My Early Soldering Days by Major-General William Allan
I have often been asked by friends and others to collect my husband’s letters written to his mother during his early soldiering days, including the Crimean Campaign; but in consequence of his objection to having what he calls “his old rubbish” put into print, I have only recently, and with difficulty, gained his consent.
Naturally, a General Officer looks upon his effusions written when a Subaltern as “rubbish,” so I would ask any one who is good enough to read the following extracts to recollect that they are taken from letters written unreservedly to his parents, and that at the date of their commencement he was only just emerging from boyhood, although he was soon to learn what war with all its stern realities meant. I would also beg any readers to bear in mind under what trying difficulties some of the letters were penned, though he seldom, if ever, allowed a week to pass without sending a letter home. Being mercifully preserved throughout the Campaign, he was able to do more trench work than most others, so I cannot but think that these notes – showing many minor details of his daily life during that eventful period – may prove interesting to others besides his immediate family circle.
Most of the Illustrations in the book are from photographs taken at the time of the War, and they are now reproduced for the first time; others we obtained when visiting the Crimea again in 1892. It is not easy to describe with what intense interest I went over the old sites and battlefields with my husband, and how glad I am I have had the pleasure of this most interesting and delightful trip before Russian restrictions precluded foreigners from so easily visiting Sebastopol.
J. H. ALLAN.
I began my military career when gazetted to the 41st, the Welch Regiment, on the 12th July 1850, at the age of eighteen, and joined at Cork on the 1st September. The regiment embarked the following February for the Ionian Islands, and was stationed for two years at Zante, when it was ordered to Malta. On the departure of the Service Companies, I, being one of the junior ensigns, was left with the Depôt, and quartered at Westport, Castlebar, Ballinrobe, and Boyle.
In June 1853, I left Southampton for foreign service, in the P. & O. S.S. Ripon, and landed with my brother ensigns, Swaby and Harriott, at Malta, on the 30th June, after an eventful incident during the voyage, which might have cut short my soldiering on my twenty-first birthday. On the night of the 22nd, having come through the Bay of Biscay, it was reported that we had passed a small boat, on which the officer of the watch, thinking it might be from some wrecked vessel, enquired of the captain if we should stop and hail her, but he received an answer in the negative. Soon after, a second boat came in sight, which caused suspicion that we were too near the coast of Spain. We were carrying sail, and going 11 knots. At 11 P.M., we ensigns, with four others of the 49th, Earle, Corbett, Armstrong, and Corban, had just retired to our cabins, when we suddenly heard a shout from the look-out man, “Breakers ahead!” followed immediately by the ship’s orders, “Down all sail,” “Stop her,” “Back her.” It was a dark and hazy night, but, fortunately for us, the moon appeared from beneath the clouds in time to show the danger into which we were running; a few minutes more and we must have been wrecked. Great excitement and consternation prevailed on board, as, when the vessel was stopped, we could see the breakers in front of us, and a large rock on our starboard quarter. Owing to the thick, foggy weather down Channel, and across the Bay, the ship’s officers had failed in taking sights, and it was found the strong current had drifted us 15 miles out of our course. The boats we had seen were fishing-boats. We took some of the men on board to help us out of our difficulty, and put us on our right course again. We had to back out from the shoal of rocks the same way as we had entered, and all felt thankful to have escaped what might have been a great catastrophe.
Fort Ricasoli, Malta, 18th July 1853
I cannot say my first impressions of Malta are very prepossessing; it may be a pleasant place in winter, but at present it is far too hot to be agreeable; with the thermometer standing at 80° at night. The heat at first quite knocked me up, but I am now getting used to it.
It is delightful boating, with a setting sun and a cloudless sky. One is not inclined to walk far in this climate, so rowing is the best exercise one can take. When it gets cooler, I shall hire a horse now and then, and explore the Island. It looks very desolate at present, as there is no grass, and the crops were reaped in May; added to which, the smell of garlic and the ugly women disgust one.
A fine new steamer arrived here yesterday from Southampton, called the Vedetta. She is to ply between Malta and Marseilles. She can go 17 knots an hour, and is built for speed to run the French packets off the line. This is a curious place; though on the direct line from India and Constantinople, we never hear any news except through England.
The Ripon had no deck cabins except the captain’s. Ours was in the front part of the vessel below the first deck. These vessels carry no steerage passengers. We passed too far from Algiers to have a good view of it.
One of the entrances to Valetta is by the Nix Mangiare Steps (i.e. “nothing to eat”), which gets its name from the number of beggars that are congregated there. From Fort Ricasoli, where I am quartered, to the town, is about a quarter of an hour’s row. The nearest route is across the Grand Harbour, where most of the shipping lies, and the fleet also.
To-morrow evening some of the few remaining English have been asked to the Officers’ Mess, to a sort of cold collation. I am sorry I cannot be one of the party, as I dine with the General at St Antonio. I should have liked to have made the acquaintance of some people; as yet, I do not, know any. There are very few I am told at present in Malta worth knowing. I may meet some ladies at the General’s, if it is not a gentlemen’s party.
There were great illuminations in the town the other evening in honour of the Virgin Mary, and several processions the next day; two military bands played in front of the palace from nine till midnight.
The strawberries here are now all over. When I first came I had a large plateful every morning at breakfast of the Alpine kind.
Swaby, Harriott, and I are going up for our examination at Fort Manoel on Wednesday. I drilled a company this morning, and found I got on swimmingly, but the sun is dreadfully hot even at 6 A.M.
Last evening I dined at St Antonio. The General is a very nice old fellow. There is no humbug or formality about him, and he received me in such a kind friendly manner. I had a long chat with him. He says he is going to write to father, and he asked me to drop in some day at 2 P.M. and take a family dinner; or any evening I was riding out in their direction, to come in and have tea and refreshment. We had a very pleasant party at dinner, eighteen in number, no ladies, and almost all redcoats. After dinner we adjourned to the drawing-room, where we met Mrs Jarvis, Miss Jenkins, and Miss Younger. After a cup of tea, we all went out on to the verandah, and enjoyed iced drinks, cigars, etc. What a luxury ice is in this climate!
Returning home in the evening, we had a chapter of accidents; I think the drivers had been indulging too freely at the General’s expense. Bush and I were in a carriage together. Shortly after starting, our driver let the reins get under the tail of one of the horses, which made it jib, and nearly sent us against the wall. We had not proceeded much further when the horse kicked over the pole and fell, so we cleared out and got into one of the other conveyances, and after going about a mile, we came upon a carriage lying at the road-side, broken to pieces. The coachman had run into another vehicle, and was thrown off the box, had his arm fractured and head cut. Strickland, of the Commissariat, had his head severely bruised, and two others were more or less hurt. We removed the unfortunate driver into one of the carriages, and drove him to the hospital. I don’t think that he is dangerously hurt. There is little doubt that by this time it is reported in the garrison that we were all drunk, having had so many mishaps. We came home at a racing pace; the drivers must all have been a little “lushey.”
For more than a week I have been a good deal engaged attending a General Court-Martial. The paymaster of the —th regiment is being tried for making away with public money entrusted to his care; and what with writing, exercises, and studying for my Italian master, my time has been very much taken up. This hot weather is not at all conducive to work. I have now been here exactly a month. The impression I have formed of Malta is not a very delightful one; the thermometer is 87° by day, and 83° at night. I am not yet home-sick, although I fancy there are very few places like “Merrie Old England.”
The Indus is in sight; we expect Captain Bourne by her; he exchanged with Bagot. I am also in hopes that I may hear something of my lieutenancy, as I think Bertram will have to sell, or even if he is allowed to join the Depôt, the change would send Johnston out here, which I do not think would suit the old boy with his family.
Ten days ago, Handcock, Fitzroy, and I were out sailing in the evening; it was blowing pretty fresh, and the sea was high. We went a short distance, then took a tack round by the Quarantine Harbour to Fort Manoel, where the headquarters of the regiment is stationed. On our return home we noticed a boat in our wake. It was by that time becoming dark, and as we were passing Fort St Elmo, a squall caught us, and if Handcock had not let go the sheet, we should have capsized. Hearing a shout, we looked round, and found the sail we had previously seen had disappeared, so we immediately took down our canvas and put about, but the shutters (where the oars are placed) had got so swollen with the wet, that it took us some time to get the oars out. It was nearly a quarter of an hour before we reached the boat, which was keel uppermost In a minute or two we were much relieved by a Maltese boat coming up alongside of us, with a soldier in it (Private Anderson, of our regiment). He called out that it was Mr Bligh’s boat that was upset, and that he had been sailing with him, but Bligh is a first-rate swimmer, and had succeeded in reaching St Elmo point. It was almost a miracle that he was not dashed to pieces against the rocks, there was such a heavy sea. The soldier, who is not a great hand at swimming, was nearly exhausted when he was picked up by the native boatmen. Bligh did not know much about sailing, but he saw us going out, and thought there was no reason why he should not follow. Handcock is an experienced hand, otherwise he would not have found me in his boat that night. It has taught us all a lesson to be more careful in future. I must now go out in my boat and, get some rowing exercise. I have not got a sail for her yet, but propose going round to-night to the other harbour to see about it.
I intended to have despatched this by the Indus, but will now post it to-morrow via Marseilles, and trust that it may not be over a quarter of an ounce; if it is, it must wait for the Southampton, as I do not think it is worth 2s. 9d. I met the General when riding the other evening. I intend going out to St Antonio on Thursday with Bush, and stopping to tea, if they are at home.
Captain Bourne arrived by the Indus; we hope to get a step out of him shortly, by showing him the “dust” (money) that the 17th could not produce. He offered to sell for £700 over regulation, but they could not make it up; Bagot gave him £250, and a free passage to exchange. He will easily get the £700 in this regiment, if he is still anxious to go, and I sincerely trust he may be, as I do not know where to look for my lieutenancy, if he does not sell. Bertram is in for a long spell of sick-leave.
The General Court-Martial wound up its proceedings on Saturday. There is no doubt E— will be cashiered, and it will be fortunate for him if he only receives two years and not transportation. We shall not know the sentence till it has been laid before Her Majesty.
The captain of the Ripon, on returning to Southampton, ran down a coal barge, and, I hear, is likely to be suspended for six months. I have not seen anything of the Governor. He does not entertain much at this season, as he lives in the country.
I returned yesterday from my travels (having spent a very pleasant month in Italy), exceedingly delighted with all I have seen. My only regret was having so short a time to see the numerous works of art. However, I visited all the principal sights and ruins, and came back in a French packet, after a boisterous voyage. The Museum at Florence is most interesting; there is a wonderful collection of waxworks there, consisting of wax flowers; the gradual development of the human frame from a skeleton, dissected and put together again, so, that a person, totally unacquainted with anatomy, can easily follow its entire construction; an egg from the day it is laid until the day the chick comes forth; the different stages a moth goes through, several species of fish, and innumerable other animals, all beautifully executed. But there was nothing I was so much struck with, as the wonderful models of the human frame.
The Cathedral at Florence is very beautiful, but before leaving Italy, I was heartily sick of seeing churches. Santa Croce is the finest in Florence. There are so many galleries, with lovely paintings and sculpture to visit and study, that one could well spend a couple of months in Florence. I regretted much that I only had a week to spare there.
The Austrians are hated throughout Tuscany, and the King is in very bad odour; he is at present residing at Pisa. The Tuscans have to pay for the occupation of the Austrian troops. I went by rail through a fertile country from Florence to Siena. The Cathedral is well worth a visit; the marble pavement is of Florentine mosaic, and very rich. The road from Siena to Borne is uninteresting, and surrounded by low volcanic hills; the journey takes thirty-six hours. I remained at Rome ten days, and made the most of my time, seeing all the principal objects. What wonders still remain of ancient Rome! They certainly made monuments and masonry in those days to stand. I had no idea the baths of the Emperors covered such a large area, or that they were on such an extensive scale. I am sorry I devoted too much time to the private palaces and churches, as I had not sufficient left to see the Vatican properly, although I was there a whole day and part of another; it is only open to the public on Mondays, but a tip will unclose many a bolt. To see the Palace thoroughly would take a month at least. I believe in Rome one could see something new every day in the year, but the town itself is miserable, and looks dull. It is not a city where I should care to reside long after having seen the sights.
I inspected St Peter’s minutely. What an amount of money has been expended on it; 47,000,000 dollars up to 1694. Everything possible has been done in the way of embellishing it, and it is certainly a most splendid edifice. I went up to the ball which can contain sixteen persons. The ascent is easy. A broad winding slope leads nearly to the top, the remainder is by steps. From the upper gallery, there is a fine view of the city and the surrounding country, which is interspersed with grand old remains of palaces, baths, and aqueducts. The best view of the ruins is from the top of the Capitol. Looking down, from there, you have a fine idea of their extent and grandeur. It is a pity to see so many beautiful private palaces going to wreck throughout Italy. Very few of the proprietors, though called Princes, can afford to keep them up; gradually, one by one, they are being sold, and magnificent collections of pictures and sculpture broken up and dispersed. Among the Government galleries there is a deal of rubbish, which is kept because the works are ancient.
The day after my arrival in Rome, Ambrose and Birmingham of the Buffs, with whom I parted at Naples, arrived, and during my stay I worked hard. It was much pleasanter for me going about with them than being alone. After St Peter’s, the finest churches are St John Lateran and St Maria Maggiore. The former is the oldest in Rome, and founded by Constantine. Both the interior and exterior are very grand. In the centre nave are colossal statues of the Apostles. The Chapel of the Corsini family is most magnificent, and decorated by the extensive scale. I am sorry I devoted too much time to the private palaces and churches, as I had not sufficient left to see the Vatican properly, although I was there a whole day and part of another; it is only open to the public on Mondays, but a tip will unclose many a bolt. To see the Palace thoroughly would take a month at least. I believe in Rome one could see something new every day in the year, but the town itself is miserable, and looks dull. It is not a city where I should care to reside long after having seen the sights.
I inspected St Peter’s minutely. What an amount of money has been expended on it; 47,000,000 dollars up to 1694. Everything possible has been done in the way of embellishing it, and it is certainly a most splendid edifice. I went up to the ball which can contain sixteen persons. The ascent is easy. A broad winding slope leads nearly to the top, the remainder is by steps. From the upper gallery, there is a fine view of the city and the surrounding country, which is interspersed with grand old remains of palaces, baths, and aqueducts. The best view of the ruins is from the top of the Capitol. Looking down, from there, you have a fine idea of their extent and grandeur. It is a pity to see so many beautiful private palaces going to wreck throughout Italy. Very few of the proprietors, though called Princes, can afford to keep them up; gradually, one by one, they are being sold, and magnificent collections of pictures and sculpture broken up and dispersed. Among the Government galleries there is a deal of rubbish, which is kept because the works are ancient.
The day after my arrival in Rome, Ambrose and Birmingham of the Buffs, with whom I parted at Naples, arrived, and during my stay I worked hard. It was much pleasanter for me going about with them than being alone. After St Peter’s, the finest churches are St John Lateran, and St Maria Maggiore. The former is the oldest in Rome, and founded by Constantine. Both the interior and exterior are very grand. In the centre nave are colossal statues of the Apostles. The Chapel of the Corsini family is most magnificent, and decorated by the first painters and sculptors of the age. In the family vault is a group (by Bernini) of Christ, supported by His Mother; it is beautifully cut, and I think equals anything I saw of Michel Angelos. On Sunday I heard the Pope officiate (Pope Pius IX). His Holiness is a fine-looking old man, but I cannot say much for the cardinals; they are not intelligent looking, and by their appearance one would judge that they were fond of good living. The Pope always dines by himself at the Quirinal Palace (his summer residence). I was shown through his private apartments; they are handsome, but plain. The Chapel adjoining is decorated by Guido.
The journey from Rome to Naples by diligence takes twenty-eight hours. From Capua, there is rail to Naples, and I was glad to avail myself of it, having had quite enough carriage work, which is slow and tedious. The distance by road from Capua is 16 miles, and the diligence takes four and a half hours to do it over, a frightfully bad road. On the journey, the annoyance one meets with from the inspection of passports and baggage is dreadful; it is much worse in the Neapolitan territories than in the others. Five times after crossing the Roman frontier, passports were demanded, and for signing them money is always expected; the system must be a goodly source of revenue to the Governments. On my passport I had more than twenty vises, which cost altogether 45s.
The road from Rome is picturesque, and of historical interest. Before reaching Terracino (the frontier station), you pass through the Pontine Marshes, which are more than 30 miles long, over a very dreary and desolate waste, with no habitations, barring a few post stations. The inhabitants are a sickly-looking people. After leaving Terracino, the country becomes very wild and rugged, and in olden times, was much infested with banditti, who took refuge in the mountains. A small place, “Itri,” Murray mentions as the birthplace of the celebrated brigand, “Fra Diavolo,” whom the English employed and paid to harass the French towards the end of the last century. Further on, we passed the tomb of Cicero and Gaeta, where the Pope took refuge when he fled from Home.
A curious incident occurred during my tour! I met Eccles, a late brother ensign, who had left the service, he had been travelling the night before through the Pass of Terracino, when the coach was stopped by bandits, and he and the passengers were robbed of all their valuables. He told me he had lost his watch and about £20, and he was then on his way to consult with the English Consul as to the best means of obtaining the wherewithal to continue his journey.
When at Naples, I visited the Museum, which contains most of the antiquities that have been excavated from the noted cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It is very interesting to examine all the different things that have been brought to light, after being buried nearly 2000 years. Several of the cooking utensils are the same as we use at the present day. Many fine works of marble and bronze have been dug up. How extraordinary it is to see the colour of some of the frescoes, which are nearly as fresh as the day they were painted. The Museum contains many other very fine relics collected from various quarters, besides the things found at Pompeii. The celebrated “Toro Farnese” is there. To view the rooms is quite in character with everything else the traveller sees in the Neapolitan territories. Money, money, is the cry; every separate room is under the lock and key of a different custodian, who are all appointed by Government, and those people have to give a fixed sum every year to the Treasury. What with passports, examination of baggage, and money extorted for sight-seeing, a good round sum must be added to the revenue.
I was much pleased with Pompeii and Herculaneum. There is not much to be seen at the latter beyond the excavation of the theatre, which, along with the town, was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius, and every part filled up by the running lava, which is as hard as stone, so is nothing less than a theatre underground, cut out of the solid rock, the lava having been removed from the interior.
The town of Resina is built on the top of the ancient city of Herculaneum, so when underneath you hear the carriages rolling in the street above you. Pompeii is a great deal more interesting, but nearly everything worth preserving having been taken away to the Museum in Naples, little remains except the walls, and even these are stripped, when a good fresco is discovered. Although the roofs of the houses have fallen in, the side walls remain, and are still very perfect. The rooms are small, and built all much after the same style. The streets are very narrow, with paved footpaths on the sides. The floors of the rooms are mosaic; the finest and most perfect have been removed to the Museum. In the centre of almost all the houses there is a small open court.
Shortly before the eruption, an earthquake threw down many of the public edifices. The appearance of the ruins betokens a city of wealth and grandeur.
There are several temples and two forums. As yet no houses have been discovered which could have been inhabited by the poorer classes. The ground floors were usually shops. The excavations have been going on – off and on – for 100 years, but so slowly that, as yet, only a quarter of the town is uncovered. I believe in future they intend to leave some of the houses as they find them, which will add to the interest of the place.
The weather, when I was at Naples, was wet and hazy, which prevented my making some of the excursions I wished; but the day before I left was lovely, so, with a party of eight, I went to Vesuvius. We drove to Resina, and from there took ponies to the cone of the hill, which is a steep but easy ride. We then dismounted, and began the climb on foot; the first part was the most trying, as it was over very fine ashes, in which one sinks ankle deep, but the upper part is lava, so it is easy enough. There are plenty of guides, who offer to pull you up or carry you in a wicker chair, but I declined all assistance. From the top we had a beautiful view of the Bay and the surrounding country, and we were fortunate in having such a clear day. At present, there is nothing issuing from the crater except sulphureous vapour, and yet the ground is so hot that an egg will boil in the crevices from which the smoke rises. We did not take long to come down the mountain, as the descent is very easy.
I made an excursion to Baie; the view is magnificent on every side. There are many places of interest en route, which have stood since the clays of the Cæsars – ancient temples, baths, and innumerable other ruins. I was surprised to find Naples so large a town; the beggars are swarming, and the filth in the streets shocking, but it is certainly beautifully situated, and must be a delightful winter climate.
No officers are at present allowed leave for England, and we do not know whether we are to go to the West Indies or not. I hope Greece or Constantinople may be our destination. The steamer Tritons now towing in quite a fleet of men-of-war, Prussian, Dutch, and the Agamemnon, five in all. They say that the contractor has an intimation to have supplies ready for 5000 more troops, along with a large number of Artillery, but it does not do to credit all the reports.
The last news from the East is that there has been a naval engagement (the Battle of Sinope) and that the Turks have got the worst of it. If so, it appears disgraceful that the combined fleet should be on the spot, and not help the Turks; the French I have met say, “It is England that has prevented them.” I would like to see Aberdeen sent to the right-about, and Palmerston in office, and then we would soon be at it.
The French seem to be trying to get up a row with Naples. The King of Naples has established quarantine on all French vessels, on the plea of cholera, but the truth is, he wishes to throw impediments in the way of the French, English, and Americans entering the country, for they are the only people who speak their minds freely. I could not land at Messina on account of quarantine restrictions.
Johnston has been recommended for the Regimental Adjutancy, but he says he will not take it if it is to interfere with his getting his promised appointment. It is a shame not giving it to some of the younger hands who have applied; Swaby and Rowlands both asked for it, still it is better for the regiment that Johnston should have it for a time to rub the men up. Bertram is talking of selling out and going to New Zealand; if so, and when Balguay is promoted by Tuckey leaving, the Depôt Adjutancy will be vacant, for which I intend applying, as I think I may have a chance, and if I get it, I shall escape at least two years of the West Indies. What do you think of the plan? Pratt and Skipwith are on leave and join the Depôt.
25th December 1853.
I quite forgot, when sending off my last, that it was so near the close of the year, and to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This day I have had the pleasure of spending on guard, so I cannot say that I have had a very enjoyable Christmas, especially as I had to dine all alone; the officers having agreed that they were all to feed together, none of them could favour me with their company. However, the day has not hung heavy on my hands, as I have had a number of visitors dropping in. You must know that a guard-room is very like a halfway house, which no person can pass without stopping at, so I have had no lack of society. After tattoo, the guard is closed to all visitors, as a precaution against the officer becoming incompetent to perform his duties, which now and then occurred when the —th was here, and open house kept all night.
This day’s mail from Marseilles brought private information that ships have been taken up to convey several regiments to the Mediterranean, so we may look forward to being under sail for the West Indies in about six weeks. The ships mentioned are the Canterbury and Georgiana. The passage to Jamaica will not be so pleasant in a freight ship as it was coming here in the Ripon.
Yesterday I was lunching at the General’s, no one there besides myself. The Army at large has met with a blessing in the resignation of Sir George Brown as Adjutant-General; he has always been averse to anything new, and is very unpopular. There has evidently been a quarrel at the Horse Guards. General Wetherall, the Assistant Adjutant-General has also retired; he was much liked, and will be greatly regretted. I suppose he did not feel grateful for General Cathcart being put over his head. Johnston has lost his interest by the retirement of Brown; he will probably now, poor fellow, not get an appointment. My hopes, with respect to the Depôt Adjutancy, I am afraid, are not likely to be realised, as Johnston told me it was already promised.
Next week we are to have a sham fight. The 41st and 47th are to attack Valetta on the Floriana side, which will be defended by the 49th and 68th. I am not yet acquainted with the entire outline of the engagement; the former succeed in forcing the outer works and beating the defenders back over Floriana to the Porta Reale, then a strong fire opens on us from behind the inner breastworks, and the fortune of the day is changed. It would puzzle a real enemy to establish a footing against such formidable batteries.
The thermometer to-day is 60°, and it is quite cold; in England it would be a hot summer’s day. I do not understand how one feels the cold here so much. Some of the, officers have fires all day; mine is only lighted in the evening, when I find it very comfortable. Handcock, Harriott, Lawes, and I, with two of the Artillery, rode out last night to hear Midnight Mass at Citta Vecchia. The opera singers being there, the music and singing were very good, and we enjoyed it. The Cathedral looked beautiful with so much silver displayed.
Nevertheless, I do not think it compensated us for the wetting we got riding back, as we were caught in several heavy hailstorms, although we only took a little more than thirty minutes to return, which was sharp work, considering the town is about 7 miles from this. I shall now turn into bed, which I suppose is not quite the thing to do when on guard, but there is no use losing a good night’s rest when it can be avoided.
The Colombo, a new screw, has made the fastest passage on record from Southampton, viz. seven days and fourteen hours, with six hours’ stoppage at Gibraltar. We expect Hunt to be sent home to the Depôt as paymaster instead of Wethered.
5th February 1854.
On the 29th I got my mother’s letter of the 23rd, which never failing epistle I look forward to every fortnight with great pleasure. I am on guard to-day. It has been one of great excitement, owing to the arrival of three mails – one from Constantinople and two from Marseilles. The Caradox, a despatch boat, was one. She only remained three hours, and then left for Constantinople; she has on board a French Colonel of Engineers, and General Burgoyne, Inspector of Fortifications. They were on shore for a short time, and took a look at the fortifications of Valetta, and also inspected the 41st in heavy marching order, and afterwards, with the Governor and the Staff, went round the barrack-rooms. The men’s kits were laid out. The French Colonel would not believe, when he saw the soldiers’ necessaries, that they would all go into the knapsack, so one was packed to convince him. He expressed himself very much taken with the appearance and turn-out of the men, and well he might be, for without partiality, they are a fine body, and if they only had a good chief (like Colonel Adams of the 49th), they would be one of the best regiments in Her Majesty’s Service.
It looks very warlike, so many engineers of both nations going to the East. General Burgoyne says we are going to send 30,000 troops. I hope we may have a finger in the pie, and that the 41st may have an opportunity of distinguishing themselves. Although the relief regiments are on the eve of sailing from Cork, it is thought there is little or no chance of our going on to the West Indies, but that the corps coming out will be available as reinforcements. As long as France is on our side, they may withdraw four regiments from Malta. To send 30,000 men would require fifty-five regiments of the same strength as those now serving in the Mediterranean.
I have not yet seen the Queen’s Speech, but I hear it mentions an increase to the Army and Navy. If an increase is to take place, the first thing will be to make every regiment 1,000 strong – they are at present 850 – that would only give about 10,000 men. The next thing to be considered would be extra battalions, and they would require more officers. Whatever happens will not do me much good, as those at the head of the lieutenants would be promoted, and they are not for purchase. Handcock has been talking of selling out, but is now wavering; if he does, Richards would get his company.
