Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 126
ON the 18th of July a conference took place at Marshal St Arnaud’s headquarters. It was attended by the Marshal, by Lord Raglan, and by Admiral Hamelin, by Admiral Bruat (who was the second in command (of the French fleet), by Vice-Admiral Dundas, and by Rear-Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons, who was the second in command of the English fleet. It lasted four hours.
Perhaps most of the members of the conference imagined that they were met for the purpose of determining upon the expediency of undertaking the invasion; but Lord Raglan had already made up his mind, not merely to support the wish of his Government in the Allied camp, but to cause its actual adoption; and he was so constituted that he could bring the resources of his mind to bear upon the object in view with as much abundance and strength as if he had himself approved or even devised it. Clearly a discussion upon the expediency of under-taking the enterprise would have been fatal to it; for no member of the conference, except Lyons and (possibly) Bruat, could have conscientiously argued
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 127
that the scheme was wise or even moderately prudent. How was it to be contrived that a council of war, disapproving the enterprise, should be prevented from strangling it?
As almost always happened in conferences where Lord Raglan had the ascendant, the grand question was quietly passed over, as though it were either decided or conceded for the purpose of the discussion, and it was made to seem that the duty which remained to the council was that of determining the time and the means. The French had studied the means of disembarking in the face of a powerful enemy. Sir Ralph Abercromby’s descent upon the coast of Egypt in the face of the French army was an enterprise too brilliant and too daring to allow of its being held a safe example, for he had simply landed his infantry upon the beach in boats, without attempting, in the first instance, to bring artillery into action. It seems that hardly any stress of circumstances will induce a French general to bring his infantry into action upon open ground without providing for it the support of artillery. Naturally, therefore, the French authorities at Varna were impressed with the necessity of being able to land their field-guns in such a way as to admit of their being brought into action simultaneously with the landing of their battalions; and, having anticipated some time before that a disembarkation in the face of an enemy might be one of the operations of the war, they had already begun to make the boats required for the purpose. These were flat-bottomed lighters,
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 128
somewhat in the form of punts, but of great size, and so constructed that they would receive the gun-carriages with the guns upon them, and allow of the guns being run out straight from the boat to the beach. It was understood that the building of these flat lighters would take about ten days; and it was determined that, in the mean time, a survey of the coast near Sebastopol should be made from on board ship, in order to determine the spot best suited for a descent.
With a view to cover the reconnaissance and draw off the enemy’s attention, the Allied Admirals cruised with powerful fleets in front of the harbour of Sebastopol; and meanwhile the officers chosen for the service went northward along the coast in the Fury, seeking out the best place for a landing. The officers who performed this duty were, on the part of the French, General Canrobert and Colonel Trochu, with one engineer and one artillery officer; and on the part of the English, Sir George Brown, Lieutenant-Colonel Lake, R.H.A., Captain Lovell, R.E., and Captain Wetherall, of the Quartermaster-General’s department. The Fury was steered by no common hand.*
In the moment when Lord Raglan determined to treat the instructions of the Government as imperative, and to put them in course for execution, he came to another determination (a determination which is not so mere a corollary from the first as men unversed in business may think) : he resolved to carry the enterprise through. He knew that, though
* See the next note. — Note to 5th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 129
work of an accustomed sort can be ably done by official persons acting under a bare sense of duty, yet that the engine for conquering obstacles of a kind not known beforehand, when they are many and big and unforeseen, must be nothing less than the strong, passionate will of a man. If every one were to perform his mere duty, there would be no invasion of the Crimea, for a rank growth of hindrances, springing up in the way of the undertaking, would be sure to gather fast round it, and bring it in time to a stop.
Amongst the English Generals there was no one who had given his mind to the enigma which went by the name of the ‘Eastern Question;’ but Sir Edmund Lyons had been for many years engaged in the animating diplomacy of the Levant In Greece, the activity of the Czar’s agents, or, perhaps, of his mere admirers, had been so constant, and had generated so strong a spirit of antagonism in the minds of the few contentious Britons who chanced to observe it, that the institutions called ‘The Russian Party’ and ‘The English Party’ had long ago flourished at Athens; and since Sir Edmund Lyons had been accredited there for several years as British Minister, he did not miss being drawn into the game of combating against what was supposed to be the ever-impending danger of Russian encroachment. Long ago therefore, he had been whetted for this strife; and now that the ‘Eastern Question’ was to be brought to the issue of a war in which he had part, he was inflamed with a passionate zeal. Resuming
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 130
at once the uniform and the bearing of his old profession, he cast aside, if ever he had it, all semblance of diplomatic reserve and composure, and threw himself, with all his seaman’s heart, into the business of the war.
Lord Raglan drew Sir Edmund Lyons into his intimate counsels. I know not whether this concord of theirs was ever put into words; but I imagine that, at the least, I can infer from their actions, and from the tenor of their intercourse, a silent understanding between them — an understanding that no lukewarmness of others, no shortcomings, no evasions, no tardy prudence, no overgrown respect for difficulty or peril, should hinder the landing of the Queen’s troops on the coast of the Crimea. From the time that Lord Raglan thus joined Lyons to the undertaking he gave it a great momentum. To those within the grasp of the Rear-Admiral’s energy it seemed that thenceforth, and until the troops should be landed on the enemy’s shore, there could be no rest for man, no rest for engines. The Agamemnon was never still. In the painful, consuming passion with which Lyons toiled, and even, as some imagined, in the anxious, craving expression of his features, there was something which reminded men of a greater name.
This was the officer who steered the Fury.* He
* ‘The observations which the officers employed upon this occasion were enabled to make were greatly facilitated by the way in which the Fury was steered by order of Sir Edmund Lyons.’ Lord Raglan to Secretary of State, 29th July 1854. It was in his character as one of the reconnoitring officers that Lyons directed the course of the Fury, and it must not be understood that in any other sense he super-
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 131
carried her in so close to the shore that the coast could he reconnoitred with great completeness. The officers came to the conclusion (a conclusion afterwards overruled, as we shall see, by Lord Raglan) that the valley of the Katcha was the best spot for a landing.
We saw that the Czar’s withdrawal from the Principalities would deprive the German Powers of their main ground of quarrel with Russia, and that our plan of engaging in a great marine expedition against Crim Tartary would cause Austria and Prussia to despair of all effective support from the West, thus driving or tending to drive them into better relations with Nicholas. Before the 28th of July, there were signs that this change was beginning to set Russia free from the straits in which she had been placed by the unanimity of the Four Great Powers; and tidings which reached the camp at Varna made it appear (though not with truth)) that the Russian commander had not only suspended his retreat, but was commencing a fresh movement in advance.
To deliberate upon this supposed change in the character of the war, a conference was held at the French headquarters, and was attended by Marshal St Arnaud, Lord Raglan, General Can-
seded the discretion of the very able officer — Captain Tatham — who commanded the vessel. Captain Tatham, a few days previously, had carried the Fury in so near to Sebastopol as to come to an exchange of shots with a part of the Russian fleet, and it was on that account that Dundas selected the Fury for this service. It seems that before retiring to rest at night, Sir Edmund Lyons simply directed Tatham ‘to take the ship in as before,’ and that, this direction having been duly complied with, Lyons found upon coming on deck the next morning that the Fury was already ‘close in.’ — Note to 5th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 132
robert, Sir Edmund Lyons, General Martimprey, Sir George Brown, and Colonel Trochu. The French Generals grasped this as an occasion for bringing about the relinquishment of an enterprise which they always had held to be rash. They submitted that the general instructions addressed to both of the Allied commanders made it their duty to provide, in the first instance, for the safety of the Ottoman territory, and that, until that object was secured, they were not warranted in attempting an invasion of a Russian province far distant from the threatened frontier of European Turkey; that the order to invade the coast of the Crimea had been framed by the Home Governments, and acceded to by the Allied Generals, upon the assumption that the armed intervention of Austria, then believed to be imminent, or, at the very least, a continuance of her menacing attitude on the flank of the Russian army, would preclude any attempt by the Czar to resume his war on the Danube; that that assumption now unfortunately turned out to be unfounded; and that the abandonment by Austria of the common cause made it the bounden duty of the Allied commanders to return to their defensive measures; because it was now plain that, if they quitted Bulgaria, Omar Pasha, without aid from any quarter, would have upon his hands the whole weight of the Russian army. Now then, supposing the premises to be conceded, the French counsellors had made out good grounds for abandoning a resolution which, only a week ago, had been adopted by the Allied commanders.
Lord Raglan, however, was resolved that the en-
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 133
terprise should go on. From the moment he knew that the siege of Silistria had been raised, he never doubted that, for that year at least, the invasion of European Turkey was at an end. But he knew that clever men who have taken the pains to build up a neat logical structure, do not easily allow it to be treated as unsound merely because it rests upon a sliding foundation. Without, therefore, combating the French arguments, he quietly suggested that the time which must needs elapse before the embarkation might throw new light on the probability of a renewed attack upon Turkey; and he proposed that, in the meantime, the preparations for the descent on the Crimea should be carried on with all speed. This opinion was adopted by every member of the conference. The preparations were carried on with increasing energy; and the theory that it was the duty of the Allied commanders to abandon the enterprise was never put down by argument, but left to die away uncontested.
Lord Raglan had been struck with the value of the French plan for landing artillery on flat lighters, and Sir Edmund Lyons and Sir George Brown were despatched to Constantinople, with instructions to do all they could towards supplying the British army with means which would answer the same purpose. They discovered that a platform resting upon two boats might be made to serve nearly as well as one of the French lighters.* How they toiled, the world will
* I believe that the merit of making this discovery, and of the irresistible energy by which it was carried into effect, belonged to Mr Roberts, late a Master in the Navy. See the forcible exposition of Mr
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 134
never know, for History cannot pause to see them ransacking Constantinople and the villages of the Bosphorus in their search after carpenters and planks; but before the appointed time the whole work was done. This was not all. Sir Edmund Lyons and Sir George Brown propelled the arrangements for buying and chartering steamers, trampling down with firmness, perhaps one might say with violence, all obstacles which stood in the way. Of those obstacles one of the most formidable was what was called in those days the ‘official fear of incurring responsibility.’ Lyons and Sir George Brown taught men that, in emergencies of this sort, they should be pursued with the fear of not doing enough, rather than with the dread of doing too much. ‘I cannot venture,’ said a cautious official — ‘I cannot venture to give the price.’ ‘Then I can,’ said Sir George Brown; ‘I buy it in my own name!’ It is thus that difficulties are conquered. When the restless Agamemnon came back into the Bay of Varna with Lyons and Sir George Brown on board, Lord Raglan was at the head of a truly British armament. He had the means, by steam-power, and at one trip, to descend upon the enemy’s coast, with all his divisions of infantry, with his brigade of light cavalry, and with the whole of his field-artillery; and he would be enabled, if he landed in face of an enemy, to bring his guns into action whilst his infantry formed upon the beach.
