Vol. I Origin of the Crimean War Prefaces p. v
THE text still remains unaltered.
In this Edition many notes have been added; and there is a sentence in the second volume which has been moved forward to a page further on. The spelling of the names of several English officers, and of one foreigner, has been corrected. Not a word has been withdrawn from the text, and not a word has been added to it.
Of the notes, there are some few which correct or qualify the words of the text. For a book which chances to be a subject of controversy, this way of setting right all mistakes is, I think, the fairest and best. Far from hiding the mended spot, it makes the newly-found truth more conspicuous than it would have been if it had been allowed to glide quietly into the text.
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For example: In one of the lists of wounded officers, I or my printers chanced to leave out the name of Colonel Smith. Upon the omission becoming known to me, I attached to the passage a mark of reference, which seizes the eye of the reader and carries him to the foot of the page, where instantly he sees it stated that Colonel Smith was one of the wounded. In this way the omitted fact is presented to the reader more effectually than it would have been if the word ‘Smith’ had been blended with the text, standing there with thirteen other names.
But also, by this method, I acknowledge and publicly record against myself every single inaccuracy, however minute and trivial, which had struck me as requiring correction when last I went through the book. Whether I could have been so venturesome as to do thus, if the emendations required had been many and important, I will not undertake to say. As it is, I am enabled to take this method of courting any criticism which may be founded upon my confessions of error.
The plan, therefore, is a fair one; but it is also, I think, very needful to adopt it, and I will say why.
The book is undergoing discussion; and in order that the conflict it raises may be honestly waged, it seems right to take care that the subject of dispute shall not be a shifting thing — a thing shifting this way and that under stress of public scrutiny.
Again, there is a charge now pending. Rightly or wrongly, the accusers say that in public journals — in
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journals still sold under honourable titles — the writers are now and then suffered to misstate the tenor of books; and it seems that the printed accounts which have been given of this work are put forward as some of the instances in which misdescription has occurred. I have not myself taken the pains which would warrant me in declaring a resemblance, or a want of resemblance, between the book and its likenesses; but knowing that the charge has been brought, I see it to be right that all those who are called upon to judge the question should have before their eyes the very text of a book which is the subject of the alleged misdescriptions — the very text with all its sins and wickednesses, not having one single word added, nor one single word withdrawn.
But, besides his reasons for the course he is taking, a man may have his motive; and I acknowledge that, with me, a chief motive for declining to alter the text is this:— I wish to keep a check upon those who might like to be able to say that I had materially altered the book. If anybody shall try to say such a thing in defiance of the plan I have adopted, he will find himself painfully tethered ; for, the words of the text standing fast, he will be unable to range beyond the circle of those little matters — matters chiefly minute, and of detail — which are dealt with in a few corrective foot-notes. Either he must say what is not true under circumstances which make his exposure a simple task, or else he will have to browse upon such scant herbage as is afforded by notes of this sort :— ‘No [not a squadron]; only one troop.’
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‘No [not sixty-six years old]; only sixty-four.’ ‘Here the words “Laurence and” should be inserted.’ ‘ Instead of “a wing,” read “the whole.”’ The first of the commentators who found himself checked in this way was thrown into so angry a state, that when I stood observing his struggles, I was glad to think of the prudence which had led me to keep him tied up.
I said just now that some of the writings which purported to give the tenor of these volumes had been put forward as instances of unfaithful description. I have not enabled myself to assist this inquiry by comparing the accounts of things contained in the book with the book itself; and it is not desirable for me to do so, because an author can hardly expect to be looked upon as a good judge of what is, or is not, an honest abridgment or statement of his words; but I may be allowed to adduce two curious instances of the errors into which men may be led by looking to the accounts which have been given of a book instead of to the book itself.
