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them on the ledge near the Sandbag Battery (a mode of
action which Mr Kinglake laments as false policy) was
not the best way of dealing with the ground, for if we
had withdrawn our line there to the main crest, and
left the space between the cliff and the Fore Ridge un-



1 60 The Sandbag Battery.

occupied, the Russians, after ascending to the ledge,
would have been able to take breath beneath its shelter
before gaining the plateau, and when there they would
have had the opportunity of solving what was one
of their great difficulties throughout the day, namely,
finding open space to deploy on at a certain dis-
tance from our front. As it was, they came up
rugged steeps, in disorder and under fire, to close
with us still uphill, while yet breathless with the
ascent, and here consequently occurred their severest
losses. On the whole, therefore, the manner in which
our troops fought the battle may be thought to have
been very fortunately adapted to the topography of
the field, and to the proportions of the contending
forces.

It is natural that a Russian chronicler should seek
to extenuate this defeat, and we will not greatly blame
Todleben for increasing the strength of the English, in
the first phase of the combat, to 11,585 (more than
trebling their actual force), for laying great stress on the
"fieldworks" which strengthened the position, and for
claiming successes which, in some mysterious way that
he does not elucidate, were turned into disasters. In his
visit to the field, in 1869, Mr Kinglake found the Sandbag
Battery still there very likely it is there now and his
detailed account of it is sufficiently exact. But he and
other chroniclers advert to it, when describing the com-
bats of which the area around it was the scene, in terms
which would convey to those who have never seen it an
altogether exaggerated idea of its importance, and even



Russian Exaggerations. 161

of its size ; and Todleben not only describes a Russian
regiment 3000 strong as fighting desperately with our
Coldstreams for the possession of it, but as capturing
nine pieces of artillery "as the prize of this brilliant feat
of arms " ; some of which, that imaginative chronicler
tells us, were carried off by the victors, and the rest
spiked. It is true that some hours later in the day one
French gun was carried off from this part of the field,
and was afterwards recovered in a ravine, so the Russian
historian could at least plead that his version is not in
this case, as it is in some others, absolutely without
foundation. But all this gives to the battery an import-
ance quite fictitious. It was simply a wall of earth,
several feet thick and twelve paces long, with two
embrasures cut in it, the parapet, elsewhere considerably
taller than a man's head, sloping rapidly for a few feet
at each end. Behind it might have stood, in two ranks,
thirty-six men in all, of whom twenty, ten of each rank,
might have been able to fire through the embrasures arid
over the ends, while the other sixteen would have been
better employed elsewhere. It was conspicuous from its
height and position, and the enemy, seeing it from below,
might easily have imagined it more formidable than it
was ; but how could 3000 men be employed in attacking,
or a battalion such as the Coldstreams in defending it ?
Sixty men would have been an ample number wherewith
to assail it. As for the intrenchments on each side of
the road, a common bank and ditch, such as those which
generally border our fields, would have been incompar-
ably stronger for defence. Yet Todleben speaks of this



1 62 What was at Stake.

useless mound, and these insignificant banks, as "the
enemy's works," and another Russian writer says, " in
spite of the accumulated forces of the enemy, our
columns succeeded in occupying his batteries and fortifi-
cations."* The truth is that few battlefields have been so
devoid of obstacles of this kind as that of Inkerman.
The difficulties of the attack lay in the hindrance which
the coppice and crags opposed to regulated advances
and deployments, though, on the other hand, these
objects afforded to the enemy the not inconsiderable
advantage of sheltering his skirmishers.

Those who were children at the time of the Crimean
War can scarcely realise how ardent, how anxious, how
absorbing was the interest which the nation felt for the
actors in that distant field, insomuch that Mr Bright,
theoretically a man of peace, publicly said he believed
there were thousands in England who only laid their
heads on their pillows at night to dream of their
brethren in the Crimea. This feeling reached its climax
with the news of Inkerman. and it was not, nor indeed
could it be, in excess of the magnitude of the stake
which depended on the issue of that battle. The
defeat of that slender Division on its ridge would have
carried with it consequences absolutely tremendous.
The Russians, arriving on the Upland, where the
ground was bare, and the slopes no longer against them,
would have interposed an army in order of battle

* It is just possible that these writers may have supposed that some of
the works placed on that ground long afterwards, were there at the time
of the battle.