Roberts’s services, and of his cruelly frustrated hopes, in the little work called ‘The Service and the Reward,’ by Mr George John Cayley. — Note to 2d Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 135
When the Allied commanders determined to execute the orders addressed to them, they saw the importance of endeavouring to veil their project from the enemy. With this view they tried to induce a belief that Odessa was to be the object of attack; but the measures which they took for this purpose were very slight and weak. To deceive the enemy by the mere spreading of a report, the first step for a general to take would be that of uttering the false word to some of his own people. That would be a difficult service for Lord Raglan to perform; and I do not believe that he ever could or ever did perform it.
Another contrivance for diverting the enemy’s attention from the Crimea was that of endeavouring to alarm him for his Bessarabian frontier. Partly to attain this end, and partly, as was surmised, with the more ambitious object of striking a blow at some of the Czar’s retiring columns, Marshal St Arnaud moved no less than three divisions into the Dobrudja. But, in truth, all secrecy was forbidden to the Allies. The same power which dictated the expedition precluded its concealment. It was in a council of the whole people that England had resolved upon the enterprise; and what advantage there is in knowledge of an enemy’s plans, that she freely gave to Russia. It might seem that for the Emperor of the French, who had shown that he was capable of the darkest secrecy in his own designs, it must have been trying to have to act with a Power which propounded her schemes in print. But, happily, he understood England, and knew something of the conditions under which she moves into action.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 136
On the 10th of August a fire broke out in the British magazines at Varna, and a large quantity of military stores was consumed.
But another and more dreadful enemy had now entered the camp of the Allies. From the period of its arrival in the Levant, the French army had been suffering much from sickness. In the British army, on the contrary, though slight complaints were not unfrequent, the bodily condition of the men had been upon the whole very good; and so it continued up to the 19th of July. On that day, out of the whole Light Division, there were only 110 in hospital. But it seems that one of the omens which portend the visitation of a great epidemic is a more than common flush of health. With the French, the cholera first showed itself on board their troopships whilst passing from Marseilles to the Dardanelles. It then appeared among the French quartered at Gallipoli, and followed their battalions into Bulgaria. There its ravages increased, and before the beginning of the last week in July it reached the British army. By the 19th of August our regiments in Bulgaria had lost 532 men. But it was amongst the three French divisions marched into the Dobrudja, and especially in General Canrobert’s Division, that the disease raged with the most deadly virulence. In the day’s march, and sometimes within the space of only a few hours, hundreds of men dropped down in the sudden agonies of cholera; and out of one battalion alone, it was said that, besides those already dead, no less than 500 sufferers were carried alive in the waggons. On the 8th of August it was com-
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 137
puted, by an officer of their Staff, that out of the three French divisions which marched into the Dobrudja, no less than 10,000 lay dead or struck down by sickness.
If the cholera had been confined to the land-forces, the Generals would not, perhaps, have allowed it to delay their embarkation; but it now reached the fleets. In a few days the crews were in such a state that all idea of attempting to embark the troops was, for the moment, quite out of the question; and on the 11th and 12th of August the Admirals put out from their anchorage, in the hope of driving away the disease with the pure breezes of the sea. But they had scarcely done this when, on board some of the ships, the mysterious pest began to rage with a violence rare in Europe. The Britannia alone lost 105 men. The number of those stricken, and of those attending upon them, was so great, that it was impracticable to carry on the common duties of the ship in the usual way; and if the disease had continued to rage with undiminished violence for three days more, there would have been the spectacle of a majestic three-decker floating helpless upon the waves for want of hands to work her. This time of trial proved the quality of those who remained unstricken. There was a waywardness in the course of the disease on board British ships, for which it is difficult to account, — it spared the officers. On board British ships of war the seaman is accustomed to look to those who command him with a strong affectionate reliance; and now the poor sufferers, in their childlike simplicity, were calling upon their officers for help
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 138
and comfort. An officer thus appealed to would go and lie down by the side of the sufferer, and soothe him as though he were an infant. And this trust and this devotion were not always in vain. Even against malignant cholera the officer seemed to be not altogether powerless; for, partly by holding the tortured sufferer in his kind hands, partly by cheering words, and partly by wild remedies, invented in despair of all regular medical treatment, he was often enabled to fight the disease, or to make the men think that he did.
Almost suddenly the pestilence ceased on board the British ships of war. The dead were overboard, and the survivors returned to their accustomed duties with an alacrity quickened by the delight of looking forward to active operations against the enemy. Instinctively, or else with wise design, both officers and men dropped all mention of the tragedy through which they had passed.*
In a few days from the time when the cholera had been raging with its utmost fury, the crews of the fleet were ready to undertake the great business of embarking the troops and landing them on the coast of the Crimea.
In the camps of the Allied armies, at this time, the cholera had abated, but had not ceased. There were fevers, too, and other complaints. Grievous sickness fell upon that part of our camp which had been pitched in the midst of the beauteous scenery of the lake of
* I was for several days on board the Britannia without once, I think, hearing the least allusion to the pestilence which just four weeks before had slain 105 of the ship’s crew.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VI p. 139
Devna, but the whole English army at this time began to show signs of failing health. It appeared that, even of the men out of hospital and actually present under arms, hardly any were in the enjoyment of sound health — hardly any were capable of their usual amount of exertion.
This weakly condition of the men was destined to act, with other causes, in bringing upon the army cruel sufferings; and it may be asked whether, with the soldiers in this condition of body, it was right to undertake an invasion. The answer would be this: the medical authorities thought, and with apparently good reason, that, for troops sickening under the fierce summer heats of Bulgaria, the sea voyage, the descent upon another and more healthy shore, and, above all, the animating presence of the enemy, would work a good effect upon the health of the men; and although these hopes proved vain, they seemed at the time to rest upon fair grounds. And, after all, it is hard to say what other disposition of the troops would have united the advantages of being better and possible. To remain in Bulgaria, or to attempt to operate in the neighbourhood of the Danube, was to linger in the midst of those very atmospheric poisons which had brought the health of the army to its then state; and, on the other hand, our people at home would hardly have borne to see the army sent back to Malta, and forced to recede from the conflict, for the bare reason that some of the men were in hospital, and that the rest, without being ill, were said to be in a weakly condition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VII p. 140
OUR Admiral had at his command the means for conveying the British force to the enemy’s shore either in steam-vessels or in sailing-ships towed by steam-power; and, until the eve of the embarkation, the French believed that their resources would enable them to achieve a like result. So, at a conference of the four Admirals held on the 20th of August, it was arranged that the whole of the French and English armament should move from the coast at the same time under steam-power; and the 2d of September was looked forward to as the day when the armament might perhaps go to sea, but the exact time would of course depend upon weather and other circumstances beyond the reach of exact calculation.
On the 24th of August the huge operation of embarking the armies had already begun. The French embarked 24,000 infantry and 70 pieces of field-artillery; but since they were straitened in their means of sea-transport, the number of horses they allotted to each gun was reduced from six to four. The French embarked no cavalry.* A large portion of the
* They took with them from 80 to 100 horsemen to perform escort duty; but of course I do not regard this as an exception to the statement that ‘no cavalry was embarked.’
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VII p. 141
French troops were put on board ships of war,* and other portions were distributed among a great number of sailing-vessels. Some of these were very small craft.
Attached to the French army, and placed under the orders of Marshal St Arnaud, there was a force of between 5000 and 6000 Turkish infantry. These men were embarked mainly or entirely on board Turkish vessels of war.
Sir Edmund Lyons was charged with the duty of embarking the English forces; and having first got on board our 60 pieces of field-artillery, completely equipped, with the full complement of horses belonging to every gun, he proceeded with the embarkation of the 22,000 infantry and the full thousand of cavalry which Lord Raglan intended to move from Bulgaria to the coast of the Crimea. To put on board ship a body of foot-soldiers is comparatively a simple process; but the shipping of horses involves so heavy a cost, so great an exertion of human energy, that he who undertakes such a task upon anything like a large scale must needs be a man in earnest. On the other hand, it was clear that, for an invasion of the Crimea, a body of cavalry was strictly needed; therefore a sagacious interpreter of warlike signs,
* Our naval officers are strongly opposed to the practice of putting troops on board ships of war. They are not the men to set their personal convenience against the exigencies of the public service, but they cannot endure that the efficiency of a man-of-war should be for one moment suspended. It is well ascertained, too, that the presence of a great number of soldiers — men who, for the time of the voyage, are almost necessarily idlers — is injurious to the discipline of a ship.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VII p. 142
who saw that the English General was embarking a thousand cavalry horses, and that the French were embarking none, would be led to conjecture that the English were resolved to make the descent, and that the French were not. It will be seen, by-and-by, that such a conjecture would have been sound.
The time necessary for embarking a given number of foot-soldiers is small in proportion to that required for getting on board an equal number of troopers with their chargers. Nor is this all. The embarkation of infantry is not necessarily stopped by a moderate swell: the embarkation of cavalry is rendered very slow and difficult by even a slight movement of the sea, and is stopped altogether by a little increase of surf. The business of embarking the British cavalry was checked during some days by a wind from the north-east, and its consequent swell; but afterwards the weather changed, and the whole force was got on board without the loss of a man.*
Lord Raglan could not repress the feeling with which he looked upon the exertions of our naval officers and seamen. ‘The embarkation,’ he wrote on the 29th of August — ‘the embarkation is proceeding rapidly and successfully, thanks to the able arrangements of Rear-Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons, and the unceasing exertions of the officers and men under his orders. It is impossible for me to express,
* The French were not so fortunate, for a painful accident occurred in the course of their embarkation One of their steam-vessels rail down a boat laden with Zouaves. The men, encumbered by their packs, could do little to save themselves, and more than twenty were drowned.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VII p. 143
in adequate terms, my sense of the value of the assistance the army under my command derives from the Royal Navy. The same feeling prevails from the highest to the lowest — from Vice-Admiral Dundas to the youngest sailor; an ardent desire to co-operate, by every possible means, is manifest throughout; and I am proud of being associated with men who are animated by such a spirit, and who are so entirely devoted to the service of their country.’