On the 15th of February, a stranger, who had been present at the battle of the Alma, addressed to me a letter from a distant foreign station, which began thus : ‘ Sir,— It has not been yet my good fortune to see a copy of your recent . . . work, the “Invasion of the Crimea,” but a critique upon it in the’ (here the writer of the letter gives the name of his newspaper) ‘of the 27th of January last, purporting to give an outline of some parts of the narrative, contains an assertion, made with reference to a descrip-
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tion of the battle of the Alma — viz., that under the fire sustained by Lord Raglan’s Headquarter Staff, “not a man of it received a scratch,” — which I take to be incorrect.’
The writer proceeds to state, with admirable clearness, the circumstances which enabled him to speak as an eyewitness of what went on with the Headquarter Staff, and then says:—‘ I presume to detail these particulars, in order to show, sir, that having thus, like yourself, taken part in, and been an eyewitness of, the movements of the Staff on the memorable day referred to, I may venture to point out how far the statement as to the Staff having come out of it scathless seems to be inaccurate;’ and the writer then proceeds to prove to me, with great clearness and perspicuity, that on the two spots of ground which he rightly and carefully describes, two officers of the Headquarter Staff were wounded.
Supposing that his newspaper was guiding him faithfully, well indeed might this critic remonstrate with me for the inaccuracy of which he had been led to suppose me guilty, because the Staff, so far from coming off scathless, had been more than decimated. When my correspondent at that foreign station shall see the book itself, he will know that I disclose this fully, giving the names of the two wounded officers; and, indeed, it would have been strange if I had omitted to do so, for Leslie and Weare, the two Staff officers wounded, were both of them struck down on the part of the field where I was, and one of them fell within a few paces of me.
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Thus, then, it appears that even a careful and accurate man who has to put up with his newspaper’s account of a book, at a time when he remains debarred from access to the book itself, is so misled by this method of seeking for the real purport of a volume that he thinks it his duty to address the author with a view to correct a gross error — a gross error not existing in the book itself, but appearing to do so in the mind of one who receives his account of it from a newspaper.
On the 18th of March last, another letter was written, which I doubt not to be also an instance of the effect produced upon a mind of fair intelligence by accounts purporting to give the tenor of a book. When Captain Mends thought it his duty to address his letter to the newspaper about the buoy, he introduced the subject by writing, and suffering to be printed and published, the following words :— ‘ As I have been referred to by many as to the truth of Mr Kinglake’s statement in his “Invasion of the Crimea,” “that the landing of our army at Old Fort was materially delayed by the wilful displacement of a buoy by the French,” I feel called upon in justice,’ &c. Now Captain Mends not only made that statement, but suffered it to be printed in the newspaper with inverted commas, exactly as given above. Well, those words are not in the book. Not only is there no such passage in the book — not only is there no assertion that ‘material delay was occasioned by the wilful displacement of the buoy by the French’ — but the book actually makes light of the
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delay, saying that there was ‘much less delay, and much less confusion, than might have been expected;’ and, far from undertaking to assert that the displacement of the buoy was wilful, it goes out of its way to suggest that one of the hypotheses which would account for the displacement was ‘sheer mistake.’ I cannot doubt that Captain Mends intended to quote accurately; and I account for his mistake by supposing that, instead. of copying from the book itself he must have been induced to give what purported to be a quotation, by taking his words from one of those printed representations of the contents of the book which were current at the time when he wrote his letter to the newspaper.
I repeat that I have done nothing towards that collation of passages which is necessary for determining whether any given account of the tenor of the book is an account given in good faith; but it struck me that the above two instances of men who trusted to printed versions of the contents of the book, instead of to the book itself, might possibly help the inquiry, and could hardly fail to serve as wholesome examples.
In the general controversy which the book has engendered I am not taking part;* but having in my hands large means of proof and disproof, I ought, of course, to aid towards the attainment of right con-
* And I have no present intention of doing so ; but when I give my long-withheld Preface I shall say why I resolved to tell aloud ‘the transactions which brought on the war.’ The Preface, I think, will be of the same purport as the one I was preparing when I determined that I would let the book appear without covering it by any prefatory statement, except what was needed for showing ‘the sources of the narrative.’