Consequence of Victory. 163

between our trenches and Bosquet's corps. As they
moved on, disposing by their mere impetus of any dis-
jointed attempts to oppose them, they would have
reached a hand to Gortschakoff on the one side, to the
garrison of Sebastopol on the other, till the reunited
Russian Army, extended across the Chersonese, would
have found on those wide plains a fair field for its great
masses of cavalry and artillery. To the Allies, having
behind them only the sea-cliffs, or the declivities lead-
ing to their narrow harbours, defeat would have been
absolute and ruinous ; and behind such defeat lay
national degradation. On the other hand, when the 4
long crisis of the day was past, the fate of Sebastopol
was already decided. It is true that our misfortunes grew
darker and darker, that six weeks afterwards most of the
horses that charged at Balaklava were rotting in a sea of
mud, most of the men who fought at Inkerman filling
hospitals at Scutari, or graves on the plain. Any history
of the war would be incomplete that failed to record, as a
main and characteristic feature of it, the extraordinary
misery which the besieging armies endured. Nevertheless,
when Inkerman had proved that the Russians could not
beat us in battle, we were sure to win, because it was >
impossible for us to embark in presence of the enemy.
We could do nothing else but keep our hold ; and, keep-
ing it, it was matter of demonstration that the Powers
which held command of the sea must prevail over the
Power whose theatre of war was separated from its
resources, by roadless deserts. Such were the conse-
quences which hung in the balance each time that the



164 Consequence of Victory.

Russian columns came crowding on, while their long
lines of artillery swept the ridge; and it is not amiss
that the nation, which sometimes gives its praise so
cheaply, should be reminded how much it owed that
day to the steadfast men of Inkerman.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE HURRICANE AND THE WINTER.

The Hurricane Its Effects Privations of the Troops Want of Trans-
port Transport done by the Men The Cavalry Horses starved
Sufferings of the Sick The Hospitals Indignation in England
The French take part of our Duties Relief begins Why a Road
was not made at first Roads now made Improvement in the
Hospitals Miss Nightingale arrives The Influence She acquires
The Ratio of Deaths Resignation of the Ministry The Crimean
Commission The Commissary-General blamed Defends himself
General Airey refutes Charges Departments have Their Proper
Limits The Fault lay in the System.

THREE days after the battle of Inkerman, Lord Raglan
informed his Commissary-General, Mr Filder, that our
Army would winter in the Crimea, and desired him to
make provision accordingly.

Up to this time the troops had undergone no great
privation. During October the weather had been mild
and sunny, with cool nights ; the tents stood on dry and
level spaces of turf. The surface of the plains had
been good for transit. Rations for men and horses
had been supplied with sufficient regularity ; losses of
men from sickness or battle had been repaired ; and
notwithstanding the excessive work which the dispro-
portion of our numbers to their task forced the men to
undergo, and the lingering presence of the cholera pest,
both of these causes, which lowered the health of the
whole force, had not, as had just been shown, impaired



1 66 The Hiirricane.

its ability to fight, or even its cheerfulness. Therefore,
though in the first half of November mists had begun
to overspread the Black Sea, and between these and
the blue sky hung a low canopy of cloud, nothing
formidable had as yet threatened us.

But we had a sudden and rude awakening. On the
1 4th of November a violent wind arose from the south,
dashing huge billows against the iron-bound coast, and
sweeping the Upland. It drove before it a deluge of rain,
which lodged in the hollows of the tents, caused by the
pressure of the wind, and the weight of both wind and
rain, as the storm increased, prostrated whole camps,
and dispersed them, with their contents, far over the miry
plain, so that men returning from duty in the trenches for
food and repose found themselves destitute of fuel and
of shelter. The hospital tents were at once carried
away, along with the blankets of their sick and wounded
tenants, who were thus left bare to the mercy of the
storm. Quantities of food and forage stored round the
camps were spoiled, and the daily communication with
Balaklava was stopped because the horses and waggons
could not make head against the wind. These evils
might have been borne, and in some degree repaired,
but worse than these were happening on the sea.
Twenty-one vessels, in or near the harbour of Balaklava,
were dashed to pieces, and eight others disabled. All
these were full of stores urgently needed by the army,
and among them was the Prince, a magnificent steamer,
"containing," says the Journal of the Royal Engineers,
"everything that was most wanted warlike stores of