Of course, the French, unencumbered with cavalry, were on board before the English embarkation was complete; but the steam-power at the command of the French fell short, and the necessity of a variation from the plan determined upon by the four Admirals was now announced. On the 4th of September, Admiral Hamelin, and an officer on the staff of the French army, informed Vice-Admiral Dundas that their resources would not, as they had expected, enable them to have their sailing transports towed by steamers.
No explanation was given of the failure which had thus suddenly crippled the French armament. The result was distressing at the time; for it was seen that the whole flotilla would be clogged by the slowness of the sailing-vessels in which the French troops were embarked, and the fate of the enterprise was rendered more than ever dependent upon the accidents of weather. Marshal St Arnaud grew restless.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VIII p. 144
WE have seen that the 2d of September had been looked forward to as the time for the departure of the united armaments, and on that day, with military punctuality, Marshal St Arnaud went to Baljik; but the wind and the waves are still undisciplined forces, and the French embarkations were not destined to be completed until the evening of the 4th. The Marshal, therefore, was kept waiting at Baljik; and meanwhile sickness began to make havoc with his troops, for they were dense]y crowded on board the transports.
The Marshal was much tortured by the anxiety which he had had to bear during these three painful days, and (possibly to calm his mind) Vice-Admiral Dundas seems to have suggested to him that, his sailing-vessels not being provided with steam-power to tow them, he might as well cause them at once to weigh anchor. By these causes, joined to his irritation at what he thought the backwardness of the English embarkations, the Marshal was induced to determine, not merely that he would act upon Dundas’s suggestion, but that he himself would
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VIII p. 145
wait no longer, and would put to sea on the 5th of September with his sailing fleet; so when, on the same morning, Lord Raglan reached Baljik, he was surprised by the intelligence that the Marshal had already sailed out on board the Ville de Paris.
On the evening of the 6th the British armament was ready, and the arrangements for the voyage of the whole flotilla complete. The French fleet already at sea consisted of fifteen sail of the line, with ten or twelve war-steamers, and the Turkish fleet of eight sail of the line, with three war-steamers; but the French and the Turkish vessels were doing service as transports, and were so encumbered with troops that they could not have been brought into action with common prudence.
It was upon the English fleet, therefore, that the duty of protecting the whole armada really devolved; and, supposing that the enemy were aware of the helpless state of the French and Turkish vessels laden with troops, and of the enormous convoy of transports which had to be protected, he might be expected to judge that it was incumbent upon him to come out of the harbour and assail the vast flotilla of transports; for under the guns of Sebastopol the Russians had fifteen sailing ships of the line,* with some frigates and brigs, and also twelve war-steamers, though of these the Vladimir was the only powerful vessel.† To encounter this force, and to defend from its enterprises the rest of the armada, the English had ten sail of
* Some say sixteen.
† Unless the Bessarabia be counted as a powerful steamer.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VIII p. 146
the line (including two screw-steamers), two fifty-gun frigates, and thirteen lesser steamers of war heavily armed.
The anxious duty of disposing and guiding the convoy was intrusted by Admiral Dundas to Sir Edmund Lyons; and, under Sir Edmund’s directions, Captain Mends of the Agamemnon framed the programme of the voyage. On the evening of the 6th the captains of transports were called by signal on board the Emperor, and there Mends read to them the instructions which he asked them to obey. The captains thus addressed were not in the Queen’s service, but they were English seamen, and their answer was characteristic. They were not flighty men. They respectfully asked for an assurance that, in the event of death, their widows would be held entitled to pensions; and as to the question whether, of their own free will, they would encounter the chances of a naval action, they answered it with three cheers. It is not by the mere muster-roll of the army or the navy that England counts her forces.
With his force of horse, foot, and artillery, Lord Raglan had on board the transports (now all collected at Baljik)* the full number of ammunition-carts required for the first reserve of ammunition, the beasts required for drawing them, and sixty other carts, also provided with draught-power. But, in order to move so large a force at one trip, it was
* At the time here spoken of there were two artillery transports lagging, but they were up in sufficient time.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VIII p. 147
found necessary to dispense with the bât-horses of the army, and the force was not provided with means of land-transport either for the tents of the men or for the baggage of the officers. There were also on board large supplies of field-ammunition, of food for the troops, and of barley and hay for the horses. In some of the horse-transports there was an insufficiency of the forage required for the voyage. With that grave exception, all the arrangements seem to have been good. Due means had been taken for insuring, so far as was possible, the simultaneous transit, not only of our ships of war, but of the whole force which Lord Raglan had embarked, together with its vast appendage of warlike stores and provisions; for every sailing-vessel, whether she were a ship of war or a transport, was towed by a sufficiently powerful steamer. None of our ships of war carried troops on board; they were all, therefore, ready for action.
In addition to the forces and the means of land-transport which were actually on board, Lord Raglan had in readiness for embarkation the whole brigade of heavy cavalry, another division of infantry, a siege-train,* and some five or six thousand pack-horses. The sick remained in Bulgaria, and such of the men out of hospital as seemed to be in a very weakly state were left at Varna and employed in garrison duty.
* The additional division of infantry (the 4th Division) was at Varna; the Scots Greys were on the Bosphorus ; and the rest of the heavy cavalry in Bulgaria, where also the bât-horses were left. The siege-train was on board off Varna.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VIII p. 148
Vice-Admiral Dundas, commanding the whole British fleet, had his flag on board the Britannia; Lyons, in the Agamemnon, had charge of the convoy. Each vessel had assigned to her the place she was to take when the signal for moving should be given.
Before night the whole of the English flotilla, together with that part of the French and the Turkish flotilla which had the command of steam-power, was assembled in Baljik Bay, and in readiness to sail on the morrow.
Men remember the beauteous morning of the 7th of September. The moonlight was still floating on the waters, when men, looking from numberless decks towards the east, were able to hail the dawn. There was a summer breeze blowing fair from the land. At a quarter before five a gun from the Britannia gave the signal to weigh. The air was obscured by the busy smoke of the engines, and it was hard to see how and whence due order would come; but presently the Agamemnon moved through, and with signals at all her masts — for Lyons was on board her, and was governing and ordering the convoy. The French steamers of war went out with their transports in tow, and their great vessels formed line. The French went out more quickly than the English, and in better order. Many of their transports were vessels of very small size; and of necessity, therefore, they were a swarm. Our transports went out in five columns of only thirty each. Then — guard over all — the English
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter VIII p. 149
war-fleet, in single column, moved slowly out of the bay.*
Here, then, and apart from the bodies of foot and artillery embarked by the French and the Turks, there was an armament not unworthy of England. Without combat, and by the mere stress of its presence, our fleet drove the enemy’s flag from the seas which flowed upon his shores,† and a small but superb land-force, complete in all arms, was clothed with the power of a great army by the ease with which it could be thrown upon any part of the enemy’s coast.‡
Lord Raglan had not suffered himself to be disconcerted by the departure of Monsieur St Arnaud, and the consequent severance of the Allied forces. No steamer was sent to re-knit his communications with the errant French Marshal.
* I did not reach the fleet till some three days afterwards, when it was anchored at the rendezvous; and my impression of the scene in the Bay of Baljik is derived partly from some MSS. which have been furnished to me, but partly also from what struck me as a very good account of it, which I saw in a printed book, by Mr Wood, a spectator.
† I am justified in speaking of the English fleet as the force which kept the enemy’s ships in duress, because, as we have seen, the French men-of-war were doing duty as transports, and were not, therefore, in a state for going into action.
‡ I of course speak here of the inherent power of such an armament, without reference to the fact that strictly-defined instructions had been addressed to Lord Raglan, and that the purport of these had become known to the enemy. The fixedness of the plan of campaign, and the publicity which it had obtained, reduced the power of the force to the level of its actual numbers and its intrinsic strength.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 150
WE have seen that Marshal St Arnaud, under feelings of some vexation, put to sea on the morning of the 5th of September. He could not but know that, by his abrupt separation from the British fleet and army, he had offended against the English General. Upon reflection, he could not but grieve that he had done this. But he had put to sea, and had since heard no tidings from the shore. No swift steamer had followed him with entreaties to stay his course. He was left free to pursue his voyage; and the voyage was growing more and more dismal.
‘The Black Sea’ is a truer name than the ‘Euxine.’ Now, as in old times (if the summer be hardly past), the voyager leaves a coast smiling bright beneath skies of blue and glowing with sunny splendour; yet, perhaps, and in less than an hour, the heavens above and the waters around him are dark with the gloom and threatening aspect belonging to the Northern Ocean.* Monsieur St Arnaud
* The contrast between the climate of the Black Sea and that of the countries which surround it is one of the enigmas to which scientific men have applied their minds; but whether, as yet, with success, I cannot say.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 151
encountered this change. The wind blew from its dark quarter. Every hour was carrying the Marshal farther and farther into the centre of the inhospitable sea, farther and farther from the English fleet, farther and farther from Lord Raglan.
If he went on, there was no junction to look for except at an imaginary point marked with a pencil on the charts, but having no existence in the material world; and from the wind and the angry waves, no less than from his own fast-cooling thoughts, he began to receive a distressing sense of his isolation. The struggle in his mind was painful, but it came to an end. ‘I am nearly twenty leagues,’ writes the Marshal, on the evening of the 6th, to Lord Raglan — ‘I am nearly twenty leagues north-east of Baljik, separated from the English fleet, and from the part of my own convoy which was to sail with the convoy of the English fleet. Admiral Dundas’s last letter being worded conditionally, so far as concerns his sailing this morning, I am not sure of not seeing increased, in great proportions, the distance which separates me from you, and then there is reason to fear circumstances of wind or sea which would render our junction difficult, and might compromise everything definitively. In this painful situation I decide to invite Admiral Hamelin (on his declaration that he cannot wait where he is) to return to meet the fleet and the convoy.’
So the Marshal sailed back. Thus, happily, ceased the impulse which had threatened to sunder the fleets.