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clusions upon disputed matters of fact; and it is only with that view that I am now going to speak — not of the nature and spirit, but — of the mere abundance of the scrutiny which the book has undergone.
The book treated of such subjects, and of a time so little removed from the present, that there were great numbers of public men — ministers, diplomatists, and military and naval officers — who were not only likely to have strong motives for narrowly scrutinising the accuracy of the narrative, but were able to speak upon some or one of the subjects it touches with the authority of partakers or eyewitnesses. Thence, as was to be expected, there were addressed to me a quantity of communications, some personal, and some by letter. In these communications, the speakers and writers pointed out what they deemed to be errors or omissions. In almost every instance they made their representations with great precision, and with a strikingly rigid adherence to the subject-matter.*
But, besides the authoritative criticism of those numbers of men who had been actors in the scenes described, there was the criticism of the periodical press. This was applied to the book, both at home and abroad; and so diligently, that already the works
* I include in this category of communications from individuals some few which also appeared in print; as, for instance, one about the age of Sir George Brown, and the way he carried his plumes — another about the exact rank with which Colonel Codrington went out — and one or two more of a less important kind ; but I do so rightly, because these communications had reached me before the time when they got published. I also include in this category the communication from Colonel Norcott, because, though his letter appeared in a newspaper, it was a letter addressed to me.
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of the commentators must be many times greater in bulk than the original book. Of the publications which yielded these floods of comment, there were some whose conductors trusted mainly to public sources for the information on which they rested, but there were other conductors of reviews and newspapers who placed themselves under the guidance of some public man — some minister, some soldier, some sailor — who had been what is called ‘an actor in the scene.’ The criticism resulting from this last method was of a composite sort, for it more or less covertly uttered the notions of some public man whose reputation was at stake, but expressed them in the name of the journal through whom he addressed the public. From causes to which I need not advert, the commentaries were delivered, not only with great animation and zeal, but with a persistency not often applied to the criticism of one mere book. Diligence of the most varied kinds was brought to bear ; for since the book involved politics as well as history, it fairly enough became the subject — not merely of reviews, but also — of what they call ‘articles;’ and seeing that it touched things abroad, correspondents employed by the conductors of news-papers in foreign capitals were encouraged or suffered to remit their daily toil of gathering ‘news,’ and take part for a time with their colleagues at home in finding something to say about this book. Finally, it was made to appear, that if an officer would submit to the condition of writing to a newspaper, and would begin his letter with a criticism upon the book of a kind approved by the managers, he might append to his
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comments a narrative of his own achievements, with the certainty that his own account of his own deeds would be read in one day by thousands and thousands of people.
It may be imagined that the immense body, both of authoritative and anonymous criticism, thus brought to bear upon one book, could hardly fail to show that mistakes had crept in here and there; but if any reader shall take the pains to separate from the bulk of the notes every sentence which puts right an error, he will be able to judge and say whether the corrections are many and important, or whether they are scanty and slight.
Be that as it may, I must state that, with the exceptions which I shall presently enumerate, I owe all these corrections to the public men and officers who have done me the honour to communicate with me either personally or by letter.
For reasons of larger scope than those which only apply to the questioned worth of a book, the public, I imagine, has an interest in knowing what impression has been made upon these volumes by the exertions of the periodical press. Certainly my own reading of the criticisms brought to bear on the book has been not only very imperfect, but has been conducted without method; and although I have taken other means besides my own scanty reading for learning what statements of mine upon matters of fact have been disputed in respectable publications, I cannot be sure, nor even indeed imagine, that I have dealt with every contradiction upon matters of fact which has
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been taken in print to my statements. All I can say is, that when last I went through these volumes I did not knowingly pass by any error; and it must be remembered that there is this safeguard — namely, that every public writer whose challenge upon a matter of fact I may have failed to notice, will not only be able to exclaim against me for my neglect of his strictures, but will even be likely to do so, because it is according to nature that any critic who may have taken pains to give to a book this kind of antagonistic assistance should be loth to see his industry wasted.
