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this was obviously a meagre defence against mud and
snow ; it afforded no shelter at all except for lying down ;
and a bell tent like ours would have seemed a vast boon
to the French troops. Also, their ration of food and drink
was inferior to ours, was calculated on a scale suited to
different conditions, and did not suffice to maintain in
health men undergoing hardships so severe. Therefore,



1 7 6 Relief begins.

although the French had comparatively easy work in
the trenches, although, at the worst, one of each two
nights was a night of rest, and their men, never over-
tasked, were available for fatigues and camp duties,
road making, and other labours, yet their means of
meeting exposure to wet and cold were so defective
that their losses in sick, especially from frost-bite,
were very great. The French horses, too, perished by
hundreds, and much of the carrying of supplies to the
camps had to be performed by the men. But their
great resources in numbers not only made good all
losses, but went on rapidly raising the strength of their
army. Numbering 45,000 in October, it grew to 56,000
in November, 65,000 in December, and 78,000 in January.
In this last month Lord Raglan reckoned the strength
of the French Army to be at least four times that of the
British. We had then on the Upland, to meet all the
exigencies of our siege works, and any enterprises of
the enemy, only 11,000 men fit to bear arms. It was
these three months, then, November, December, and
January, which formed " the winter of our discontent."
In February a brighter time set in. It was about the
23d January that the French troops were put in charge
of the ground on the right of our siege works. Lord
Raglan's proposal had been that the French troops
should relieve ours in the trenches one night in three.
Canrobert substituted for it the measure which was now
effected. It released more than 1500 English troops
daily from the duty of guarding our front. Lord
Raglan says of it : " The position of our troops is greatly



Why a Road was not made at first. 177

improved by being relieved of part of the harassing
duties they have had imposed on them ; but, speaking
confidentially, I am of opinion, notwithstanding what
General Canrobert says, that more might have been
done, considering that the French Army consists of from
60,000 to 70,000 men."

The spectacle of men and horses floundering be-
tween Balaklava and the camp, through a sea of
mud, was of a sort to suggest to the least inventive
mind that to make a road was the proper remedy.
In England, accordingly, the numerous class which
becomes clamorously wise after the event brought the
omission to make a road as one of the heaviest charges
against the staff of the Army, insisting, too, that it should
have been one of the first things thought of. But can
anyone who now looks dispassionately back to that
time point to any period as that in which the step was
feasible ? When we first took position on the Upland
no want of a road was felt, and when every man in both
armies was needed to prepare for the bombardment
which was to precede the assault, it would have been
a strange exercise of foresight to withdraw them from
their urgent duties in order to make a road which might
never be wanted. Even after the loss of the WoronzofT
road, the extent of that misfortune was not felt, for men,
horses, and vehicles freely traversed the plains, and the
speedy capture of the place was still expected. Later,
when the battle of Inkerman had shown how scanty was
our line of defence, how fatal would be the consequence
of a breach in it, not a man could be withdrawn from



178 Roads now made.

the position. Sir John Burgoyne computed that to make
a road would occupy more than 1000 men two or three
months. A body of Turks had been hired to attempt it
as soon as it was accepted as a necessity that we must
winter on the heights, but they died so fast that the sur-
vivors could scarcely do more than bury the dead. The
official commissioners subsequently affirmed that " hired
labour could not be obtained." Neither, assuredly, could
military labour'; and the absence of a road was therefore
one of those misfortunes which become inevitable amid
the uncertainties of war.

But when the pressure on the troops grew lighter,
means were found to make the part of the road between
Balaklava and Kadikoi ; and the French troops stationed
there carried it on to the Col. By the time it got
so far, a railway, undertaken by private contractors at
the instance of the Secretary for War, was in course
of construction, and before the end of March had
not only reached the same point, but was conveying
thither ammunition and stores. Some weeks earlier,
lavish supplies had begun to arrive from the deeply-
moved community at home, not only of things necessary,
like warm clothing, but of luxuries ; meat, ale, and wine,
and even books were poured profusely into the camps.
The first agency of this kind to arrive was the Crimean
Army Fund, administered by two gentlemen, who also
brought, or procured, the men and horses necessary for
the distribution. But besides such organised modes of
relief, the quantities of similar stores received for distri-
bution by officers from friends at home were uncounted.