Lord Raglan’s answer was stern. He removed the
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 152
grounds which the Marshal had assigned for his departure, and then pointed gravely to the true line of duty for the future. ‘Thanks be to God,’ he wrote, ‘everything now favours our enterprise. Very soon we shall reach the appointed rendezvous, and then we shall have an opportunity of showing that our manner of acting together remains unaltered, and that the sincerity of which you speak will continue, as at present, to be our guide and our mutual satisfaction’*
Coming from Lord Raglan, this language was a reproof; but the result tends to show that it was happily adjusted to the object in view. Thenceforth there was no longer any tendency on the part of Marshal St Arnaud to break away from his colleague. From the hour of the first conference at the Tuileries, in the spring of the year, Lord Raglan’s authority in the Allied councils had been always increasing; and now, as we shall presently see, it gained a complete ascendant.
On the 8th the great flotilla, moving under steam, came up with the French and the Turkish sailing fleets which had left Baljik on the 5th of September. The French fleet was in double column, and tacking to eastward across the bows of the steam flotilla; but upon being approached, the French ships backed topsails and lay-to. Every one of the French vessels had kept its position beautifully; and the moment the signal to lie-to was given, it was obeyed with a
* Translated from the French, in which the letter was written.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 153
quickness which was honestly admired by our seamen. The Turkish fleet also lay-to, and for a while the whole armada of the Allies was gathered together.
But the English fleet, being moved by steam, kept on to windward; and presently the French and the Turks began to sail off on opposite tacks. Between the fleets thus disparting, the English flotilla of transports passed through in five columns.
The rendezvous was to be at a point forty miles due west of Cape Tarkan, and thither moved the three fleets with all their convoy.
There were in the French army several officers holding high command, and being otherwise men of great weight, who had become very thoughtful on the subject of the contemplated descent upon the enemy’s coast. Personally, they were men quite as dauntless as those who gave no care to the business in hand; but being versed in the study, if not in the practice, of the great art of war, they had become strongly impressed with the hazardous character of the intended enterprise. It seems probable that, up to this time, they had relied upon the mature judgment and the supposed discreetness of Lord Raglan to prevent what they regarded as a rash attempt. It might well seem natural to them that two Governments in the West of Europe, attempting to dictate an invasion of a Russian province at a distance of 3000 miles, would, sooner or later, be checked in their project by the generals commanding the forces; and, of course, they would have liked that the disfavour
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 154
which unjustly attaches to military prudence should fall upon the English General rather than upon themselves or their own commander. But in the course of the 7th of September it became known to them that Lord Raglan was already at sea. They then knew, or rather they then recognised the fact, that the whole armada was really gliding on towards the enemy’s coast, and the ferment their minds underwent now brought them to take a strange step.
Lord Raglan was on board the Caradoc; and on the 8th of September, whilst the fleets lay near to one another, this vessel was boarded by Vice-Admiral Dundas. He came to say that a French steamer had conveyed to him the desire of the Marshal St Arnaud to see Lord Raglan and the Vice-Admiral Dundas, and to see them on board the Ville de Paris, because the Marshal himself was too ill to be able to move. It happened that the sea at this time was rough, and the naval men thought that it would be difficult for Lord Raglan, with his one arm, to get up the side of the three-decker in which the Marshal was sailing; Lord Raglan, therefore, deputed his military Secretary, Colonel Steele, to accompany Vice-Admiral Dundas on board the Ville de Paris.
The Vice-Admiral and Colonel Steele found the Marshal sitting up, but in a state of much suffering, and they were informed that he was very ill. He, however, sat at the conference; and the other persons present were — Admiral Hamelin, Admiral Bruat, Admiral Count Buat Wiliaumez, Colonel Trochu, General Rose, Vice-Admiral Dundas, and Colonel Steele. The
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 155
Marshal took no part in the discussion which ensued. It seems he could hardly speak.
It was stated that the meeting had been summoned in order that a paper might be read to it. The document bore no signature, and Marshal St Arnaud was no party to it; but it was stated that it emanated from General Canrobert, General Martimprey, and the principal officers of the French artillery and engineers; and it was said, too, that General Rose* had furnished some of the materials from which it was composed.
The document took it for granted that there were three places for landing which merited discussion — the Katcha, the Yetsa, and Kaffa; and it then went on to show the advantages and the drawbacks which would attend an attempt to land at each of those three spots. The objections to the landing at the Katcha were stated with so much force as to show that the framers of the document entirely disapproved it; and indeed they urged that any landing north of Sebastopol would be surely followed by disastrous results. The document also raised weighty objections to a descent upon the coast near the Yetsa. The only plan which was made to appear at all justifiable was that of a landing at
* Now Sir Hugh Rose, the officer spoken of as Colonel Rose in vol.I. He was at this time accredited as British Commissioner at the French headquarters. I have no reason for supposing that he intended to give any sanction to the step taken by the French remonstrants ; and I imagine that any materials which he may have put in their hands must have been confined to maps or statements showing the physical character of the country about to be invaded.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 156
Kaffa; and although the difficulties attending even that operation were placed in a strong light, it was orally stated that the framers of the document considered that plan to be one nearly free from objection.
Now Kaffa was a seaport in the eastern part of the Crimean peninsula, and divided from Sebastopol by many long marches over mountain-roads. The autumn had already come. The landing at Kaffa implied an abandonment, for that year at least, of all attempts against Sebastopol. It was to attack Sebastopol forthwith, and in the year 1854, that the great flotilla with all its precious freight had been gathered together; and now, whilst the vast armada was moving towards the enemy’s coast, there came from the men of weight and science in the French army this singular protest — for that is what it really was — against an enterprise already begun.
Marshal St Arnaud was in a painful strait. Being, as he knew, without ascendancy in the French army, he apparently thought that the weight attaching to the combined opinion of all the protesting officers was too great to warrant him in meeting their interposition with reproof or inattention; yet, suffering as he did at the time under bodily anguish, he was ill able to go into the discussions thus strangely forced on by the remonstrants. He found a solution. He desired Colonel Trochu to say that he would concur in any decision to which Lord Raglan might come.
The conference, therefore, was adjourned to the
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 157
Caradoc; and Lord Raglan and Sir Edmund Lyons were then present at it, together with all those who had met on board the Ville de Paris, except only Marshal St Arnaud.
Thus, then, the ebullition of prudence which had broken out amongst the officers of the French army came under the arbitrament of the English General; and with him, and with him only, it rested to determine the movements of the whole Allied force.
The business of the conference was opened by Colonel Trochu. This officer, as we have already seen, was supposed to be better acquainted than any one else with the mind of the French Emperor; and his counsels, no longer bending in the direction of extreme caution, were now rather in favour of enterprise. The Colonel had possession of the document. He read it aloud; and, as he went on with the perusal, he commented upon every point; but he declared that he was no party to the contents of the paper, and that he did not share the anxieties* either of the army or the navy as to the disasters which might be expected to follow from a landing on the coast to the north of Sebastopol.
Thereupon Admiral Bruat repudiated the supposition of his being a party to the apprehensions attributed to the Admirals. Lyons also repudiated it. Neither he nor Vice-Admiral Dundas had known before the conference that any such step as that of framing and presenting the remonstrance had been imagined by the French officers, and, as might be
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 158
expected, they were both very sure that nothing of the kind had sprung from the British navy.
The inference which Lord Raglan drew from the document was, that it evinced ‘an indisposition to the expedition amongst the officers who are supposed to be looked up to and to exercise influence in the French army;’ and, ‘in fact,’ said he, ‘we were told as much at the meeting here on Friday.’
These, then, were the ‘timid counsels’* of which the French Emperor afterwards spoke when he ascribed the glory of overruling them to Marshal St Arnaud. If it was right, as most men will think it was, that these counsels should be overruled, there was merit due to St Arnaud; but his merit lay, not in any personal resistance which he was able to oppose to his counsellors (for he was helpless, as we have seen, from bodily illness), but in the sagacity and good sense which had led him to intrust the decision to his English colleague.
Lord Raglan’s method of dealing with the protest of the French authorities was characteristic of himself and of the English nature. He did not much combat the objections set down in the paper, but he passed them by, and quietly lowered the debate from the high region of strategy to a question of humbler sort
* ‘Timides avis.’ When this letter of the French Emperor first appeared, it was imagined that the imputation of giving ‘timid’ counsels was intended to be cast upon some of our Generals or Admirals; but the Duke of Newcastle, with a becoming spirit, determined instantly that this should not be suffered to pass; and the ‘Moniteur’ was afterwards made to explain officially that the ‘timides avis’ were attributed by the Emperor, not to any Englishman, but to some unnamed officers in the French service.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 159
— a question as to what four steamers could be most conveniently employed for a reconnaissance on the enemy’s coast.
So the conference which had been summoned to judge whether the enterprise against Sebastopol should not be brought to a stop, now found itself only deciding that the vessels sent on the reconnaissance should consist of one French steamer, together with the Agamemnon, the Caradoc, and the Sampson.
But, in truth, the powers of the conference had silently passed into the hands of one man. Thenceforth the protest was dropped; for if its framers had risen up against the notion of being drawn on into what they thought a rash venture by the mere effect of M. St Arnaud’s acquiescence, they were calmed when they came to know that the whole force at last had a leader. If still they held to their opinions, they did so in a spirit of cheerful deference, which prevented them from throwing any further obstacle in the way of the enterprise. The armada moved on.
Again and again it has happened that mighty armaments, including the forces of several States and people of diverse races, have been gathered and drawn into scenes of conflict by the will of one man; but, in general, when such things have been done, the compelling mind has been brought to its resolve by the cogency of satisfied reason or by force of selfish desire. What was new in this enterprise was, that he who inexorably forced it on did not of him-
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 160
self desire it, nor deem it to be wise, nor even in a high degree prudent; and the power which had strength to bend the whole armada to the purpose of the invasion was, not ambition inflamed, nor reason convinced, but the mere loyalty of an English officer refusing to stint the obedience which he owed to the Minister of his Queen.
On the 9th, the whole of the English fleet with all its convoy was anchored in deep water at the appointed rendezvous, a spot forty miles west of Cape Tarkand.