Now, then, to speak of the corrections upon matters of fact which I owe to the periodical press. In writing a book of this kind, one naturally glances at many things which are not in strictness the subject of the History. Thus, before I came to the time when their actions brought them strictly within the range of this narrative, I glanced at the antecedent career of several public men, and in referring to those ‘tidings from the Danube,’ which I spoke of as stirring the public mind in England, I suffered myself to linger awhile on the ground whence the tidings had come. Well, in the course of those retrospective glances, I treated Lord Stratford’s antecedent absence from Constantinople as lasting full double the number of months that it really did; I said that, in 1836, St Arnaud entered for the third time into ‘the military profession,’ when I ought rather to have said that he entered for the third time ‘upon the career of an officer serving with troops;’ I spoke of Lieutenant Glyn and
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his seamen as coming up from the sea with some gun-boats, whereas I ought to have said that the gunboats they used at Giurgevo were lying in the river before-hand; and, finally, I spoke of General Airey as returning from Canada to England upon the death of his uncle, whereas I ought to have said that he came back some months before. These four mistakes were pointed out, the first three of them by respectable English journals, and the fourth by an American newspaper. So far as concerns my retrospective glances at things not falling within the strict limits of the History, these are, I think, all the corrections which I owe to the zeal of the press.
Well, but what impression has public criticism made upon the rest of the book? What (properly) historical errors have owed their correction to the vigilance of the periodical press?
They are as follows:— ‘Garan’ should be ‘Gagarin;’ Captain ‘Schane’ should be Captain ‘Schaw;’ ‘Luxmore’ should be ‘Luxmoore;’ ‘Bisset’ should be ‘Bissett;’ ‘Woolcombe’ should be ‘Wollocombe;’ ‘Montagu’ should be ‘Montague.’*
For these corrections I am indebted to the conductors of an eminent English newspaper.†
* The press also suggested four perfectly just corrections in regard to the fol1owing matters:— The rank with which Colonel Codrington went out; the wrongly-spelt name of ‘Stacey’ ; the omission of Colone1 Smith from the list of wounded ; the misspelling which gave ‘Wardlow’ instead of ‘Wardlaw;’ and the error about Sir George Brown’s exact age, and the way he carried his plumes ; but these corrections had been previously supplied to me by means of private communication. and it is for that reason that I do not place them in the above enumeration of the corrections which I owe to the periodical press.
† The misspelling of the name of ‘Garan’ for ‘Gagarin’
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I will repeat that there may, and there must be, numbers of printed challenges upon questions of fact with which I have not become acquainted; and there may be others which I have heard of and forgotten; but the above, I believe, are the only corrections supplied by the periodical press which I have hitherto seen fit to adopt.
What then did I do with all the rest of those charges of error in matter of fact which were brought against me by the press? Well, I looked through the book, and where I observed a statement which I knew at the time to have been denied, I did this: By a note at the foot of the page where a challenged assertion occurred, I supplied a sufficing portion of the proofs by which I support my statement. Of the soundness and cogency of the proofs thus produced, it will be for the public to judge. They are all, or nearly all, documentary.
But, besides the unnumbered strangers and friends who have addressed to me private communications on the contents of the book, and besides the whole host of those who speak to the public through the medium of the periodical press, there is one persistent scrutiniser who (so far as concerns all questions of dry fact) has hitherto proved more formidable than all. He alone has succeeded in proving that, here and there, there is a mistake — slight enough perhaps in itself, but — occurring in a place where, to
was pointed out by the correspondent of the newspaper acting at Constantinople. The other misspellings of names were indicated in one of the many reviews of the book which appeared in the same journal.