Its Effects. 167

every description, surgical instruments, guernsey frocks,
flannel drawers, woollen stockings and socks, boots,
shoes, watch-coats ; in short, all that the foresight of the
Government could devise for the equipment and com-
fort of the troops." All these treasures went with her
to the bottom of the sea. Our principal ammunition
ship was also cast away, and each of the others bore
with it to the deep a part of that which we depended on
for existence. " Mr Filder's great fear," wrote Lord
Raglan, " is want of forage for the horses. He lost
twenty days' hay by the tempest"

Next day the little harbour of Balaklava was full
of floating timbers and trusses of hay, through which
boats could hardly make their way, and numbers of the
drowned were washed about the bases of the cliffs out-
side. The French lost the most beautiful vessel in their
navy, the Henri IV., and the garrison of Sebastopol
shared, in less degree, the general misfortune, having
many of the houses that sheltered them unroofed, as
well as their naval magazines.

With this day began our dire season of calamity.
At the close of the storm, the evening had brought
snow, and henceforth the soil of the devastated camps
afforded in no respect better lodging than the rest of
the surrounding wold. The sick, -the wounded, and the
weary lay down in mud. The trenches were often deep
in water, and when night put an end to the rifle fire on
both sides, the soldiers sat there, cramped, with their
backs against the cold, wet earth. A still worse evil was
that men seldom pulled off their wet boots, fearing they



1 68 Privations of the Troops.

might not be able to draw them on again; their feet
swelled in them, the circulation was impeded, and on
cold nights frost-bite ensued, ending at best in mutila-
tion. Coming from the trenches, the men had to go far
afield to seek for roots wherewith to cook their food ; it
is hardly surprising that many preferred to employ
these short intermissions of duty in such repose as was
obtainable, and ate their salt pork uncooked ; and as,
under such diet and such exposure, the numbers of the
sick increased, so was more work thrown on those who
remained. "Our men," wrote Lord Raglan, "are on
duty five nights out of six, a large proportion of them
constantly under fire." And all this time their clothing
was such as they had first landed in in September. It
was not from a continuous lack of food that the troops
suffered. Except at the worst time, there was generally
forthcoming in most camps the due allowance (not, how-
ever, without too many intervals of scanty fare) of biscuit,
salt meat, and rum. But there was by no means always
forthcoming the fuel wherewith to cook it ; and if there
had been, the diet, so limited, almost invariably pro-
duced scurvy, and other diseases. Yet at this very
time there was a sufficiency of fuel stored at Balaklava,
and rice, flour, vegetables, and tea, such as might have
rendered the diet wholesome. Here, then, seven or
eight miles from the camps, were supplies which would
have enabled the army to meet on much better terms
the evils of overwork, and exposure to wet and cold.
But these supplies could only be made partially, and
with difficulty, available, for want of transport. As has



Want of Transport. 1 69

been seen, we had no transport corps, and the army de-
pended, in its first movements, on the horses and carts
which could be seized in the Crimea. From a return
prepared by the commissariat, there appears the start-
ling fact that, in January 1855, the whole number of
effective animals belonging to that department was 333
pack-horses and mules, and twelve camels. Had the
dep6t which the Commissary-General had attempted
to form near headquarters been completed, the task of
supplying the troops would have been comparatively
easy. But the formation of this depot, which was to
have afforded conveyance for future supplies, as well as
for those necessary for daily and present use, was inter-
rupted for want of transport. In rear of each Division
a scanty group of miserable ponies and mules, whose
backs never knew what it was to be quit of the saddle,
shivered, and starved, and daily died. Such were the
means of transport on which the army depended for
subsistence. Yet plenty of horses existed in the sur-
rounding countries, and there was a sufficiency of ships
in which to bring them. Why, then, were horses not
brought in sufficient numbers to Balaklava? In answer to
the question, the Commissary-General stated that " the
reason for not increasing the amount of transport was
not that a greater number of animals was unnecessary, but
that a greater number could not be fed in the Crimea."