Lord Raglan made haste to use the great powers with which he was now invested, and he determined to reconnoitre the coast with his own eyes. At four o’clock on the morning of the 10th, General Canrobert and the other French officers who were to attend the reconnaissance came on board the Caradoc. Lord Raglan had with him Sir Edmund Lyons, Sir John Burgoyne, and Sir George Brown. Not long after daybreak the Caradoc neared Fort Constantine, and then approached the entrance of the harbour. It was a fair, bright morning, and the Sunday bells were ringing in the churches when Lord Raglan first saw the great forts, and the ships, and the glittering cupola’d town. Afterwards, the vessel being steered round off Cape Chersonesus, he could see two old Genoese forts, and ridges of hills dividing the great harbour from the southern coast of the peninsula. What he looked on was for him fated ground, for the Genoese forts marked the inlet of Balaclava, and the ridges he saw were the ‘heights before
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 161
Sebastopol.’ But the future lay hidden from his gaze.
The Caradoc was now steered towards the north, and the officers on board her surveyed the mouths of the Belbek, the Katcha, the Alma, and the Bulganak, and the coast stretching thence to Eupatoria. Of the sites thus reconnoitred, General Canrobert thought the Katcha the one best fitted for a landing. Lord Raglan entirely disapproved of the Katcha, and he did not at all like the ground at the mouths of the other rivers; but when, moving on in the Caradoc, he was off the part of the coast which lies six miles north of the Bulganak, he observed an extended tract of beach, which seemed to him to be the ground for which the Allies were seeking. Without generating a debate upon the subject, he nevertheless elicited so much of the opinion of those around him as he deemed to be useful. Then he declared his resolve. He said that the Allied armies should land at Old Fort.
There are times when, to anxious, doubting mortals, no boon from Heaven is so welcome as the final resolve which is to govern their actions. It was so now. Debating ceased, and a. happy alacrity came in its stead. That day our fleet and the swarming convoy close gathered around had been still lying anchored. in deep water at the point of rendezvous. To many those long, peaceful Sabbath hours seemed to token a wanton delay, or worse than delay — some faltering in the great purpose of the Allies: but at night the Caradoc came in; and soon, though few could tell whence came the change, nor what had
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 162
been passing, there flew from deck to deck a joyful belief — a belief that in some way — in some way not yet understood, the enterprise had gathered new force.
The French and Turkish fleets, less amply provided with steam-power than the English, had fallen to leeward; but on the evening of the 11th they were anchored within thirty miles of the British fleet, and the communication was of course kept up by steam-vessels.
During the whole of Tuesday the 12th, the French, Turkish, and English fleets were slowly drawing together and converging upon the enemy’s coast. Before sunset the armed navies were all near together, and from their decks men could make out with glasses the low cliff to the north of Eupatoria. The English fleet anchored for the night. The French Admiral sent to intimate that he would not anchor, but go on all night, in the hope of being ready for the landing the next morning. Vice-Admiral Dundas saw that that hope was vain, because large portions of the French convoy were still so distant that there could be no landing on the following day. The French, it will be remembered, were without steam-power for their transports, and the breezes were light. So, although every hour saw fresh clusters of vessels slowly closing with the fleet, the sea, towards the west, was always strewed with distant sails, and, before the hulls of those hove well in sight, the horizon got speckled again with sails more distant still. So the English Admiral anchored his fleet for the night.
The next morning, the 13th, the Ville de Paris,
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter IX p. 163
under tow of the Napoleon steamer, had come up; and although, so late as noon, some of the French ships of war, and very many of their transports, were still distant, they were under such breezes as promised to enable them to close before long with the fleets. So, virtually, the momentous voyage was over. The weather — and upon that, in such undertakings, the hopes of nations must rest — the weather had favoured the enterprise; but the pest of modern armies had not relented. The cholera had followed the men into the transports, many sickened on board the troopships whilst they were still off Varna or Baljik, and were carried back to die on shore. During the voyage many more fell ill, and many died.
But Marshal St Arnaud, whose illness scarce three days before seemed bringing him fast to his end, was now almost suddenly restored, and on the morning of the 13th he was like a man in health.
During the interval of five days, in which the Marshal’s illness had invested his English colleague with a supreme control, Lord Raglan had used to the full the occasion which Fortune thus gave him. In that time he had repressed the efforts of the French Generals who strove to bring the enterprise to a stop; he had committed the Allies to a descent upon the enemy’s shores — on his shores to the north of Sebastopol; he had reconnoitred the coast; he had chosen the place for a landing; and meanwhile he had drawn the fleets on, so that now, when men looked from the decks, they could see the thin strip of beach where soldiery of the Allies were to land.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter X p. 164
CONCERNING the country which they were going to invade the Allies were poorly informed. Of Sebastopol, the goal of the enterprise, they knew little, except that it was a great military port and arsenal, and was deemed impregnable towards the sea. Respecting the province generally, it was known, by means of books and maps, that Crim Tartary, or ‘the Crimea,’ as people now called it, was a peninsula situate between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azof; and there was a theory — not perfectly coinciding with the truth — that the only dry communication with the mainland was by the Isthmus of Perekop. It was understood that the north of the peninsula had the character of an elevated steppe — that towards the south it was rocky and mountainous — and that the undulating downs which connected the steppe with the mountainous region of the south were seamed with small rivers flowing westward from the summits of the highland districts.* It was believed that the
* A great body of most valuable information respecting the Crimea had been imparted to the English public by General (then Colonel) Mackintosh, and the Colonel had also addressed important reports on
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter X p. 165
main of the inhabitants were Tartars, men holding to the Moslem faith. Of the enemy’s forces in this country, the Allies, in a sense, were ignorant; for although the information which had come round to them by the aid of the Foreign Office was in reality well founded, they did not believe at the time that they could at all rely upon it, and therefore they were nearly as much at fault as if they had had no clue. They knew, however, that the peninsula was a province of Russia — that Russia was a great military power — that, so long as three months ago, the invasion had been counselled in print — and that afterwards the determination to undertake it had been given out aloud to the world. From these rudiments, and from what could be seen from the decks of the ships, they inferred that, either upon their landing, or on some part of the road between the landing-ground and Sebastopol, they would find the enemy in strength.
But beyond this little was known; and the imagination of men was left to range so free that, although they were in the midst of their ‘nineteenth century,’ with all its prim facts and statistics, the enterprise took something of the character of adventure belonging to earlier ages. Common, sensible, fanciless men — men wise with the cynic wisdom of London clubs — were now by force turned into venturers, intent, as Argonauts of old, in gazing upon the shores of
the same subject to the military authorities. What I intend to indicate in the text is, not that the means of knowledge were wanting, but that they had not been extensively taken advantage of. — Note to 2d Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter X p. 166
a strange land to which they were committing their lives. From many a crowded deck they strained their eyes to pierce the unknown. They could not see troops. They saw a road along the shore: now and then there appeared a peasant with a cart; now and then a horseman riding at full speed. Neither peasant nor horseman seemed ever to pause in his duty that he might cast a glance of wonder at the countless armada which was gathering in upon his country. At the northern end of the bay there was a bright little town: maps showed that this was Eupatoria.
At noon on the 13th the English fleet had drawn near to this port of Eupatoria. There were no Russian forces there except a few convalescent soldiers; and the place being defenceless, Colonel Trochu and Colonel Steele, accompanied by Mr Calvert the interpreter, were despatched to summon it. The governor or head man of the place was an official personage in a high state of discipline. He had before his eyes the armed navies of the Allies, with the countless sails of their convoys; and to all that vast armament he had nothing to oppose except the forms of office. But to him the forms of office seemed all-sufficing, and on these he still calmly relied; so, when the summons was delivered, he insisted upon fumigating it according to the health regulations of the little port. When he understood that the Western Powers intended to land, he said that decidedly they might do so; but he explained that it would be necessary for them to land at the
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter X p. 167
Lazaretto, and consider themselves in strict quarantine.
On the following day the place was occupied by a small body of English troops. The few Russian inhabitants of the place, being mainly or entirely official personages, had all gone away, but the Tartar inhabitants remained; and although these men did not exhibit, as some might have expected, any eager or zealous affection for the allies of the Caliph, they seemed inclined to be friendly. Thoughtful men cared deeply to know whether between these natives and the Allies the relation of buyer and seller could be established — for it was of vital moment to the success of the expedition that the Allies should be able to obtain supplies of cattle and forage in the invaded country; and it was probable that much would turn upon the success of the first attempt to make purchases from the people of the country. The first experiment which was made in this direction elicited a curious proof of the difficulty which there is in causing mighty nations to act with the forethought of a single traveller. It was to be expected that, at the commencement of any attempted intercourse, the willingness of the natives to sell would depend upon their being tempted by the coins to which they were accustomed; because just at first they would not only be ignorant of the value of foreign money, but would also dread the consequence of being found in possession of coin plainly received from the invaders. Yet the precaution of bringing Russian money had been forgotten by the public authorities; and when
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter X p. 168
Mr Hamilton of the Britannia was preparing to land, with a view of endeavouring to begin a buying-and-selling intercourse with the natives, he had nothing to offer except English sovereigns. It chanced, however, that there were two or three English travellers on board the flag-ship, and that these men (foreseeing the likelihood of their having to buy horses or make other purchases from the natives of the invaded country) had supplied themselves with some of the gold Russian coins called ‘half-imperials,’ which were to be obtained without difficulty at Constantinople. The travellers — Sir Edward Colebrooke, I think, was one of them — advanced as many of these as they could spare to the public authorities; and Mr Hamilton being thus enabled to land with a small supply of the magic half-imperials, and being, besides, a good-tempered, humorous man, with a tendency to make cordial speeches in English to all his fellow-creatures alike, whether Russian, or Tartar, or Greek, be was able to make a merry beginning of that intercourse with the natives which was destined to become a fruitful source of strength to the Allied armies. The gains made by the first sellers soon drew fresh supplies into the place from the surrounding country; the commissariat afterwards began its operations in the town, and in time a good lasting market was opened to the invaders.