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point to it, is to fix upon the part of the narrative in which it appears, a small, yet ugly blemish. For some years this caviller took an interest in the progress of the book, and it is believed that he still wishes well to it; but in his determination to insist upon strict accuracy without the least regard for the flow of the narrative, he is steadfast and pitiless. What makes his scrutiny so formidable is, that — without the least merit on his part — he has chanced to become possessed — nay, is every day becoming more and more possessed — of the knowledge, the constantly accruing knowledge, which enables him to find fault with effect. This persistent, implacable critic is no other than the author himself.
Of the way in which I break in and find fault with the book wherever truth bids me do so, I can best speak by giving a single example. Guided by Sir Colin Campbell’s narrative of the operations of his brigade at the Alma, I narrated the advance of the 79th Highlanders against the flank of a Russian column then marching across its front, and — catching animation from that strangely kindling power with which Lord Clyde used to speak of these scenes — I said that the 79th ‘sprang at the flank’ of the Russian column. I never knew of anybody except myself who ever found fault with the accuracy of the sentence. But it happened that, long after the publication of the book, and for a purpose having nothing to do with the movement in question, Lord Clyde, one day, brought me a paper, written by an officer of the 79th, and containing more minute details of the advance of the regiment than had previously come to
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my knowledge. From these details I gathered that, although the 79th had advanced exactly in the direction I described, and against the flank of the Russian battalions then marching across its front, it had advanced more deliberately than I had supposed. I no sooner read this than I felt that my expression, ‘sprang at the flank,’ indicated a greater swiftness of attack than was consistent with the bare truth, and therefore needed to be qualified. Lord Clyde did not agree with me; he thought the expression sufficiently accurate, and deprecated the notion of my qualifying the words ; but I was steadfast in my determination to show what I myself judged to be the very truth, and therefore it is that, by a qualifying note, I wilfully mar and deface the sentence to which I appended it.* This is only one example of the rigour with which the book is treated by its author.
And here I may say that, in order to substantiate disputed statements, I have not been always obliged to reopen the stores of information on which I founded my assertionds. In many, and I think in most instances, I was saved the need of going back to papers long out of my sight, by the firm love of justice which brought meni who had observed that I was wrongly contradicted to come forward of their own accord and lay before me the private letters and journals of eye-witnesses in support of the statements I had made. Of the written documents on which I based the narrative, I can say that, for the most part, I have hitherto kept them in reserve.
Until after the publication of the book, I think I
* vol. II. p.487.
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was as much inclined as the generality of men to be doubtful of the possibility of getting very close to historical truth; and I knew, of course, that the occurrences of a battle-field are especially hard to seize; but I must acknowledge that the supply of fresh confirming proof by which I now find myself supported, has done something towards lessening any tendency I had towards this kind of historical scepticism. When the first edition of the book was published, I had never seen the private journal and letters of Colonel Hood, the officer who commanded the Grenadier Guards at the Alma, nor the clear and straightforward narrative of Sir Charles Russell, of the same regiment. I was without that letter of Colonel Percy of the same regiment, to which (as will be gathered from the notes) I attach great worth. I had never seen that journal of Colonel Annesley of the Fusilier Guards, which tells me the story so naturally and so well, that to glance through the written words is more like listening than reading. I had never seen the rough, lifelike letters of Colonel Yea, nor the short telling letter of Colonel Aldworth. Yet when all this authentic testimony of eyewitnesses is laid before me, I find it confirming what I had asserted in print some months before. Seeing this, I cannot but think that — even in the battlefield — there is truth, after all, to be found.