The Gazette to-day mentions that young Carpenter is appointed lieutenant to the 7th. He now regrets having applied for it, and I hear talks of trying to have it cancelled. It is no promotion for him, as in the 7th he goes to the bottom of twenty-two lieutenants, and if he remained in the 41st, he would probably have been soon a lieutenant, and then he would have had only nine above him for purchase. I hope, if he leaves us, his respected Governor may follow his example; the young one is not a bad fellow, but it is not at all a good thing having a Colonel and his son in the same regiment.
It has been privately intimated to us by the Staff that no regiments go to the West Indies, so we are in great hopes of having a rap at the Russians yet. In a short time our fate must be known.
We had a first-rate party on the 1st inst. at the Maclean’s; it was kept up with great spirit till three in the morning. The young ladies are very pleasant and good-looking, one might do worse than take one for a partner for life. I am afraid the agitation of the Scottish National Association will be overlooked, now that there is likely to be something of greater moment.
The garrison theatricals went off very well; there were some clever actors taking part in them. Last week we had another sham fight. One had to imagine a great deal, as we were not allowed to advance or retire except by the roads, owing to the standing crops, which at this season are well advanced. Swaby is painting me in a shell jacket. Although it is only commenced, they say there is a likeness. The next letter you receive may, perhaps, tell something more definite with regard to our movements. Ask father not to forget the Colts revolver; if we are to be sent to the East, it will be hot and rough work.
The Countess of Errol has gone up to Gallipoli with her husband, who is in the Rifles. Mrs Carpenter, we hear, intends to go with us. I do not think ladies have any business with an army in the field; it is natural that the husbands will not be looking after their proper business.
My last would inform you that we are not to proceed to the East as soon as we expected; it is thought we may leave early in April. Lord Raglan will inspect the force here before its departure. All the steamers which brought out the different regiments, have left, so at present there is no means of transport for those here. It is conjectured that the regiments now in Malta will form the 2nd Division, not the 1st, and that the other corps that come out will proceed direct to Turkey, without disembarking here, and that then the steamers will return for us, so that within eight days, after landing the first force, the second will have joined them.
Malta presents a very lively appearance just now, with soldiers in various uniforms of the Army – Guards, Highlanders, Rifles, etc., etc. The General has issued an order that officers are to wear uniform in or near the town, which is a great nuisance, as at every yard you meet soldiers, and the trouble of saluting and being saluted is a horrible bore.
I have met a number of friends, three of whom I had not seen since leaving the Grange School. Anstruther, in the Grenadier Guards, Lock, 50th, and Clayhills, 93rd. I am sorry to say, Tillbrook, 50th, is left behind with the skeleton Depôt; Gandy, 28th, and Mark Sprot, 93rd, are also here, and several others whom I know. Mr Scott Elliott arrived on the 13th by the Valetta, and brought me the revolver; I have not yet been able to give it a good trial. The Dean and Adams pistols appear to be preferred to Colts; nearly all the officers have brought out the former. Mr Elliott dined with me on Friday. I have not had much time to show the party about, as I’ve been for the last week engaged with Minie rifle practice. Twenty-six men per company are to be armed with rifles, and it is thought the whole force will receive them.
Yesterday the 3rd, 41st, and 68th, were brigaded together; it was only a short morning’s work, but still Mr Elliott and party enjoyed the sight. After it was over, I took them round the fortifications, etc., etc. They have, I think, seen all that is worth visiting here and leave to-morrow for Naples; they say ten days is quite enough of this place, and wish to be in Rome during Holy Week.
Nasmyth has returned from his trip up the Nile; he seems to have derived considerable benefit from it, and intends, as the weather gets warmer, to go to Constantinople. His brother was here the other day, but has returned again to the East. He has three years’ leave from India, and is spending it very profitably, receiving £50 a month by corresponding with the Times, and giving them an account of what is going on between Turkey and Russia.
The officers who have come out from England are in rather an uncomfortable state, having only been allowed to bring baggage to the amount of 180 lbs. for a captain, and 90 lbs. for a subaltern, which is certainly precious little, when it includes everything in the way of bedding, portmanteaux, cooking, eating, and washing utensils, etc When we move, I will try and take my gun with me; Nasmyth has kindly offered to take it, but there is no saying yet whether we are to see Constantinople. Our mess is much larger than usual, many officers of the other regiments come to dinner and breakfast, as they have nothing except their rations.
The 33rd and 93rd are under canvas not far from us in the Ravelin. They are to be inspected to-morrow, and the three battalions of Guards (who are in the lazaretto at Fort Manoel) on Thursday, on the Floriana Parade Ground, so they will have a long march round. The 44th, with the two I before mentioned, are the only regiments in tents; the others have all roofs over their heads, and are comfortably put up, considering the accommodation required for the large increase to the garrison.
The hotels and clubs are in great request for dinners. At the latter a table d’hôte has been established, at which sometimes sixty sit down, but I hear complaints about the want of attendance, and that after the dinner is over, some have had little or nothing to eat Everything has risen in price. The poorer classes are complaining much, but some of the tradesmen must be making rapid fortunes; they are working night and day, and yet cannot get through the orders they have received.
The 4th and 77th are hourly expected. The two companies of our Depôt were to leave Dublin on the 11th for Liverpool. We will all be delighted to see them. Pratt and Paterson, late 61st, Lieutenants Wethered and Bertram, and the two junior ensigns, are all that remain. Handcock has gone to England, having sent in his papers. There is a talk of adding another major to each of the regiments composing the expeditionary force, and also another company, making the regiments 1,450.
Since the arrival of the 93rd, I have been out twice riding with Turner. Swaby has finished the likeness he was taking of me; I am not certain that it is very true, but it is good for an amateur, who does not often take up his brush. I will send it home by Mrs Swaby. The Ripon, that brought the Guards and afterwards went on to Alexandria, is expected to-night.
My last was on the 21st. There have been considerable changes since then regarding the expeditionary force, and our turn is likely to be near at hand. The Rifles, with General Brown, embarked on board the Golden Fleece on the 30th March; their destination is said to be Gallipoli. Since then the 28th, 44th, 93rd, and part of the 50th have left. The other regiments of the 1st Division are only waiting for the return of the steamers. The Cambria, with detachments of the 50th, 33rd, and 77th from England, has just cast anchor in the Grand Harbour. The Himalaya, with the homeward bound passengers from India, arrived yesterday, she has been detained, and is to be got ready as speedily as possible to take troops; having a very heavy cargo, she will not be in proper order before Tuesday. The Golden Fleece and Emue are expected from the East immediately. Our orders are to be ready to embark at the shortest notice.
We have received our volunteers, with the exception of twenty-six, whom we should get from the 14th on their arrival, but as they have not yet left Ireland, there is little chance of our seeing them. The draft from our Depôt arrived on the 28th. Northey has a month’s leave. Our brigade is composed of the 41st, 47th, and 49th, under Colonel Adams, of the 49th. Every one says it is the finest brigade going up; the reason partly is that we have no recruits, and all our volunteers are trained soldiers.
We have broken up our mess, and the plate, etc., is being packed; my traps are all put up, with the exception of my war-kit. I intend to take a hammock for my bed, as being the most portable; without the blankets it does not weigh 10 lbs. What I propose taking will be over 90 lbs., the regulation allowance, but as a mule’s load is 300 lbs., and one mule is allowed to two subalterns, we reckon carrying about 150 lbs. each. We do not know yet whether we are to provide our own animals or not. Horses and mules have risen much in price; ponies that could have been got here two months ago for £15, are now £25 and £30; a good mule is £30 and £35. Tailors, saddlers, and tinsmiths are in great request for making pack-saddles, valises, camp canteens, portable beds, etc., besides no end of knick-knacks.
I have been trying my pistol. When I received it, the lock was not in good order, so I had it taken to pieces by our armourer, and it now acts perfectly. I much prefer Deans to Colts for close quarters – which, of course, is the only time a pistol should be used – but for correctness of aim at a distance, the latter is better; almost all the officers belonging to the expeditionary force have invested in Deans.
There has lately been a good deal of excitement owing to the arrival of French troops; their steamers all put into Malta to coal, a number of the officers and men are allowed to disembark. It was a lively sight, seeing a British regiment turn out and line the walls, cheering the steamers as they passed in and out of the harbours. The French returned the compliment, but their shout is not like a British cheer. The first detachment that arrived was accompanied by a General, who is to be second in command, and there was a review of the Guards, 33rd, 93rd, and Rifles. The other day another swell passed through, and there was a second turn-out of all the expeditionary force, excepting the 41st, 47th, and 49th. Some of the officers came into our mess-room to have lunch, and were much surprised at our having so many things to carry about with us, and enquired if we were taking them all to Turkey. They were very pleased with the review. Since writing, we have heard that we are to embark on Monday in the Himalaya with the 33rd.
Malta, 8th April.
My dear Sir Hector Greig,
I have long intended to despatch a few lines to you, and I must not delay doing so any longer, for fear of finding myself off for the wars before my intention has been executed. I suppose you have seen by the papers that the gallant 41st is under orders to form part of the expeditionary force for Turkey. Our orders are, to hold ourselves in readiness to embark at the shortest notice, at which we are all delighted and in great spirits. What an agreeable change it has been to us, as we were to have sailed for Jamaica this spring.
For some time back Malta has been much enlivened by the passing to and fro of military (French and English), and Valetta has during the last month been swarming with redcoats. It was an unusual sight to see the British regiments turn out and cheer the French as they came into the harbour for coal. The other day the French General, who is to be second in command, passed through. There was a grand review of nearly all the 1st Division on the Floriana Parade Ground. Such a large body of troops had never before been assembled together in Malta, and most probably such a sight will never be witnessed again. The General and his Staff were much taken by the appearance of the men, the Highlanders they said was a splendid corps. A square was formed by the Grenadier Guards and when the French General with his Staff went into the centre, he remarked that he believed it was the first time the French had ever had the honour of entering a British square.
The French troops from Algeria are a very fine lot. During the last few days, several of our regiment have left this; their destination is said to be Gallipoli. The remainder of the 1st Division only await the return of the steamers. The Himalaya, with the homeward bound passengers from India, has been stopped to take troops, and some other steamers have arrived to-day, and are to be taken up, so we may expect a move soon, and the sooner the better I shall be pleased. Malta is beginning to get too hot. I cannot say that I have enjoyed my residence here much. Old Ireland, bad as it is, is preferable, but we soldiers are never contented.
The last news from Turkey is supposed to be unfavourable, and the troops are to be hurried on as soon as possible, but at present there is no means of transport from here. There is a contradictory report in Malta that the Turks had entrapped the Russians into crossing the Danube, and had then fallen upon and slaughtered a number of them, but there are so many different rumours, it is impossible to know what to believe. I do not think I can give you much Maltese news that would interest you, as there are very few families now in the Island who were here during your residence. Sir Charles Maclean and his daughters are still here. Sir Lucius Curtis intends returning to England this summer; his daughters have not been in Malta this winter. The society has been rather small, and very few nice young ladies; the Maltese associate very little with the English. San Giuseppe, where you lived, must be a comfortable residence, but I do not know Mr Lushington who is now there. Our present General is very pleasant, and exceedingly liked in the garrison. The Governor is a quiet man, and entertains little at this season. In the summer he lives at Verdala Castle; he has done a good deal to improve the Island. My uncle, Colonel George Allan, I expect here on his way to Constantinople about the 13th inst.
The orders have come out, and I see by them that the 41st with the 33rd embark on Monday afternoon in the Himalaya. How fortunate we are getting such a fine large steamer; we shall (at least the men) be very closely packed to stow 1,700 into her. Colonel Adams goes with us. The 47th, 49th, 50th, and 77th, go on board the Indus, Sultan, Apollo, Cambria to-morrow, so the whole of the 1st Division, with the exception of the Guards, will be off by Tuesday. There is no saying what may have happened before this day two months. I hope you may hear that the 41st have distinguished themselves. Our brigade is the 41st, 47th, and 49th, under Colonel Adams of the 49th. Every one here says it is the finest brigade of the lot. We have not a single recruit, our complement being made up by volunteers from the other regiments now in the Malta garrison, who are not going to the East.
All those that are to remain behind are sadly disappointed. I hope the severe winter in England did you no harm; it was a very trying season. It will give me much pleasure to receive a few lines from you at, your leisure. I cannot say what my address may be, but 41st Regiment will always find me, as letters will be forwarded. I must say adieu.
Dardanelles, Thursday, 8 A.M.,
I posted a letter on the 9th, the day before we left Malta; it would inform you of our move. Here we are now cutting through the Dardanelles, and expect to reach Gallipoli about noon. We have had a lovely passage – not a wave on the sea, and no sickness on board. This is a capital ship. We weighed anchor at half-past six on Monday evening, and were saluted with no end of cheering from the forts and town. It is now quite a common affair, a regiment leaving for the wars.
The Emue, with the 4th Regiment, left soon after us. Before we were out of sight of Malta, the Himalaya broke down; the packing round the piston required renewing. We were delayed nearly three hours, which gave the Emue a good start. There was a kind of race between the two vessels, as the captain of the Emue, before leaving Malta, had said he was confident he could beat the Himalaya. We passed her yesterday afternoon, and had great fun chaffing her by signal. She is now astern, but pretty close, having come up with us during the night; we went half speed for three hours, because our pilot did not like to enter the Straits during dark. The entrance is strongly guarded by forts, and the current is very rapid, running 3 knots against us. Before leaving, I called on the General to say good-bye; he wished me all success, and said it was a fine opportunity for us young men, and he only wished his health had allowed him to take part.
On our arrival at Gallipoli, we were delighted to receive orders from General Brown to proceed to Constantinople, where we have just cast anchor; the appearance of the town is most imposing. We are to occupy the Scutari Barracks, which are on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus; a thousand Turks are quartered there at present. We are fortunate in being here, for at Gallipoli the regiments are very uncomfortable, encamped on a dreary site. The town there is a poor place, and they have little to eat, and that little very bad. Several of the officers came off to us with haversacks to try and get some additional prog to help their scanty rations. The 4th, 2Sth, 44th, 50th, 93rd, and Rifles remain at Gallipoli for a few days, and then march to a camp, which is being prepared for them 10 miles off, where they are to throw up a line of entrenchments, and there is some talk of their then going on to Adrianople. The other regiments from home are to land here; the French are to encamp outside the city, about 10 miles off. We expect to remain here for a month or more.
I got leave to go on shore at Gallipoli for an hour, and strolled through some of the French camps, and fraternised with their Algerian troops. The town is built of wood; one or two shells would burn it to the ground; the streets are awfully bad. I did not see any of the native women.
We are lucky dogs being ordered up here, but it is very cold and has been snowing all the morning, with a piercing wind; the thermometer is 21° lower than it was at Malta. The last shave is that the S.S. Furious went to Odessa, carrying a flag of truce, and was fired at, and that on her lowering a boat, they fired again at that; so she returned to the fleet, and reported the circumstance to the Admiral, who gave orders for the fleet to weigh anchor the next morning for Odessa, to teach them civility.
We have received intimation that officers are to provide their own baggage animals and carry their own tents, which weigh 50 to 60 lbs. Captains are to take their subalterns’ canteens. We disembark to-morrow, and occupy the barracks at Scutari. I hope to get on shore after dinner. We are the first arrivals here; the 33rd, you know, are with us.
Camp Scutari, 14th May.
We have been here a month, and are no nearer the Russians; we do not know when we are likely to make a move northwards. The on dit is that the Light Division proceeds to Varna this week; it consists of the 7th, 23rd, 33rd 19th, 77th, and 88th, with the Rifle Brigade, under the command of General Brown, who has been replaced at Gallipoli by Sir Richard England. The Rifle Brigade, with the 93rd Highlanders, arrived here last week; they have been working at the lines near Gallipoli, which are expected to be completed by the end of the month. The works extend from the Bay of Enos to the Sea of Marmora; the French also have a large force employed on them. These lines of earth-works are being made in case we or the Turks meet with a reverse, and are obliged to retire. A large number of cannon are to be mounted, so they will be very strong, as the neck of land is narrow. No time has yet been named for any part of the force to go to Therapia to commence the lines to cover Constantinople. They will extend 25 miles, but 13 of that is lake, which will only require to be partially fortified to prevent pontooning.
Lord Raglan or some of his Staff, it is said, sail to-night in the Caradox for Varna; but it is impossible to credit all one hears; for instance, one of the shaves that was currently believed in the city was, that Cronstadt was taken, with the loss of 5000 men and two frigates. The idea of the loss of so many men and only two vessels is ridiculous. One thing I can mention for a fact is, that all the steamers which have brought up troops and stores have orders to remain for some reason or another, and others, now employed in towing the Artillery transports, will arrive in a day or two. About ten large steamers are now lying off Scutari. None of the Cavalry have yet arrived; they and the Artillery will land about 3 miles higher up the Bosphorus, on the Asiatic side. The authorities surely cannot mean that we are all to go from Constantinople into the interior, or why land all on this side and be obliged to re-ship them across to the other, when there are some beautiful barracks near Pera? I think it looks more like a move up to the Black Sea. When on parade on Thursday afternoon, I was delighted at seeing Uncle G and Sylvester L’Amy standing on the square. I have been going about with them a good deal. Last Friday we went and saw the Sultan going to Mosque; he is an insignificant-looking man; he was on horseback, and attended by a number of unmounted officers. The place of worship he attends is close to the palace he is having built near to Torphana. It is not yet completed, though far advanced; the public rooms and the council chamber in it are very fine. The same afternoon we took a caique and rowed to the Sweet Waters of Europe, which is about 4 miles up the Golden Horn. It is a gay sight to see the Turkish ladies turn out in their bright-coloured dresses, and squat down at the edge of the waters. They are all veiled, but some of the veils are very thin, so their features are easily distinguished. The higher classes go about in very peculiar carriages and finely-carved caiques.
Part of the Sultan’s harem was present. Friday is their Sunday; they gather there every week during the summer. On Sundays the Sweet Waters is a great resort for the Greeks. Some of the Turkish women are pretty, but for want of exercise, their complexions are pale and sallow, and they dye their eyebrows and nails.
It will be better in future to send letters direct to Constantinople by Trieste or Marseilles. I have moved out of barracks into a tent in the square, and much prefer being under canvas, as the fleas were dreadful in quarters. It was very wet yesterday, but the rain did not come through my tent. Will you ask father to return my name to Cox for purchase, not that I expect to be a captain immediately. I stand fourth on the list, but there is a talk of an augmentation to each of the regiments out here, of one major, three captains, three lieutenants, and three ensigns, and it is said some of the vacancies will be filled up by officers from half pay, few of whom are likely to remain, so when they sell, the promotion will go by purchase. I may, perhaps, soon find myself a captain, though it is improbable that they will give the four companies to officers at present in the regiment. Our Colonel came from Malta with the 30th Regiment. I am going across to Constantinople to see what uncle intends to be about to-day. Government has provided a steamer which runs every two hours.
Scutari, 25th. May.
Things are now beginning to look a little more like work. The Light Division embark for Varna on the 27th; the Artillery sail to-night. Varna is only sixteen hours by steamer, so before the middle of next week, we expect to be all out of this. A French vessel filled with troops came in this morning; others are shortly expected. Before Monday they say 25,000 allied troops will have disembarked at Varna; a place about 13 miles from the town is talked of as a rendezvous. A magnificent fleet of steamers and transports are at present lying here; it is a grand sight.
The scenery about Stamboul and up the Bosphorus has now become very beautiful; the foliage is fully out, which, contrasted with the wooden houses, gives a fine effect from the water; but the town does not improve on acquaintance. Along the banks of the Bosphorus there is a continued line of habitations; the surrounding country is very barren. I am going up to Therapia to-morrow evening with uncle and S—.
We stop all night, and return by caique in the afternoon down the stream; it is much pleasanter going in a caique than on a steamer, but it is tedious work rowing up, as the current is very strong in the Bosphorus. Uncle George has been exceedingly kind to me, and has given me everything I require for the campaign, including a capital strong baggage horse, which will also do for riding; besides this, he has fitted me out in first-rate style, with a pack-saddle, saddle-bags, etc, complete, which he brought out with him from London. He has also bestowed on me a strong compact stretcher bed. Sylvester presented me with a bridle and riding-saddle, so altogether, my outfit has not cost me much. I am afraid uncle has deprived himself of things that might be useful to him, should he accompany the army, which he purposes doing, if we are likely to have some real work soon.
The Light Division only left to-day for Varna. They went up in gallant style; nine or ten steamers weighed anchor about the same time. They say the 1st Division is to go before us, so probably we shall not leave until next week. I am just as well pleased that we are to be the last, as this place is preferable to Varna and its neighbourhood, and the other troops will not move forward till we are all together. The last accounts from Schumla are, that Omar Pasha says he will resign if he is not assisted, as he will not stand being defeated, which is certain to occur, if the allies do not advance. It is said that the Russians before Silestria lost 8,000 by a sortie from the garrison.
The loss of the Tiger is a great disaster. We hear a parallel case has happened to the Amphion in the Baltic. Last Friday week a sad catastrophe occurred to poor Macnish, of the 93rd. About half-past nine o’clock in the evening there was a deluge of rain. Macnish was returning home to his tent with Clayhills; they had to pass a little drain which runs across the road, and which is nearly dry in fine weather, but this evening it was a torrent. The two joined hands, and attempted to cross the water, but the stream took them both off their legs. Clayhills was taken down about 30 yards, then he managed to catch hold of the bank, and succeeded in extricating himself, but poor Macnish was carried out to sea, his body not being found for several days; probably he was stunned or suffocated by the mud. His sword hilt was much dented when it was discovered; I had been talking to both Macnish and Clayhills that same afternoon at the Sweet Waters.
We went and had a look at the Sultan returning from Mosque on Friday, he has not taken the trouble to cross the water to see the English troops. We had a great turn-out on the Queen’s Birthday, and gave her three hearty cheers. Our Colonel was thrown from his horse, and severely hurt; he is still laid up, and will not be able to accompany us to Varna if we go soon. I am glad to say that Wethered is to be promoted to his company without purchase, but he is going to leave us afterwards, having been offered the paymastership of the 95th; the regiment is in our Division. We expect a run of promotion by the augmentations, but it is not known whether the steps will go by purchase or not. The whole regiment is to leave the barracks, and be put under canvas in a few days. I am going to pack up all my traps and put the pack-saddle on my horse, and see how he goes along with his load. My next letter may be dated within about 30 miles from the Russians.
My dear Mother,
I hope you will receive this on the 21st. I cannot allow the mail to go to-morrow without sending you a few lines of good wishes for your birthday! Yesterday I had the pleasure of receiving your letter of the l6th May, along with some other despatches, which, though of rather ancient date, were none the less welcome. It does not do to write to Constantinople via Gibraltar or Malta, as there is no direct communication. Some of the letters were more than a month old.
The Turks are doing wonders; they do not appear to require our assistance. It is reported that the Russians have withdrawn from Silestria, and a rumour is afloat that Sebastopol is the point on which a descent is to be made. Our whole force of Infantry has now arrived. The 42nd disembarked yesterday; the Cavalry and Artillery are joining daily. Four officers of the 4th are here on leave from Gallipoli; they much prefer this quarter. Robertson is among the number, and he says that they want him to settle down at home, but of course he will not retire just now. Poor Gandy of the 28th has broken his leg at the hip joint; he fell from the mast of a vessel, and it is feared he will be a cripple for life. One of the officers of the Artillery had his leg broken by a kick from Brigadier-General Adams’ horse, he is doing well. Captain Wallace was killed at Varna the other day by a fall from his horse.
Five days ago, I accompanied the two travellers to the Princes Islands; it was a pleasant day’s excursion; the scenery is very pretty. There is a talk of moving the camp a few miles up the Bosphorus to the Giant’s Mountain, near Beikos Bay, opposite to Therapia. I forget whether I mentioned having gone up with uncle to Buydkere; it is close to the Black Sea, the view on all sides is beautiful; we took a long walk through the forest of Belgrade.
This morning the regiment received Minie rifles, which, I think, will rather astonish the Russians; the whole force is to be armed with them. The Himalaya has arrived with the 5th Dragoon Guards. Nasmyth has come on here from Naples; he talks of returning to Scotland in a few days, so I will send by him some photographic views of Constantinople and the camps. I frequently see Maitland; he went with us to the Princes Islands; he is a very good sort of fellow. We are anxiously waiting for news from England, our latest papers being the 24th, and we expect the Augmentation Gazette by the next mail. We are to have another 150 men out here. The regiment is to be increased to 1,400 in all, and have an addition of six officers.
We are off to Varna to-morrow, per Medway, a first-rate steamer; the passage is about fourteen or sixteen hours. The 1st Division has arrived. There (is no truth about Silestria having either been taken or the siege raised. Things seem to remain much as they were in that neighbourhood. The Light Division are encamped within a few miles of Varna; they were ordered to Silestria and Schumla, but countermanded after proceeding some distance. They say we shall be hard at it the beginning of next month. Our Cavalry and the French contingent are not all up yet.
Uncle George and Sylvester are heartily tired of Constantinople, and went to Broussa, which is a short distance up the Sea of Marmora, last Tuesday; they are to return on Thursday. I think they will soon now proceed to Varna, as the army has left Scutari. One company of the 49th remains behind to take charge of the stores; at first the order was that two companies were to be detailed, and the second named was Richards’ company, to which I have the honour of belonging; he is the junior captain of our regiment. I was in a great state of mind at the idea of being left here, but, happily, it was altered, and I am glad to say we are off for the wars. My address will be 41st Regiment, 2nd Division British Army, Varna.
Nasmyth is on his return home; he took some photographs for me, the one of the camp shows the 41st tents m the centre. The print of Scutari Barracks contains a few tents on the right, overlooking the water, where I was first under canvas; the view from the square is lovely.
Camp Devena Road, 8th July.
Since my last we have had two short marches, only about 8 miles each day, which is not a hard morning’s work; we started at 5 A.M. and had our tents pitched at 8 A.M. The first day was to Caragoul; now we are about 3 miles in advance of the 1st Division, and 4 from Devena, where the Light Division and Cavalry are; we remain here for some days. Nothing is known about our movements, whether we go to Schumla, Silestria, or retrace our steps, and embark for the Crimea. By all accounts, there is hot much for us to do in the Principalities. It is said the Russians have retired on Jassy.
A Council of War was held at Varna two days ago. Omar Pasha and the Admiral were present. I hope Sebastopol is the move; it would be a glorious coup, and do more to finish the war than several battles here. There is a report that the Austrians intend to occupy the Principalities with a large force, which would leave, us free to do something else.
This is a delightful place for an encampment, with a beautiful view of the valley, looking towards Varna Bay and the shipping; over the hill there is an extensive view of the Balkan range; the country is hilly and studded with low brushwood. We have all erected arbours to sit in, which are much cooler than our tents. Uncle G and Sylvester are now under canvas at Varna; they have three Turkish tents, and look very comfortable, but the canvas is not as good as ours. I rode into Varna last Wednesday; they were not then quite ready to start, having only succeeded in picking up one good riding animal for uncle, and Sylvester was busy looking out for another. There are plenty of horses, but they are in poor condition; they hope to get a bullock hackerie to carry their baggage; there is a pretty good road to cither Schumla or Silestria; they will probably go on direct, and not wait for the army. Uncle wishes, if possible, to go home via the Danube and Vienna. Omar Pasha reviewed the 1st and Light Divisions on his return to Schumla.
