ongoing siege at Sevastopol during the Crimean War. Focused on the harbor and the extensive allied fleet comprising ships of the British, French, and Turkish navies, the view gives us a glimpse of the noise, smoke and chaos that accompanied siege warfare during the middle of the 19th century. Regarding by some as the first "modern" war, the Crimean War was the first conflict to see large scale use of telegraph and rail lines, as well as technological developments such as exploding shells, naval mines, and rifled artillery. Furthermore, the siege of the city saw large scale use of trenches by the Russian defenders (alluded to by the puffs of smoke in the foothills) and was a portent of the type of warfare the would dominate the First World War. Ultimately, Sevastopol would fall after an eleven month siege and Russia would sue for peace the following year.
Many of the ships who participated in the siege are named at the bottom of the view, in addition to their armament (in number of guns). The Vladimir, the only Russian ship listed, would be deliberately sunk in 1855 as a harbor obstacle and so the cannons and crew could be used for land operations. It wouldn't be until the American Civil War, a mere five years after the Crimean War, that the supremacy of steam powered ironclads would make most of the ships depicted completely obsolete for naval warfare.