If I might be suffered to press this view for a moment more by giving a chosen instance of the way in which it applies to my own narrative, I would venture to speak of one only amongst those several
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pieces of testimony by which I now support my account of the operations of the Grenadier Guards at the Alma. I support what I say of the battalion by giving extracts from the journal and private letters of its honoured chief, Colonel Hood. These extracts correspond so closely with the tenor of the narrative, that the reader would be likely to say,— ‘That journal and those letters were evidently the authority on which the author based his account of the operations of the Grenadier Guards.’ It is, however, a fact, that I never saw the journal, nor the letters, and never knew anything of their tenor, until after the publication of the first and second editions of this book. It was then that Mrs Grosvenor Hood (the widow of him whose achievement on the banks of the Alma had won so large a share of my attention) resolved to give me fresh means of substantiating the narrative, by placing in my hands the treasured words which were written to her from the banks of the Alma.*
Now, when it is seen that I make a series of statements — of statements planted thick with particulars — in regard to the operations of a given battalion at the Alma, and that, after the publication, there comes
* This she did with the full approval of Lord Hood, the present head of the family. I may here say (though I think I have clearly explained it in the foot-note, vol. ii p 441) that the order with respect to which Colonel Hood wrote, ‘Thank God I disobeyed!’ was not an order given by the Divisional General HRH the Duke of Cambridge. Colonel Hood had been directed by General Bentinck to conform to any movements on his left, and it was only by being applied to the event which afterwards happened — viz., the temporary retreat of the Fusilier Guards that General Bentinck’s order became in effect an order directing Colonel Hood to retreat.
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to light a private record written on the field of the battle by the officer who commanded the battalion — a record confirming almost sentence by sentence the account I give in my narrative, — it is plainly a sound deduction to say, that the coincidence between the two accounts must result from the accuracy of both. But I venture to think that an inference of wider scope than that may fairly be drawn; for surely in the mind of anybody who shall be seeking after truth with the aid of accustomed principles, the appearance of new and confirmatory proofs of this sort will not only establish the particular assertion to which he finds them appended, but will even tend to strengthen his trust in other parts of the book.
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THE reason which made it a duty to withhold some portions of the Despatch of the 29th of June has ceased to operate, and the Despatch is now given entire.
Some notes have been added, and some passages contained in the second volume have been moved on to other parts of the same chapter;* but not a word has been withdrawn from the text, and not a word has been added to it.
Since the publication of the first edition, I have been engaged in a great deal of discussion with military men on the subject of transactions in which they bore a part. This discussion has been laborious; but the result of it is satisfactory ; for it entitles me to believe that none of the officers I speak of are now at variance with me upon any grave matters of fact; and yet (as will be seen, I think, from the purport and from the scantiness of the very few notes now appended) I have been able to stand fast to the tenor of the narrative as given in the first and second editions. It was in the nature of things that an
* The exact extent to which this has been done is shown in the Direction, p. xlviii.
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honest comparison of the impressions of several eye-witnesses should throw more and more light upon the matters to which it related; but the farther and more minute facts thus brought to my knowledge have not proved to be of such a kind as to contravene the narrative. On the contrary, their tendency has been to elucidate its meaning, and to strengthen its outlines. So, by merely inserting a few foot-notes, I have been able to give to the public the fruit of the discussion which has been going on, and to do this, as I have already said, without resorting to the plan of withdrawing any words from the text.
A FEW notes have been added to this edition, but not a word of the text has been changed.
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BEFORE I had determined to write any account of the war, there were grounds from which many inferred that a task of this kind would be mine ; and I may say that, from the hour of their landing on the enemy’s coast, close down to the present time, men, acting under this conviction, have been giving me a good deal of their knowledge.
In 1856 Lady Raglan placed in my hands the whole mass of the papers which Lord Raglan had with him at the time of his death. Having done this, she made it her request that I would cause to be published a letter which her husband addressed to her a few days before his death.* All else she left to me. Time passed, and no history founded upon these papers was given to the world. Time still passed away; and it chanced to me to hear that people who longed for the dispersion of what they believed to be falsehoods, were striving to impart to Lady Raglan the not unnatural impatience which all this delay had provoked. But with a
* I need hardly say that this letter will appear in its proper place, though not in either of these two volumes.