Yuskakova Camp, Near Devena, 18th July.
I have just written to Wm. Aitchison, in answer to a letter received from him. He wishes to know the most useful traps to bring out here; he had received notice that he would most probably have to leave in August. I have advised him not to volunteer to take anybody’s place, if this state of inactivity is likely to continue. The general opinion here is, that we shall not move a mile nearer the Danube, but that the Crimea or Anapa is the mark; the transports have orders for six weeks’ provisions. Whatever they intend doing this year, the sooner they begin the better, as winter is drawing on apace.
In your letter of the 27th, you ask about the heat. There has been nothing to speak of; this place is a great improvement on Malta, and also on the West Indies, I should fancy; so our regiment has not made a bad hit. This life of inactivity is very weary work. We are still in our old camp, but move a few hundred yards to morrow to be clear of the bushes; it is thought being so near them is unhealthy, and there is a good deal of dysentery among the troops, but not very bad. There has been heavy rain the last few days, with thunder and lightning. Uncle George and Sylvester remained a couple of days here on their way to Schumla. I accompanied them to their first halting-place, Parvada, which is close to the Balkans.
We are all growing moustaches. The Duke of Cambridge asked Lord Raglan if he would grant the permission in orders. He replied, he would not give orders on the subject, but that he would not say anything against it. General Brown will not allow it in his Division. There is a report that the Russians have burned Bucharest, so we shall not winter there this year. The Illustrated News is a great treat out here; I am the only one in the 41st who receives the paper regularly. If the print of Scutari is as like as the one that represented the barrack gate, I think it will be rather difficult for me to point out the window of the room that I lived in; it was on the ground floor, on the left side of the barrack gate, looking up toward the Mosque and village.
This is better encamping ground than Aladeen; there is a beautiful view of the Bay. We have no dust here; it was very bad at the other place, having been first occupied by the Light Division. Yesterday and to-day we had races and sports for the men; there will be horse racing next week. We beat the woods the other day with thirty men; one hare and a few doves was the result of the day’s sport. There are some pigs in the wood, but we didn’t manage to get any.
Yuskakova Camp, 25th July.
To My Uncle.
I have just received your letter by your express Bushibazouk, and was delighted to hear you were put up in such comfortable quarters. The Turks appear to be getting on famously without our assistance. It is just as well that they are not dependent on us, as by all accounts they are not likely to receive any help near the Danube. All the talk is that we embark the first week or so of August for Anapa, and after that is taken, go against the Army in Asia, or perhaps Sebastopol; the Austrians and Turks must look after the Principalities.
At Varna, they are hard at work making fascines and gabions, which looks as if there is something likely to take place soon; they say the fleet will arrive in the Bay on the 28th, and all the transports from the Bosphorus. We are at the same place as when you left us, having only moved 200 yards higher up the hills, to be away from the bushes and the haze that hangs over the camp after sunset. Cholera has been very bad. The last three or four days the camping grounds at Varna and Devena have been changed. The Light Division moved yesterday; they lost seven men the night before, and two prior to that. The French lost sixteen in one day, and several deaths have also occurred in our force at Varna. I believe the 3rd Division were to go to the other side of the lake yesterday.
We received a draft of fifty men this morning; another of one hundred is expected in a few days. I shall then, I fear, be doubled up. I have been fortunate in having had a tent all to myself for so long. Two men of the 95th, who only landed last week, have died; those who have lately arrived from England suffer most. I am thankful to say our camp has been very healthy.
Last week five of our fellows went on leave till the 30th to Schumla and Silestria. I gave Bourne some letters for you; he was to take them to the Consul, if there was no Post Office, as I think perhaps you may have gone to Rustchuk. I was in great hopes that I might have formed one of the party, but the General was scrubby in granting leave to so few. If we are to remain here another fortnight, I may get away in the next batch.
All are heartily sick of this inactivity; it is dreadful being kept so long doing nothing, and having so little to occupy our time; the papers are well scanned, and a great resource. It is difficult to write, when there is so little to mention, and the tents being very hot when the sun shines, so we are driven to the arbours, and there the least puff of wind blows all the papers about, not to say anything of being constantly distracted by the talk and gossip of three or four officers lying on the ground. Some roll themselves up in a quiet corner and try to enjoy a siesta. He is a lucky fellow who can get hold of one of the few stray books, the camp library being very limited.
Yuskakova, 3rd August.
Everything here much the same as when I last wrote. I regret to say some of the Divisions have been suffering dreadfully from cholera; the Light have lost four officers, seventy-five men, and three women; it has also been very bad in Varna, our brigade has only lost one man.
Yesterday we buried poor Maule, who was Adjutant-General of this Division. There is now no doubt but that we are to cross the Black Sea, it is said to Sebastopol.
Sir George Brown was last week close off the stronghold, and we hear a landing-place is decided on, and with comparatively little work, we hope to become masters of their fleet, and perhaps the whole place. It is believed if one crown fort on the north side of the harbour is taken, their fleet can be destroyed.
All the regiments are busy making fascines and gabions. We expect to leave this in a few days, but everything is hearsay.
The last Gazette, I am afraid, has played the mischief with our promotion; we were in great hopes that the step would go in the regiment, but if we are all alive to enter, on another campaign next spring, there will be a mighty change. Weather at present very unsettled; very hot in the mornings, and cold, with heavy dews, in the evening.
Soombay Camp, 18th August.
I suppose you will be expecting to hear from me by this mail to let you know that I am still in the land of the living; as for news, it is scanty, except what is of a sad nature. You will regret deeply to hear of the death of poor Wm. Turner of the 93rd, he died last Saturday morning, and I heard of it in Varna on that day. The funeral took place on Sunday at 6 A.M., I was sorry I was not able to be present. I sent my servant at sunrise to find out the hour, and when he returned it was too late. Colonel Elliott, of the 79th, and he were buried at the same service. The senior Major of the 79th died at Gallipoli on his way to England. We have every reason to be thankful for the good health of our brigade, having had very few cases of cholera or any other sickness. The 93rd have suffered severely, also the Light Division, but I am now happy to say that it is on the decrease. We all think the end of next week will see us out of this horrid country, and I trust that we may never return to it. The preparations for our embarkation are nearly completed, four piers have been constructed on the south side of the Bay, and the large boats for landing are all ready. The Guards, with the 42nd, marched into Varna yesterday, and are to be encamped in a healthy situation for a few days on a hill to the south of the Bay. The remainder of the Highlanders were not able to move for want of transport to carry the sick and the men’s packs; they took two days, marching twelve miles; this will show you what a nice state they are in. The 33rd have 200 men unfit for duty, and the 93rd have 175 sick and convalescent.
There are twenty-nine vessels of war in harbour of different nations. Part of the 4th Division, which is coming, out, have been disembarked at Beikos, a wise move not to bring them up here till they are required. Some of the French Artillery were put on board ship the other day, but cholera broke out, and they were obliged to land them again. The French General, who took the Division up to the Dobrudscha, has committed suicide; he was to have been tried by Court-Martial for losing so many men.
Nearly the whole of Varna was burnt down last week; the fire is still smouldering; a good deal of Government property was lost. There is not a shop left; but you will see the account in the papers. I do not feel up to writing much more, having already written several letters.
Tell Jack to tip me a line when he has nothing better to do, and not to be carried away with the idea of having a red coat on his back; he had better think twice about entering the Army; he can easily find a more comfortable berth, and I should advise him to try and get a more lucrative one. The Army is all very well at home among the lassies, but times change in places like Malta, the West Indies, and an army of no occupation in Turkey. You certainly see something of the world very cheaply, but it has many drawbacks. Honour and glory may be all very fine, but we do not know what that is yet. I hope we may know a little more about it before the middle of next month. To us it seems late to attack Sebastopol, but no one talks of anything else; I rather discredit the taking of Boomarsund before the French troops arrive. It is just as well the editor of the Illustrated London News writes the names underneath his illustrations, as we find it rather difficult to make out the place he has depicted where the troops are in camp; some of the prints are, however, good, and the paper is much sought after.
We have no mess, but dine at different hours by companies. Richards and I grub together, there being no ensign with us; a swell dinner consists generally of 3 lbs. of rations, a fowl, or a goose now and then; sometimes we wind up with a grand rice pudding; our only drink is brandy and water, a glass of beer is considered a great luxury. I had to borrow this sheet of paper, so don’t expect to hear from me again in a hurry.
Soombay Camp, 28th August.
I do not feel game to write a letter, so will only send you these few lines to let you know that we are not yet in the breach of Sebastopol, but the time is not far distant. We march for Varna on Thursday, making two days of it, and the men’s packs will be carried. The Light Division should be in Varna to-morrow, so on Friday all the troops will be collected there. The Artillery guns are on board, and everything ready in the Bay.
When I was sending off my last letter home, I did not feel very well, and ever since then I have been laid up with country fever. I am now getting on all right, and hope to be able to ride on the march, for if not, I shall have to go in one of those squeaking arabas, which will not be pleasant. The change and the sail across the sea will soon set me up. I am a good deal pulled down, and have lost weight, which I do not regret; I hope I may not regain it.
Every has gone home sick, and Northey has sent in his papers; he receives £1,400. Lord Raglan has given him leave, and he is off to-morrow; we did not expert that his resignation would have been accepted.
City of London,
Varna Bay, 3rd September.
My dear Uncle,
I have been disappointed in not receiving intimation of your arrival at Vienna, and am also anxious to hear if you have got all the letters I forwarded.
We were delighted last Tuesday by the receipt of a sudden order to march that afternoon half way to Varna. The following day we encamped near the town, and on the 31st August, 500 of us embarked on board this steamer, under Major Eman; the headquarters are in the Melbourne along with the 47th Regiment, Nos. 5 and 6 Companies in the Harbinger. We have much the best of it, and plenty of accommodation; our prog is first-rate, which is a great treat after living for five months on tough rations. General Sir De Lacy Evans and Staff are with us; he is a nice old fellow; our grub is perhaps none the worse for his being on board. We expect to leave tomorrow for Baltschick Bay, which is to be the rendezvous. It will be a grand sight, so many men-of-war and transports under sail. Our troops will all have embarked by this evening, Lord Raglan’s horses and those of his Staff were put on board to-day. They say the French will be all ready to-morrow. Many of the steamers and transports have left for Baltschick, and are to take in provisions and water there; most probably the final start will be on Tuesday.
The 4th Division is arriving from England, and are all now in the Bay except the 57th, which is coming from Corfu; the 21st arrived this morning from Cork; the Light Cavalry go with us, and the Heavy are to follow. The French have not got transport for more than 25,000 men; the remainder will be brought on afterwards. All our bat horses (i.e. officers’ baggage animals) are left behind for the present; one officer to a regiment remains to look after them. I luckily escaped by being on the sick-list, and the brick of a doctor said it would be better for me to have a change. The country fever left me very weak and hardly able to walk, but having taken a quantity of quinine, I am nearly well again, and the good feeding on board this ship will set me to rights by the time we reach Sebastopol. Several of our fellows have been laid up with something similar. I may thank my illness for being the means of saving me from being left behind. Richards (my captain) has been detained to look after the baggage animals, and the sick and weakly men of the brigade; he is in a great state of mind at having to do so.
Tuesday, 5th. – We are now steaming for Baltschick Bay. Mr Russell, the Times Correspondent, is on board; he is a very amusing, clever, and agreeable person.
City of London, Anchored Off The Crimea 12th September.
I posted a letter to Miss Anderson (former governess) before leaving Varna Bay; our expedition took a roundabout course for Sebastopol. We did not leave Varna for Baltschick until the 5th inst.; the force had been collecting there for some days. Our final departure from Baltschick was delayed till the morning of the 7th, when we went off in gallant style, and it was a most magnificent sight to see the different Divisions in their respective lines.
We sail in six lines, the Light Division being the column of direction on the left; the next is the 1st Division, and so on, the Cavalry being on the right. We are convoyed by the men-of-war, the steamers towing the line of battleships and sailing frigates. The different Divisions have five or six steamers, each of which tows two sailing transports. The speed has been very slow, the orders are not to exceed 4 knots an hour, and no Division is allowed to advance in-front of the others, so good order is preserved; at night the several lines have a different number of lights, so that we can readily keep our places. Although our speed has been slow, we have beaten the French, and have had to wait for them; they have not the steam transport that we have, a number of their vessels being sailing ones. There has been a good deal of dodging about, but for what reason neither the General nor any of us can make out; instead of steering straight in the direction of Sebastopol, where do you think we have been? We coasted up towards Serpent Island, and were within 49 miles of Odessa, which made us think we were going to have a rap at it.
On the 9th about noon, the ships cast anchor off the Crimea, near Cape Tchoukour, out of sight of land, and remained there till the 11th, when they left at 10 A.M., steering for Cape Eupatoria; we are now lying in that Bay about 5 miles from land, having arrived this evening before dark, so the people on shore must have seen us, and will, I expect, be alarmed less we disembark in the morning, which I do not think is likely, as we are 55 miles from Sebastopol. It is said that the landing will be about 7 or 9 miles off the harbour, near the Katscha River, but now I must refer back to the 9th. At daybreak, the Caradox, with Lord Raglan on board, accompanied by the Agamemnon and some other steamers of war, left us, and proceeded towards Sebastopol to reconnoitre, probably to find out the best place to land, and what preparations were being made to receive us. On their return on the 11th we weighed anchor, but nothing transpired; we saw a good many Cossacks on the outlook along the coast, but do not think there will be much opposition to our landing. It is said the fleet can go to within 800 yards of the shore, and sweep a couple of miles of the flat country, and that 2,000 guns will cover our disembarkation; that, I think, will keep the Cossacks of the Don at a respectable distance. It remains to be seen whether the Russians have a sufficient force to risk an engagement; if they do so with anything like equal numbers, they will catch it, I think. The Turkish force is about 12,000 strong, the French 28,000. Our Heavy Cavalry are still at Varna. For the first three days at least, we shall be in a precious plight – no baggage or tents. The men are to disembark with greatcoats, blankets, a shirt, a pair of socks, and boots, and carry three days’ rations (the packs are to be left in the transports). The officers will only be able to take a greatcoat, a shirt, a pair of socks, comb, and tooth-brush, with three days’ rations. If we have any marching, there is no means of having our baggage or tents brought on, so we may be much more than three days without any covering, or even a blanket.
While lying at anchor on the 9th, I had the pleasure of receiving no end of letters . . . among others two from mother, and one from Alexander written just before he sailed for New Zealand.
Wednesday 13th 2 P.M. – Here we are close off Eupatoria, and the signal, “Prepare to anchor,” is run up; it looks like having a blaze at the town. We are about 30 miles from Sebastopol by sea, and it must be a good deal more by land. Some of the men-of-war have run in pretty close, and we heard some shots, but from what direction they proceeded, we could not make out. The French, English, and Turkish ensigns have all been run up, and we surely are not likely to meet with opposition. We have been in sight of land all day; it is not an inviting looking country – no trees, but apparently plenty of corn. There are a number of windmills close to the town; and a good many of the inhabitants must be Turks, as there are several Minarets.
Good-bye for the present, letters are just signalled for, and the Caradox has gone off with a flag of truce flying.
Alma, 21st September.
I have this moment come off piquet, and hear there is an opportunity of sending a note home, which must be finished in a quarter of an hour. I sent off a hurried line to F from Eupatoria, which I had not time to conclude, as we were parading to see that the rifles were in proper order, when the signal for letters was hoisted. That night we received orders to sail for another point, and landed in the Crimea at “Old Fort,” in beautiful order, about noon on the 14th. We met with no opposition, and only a few Cossacks were visible. We remained till the 18th, landing Cavalry, Artillery, stores, etc. The weather in the afternoon became unfavourable, there was a heavy surf, which delayed the disembarkation. On the 19th we marched 10 miles, and encountered a Russian force with some guns, so our Horse Artillery and Light Cavalry were ordered up, and after a skirmish, in which we had two casualties, they were sent to the right-about.
Yesterday we had a general engagement (the Battle of the Alma), which lasted some hours; the Russians had a very strong position, but we carried the day, though I am sorry to say not without very heavy loss. Some of our regiments suffered most severely; I have no time to describe the battle at present; the 41st lost four men killed, and twenty-six wounded; no officers touched. We expect to march to-morrow, and may perhaps meet with a little opposition at another river about 6 miles off, if they have the pluck to light us again. Good troops should have held their position against any amount of men. We land the siege train at the other river; it is thought that all their troops, or nearly so, were out to meet us.
Balaclava, 28th September.
I sent off a hasty scribble on the 21st to say that I was quite well. I had not time to enter into particulars about the action, and I did not wish to cause you any uneasiness, as we expected to have met with a good deal of resistance at the Katscha and the Belbec, both of which places they might easily have defended and caused us great loss, but they seem to have retreated hurriedly, and by the accounts we have been able to gather from stragglers, their General could not get the soldiers to meet us again.
We gave them a terrible beating. From the number we buried, it is thought that the Russians had between seven and eight thousand killed and wounded, which is a very heavy loss, considering that they had all the game to themselves till we took the Heights, and then did not the Artillery of our brigade give it them! They had some heavy guns, twenty-four and thirty-two pounders, which was great odds against our nine pounders; we also had the disadvantage of having to climb steep slopes to attack the entrenchments where their guns were posted. You will see by the paper that we had much harder work than the French. Our loss was 2,145 killed and wounded (25 officers killed and 101 wounded), the French 1,443; the old officers say that they never saw such a warmly contested action, and so hot a fire, with the exception of Waterloo. Lord Raglan was highly pleased with the gallantry of our troops, and Sir de Lacy Evans addressed our Division on the 23rd, and said that the Commander of the Forces had especially remarked General Adams’ brigade. We crossed the river close to Lord Raglan, and were the first to gain the Heights, which enabled our Artillery to come up and play havoc on their retreating columns. If we had had more Cavalry, we should have taken several thousand prisoners; but our small force was kept on the left, watching the Cossacks, who were strong; they did not attack us.
It is useless giving you a long story, all of which you will have seen in the columns of the Times through our friend Russell, the Correspondent, who came from Malta in the Himalaya with us, and also to the Crimea in the City of London.
We had tents after landing for two nights, but since marching, we have been without them. The weather has fortunately been fine, and all are wonderfully well considering the circumstances; it was rather cold last night. We expect our tents to be landed in a day of two, and are now waiting for the siege train, which is being disembarked at Balaclava Bay. We remained at the Alma a couple of days to bury the dead, and put the wounded on board ship.
On the morning of the 21st it was dreadful to see the result of the previous day’s engagement; so many dead and dying on the field was an awful sight. Our wounded were all attended to on the day of the battle, and then the Russians were taken care of. On the 23rd we reached the Katscha, where we expected to have had another engagement. In a house we found about 300 dead Russians, whom we buried. On the 24th we reached the Belbec, which might also have easily been defended.
On the 25th, at Sir John Burgoyne’s suggestion, the idea of attacking the star fort on the right of the harbour was abandoned, and we made a flank inarch round the head of the inlet, through a woody and rough country, descending the Heights (the Mackenzie Heights) by a winding road to the Tchernaya Valley, crossing the river which flows into the harbour by the aqueduct bridge a few miles above the town. It was a very fatiguing march. We started at 10 A.M., and did not reach our bivouac ground, after several halts, till midnight. When crossing the road leading from Sebastopol to Bakshisarai, our Cavalry unexpectedly intercepted the baggage guard of a force of Prince Menschikoff’s Army, which had left the town to await the arrival of reinforcements. They captured some carts containing flour, ammunition, and money, and, I hear, a fine Church Service set with diamonds. We certainly deserve to get something, our privations are not a few.
On the 26th the Light Division took the forts that commanded the Bay of Balaclava, and now we are in communication with our ships again. Yesterday we advanced up the Heights to enable Lord Raglan to make a reconnaissance, which was effected without opposition, and we returned to our old ground.
Mackenzie has been taken prisoner, and I hope we have got some information from him. It is thought that Sebastopol will fall in a week or so, after we go at it. I trust there may not be much bloodshed. Bush is waiting for me to go on board ship, to see if we can pick up anything. My paper is at an end, so excuse this scrawl, I am writing under difficulties on the top of my shako.
Heights Commanding Sebastopol, 3rd October.
We have not done much in the fighting line since I sent off my letter of the 28th, but from the great preparations going on, I think there is a bad time coming for the Russians. We have now got our siege guns on the hill, but none are yet in position. Fifty ship guns are being landed, and 1,000 sailors are to work them; they are now encamped close to Balaclava. The French are busy landing their Artillery at a bay near the town (Kameish); there is also a Turkish siege train, if it should be wanted. We shall probably begin to batter away in a few days; the greater part of the forts can be commanded by our heavy guns from the Heights we now occupy. It is expected that it will be easy work to take those on this side of Sebastopol.
The Russian fleet is also commanded from our position; we will most likely require to sink them, as their broadsides would do us great damage. The Russians have sunk some ships across the entrance of the harbour to prevent our fleet getting in. The French left rests on the sea, and our Division, the 2nd, will join their right, it being the left of the English line for the present. The day before yesterday, when I was in the middle of my meagre dinner, a French column passed in front of our camp, exposing themselves to view from the forts; the consequence was that some shot and shell were fired at them. Two of the latter came over our line, and one landed about 20 yards from where I was grubbing, which made us quickly take up our pot and decamp to a distance. Every now and then they are sending a shot at some party or another, but I have not heard of any casualties.
Our Heavy Cavalry disembarked yesterday. I wish they had been present at the battle of the Alma; 20,000 more French have also landed, which will be a good help. Up to this time we have been without tents, except for two nights at our first landing-place; we expect to get them to-night. We have been most fortunate in having fine weather, for if it had been wet, we should have lost a number of men. Since our arrival there have been a few cases of cholera, but the excitement prevents the men from feeling depressed. On the evening of the 28th I received letters and a budget of papers; they are a great treat to us poor fellows, who have nothing to read.
We are still without baggage, as the City of London has not made her appearance in the Bay; I wish she would come, as my two pairs of socks are rather the worse for wear. I have just heard from the Colonel that the batteries will be armed to-night, and it is expected with our eighty-seven guns we shall be able to burn their fleet with little trouble. The clergyman attached to our Division had to be left behind at Varna, as he was ill. The Church Service is read on Sundays by one of the senior officers. Glad to hear Uncle G is looking so well after the grilling and rough experience he had here; he should have remained a little longer, and come on with us to the Crimea, and then he would have seen something to repay him for all the discomfort he had to put up with.
This paper I am writing on is taken out of a young lady’s music-book. Her father’s house (Mr Upton, C.E.) I had the honour of occupying last night when on piquet. We have to thank him for all the trouble that is before us, as he planned the Docks and most of the fortifications.
Iinkerman Heights, 12th October.
Nothing particular has happened since I last wrote. A good deal of shot and shell has been fired by the enemy, but no material damage done, only one or two men wounded. On the 4th the 2nd Division moved its position to the extreme right of the line to cover the flank of the army. We are now in a more comfortable place on the slopes looking towards the Tchernaya and Inkerman, and the enemy’s forts are further away. We have not yet opened fire from our guns; most of the batteries are nearly complete. It has been a very tedious operation bringing the guns up from Balaclava. You good people in England will be grumbling at the delay, but you can have no idea of the amount of work to be done before everything is ready; you must also bear in mind that the heavy guns that are to be brought into play have to be landed, put together, and dragged up a very steep hill; the distance from the Bay to the batteries is over 6 miles, and it takes thirty-two horses to bring up one of the large guns with a proportion of ammunition.
On the 5th I had an opportunity of going on board the City of London, and got some clean clothes, which was a luxury; they were all very civil, and gave us a good lunch, which we poor hungry fellows thoroughly enjoyed. On the 7th I was sent down with fifty pack horses to bring up shot and shell, and I took advantage of the chance to add some stores to our scratch mess. We have now got some of our tents; four officers are together; it is a great thing having a covering over our heads; it was bitterly cold two nights ago, but now I am happy to say it is again milder. I have just been warned to go out with a party to dig, and as they start immediately, I shall have to wind up this sooner than I intended. I saw Colonel Beatson and his brigade-major the other day; the Bashibasouks have turned out a great failure; they are now here attached to the force. I lost my revolver the other night, when out patrolling, but I have bought another, which belonged to a poor officer of the 55th, who died from cholera. Must conclude, as the party is falling in. I have now been put into the Grenadier Company.
Iinkerman Heights, 13th October.
Yesterday afternoon I had only time to write a hurried line before getting ready to go out with a party of 400 men to throw up trenches in front of our batteries; it is the first party of the kind I have been on, and I hope it may be the last, as it is not at all agreeable work digging away in the dark, and being shelled at every now and then. We were so far fortunate that the work had been begun the evening before, so there was some, cover. The batteries arc nearly completed, and the guns will be put in to-night; it is thought that we shall be ready to open fire on Sunday morning, but such will not be the case, as the ground is rocky and not favourable for the work, and the magazines and traverses, etc., have still to be made. It seems quite providential the few casualties that have occurred, considering the quantity of shot and shell the enemy has fired at us, some of which has dropped right into our camps; I only know of one of the 68th being killed, and a man of the 63rd wounded. In the entrenchments an officer of the 20th was wounded the other day, and I believe up to the present time the losses on our side have been about a dozen, although the Russians have blazed away daily an average of 200 shots.
It may be all very well, men talking about wishing to fight, but I do not believe that, after having once been engaged in a big battle and seeing the horrors of war, they would really wish to do so again; it is very different from the days of yore, when enemies had to encounter each other hand to hand, but now that there are guns which kill at several miles’ range, it is very different. We have no excitement at present, as the Russians have it all their own way; a few days hence the aspect of affairs may be changed.
Monday, 16th October. – I am on piquet again; the work is hard, and the outpost duties severe. Yesterday was not much like Sunday. I was sent out at 3 A.M. with a party to throw up entrenchments at the twenty-one gun battery, and was at it all day, not getting back to camp till nearly eight in the evening, and my company (now the Grenadiers) had to parade for piquet at 4.30 A.M.; it is twenty-four hours’ duty without tents, and we have to keep pretty wide awake. While we were digging, the forts must have fired over 100 shots at the parapet, and not one of them did any damage to the work, or hurt any of the party. Their shell firing was much better than usual; very few of their shells are filled with anything, they only burst. A poor man of the 38th had his leg and arm taken off yesterday, and one of the 49th was killed this morning. Bligh, Dixon, and Stirling joined us last night from Scutari. Barnard and Lockhart are to be sent home; our paymaster Creagh had a medical board yesterday, and will most probably be also sent to England.