After receiving the surrender of Eupatoria on the afternoon of the 13th, the assembled armada moved down towards the south. All day there were sailing-
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter X p. 169
vessels approaching from a distance, and closing at last with the French fleet; but before night (with the exception, it is believed, of two or three small lagging transports) the three fleets, and the host of vessels which they convoyed, were anchored near Old Fort in Kalamita Bay. The united armada extended in a line parallel with the coast, and in a direction, therefore, not far from north and south. The French and the Turkish fleets were on the south or right-hand side; the British fleet took the north, and formed the left of the Allied line.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 170
THE ground chosen by Lord Raglan for the landing of all the Allied forces is five or six miles north of the Bulganak River. It gained its name of ‘Old Fort’ from an indication appearing on the maps, rather than from any slight traces of the structure then remaining. Along this part of the coast the cliffs rise to a height of from 60 to 100 feet, and for the most part they impend too closely over the sea to allow much room for the beach. Near ‘Old Fort,’ however, the high grounds so recede that at first sight they appear to embrace a small bay or inlet of the sea, but upon a nearer approach it is perceived that the inner part of the seeming bay is a salt-water lake, and that this lake is divided from the sea by a low, narrow strip of beach. A little further north the same disposition of land and water recurs; for there, also, another salt lake, called the Lake of Kamishlu, is divided from the sea by a low, narrow strip of beach a mile and a half in length. The first-mentioned strip of beach — namely, the strip opposite to Old Fort — was the one which Lord Raglan had chosen for the landing of all the Allied armies.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI Plate 2, facing p. 171
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 171
It was arranged that a buoy should be placed off the centre of the chosen ground to mark the boundary between the French and the English flotilla.* The French and the Turkish vessels were to be on the south of the buoy, the British on the north; and in the evening and night of the 13th the ships and transports of the three nations drew in as near as they could to their appointed landing-places.
But in the night of the 13th there occurred a transaction which threatened to ruin the whole plan for the landing, and even to bring the harmony between the French and the English forces into grievous jeopardy. During the darkness, the French placed the buoy opposite, not to the centre, but to the extreme north of the chosen landing-ground;† and when morning dawned, it appeared that the English ships and transports, though really in their proper places, were on the wrong side of the buoy — or rather, that the buoy was on the wrong side of them. Whether the act which created this embarrassment was one resulting from sheer mistake on the part of our allies, or from their over-greediness for space, or from a scheme more profoundly designed, it plainly went straight towards the end desired by
* Captain Mends, Sir Edmund Lyons’s flag-captain, thought proper to write a letter to a newspaper on the 15th of March 1863, saying, ‘It might suffice for me simply to say that I remember nothing about a buoy;’ but on the 5th of the following April he did me the honour to address a letter to me, in which he said, ‘It would seem there was a buoy.’ See the correspondence on the subject in the Appendix. — Note to 4th Edition.
† See the extract from Lord Raglan’s private letter on this subject, which is given in the next foot-note. — Note to 4th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 172
those French officers who had been labouring to bring the enterprise to a stop.
For what was to be done? If the English, disregarding the altered position of the buoy, were to persist in keeping to their assigned landing-ground, their whole flotilla, their boats and their troops, when landed, would be hopelessly mixed up with the French; and what might be expected to follow would be ruinous confusion — nay even, perhaps, angry and violent conflict between the forces of the Allies. To propose to move the buoy, or to get into controversy with the French at such a time, would be to delay and imperil the whole undertaking; and yet the boundary, as it stood, extruded the English from all share in the chosen landing-ground. It might seem that the whole enterprise was again in danger of failure, but again a strong will interposed.
From the moment when Lord Raglan consented to undertake the invasion, he seems to have acted as though he felt that the belief which he entertained of its hazardousness was a reason why he should be the more steadfast in his determination to force it on. Nor was he without the very counsel that was needed for overcoming this last obstacle. Lyons, commanding the in-shore squadron of the British fleet, was intrusted with the direction of our transports and the whole management of the landing.
Moving long before dawn in the sleepless Agamemnon, he saw where the buoy had been placed by the French in the night-time, and gathered in an instant all the perilous import of the change. He was more than a
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 173
mere performer of duty, for he was a man driving under a passionate force of purpose. Without stopping to indulge his anger, he darted upon the means of dealing with the evil.
He had observed that about a mile to the north of ‘Old Fort’ there was that strip of beach, before spoken of, which divided the Lake of Kamishlu from the sea. There Lord Raglan and he now determined that the landing of the British forces should take place.* It was true that this plan
* The conductors of the ‘Times’ newspaper took upon themselves to deny the truth of my statement about the buoy, and this so confidently, that they permitted their print to sum up and say, ‘In short, the whole story is a sick man’s dream.’ Since this denial was uttered so confidently by a respectable newspaper, and was supported (during a period of more than a fortnight) by the testimony of Captain Mends, it seems right to give an extract from the private letter in which Lord Raglan narrates the facts to the Duke of Newcastle:—
Extract from Lord Raglan’s Narrative of the Landing, addressed as a Private Communication to the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of War, and dated ‘Camp above Old Fort Bay, September 18, 1854.’
The disembarkation of both armies commenced on the morning of the 14th.
It had been settled that the landing should be effected in Old Fort Bay, and that a buoy should be placed in the centre of it to mark the left of the French and the right of the English; but when the Agamemnon came upon the buoy at daylight, Sir Edmund Lyons found that the French naval officer had deposited it on the extreme northern end, and had thus engrossed the whole of the bay for the operation of his own army. This occasioned considerable confusion and delay, the English convoy having followed closely upon the steps of their leader, and got mixed with the French transports; but Sir Edmund Lyons wisely resolved to make the best of it, and at once ordered the troops to land in the bay next to the northward.
I may add that all the many accounts which I have seen of the movements and counter-movements of the ships and the transports on the early morning of the 14th of September tally perfectly with the above statement by Lord Raglan. In saying this, I include Captain Mends’s letter to the newspaper. See the Appendix. It will be seen that the
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 174
would sever the French from the British forces during the operation of landing, but the evil thus encountered was a hundred-fold less grave than the evil avoided — for, even in the face of an enemy, the separation of the French from the English would have been better than dispute or confusion; and, moreover, the observations of the previous day had led the Allies to conjecture that the enemy did not intend to resist the landing. The morning showed that this conjecture was sound: therefore, great as was the danger from which the Alliance had been delivered, it turned out in the result that the
facts which he describes in the fourth and fifth paragraphs of that letter are exactly those which would naturally result from the discovery and the change of plan which Lord Raglan communicates to the Minister of War.
I may add that Sir George Brown was on board the Agamemnon; that he was personally cognisant of the change which Lord Raglan described; that many years ago he recorded what occurred in language tallying perfectly with Lord Raglan’s account; and, finally, that he (Sir George Brown) is still alive.— Note to 4th Edition.
The kindness of Captain Armytage (who was first lieutenant of the Highflier at the time of the landing) has now enabled me to give the words of the written order from Sir Edmund Lyons, proving the absolute accuracy with which Lord Raglan wrote when he said ‘it had been settled that the landing should be effected in Old Fort Bay, and that a buoy should he placed in the centre of it to mark the left of the French, and the right of the English.’ The order ran thus:—
Light Division to be actually under weigh at 1 o’clock.
4th Division at 2 "
1st " 3 "
2d " 4 "
Steer SSE 8 miles. Rendezvous Lat 45º. Not to go within 8 fathoms. Those vessels which have cast off are to make fast their hawsers the moment they receive this note.
(Signed) EDMUND LYONS.
This order was received by Armytage at 3 A.M. The assigned latitude is 11' 19" S. of Eupatoria.—Note to 5th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 175
immense advantage of having two extended landing-places instead of one, was not counterbalanced by any evil resulting from the severance of the two armies.
In point of security from molestation on the part of the enemy, both of the two landing-places were happily chosen. Both of them were on shores which allowed the near approach of the fleets, and placed the whole operation under cover of their guns. Also both landing-places were protected on the inland side by the salt lakes, which interposed a physical obstacle in the way of any front attack by the enemy; and the access to the flanks of the disembarking armies was by strips of land so narrow that they could be easily defended against any force of infantry or cavalry. It is true that the line of disembarkation of either army could have been enfiladed by artillery placed on the heights ; but then those heights could be more or less searched by a fire from the ships; and the enemy had not attempted to prepare for himself any kind of defence on the high ground.
The necessity of having to carry the English flotilla to a new landing-place occasioned, of course, a painful dislocation of the arrangements which had already been acted upon by the commanders of the transports; but after much less delay and much less confusion than might have been expected to result from a derangement so great and so sudden, the position of the English vessels was adapted to the change.
Meanwhile, few of the thousands on board under-
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 176
stood the change which had been effected,* or even saw that they were brought to a new landing-ground. They imagined that it was the better method or greater quickness of the French which was giving them the triumph of being the first to land. Both Lord Raglan and Lyons were too steadfast in the maintenance of the alliance to think of accounting for the seeming tardiness of the English by causing the truth to be known; and even to this day it is commonly believed that the English army effected its landing at Old Fort.
The bend of the coast-line at Kalamita Bay is of such a character that a spectator on board a vessel close in-shore is bounded in his view of the sea towards the south by the headland near the Alma; but if he stands a little way out to sea, the coast opens, and he then commands an unobstructed view home to the entrance of the Sebastopol harbour. So, whilst the inshore squadrons approached the beach so closely as to be able to cover the landing, the bulk of the English fleet, commanded by Dundas in person, lay far enough out to be able to command the whole of the vast bay from Eupatoria to Sebas-
* Amongst these uninformed thousands was Captain Mends, Sir Edmund Lyons’s flag-captain. See his letter to the newspaper in the Appendix, containing (inter alia) these words:— ‘It might suffice for me simply to say, I remember nothing about a buoy.’ The placing of a buoy for fixing the anchorage of each French column is officially narrated by the French in these words:—‘Le Primauget, Le Caton, et La Mouette ont pris les devants, avec la mission de placer, à petite distance de la plage de debarquement, des bouées de couleur differente destinées à indiquer par leur alignement le mouillage de nos trois colonnes que Le Primauget a determiné dans l’excursion de la veille.’ Narrative enclosed to his Government, and declared accurate by Admiral Hamelin.—Note to 5th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 177
topol, keeping up an unbroken chain of communication from cape to cape, and always held ready to engage the Russian fleet if by chance it should come out and give battle.* Detached vessels reconnoitred the coast, and practised their gunners upon every encampment or gathering of troops which seemed to be within range. As though in the arrogant yet quiet assertion of an ascendant beyond dispute, one solitary English ship, watching off the Sebastopol harbour, stood sentry over the enemy’s fleet. Men had heard of the dominion of the seas — now they saw it.