Here, then, the primary cause of the sufferings of
the army is arrived at the want of forage. Hay and
corn would have enabled us to maintain a land trans-
port sufficient to feed the troops and the horses, to



i/o Transport done by the Men.

shelter them with huts, to supply ammunition for the
siege, and to form a depot against contingencies.
Shrewd men at home might have made many guesses
before they hit on the source of distress, for the intelli-
gence and foresight must have been rare indeed that
could have conducted an inquirer through such a jumble
of calamity to so unexpected a conclusion.

Now it has been said that the duties the men had to
perform in the trenches, certainly when those of pickets
and guards in camp were added to them, were as much
as they could bear. But besides, owing to the deficiency
of transport, they had to perform much work that ought
to have been done by horses and mules. The journey
through the quagmire to Balaklava and back, carrying
up rations, clothing, huts, or ammunition, frequently
took up twelve hours, all which time they were without
food, shelter, or rest. Also, they were repeatedly on
short rations ; in the Fourth and Light Divisions they
were often on three-quarters, two-thirds, and some-
times half rations of meat and rum ; on two occasions
they had only quarter rations, and one day they had
none at all. For six or seven weeks they were deprived
of their ration of rice at the precise time when it would
have been so beneficial, a time when scarcely any vege-
tables were supplied, and hardly a man in the army
escaped the prevailing diseases.

The sufferings of the animals were frightful. They
were dying all round the camps, and all along the route
to Balaklava, of cold, hunger, and fatigue, and as labour
could not be bestowed in burying them, their carcases



The Cavalry Horses starved. 1 7 1

formed a dismal feature in the desolate scenery. The
artillery horses had so much extra work thrown on them
that the efficiency of the batteries was very seriously
impaired. Lord Lucan had remonstrated against the
position chosen for the cavalry after the battle of Inker-
man, as being so distant from the harbour as to endanger
the supply of forage. Subsequently, the reason appeared
to be that General Canrobert, anticipating a second
attack on the same point, and thinking that the mere
presence of cavalry might, when told to the enemy
by their spies, deter them, had persuaded Lord Raglan
to post them in that quarter. Lord Lucan's forebodings
were quickly realised. Before the end of November the
neighbouring artillery camps were invaded by ravenous
cavalry horses, galloping madly in at the sound of the
feeding trumpet, and snatching, undeterred by stick or
stones, the hay and barley from the very muzzles of the
right owners. Painful it was to see the frenzy of the
creatures in their first pangs of hunger, more painful to
see their quiet misery in the exhaustion that succeeded.
Remedy (except removing the camp) there seemed none.
The labour of toiling through the slough to Balaklava
to fetch their own forage was so great that many
horses sank and died in each journey; every day
saw the survivors weaker and less fit for the effort ;
every frosty night the cold was followed by the death
of numbers.

The effect of all this misery was that at the end of
November we had nearly 8000 men in hospital. The
journey thither was an ordeal fatal to many. Lifted



1 7 2 Sufferings of the Sick.

from the mud of the hospital tent, and wrapt in their
wet blankets, the sick were placed on horses, a dismal
troop ; some with closed eyes and livid cheeks, little
other than mounted corpses ; some moaning as they
went, and almost ready in their weariness to relax their
hold of the pommel, and bury their troubles in the mire
beneath ; some fever-stricken, glaring with wide eyes
void of speculation, for whom the passers-by, if they
saw them at all in their hurried, insane glances, existed
only as more of the phantoms that haunted their de-
lirium. Bound for the great hospital of Scutari, the
ghostly train would toil on, wading and slipping past
the dying horses, the half-buried bullocks, the skeletons,
and carcases in various stages of decay ; past the wrecks
of arabas, the squalid men with bundles, who had been
down for the clothing they had needed for weeks, the
waggon-load of dead Turks going to that yawning pit
beside the road which was to be their sepulchre, the
artillery waggons, returning at dusk with the forage
they set out at daybreak to fetch and on, always
through deep mire, to the place of embarkation.