You will have seen by the papers that we have had two promotions lately; I am now standing third for purchase; if Sebastopol falls, and I should be spared, I think there is every probability of my becoming a captain in the course of the winter, as many of the officers have had quite enough of this work, and do not like the idea of a campaign in Asia. You can have no notion as to what we have to undergo; we are four and five in a tent, with no more baggage than what we carried on our backs during the march, muddy water to drink. Some of the officers have not even a change of shirt, or socks, and have to get them washed as they best can; and to add to our vexations, we have heard from Scutari that the City of London caught fire, and that nearly all the officers’ baggage that was left on board was burned. I hope mine may have escaped. The last time I was in her, I, unfortunately, put my watch in my saddle-bags, as I thought I might lose it here. I suppose we shall get some compensation, but it will not repay us for the inconvenience we are put to. I am now nearly walking on my stocking soles, my boots being in such a bad state for want of repair.
Tuesday, 17th October. – Yesterday I had a quiet piquet; nothing of any importance took place. At night the embrasures were cut for our guns, and now they are peppering away; they commenced at half-past six, and in less than an hour, silenced nearly all the guns on the top of the Malakoff, which is a strong round tower, and has a commanding position. The allied fleets have not yet come into play; they will very likely soon be in the thick of it. The fire is terrific; I hope the town may not be destroyed; there are some fine buildings which I fear will be reduced to a heap of ruins (the first bombardment of Sebastopol).
After returning from piquet this morning, I was delighted at receiving mother’s letter of the 26th, and jumpers. The outward mail should close this evening, but will probably be detained to report how the siege is progressing. I will now go up the hill and see the effects of the bombardment.
4.30 P.M. – Things are going on well for us. Rome was not taken in a day, so you must not expect that Sebastopol will be taken in the same time. This has been a quiet day for the Infantry, as the Artillery are attracting most attention. One of our Lancasters has burst, and five magazines have blown up – one English, two French, and Russian. The Round Tower is quite silenced, and several Russian guns in their other works. The French, I fear, have suffered severely by the explosion in their batteries. The fleets came into play about half-past twelve, and are now firing at Forts Constantine, Nicholas, etc.; the latter is on our side of the harbour, which we hope may soon be in possession of the French, who hold the left. There is so much smoke over the town, it is impossible to see what damage has been done to the sea forts, and the lines being so extensive (about 8 miles in length), it is difficult to gain correct information as to what has taken place.
Some nights ago, the Greeks made an attempt to set fire to Balaclava, which, if they had succeeding in doing, would have played the mischief with our stores, and burnt all the shipping; but, fortunately, the conspiracy was discovered, and every one of them sent to the right-about, so the few shops that were being established are closed. I saw Nasmyth the other day; he is now appointed Quarter-Master General for Balaclava.
Since having a cup of tea and a bite of biscuit, I have received my good mother’s never-failing epistle; by the same mail there was a letter from Maydwell, wishing to sell out, and wanting £700, but Fitzroy says he must wait till the issue of the siege is determined. If those steps go, I shall be senior; it is of the greatest advantage to get a company as soon as possible.
Wednesday morning, 18th October. – The batteries ceased firing during the night; they are now hard at it again. I have just returned from the top of the hill; from this side we can see no damage done to the sea forts. The fleets are lying at their old anchorage.
Heights Near Iinkerman, 21st October.
This is the fifth day the batteries have been at work. I understand everything is progressing favourably. Each day we silence a number of guns, but the Russians replace them during the night. We shall be obliged to take the place by assault, unfortunately, our batteries cannot reach their shipping, so they will be able to slate us when we advance to take the round fort, which is the key of the position. The fleets have not come into play again since the first day. The ships got rather knocked about on the 17th; the Rodney is said to be quite crippled; the Agamemnon approached to within 500 yards of Fort Constantine, and suffered less than those that remained 1,200 yards off. The top row of guns on the sea forts was dismantled, but no material damage done to the works. I am afraid the fleet will not aid us much; they may manage to effect an entrance, if we take this side of the harbour.
The other night the Russians attempted to destroy some of the French guns, and nearly succeeded. A party of their sailors was sent out under an officer, who spoke French well, and they passed themselves off as English who had lost their way. They got inside the batteries, and were in the act of spiking the guns, when they were discovered to be Russians. The French then attacked them with their bayonets, which soon made them cut and run, the officer in command being taken prisoner. Each morning we send out some sharp-shooters, who interchange shots with the enemy’s marksmen; their officers seem good and plucky. It is becoming monotonous work, playing at long bowls with one another. We have been firing red-hot shot and rockets into the Tower to try and set it on fire, but it being chiefly stone, it does not burn as readily as we could wish. We have blown up four or five of their small magazines.
Lord Dunkillin was taken prisoner yesterday morning; he lost his way in leaving the trenches, and walked into a Russian outpost. Several Poles have given themselves up to us.
Heights Near Inkerman, 27th October.
The last two days we have had more excitement than usual. The fiery spirit of the Russians could not any longer brook being shut up in Sebastopol, and being fired on, so, under cover of darkness on Wednesday night, they marched on Balaclava, and early in the morning attempted to take the place, which they nearly succeeded in doing, as the “Bono Johnnies” (the Turks) retired from the outlying defences without offering much resistance. The Russians attacked, and took the highest redoubt, which commanded No. 2 Redoubt; so the Turks bolted in haste from the others, leaving the cannon (which we had given them to protect the works with) behind them. In trying to retrieve the disaster, we lost over 200 of our Cavalry. The Light Brigade made a most gallant charge up the valley, and cut down a great many Russians, but unfortunately they became exposed to a very heavy cross fire from the enemy’s position on the low hills, which caused great havoc amongst the officers and men. I do not know what we can make of the Turks now; it was a pity they were not sent up to the front at first, and made to throw up batteries and trenches. We hear it is proposed to give up Balaclava and draw back to the plateau, where our allies are encamped. Our present position is very extended, and requires a great number of men to defend it, and there is a bay (Kazatch Bay) nearer the left of the French that would answer our purpose as well as Balaclava. The Russians did not succeed in gaining any material advantage, and they must have lost heavily; they had a large force of Cavalry.
On the 26th, when I was on “The Hay” piquet, on the right of our Division, our left piquets were driven in at 1 P.M. by the Russians, numbering about 8,000 strong. The piquets kept the enemy in check till their ammunition was expended, when they had to fall back on the main body. The enemy came up to within 300 yards of our front line of tents; they were then repulsed and turned, and were followed right down to the valley by our Division. Their loss is supposed to be from 700 to 1,000. The casualties on our side were five officers wounded, ten men killed, and fifty-six wounded. Poor Harriott received a bullet wound, which has fractured the collar-bone. The wound is not considered dangerous, but the doctors have not yet succeeded in extricating the ball. He is off to Scutari, and has asked me to write to his mother, which I have done.
Our Division was the only portion of the force engaged. Part of the Guards supported us; it was a very plucky sortie, and they came on like men. Our piquets are firing just now on all sides; it is not yet daylight; there must be something up.
Saturday, 28th, 5 A.M. – I have to go out with a fatigue party immediately to the siege train; we never know what may turn up in the shape of work. Poor Major Powell, 49th Regiment, was shot to-day.
ON PIQUET BEFORE SEBASTOPOL,
It is your turn to receive a letter from your soldier brother – I think I may fairly call myself such now, as we are soldiering in real earnest. You will be relieved by seeing my handwriting again, as that horrid telegraph must have caused great anxiety in England by forestalling letters, and reporting our gallant, but dreadful victory of the 5th (the Battle of Inkerman).
On the night of the 4th I was on a working party at Gordon’s battery till one o’clock, having been there since four in the afternoon, and after four hours’ rest, went out again that morning at half-past five on piquet with Rowlands to the most advanced point, overlooking Sebastopol, and we had just taken up our day position, and posted our sentries, when, about 6 A.M., our left sentries shouted out that “The Russians are in front.” We had not more than time to get under arms, and extend the main body of the piquet, when shots were exchanged, and the enemy advanced up the slopes in dense masses, preceded by skirmishers, and closely followed by their Artillery, which soon opened upon us with grape and canister. We were compelled to retire, firing till reinforcements reached us from the camp. Our men fought splendidly, and drove the Russians back several times, but they came up in overwhelming numbers, and in the course of the battle nearly got within the lines of our Division; we were just supported in time to prevent part of the enemy’s Infantry from gaining the crest of the hill. Most of the Divisions of the British were brought into action during the fight. The fire was very heavy on both sides for several hours, and some of the men expended all their ammunition.
About 11 A.M. a Division of French, commanded by General Bosquet, came to our assistance, and fought most pluckily. During the battle they suffered severely. It is reported by the prisoners from 35,000 to 45,000 attacked us, and that they came from Bucharest ten days ago. The fighting lasted till about 2.30 P.M. – a dreadful Sunday morning’s work; the allied loss is supposed to be 2,100. It is difficult to form a correct idea of that of the Russians; it must have been enormous – it is stated from 6,000 to 10,000. Some of their wounded, poor fellows, are still on the ground, and their dead are being buried by cart-loads. I have still a more dreadful tale to tell in the death of five of our officers and six wounded. With the exception of Bush’s, the wounds are not severe; he has gone to Scutari, and it is doubtful whether he will lose his arm or not. Johnston’s is only a contusion on the heel, Rowlands and Bligh are shot through the right arm, Meredith in the hand, Fitzroy (who was in command of the support piquet) in the leg. In the course of the morning, after we had been engaged some time, Fitzroy came to me and said he had been hit with a spent bullet; soon after I met him again, and he remarked his leg was becoming very stiff, so I told him he had better be off, as the work was getting rather hot for us. When I got back to camp, I heard that he had been shot through the leg, which at the time he was not aware of.
We have to deplore the following killed: our Colonel (who was brought into camp wounded, died yesterday afternoon), Captain Richards, and Lieutenants Swaby, Taylor, and poor Stirling, who was on the sick-list, and came out and joined in the action; he was shot through the head whilst carrying the regimental colour. Richards and Swaby were killed fighting hand-to-hand with the Russians; we fear they were over courageous, and pressed forward too far; they were both cautioned to retire. Swaby said he would not, but would fight to the last. A Russian officer was found lying dead close by him. Richards was near him, and it is reported by the men that he shot one Russian with his revolver, and ran another through with his sword. There is no doubt they behaved rashly in advancing against strong bodies of the enemy, supported only by a few, and a large mass coming down on their flank. The loss in our regiment is 31 killed, 100 wounded, and 15 missing; our brigade is reduced to about 1100, and that of the 1st to 800. The place where our regiment suffered most was in the vicinity of a disused battery (the Sandbag Battery), which was erected by us for two 18-pounders to fire across the Inkerman Heights. It is a dreadful reality to think that the two brigades mustered 5,000 bayonets on their arrival at Scutari, and that now they are so reduced. I should indeed be thankful for having been spared to come through such a fearful action with nothing worse than a slight contusion on my head, caused by a wood splinter. Little did we think, when we got up last Sunday morning, that before the sun went down, we should have to lament the loss of so many of our comrades. Of the four officers, Richards, Bligh, and Bush, that morning sharing my tent, I was the only one left in the evening, the former having been killed, the two latter wounded. Victories may be a matter of great rejoicing at home, but on the battlefield itself they appear very different. The Russians certainly are a set of savages; they stabbed many of our wounded, and to-day they fired on some of our parties who went to bury their dead. Some men of my piquet were in the act of burying a Russian to-day, when one of them was shot, and had his leg broken. I think we are partly to blame for their firing at us in not hoisting a white flag whilst engaged in this duty; they could not be expected to distinguish between a burial party and one sent out to throw up entrenchments. I meant to have written to Swaby’s relations, but being on piquet for twenty-four hours has prevented me. Our work will be terribly heavy now; we have only two captains and three subalterns to do all the duty. I am rather seedy, and wish I could have a day’s rest. It was bitterly cold for two days. Getting drenched the last evening I was digging in the trenches, I got a chill, and to add to my discomforts, the soles of my boots are quite worn through.
November 8th, 7 A.M. – During the night there was an alarm, but it turned out to be false. We have taken 2,000 prisoners, and 4,000 are dead on the field, so the Russian loss must have been more than 10,000. I am quite done up this morning, and must have a day’s rest. Sebastopol will not be taken so easily as was expected. We hope more troops will arrive from France. I am afraid you will find this a dismal epistle, but we are all in low spirits; our messmates are now reduced to five. This morning all the wounded go on board ship.
Heights Near Inkerman, 12th November.
As to-morrow is the day the mail leaves Balaclava, I must try and have a few lines ready to tell you that we have had a week’s peace. Matters are in a state of status quo, and we have made up our minds for a winter here, the prospect of which is not very cheering. How often we all think of our dear old homes, and envy you your comfortable firesides, when we poor wretches are told not to make ourselves too comfortable for the night, on the side of a hill, with a cloak and blanket, without a fire. This happens just now with our regiment every third night and day. The piquets are very hard with our reduced numbers, and, unfortunately, the fine weather has broken, and the camp is in a dreadful state of slush. I got quite knocked up, and have been on the sick-list the last three days; but the rest has done me good, and I feel nearly all right again. In a few days we expect a little help by the arrival of six junior officers, who are coming out in the Jura, with a draft of 100 men. Last night four companies of the 62nd arrived from Malta; they are to reinforce our position, so that may give us another day off piquet; the 97th are also expected from Greece, the Buffs having left Malta to replace them. We shall be none the worse for an increase to our army after the dreadful losses of the other day, which, I believe, was – 3 generals, 35 officers killed; 106 wounded; 442 men killed; 1,763 wounded. Lord Raglan, in his despatches, estimates the Russian loss about 15,000; the French make it out to be 20,000. Nearly 4,000 have been buried by our parties; the recognised estimate is 1 killed to 5 wounded. Our returns show a larger proportion of killed than that, but we came to very close quarters, and the Russians stabbed some of our wounded. The Grand Dukes Constantine and Michael were present at the battle of Inkerman, having only arrived a day or two before.
We have strengthened our front considerably since the 5th; it was very necessary, as it is a most important position, and one of which the Russians would fain possess themselves; from the crest their guns could sweep most of our camps. You will most likely see in the Illustrated News in a few weeks a sketch of the battle; their Correspondent lives in our camp. That was a good print of the Alma which appeared in the number of the 21st October. It is cheering to read in the papers that we were shedding our blood for a grateful country. When in Bulgaria, we used to chaff, and say they would never be satisfied without a large butcher’s bill! Alas! it is now an appalling list to look at, and I am afraid it is not yet filled up.
I am sorry to think we may not again see our General, Sir De Lacy Evans, amongst us; he is far from well, and has not strength for the work. He is such a fine old man; he had been sent on board ship for his health a few days before the action, but when he heard an attack had taken place, he came up to join in it, riding a distance of 7 miles, when he was hardly able to sit on horseback. Our Brigadier-General, Adams, was wounded on the 5th, also his aide-de-camp, who was his brother. Maitland, 49th, was sent to Scutari sick some time ago; we do not at present see much of our friends in the other Divisions, as we never know what may turn up if we leave camp. The Highland Brigade is at Balaclava.
There are frequent arrivals of French. Our gallant allies, the Turks, are not of much good; digging is the only thing they are employed at, and it is precious hard work to get them to do that if a shot should chance to come near them. Our tents got dreadfully knocked about the other day by the Russian fire; mine is almost the only whole one left, and it has the seam partly ripped, open. Bourne is now doubled up with me.
I hope Bush may not lose his arm; we have not heard of any of the wounded since their departure. The City of London has not yet turned up with the baggage. This bit of paper is another piece of Miss Upton’s music-book; their property was not destroyed, but protected by the English, and they were able to remove it to Balaclava, minus a few petty larcenies. Since I have read the character of her father in the Times, I regret not having boned a lot of articles; there were some very nice books I had rather a hankering after; my pillage from their house was a pocket-diary, a small flask, and a plate. When writing, if you expect an answer, it may be as well to put a blank sheet in, to make up the weight, as we have not a bookseller round the corner. Is there any little thing you would like particularly out of Sebastopol, as I have every intention of being there some fine morning, though you must not expect much? We have sent to Malta for all their 13-inch mortars, to help us to bring the inhabitants to a little reason; it is getting rather cold work remaining out of doors so long. It should like to see the fleet do something. I have succeeded in replacing my revolver that I lost. I bought one for £4, 5s.
13th November. – After a very wet night, all is quiet this morning.
We had a most terrific storm on Tuesday, the 14th, it began about 7 o’clock in the morning. When lying in bed, my tent went “smash” over my head, and on turning out, a terrible scene presented itself. It was blowing a perfect hurricane, the rain coming down in sheets, and hardly a tent standing in the various camps. It was very dismal to contemplate my house level with the ground, and all my effects exposed to the tempest; luckily one of the doctor’s tents stood the gale, and we all huddled into it, and held on by the canvas and pole; it was very cold work. Towards sundown it began to snow, and the wind subsided, so before evening we were able to set up again those tents which had not been blown to ribbons. Many of the men took shelter in the caves on the side of the hill. Fortunately, only a little snow fell, or the road to Balaclava would have been blocked. As it was, it was with the greatest difficulty that the provisions were got up for the next day. The poor horses and animals are in a wretched condition, and the Artillery horses are scarcely able to draw the waggons of ammunition. The catastrophes at sea are frightful, and the loss to the country must be enormous; nine vessels went down off Balaclava, and thirteen off Katscha. The Prince sank with all the winter clothing, the telegraph, and £200,000 pay for the troops, and the Resolute, with the reserve powder, went down at her anchors. There are wrecks all along the coast, and nearly every ship is more or less damaged. In the harbour at Balaclava the ships got terribly knocked about. Our draft with six ensigns, now all but one lieutenants, had fortunately disembarked the day before the storm.
On the 15th I was sent with a fatigue party to Balaclava to get tents. On the road I met Russell, the Times Correspondent; he was not in his usual jovial humour, I suppose the storm had had a depressing effect on his spirits, and it certainly did not tend to raise my own, by his remarking to me that we should very likely all winter in St Petersburg.
The City of London has come in, and I am glad to say most of my baggage has escaped the fire, though my little tent, table, and stool are gone; some of the officers have lost everything. The weather is getting colder, and we are much in need of warm clothing. Our batteries fire only very few rounds now every day. The position at Inkerman is now much stronger, and the Russians had better not try us again. There is a talk of hutting the troops. Kingscote is now in my tent, with Bourne; he is a very nice gentlemanly young fellow; he is a nephew of Lord Raglan’s; his brother Nigel is on the Staff. The Duke of Cambridge left the army soon after the battle of Inkerman, as he was not well.
For the last ten days we have done nothing towards the taking of Sebastopol, but it is reported that Lord Raglan is more cheerful, for what reason we don’t know, only trust there is a good time coming for us. We have every confidence in our leaders, but it does seem strange that the Russians are allowed to strengthen their positions without being molested. The works round the Tower are stronger than they were on the morning of the 17th October (the first day of the bombardment). Their men are always very busy working at the Malakoff. I think we gave them a severe lesson the other day, and .they will not risk another Inkerman. Our position has been much strengthened with guns and redoubts; if these entrenchments had been thrown up when we first occupied the ground, we should not now have to lament the death of so many of our brave companions. Some French regiments are encamped near us, and are working at the redoubts and batteries. We have begun our hutting, which may be finished by next summer; it is comparatively easy to bring the wood in ships to Balaclava, but the difficulty is in transporting it up to the different encampments; the stone foundations must also be brought from a distance. I do not see much chance of my hut being ready for a long time, as they are being constructed from the left of the line, i.e. the Light Company, and I am on the extreme right, so mine will be the last to be put together. A hut will be warmer than a tent, and we can have fires, which will be a great comfort. When there is a spell of wet weather such as we have had since the 14th (the day of the storm), everything becomes damp, and if you budge out of your tent, you are up to your ankles in mud. On the 22nd I was on piquet at the extreme front near Sebastopol, which is called by the soldiers “Funk Point.”
Many thanks for your kind intention of sending me out a box; the contents will be most acceptable; my socks are rather the worse for wear, and I hope you will send a good pair of warm gloves for night work. The dressing-gown at present will be out of place, but I hope times may improve. I have seldom had my coat off my back since we landed, with the exception of a rub down in the mornings, and that luxury does not take place once in every twenty-four hours. William Aitchison will very likely be sent out sooner than he expected. The affair of the 5th would cause much anxiety in England, and in his regiment many vacancies have occurred. The 97th have arrived, and the 9th came yesterday.
I must wind up now, and warm my toes at the fire before turning in between the blankets. I am for piquet in the morning, so must close this to-night. I have got a waterproof sheet now, which saves me greatly when it is wet on piquet. The duty comes round to our turn every fourth or fifth night. The night after tomorrow I hope to luxuriate in my iron stretcher; I got it up this evening from Balaclava; it will keep me off the ground. Of course we do not indulge in sheets, as we lie down partially clad for fear of a turn-out, though the false alarms are not now so frequent, as the men have become better accustomed to their duties when on piquet.
Cossack Hill Piquet, Inkerman, 7th December.
I intended writing you a long letter to tell you I am still in the land of the living, but the mail is going out a day sooner than usual, and I am unexpectedly again on piquet, owing to Skipworth being sick. Yesterday, after returning from a horridly dirty ride to Balaclava, I had the pleasure of receiving a budget of letters. I will try and send William Younger a line some day soon, but at present, work is hard, and after it is over, we do not feel much inclined to take up our pens and scribble letters on our knees, or on the back of a notebook.
This night will be my fourth in the open air out of twelve, pretty severe work, seeing that it has been raining nearly every day since the 9th of last month. The roads are in an awful state; it is wonderful that we can receive supplies from Balaclava; the transport animals are dying fast on the roadside under their loads. Fresh meat has been very scarce this last month; before that we used to get it every other day. We are doing nothing at present, our guns being worn out; fresh ones have arrived, with some very heavy mortars, which I hope may touch up the shipping, but in the present state of the roads, they cannot be brought up. Yesterday, the Russian force in front of Balaclava, under General Liprandi, set fire to their huts at Tchorgoun, and marched off, which I hope may open the Woronzoff Toad to us, which has been closed since the battle of Balaclava, and the flight of the Turks. We do not know the reason of the Russians withdrawing, unless the wet weather has rendered it impossible for them to get their provisions. They must have suffered greatly in that low ground; the valley between our heights, and those of Inkerman is all under water.
The sketches you have seen in the papers will have given you a pretty good idea of our position. What .a relief it would be to us, if we had another army to invest the north side. I hope strong additions to our force are on the way; the work we have to do is too hard for the men. The intention is to place new batteries on a hill (the Mamelon) approaching the Malakoff. Last night five men of the 55th, not being on the alert, were taken prisoners in one of the advance trenches.
Yesterday two of the Russian steamers went out of the harbour in hopes of catching one of our steamers, but she was wide awake, and soon had her steam up. Shots were exchanged, and on the appearance of one of our larger steamers, Russ very soon sought shelter under their batteries. All our wounded and invalided officers are going home from Scutari with the exception of Rowlands; they are reported as doing well.
Just returned off piquet, and a precious nasty one too! I find the mail closes in a short time, so I can only send a few lines home with all best wishes for the season. This ought to reach you about the 1st of the New Year. I wish I could be with you all on Christmas Day; we do not expect to have a very joyous one here. How thankful we would be if we could spend it in Sebastopol! If it was only dry, there might be a chance of our getting something done before 1855, but in the present state of weather and roads, matters progress very slowly. When I mounted piquet yesterday morning snow was falling fast; it did not continue long, but left the ground in a slushy state, so there was not much comfort in lying down for a little repose; I hardly got a wink of sleep, and do not feel much in a writing humour. Nothing of any importance has taken place lately; the siege is very monotonous work. We have got some new guns and mortars up; most of the English reinforcements have arrived, and some of the French. Our huts are not getting on very fast towards completion; they will make good cattle-sheds for the Russians after the war is over, which we all hope may soon be the case.
I must end, as it is close on the hour for Church Parade. I was taken aback the other morning when inspecting my company (the Grenadiers) to find three men on parade without boots. On enquiring the reason, they said they had been on fatigue duty the evening before to Balaclava, and as the soles had come off in the mud, they did not see the use of carrying the uppers, and there were no boots big enough to fit them in the small stock the quarter-master had.
When the Colonel came round, he also noticed the peculiar circumstance, and made a great ado to me about it, and said he had never before seen such a thing in the whole course of his soldiering; at which I was rather riled, as I could not provide boots at a moment’s notice. However, in the course of the day, I, with difficulty, discovered some large enough in the regimental stores of another brigade.
I am behind hand with my writing, and must now take this into Balaclava to try and catch the mail, which leaves sooner than usual, although we did not receive early enough intimation of its doing so. I have just written to poor Swaby’s father-in-law. I enclose two notes I received from his friends, and also one from Mrs Harriott. You will have seen by the papers the death of poor Harriott; we did not think when he left, he was so seriously wounded; he was hopeful to the last. Rowlands, who is now here, attended on him constantly; I feel much for his poor mother; she wrote in such good spirits about him. Lamont, one of our assistant-surgeons, is very ill with typhoid fever; I am afraid he will not get over it; it is sad being cut off here without a single relation near you.
We passed rather a pleasant Christmas Day yesterday, considering everything; it was a lovely day, with hard frost in the morning. I have knocked up a small kitchen hut, and eight of us dined together in it. Lord Raglan presented Kingscote with a goose, which was a most welcome addition to our rations of fresh meat, which they managed to serve out to the troops for a Christmas dinner, and we had a large pudding (stick-jaw) with currants and raisins, and we did not forget to drink the health of “the auld folks at home,” in our tot of rum and water.
It is so bitterly cold, I can hardly hold my pen, and my feet are like ice, in spite of the beautiful boots which I received from home two days ago, the postage of which cost 32s; the flannel shirt has also come to hand. I wish I had thought sooner of asking mother to send me a few more things, but we did not expect to be encamped here so long; I want a large waterproof cape to go over the shoulders, and also a very wide waterproof to go outside of one or two coats; some of the fellows have asked me to get half a dozen Shetland shirts, of a dark grey colour. If mother should send out another box, some pots of substantial preserved meats would be most acceptable; so much salt meat is very bad for one, and everything of that kind is an enormous price here.
Government is treating us very well in providing us with fur caps and sheepskin coats, and some underclothing. I see by the despatches that most of us are to have three medals; it has put the troops in good spirits. I hope most of them will be spared to wear them at home; the poor soldiers have earned them dearly, and have had many discomforts. There is a proposal to make a railway from Balaclava to the siege train, which will be a great boon in aiding the transport.
