Samuel M. (Samuel Mosheim) Smucker.

The life and reign of Nicholas the First, emperor of Russia online

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matter of the key ; and the entrance to the Grand
Door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was
formally intrusted to the Latin monks.

Nicholas pretended to be incensed at the stubborn-
ness of the sultan, and his resistance to his just
demands ; and in the spring of 1853, he announced
that he was about to send to Constantinople an ex-


traordinary ambassador of high rank, commissioned
to set forth in full the demands of the czar. On the
1st of March accordingly, Prince Menschikoff arrived
in Constantinople; and the very next day demanded
and received an audience with the sultan. This
very first procedure was an insult to the Ottoman
court and sovereign; inasmuch as diplomatic eti-
quette imperatively demanded, that he should first
have had an interview with the minister for foreign
affairs. A month passed away, in arrogant and un-
reasonable assumptions on the one side, and in vain
attempt at conciliation and arrangement on the
other. At length, on the 5th of May, Prince Men-
schikoff announced to the Divan, that he had received
the ultimatum of the czar, the acceptance of which
on the part of the sultan, would prevent any further
difficulties in future. This ultimatum was in sub-
stance a demand, that the sultan should acknow-
ledge a Russian protectorate over all the Greek sub-
jects of the Ottoman Empire, a concession which
would have been equivalent to establishing a Rus-
sian supremacy over two-thirds of the population of
the Turkish dominions. Menschikoff allowed the
sultan twelve days for the acceptance of this in-
famous proposition.

So great was the terror excited at Constantinople
when this demand of the czar first became known,


that the whole Turkish ministry resigned, as being
unable to direct the counsels of the sultan in this
trying emergency. A new Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Reschid Pacha, was appointed, who pos-
sessed a spirit of greater intrepidity ; and under his
advice the sultan determined, at last, to raise his
head, to look boldly and defiantly at his deadly foe,
and resolutely to resist his perfidious and endless
encroachments. The Divan declared that they re-
fused to accept the ultimatum thus offered them by
the czar.

Such prompt resistance seems to have surprised
Nicholas; and as he wished to gain time for the
purpose of concentrating his armies on the Danube,
to be ready to strike a decisive blow, he ordered
Menschikoff to offer another proposition, adroitly
termed his ultimatissimum, which was in substance
the same as. that which had been previously pro-
posed. This was also as indignantly rejected as the
former one ; and Menschikoff immediately departed
for St. Petersburg.

At this juncture, England, France, Prussia, and
Austria, conceived that it was high time for them to
interfere, to preserve the balance of power in the
East, to support the trembling sultan, and to curb
the irate arid ambitious czar. In June, 1853, their

representatives met at Vienna, and after some con-



sideration, they prepared a document, which they
thought might settle the difficulty.

The propositions contained in this document were
immediately accepted by Nicholas. Was it because
he- was disposed to terms of peace ? By no means.
It was because the language of the document framed
by the representatives of the four Powers, was so
vague, loose, and obscure, that an ample scope was
allowed for perfidy to misconstrue its terms. Re-
schid Pacha clearly perceived this secret, and as
clearly pointed it out to those who framed it. The
consequence was that, being convinced of the truth
of the animadversions of the Turkish statesman,
they drew up another statement, more explicitly
and clearly worded. This they transmitted to Ni-
cholas, as the ultimatum of the four Powers. This
document, and the propositions which it contained,
Nicholas rejected as peremptorily as he had accepted
the preceding one; thus clearly exposing his true
purposes in reference to the proposed conciliation.

Accordingly, on the 24th of June, 1853, Nicholas
issued a manifesto, in which he announced his in-
tention of seizing the principalities of Wallachia
and Moldavia, as material guarantees that the sultan
would eventually accede to his demands. On the
2d of July, General Dannenberg crossed the Pruth,
the ancient boundary between Russia and Turkey,


and entered Moldavia. This movement was re-
garded by the sultan as a declaration of war ; and
on the 5th of October, the Ottoman sovereign, on
his part, signed a declaration of hostilities against
Russia. Omar Pacha, the ablest and most renowned
of the Turkish generals, who by the force of his
talents had raised himself to the highest military
offices of the state, was appointed generalissimo of
the Turkish forces. He at once despatched a note
to the Russian commander, allowing him fifteen
days during which to evacuate the principalities.