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singleness of purpose and a strength of will which remind one of the great soldier who was her father’s brother, she answered that, the papers having once been placed under my control, she would not disturb me with expressions of impatience, nor suffer any one else to do so with her assent. I cannot be too grateful to her for her generous and resolute trustfulness. If these volumes are late, the whole blame rests with me. If they are reaching the light too soon, the fault is still mine.
Knowing Lord Raglan’s habits of business, knowing his tendency to connect all public transactions with the labours of the desk, and finding in no part of the correspondence the least semblance of anything like a chasm, I am led to believe that, of almost everything concerning the business of the war which was known to Lord Raglan himself, there lies in the papers before me a clear and faithful record.
In this mass of papers there are, not only all the Military Reports which were from time to time addressed to the Commander of the English army by the generals and other officers serving under him (including their holograph narratives of the part they had been taking in the battles), but also Lord Raglan’s official and private correspondence with sovereigns and their ambassadors; with ministers, generals, and admirals; with the French, with the Turks, with the Sardinians; with public men, and official functionaries of all sorts and conditions; with adventurers; with men propounding wild schemes; with dear and faithful
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friends.* Circumstances had previously made me acquainted with a good deal of the more important information thus laid before me; but there is a completeness in this body of authentic records which enables me to tread with more confidence than would have been right or possible if I had had a less perfect survey of the knowledge which belonged to Headquarters. And so methodical was Lord Raglan, and so well was he served by Colonel Steele, his military secretary, that all this mass of authentic matter lies ranged in perfect order. The strategic plans of the much-contriving Emperor — still carrying the odour of the havannahs which aid the ingenuity of the Tuileries — are ranged with all due care, and can be got at in a few moments; but, not less carefully ranged, and equally easy to find, is the rival scheme of the enthusiastic nosologist who advised that the Russians should be destroyed by the action of malaria, and the elaborate proposal of the English general who submitted a plan for taking Sebastopol with bows and arrows. Here and there, the neatness of the arranging hand is in strange contrast with the fiery contents of the papers arranged; for, along with reports and returns, and things precise, the most hurried scrawl of the commander who writes to his chief under stress of deep emotion, lies flat, and hushed, and docketed. It
* I have never looked at it since 1856, but it struck me then, that the letter which, Mr Sidney Herbert addressed to Lord Raglan in the winter of the first campaign was the very ideal of what, in such circumstances, might be written by an English statesman who dearly loved his friend, but who loved his country yet more.
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would seem as though no paper addressed to the English Headquarters was ever destroyed or mislaid.
With respect to my right to make public any of the papers intrusted to me, I have this, and this only, to say: circumstances have enabled me to know who ought to be consulted before any State Paper or private letter hitherto kept secret is sent abroad into the world; and, having this knowledge, I have done what I judge to be right.
The papers intrusted to me by Lady Raglan contain a part only of the knowledge which, without any energy on my part, I was destined to have cast upon me; for when it became known that the papers of the English Headquarters were in my hands, and that I was really engaged in the task which rumour had prematurely assigned to me, information of the highest value was poured in upon me from many quarters. Nor was this all. Great as was the quantity of information thus actually imparted to me, I found that the information which lay at my command was yet more abundant; for I do not recollect that to any one man in this country I have ever expressed any wish for the information which he might be able to give me, without receiving at once what I believe to be a full and honest disclosure of all he could tell on the subject. This facility embarrassed me; for I never could find that there was any limit to my power of getting at what was known in this country. I rarely asked a question without eliciting some thing which added, more or less, to my labour, and tended to cause delay.
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And now I have that to state which will not surprise my own countrymen, but which still, in the eyes of the foreigner, will seem to be passing strange. For some years, our statesmen, our admirals, and our generals, have known that the whole correspondence of the English Headquarters was in my hands; and very many of them have from time to time conversed and corresponded with me on the business of the war. Yet I declare I do not remember that any one of these public men has ever said to me that there was anything which, for the honour of our arms, or for the credit of the nation, it would be well to keep concealed. Every man has taken it for granted that what is best for the repute of England is, the truth.