Improvement in the Hospitals. 179

While the distress of the troops before Sebastopol
was thus being daily alleviated, effective influence for
good had begun to pervade our hospitals on the Bos-
phorus. Even before the great stress was laid on them
which ensued from the battles and the coming of
winter, they were already teeming with confusion and
misery. The Army had not contained enough surgeons
other than regimental to meet the unexampled needs of
the time ; the service had been recruited from the
civilians of the profession ; and by universal testimony
both classes grappled with their formidable duties in the
best spirit. Had there been a system of organisation
suited to the exigency, had the sanitary conditions been
good, the attendants numerous, the supplies ample,
then the efforts of the surgeons, dealing as they did with
the cases as they presented themselves, would have
found a fair field. But none of these conditions existed,
and all they could do was to struggle on, not so much
like swimmers making some way, as like those con-
tending in vain with a torrent.

In those days there were two chiefs at the War Office.
The Duke of Newcastle was Secretary for War, and Mr
Sidney Herbert bore the mysterious title of Secretary at
War. The medical department of the War Office lay in
Mr Herbert's province, and his inquiries into the methods
of dealing with sickness on an extensive scale had led
him to expect the best results from the co-operation of
women, in controlling and administering large hospitals.
Therefore, when it became apparent that the establish-
ments on the Bosphorus were daily growing less able to



180 Miss Nightingale arrives.

contend with their difficulties, he invited the aid of ladies
already possessed of large experience, and who, thus
encouraged, formed themselves into staffs, and accom-
panied by paid nurses, and bearing strong recommenda-
tions to the medical as well as to other authorities on
the spot, proceeded to Constantinople. " It was seen,"
says Kinglake, " that the humble soldiers were likely to
be the men most in want of care, and the ladies were
instructed to abstain from attending upon any of the
officers." Thus began to enter into the history of the
contest an element which strongly moved the imagina-
tion of the commuuity, both from the extraordinary
alleviation of suffering and establishment of order
which it effected, and from the contrast which its gentle
and beneficent character offered to the gloomy tenor of
the war.

It was on the 4th of November that Miss Nightin-
gale and her immediate companions arrived at Constan-
tinople. She was accompanied by 'Protestant sisters
and Catholic nuns, eighteen in all, with twenty trained
nurses, and to all were assigned quarters in one of the
towers that form the angles of the great barrack at
Scutari, which the Turkish Government had given over
to us for a hospital. Another band, numbering in all
forty-six, under Miss Stanley, bestowed themselves at
first in a neighbouring hospital for sailors, and after-
wards at the military hospital at Kulali, on the Bos-
phorus.

The ladies and their attendants at first took an
altogether subordinate part in the care of the sick,



The Influence She acquires. 181

replacing the orderlies withdrawn from their regiments,
ensuring obedience to the doctors' orders, administering
food and medicine, and making the patients comfortable
But it was not long before they began to take part in
the management. At first Miss Nightingale's share in
this was confined to keeping Sidney Herbert informed
of what was noteworthy, and enabling him to act ac-
cordingly. But the departmental authorities soon got to
understand that her views and suggestions were to be
specially considered. A regular correspondence on the
subject was also established between her and Lord
Raglan. Receiving such support, as. well as that de-
rived from the strong interest which the public evinced
for her mission, she gradually acquired a powerful con-
trolling influence ; and to this the extraordinary improve-
ment in the condition of the hospital which ensued was
then, and has continued to be, chiefly ascribed. The
excellent medical staff cheerfully accepted her sway,
and the skill and energy which they had always given
without stint, no longer expended in struggling amidst
chaos, were directed to the best ends. She received, too,
from an unexpected source, a large accession of power
The conductors of the Times had consented to receive
and administer, for the benefit of our sick and wounded,
a fund formed by the contributions of their readers. Mr
Macdonald ; who had come out in charge of it, learning
from Miss Nightingale what needs of the sick were most
urgent, supplied them, and thus added immeasurably
to the benefits attending her presence. Not the least

among these was an extensive kitchen which she

M



1 8 2 The Ratio of Deaths.

established close to her quarters, where all that part
of the patients' diet that called for special care in pre-
paration was excellently cooked on an enormous
scale.