The plan of the English disembarkation was imitated from the one adopted by Sir Ralph Abercromby when he made his famous descent upon the coast of Egypt; and it was based upon the principle of so ranging the transports and the boats as that the relative position of each company, whilst it was being rowed towards the shore, should correspond with that which it would have to take when formed upon the beach.†
All the naval arrangements for the landing were undertaken by Sir Edmund Lyons; but to dispose the troops on the beach — to gain a lodgment — to take up a position, and, if necessary, to intrench it
* It has been already explained that the French men-of-war were doing duty as transports, and were not therefore in a condition to engage the enemy. There were people who thoughtlessly blamed Dundas for not taking part with the in-shore squadron in the bustle of the landing. Of course his duty was to hold his offshore squadron in readiness for an engagement with the Sebastopol fleet; and this he took care to do.
† The plans and the papers of instructions for the landing will perhaps be given in the Appendix; but I abstain from giving a detailed account of the operation, because it was not resisted by the enemy.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 178
— these were duties which specially devolved upon the Quartermaster-General.
The officer who held this post was General Airey; and since it was his fate to take a grave part in the business of the war, and to share with Lord Raglan his closest counsels, it seems useful to speak here at once, not of the quality of his mind (for that will best be judged by looking to what he did, and what he omitted to do), but rather to speak of those circumstances of his life, and those outer signs and marks of his nature, which any bystander in the camp would be likely to hear of or see.
A strictly military career in peace-time is a poor schooling for the business of war; and the rough change which had once broken in upon Airey’s professional life helped to make him more able in war than men who had passed all their lives in going round and round with the wheels. Airey was holding one of the offices at the Horse Guards when he was suddenly called upon by his relative Colonel Talbot, the then almost famous recluse of Upper Canada, to choose whether he and his young wife would accept a great territorial inheritance, with the condition of dwelling deep in the forest, far away from all cities and towns. Airey loved his profession, and what made it the more difficult for him to quit it was the favour with which he was looked upon by the Duke of Wellington. It chanced that he had once been called upon to lay before the Duke the maps and statements required for showing the progress of a campaign then going on against the Caffres; and the
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 179
Duke was so delighted with the perfect clearness of the view which Airey was able to impart to him, that he instantly formed a high opinion of an officer who could look with so keen a glance upon a distant campaign and convey a lucid idea of it to his chief. Airey communicated to the Duke of Wellington Colonel Talbot’s proposal, and explained the dilemma in which he was placed. ‘You must go,’ said the Duke; ‘of course you must go — it is your duty to go; but we will manage so that whenever you choose you shall be able to come back to us.’ Airey went to Canada. It had been no part of Colonel Talbot’s plan to smooth the path. of his chosen inheritor. He gave him a vast territory — he gave him no home.
Isolated in the midst of the forest, and with no better shelter than a log-hut half-built, the staff-officer, hitherto expert in the prim traditions of the Horse Guards, now found himself so circumstanced that the health, nay, the very life of those most dear to him, was made to depend upon his power to become a good labourer. He could not have hoped to keep his English servants a day if he had begun by sitting still himself and ordering them to do the rough work to which they were unaccustomed; so he worked with his own hands, in the faith that his example would make every kind of hard work seem honourable to his people; and being endued with an almost violent love of bodily exertion, he was not only equal to this new life, but came to delight in it. Clad coarsely during
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 180
the day, he was only to be distinguished from the other workmen by his greater activity and greater power of endurance. Many English gentlemen have done the like of this, but commonly they have ended by becoming altogether just that which they seemed in their working hours — by becoming, in short, mere husbandmen. It was not so with Airey. When his people came to speak to him in the evening, they always found him transformed. Partly by the subtle change which they were able to see in his manner, partly even by so outward a thing as the rigorous change in his dress, but most of all perhaps by his natural ascendant, they were prevented from forgetting that their fellow-labourer of the morning was their master — a master to whom they were every day growing more and more attached, but still their master. He therefore maintained his station. He did more: he gained great authority over the people about him; and when he bade farewell to the wilderness, he had become like a chief of old times — a man working hard with his own hands, yet ruling others with a firm command.
It was during a period of some years* that Airey had thus wrestled with the hardships of forest life. At the end of that time Colonel Talbot died; and Airey, then† coming home to England, resumed his military career. Those who know anything of the real business of war will easily believe that this episode in the life of General Airey was more likely
* From 1847 to 1851, I believe.— Note to 4th Edition.
† No; some months before.— Note to 4th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 181
to fit him for the exigencies of a campaign and for the command of men than thrice the same length of time consumed in the revolving labours of a military department; nay, perhaps they will think that, next to a campaign, this manful struggle with the wilderness was the very work which would be the most sure to set a mind free from the habits, the bylaws, and the petty regulations of office.
Before the expedition left England, Lord Raglan had asked Airey to be his Quartermaster-General. Airey, preferring field duty with the divisions, had begged that some other might be appointed, and Lord Raglan acceded to his wish; but when, on the eve of the departure of the expedition from Varna, Lord De Ros returned to England,* the Quartermaster-Generalship was again pressed upon Airey in terms which made it unbecoming for him to refuse the burthen. His loyalty and affectionate devotion to Lord Raglan were without bounds; and he imagined that he was always acting with a strict deference to the wishes of his chief. But then Airey was a man of great ardour, of a strong will: and having also a rapid, decisive judgment, he certainly accustomed himself to put very swift constructions upon Lord Raglan’s words. No one ever used to see him in the pain of suspense between two opinions. Either he really knew with minuteness Lord Raglan’s views, or else he was so prone to take a great deal upon himself, that in his zeal for the public service he might almost
* Lord De Ros went home on account of ill-health. He was so ill that he had to be carried on board.— Note to 4th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 182
be called unscrupulous. Men who were hesitating and trying to make out what was the path of their duty, soon came to know that Airey was the officer who would thrust away their doubts for them; because, rightly or wrongly, whether with or without due authority, he used to speak in such a way as to untie or to cut every knot.* He was himself, it would seem, unconscious of exercising so much power as he really did; but it is certain enough that those who complained of his ascendancy were not very wrong in believing that he held a great sway; for though, being guileless and single-hearted, he always liked to receive his first impulsions from the chief, yet, when once he was thus set moving, his strong will used to burst into action with all its own proper force, and very much, too, in its own direction.
Notwithstanding this proneness to action, his manner had all the repose which is thought to be a sign of power. He did not, in general, speak at all until he could speak decisively; and he was more accustomed than most other Englishmen are to use that degree of precision and completeness of language which makes men content to act on it. Officers hesitating in the pain of suspense used to long to hear the tramp of his coming — used to long to catch sight of his eager, swooping crest (it was always strained forward and intent) — his keen, salient, sharp-edged features — his firm, steady eye
* An illustration of this way of his (which was supplied to me after the publication of the 3d Edition) will be found in the note at the foot of p. 196.— Note to 4th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 183
— for they knew that he was the man who would release them from their doubts. He was gifted by nature with the kind of eloquence that it is good for a soldier to have. His oral directions to those in authority under him were models of imperative diction; but when he spoke of what he had seen, the vivid pictures he drew were marked with a sharpness of outline hardly consistent with a perfect freedom from exaggeration — they wanted the true English haze. He was too eager for action to be able to stand still weighing phrases; and I imagine that he did not even know how to try the exact strength and import of words in the way that a lettered man does. Upon the whole, his qualities were of such a kind as to make it impossible for him to be without great weight in the army. His friends would call him a man plainly fitted for high command — his adversaries would say that power in his hands was likely to be used dangerously; but all would alike agree that, whether for good or whether for evil, he had from nature the means of impressing his own will on troops.
The arrangements of the French were like those of the English; and at half-past eight o’clock on the morning of the 14th of September 1854, their first boat touched the shore. The English had made such good haste to retrieve the time spent in moving to their new landing-place, that very soon afterwards their disembarkation began.
The morning was fine; the sea nearly smooth. The troops of the Light Division were in the boats,
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 184
and the seamen wore at their oars, expecting the signal. The signal was given, and instantly, from along the whole of the first line of transports, an array of boats freighted with troops — boats ranged upon a front of more than a mile — darted swiftly towards the shore. It was said that the boat commanded by Vesey of the Britannia was the first to touch the beach.* He was an officer who would do all man could to be foremost.
* The question as to which of the English boats was the first to land has excited more interest than it apparently deserves ; for the landing did not take place in face of the enemy. Perhaps one of the causes which led men to look at the question with something more than mere curiosity, was the surprise of finding that, notwithstanding all the charges of want of zeal which had been brought against Admiral Dundas, a boat from his flag-ship (the Britannia) was said, after all, to have been the first to land.
According to one opinion, Captain Dacres, with the gig of the Sanspareil, was the first to reach the shore; and there are antecedent reasons for supposing that this would be likely to be the case; for, besides that Captain Dacres was (as the work of that and the four following days showed) an officer of great zeal and ability, he had been intrusted with the naval command on the beach (he was beach-master), and would of course be anxious to reach the shore as soon as possible. It seems that there got to be, as it were, a kind of race between the Britannia boat and the gig of the Sanspareil, and a race, too, which was a very close one; for although the Britannia boat, laden with troops, could not match its speed with the gig, it had a start just long enough to make up for the superior swiftness of its rival. Captain Dacres never doubted that he, with the gig of the Sanspareil, was the first to land; but among those who were on board the Britannia boat (and I speak now of soldiers as well as sailors) the belief was that that was the boat which won.
On both sides the statements are positive, and on one side they are also circumstantial. They are also rather interesting; and I would have given them here, if it were not that I am unwilling to place men in an attitude of direct conflict with one another upon an unimportant matter of fact.
If Vesey, with the Britannia boat, was the first to land, Colonel
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 185
As soon as the boats had landed, the soldiers stepped ashore, and began to form line upon the beach; but presently afterwards they piled arms. There were some Tartar peasants passing along the coast road with small bullock-waggons. The waggoners showed little or no alarm, and, knowing that they could not move off quickly with bullocks, they did not attempt to get away. Apparently they were not struck with any sense of unfairness when they saw that the English took possession of the waggons; and yet it could scarcely have been explained to them at that moment (as it afterwards would be) that everything taken by the English from private owners would be paid for at a just price. One of the waggons was laden with small pears, and the soldiers amused themselves with the fruit whilst the natives stood and scanned their invaders.