I rode into Balaclava last Tuesday to catch the mail, but found the steamer was leaving from the Chersonese Bay, so could not send my letter of the 26th inst. A few days ago, I received a note from H. Younger; he is thinking of doing a little business here, and I think it might perhaps be a capital “spec.” Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to see the ruffians, who charge such exorbitant prices for the common necessaries of life, undersold; 100 per cent, is about their profit. Although beer is not so very dear, it is of a light, inferior quality. Byass (not Bass) sells for 10d. a pint bottle, and 1s. 6d. a quart, porter is 2s. a quart. In this cold weather, and the hard work we have, good strong ale would sell well; it is not the officers alone who buy beer, but the whole army.
The soldiers do not know what to do with their money, and give 6s. 6d. for the very worst description of brandy, which is supplied by the French vivandières; it is the vilest kind of eau de vie. The prices in Balaclava have been enormous, 1s. a pound for brown sugar. I had to pay 3s. a pound one day, but there is more competition now, and when the yachts, etc, arrive from England, we hope prices will come down.
Poor Lamont, whom I mentioned as having typhoid fever, is a little better, but so weak, the doctors do not expect him to live. Anderson, our other doctor, was in the same tent, and I am afraid has caught the infection; he was taken to Balaclava this morning, and I hope the change of air will soon restore him to health; he also will be sent onto Scutari. He joined our regiment from the Rifle Brigade at Constantinople, and his absence will make a great blank in our small circle; he is universally liked.
Thank you so much for the sealskin cap and the flannel shirt I received a few days ago; last night on piquet I rejoiced in wearing the former. It was so good of Mr Gott to send me that splendid warm lambskin waistcoat, it is the envy of the whole regiment. The last four days have been fine, which has been a great thing for us, and our camps are comparatively dry.
I am afraid I shall not be able to fulfil my promise about bringing home something from Sebastopol; the 13-inch mortars will probably not leave one stone on the top of another. Peace is all the talk here, and we hope that it may come about; this has been a trying campaign.
12th January 1855.
It is a fortnight since I wrote. Owing to the severe weather and hard work, the piquet and trench duties have, since the 3rd inst., been relieved every twelve hours instead of twenty-four. The men are having a rough time of it; some of them have had their toes frost-bitten. The changes in the weather are so rapid – hard frost at night, and heavy thaws during the day – and they have to lie down at night in wet boots, which is very bad for them; it the same time, there is no doubt but that dry, frosty weather is better, for their general health than the damp. They have received several articles of warm clothing, and more comes to hand every day. The officers have now got stoves, but the men’s tents, being crowded, will not admit of them.
Since my last letter we have had a heavy fall of snow. The winter months will have passed before the railway is nearly finished; the first detachment of navvies has arrived. The huts may be available for next winter; I am not waiting for them, but have dug down 6½ feet into the ground, and have boarded it over with planks (spoil taken from a Russian house), and have pitched my tent over it, so I have an upper and lower storey. Rowlands and I are going to live together; there will be a fireplace underground and a stove above. I tried the fire this afternoon, but it smoked me out; I hope, however, to improve it.
We have lost poor Anderson and Lamont; the former died on board ship, and the latter of inflammation; he had recovered from the fever. I looked in on the 79th the day I was in Balaclava, and saw Frank Turner; they have easy times of it down there.
You good people at home seem surprised that I could not possess myself of a pair of boots; you forget that I have a large foot, and no one has a second pair, the soldiers at once appropriate the boots of any one killed. Thanks for ordering the long boots, they will be first-rate for piquet. I hear Government is going to give us something in the way of a waterproof, so I hope you have not sent one off; we are very grateful to all you kind people for so many comforts knitted by the fair ladies of the home land.
I am anxious to see the Augmentation Gazette to know whether I am a captain, with or without purchase; perhaps Maydwell, having got a Depôt Battalion, will give me a better chance of saving the £1,100; I am afraid they intend bringing in two captains from half-pay.
My mess has knocked up a small hut for the servants to cook in; it is a great protection to them, although it is not altogether water-tight. We have got our horses from Varna; mine is in a wretched condition, I think I shall have to shoot him, he is so weak, and suffering from scurvy. I am looking out for another, being allowed forage for two, as I have charge of a company. I wanted to have bought the horse that belonged to poor Richards, but it was sold whilst I was on piquet.
The works are now nearly all complete, but a large amount of ammunition has still to be brought up, and none of the guns will be placed till all is ready. The engineers do not appear to know much about their business; a battery has just been finished, which has taken two months to construct, and now they say it will not be armed, as it is found to be useless!
23rd January. – The French took over our piquet duties at Inkerman on the 21st inst., and now the 2nd Division have to do trench work instead, in front of Gordon’s 21-gun battery.
I was in the trenches all last night, and have had no rest to-day, so will only send you a line to say, “All’s well.”
We are still in our old position, but have now to take duty in the trenches instead of piquet, which adds to our work, as Gordon’s battery is a good hour’s walk from here; however, I hope we may remain encamped where we are, and not move nearer the other Divisions, as our soldiers have a great advantage in being able to procure firewood close at hand, by rooting up the scrub and brushwood, for fires, cooking, etc. There is a talk of the French taking a hill (the Mamelon, afterwards called by the Russians, the Kamschatka Redoubt) which is nearer the celebrated Sound Tower than Gordon’s battery; if successful, the allies will be able to throw forward their right, and sap up to the Malakoff, which is the key of the Russian position. This hill is now occupied by the Russian piquets, and not being very far from the Tower, the approach and works when commenced will have to be thrown up with all speed, and held, till completed, at the point of the bayonet. The ground at present is so hard with the long frost, nothing can be done in constructing rapid works. The Russians keep up a continual fire on the French left, the latter seldom return it.
The Firefly, Black Prince, and the Loire are in harbour; each have a box for me. There is now a parcel office established, but the store is not large enough to contain a hundredth part of the articles. Thank Miss Anderson for her kindness in knitting me that comfortable headpiece, and for her congratulations on my promotion. I have had letters from all sides.
Please send some boot-laces, also some small hooks for the front part of the boots; the holes are very inconvenient if the string breaks.
I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 23rd January; letters are always hailed with joy. The weather has been more favourable of late, and things are looking up. The French to-day brought 1,500 shot and shell into the batteries of Inkerman, which is sufficient ammunition for live guns pounding. Gordon’s battery is all but completely armed, and the left attack in working order. Every has got his promotion in two and a half years, without purchase – what a lucky dog! He has not yet been in the Crimea; he was sent home sick from Bulgaria. Poor Hunt has died of consumption.
The railway is getting on, and our regiment is complete in warm clothing. I am glad to say we do not move our position at present. The confusion at Balaclava is not so bad as you appear to think; they are getting on much better now, and chaos is being reduced to order. Our draft of 109 men under Bertram has arrived, so the duty is not so hard. The English Army will not be quite reduced after all to 2000, as the Times says! The reports are, however, as a rule, very true. Last week, Rowlands and I walked up to the look-out hill to see what the French were doing since we handed the position over to them; they are engaged making a defensive redoubt, which is to be armed with guns.
Last mail I received a letter from the bride from Naples. They still think of a trip to the East, but I do not expect they will make it out. I— would create a sensation if seen perambulating the streets of Balaclava; it would require a strongly nerved lady to stand the scenes she would witness between the Inkerman Valley and Balaclava. The other day I took a stroll outside our piquets towards the Tchernaya River with Bertram; it was a revolting sight to find several unburied Russians, who have been lying there throughout the winter. It is curious how callous one becomes to such sights; that which I found very trying after the Alma, I can now look upon without much concern. It is very sad when visiting the sick and wounded in the hospital, to see the ravages the low fever is causing amongst our brave comrades; after a day’s illness, they are quite prostrate. We have lately lost a number of our fine old soldiers. Our only remaining surgeon, Abbot, has been sent to Balaclava sick, and also another “Sawbones” who was attached to us for duty. We have two huts now for the hospital, our sick number at present 160 out of 550.
The weather for the last fortnight has been lovely, and if it will only last a little longer, the British Infantry will still exist as a formidable force; as for the Cavalry and Artillery, they cannot move. The batteries are reduced to about thirty horses out of a complement of 190, and they can only trail their legs into Balaclava to bring up their own forage; the men have to drag the guns and shot into the batteries. In the town Russ gets stronger and stronger everyday. The “Bono Johnnies” at Eupatoria have retrieved their characters by showing the Russians that they are not to be driven into the sea. Last Saturday they were attacked by a force of about 20,000, which they repulsed with a loss to themselves of 350 killed and wounded, the Russians losing about 2,000; we do not know particulars; the first correct information will be through the Times.
I enclose a crocus flower from the battlefield of Inkerman. I hear some snowdrops have also appeared, so we hope the severe weather is nearly over, and that there are signs of Spring.
Meredith has been welcomed home in his county in Denbighshire with the booming of cannon, bells ringing, and triumphal arches; by the accounts in the Chester papers, he has been made rather a fool of.
The Colonel to-day received the articles Mother sent to the regiment; the men are now well off, as heaps of various kinds of warm articles are showering in on them from all quarters. I have got another of my boxes. The sack may be useful if we have any more bivouacking, but I cannot trust myself to make use of it in the trenches in case Russ gives me a poke with his steel some night. They have been very quiet lately, no sorties. The railway progresses slowly, for which we may thank the Duke of Newcastle.
Advanced Trench of Gordon’s Battery,
I find myself again in the trenches, so I have got hold of a pencil, and send you this scrawl to let you know that I am hearty. Have you seen anyone who has been at Glen lately? I hear they are building a new house. What do they think of the improvements?
I have received all my boxes with the exception of the one sent to Lamb at Constantinople; I have had an intimation from him about it, and the fool asks where he is to send it to. I have written to Bourne (at Scutari) to ask him to rescue it out of his clutches; Lamb has retained it a couple of months, which is most aggravating, when I was so badly in need of the articles.
The Russians have thrown up a redoubt in the direction of our old piquet position, near the Careening Creek, to pitch into the new Trench works. Frenchy tried to take it the other night, but, I am sorry to say, did not succeed, and got the worst of it; the Marines did not back up the Zouaves, who behaved gallantly. I have just had a look with the glass at the town; the works are now most formidable. The general opinion is that it will never be taken by assault, but must be invested, and we must lick the army that is in the field.
No. 4 Company are delighted with all the warm things you have sent them in my boxes. The Cicero is in harbour, but I have not yet seen any of the ale. We have had beautiful weather lately; the roads are in capital order. It is cold work writing in the trenches, so I must bid adieu.
My last was from Gordon’s advanced trench on rather a cold morning; since then we have had spring weather, almost too warm, especially with the clothing in which we now find ourselves clad; we shall soon be looking out for linen jackets, etc.
Exciting news has come to hand of the Czar’s death, and also reports of riots in London, but how much of it is true we do not yet know. The Emperor’s decease may make great changes in events here. We are speculating on peace; at the same time our preparations are for a grand crash, and we hope to make the place too hot for Rusky. Some think Monday will be our opening day, others say not before the 20th; there is no likelihood of storming the central works. When we succeed in reducing their fire, we shall take the Mamelon Hill and advance our batteries in the right; at present, we cannot do so, as they would be enfiladed. Two miles of railway are finished, and the first stationary engine is being erected, and will be in working order in two or three days; some of the munitions of war are now brought up in the trucks drawn by horses.
General Pennefather has returned, and taken up the command of our Division; he inspected us the other day, and we turned out most creditably. The whole camp was in admiration, and he said it did his heart good to see so fine a regiment, after all the severe work we had under gone. He complimented Colonel Eman and the whole of us, and said that he would take the earliest opportunity of mentioning us to Lord Raglan. It was wonderful to see the way the men manoeuvred; they have not done such a thing since we left Bulgaria, and there are a number of raw recruits in the ranks. If Colonel Eman is spared to go home with the regiment, he will make a name for himself and us; he is a tip-top commanding officer, and thoroughly knows the working of all the departments. The other morning our Artillery rather astonished a little brute of a steamer, that has been always annoying us on the right; we opened a masked battery and caught her napping in supposed security, and put six shots into her, some of them red hot; she disappeared behind the rising ground, and we are not certain whether she is done for or not. Her crew deserted shortly afterwards, which looks as if she went to the bottom. The Russians have sunk another line of booms across the entrance of the harbour.
The other day Turner rode up to see me, and I showed him over the battlefield and the new batteries on the right; he had never been up here before. Yesterday I went to Balaclava with him, and rode over the Heights. I met two more Grange fellows, one meets them in all parts.
I am very glad you are not sending me a shell jacket, I have heaps of everything, and I think my best plan will be, as the weather gets hot, to write to Malta for anything I may want, if it is not to be had here; very likely everything will be plentiful in a short time. A restaurant has been established in the bazaar; all the shopkeepers have been turned out of Balaclava, and they have established themselves in wooden houses about half a mile from the town; it is a great improvement, and there is less confusion.
Inkerman, 19th March.
Russ is getting stronger and stronger every day, and as matters stand at present, instead of our hemming them in closer, they have advanced their batteries 400 yards, and taken possession of the hill (Mamelon) in front of the Round Tower, where we intended to have established a battery. If the French cannot succeed better than has been the case lately, the sooner we conclude a dishonourable peace the better! They have fallen considerably in our estimation the last few days; three times they have attempted to take a few sharp-shooters’ holes, and each time they have got well thrashed; if they are not equal to doing that, how are they ever to succeed in taking the Tower and its surrounding works? Until these pits are in the possession of the French, we (i.e. the English on the right attack) are not pleasantly situated, as Russ enfilades a good part of our new parallel, and any who pass along run a good chance of being shot, so at present we cannot continue this trench by daylight. We made a good advance last week, but owing to the trench being flanked, it is just now all but useless; when finished, the approaches made by the French from Inkerman will be connected by trench with our right attack or Gordon’s battery. On the 14th, the French made their first attempt to take the pits. Russ did not know exactly what was up, and opened fire from all their batteries; the sight was most beautiful. Sebastopol is a grand place to see such like fireworks; you have them in all their splendour and horror. I was going down to the trenches at the time it began, and we all thought we were in for a regular mélée, as we had not been informed of what was to take place. The British officer has no easy task to perform in looking after his soldiers in night attacks; they are sometimes seized with a panic in the darkness; they like to see their way before them, and do not understand fighting behind a parapet.
We are to move our camp shortly to huts that have been constructed in the rear of the 4th Division; it will be a change for the better, being nearer Balaclava. Here the French-are close around us, and I cannot say much for the cleanliness displayed in their camp. When the hot weather sets in, the camps will become very disagreeable and unsanitary, from the dust and the remains of dead animals that have been only half buried. The 4th Division had races on the 14th; they were very good, and it was a pleasant meeting. How savage it would make the Russians, if they could have seen us enjoying ourselves.
New Camp Near the Windmill,
I delayed writing my letter yesterday, having had the offer of sending it by Lord Raglan’s bag. I do not know what has put it into your heads that we should make a dash at Sebastopol as soon as we heard of the Czar’s death; such an attempt would have been madness, and would have cost thousands of lives, and perhaps ended in a total defeat; if you think such a thing was possible, you have but little idea of the strength of the place. Within the last three weeks, Rusky has pushed their works beyond the Malakoff and head of the harbour, and fortified the elevated sites. On the 23rd, a strong sortie was made by them against the centre of our position, but principally on the trenches in front of Gordon’s battery, and the French adjoining our right attack. Our loss, I believe, was five officers and forty-two men killed, wounded, and missing; Colonel Kelly 34th, and Lieutenant Montague, R.E., taken prisoners. The French loss was about 300, and that of the Russians is over 900. On the 24th, there was a flag of truce to bury the dead; I was that day in the trenches, and during the respite, we strolled down to the Russian lines further than they liked; Russ did the same, and we fraternised for a couple of hours, and then as soon as the flag was down, we tried to take each others’ lives. The engineers did not lose the opportunity of making a reconnaissance; it was the pleasantest trench duty I had passed. The twenty-four hours’ system is now re-established; we are working up towards the Redan, whilst the French are trying to approach the Round Tower. The Russians are defending every inch of ground; there will be some tough work some of these nights, and if they do not increase our army, so as to enable us to send, a larger force to guard the trenches, we may get a jolly good licking, and then there will be an outcry in England. Our men are on duty every other day.
This week we have been moving over by companies to the huts on the new ground. The 41st is the first regiment of the Division to change its quarters; the officers’ huts will not be put up till all the men are housed. Balaclava has become a wonderful place, and everything is in apple-pie order; the railway is all but finished to the top of the hill, last night the Mussulmen began fighting with the Greeks; pistols and knives were drawn. There is a large number of nondescripts here now, who are employed on the railway, and in-erecting store-houses. I send you some violets.
Camp Before Sebastopol, 9th April.
To-day has been a lively one in the batteries (the Second Bombardment). We reopened fire this morning about five o’clock from most of our guns: some are still masked, as the gunners could not do their work, owing to the firing of the sharpshooters from the Russian rifle-pits, which they have connected by trenches.
Our fire has chiefly been directed against the new work (Mamelon) Russ has established on our right front of the Malakoff. We hear it has been completely silenced, but the atmosphere is so thick, it is impossible to see the result from the top of the hill. As we have quite enough of the batteries when on duty – and it must be rather hot work in them to-day – every one has fought shy of having a close view from them, but by the noise it appears the Muscovites have still a good many guns in play. I do not know for certain if the .French have opened all along their left. Rowlands has been in the trenches the last twenty-four hours, so we shall get all the news from him on his return; poor fellow, he must have been wet to the skin for the last eighteen hours, as he went off without his waterproof. Rusky has been unremitting in his exertions lately, and has established a trench all along our front and the French right. We hope our allies will soon work round and turn their flank. When the Mamelon is taken, it will greatly facilitate our works; we are now sapping up towards the Redan, which is ticklish work. There are little scrimmages nearly every night on some part of the line. The French, I believe, have to take the Mamelon without our assistance, as their honour is at stake, owing to their late failure in not taking the pits. I suppose it will be done to-morrow or the next night, if the work is silenced. It will be a glorious day when the Round Tower falls; we think that peace will be declared before that day arrives. After the advance on the Mamelon, we must make sharp work of it, as it will be a precious hot place.
We hear a large force of Turks have arrived at Kameish, and are longing for the arrival of the promised regiments from the Mediterranean, etc. The Sardinians are concentrating at Constantinople. The 10th, 12th, and 14th Cavalry from India are in Egypt waiting orders.
You would see in the Gazette that Barnard has purchased over four captains, very hard lines for those out here, who have done all the work when he has been kicking his heels at home. When we landed in the Crimea he was left sick on board ship, but for the last five and a half months he has been quite well. Now he is at Malta with Major Pratt, and they are both anxious to hold on there. He writes to Colonel Eman to say that he thinks that he would be more useful looking after the young hands at Malta; he is a great pipe-clay soldier.
Last Saturday the Light Division had races, and at the steeplechase one of the horses fell at the first jump and rolled over his rider, the next horse cleared the fence beautifully, but stumbled over the prostrate horse. Both riders were stunned, but I am happy to say that Thomas, of the Artillery, has nearly recovered, and Captain Shiffner, 34th, is also doing well. The 3rd Division were to have had races to-day, but the weather has been too bad; this is the first out-and-out wet day we have had since the snow disappeared. A Scotch baker has established himself at Balaclava. I have porridge nearly every morning, it is a great treat. An order has been issued that we are all to go about in uniform; it is rather difficult to enforce it with the British officer. The new tunic is now quite common. Buckmaster has a man here taking orders. I have had my measure taken, but it is as well to take the change out of one’s old garments as long as the old dress is permitted; I hope to sport my new rig-out in England.
No word yet of either of your boxes; that man Lamb must be a great blackguard. I have shot my horse, and have now got a stoutish pony, which does his work well. I saw Colonel Ainslie the other day. When we go to Balaclava we always hear that it is to be attacked the next day, but that day never comes off. The truth is, they are so little accustomed to shot and shell, and have nothing to do, so they gossip and retail shaves; they ought to be sent up to the front by way of a change. The other day 300 of the 71st were sent on mules from Balaclava to work in the twenty-one gun battery; they returned by railway; it was altogether rather a novel proceeding in the annals of warfare, and shows how hard up we are for hands to do the work.
The Emperor seems to have given up the idea of paying the Crimea a visit. We are looking for good tidings from the Baltic. I hear the trench party is just coming in.
Tuesday morning, 4.45 A.M. – The news yesterday from the trenches is not very satisfactory, we cannot make out what Russ is about. They did not fire much more than usual from the Round Tower, only from two or three embrasures. If they are short of gunners, they certainly have heaps of guns and also ammunition; perhaps we took them by surprise, yesterday, and they may not have had everything ready. To-day will most likely show; they cannot let us hammer away without replying, or they will find all their guns done up; they knocked over one of ours in the 21-gun battery. We have kept up a slight fire all night, and threw some shells into the town from our heavy mortars. Sir John Burgoyne, commanding the Engineers, has gone home, and been relieved by Sir Harry Jones, R.E.
There has been a good deal of stir in camp since my last of a fortnight ago. During the bombardment on the 10th our fleet got up steam, but did not engage the sea forts or batteries. The other day I nearly had a great catastrophe to my tent, by the chimney of the stove falling over and setting fire to the canvas; fortunately, it was extinguished without much damage being done. It would not have been a pleasant look-out to have had all my goods and chattels burnt. A telegraph-cable has been laid across the Black Sea, and communication between this and London was opened on the 14th inst.; the line is from St George’s Monastery to Yarna.
On the 19th the trench party of the 77th Regiment took two Russian rifle-pits in front of our sap; several Russians were killed, and an officer and five men taken prisoners. During the night the Russians attacked and retook one of the pits. Colonel Egerton, and also his Adjutant, Lieutenant Lempriere, 77th, were killed, Captain Trevor, 55th, and Lieutenants Owen and Baynes, R.E., severely wounded. Baynes is a great friend of mine. The next night volunteers from the trench party were called for, and again took the pit, and it was held (in spite of a sortie from the enemy) by the 41st, who, during the twenty-four hours, had nineteen casualties. On the 21st a working party of the 41st, under Rowlands, connected this pit with the Woronzoff ravine.
Yesterday the 3rd Division had some very good races, which had been fixed to take place on the 9th, but had to be postponed on account of the weather. A French officer was successful in winning one of the principal events; Wilkie of the Hussars, as usual, won the steeplechase.
The last few days we have been living in great expectation. The Highland Brigade and some French regiments sailed on the 4th from Kameish on secret service, supposed to be against Kertch or the neighbourhood; but much to our disappointment we heard yesterday the expedition has returned along with the fleet, for what reason we do not know (The Emperor Napoleon telegraphed to General Canrobert, and countermanded the expedition). Making a mess of things seems to be the system of the day – giving orders and counter-orders, thereby giving the Russians previous notice of our intentions, and allowing them sufficient time to collect an army in the field large enough to cope with any that we can bring against them. They now have a very large force at command, and every day they are strengthening their position and fortifications.
We are well pleased with the intelligence in the papers to-day, that the European Conference has broken up without any result, so perhaps that now all prospect of peace is at an end, the Governments may be stirred up to act with decision and vigour. If Austria will act with us, we will yet give our foes in the Crimea a good drubbing before next winter; no one expects to get out of this before that time, and at present it seems that the odds are very much against any of the trench parties returning safe home to Old England. I have just heard that strong reinforcements have arrived in Miss Nightingale, Soyer the cook, and Lola Montes, so perhaps all may yet be well! Our casualties lately have been more severe than usual, owing to Russ having thrown up a trench in front of our attacks, from which they keep up a heavy musketry fire; we have also been making advances against them. Some day we must have a tussle for their trench if Mr Français will do the same on the right. For the last week the French have been very plucky and have done great things on the left. One night they took a series of trenches, with eight mortars, and established themselves there. Buss tried the next day to drive them out and got a good licking, with the loss of several hundred men.
On the night of the 5th a party of the 49th were caught napping in our left sap, where the Russian rifle-pit was. Russ came up the ravine, and was among them before they had time to recover from their surprise. The enemy were soon driven out, but the 49th lost three men, and four wounded, and one sergeant missing; altogether, the affair cost us twenty-four. The 30th, who were more to the right in another sap, say that the Russians carried away several of their wounded. We are daily expecting Pratt and Lockhart with fifty men from Malta. The Buffs have arrived, but are detained at Balaclava to supply the place of the Highland regiments; we hope they may come up to our attack, now that the expedition has returned.
Lord and Lady Stratford were here a few days ago. We expect, as the season progresses, that we shall have a great many visitors, though I do not think a camp, especially one such as this, is a fit place for ladies. I must go to dinner, as I am for the reserve trenches to-night; we return to camp at daylight, so I will close this then.
Tuesday, 5 A.M. – We had a quiet night as far as sorties are concerned; a good deal of shelling was kept up on the trenches and working parties. I am now going to turn in and have a short snooze.
I am sorry to have to tell you that poor Baynes died from the effects of his wound on the 8th. I rode that day into Balaclava with Peddie, and did a little foraging. The next day I called on and saw Major Green, of the 48th, and afterwards took a ride with Bennet, 33rd. That evening being very dark and wet, the Russians made a sortie against our right attack, but were driven back with loss. The following afternoon, a flag of truce was raised for a quarter of an hour to collect the Russian dead. Twenty-eight were taken in, but many others had been removed under cover of the darkness. I was in the trenches of the right rifle-pit, when a sortie occurred about 10 P.M., but all the line being well prepared, the enemy did not advance far. We had upwards of twenty men killed and wounded, and the reserve force suffered considerably from the shells. On the 11th there was another sortie, this time on our left attack, by three heavy columns. Poor Edwards, of the 68th, was shot, and about twenty-five killed and wounded. Russ retired, leaving one prisoner and five dead in our trenches.
I had no idea Alexander Moncrieff was coming to the Crimea, so I was much surprised when he turned up at our camp on the 12th. I have given him a shake-down in my tent; I took him round in rear of the left and right attacks, batteries, trenches, etc., and showed him our position, and the battlefield of Inkerman, in all of which he took a keen interest, and has been busy with his pencil and brush, taking sketches of various points. He and I rode into Kameish last week, lunched at a cafe there, and inspected the extreme left batteries of the French, returning home about 8 P.M., after a pretty hard day’s work. The next day we rode to Balaclava, and went over the Heights, called on the 93rd, and came home by Kamara, and saw the Sardinian troops encamped there who appear to be a fine set of soldiers; their strength is about 15,000.
Nearly all the Turks have embarked for Eupatoria. The Duffs have come up to the front, also the 71st and wing of the Rifles; the two former regiments are suffering much from cholera, and have had to change the position of their camp. Yesterday two French officers called on us. General Canrobert has been succeeded in the command of the French troops by General Pellissier. We heard that the reason the expedition returned was owing to General Canrobert having received instructions from France to concentrate his forces.
Omar Pasha has arrived here from Eupatoria, and there has been a Council of War at headquarters, and the expedition has to-day again sailed for Kertch; we hope it will be with better results this time. I was in the trenches on the 18th, when Lord Raglan visited Gordon’s battery and advanced work.