The heroic resolution displayed by the sultan, in
thus bidding defiance to the prodigious power of the
arrogant Muscovite, called forth the acclamations
of his own subjects, and excited the admiration of
Europe. The spirit of the Turkish people seemed
to have been rejuvenated, and new life to inflame
their sluggish blood. The multitudes who crowded
the streets, the priests of the sacred colleges, the
muezzins in the mosques, the army, the wealthy
commercial classes all appeared to be aroused to
make a determined and resolute resistance against
the encroachments of that great foe, who had in-
sulted their religion, who had thrown contempt on
their sovereign, who had outraged the usages of
their court, and who had presumed to make de-
mands which evinced his settled purpose of effect-


ing the ruin of the ancient empire of the faithful.
That warlike energy, which had once made the
name of the Turk a sound of terror throughout
Europe, after the ignoble sleep of centuries now
seemed to he aroused again, in all its pristine
vigour; and to challenge the giant of the north
once more, and for the last time, to a desperate
conflict of life or of death.




NICHOLAS was very much surprised at the "unex-
pected resistance to his demands thus made by the
sultan. He immediately published a manifesto, full
of the most false and unfair insinuations, intended
to throw the odium of the impending conflict on the
Ottoman ruler.

In this manifesto he displays the usual duplicity
of his character. Says he : " The chief powers of
Europe have sought-in vain by their exhortations to
shake the blind obstinacy of the Ottoman govern-
ment. It is by a declaration of war, by a proclama-
tion filled with lying accusations against Russia,
that it has responded to the pacific efforts of Europe,
as well as to our own spirit of long-suffering. At
last, enrolling in the ranks of its army revolutionary
exiles from all countries, the Porte has just com-


menced hostilities on the Danube. Russia is chal-
lenged to the combat ; and she has no other course
left her, than, putting her trust in God, to have re-
course to force of arms, and so compel the Ottoman
government to respect treaties, and to obtain repa-
ration for the insults with which it has responded to
our most moderate demands. We are firmly con-
vinced that our faithful subjects will join their
prayers with ours to the Almighty, beseeching him
to bless our arms in this just and holy cause, which
has always found ardent defenders in our own an-
cestors. In fe, Domine, speravi; non confundar in

Never was a more false, a more specious, or a
more perfidious proclamation issued by any sove-
reign, when seeking for a rotten subterfuge where-
with to hide the enormity of the most unjust and
unprincipled aggressions.

The fifteen days permitted by Omar Pacha to
intervene, for the purpose of allowing the Russian
troops to evacuate the provinces, had transpired ;
and the latter had, of course, maintained their posi-
tion. The Ottoman general immediately concen-
trated 120,000 troops along the line, four hundred
miles in extent, which it was his duty to defend.
He established Shumla as his head-quarters, in the
centre. On the extreme left he seized the fortress


of Kalafat. He made Rustchuk and Silistria the
keys to the centre of his position ; and Galatz, on
the extreme right, was protected by the deadly
marshes of Dobrudscha.

On the 2d of November, 1853, the first detach-
ment of Turkish troops crossed the Danube at Tur-
tukai, and threw up earthworks to protect their
position. They were immediately attacked by four
columns of Russian troops, consisting of 8000 men.
They were repulsed with a severe loss by the Turks.
The next day the Russians resumed the attack, and
made a furious assault with 30,000 men on the
Turkish position, which had been reinforced so as
to contain 18,000. The Russian columns advanced
with great confidence, in defiance of a heavy fire
from the Turkish guns from the opposite banks,
and a brisk discharge of musketry from the troops
stationed in the works. The ground was soon
covered with the dead and dying Russians ; and
still their winnowed columns advanced steadily,
and approached the redoubts. This was the mo-
ment anxiously waited for by Omar Pasha. He
ordered his whole line to leap over the works, and
to charge the advancing columns. The Turks exe-
cuted the order with prodigious vigour. They
fought hand to hand with the foe with their ancient
ferocity. It was the first battle of this memorable


war, and the first opportunity which the Turks had
obtained, of wreaking vengeance on the insulters
and invaders of their country. The effect of the
Turkish onslaught was tremendous. The Russian
columns wavered, then broke, then fled. The rout
was complete. The Russians lost on the field a
thousand men; the Turks lost thirty.