But all these ameliorations took time, In the period
of worst distress in the camp, that is to say, in December
and part of January, the influence of the ladies had
hardly begun to take effect in any way, and not at all
in diminishing the sick-list or the death-rate. Even
when their care and skill had made patients feel them-
selves in good hands, and had banished a vast propor-
tion of the misery, the ratio of deaths for some time
continued to increase. It kept steadily and largely
augmenting all through December, November, January,
and February. In these four months nearly 9000 soldiers
died in our hospitals, and at the end of February 13,600
men were lying sick there. The causes lay too deep to
be touched even by improved method and administra-
tion. But early in March a sanitary commission had
arrived to examine into the condition of the hospitals,
with power to act on the conclusions they might
come to. Works of ventilation, of drainage, and
of water supply, had in the second week of March
already made s'ome progress ; the death-rate went
down with extraordinary rapidity week by week, till
in June it had come to the level of our military hos-
pitals at home.

In the result the evils suffered met some compensa-
tion in the form of permanent benefit. At the close of
the campaign Mr Herbert presided over a sanitary com-



Resignation of the Ministry. 183

mission at home, and to its recommendations are due
many of the improvements which so greatly distinguish
our present military hospital system from that which
existed at the time of the war.

It has been said that one form taken by the ex-
citement at home was the desire to punish those to
whom delinquency was imputed. Strongly pressed
by this manifestation of public feeling, and by the
calamitous accounts from the East, the Duke of New-
castle began, in the latter half of December, to write
letters to Lord Raglan implying censure on him and
his staff. Following this up was a letter, on the 6th
of January, condemning the staff generally, and the
Quartermaster-General in particular, as the member of
it in whose department it lay to provide for many of
the privations which had proved so calamitous. And it
is not easy to avoid the inference that the Ministry was
seeking to shelter itself against the indignation of the com-
munity by giving it vent against those who had already
begun to be the objects of it. Lord Raglan found no diffi-
culty in defending, in a manly spirit, his subordinates.
He was soon relieved from the necessity of maintaining a
contest with their accusers, for, on the 26th January, Mr
Roebuck moved for a committee " To inquire into the
condition of our army before Sebastopol, and into the
conduct of those departments of the Government whose
duty it has been to minister to the wants of that army."
The motion was carried by a majority of 157, and the
Ministry thereupon resigned. Lord Aberdeen was suc-
ceeded by Lord Palmerston, the Duke of Newcastle by



184 The Crimean Commission.

Lord Panmure. The new Ministers were naturally bent
upon inquiry. They resolved to send a commission to
the Crimea to seek a clue to the causes of the sufferings
of the army, and Sir John M'Neill, for many years
Envoy to Persia, and Colonel Tulloch were selected for
the purpose. On the I2th March they arrived in the
Crimea, and taking up their residence on board a
steamer, at once began to take evidence. In June they
issued a first report, dealing with food and transport.
It contained a remarkable tribute to the army. " It is
doubtful/' says the report, "whether the whole range
of military history furnishes an example of an army
exhibiting, throughout a long campaign, qualities as
high as have distinguished the forces under Lord
Raglan's command." Their labours, their privations,
their spirit, and their discipline, form the subjects of
admiring comments. "The Army," says the report,
" never descended from its acknowledged military pre-
eminence." Again, "Both men and officers, when so
reduced that they were hardly fit for the lighter duties
of the camp, scorned to be excused the severe and
perilous work of the trenches, lest they should throw an
undue amount of duty upon their comrades ; yet they
maintained every foot of ground against all the efforts
of the enemy, and with numbers so small that perhaps
no other troops would even have made the attempt. . . .
The officers have not only shared all the danger and
exposure, and most of the privations which the men had
to undergo, but we everywhere found indications of
their solicitude for the welfare of those under their



The Commissary-General blamed. 185

command, and of their constant readiness to employ
their private means in promoting the comfort of their
men."