When I was writing, to you a fortnight ago, the second expedition had just started, and we had been waiting anxiously for news. Last Sunday morning an order was given to the army to fall in on their respective parades, which caused great speculation in camp as to what it might mean, it being such an unusual occurrence on a Sunday. Great, then, was our delight to receive the welcome tidings that Kertch had been taken without loss on the Queen’s Birthday; the news was received with three hearty cheers.
On the evening of the 23rd there was terrific firing all night on the left, near the Quarantine Cemetery, close to the outskirts of the town. The French took some ambuscades, also a trench, which they were unable to hold; their loss was very great. The next night there was again heavy firing of Artillery, and the French succeeded in taking and holding the Russian trench, which is under the walls of the town. During the two nights the French are said to have lost 1500, and the Russians several thousand men. Moncrieff and I rode the next day to the scene of the action; it had been a very severe engagement; we also saw the burial parties employed in their sad duties. He and I made a little expedition on the 25th over the Tchernaya; we joined a French reconnoitring force, but when they withdrew, we still continued to prowl about on our own account, and picked up a few treasures. Moncrieff found a sword and other relics, and I got some more useful articles in the shape of shoemakers’ tools, which I stowed away in my saddle-bags for my company’s use. After a time we noticed some Cossacks advancing in the distance, and thinking that discretion was the better part of valour on that occasion, we beat a hasty retreat, having thoroughly enjoyed our ride over fresh ground. That evening I was on duty in the right trench next the French; Russ shelled us a good deal from field-pieces.
I have bought a horse from the Land Transport; we drew lots for the animals; mine seems likely to prove a useful beast; I paid £13 10s. for him. I rode him down to Balaclava with Moncrieff, who had also bought a nag, but his steed turned lame for want of shoes, so we left him at Johnston’s, the Provost-Marshal. A draft of fifty men has arrived from Malta under command of Lockhart and Johnson. The batteries are now ready for opening.
We have been keeping one another pretty lively lately, throwing shot and shell at distant ranges; we have also been treating the town to a few carcasses (bombs) in the hopes of setting fire to the large barracks. Some of our shells burst in our own trenches, and poor Colonel Mundy, 33rd, had one of his arms shattered. On the afternoon of the 6th (the Third Bombardment) our batteries unexpectedly recommenced firing, and continued to do so all night. Lord Raglan that day passed through our camp, and was heartily cheered. I was in my tent at the time, as since my last trench duty I have been rather seedy, with a feverish cold and pain in my back, and in the doctor’s hands.
I must now tell you of the exciting events that have been taking place. Our batteries having, been chiefly occupied in trying to silence the Redan, Malakoff, and Mamelon, it was decided that we should yesterday seize the quarries and Russian trenches in front of the Redan, and the French attack the Mamelon and redoubts on the right. For our work the Light and 2nd Division were told off to furnish equal numbers, 400 of each as a storming party, 300 more in reserve, and 400 as a working party, all supported by 1200, the usual trench party. The General (Pennefather) asked our Colonel (Eman) to give 200 to storm, but as most of the regiment, including five officers, were then in the trenches, we were not able to find the number, so the honour was given to the 49th in our stead.
Of the 49th party, four of their officers out of the six were wounded. The 62nd Regiment had three officers killed, their two seniors, and another wounded. Our casualties are supposed to be about 40 officers, and 600 men killed and wounded; our chief loss was in holding the ground whilst reversing the trenches and making the necessary communications, but the affair has ended gloriously for the allies. The French did their part of the business rather too well for themselves, as after storming the Mamelon, in their éclat and impetuosity, they followed the retreating Russians to the ditch of the Round Tower, but the enemy being reinforced, managed to get round the French right, and drove them back to their old trenches again, and for a time re-occupied the Mamelon and adjoining trenches, so the attack had to be renewed, which was much more difficult than the first assault, as the works were not at the time held by a strong force. During the night the Russians made several fruitless attempts to retake the quarries and their trenches, supported by their batteries firing round shot and grape. The French are believed to have lost 1,700 killed and wounded, the Russians over 2,000.
It is reported 62 pieces of cannon and several mortars have been captured. When we from the top of the lull saw the French driven back, we felt dreadfully down in the mouth, but were much relieved when they went at it a second time in gallant style, and maintained their ground, some of them even advanced too far again. The relieved trench party was kept on duty for more than thirty-six hours, and did not return till daylight. Russell, of the Times, is at Kertch, so you will not have his report of these doings to rely on.
Friday, 10 P.M. – Rowlands and Peddie have just returned from the trenches in a dreadful state of filth and dirt, having been relieved by Bertram, and four subalterns; they say it is the worst twenty-four hours they ever spent, the Russians were very wroth, and kept pounding the trenches and working parties. Peddie had a man killed close to him by a round shot, but I have told you more than enough of this dreadful slaughter.
This is a quiet night, only a good many shells flying from our side, no musketry, all are repairing damages, etc. I viewed the French attack from the hill, I could not resist the temptation of seeing the fight, although I had no right to leave camp, being under the doctor’s treatment, and it is just as well for me that he does not see me at present writing at this late hour. A friend dropped in from the City of London to see me, which delayed my doing so before earlier.
Camp, 18th June.
Having mentioned in my last letter that I was on the sick-list, you will no doubt be anxiously looking for my usual bulletin, especially as long before you receive this, you will have read in the papers an account of this disastrous day: I cannot retire to rest without sending you a line to announce my safety, for it has been far from a second Waterloo. I have not the spirit to enter much into details to-night, and I am very tired after last night and to-day’s work; it is enough to say we have all had a most terrible licking, the French are supposed to have lost about 5,000, and we ourselves over 1,000, having gained nothing. The Russian loss is trifling in comparison; we are all dreadfully downcast, and wonder what will be the upshot. There is no firing just now, the Artillery are, however, taking ammunition in to the batteries. Our regiment was to have stormed the salient angle of the Redan, but as the flanking parties did not succeed, we were (luckily for us) not called upon to advance. The 34th have lost a great many of their officers, and out of a force of 200 sailors who carried the ladders, it is said only 20 returned without wounds. How the Russians must crow! The grape and canister played great havoc against the attacking parties. Colonel Goodwyn received a wound in the head, but the peak of his cap saved him. Our regiment had only a few casualties, as we did not leave the trenches. We paraded last night at midnight, and marched down, and occupied the left of our old advanced trench; the French attacked the Round Tower about 4 A.M., and in about half an hour the signal for the advance of the English was given; the assault on the Round Tower did not succeed, so ours was not pushed on. It was an error attacking at dawn, the works should have been bombarded for some hours previous to the advance; it was also a great mistake, our attempting to storm the Redan till the French had taken the Round Tower, as we could not have held the former with the Malakoff still in the possession of the Russians. Our loss on the 8th, including the taking of the quarries and the next twenty-four hours, was about 40 officers, and 500 or 600 men. The next day a truce took place about noon, and lasted till half-past four in the afternoon; Russ occupied the time energetically in repairing damages. My horse, I regret to say, was stolen during the truce.
Soon after the taking of the Mamelon, the Russians evacuated the redoubt on the spur of land on their extreme left, and went off by means of boats. Orders were given to slacken fire on the 10th, and the interval between that date and when our batteries re-opened on the morning of the 17th (the Fourth Bombardment) was employed by the French and us in preparing for a renewal of the siege operations, by mounting guns and mortars in the Mamelon, quarries, and new advanced works. Captain Dawson and Lieutenant R. Lowry, R.E., were among those killed on the attack of the quarries. Lowry, of the 41st, is a cousin of the latter; he and I attended the sale of their effects the other day.
The Guards, and also the 93rd, marched up from Balaclava on the 16th, and encamped not far from the position of the 2nd Division in rear of the 1st Royals; I visited several old friends that afternoon.
I am afraid this will not be a much more cheerful letter than my last, which was written after our failure of the 18th, as, in addition to so many of our brave comrades who were killed on that day, we have now to deplore the loss of our much lamented Commander-in-Chief, Lord Raglan, who died from dysentery on the 28th June. Being in a weak state of health, he took our defeat much to heart. His body is not to be buried in the Crimea, but is being conveyed to England; the funeral service took place at 4 P.M. on the 3rd inst. Just before the procession moved off, when a salute of nineteen guns was being fired, General Pellissier rode up, and placed a piece of forget-me-not on the coffin as a token of regard to our gallant chief; the first part of the road to Kazatch Bay was lined by British troops, the remainder by French.
On the 19th June, the day after our assault, there was a truce to collect the killed and wounded; between four and seven o’clock in the afternoon, the whole army was kept under arms to prevent us going to the front. The Russians are much elated at their success. I was in the trenches the following night, and the men were in good heart, and voluntarily worked in reversing the old Russian trench. There was a large fire in the town near the dockyard creek.
Three thousand men now guard the right attack, and the duty is taken by Divisions; a third of them are withdrawn at daylight from the most advanced position. I was among this number, and on reaching my tent, in the hopes of getting a good snooze, I turned in, but I soon found I had brought back with me from Rusky an enormous quantity of fleas, which proved such hungry and lively companions that I did not get much sleep that morning.
You would be sorry to see the name of Sir John Campbell, and also Colonel Yea, 7th Fusiliers, among the list of those killed. General Pennefather has gone home on account of his health, and General Barnard succeeds him in the command of our Division. There are also other changes on the Staff. General Simpson has assumed command of the army in place of Lord Raglan, General Codrington has replaced Sir George Brown, who has gone to England, and General Estcourt died on the 24th. The French have abandoned the cemetery near the town, which they took lately, as they were losing so many men.
We have had very heavy thunderstorms and torrents of rain, making the constant trench work anything but pleasant; and it has been hard work constructing two new batteries, one near Egerton’s rifle-pit for ten guns, and another in continuation of the 8-gun battery. I have bought another horse to replace the one I had stolen, and had a pleasant ride on him to the Sardinian camp, near the Baidar Road, with Bertram. It had formerly belonged to Lieutenant March, Adjutant of the 33rd, who was shot when running across the open ground.
On the 13th a party of four of us, Graham, Rowlands, Kingscote and I made a very pleasant expedition to Baidar. We started at half-past two in the morning, and accompanied a French reconnaissance several miles along the road to Yalta, but without encountering any Russian force. The scenery is very fine; after leaving the beautifully wooded pass of Baidar, the road runs along grand precipitous cliffs overhanging the sea. We stopped at a house belonging to a Russian nobleman, and being very thirsty, we were grateful for some Crimean wine which the caretaker was good enough to give us. On our return we lunched under the shade of the trees at Baidar, which was a delightful change from our arid camps.
Now that there is no moon, Russ comes out at night to try and destroy our works, but the attacks lately have not been very vigorous. On the 13th I was in the trenches on the extreme right, next the French, when they made one of these attacks. I thought they might perhaps look me up, and I was rather in hopes they would, as I think the men I had in charge would have been quite a match for them, especially as I took 100 more, who were working near me, and joined them to my party when the attack began. It was bad luck for me that they did not come nearer; if they had come on, and we had repulsed them, I probably should have been mentioned in the despatches. Some of the despatches are most absurd; if anything extra occurs, the field officer or senior in charge is sure to make the most of it. By the last papers received some officers are mentioned, none of whom fired a shot, and who only occupied the old trenches when the attacking parties took the quarries and trenches.
About a fortnight ago, we were glad to welcome Bligh back from England, also Wavell, who joined from Malta. With our increased number of officers we have been able to enjoy a little more recreation. One day Bligh, Rowlands, and I went to a jolly picnic near the Monastery, chiefly composed of officers of the 2nd Division; the canteen man of the 30th provided the grub; we have also had some cricket. We are making an additional 3-gun battery in the quarries. A Russian shell unfortunately fell in the new mortar emplacement, and set fire to over fifty bombs.
I am glad to say that the pay for the men has arrived at last, and not before it is wanted, as there was very little money in camp. On the 25th we received field allowance for the first time. Major-General Markham, our new General, yesterday inspected the two brigades on their private parades.
Since I wrote to you we have had more changes among our Generals. General England, the last of the first batch, has gone home, and our Brigadier Lockyer is appointed to Ceylon; Colonel Windham of the Guards gets the vacancy. We are evidently nearing another coup and the sooner the better for ourselves. I was on the trenches the night before last, and such a night! – continual fire from the enemies’ batteries from nine in the evening till daylight. Shot after shot at the trenches of our right attack – grape, shot, shell, and “happy families,” or bouquets. The consequence was that there were about fifty casualties, and the working party had to desist after losing Lieutenant Evans and eighteen men of the 55th Regiment in a couple of hours; I was in the short Russian trench, and out of my party of 100 men I lost three. Last night the casualties of the Light Division, I hear, were also very heavy, and to-night much the same game appears to be going on.
It has come to General Simpson’s notice that we have lately been blazing away nearly as much ammunition as is brought into the batteries each night, so stringent orders have been given to the Generals on duty in the trenches that they are in the future not to issue directions about the firing, except in the case of a sortie; but the batteries are to be in charge of the Artillery or Naval Commanders. The night I was on the trenches was the first night of our batteries firing so little; the sudden change probably made Russ think we were up to some devilment.
I enclose you a rough sketch I have made of our trenches. It is not correct to scale, but will give you some idea of the outline of the trench work, etc. Our nearest trench is about 100 yards from the abattis, and another 100 to the ditch of the Redan. The communications and trenches are nearly all completed, with the exception of about 150 yards from the white Russian pit to the left. Russ had made this pit very substantial with a little ditch in front; it was evidently a place where they kept a body of men; as there are shelters in it, it was of easy access to them from the ravine between the Redan and Malakoff, leaning down to the large barracks and the Arsenal. The French are within 60 yards of the little Redan and 150 of the Tower; they cannot bring up their left to encircle the Malakoff without being exposed to an enfilade fire from the Redan. When the French attack, the ravine may aid them in approaching the Servais battery. The abattis in front of them has been quite destroyed by our Artillery fire, so it is not now an obstruction.
Captain Montague, an Engineer officer, whom you may remember was taken prisoner during the winter, has been released from Odessa, and has just arrived. Perhaps he may be able to give some valuable information, of what he has seen.
On the 3rd, Rowlands and I rode over to the Inkerman Redoubt, near our old camping ground, and round to the north-eastern heights, returning home by the railway. I played in a game of cricket for four or five hours before dinner to-day, but not having had much practice of late, felt rather out of it.
Before this is despatched, you will have heard that the Russians attacked the allied position on the Tchernaya yesterday; it has been a fortunate day for us, and they have paid smartly for their temerity. The battle began about daylight, and it was a hard fight for some hours. In the attack, the enemy succeeded in crossing the river and aqueduct at the Traktir bridge, and some other places, and a few of the men even gained the low hills, upon which the French are encamped. They also drove back the Piedmontese advanced piquets, and established their guns in position there. It is computed that the Russian loss was over 8000, including 2000 men taken prisoners; whilst that of the French is comparatively trifling, about 1500; the Piedmontese lost in killed and wounded 200. The Russians hoped to have forced the position, and cut off the Sardinians and Turks, with the French Cavalry, who are encamped between the Tchernaya and Baidar, from the force protecting Balaclava. If they had been successful, they would probably have made an attack from the town on the trenches, to endeavour to destroy the batteries, which they must know are now near completion. After their several defeats, I do not think they will be inclined to try it on again.
This morning at daylight, our batteries, and also some French works near the Mamelon, opened fire, and are still hard at it (4.30 P.M.); the chief object is to detract the lire of the forts from our trenches (the Fifth Bombardment).
I met with a misfortune last Wednesday; my scoundrel of a batman bolted with my handbag containing £20 public, and about £5 private money. I discovered my loss on coming off parade, and knowing that he had been in my tent with my saddle about an hour before, I went at once to the stables, but he was not forthcoming. He was last seen in uniform, and on being questioned by one of the bowmen as to where lie was going, he said, “to Balaclava, by the captain’s orders.” On learning this, I started immediately for that port with a Sergeant, both of us mounted, and gave the Provost-Marshal the details, and also the police. I left the Sergeant there for a couple of days, and went on to Kameish, and put the Gendarmerie there on the look-out; but as yet nothing has been heard of him or the money. On my return in the evening, I found that he had left some letters, which had been in the bag in the stable. I expect he is either off to Rusky or has succeeded in getting on board some merchant ship.
You will be sorry to hear of a sad accident that has happened to Bertram. He took up his pistol case (with the pistol in the leather pouch lying on the top) to crush some sugar; when doing so, the pistol went off, wounding him badly. The ball was immediately extracted, and I am glad to say he is doing well.
Last night when in the trenches I was wounded in the leg above the knee, but it not being severe, I did not return myself wounded; it was a fortunate escape, as the shell fell close beside me, and I had only time to throw myself flat on the ground when it burst; a piece of the shell cut through the leather ammunition pouch of a man who was near me. I have got a cap which belonged to a Russian General who was killed yesterday at the Tchernaya.
Evening, 7 P.M. – The bombardment has nearly ceased, a shell from the 8-mortar battery has blown up one of the magazines in the Servais battery, exploding also a number of shells, and doing considerable damage. Russ has taken lately to throw shot and shell at long ranges; some of them come into our camps and have killed and wounded several men; as yet none have fallen into our regimental lines, but to-night some have reached the ravine which is only a short distance off. It would not be a pleasant sensation to awake and find a shell with a bright fuse as a companion in one’s tent.
It was this day year that our Division embarked with glad hearts for active service. What sad and also glorious events have happened during the last twelve months, and how few of the brave old lot now remain here above Crimean soil! It is distressing to think of the losses that have resulted from the ambition of the late Czar.
The good news from Sweaborg is cheering, but as yet we do not know whether the success will open the way to Helsingfors, which would be the case if all the batteries are demolished; we may next expect to hear of Revel sharing the same fate. I do not think there is much chance of an attack on Cronstadt this year, for want of vessels of light draught.
You will be very sorry to hear that Lumley Graham has been shot in the right arm; and has had to have it amputated below the elbow-joint. Last Tuesday a very large Russian magazine blew up in the Mamelon, it had only been filled with powder the night before; the damage done has been tremendous, about 150 casualties, and a battery of six guns entirely buried, so much so, that an Artillery officer told me it would be endless work to try and disentomb the guns, and put them in working order again, and that they were not going to attempt it. You will have some idea of the mass of earth thrown out when 1 mention that the chasm is about 40 feet long by 20 deep, and 25 wide. Graham, Bligh, and I went down on Wednesday forenoon to see the result, and after that, we went poking along in the advanced saps directed against the Malakoff, to see how far they had advanced; it was there that Graham was hit; the same bullet whizzed past me. Part of the trench was enfiladed by the little Redan; it had been thrown up hastily and not completed. The French had warned us of the danger, but like Britishers, we rather pooh-poohed the idea; they have got their saps right up to the abattis, and not far from the ditch. The nights have lately been too bright for much work, but we hope to advance more rapidly now the moon is on the wane.
Last night a sortie was made against a new trench we are attempting to run out of the 5th Parallel towards the salient of the Redan; there being so little depth of soil it progresses slowly. An officer of the 97th has been killed and two others wounded, but not having yet heard full particulars, I am afraid to put the rumours on paper; it is not very creditable that when a sortie occurs, we seem so often to be taken by surprise. This regiment has not been long employed in trench duties, and it is said the working party had taken their belts off which in the most advanced position they should not have done.
The Russians have finished their bridge from Port Nicholas to the north side, so now they have access across the harbour without the means of boats. The French are fortifying their position on the Tchernaya with trenches and batteries, which will puzzle Mr Russ to take; there is no word at present of an assault; both the French and we are increasing our mortar batteries. I saw James Stewart yesterday looking well. Tillbrook of the 50th has lately come to the Crimea; I called on him the other day, but he was in Balaclava.
Since the Highlanders went to the plains we have had harder work; it is a shame that they should be sent away again from the post of danger, they were only brought up on the 18th June, and we do not see why the Light or 2nd Division should not have had a turn of the easy duties in the valley. We all take for granted that we are in for another Crimean winter, but trust the trench duties will be over before then. The dress bugle has gone for the trench party, so I must hastily say good-night.
I send this hasty scrawl to tell you that I am all well in mind and limb. For two days we have been pounding this unfortunate city, and I have just heard that the Light Division parade at 5 P.M. for some duty (the Sixth Bombardment). It is our Division to-night for trenches, and I am going on, so if anything takes place before the next twenty-four hours, I may have rather an easy berth of it, except for the dust, which is to-day frightful; but we hope this may be the last of the trenches. Captains Every and Lockhart go on with me; the former only arrived in camp yesterday evening with a draft from Malta. The Colonel has posted me to the Light Company. I cannot fancy myself much of a Light Bob, it is better I think to accept of it, as the offer is complimentary, not for the sake of appearance, but for efficiency; the men are the picked soldiers of the regiment, and are even now, after all the cutting up they have had, a very smart lot.
I think Sebastopol has not many days to stand; one of the Russian frigates has just been burnt to the water’s edge. I do not believe we shall attack the Redan for the present, but take the Malakoff, which will render the left face of the Redan useless, and let us sap up to the work. Rowland’s name you will probably see in the despatches for taking a rifle-pit two nights ago; they succeeded in taking it, but Russ came on in force, so he; prudently retired with his twenty men. Several officers have been killed in posting sentries near this pit; it was Engineering folly taking it, because we cannot hold it without a trench up to it. Bertram is progressing favourably, and goes home immediately; Graham will shortly follow. Johnston has resigned the appointment of Provost-Marshal on account of his health.
Before dinner, I closed a hasty note to my dear mother; since then the order for our Division going on trenches has been cancelled. To-morrow we breakfast at 6 A.M., carry two days’ rations cooked, and extra ammunition, so I suppose the 18th June is to be enacted over again; I trust on an improved principle, and that we may be successful without much bloodshed; 1,000 men form the storming party, 500 from the Light, and 500 from our Division, the 2nd. We tossed up who should go first, and the light Division have won the post of honour. Our regiment gives 300 for storming, along with 200 from the 62nd, the 41st also furnishing 100 for working. The other corps have other duties to perform, of which I am ignorant, such as carrying scaling ladders, wool bags, etc. God grant that it may be an honourable day for the allied army, no one dreams of a repulse. Another frigate has been burnt this afternoon. The weather is cool and favourable for the enterprise. It is thought that the French will also make an assault on the left. You may be sure that we shall not attack this time till the fate of the Malakoff is sealed. If I fall in the grand struggle to-morrow, you will some day receive a few of my things, such as my sword, watch, ring, etc.; the other articles will, I suppose, be disposed of as usual.
I must now say adieu, and may the Lord shower His blessings on Mother and you, and our dear family, if we are not to meet again on this earth, may we all be re-united in His everlasting kingdom.
Saturday morning, 6.30. A.M. – The cannonading is now very heavy – a beautiful cool morning. If anything happens to me, you had better apply for my vacancy for Jack, and get him into this regiment without purchase, the man waits for letters.
Old Camp, 10th September.
How happy I am to be able to say that I have been present at the whole of this memorable siege and fall of Sebastopol, and that by Divine Providence I have been mercifully preserved through all, with hardly a day’s sickness; with what a grateful heart I should give thanks to the Almighty for having brought me safely through all the dangers and trials of this severe campaign, when so many of our brave comrades have fallen.
I sent off a hasty note on the evening of Friday to forewarn you of our movements. On Saturday we paraded at 8 A.M., and marched to the right of the quarries, and occupied part of the 5th Parallel, the storming party of the Light Division being opposite to the salient angle; the 300 of the 41st on their right, and 200 of the 62nd touching us. At noon, the French, from their place d’armes close to the ditch, sallied out on the Malakoff, and took it quite by surprise, their flag was floating over it in less than a quarter of an hour. It being hoisted was a signal for us to attack the Redan, and the French the little Redan; the Light Division went out by companies in line, along with the ladder party; we followed as soon as the ground was vacated, all going over by companies from the same place, as we had no place d’armes like the French.
When Rowlands, who was leading the Grenadier Company got up to the parapet of the Redan, he found that the Light Division had quite blocked up the point, at which the ladders were placed, and that very few had entered the interior of the work, and that they were making no progress in the attack. In consequence of this block, the companies and regiments in succession got jumbled up together, and there was a total want of cohesion in the command of the individual companies. Shortly after I reached the ditch and mounted the parapet, a panic seized the men, for no reason whatever that I know of and it was with the greatest difficulty that they were prevented from bolting; a great many succeeded in doing so in spite of the efforts made to reassure them. This action, on their part, of course discouraged the supports before they had left the trenches. There we stood on the salient for an hour and fifty minutes, in a mass of several hundreds, not gaining an inch of ground, and all we could get the men to do, was to pull down the revetment of the ditch and parapet, and fill up the places of the killed and wounded, and it was with the greatest difficulty that they could even be made to do that, they seemed so bewildered at their position, they would not advance five yards to serve any one. It is said in camp to-day, that General Pellissier thought a great deal of the way we fought, so steadily for an hour and fifty minutes; however, that may be, we cannot claim the honour of taking Sebastopol.
It is our only regret in having taken the town, that it can be said that it was the French who did it, which would make it seem as if it were a blot on the bravery of the British soldiery, which is not the case, although from my own experience I have thought that our troops are not, in point of dash and ardour, what they were before the beginning of these confounded trenches. My private opinion is that the British soldier had a very hard, if not an impracticable, duty to perform in storming the salient, when no flank attacks were feasible; the difficulty, after entering the apex of the Redan, was to get the men to extend sufficiently. They were so circumscribed on both sides by the interior, and it was necessary to form a broad front to advance and seize the work, the rear of which was guarded by a trench occupied by the Russians, and from which they poured a deadly and concentrated fire into the assailants, who were crowded together in the angle, and behind the adjoining traverses. It was a fatal mistake subdividing regiments, as both regiments and companies got mixed up together, immediately on crossing the ditch, and general confusion resulted. It must also be remembered that the soldiers had been for months well aware that the place was mined, and that the talk amongst themselves, and which they fully believed, was to the effect that if ever we got into the place they would be blown into the air; I have heard them myself say so over and over again.
Our finale at the Redan was a panic, which seized the front row of our men, and bundled us all into the ditch, and it became a case of sauve qui peut. Many men must have been trampled to death, and others wounded; it was fortunate that the ditch had been rendered much more shallow by pulling down the revetment. Rowlands says he feels certain, that by the way his men tried to do their duty, if he had been able to get his company up over the ditch first, they would have followed him in. Rowlands is a brave fellow, but his beauty is for the time being rather spoilt by a grape shot, thrown by the hand, hitting him in the face; four bullets have also cut his clothes and cap; he shot three Russians with his revolver, one after another. I got a lick from a stone thrown by a Russian, and still feel the effects; my jacket was also cut by a bullet.
Our casualties will show you what a sad day it has been for us. Captain Every, who had arrived only two days ago from Malta, was shot in the Redan. He commanded No. 1 for the first time; he was liked by all, and we were delighted when he rejoined; he volunteered to come up from Malta instead of Harvey. Poor Lockhart was killed in the quarries by a grape shot; he did not belong to the storming party. Kingscote has lost his right hand. Young Maude had a musket ball through his leg.