I have received a most courteous, clear, and abundant answer to every inquiry which I have ventured to address to any French commander ; and, indeed, the willingness to communicate with me from that quarter was so strong, that an officer of great experience, and highly gifted with all the qualities which make an accomplished soldier, was despatched to this country with instructions to impart ample statements to me respecting some of the operations of the French army. I seize upon this occasion of acknowledging the advantage I derived from the admirably lucid statements which were furnished to me by this highly-instructed officer; and I know that those friends of mine to whom I had the honour of presenting him, will join with me in expressing the gratification which we all derived from his society.
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I thought it right to apprise the authorities of the French War Department, that, if they desired it, the journals of their divisions, and any other unpublished papers in their War Office which they might be pleased to show, would be looked over by a gifted friend of mine, now a member of the House of Commons, who had kindly offered to undertake this task for me. The French authorities did not avail themselves of my offer; but any obscurity which might otherwise have resulted from this concealment has been effectually dispersed by the information I afterwards obtained from Russian sources.
Of all the materials on which I found my account of the battle of the Alma, hardly any have been more valuable to me than the narratives of the three Divisional Generals who there held command under Prince Mentschikoff. The gifted young Russian officer who obtained for me these deeply interesting narratives, and who kindly translated them from their Russian originals, has not only conferred upon me an important favour, but has also done that which will uplift the repute of the far-famed Russian infantry, by helping to show to Europe the true character of the conflict which it sustained on the banks of the Alma.
My knowledge respecting the battles of Balaclava and Inkerman, and the subsequent fights before Sebastopol, is still incomplete; and I shall welcome any information respecting these conflicts which men may be pleased to intrust to me. From the Russians, especially, I hope that I may receive communications
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of this kind. Their defence of Sebastopol ranges high in the annals of warfare; and I imagine that the more the truth is known, the more it will redound to the honour of the Russian arms.
I do not in general appeal for proof to my personal observation, but I have departed from this abstinence in two or three instances where it seemed to me that I might prevent a waste of controversial energy by saying at once that the thing told had been seen or heard by myself.
With regard to the portion of the work which is founded upon unpublished documents and private information, I had intended at one time — not to give the documents nor the names of my informants, nor the words they have written or spoken, but — to indicate the nature of the statements on which I rely; as, for instance, to say in notes at the foot of a page, ‘The Raglan Papers,’ ‘Letter from an officer engaged,’ ‘oral statement made to me by one who was present,’ and the like. But, upon reflection, I judged that I could not venture to do this. When a published authority is referred to, any want of correspondence between the assertion and the proof can be detected by a reader who takes the trouble to ascend to the originals; but I do not like to assert that a document or a personal narrative withheld (for the present) from this wholesome scrutiny is the designated, yet hidden foundation of a statement which I make freely, in my own way, and in my own language. So, although when I found my statements upon a Parliamentary Paper or a published book, I
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commonly give my authority; yet so far as concerns that part of the work which is based upon unpublished writings or private information — and this applies to an important part of the first, and to nearly the whole of the second volume — I in general make no reference to the grounds on which I rely. Hereafter it may be otherwise ; but, for the present, this portion of the book must rest upon what, after all, is the chief basis of our historical knowledge — must rest upon the statement of one who had good means of knowing the truth. In the meanwhile, I shall keep and leave ready the clue by which, in some later time, and without further aid from me, my statements may be traced to their sources.
For a period of now several years my knowledge of what I undertake to narrate has been growing more and more complete. Far from gathering assurance at the sight of the progress thus made, I am rather led to infer that approaches which continued so long might continue perhaps still longer; and it is not without a kind of reluctance that I pass from the tranquil state of one who is absorbing the truth, to that of a man who at last stands up and declares it. But the time has now come.
1st January 1863.