Yet to more than nine-tenths of the officers and men
this was a first campaign. When they came in sight of
the Russian masses arrayed on the Alma, they for the
first time saw an enemy ; when the shot from the
Russian guns dashed past, they were for the first time
under fire. Yet, under that fire, and against that enemy,
they advanced with all the confidence, discipline, and
determination which can attend the onset of troops
long accustomed to victory. That the same discipline
and spirit distinguished them under circumstances still
more trying to young troops, the commissioners bear
witness. Not in some peaceful, happy community, the
realisation of a Utopian dream, could temperance, obedi-
ence, diligence, cheerfulness, be more conspicuous than
in that camp in the wintry desert, where various and
incessant horror and distress might have been ex-
pected to dissolve the ties of order, to cast submis-
sion to the winds, and to leave despair, in the form
either of apathy or recklessness, sole master of the
suffering host.

The only person to whom blame was imputed, in the
first report of the commissioners, was the Commissary-
General. Failure to issue articles of diet, such as lime
juice and tea, which were in store at Balaklava, deficien-
cies of fresh meat, vegetables, and fuel, and defective ar-
rangements respecting forage, were all laid at his door, and
he was charged with not being a man of comprehensive



1 86 Defends Himself.

views, with not having sufficiently turned to account the
resources of surrounding provinces, and with being defi-
cient in inventive resource and administrative capacity.
In reply, Mr Filder laid before the House a counter
statement. In the first place, he set forth the extra-
ordinary difficulties which the commissariat laboured
under ; its extensive duties, the total inexperience of its
officers, the absence of necessary establishments, the
ignorance as to where winter quarters would be, and
then dealt with the charges in detail. The lime juice
and tea had been sent for the sick, and were not
more than was needful for them ; when demanded,
these articles were at once issued to the troops.
As to the fresh meat, many of his cattle-vessels had
been disabled by the storm ; nevertheless, the supply
both of fresh meat and vegetables had been kept up in
a degree which, under the circumstances, might be called
surprising. There had always been sufficient fuel at
Balaklava ; the only difficulty was to find means of con-
veying it to the camps, owing to want of transport,
and that, as we have seen, was owing to want of forage.
Now the Commissary-General showed that he had made
ample provision for forage had the army remained in
Turkey. When it was ordered to the Crimea, he made
contracts at Constantinople for having it pressed (very
necessary for transport by sea) and despatched to him.
Finding that the contractors were likely to fail in their
agreement, he wrote to England for 2000 tons. Of this
he only received one-tenth in six months. " Had my
requisitions for hay been complied with, the deficiency



General Air ey refutes Charges. 187

which was felt throughout the winter would have been
prevented, and I should have been able to maintain
a sufficient transport establishment." This demand he
made before the armies landed in the Crimea ; he
frequently reiterated it, and it was many times enforced
by Lord Raglan, but without effect, till near the close
of the winter. Finally, a committee of inquiry appointed
later declared that the insufficiency was owing to the
omission of the Treasury to send a proper supply of
forage from England.

This report was followed by a second, in which
several officers, notably the Quartermaster-General and
the two cavalry generals, conceived themselves to be
made objects of censure. And, finally, a Board of General
Officers sat at Chelsea, in April 1856, "to take into con-
sideration so much of the reports as animadverts upon
the conduct of certain officers." The blame, if any, im-
puted to Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan was so slight
and vague that they had no difficulty in justifying them-
selves. General Airey's reply may be briefly summed
up. Its essence consisted in showing that, while the
commissioners had imputed blame to his department
for not issuing supplies in store, it was its province to
provide, not for the issue, but the apportionment of
these supplies. He showed that to the oft-quoted want
of transport alone was due the fact that stores of cloth-
ing and other necessaries remained unissued ; that no
official barrier was raised between the men and the
supplies ; on the contrary, the issues of clothing were
authorised very much faster than the men could draw



i88 Departments have Their Proper Limits.

it. He rightly observed that, in the altered state of
affairs existing in the middle of March, it was impos-
sible for any two persons, such as the commissioners
fully to appreciate the position of the army, in the
midst of the unheard-of difficulties of the winter, and
concluded with a picture of the condition of the troops
and the causes of distress and perplexity by which they
were surrounded.