He only arrived at the same time as Every; he was doing duty for the day with my company. Hamilton, the Adjutant, got a graze above the knee; the others are nothing, and should not be entered in the returns. Our casualties are 166, which is heavy out of 300. My present company, No. 4, had twenty wounded and five killed or missing; my late servant, Cuthbert, is one of these; the last that was seen of him was with both his arms broken; he behaved very well. I am very sorry for him. I had parted with him because he had become a little unsteady; latterly he had behaved well, and I had made him a lance-corporal. I had one sergeant killed, and two wounded; the Light Company sergeants were all wounded – not a good prospect for me when I become a Light Bob!
We buried Captains Every and Lockhart to-day, with sad hearts, on Cathcart’s Hill, and to-morrow the funeral takes place of our much-lamented and never-to-be-replaced Colonel (Eman); he was shot through the chest. He died this morning very peacefully; he will be a dreadful loss to our regiment. I am so sorry for poor Mrs Eman and the children, it will be a great blow to them; they are in Malta. It was only a few days ago, the Colonel read me part of a letter from her, containing a dialogue of the children about their hopes of seeing their father home safe in winter.
Yesterday our regiment was on a piquet guard at the 5th Parallel, rather more agreeable than it was twenty-four hours before. All entrance to the Redan and town was prohibited, and two chains of sentries put to prevent the infraction of the orders, but it was no go to keep every one out, especially officers, who are always the first to break orders of this kind, and who passed the sentries on some pretext or another, such as going on burial parties, or for wood, or other devices; and when once in the Redan, the access to the town was plain sailing.
I got leave from Goodwyn to try my luck, and was not long in effecting my purpose, but I could not find any loot on this side of the creek, and as explosions were taking place every now and then in the suburbs, between Fort Paul and the Malakoff, I was not inclined to pay them a visit on the “spec” of what I could put in my pocket, or under cover of a pocket-handkerchief (anything seen on you was immediately seized by the sentries). The town is still on fire, and an explosion has this instant taken place; there is hardly a large building left. I went hurriedly through the Redan, and then to the big barrack buildings (which are in ruins), and all about them, then across and up to the rear of the Malakoff, at which 1 could only have a glance. The ditch is much more formidable than that of the Redan, and I believe the Tower was mined, but the French had obtained possession of it before the Russians could act. I cannot understand how they did not see us assembling in the trenches.
On returning home from our piquet, I got a bell which is to be hung up in our kitchen. I have, to-day, bought some few odds and ends from the French, who have not had such strict regulations as we have, and they are consequently getting many more things than our men. Rowlands will be certain of his brevet, and Skipwith also; they deserve it well. We have no objection to peace now, having got the material guarantee, we hope, without the north side; they have still two or three steamers, but we will settle their hash in a few days. We have taken about 2,000 guns which have never been used. I suppose the Highlanders will have the credit of taking the Redan, because they found it vacated during the night.
I have just finished a letter to Moncrieff, and can only send a hurried line to ask you to tell I— that she can not visit the Crimea until the harbour is opened to our fleet, but she can stop at Therapia and let uncle come and gratify his curiosity, and then tell her all about it.
I have picked up a few trashy things from the town; they may, however, be prized in England some day. I will send them home by Kingscote. I have actually got a chair to sit on, and am now writing on a card-table. Prices here are still very exorbitant, especially anything in the grub line.
When exploring Sebastopol and its surrounding works, I was much struck with the indefatigable labour that must have been entailed on the Russian soldier in throwing up and constructing such formidable bomb proof earthworks within their bastions under the skilful direction of their great and renowned Engineer, General Todleben. The Guards on duty were able to take refuge in these bastions from the destructive fire that was hailed upon them from the allied batteries.
Now that the excitement of taking the town is at an end, camp life will become rather monotonous. At present we are engaged preparing our camps for the winter – building little cook-houses, stables for our nags, etc. Last week Fitzroy and I were busy erecting a good building for our ponies, partly of stone, which is very scarce and difficult to get, and partly of wood taken from the houses of Sebastopol. It has to be brought; up on our ponies a distance of 3 miles, and it is a great catch if we can bag a commissariat cart for three or four hours. A few blocks of houses have been told off to each Division from which to procure wood. The Artillery have a great pull over us, as they have their waggons to send to the town. Although we have taken the south side we shall not be comfortably settled in houses this winter. The greater part is a heap of ruins; the only habitable portion is that close to the harbour edge, all of which is commanded from the north side by the Russians, who have thrown up battery upon battery, several of which have, already opened on our fatigue parties and done some damage. There seems to have been some want of foresight on our part, as we are only just beginning to think of building some batteries, which must now be constructed under fire, and all our guns and mortars have been withdrawn from the old batteries, and taken back half way to Balaclava, so when the new works we are building near Fort Paul are completed, the Artillery will have to drag their guns back again, and put them on the harbour front. We have been placed under orders to be in readiness to take the field.
The French, I believe, reconnoitred past Baidar, and found the country impracticable for operations against the enemy. It appears to me it is a great loss of valuable time not undertaking something from Eupatoria before the winter sets in. What is the use of keeping the Cavalry here? They should be doing something, or else have remained on the Bosphorus, as they can be of no use in an entrenched camp.
Road-making and digging drains is the order of the day, the advantage of which will be felt within a couple of months, and prevent us falling into the same plight we were in last winter. If ever we return to England we shall be up to all sorts of dodges. I never thought that I should have to earn my bread by breaking stones on the roadside and digging ditches; certainly a military life is a very comprehensive one, and the soldier has to be a Jack-of-all-trades.
Most of our officers are in some way or another preparing a winter establishment. Fitzroy and I are going to share Kingscote’s hut, as he is going off next Saturday with Graham and Maude. A hut is not much more comfortable than a tent, but I am in hopes of improving my part of it before the cold weather sets in. Each officer’s hut is divided into four rooms, so I have only the one side to look after; Pratt inhabits the other half, and is a natty fellow, so will probably make his side snug. I am going to erect a closed porch with a side entrance, to prevent the wind blowing straight in; the other side I shall build up with bottles, as they are more easily procured than stones. I shall also try if I cannot manage a fireplace; it is much more cheerful than a stove. Fuel to keep the pot boiling will be no easy matter to obtain; last winter we had plenty of roots at Inkerman. Fitzroy is thinking of building a bunk for himself, and if we are doubled up I shall most likely sleep in my tent, and make the hut the sitting-room.
The regiment has put aside one of the Government huts for a reading-room, and it is proposed to try and establish a sort of scratch mess, which will be a great advantage in the long, dreary, winter evenings, and will keep the officers together, so we shall see and know more of the new hands.
In last night’s orders it is intimated that we are to have a clasp for Sebastopol, and the regiments are to bear the name on their colours; having the clasp does not show much distinction for the work done in the trenches, as every one who has landed will have it. Who ever set foot in the Crimea before the taking of Sebastopol, if only for twenty-four hours, gets the medal, and if the clasp is given in the same way without restrictions, it will be absurd. The Cavalry have more honours than we have, and I should like to know what they have done towards taking the town! I have now got my medal on my left breast with two clasps; only a small number have yet been received, and they have been given to those who have been here the longest.
It is reported the French have done some dashing thing near Eupatoria, taken five guns and surprised a body of Cavalry. Please instruct Buckmaster to send out my tunic, etc., sharp, as my coatee is falling off my back. Bertram went home to Jersey a week ago. I have a box to send you some day when I can get a good opportunity, but I do not like encumbering Kingscote, who has now only one hand.
Two ensigns joined us the other day (Pack and Smith) rather rarities in this part of the world. Last week I was the only captain left doing duty with the Regiment, but there are now four. Rowlands has succeeded to the brigade majorship, vice poor Rooke, 47th, who has died.
On the 20th September, our Colonel gave an anniversary dinner to the Alma lot; it shows how few there are left of us, when I tell you there were only six present. Yesterday there was another blow-up in the town at the barracks, which are still burning; a poor sentry who was 200 yards off was killed by a stone.
I receive the newspapers you kindly send regularly, and pass them on to the men in hospital, who are delighted with them. I have heard nothing of my batman. The loss falls on myself, as the public money was money due to the men. The scoundrel was a well-conducted, quiet lad, but still waters run deep; he never had a crime recorded against him. I had a note from Moncrieff by the last mail, saying he had sent me a good supply of beer.
Since I last wrote, William Aitchison has arrived. I was in Balaclava seeing about berths for our poor wounded officers, and heard that the Ripon was lying outside the harbour, so I persuaded the boatmen to take me out to her, although it was rather rough; I stayed to dinner, and on going on deck afterwards, discovered that my rowers had made off, and there was no boat to take me on shore, so I had to put up for the night, but I felt rather uncomfortable till I got back to camp, lest I should miss our fellows who were going off that morning, as I had their passage warrants in my possession. However, I managed to get off to shore before breakfast, and was in plenty of time.
The other day W.A. and I had a long ride, and I showed him all over Inkerman and the neighbourhood; we afterwards dined tête-à-tête in his camp. To-day we rode over to the French Guards to see a French officer about a nag that he was thinking of purchasing, but it had been previously sold. The officer was very civil, and took us to his club and gave us beer, and was much pleased when we informed him that the expedition had been successful, and that Kinburn had been taken. You might send me a map to refer to, along with a pocket English Prayer-Book.
You will be sorry to hear of poor Johnston’s death; his duty as Provost-Marshal was too hard for him, and broke him down. The last time I saw him he was much altered from what he was before the war; he used to be a strong, hearty-looking man. Not getting the value of his commission will be a great loss to his children.
Mr P—, to whom father gave a note of introduction, called on me about three weeks ago with a captain of one of the ships. After showing them some civility, I escorted them to the right attack, and pointed out the best way for them to see the town. I lent him my telescope, and was surprised he had not returned it; a note, received to-night, explains the reason; when jogging along the road it dropped out of the case, and he lost it; I am very sorry about it as it was a first-rate one, and I have had it throughout the campaign; I got it from poor Nasmyth when at Constantinople. If the box you are sending has not been despatched, you might put in four skins of black leather to line the bottoms and legs of trousers.
I have been rather sold about the occupation of the hut I spoke about, owing to the arrival of more officers, and Dixon, being next senior captain, to me, put in a claim to the Colonel that he was entitled to part of a hut before a subaltern. I am pretty comfortable at present, and am preparing for the winter by building a stone hut with a good fireplace in it, which will be much better than a quarter of a Government hut with a stove in it. It is very difficult now to get a man to work, as all are employed on the roads, etc., so I fear it will be some time before my edifice is finished. I am thinking of piling up wood for the fire in my tent, so you see we hope to be in snugger quarters this winter. We have fitted up a hut as a mess and dining-room.
We are all much disappointed to see by the papers received by this mail that some men who have not done a day’s trench duty have been recommended over our heads, all because of their having interest, or being on the Staff. Some of those mentioned have done next to nothing, and have had every night in bed since the siege began, and some of them have hardly ever been under fire. It is very disheartening and unfair to those who have had to endure all the rough and hard work of the campaign.
The Guards are surprised to find that no mention has been made of them, and we are more than astonished how the Highland Division come to be noted in despatches. We are now up at five o’clock each morning to stand to our arms and wait Rusky’s attack till broad daylight; it was rather cold this morning: I had my tub and breakfast at half-past seven.
I have been much engaged this last week road-making – up every morning at 5 A.M., on a working party till 5.30 P.M., breaking stones on the road-side (rather a come-down in the world, but part of a soldier’s life). I am happy to say I have completed my last turn for some time to come, I would much sooner do twenty-four hours in the trenches than these road fatigues.
Young Gott is now staying with me; he turned up last Sunday, and I have given him a shake-down, but having been daily on duty since his arrival, I have not been able to go about much with him; the other day he accompanied a party to Baidar, and had a pleasant excursion. He has been travelling for some time in the East, and seems to have had rather a surfeit of sight-seeing; he was present at the bombardment of Kinburn.
I have not yet succeeded in getting my house up, owing to my absence from camp, and when the master is away I find little is done; I hope to have it nearly finished before this lovely weather breaks. I must now to bed as I am up so early in the mornings.
Having been much occupied with my house lately, I have not been as regular as usual in writing; twice as much work is executed when I am superintending it; but up to this date I don’t think I have allowed more than a fortnight to elapse without sending a few lines homewards. This evening for the first time I am writing beneath the roof of my new habitation, with a cheerful wood fire blazing in the grate; the house is all but finished, but I am waiting for the plaster to dry before sleeping in it. I have just returned from dining with Birmingham of the Buffs, with whom I travelled during my Italian tour.
Our prospect for this winter is very cheerful compared to the last; we do not expect to have much more to do than to look after our own comforts along with those of the soldiers; drilling in the fine weather will be our chief work.
By telegraph you will have heard of the dreadful explosion the other day. It was appalling; at the moment one thought that either the end of the world had come, or that the whole place was mined. It can never be ascertained how it originated, but gross carelessness must have been the cause of its being so alarming, as shells were thrown more than three-quarters of a mile, which could only have been done by their having been placed on the top or in very close proximity to the powder. No one here has ever before witnessed such a volley of projectiles, the newcomers feel themselves quite entitled to a medal and clasp for the fire they were under! At our distance from the French siege train (over half a mile) we had three huts blown to pieces; wonderful to relate, only one man was killed; the explosion shook houses and displaced articles from the shelves a mile off. It was most fortunate that the windmill, which is used as our powder magazine, did not catch fire. The casualties are estimated at over 400, and the loss of property very great; one of the huts destroyed was occupied as a French hospital.
The last mail brought the long-expected brevet, which in most instances is very judiciously given, but of course there are individual heart-burnings. I can’t say I feel altogether satisfied; I have, unfortunately, not yet completed six years’ service, and by the regulations an officer cannot be promoted to a brevet majority before he has been that time in the Army. All those who have been promoted have longer service than I have, although our dates as captains are the same, but having been out here the whole time, and gone through everything, as well as having been specially recommended by my commanding officer, should give me an equal, if not a prior claim to some who have received the reward. I feel myself entitled to ask for it, if not at present, at least on the 12th of July, when I shall have completed my six years.
A number of changes have taken place among the heads of our army; General Barnard has now got our Division. I am looking forward anxiously for my boxes, which I know will contain several useful articles. My gun I sent home by Moncrieff. We have not yet succeeded in getting our mess established for want of planking for the roof of the kitchen, but we hope to have it set going before the end of the week.
On the anniversary of Inkerman bonfires were blazing all over the various camps, and reels were kept up to a late hour at night. The weather now looks as if winter will soon set in; at present it is cold and wet, but lately we have had lovely weather. The roads are all but finished, and a locomotive plies along the railway line from Balaclava to the first incline. By to-night’s orders we see that the gun-boats have destroyed six rows of corn stacks 2 miles long near Gheisk – not a bad haul! I feel rather loth to quit this comfortable bunk for my miserable tent, but it’s getting late, so I must to bed.
For the last twelve days I have been rejoicing in my comfortable house; the weather has been very wet and wintry, and we are up to our ankles in Crimean mud. Now we find the advantage of the roads at which we had to toil after the siege operations were over. The working parties are much reduced, but still we are called upon every now and then, but we cannot complain of hard work, as except for the road parties, the army has only to furnish a few guards for the town and the Redan. The Engineers are busy mining the Docks, and will soon be ready to blow them up. Rusky has of late been firing a good deal, but there are very few casualties.
I wrote a letter to our Colonel (Goodwyn) about my brevet majority, and he has submitted it along with a recommendation from himself; it has gone as far as headquarters for transmission to England. I shall be anxious to know the issue.
Our mess has been going for more than a week, and it succeeds admirably; it is a great improvement from our grubbing by companies, and more sociable. By day the hut is a reading-room and we have a variety of papers; we are going to establish a book club. Messing is optional, but all have joined with the exception of the paymaster and the quarter-master, who rose from the ranks, and do not attend because of the extra expense. I am breakfasting there at present, but when all the good things arrive which I hear are on the way for me, I may be tempted to confine myself to my house in the mornings. I have taken one of my subalterns (Lowry) into my abode; he has not been very well, and I thought it would be a benefit to him to move out of his damp tent till his own edifice is finished, which he is knocking up next to mine.
Byam is ordered home by a medical board; he has disposed of his house for £10; it is not nearly so good as the one I have built; I could get £15 or £20 for mine. The Colonel and Skipwith have got leave till the 29th February, the latter on “urgent private affairs,” having come into some property. Could you not manage to induce some one to leave me a few thousands which would require my presence in England? We do not think Skipwith will come out again.
I stand well for purchase for my majority, but there is not much use thinking of such a thing when the first action may bowl half of us over. I am going to dine with W.A. to-morrow, if weather permits, but now it is no joke going out in these black wet nights, when there are no cabs to set you down at the door; it is not easy to thread one’s way through the different camps in the dark. Last Sunday W— attended our Division kirk, which is a large Government stable (hut) converted into a place of meeting; it was given up by General Windham when he was our Brigadier. It is pouring rain, but as I am brigade captain, I must go and turn out the different guards.
Frazer, the Adjutant, has offered to pay my passage home if I will give up to him my house, which offer I accepted, but have since made a compromise with him, as he wishes to have my horse also; so now he is going to give me £50 for the house and horse.
There was a little difficulty made about my leave at headquarters, as we were short-handed in captains, but Page arrived from Malta, so that was soon squared. Dr Scott, our surgeon, and I arranged to travel together. We secured passage warrants and berths on board the s.s. Oneida, and sailed on the 8th December from Balaclava Harbour. We transhipped at Constantinople into the French steamer, Jourdain, on the 10th for Marseilles.
There were more than forty officers on board, all bound for dear old England, and a very jovial party we were, every one being in good spirits at the thought of the agreeable change from the dangers and hardships of the past year and a half. Owing to quarantine we could not land at Athens. We reached London in time to spend a Happy Christmas in Scotland with the old folks at home.
Guards’ Camp, Crimea,
By the above address, you see that I am again located in the Crimea. W. Aitchison has given me a shake-down for to-night; lie is looking very hearty. For the present I am living on my friends, and have a bed in Ned Lowry’s hut; but hope to get a portion of a hut that is now occupied as an Orderly Room, but which is too near the officers’ quarters to be convenient for that purpose. On my return I met with a very warm welcome from all my comrades.
Camp Near Sebastopol,
My last was from the Guards’ camp; since then we have had an improved change in the weather, the snow is entirely gone, and when Fitzroy and I were on the Redan guard yesterday, it was as mild as summer. The Redan works are very much altered; all the guns have been taken out, and fatigue parties are engaged daily in pulling down the parapets to get the wood out of the bomb-proof chambers, where the Russian soldiers had shelter from our fire. The works do the Russians great credit; it is wonderful how they succeeded in getting the massive spars up from the dockyard and arsenal.
The preparations that are going on show the campaign, if the war is continued, will be elsewhere. Balaclava is to be fortified, and piers made at Kazatch Bay. The French are in a wretched state, and are building their hopes on peace; in their camp on the Tchernaya many have been dying.
Major Steward has unexpectedly arrived from Malta. I am still sleeping in Ned Lowry’s hut, but I wish I was settled in my own compartment. We are all on the qui vive about peace or war, and are looking forward to a telegram deciding the question.
During the armistice, we have been fraternising a little with Husky; they much appreciate the value they get from the English coin by our purchases. Several officers have been under arrest for transgressing the boundary; the Tchernaya should have been made the line.
Fernoyle, my batman, who deserted and went off with my money, has been heard of in Russia, and my old servant Cuthbert, who was taken prisoner at the Redan, died on the north side from his wound. I have only Fitzroy at present for my subaltern, but I am applying for King, who has come up from Malta. I want a sub who will do work, some of them are very careless young chaps. It was unfortunate that I did not receive the Horse Guards’ letter before my departure, offering me my passage back. If I had known that they would have recognised our waiting for the Government steamer, I need not have hurried away. I saw Mrs Swaby in Paris, and also my godson, both looking well.
Owing to my being on duty in the Redan last night, I was unable to dine with W. A., and attend the Guards’ theatricals in the evening, at which General Codrington and some other swells were present.
Camp, Good Friday, 21st March.
The post due yesterday has not yet arrived. W. A. is expecting to see in the Gazette that he has got his company; the promotion will send him home, there being no vacant company for him here.
Those who landed in the Crimea after the 9th September are crying out because they are not receiving a medal. My name was submitted some time ago to receive the Legion of Honour for my services, but I have not yet heard anything more of it. Next Monday the Guards’ Spring Meeting is to come off on the Tchernaya, for the benefit of the Russians; there will be great fraternising that day. They say General Luder has entered a horse; a number of exchanges have taken places between us and the Ruskies – generally I think, to the advantage of the latter!
We are longing to know whether there is to be peace, in which every one believes. I have had quite enough of this sort of life, a few months’ stay in .England is apt to make one very discontented; what I looked upon as a grand mansion in the month of November, I now regard as a wretched hovel!
On receiving the news of peace on the 2nd, a salute of 100 guns was fired. It was very quick intelligence, considering that the telegraph is not at present working between this and Varna. Yesterday’s orders allow us to cross the Tchernaya and go into the interior of the Crimea, so parties are being made up for four or five days’ excursions. Harvey, Page, and Bligh started this morning. I will not go for a week or more, and by that time I shall have picked up several wrinkles of what is necessary to take with me.
There is a talk of the 41st going to Canada, but the various destinations of the regiments are not yet known. The Mackenzie Heights are strongly fortified, and would have puzzled us to take them by a direct approach. The Russians are encamped there in large numbers, and the forest, where we made the flank march, has all been cut down. Their camps are very dirty, and the appearance of the men slovenly; they don’t seem hard up for provisions; they are allowed to go freely about in our camp, and those who have not imbibed too much carry away with them a quantity of tea and sugar, etc., but owing to their predilection for liquor, they are, frequently seen afterwards lying on the roadside.
The field allowance being stopped, our men have not now so much money to expend. The Russians go about in their long grey greatcoats; they must be much struck with the clean and smart appearance of our soldiers. We have brigade parades twice a week.
The army is now chiefly employed in collecting the Russian shot from behind the batteries, and taking it to the nearest point of the railway; the quantities are enormous. A year’s pay or some prize-money ought to be forthcoming for our doings, or it would be fairer still to have a certain sum for every month’s service. Tell M— I have got some crocus roots for her, and marble from the Emperor’s steps, with pieces of granite from the docks, and to-day I received a bullet from one of the doctors, to be labelled, “Taken out of a man’s thigh.” Would you like a Russian kitten? Page has promised me his when he leaves.
Now that our mess is broken up, the things you sent me are coming in very useful, both to myself and my friends. Pratt has been laid up for some time with a severe attack of influenza. Fitzroy is promoted, so I must look out for some more subs, and will wait to see what the Depôt boys are like before fixing on another Light Bob. Subs are very scarce with us at present.
Since my last letter we have had two grand displays; the whole British force was reviewed on the 17th inst. The Russian Staff were present, and were astonished to see such a magnificent display, and so finely equipped an army: the men looked extremely well and healthy, and the Artillery could not have been better turned out even from their stables in England. The country has lavished its money, but now it has a well-appointed young army, and though the French have been dying by scores throughout the winter, our men have been very healthy. We were drawn up in a line of columns on the plateau, near headquarters. The Highlanders did not get back to their camp near Balaclava till about eleven at night, I was not in the ranks, so had a good opportunity of seeing the show, and had some conversation in French with a Russian Staff officer, who expressed his admiration of our troops. Yesterday we had another review of Infantry only, and performed several manoeuvres in the Plains of Balaclava; such a sight will never be seen again. Major Barnard is away for a week, so I am acting major till his return; it is a great pull being mounted.
Four of us have obtained eight days’ leave next week, so propose making a trip round by Bakshisarai, Simpheropol, Aloushta, Yalta, Baidar, etc., and we may perhaps go up Tchatir Dagh, if there is not too much snow. The Russian officers have been very civil to those who have been up the country; everything is very expensive, especially forage for horses; we shall take a cart, six horses, and two servants with us.
The 9th, 17th, 39th, 62nd, and 63rd Regiments leave at once for Canada with two batteries of Artillery. These regiments came abroad at the time that we were under orders for the West Indies, so we think there is every chance of our going home. A large portion of the Russian force is leaving the Crimea.
Since returning from my trip, I have not had time to send a line to say how very much we enjoyed it. We came back delighted with the beautiful scenery and change of air, though our beauty suffered a good deal from the bright sun’s rays. I have been spending the greater part of the last few days rambling about in company with W. A, who leaves to-morrow in the Melbourne for England. On Wednesday I dined at his mess, and last night Scott, Fitzroy (Coldstream Guards), and he dined with me I am sending to each of the sisters by him a bracelet from Simpheropol. It is work made in the Caucasus. In the same box you will find some souvenirs of the siege in the shape of blocks of stone and marble, which could be cut for paper weights. The hand grenade may make into an inkstand set on the granite from the docks; there is also a Russian thimble for any old maid who will accept of such a gift.
I have bought some of Robertson’s photographs of the town, Redan, etc.; they are much better than Fenton’s, and are only 5s. each. Fenton was charging £2 for them when I was in Edinburgh.
We are still uncertain with regard to our future destination, but I am glad to say it is not to be Malta. The following corps are detailed, 3rd, 46th, and 68th, Corfu; 1st, 14th, 21st, 28th, 31st, 47th, 48th, 57th, and 71st, Malta; and the 13th, 30th, 55th, 89th, and 92nd, Gibraltar. No regiments are to go to the West Indies at present. General Barnard is to command at Corfu. I wish we were going to the Ionian Islands.
Seven French medals have now been received for our non-commissioned officers and privates; they are the same as those given to the soldiers of the French Army. It is a difficult duty, selecting the proper men to receive them, and will probably cause some dissatisfaction and envy.
Some of our steamships have come into Sebastopol Harbour. One of them ran aground to-day, and it was a long time before they could get her off again.
I must now give you an outline of our eight days’ trip in the country; our party consisted of Scott, Pennefather, Cornwall, and self, a cart and seven horses, of which two were used for the cart; three servants, one to drive the cart, another to ride postillion, and the third to cook, etc. Our baggage was – one bell tent, one piquet ditto, for the servants, a waterproof sheet, and blankets per man, which, with our own kits and forage for ourselves and horses, made a heavy load.