A few days after this conflict Omar Pacha ap-
peared suddenly, with his whole army, three hun-
dred miles distant, at Matschin, in the fatal region
of the Dobrudscha, and repulsed the Russians, who
were advancing into that district. The benefit of
this achievement was, that the rapidity and un-
certainty of movement which it displayed struck
astonishment and terror into the minds of the
Russian leaders. They were not prepared to see
such rare displays of military and strategic skill,
which utterly confused their own settled plans of
the campaign.

But the czar and his troops were destined, at
this stage of the conflict, to obtain at least one
triumph over the foe, though it was indeed an igno-
ble one, and shed far more infamy than glory over
the Russian arms. This was the sudden attack, on
the 30th of November, on thirteen Turkish vessels,
which were lying quietly in the harbour of Sinope,
by a Russian fleet, consisting of six men-of-war


and some smaller vessels. These, taking advantage
of a heavy fog, had darted out from the port of
Sevastopol, under the command of Admiral Nachi-
moff. The Turks were taken entirely by surprise ;
were entirely unprepared for battle ; yet they fought
bravely. But the conflict was so unequal in advan-
tages, that 5000 Turks were soon massacred ; their
whole fleet, except two transports, was utterly de-
stroyed, and the Turkish admiral, Osman Pacha,
was wounded and taken prisoner. He was removed
to Sevastopol, where, after six weeks of suffering,
he expired. A few Turks, swimming to land,
clambered over the heights, and escaped. The
feeble battery of Sinope was unable to aid the
Turks; for their guns were almost unfit for use,
and, when they did fire, their untimely shot fell
short of the mark, and struck among the vessels
which they were intended to protect. The news
of this victory, and ferocious massacre, as it was
pictured forth and exaggerated by the Russians,
electrified Europe. At St. Petersburg, Nicholas dis-
tributed decorations among his successful officers,
and ordered Te Deums to be chanted in all the
churches throughout his empire. The civilized
world censured this attack as a wanton and unjusti-
fiable massacre, which reflected much more disgrace
than glory on the arms of the exultant czar.




On the Danube, events were not so favourable to
the Russians. Omar Pacha had not intended to
remain in the marshes of the Dobrudscha, but per-
mitted the enemy to advance to a certain distance.
The Russian corps d'armee, under General Osten
Sacken, were the unfortunate detachments which
entered the Dobrudscha; and, during the several
succeeding months, 30,000 Russians perished from
the fatal diseases which hover over those marshes,
which lie in a watery district formed by the bend of
the Danube, some thirty miles in length, when near
the points of its discharge into the Euxine Sea.

The campaign of 1853 was closed by the bril-
liant victory of the Turks at Citate. General Fish-
bach was ordered by Nicholas to advance with a
large division of the Russian army to the siege of
Kalafat. Achmet Pacha, the commandant of the
fortress of Kalafat, determined not to await the
arrival of the Russian army; for the longer he
delayed the more reinforcements the latter re-
ceived. He, therefore, marched out of his works,
and advanced to meet Fishbach at Citate, with
10,000 infantry, 4000 cavalry, 15 field-pieces, and
1000 irregular troops. The Russians numbered
16,000. A furious battle ensued; in which, after
four hours of conflict, during which both sides fought
with sanguinary desperation, the victory remained



with the Turks. About 2400 Russians were left
dead in the streets and field-works, 2400 were
wounded, and they lost their dep6ts of ammuni-
tion and arms. The Turks had only 1000 killed
and wounded. During two succeeding days the
Russians endeavoured to take the place; but all
their exertions proved unavailing. The Turks even
advanced, and drove the Russians before them as
far as Krajova; then returned again, and re-entered
Kalafat in triumph.

Such was the battle of Citate, which caused Eu-
rope to exult at the fortitude of the Turks, and
which filled the haughty czar with astonishment,
not unmingled with indignation and disgust.