The reader who may have followed this narrative
will perhaps be of opinion that, the army once before
Sebastopol, and dependent on a military system so defi-
cient in much that is essential, no arrangement or fore-
sight within the scope of human intelligence could have
averted the disasters which followed. The inference
drawn from the reports, that blame might justly be
affixed in specified quarters, could not be sustained
The fact that the different departments of the Army
have their proper limits seemed in some measure to
be lost sight of by the commissioners, as well as by
the public, whose complaints were largely based on the
error that everybody ought to understand and take part
in the business of everybody else as well as his own.
No commander-in-chief would wish to see such an
interchange of duties substituted for the restricted and
specific sphere of operations and responsibility allotted
to each department. To perform the duties of his own
branch (including, of course, its co-operation with others
when necessary) is all that can be expected from an
officer ; and it is the province of the superintending
intellect, which knows the instruments it works with,



The Fault lay in the System. 189

to combine all in harmonious action. The search for
delinquents pointed to this result, that all the suffering
and calamity, not absolutely inevitable, which befell
our troops, were the natural consequences of the un-
practical and unworkable system, at once improvident
and ineffective, which the nation permitted to exist for
the conduct of its military business.



CHAPTER IX.

EXTENSION OF THE SIEGE WORKS AND DEFENCES.

Burgoyne's Proposal for our Relief The French prefer another Mode
Want of Fuel in the Camps Fortress increasing in Strength New
System of Rifle-pits Underground Warfare New Russian Works
Failure of the French Attack Great Sortie against the French
and English Trenches The Burial Truce Charles Gordon's Ex-
periences Russians recross the Tchernaya Arrival of Pelissier and
Niel The Russians attack Eupatoria The Attack repulsed
Burgoyne goes Home Improved Condition of the Allies Effect of
Soil on Trenchwork Another Cannonade Severity of Fire upon
the Fortress Two Well-fought Batteries Carnage in Sebastopol
Impatience for Assault.

IT has been said that the plan of attack, on the I7th
October, was that the French should assault the Flag-
staff Bastion, and the English the Redan. The first
was the chief object, the second subsidiary. To establish
French troops and batteries on the Flagstaff Bastion,
and maintain them there, would have gone far to assure
the surrender or evacuation of the place ; but in order to
effect this, it would be indispensable to hold the Redan
also, the close fire from which would otherwise render
the French operations very costly, or impossible. But
a great master of engineering science had been labour-
ing on these works with unceasing energy, and with
formidable effect ^ During the first winter months
Todleben had greatly extended and strengthened both
of these works, and also the Malakoff ; and the Redan



Burgoynes Proposal for oiir Relief. 191

was so completely dominated by the Malakoff that
the capture of this great work also had become an
essential part of the plan of attack. J This had always
been Burgoyne's opinion, and he now supported it by
arguing that the MalakofT was more easy of approach
than the other works ; that the possession of it, even if
it should not, of itself, cause the surrender of the place,
would render the assault of the others far less desperate,
while guns placed on it would at once rid us of the fire
of the Russian ships. He represented, moreover, that
the Allies would thus best attain their real object, which
was not so much the capture of the town, as the destruc-
tion of the docks, arsenal, and fleet. Since the battle of
Inkerman had given us possession of the heights over-
looking the harbour and the Careenage ravine, this plan
had obviously become more feasible, and Burgoyne had,
in November and December, urged officially his reasons
for desiring that the English should undertake the busi-
ness, and that, as their numbers were manifestly unequal
to such an extension of duty and work, the French
should relieve them of the charge of pushing forward


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Online LibraryEdward Bruce HamleyThe war in the Crimea → online text (page 12 of 20)