We started on the 29th of last month, having despatched the cart in advance by the Traktir Bridge and Mackenzie’s Farm. We baited on the banks of the Belbeck for a couple of hours, and then went on to Bakshisarai where we encamped. It is a poor town, with nothing inviting or interesting about it, and built very much the same as the Turkish villages. We went early to roost after a feed from our larder, having had an enjoyable but fatiguing day. The following morning we were early in the saddle, partaking only of a cup of coffee and biscuits, promising ourselves something more substantial at the Alma; we halted at the river, and had a delicious bathe about 10 A.M., which sharpened our appetites and made the ham rapidly disappear. At 3 P.M. we raised our canvas on the far side of Simpheropol, on the banks of the Salgher, and then had a stroll through the town; we heard a Russian band playing in the gardens, many Rusky officers were present listening to it, and some ladies, but none of them very attractive. A short visit to the capital of the Crimea is quite enough to satisfy one’s curiosity, the houses are similar to those that once stood in Sebastopol. All along the road from our camp we found no want of supplies, there being plenty of fresh meat arid bread, and even some luxuries. The shops and bazaars were all open, and the natives selling their various kinds of merchandise. We were independent of hotels, and returned to our camp for dinner. Next morning, after a bathe and breakfast, we sauntered through the bazaar and purchased some souvenirs; the shopkeepers are making a good thing out of us, and will remember the British officer and his money for some time. Very few French have found their way so far into the interior. We had an early dinner, and then started for Ennis-sala, which is at the foot of the Tchatir Dagh, and had a pleasant ride till dusk, very glad to escape from the constant sight of soldiers with their transport waggons, which were passing incessantly all the way along the route from the Belbeck to Simpheropol. In many parts the road from the interior was half a mile broad, which showed the difficulty the Russians must have had with their transport during the wet months. The main road being entirely cut up in the winter, the waggons must have been nearly axle deep in mud in some parts. There appeared to be no large Depôt of supplies at any place. The horses were in good condition, but the route was marked with the signs of many a dead animal.
We did not go up to the top of the mountain, as we found we had not a day to spare. On the Simpheropol side of the hill there was a battery of Artillery, and on the crest of the Pass, there had been an encampment of troops. Trees were cut down, and laid ready to obstruct the road at a moment’s warning, so it was evident the Ruskies thought a landing at Aloushta might be attempted, and were prepared to meet it. A bridge across the ravine had been mined, and the destruction of it would have prevented our Artillery advancing. It would have been difficult to take the Pass, if it had been defended by a few thousand men, although a landing could not have been opposed, as our ship-guns could easily command the beach and the valley.
It is about 7 miles from Aloushta to the Pass, by a steep winding road. The village is a wretched place, chiefly inhabited by Tartars, not a good house in the place, but, luckily, we carried our own habitations about with us.
The next day, the 3rd, we started early, and proceeded along a very good mountain road, with the sea in the distance below us. The ride to Yalta was charming, embracing a diversity of scenery, with tine rocky hills, cultivated valleys, and bold coast line; the road winds along the cliff, and at every turn of the headlands a new prospect opens out to view. Yalta is a beautiful little spot lying at the foot of a lovely valley; there are many country residences interspersed.
We pitched our tents as usual, but finding there was an hotel there, kept by an Englishman and his wife, we availed ourselves of it for dinner. When strolling about waiting for the arrival of our cart, the Commandant asked us to come into his house, and he regaled us bountifully with Crimean wine from Prince Woronzoff’s vineyards. I cannot say much for the good quality of the beverage, it is like most country wines, sharp and acid, and requires a little cognac to qualify it. The hotel people have lived in this neighbourhood for fifteen years, Mr Hunt (architect of the Orianda Palace and Prince Woronzoff’s villa) is an uncle of the manager’s wife; they were very civil and obliging, and gave us an excellent dinner, with capital turbot and a round of beef, a vast improvement upon our ration cattle. Everything was so tempting, we agreed to have oysters and a heavy lunch the next day before starting.
Early next morning (as we always availed ourselves of water whenever we had an opportunity), Cornwall, Pennefather, and I had a dip in the sea. Just as Corny and I had finished bathing, Pennefather stepped into the water; a wave took him off his legs, and not being able to swim, he gradually rolled out to sea. He sank twice; seeing this, I rushed in to help him, and when up to my neck, I put out my hand, which he grasped, and I tried to draw him back but failed, and found I was getting out of my depth. I managed to free myself from him, and told him to catch hold of my body, but instead of doing that, he caught me round the neck. Luckily, I had turned my back, so was able to swim on shore with him, but when I got, him on land, I had to knock him down before he would let go his hold. He had quite lost his presence of mind, and my neck bore the marks of his claws for some days. I vowed I would never bathe with him again; he all but drowned himself, and very nearly succeeded in doing the same kind office for me.
Before leaving Yalta I paid my respects to the Commandant, and presented him with three bottles of brandy, which was an article he could not procure. As a souvenir, he gave me a tablet of Crimean marble, and also a piece for one of my comrades. The ride from Yalta to Aloupka embraced scenery very much the same as that of the day before, only the views are more confined by the grand cliffs that overhang the road and the sea, and there were more palaces and villas with nicely laid out grounds. About 3 miles from Yalta we passed the palace of Count Potoski, which we visited; it is very handsomely furnished. A few miles further on is the Orianda Palace which belongs to the Queen Dowager, but it has not yet been occupied; it is a fine, noble-looking mansion, and luxuriously fitted up, but the site on which it is built is rather circumscribed. Near Aloupka is the Castle of Prince Woronzoff; we failed to gain admission to see over it, as there was no one about the premises.
In this neighbourhood we found a great difference among the country people, who are Tartars, and in a wretched state of poverty, as the Russians compelled them to part with everything, so that they should be unable to help the allies. There was no meat, eggs, bread, or milk to be bought, and the villagers were only allowed two span of oxen.
During our next day’s tramp we had to remain near our cart to be ready to render assistance at some parts of the road which were difficult. We encountered three land-slips, in trying to overpass which many a cart had come to grief, but as we knew that two parties had overcome the obstacle, we were not going to be beaten. When we arrived at the first slip we were rather staggered, but after a good deal of reconnoitring, we discovered a place we thought was practicable, by returning a few hundred yards, and making a cut across the hills higher up.
This we accomplished, the cart and horse only once turning topsy-turvy. At the next slip, by dint of dodging about, and with the aid of a Cossack to lead us over the intricate country, we got over the worst of the day’s work, and at the last slip, with careful steering and the help of pick and shovel, we surmounted all our difficulties. We met several parties that clay, who had abandoned the undertaking after many fruitless attempts and upsets, so we felt justly elated at our perseverance and success. It had taken us six hours to accomplish 7 miles! That night we halted among some ruined houses, 6 miles or so from Phoros Pass. The Russians had rendered the road very difficult of passage by hurling large blocks of rocks into it. The road to Phoros is fine wild scenery, but rather dreary looking from the stunted wood and want of cultivation. The next day we rode into camp through Baidar, the valley was looking beautiful, most of the trees just coming into leaf, and the orchards all in full bloom.
The round we had taken made a most delightful eight days’ tour, and we returned to camp very sorry it was over. The trouble of packing and pitching the tents, and a certain degree of anxiety attending the cart, gave an additional zest and excitement to the trip. After receiving this you need not write any more to the Crimea, as we expect to start next week for Old England.
I am sorry that Jack has allowed so much time to pass before going up for his examination, as the reduction of the army is about to take place, which will cause stagnation in all grades, and the Horse Guards will have few or no commissions to give away. The regiments that have gone to Canada and the Mediterranean have sent home the officers that come within the break, and before July the whole reduction will have taken place, which will make an aggregate number of about 900 officers. I would not be at all surprised if Jack is not appointed for six months at least. I have written to Algiers advising him to go home at once and try and pass the examinations in June, and father should use all his interest to have him appointed to a corps that has not been out here, he would have a better prospect of promotion; also, they are all so juvenile here, it would be a very bad school for him. Hongkong would be better for a young fellow than a Crimean regiment on its return to England, with so few old officers to look after the youngsters. There is no chance of Bush getting his majority for some time to come, the Lieutenants will not purchase till the reduction has taken place. We do not know yet if the second Lieutenant-Colonel (Pratt) will be put on half-pay. I wish we could pick out those we liked best to remain in the regiment; we shall lose some very good fellows.
The 46th and 68th embark to-morrow, and some other troops the next day. The French are clearing off sharp. On the return of the transports from Italy, our regiments will quickly disappear, but if England is to be our destination, we shall be one of the last corps to leave. We hope we may embark from Sebastopol- Harbour. The huts are being pulled down to be sold, and they have begun to take up the railway, so it will not be long before we leave.
To-day we had races at the Tchernaya, which will be the wind-up of the Crimean sports. General Codrington held a farewell inspection of our Division last Monday. Lord Panmure has issued an Address to the Army, which contains a good deal of soft sodder, which is instead of prize-money.
Camp Near Sebastopol,
A party of us are going to the Alma to-morrow; it will be a long ride of about 50 miles. Barnard, Fitzroy, Scott, Gulland, King, Cornwall, Hall, and self start at six o’clock, and hope to be on the battlefield before eleven A.M., where we will lunch and halt for some hours.
The forces in the Crimea are now rapidly diminishing, and the old 2nd Division no longer exists. The 30th and 55th sailed last Wednesday in the Great Britain for Gibraltar, and the 47th are off in two days to their old station, Malta. This week will probably see all the Mediterranean regiments out of the Crimea, and then most likely will come the turn of the Guards and the Light Division for home.
Yesterday being the Queen’s Birthday, there was another grand review in the plain of Balaclava, which I hope may be the last, as the summer is rapidly advancing. The French medals were distributed by the Generals to the soldiers of their several Divisions, and then a royal salute was fired, and three cheers for the Queen, ending up with a march past. General Pellissier was present, looking as unhappy on horseback as usual. Seven medals were given to each of the regiments that had been out during the whole of the war. I think, on the whole, the selection of the men in the 41st to receive the medal gave satisfaction, though it was a difficult task to decide. There is no word yet of my Legion of Honour. I believe the names will appear in the Gazette, so you will most likely know of it before we do.
Yesterday we had a photographic group of the officers of the regiment taken, also one of the men. I have denuded myself of my beard; shaving has become quite a mania at present, and I, personally, do not think an appendage on the chin is an improvement to an Englishman.
The other day I had a pleasant ride with Barnard and Gulland, to Mangap Kalek by the Choulu Valley, and Aitodor through the Korelas Pass, and home by the Belbec and Mackenzie’s Farm. The Russians are clearing away fast, the few that are left are under canvas. Cricket and rounders are now the chief amusement.
We have had a delightful day at the Alma, the weather was not too warm. Unfortunately, our time being short, we were unable to go over the whole of the position, so confined ourselves chiefly to the French part. Peddie, King, and Hall were late in starting, and did not overtake us. On comparing notes afterwards we found that they did not reach the Alma at all; they went as far as the Katscha, and halted there, believing they were then on the battlefield. Peddie even imagined the vineyard the 41st had passed through, and drew attention to it! They returned to camp quite pleased with their day’s excursion, and recounted the principal features of the ground. It turned out, however, that they had only passed two rivers instead of three! They were much disgusted when they discovered their mistake, and got well chaffed about it.
Scott and I were the only two of the party who had been engaged in the fight on the 20th September. I shall try and see the ground again, and inspect the English position more fully.
Pennefather had a letter from Cox & Co., who state the 41st are to return home. We hope to be out of this in about a month, in spite of what Sir Charles Wood says. The land transport will be the last to leave; the removal of that branch of the Service will take a considerable time.
To-morrow and Sunday will clear out all but four regiments who are to go before us. The 23rd, 33rd, 34th, and one of the Highland regiments go to-morrow, along with two ships of Artillery and one of invalids, and the 90th and 77th go the next day in the Queen, then there will be left the 97th, and three Highland corps, and one wing of the 19th. The Rodney is in harbour, and I believe some others, so we may be walked off in a day or two. I hope a transport may fall to our lot, and that we may escape the fetters of a man-of-war. We should be home in a third of the time in a good steam transport I think father ought to come and meet us on our arrival. To-morrow we are to play the 49th a return match at cricket; the other day they beat us by three wickets.
This is the last letter you will receive from me from the Crimea; this morning the baggage was despatched to Balaclava to be placed on board a tug, and taken round to Kazatch Bay and there transhipped to the Transit; about eleven o’clock we will be on board; six companies of the 49th go with us. As the Transit has not a good name, we do not expect to make a fast passage; she broke down at the naval review, when the members of the House of Commons were on board, and, like most Government ships, is none of the best. The captain says he will have to stop a day or two at all the different stations to have the engines cleaned. On arrival at Malta I will tip you a line. We do not know at which port in England we are to land, but expect it will be Portsmouth; we are now very uncomfortable, for to-day and to-night we have nothing to bless ourselves with. I hope to see General Ferguson at Gibraltar.
Here we are so far en route homewards, having had a beautiful passage, the sea being as smooth as a mill-pond; but of course something must go wrong on board a Government steamer, and we will be detained here for two or three days having the engine pipes mended; the last forty-eight hours men have been continually at work pumping out the water; the captain’s wife is at Malta, so he will not be inclined to expedite matters. We are all very comfortable on board, but the steward is a horrid old screw. With the least rough weather the Transit rolls heavily, so we expect to catch it going through the Bay of Biscay. You may be on the outlook for us on the 10th or 12th, if all goes well. We have overtaken some of the vessels that left before us.
You will have seen that Bertram has been made a brevet-major for his Crimean services; from February till August, he has not been in any battle, or the attack on the 8th September. Poor Bligh was dreadfully sold this morning. An officer of the 49th came on board, and said the senior captain of the 41st had been made a brevet-major, so every one congratulated Bligh on his luck; but the mistake was soon discovered, and caused him great disappointment. We have no room on board for our Depôt, so they have to follow afterwards. Malta seems much the same as ever. Most of us dine this evening with our old chums, the 47th.
H.M.S. Transit, Off Portland Point, 26th July.
When at Malta, where we were detained two days, I posted a few lines home via Marseilles. Our old friends, the 47th, treated us most hospitably, and entertained us during our sojourn. We left on the 26th, and had a delightful passage to Gibraltar, passing several other regiments that had started two days before us. We arrived early in the-morning and stayed that day and all the next coaling, so had ample time to see the Rock and its vicinity. The first day I went with our Colonel to call on the Governor-General James Ferguson, but he was not at home. Mrs Jarvis and Miss Jenkins are in England, also Hart the A.D.C. That evening most of us dined with the 30th and 55th, and afterwards went to a ball at the theatre; the ladies were chiefly inhabitants of the Rock, only a few could speak English, but it was very good fun. The assembly was principally composed of officers of the garrison and daughters of the shopkeepers; dancing was continued till an early hour, and as the drawbridges are all up after dark, and the port closed, we accepted the shakedowns that were offered; the few hours’ rest I had was at Elton’s, 55th. The next day I made an early call on the Governor and saw him and Captain Jarvis; he asked me to lunch and dinner, but I was unable to accept, as I had arranged to ride to Algezares with Dr Scott and the two Johnsons, and we had to be on board by 5 P.M.
After leaving Gibraltar we had a strong head wind and encountered a severe storm, in which we lost our jibboom; we were making so little way the captain decided to put into Vigo to coal, where we remained for thirty-six hours, and landed our bands for the edification of the inhabitants. Some of the officers went to a small ball that was given on board a Spanish warship then in the harbour, I did not go, being quite satisfied with what I had seen of the Spanish beauties at Gibraltar. From Vigo we have had a favourable passage.
H.M.S. Transit, Portsmouth Dockyard, 21st July.
We disembark at noon to-morrow, and proceed to Aldershot to be temporarily stationed there, as Her Majesty has notified her intention of reviewing us, and then we hope to be sent to some snug quarters. Please select some articles of my home kit, and send them as soon as possible. I do not require my heavy baggage at present, nor the iron bedstead, as I have a wooden stretcher. A pair of sheets, shirts, and some mufti will be useful. I see one of our men has been killed in the riots in Ireland, I hope we may be kept out of that country. This is a wet, disagreeable day, quite like Old England, and very different from the beautiful blue skies we have left behind; if it clears I am going on shore, and will telegraph to you. Our band played on Sunday, I suppose for the last time for a while, as Sunday bands are now knocked on the head in England. I think it is carrying things too far.
ALDERSHOT, 2nd August.
I do not see the least probability of my being in Scotland by September, I wish we were off to our final destination, as no one can get leave till it is decided. We heard that we are likely to remain here longer than we expected; if so, we will start a scratch mess which will be a comfort; at present we are grubbing under difficulties. There is a club about a mile off, and by taking our servants to assist at table we can get a pretty good dinner. I asked the Colonel to-day for another recommendation for a brevet, which he said he would be most happy to give, but I do not live in any great hopes, as they will most probably say they cannot make another captain a brevet-major in the 41st. I propose attending the levee on Tuesday. When I was with the Colonel he asked me who I thought ought to receive the Medjidie, and we selected the following: Captains Lowry, Kingscote, Fitzroy, and Lieutenants Hill and Lowry. The Turkish Order is classed in our regiment as second to the Legion of Honour, which distributes the rewards more generally; in some regiments they have been classed as of equal merit, so the same individual receives both the foreign orders.
You would see in the papers that we have had a row with the German Rifles, which originated in a public-house quarrel between a soldier of our regiment and one of the German Legion; it came to a climax by the latter snatching the medal off the 41st man’s coat, throwing it on the ground, and trampling on it, which naturally roused the feelings of the English soldiers. There has been a court of enquiry on the subject, and it has ended with three men of the piquet being confined, who will most likely be tried by Court-Martial for not helping to suppress the row; one of the three used his bayonet. Lieutenant Pack, who was in charge of the piquet is under arrest; he is the junior officer of the regiment; most likely he will get off with a wigging for not having handled his men better, as when doubling up to the fight, he injudiciously gave the word: “Fix bayonets.”
During the excitement some of the piquet were hit and knocked over with stones, so they charged and made free play with their bayonets. There might have been a more serious row the succeeding night if precautionary measures had not been taken in confining the regiment to camp. When it was on parade, the German Rifles came behind the huts and pelted the Light Company with stones, and it was all Major Barnard and the other officers could do to prevent our men breaking off and charging the assailants.
Some of the men of the 49th and Rifle Brigade agreed, as the 41st were not permitted to leave camp, they would take up the quarrel, which might have led to a serious disturbance, so the Horse Guards thought it advisable to order the German Rifles off to another station.
On Monday we were glad to leave Aldershot where we had been most uncomfortable, as owing to our being sent there only for a short period, we were unable to establish a mess. The regiment is now under canvas near the citadel, from whence we have a good view overlooking the town and harbour. We are disappointed in not being put into barracks, having had enough of camp life during the last two years; as long as the fine weather lasts it is pleasant enough, but we are still in an unsettled state without a mess, and find it very expensive dining at an hotel every day. However, we hope to hire a house in the town for a temporary measure until we move to Shorncliffe.
I am sending you a copy of the answer to my application. I daresay in the next brevet Gazette ten years hence I may receive my brevet, when I am either a live or a dead major. A large batch of ensigns has joined us, we have not seen any such young sparks for many months, as in the Crimea they were quite extinct. I have got my Legion of Honour, it is more decorative than the English medal.
Rowlands is to meet with a most enthusiastic reception on his arrival in Wales, and be presented with a sword of honour, value £160 and £100 to be expended in plate, or any other way he may wish. He is a generous-hearted fellow, and has asked the Committee to give the money to the widows and children of the men in his company who have fallen. I am keeping his horse for him during his absence on leave.
Our Depôt has moved from Ireland to Newport; now that they have come to England, it may be to my advantage to join it, instead of running my neck into the Yellow Jack, if we go to the West Indies in the spring. The Colonels of the different regiments were called together this morning to meet the new Brigadier-Generals Cameron, 42nd, and Lord West, late 21st, our chief. General Barnard is commanding this district; we know him very well, as he commanded the 2nd Division in the Crimea.
Colonel Goodwyn says it has been decided that the Highland Brigade is to go to Shorncliffe and our Brigade to remain here. My Colour-Sergeant Davies is about to purchase his discharge from the service; he will be a great loss to me, having been a first-rate non-commissioned officer and accountant I am giving him a silver watch and chain as a souvenir.
1st September. – Our Depôt is on its way to Walmer; it will be pleasant being so near one another, it is only 8 miles from this, so we shall have continual intercourse.
The regiment was in camp at Dover for about a couple of months and then went to Shorncliffe, but I was ordered to join the Depôt at Walmer, where I remained till October 1857, when I embarked for Jamaica to rejoin the headquarters of our regiment, which had left in the spring for that station. We returned to England in 1860, and were quartered at Aldershot for a year, then moved to the Isle of Wight, where the men were employed in constructing a military road between the forts near Freshwater. In 1862 the regiment was sent to the north of England, and I was quartered at Sunderland, I had previously spent several years of my boyhood there at the Grange School.
The 41st was stationed in Glasgow in 1863, and the following spring crossed the Channel to Ireland, and remained at the Curragh Camp and Richmond Barracks, Dublin, till it sailed for India in July 1865. On the 18th April I obtained my majority by purchase, having served more than ten years as a captain.
Our Indian service included three years at Agra, two at Subathoo, and three at Mooltan, during which period I made several shooting trips to Cashmere and the Himalayas, and also visited the principal sights of India; we next proceeded to Aden for fourteen months, returning to England in 1875, when we were again quartered at our old station, Shorncliffe.
I was appointed to the command of the Depôt companies at Milford Haven, and went with them to Cardiff, when the 41st regimental district was formed at that centre. On the 23rd May 1877 I succeeded to the command of the regiment, then stationed at Pembroke Dock. The following year we went to Aldershot, where we were quartered in the Permanent Barracks for two years, and then moved in 1880 to Chatham, but owing to the Afghan War we were suddenly ordered on foreign service to Gibraltar in August of that year, and had been there only a few months when we were sent to Natal on active service against the Boers in March 1881, where I was in command of the troops at Ladysmith, Newcastle, and Moy River, till I completed my five years’ command in May 1882. It was with feelings of deep regret that I left the regiment, in which I had spent thirty-two years of my life.
During the Egyptian campaign of that year 1 was nominated to command the Reserve Depôt at Alexandria, and at the close of it was appointed to the 21st regimental district at Ayr, where I remained five years.
I was promoted to the rank of Major-General on the 2nd December 18S9, and selected for the command of the troops in Cyprus, 9th October 1890, until the age clause necessitated my retirement in 1894. Towards the expiration of my soldiering a good service reward was conferred on me.
During the period of my husband’s command in Cyprus, he was glad to have the opportunity of gratifying the great desire he had always felt to revisit his old haunts in the Crimea, and go over once more the well remembered camping grounds and the scenes of his early active service.
In May 1893 he obtained a month’s leave, and we left for Constantinople, where we remained a few days before crossing the Black Sea.
We met another General Officer who was bent on the same object as ourselves, General Kent, late 77th, and it was with intense interest and pleasure that the two wandered together through Sebastopol and the surrounding country, although it naturally could not but awaken many sad reminiscences to both of them. Up and down the familiar ravines, in and out of the various positions where the old batteries and trenches had formerly been, they tramped once more, often pausing to bring to each other’s recollection episodes which had occurred during the campaign, and noting the alterations that had taken place during the forty years which had elapsed.
With the exception of these long walks, I accompanied them on all the expeditions, but owing to the limited steam service between Constantinople and Cyprus, we had only a fortnight at our disposal, which was all too short a time to see and do all that we could have wished.
One of our first excursions was to Inkerman, where the 2nd Division had been encamped; we had passed the site of the Windmill, and were ascending the road which crosses the crest of the hill, when my husband stopped the carriage, remarking: “This is about the place where my tent was pitched,” so we alighted, and had only walked a short distance, when I heard him exclaim: “By Jove, this is the very hole we dug!” It is now nearly filled up, but is still deep enough to identify the spot over which he had pitched his tent, and where he and General Rowlands lived together during the dreary winter months of 1854-55.
The battlefield is now covered with scrub and brushwood, and the ground, when I saw it, was thickly carpeted with a variety of small wild flowers similar to those which grow in Syria, presenting altogether a very different aspect from what it must have been when the troops were encamped there. That afternoon we visited the well-known cemetery on Cathcart’s Hill, where, in addition to the monuments erected to the officers who were buried there at the time of the war, all the memorial tablets have now been collected from the scattered brigades and Division camps.
We lingered a long time over the graves of those brave soldiers who had fallen for their country, searching for and examining the tombstones for the names of individual friends. The cemetery was at that time well looked after, but we were sorry to hear that the Government intended to discontinue the services of a custodian. We had a delightful day exploring the Redan, Mamelon, Malakoff, etc., but with the exception of a few bullets, we could find nothing to bring away as a memento, as the soil has been turned over too often by regular searchers, who even now earn a livelihood by digging up and selling the lead and iron they discover, so little chance remains for a visitor to pick up anything but broken bottles, of which there is an innumerable supply everywhere, left, as our drosky man took pride in explaining to us by the Inglese!
There is a small enclosure in the interior of the Malakoff, in the wall of which a memorial tablet is erected to the French who fell there on 8th September 1855, on which these words are engraved:
“Unis par la victoire,
Revues par la mort
Du soldat c’est la gloire
Des braves c’est le sort. ”
an inscription which appealed to us strongly, as being at once so simple and yet so touching. A caretaker lives in what remains of the Round Tower.
Another day we spent at St George’s Monastery, from which there is an extensive view of the cliffs near Balaclava Harbour, against which so many vessels were wrecked in that fatal storm of the 14th November 1854.
Shortly before leaving the Crimea, we made a, most enjoyable trip to Yalta, close to which is the Palace of Lavidia, the summer residence of the Russian Royal Family. We drove through the Baidar Pass, a description of which is given on page 168. We also rowed up the Harbour to the Tchernaya Valley and head of the Quarry ravine, returning to Sebastopol by way of the Sandbag Battery, and over the field of Inkerman to the plateau overlooking the scene of the Charge of the Light Brigade. It surprises me that in these days of travel, so few English ladies have visited the Crimea, considering how easily it can be accomplished, as it only takes twenty-four hours in a charming little Russian steamer from Constantinople, and on landing there is a comfortable hotel kept by a Swiss, and called Kist’s Hotel; the house is built and the adjoining pleasure-gardens laid out on the site of what was Fort Nicholas. We shall always remember with gratitude the kindness and assistance we received from Mr Grierson, the Belgian Consul, and his wife, Mrs Grierson.
On our arrival the captain of the steamer telephoned to Mr Grierson, who came on board and helped us through the usual annoyance and delay of customs, etc., which we greatly appreciated, as we neither of us .knew the Russian language, and during our stay in Sebastopol, he assisted us most kindly in many ways.
Captain Murray, the English Consul, was away from home on duty at Yalta, but on his return we had the pleasure of meeting him, and it is to him that my husband is indebted for the translation of the records of the Russian Memorial Monument of “The Hundred Thousand.” I should like to give one hint which may prove, useful to any person contemplating a visit to Sebastopol, and who cannot speak the Russian language. If they should at any time be hungry and unable to explain what they want, let them pronounce the simple word “Bosh” and they will be surprised, and I have no doubt pleased, to find served up to them the excellent and familiar old friend, “Scotch Broth!”
J. H. A.