New miseries lay in that last word. Lying amid
crowds of other sick and wounded, on the bare planks,
in torture, lassitude, or lethargy, without proper food,
medicine, or attendance, they were launched on the
wintry sea. Their covering was scanty, the roll and
plunge of the ship were agony to the fevered and the
maimed ; in place of the hush, the cleanliness, the quiet,
the silent step, that should be around the sick, were
sounds such as poets have feigned for the regions of the



77/6' Hospitals. 173

damned groans, screams, entreaties, curses, the strain-
ing of the timbers, the trampling of the crew, the welter-
ing of the waves. Not infrequently the machinery of
the overladen ship broke down, and they lay tossing
for days, a hell upon the waters.

Scutari, the longed-for haven, was for weeks the
very climax and headquarters of suffering crammed
with misery, overflowing with despair. In those large
chambers and long corridors lay thousands of the
bravest and most miserable of men. Standing at the
end of any of the galleries that traversed the four sides
of the extensive building, one looked along a deep
perspective, a long-diminishing vista of woe. Ranged
in two rows lay the patients, feet to feet ; the tenant of
each bed saw his pains reflected in the face of his
comrade opposite ; fronting each was another victim of
war or cold, starvation or pestilence. Or, frequently,
the sick man read in the face before him not the pro-
gress of fever, nor the leaden weight of exhaustion, but
the tokens of the final rest to which he was himself
hastening. With each round of the sun nearly a
hundred gallant soldiers raved or languished out their
lives ; as the jaws of the grave closed on the prey of
to-day, they opened as widely for that of to-morrow.
It might be thought that, at this rate, the grave, so
greedy, so improvident, would exhaust its victims that
some day it would gape in vain. But no the sick
flocked in faster than the dead were carried out, and
still the dismal stream augmented, till the hospitals
overflowed, while still faster poured the misery-laden



174 Indignation in England.

ships down the Black Sea, feeding as they went the
fishes with their dead.

Had Dante witnessed these scenes, he might have
deepened the horrors of his Inferno. Told with more
or less exactness, but with a skill that suffered none of
their pathos to be lost, they shook the nation with a
universal tremor of anger and grief. It could not bear
to think that the men of whom it had suddenly grown
so proud should be perishing of want, while wealth and
plenty reigned at home. The feeling found expression
in two ways, very different, but both very natural as
impulses of a community. The one was an absorbing
desire to afford immediate relief; the other a fretful
craving to find scapegoats, and make them atone for all
this suffering. Inspired by the first of these, the country
became a vast workshop for the manufacture of warm
clothing, and great quantities of this, as well as of
luxurious food and drink, were despatched in steamers,
with agents to distribute them. But before these came,
early in December, and all through the month, clothing
was reaching Balaklava from Constantinople, whither
Lord Raglan had despatched an officer to remedy, so
far as might be, the loss of the cargo of the Prince, so
that at the end of that month 17,000 blankets and
19,000 new great-coats had been issued to the troops
(mostly at Balaklava, whither they went to fetch them) ;
and on the I3th January Lord Raglan was able to write :
" I believe I may assert that every man in this army has
received a second blanket, a jersey frock, flannel drawers
and socks, and some kind of winter coat in addition to



The French take Part of Our Diities. 175

the ordinary great-coat." These defences did not, how-
ever, at once check the progress of sickness ; during
January and February the numbers in our hospital con-
tinued to swell till they reached to nearly 14,000.

But before the aid from England arrived, we had re-
ceived important relief in another form. The French
had been so largely reinforced that General Canrobert
at length consented to relieve our troops from the task
of guarding the ground beyond our Right Attack. That
they should have been able to do so by no means implies
that they had not their share of winter troubles. Their
greater proximity to their home ports, their organised
transport, the convenience of their harbours, the road
they had paved from thence along the rear of their
camps, rendered their supplies comparatively regular
and certain. But there were two circumstances which
told heavily on them. Their tentes d'abri, small roofs of
canvas, only very imperfectly fulfilling the idea of a tent,
were so diminutive that a third part of one was carried
by the soldier in addition to the rest of his burdens.
Propped on short sticks at each end, the tent admitted
the three occupants, crawling like ferrets into a rabbit
hole, to a space where they could all lie down. But


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Online LibraryEdward Bruce HamleyThe war in the Crimea → online text (page 11 of 20)