These stirring incidents in the war which had
now fairly and fully commenced between the Rus-
sian and Ottoman rulers had thoroughly aroused
the cabinets of England and France to the neces-
sity of interfering in thev contest, and taking part
with the weaker, but the more just and heroic,
side. England declared war against Russia on the
28th of March, 1854 ; Nicholas having rejected the
ultimatum proposed by the English cabinet, with
the haughty and contemptuous remark: "These
terms do not require five minutes' consideration!"
Louis Napoleon, Emperor of the French, also de-
clared war against Russia at the same time. In


Ins address, at the opening of the legislature, he
said : " France has as much and perhaps more
interest at stake, than England, to prevent the ex-
tension of the influence of Russia, indefinitely, over
Constantinople; for to reign at Constantinople is
to command the Mediterranean, and not one of you
will say, that England alone has interests in that
sea which washes three hundred leagues of our

At first, the English cabinet had determined to
send 25,000 troops to the assistance of the sultan.
They resolved, however, to send twice that num-
ber, and Lord Raglan, then better known as Lord
Fitzroy Somerset, Master-General of the Ordnance,
an old friend and associate of Wellington, was
appointed to the chief command. The French
emperor, incensed by the coolness with which
Nicholas had acknowledged the announcement of
his accession to the French throne, was determined
to send a formidable force to the East. Sixty
thousand men a large portion of whom had
served as Zouaves in the war in Algeria were
placed under the command of the veteran friend
of Napoleon III., Marshal St. Arnaud, assisted by
General Canrobert. These troops sailed for the
East; and in the month of May, 1854, the trans-
ports which conveyed the allied army hove in sight


of the towers of Varna, where they were ordered
first to disembark. Day after day the vast arma-
ment transferred itself from the ships to the shore,
and crowded the streets and dwellings of the city.
This first detachment consisted of 50,000 troops,
sent to the assistance of the sultan.

Passing by details of inferior interest, let us ap-
proach the event of greatest magnitude, which oc-
curred during the campaign of 1854. This event
was the celebrated siege of Silistria, a fortified city,
which had, during the previous war with Turkey,
been captured by the Russians without much diffi-
culty, or very great sacrifices.

Previous to the investment of this city by the
army of the czar, Prince Paskiewitch was ap-
pointed to the supreme command of the Russian
forces. This officer was, beyond all question, the
most able, the most experienced, and the most suc-
cessful, of all the Russian generals. He had been
the conqueror both of Persia and of Poland, in the
conflicts of the czar with those nations. He was
now supported by the flower of the Russian corps
of officers : by Schilders, the most skilful general
of engineers; by the dauntless GortschakofF; by
the impetuous Luders ; by the resolute Orloff, the
personal favourite of the czar, and the Murat of the
Russian cavalry.



The capture of Silistria was an achievement of
the greatest importance to Nicholas. It was the
strongest fortress on the southern bank of the Dan-
ube. It was the key to the province of Bulgaria.
Until it was taken no further operations of import-
ance could be made, either aggressive or defensive,
by the Russian generals.

That Nicholas never doubted for a moment that
the fortress would easily and certainly fall into his
hands, is evinced by his orders to his generals.
But before he ventured upon a general assault, the
issue of which might, by a bare possibility, be un-
fortunate, he determined to try, as usual, the effect
of bribery. He, therefore, ordered a flag of truce to
be sent to the garrison, demanding a parley. Pas-
kiewitch and Moussa Pacha held a private inter-
view outside the walls, during which the following
conversation is said to have taken place. Said Pas-
kiewitch: "The Emperor of Russia wishes to
spare the needless effusion of blood. He had sent
positive orders, that Silistria must be taken. Hence,
it inevitably will be taken ; and it would be wise
for the Turkish commander to yield at once, and
not uselessly throw away the lives of thousands of
his garrison, as well as bring great misfortunes on
the inhabitants of the city." To this Moussa
Pacha answered : " That the sultan had honoured


him with positive instructions to defend the
place; nor could he surrender it if he had hut
a thousand men, and all Russia was at the gates,
headed hy the czar himself." Hereupon, it is
added, that Paskiewitch made a mysterious, pan-
tomimic sign with his hand, which implied an
enormous sum of gold imperials. Moussa's only
answer to this proposed bribe was a hearty laugh,
and the remark, " Let us now separate ; the inter-
view under white flags is over."

The garrison of Silistria did not at that time
number more than 10,000 men. The army of the
czar, which surrounded its walls, comprised 53,000
Russians ; and batteries had been established by
them, commanding the most important points.
Small as the garrison was, it was commanded by
one of the ablest and most heroic of the Turkish
generals; the soldiers under him had caught his
dauntless spirit, and they were determined that the
foe should only enter the fortress over the corpses
of the whole garrison.

On the 28th of April, 1854, commenced the siege
of Silistria, one of the most remarkable on record ;
not for the number of men engaged, but for the
desperate nature of the attack and of the defence.
During the space of ten weeks, the immense force
under Paskiewitch was brought forward to repeated


and renewed assaults. They were as often repulsed
by the heroic garrison. The Russians then brought
their heavy artillery to bear against the works.
They slew the defenders of the walls, but as often
as the latter disappeared, others as bold and resolute
as they, instantly rose in their places. Breaches were
made in the bulwarks; but before the advancing
columns could enter the breach, they discovered
strong walls which had been erected in their real 1 ,
and which were still to be taken. Mines were
excavated toward the works. The Turks counter-
mined, and blew the Russian engineers into the air.
The batteries of the Russians threw a deluge of shot
and shell into the city ; but its defenders liberally
returned the hailstorm of death, from the summit
of their battlements. Moussa Pacha proved him-
self, by his extraordinary exertions and heroism,
worthy of the confidence reposed in him by the

The siege continued, as time wore on, without
any advantage being gained by the Russians. Pas-
kiewitch had repeatedly sent despatches to the czar,
informing him of the immense difficulties which his
troops had to encounter, and the heroic defence
made by the garrison, as excuses for not having
already won a signal triumph. At length the
haughty czar became exasperated at the delay and


at the failure ; and he sent a peremptory command
to Paskiewitch to write him no more letters about
the difficulties of the siege, and the sufferings of his
troops, but to "take Silistria."

In accordance with this order of the disappointed
and infuriated monarch, the Russian commander at
length determined on a grand and final assault. On
the 28th of June a coup-de-main was resolved upon.
Paskiewitch endeavoured beforehand to stimulate
the brutal courage of his troops to the highest pos-
sible pitch. Liberal rations of brandy were distri-
buted. Rich rewards, promotions, and decorations,
were promised to those who distinguished them-
selves in the coming assault. Threats of death were
uttered against any who would display cowardice
and a want of resolution. He declared that, if the
assault failed, the rations of the whole army would
be stopped by the czar, who had directly threatened
it. Silistria must be taken, whatever sacrifice it
might cost, either of lives, or of effort, or of

Prince Paskiewitch led on the advanced columns
to this attack on the fortress in person. He was
ably supported by divisions under Generals Schil-
ders, Gortschakoff, Luders, and Orloff. The assault
was made along the whole line of the works, by
50,000 troops, defended by 12,000. The conflict


was desperate beyond description. The Russians
seemed determined to obey the peremptory com-
mand of the czar to take the place, or else to perish
in the attempt. The Turks appeared to be fully
conscious of the vast importance of Silistria to the
interests of their sovereign and their country ; and
they fought inch by inch, as the teeming multitudes
of the foe swelled upward like a mighty tide against
the fortifications. During this memorable day, the
fierce demon of war raged with untamed ferocity
around the works, thus furiously attacked and as
furiously defended. Quarter was neither asked nor
given by either party. There have been other
sieges, in which greater numbers of men have min-
gled in the deadly combat; but there have been
none, in which more brilliant episodes of dauntless
heroism and unconquerable fortitude were displayed,
by the determined defenders of a great fortress.

Night fell on the scene of conflict and of blood,
and Silistria still remained in the hands of the
Turks. The conflict ceased; and the discomfited
soldiers of the czar, after putting forth their best
and utmost exertions, had failed to- "take Silistria."
The ferocity of the conflict may be inferred from its
consequences. Prince Paskiewitch was dangerously
wounded ; Count Orloff was killed ; Gortschakoff

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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Mosheim) SmuckerThe life and reign of Nicholas the First, emperor of Russia → online text (page 16 of 23)