After a while, many of the battalions which had landed were ordered forward to occupy the hill on our right;. and thenceforth, during all the day, the acclivity was sparkling with the bayonets of the columns successively ascending it. But what were those long strings of soldiery now beginning to come down from the hill-side and to wind their way back towards the beach; and what were the long white burthens horizontally carried by the men? Already? already, on this same day? Yes; sick-
Lysons of the 23d Fusiliers must have been the first man of the land service who touched the shore. If, on the other hand, Dacres, with the gig of the Sanspareil, landed first, Sir George Brown, I think, must have been the first English officer of the land service who reached the shore of the Crimea.— Note to 4th Edition
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 186
ness still clung to the army. Of those who only this morning ascended the hill with seeming alacrity, many now came down thus sadly borne by their comrades. They were carried on ambulance-stretchers, and a blanket was over them. Those whose faces remained uncovered were still alive. Those whose faces had been covered over by their blanket were dead. Near the foot of the hill the men began to dig graves.
But meanwhile the landing went merrily on. It might be computed that, if every man in the navy had only performed his strict duty, the landing would have taken some weeks. It was the supererogation, the zeal, the abounding zeal, which seemed to achieve the work. No sailor seemed to work like a man who was merely obeying — no officer stood looking on as if he were merely commanding; and though all was concert and discipline, yet every man was labouring with the whole strength of his own separate will.* And all this great toll went on with strange good-humour — nay, even with thoughtful
* When it is seen that I conceive myself warranted in applying this language to the exertions of the navy at the time of the landing, it may be asked whether there was not some one man who had the merit of giving a right direction to the zeal and energy of the seamen thus toiling on the beach? There was. The officer who commanded on the beach was Captain Dacres; and I believe one might safely echo the words of him who once said to Captain Dacres, ‘The 14th of September was your day.’ Both Dundas and Lyons were doing all that was right; but, so far as concerns the vast operation going on upon the beach, their wisdom lay in the wise trustfulness with which they committed the business to a fit man, and then left him alone, undisturbed and unfretted by orders. I believe that during the four days and four nights which followed the commencement of the landing, Captain Dacres never received any orders from Sir Edmund Lyons.— Note to 4th Edition.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 187
kindness towards the soldiers. The seamen knew that it concerned the comfort and the health of the soldiers to be landed dry, so they lifted or handed the men ashore with an almost tender care: yet not without mirth — nay, not without laughter far heard — when, as though they were giant maidens, the tall Highlanders of the 42d placed their hands in the hands of the sailor and sprang by his aid to the shore, their kilts floating out wide while they leapt.
After mid-day the sea began to lose its calmness, and before sunset the surf was strong enough to make the disembarkation difficult, and in some degree hazardous. Yet, by the time the day closed, the French had landed their 1st, 2d, and 3d divisions of infantry, together with eighteen guns; and the English had got on shore all their infantry divisions, and some part of their field-artillery.
Some few of the English regiments remained on the beach, but the rest of them had been marched up to the high grounds towards the south, and they there bivouacked. At night there fell heavy rain, and it lasted many hours. The men were without their tents.* Lying in wet pools or in mud, their blankets clinging heavy with water, our young soldiers began the campaign. The French soldiery were provided with what they call dog-tents — tents not a yard high, but easily carried, and yielding shelter to soldiers creeping into them. It was always
* This was because there were no sufficing means of land-transport for conveying the camp equipage towards Sebastopol. After the 14th the tents were landed, but they were afterwards reshipped.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 188
a question in the French army whether these tents gave the men more health and comfort than they could find in the open air.
The next morning was fine, but the surf had so of the much increased that for several hours the landing was suspended. After the middle of the day it became practicable, though still somewhat difficult, to go on with the work; and great efforts were made to land the English cavalry and the rest of the artillery, with the appertaining horses and equipages.
Unless a man has stood in the admiring crowd which gathers to see the process of landing one horse upon an open sea-shore; and unless, whilst he carries in his mind the labour and energy brought to bear upon this single object, he can imagine the same toil gone through again and again and yet again, till it has been repeated many hundreds of times, upon a mile and a half of beach, he will hardly know what work must be done before a general can report to his Government that he has landed upon an open coast, with a thousand cavalry and sixty guns ready for the field. By labour never once intermitted (except when darkness or the state of the sea forbade it), and continued from the morning of the 14th until the evening of the 18th, the whole of the English land-force, which had been embarked at Varna (together now with Cathcart’s Division), was safely landed upon the enemy’s coast.
The result then was, that under circumstances of weather which were, upon the whole, favourable, and with the advantage of encountering no opposition
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 189
from the enemy, an English force of some 26,000 infantry and artillerymen, with more than a thousand mounted cavalry, and sixty guns, had been landed in the course of five September days; and although the force thus put ashore was without those vast means of land-transport which would be needed for regular operations in the interior, and was obliged to rely upon the attendant fleet for the continuance of its supplies, it was nevertheless so provided as to be able to move along the coast carrying with it its first reserve of ammunition, and food enough for three days.
The operation was conducted with an almost faultless skill, and (until a firm lodgment had been gained), it proceeded in the way that was thought to be the right one for landing in the face of the enemy. Though the surf was at times somewhat heavy, not a man was lost.
With the French, who had no cavalry, and a scanty supply of artillery-horses, the disembarkation was a comparatively easy task; and if they had so desired it, the French might have been ready to march long before the English; but, knowing that their allies, having cavalry, would necessarily take a good deal of time, they were without a motive for hurrying; and during the whole of the five days which the English took for their disembarkation, a like work was seen going on at the French landing-place.
The Turks did the work of landing very well; and, by the indeed, they quickly showed that they had an advantage over the French and the English in their more familiar acquaintance with the mode of life proper
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XI p. 190
to warfare. They landed their camp equipage; for, with them, the carriage of tents is a very simple business. Two soldiers, one at each end, bear the pole of a tent between them, and the canvass is carried by others in turns. So early as the 15th, the first day after that on which the landing began, the Turks were comfortably encamped on the ground assigned to them; and whilst the young troops of France and England were still sitting wretched and chilled by the wet of their night’s bivouac, the warlike Osmanlies seemed to be in their natural home. Soliman, who commanded them, was able to welcome and honour the guests who went to visit him in his tent as hospitably as though he were in the audience-hall of his own pashalic. He had all his tents well pitched; and his men, one could see, were still a true Moslem soldiery — men with arms and accoutrements bright, yet not forgetful of prayer. He had a supply of biscuit and of cartridges, and a good stock of horses, some feeding, some saddled and ready for instant use. He was not without coffee and tobacco. His whole camp gave signs of a race which gathers from a great tradition, going on from father to son, the duties and the simple arts of a pious and warfaring life.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 191
WHEN the people of the neighbouring district came to see the strength of the armies descending upon their coast, the head men of villages began to present themselves at the quarters of the Allies. The first of these deputations was received by Lord Raglan in the open air. The men were going up to headquarters when they passed near a group of officers on foot in blue frock-coats, and they learned that the one whose maimed arm spoke of other wars was the English General. They approached him respectfully, but without submissiveness of an abject kind. Neither in manner, dress, appearance, nor language, would these men seem very strange to a traveller acquainted with Constantinople or any of the other cities of the Levant. They wore the pelisse or long robe, and although their head-gear was of black lamb-skin, it was much of the same shape as the Turkish fez. They spoke with truthfulness and dignity, allowing it to appear that the invasion was not distasteful to them, but abstaining from all affectation of enthusiastic sympathy. They seemed to understand war and its exigencies; for they asked the interpreters to say
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 192
that such of their possessions as might be wanted by the English army were at Lord Raglan’s disposal. Pleased with the demeanour of the men, as well as with the purport of their speech, Lord Raglan told them that he would avail himself of some of their possessions, more especially their waggons and draught animals, but that everything taken for the use of the English army would be paid for at a proper rate. Much to Lord Raglan’s surprise (for he was not accustomed to the people of the East), the head man of the village resisted the idea of the people being paid, and anxiously pressed the interpreter to say that their possessions were yielded up as free gifts.
Pure ignorance of the invaded country gave charm to every discovery tending to throw light upon the character and pursuits of the inhabitants; and if our soldiery had found in the villages high altars set up for human sacrifices, they would scarcely have been more surprised than they were when, prying into the mysteries of this obscure Crim Tartary, they came upon traces of modern refinement and cultivated taste. In some of the houses at Kentugan there were pianos and in one of them a music-book, lying open and spread upon the frame, seemed to show that the owner had been hurried in her flight. But the owners of these dwellings must have been official personages. The mass of the country people were Tartars.
In the villages there was abundance of agricultural wealth. The main want of the country was water; but Airey caused wells to be sunk.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 193
The English system of payment for supplies rapidly began to bear its usual fruit, and the districts from which the people came in to barter with us were every day extending.
In their passage across the Euxine our battalions had not yet been followed by that evil horde who are accustomed to cling to an army, selling strong, noxious drinks to the men. Therefore our army was without crime.* It was with something more than mercy, it was with kindness and gentle courtesy, that the people of the villages were treated by our soldiery; and the interpreters had to strain the resources of the English tongue in order to convey a faint apprehension of the figures of speech in which the women were expressing their gratitude.
Their chief favourites, it seems, were the men of the Rifle Brigade. Quartered for a day or two in one of the villages, these soldiers made up for the want of a common tongue by acts of kindness. They helped the women in their household work; and the women, pleased and proud, made signs to the stately ‘Rifles’ to do this and do that, exulting in the obedience which they were able to win from men so grand and comely. When the interpreter came, and was asked to construe what the women were saying so fast and so eagerly, it appeared that they were busy with similes and metaphors, and that the Rifles were made out to be heroes more strong than lions, more gentle than young lambs.
A dreadful change came over that village: the
* This statement, broad as it looks, is meant to be taken literally, and to be regarded as a statement taken from the right official source.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 194
Rifles were withdrawn — the Zouaves marched in. There followed spoliation, outrage, horrible cruelty. When those tidings came to Lord Raglan, he was standing on the shore with several of his people about him. He turned scarlet with shame and anger. The yoke of the alliance had wrung him.
In general, it would fall within the duty of light horse to sweep the face of the invaded territory and bring in supplies ; but the French were without cavalry; and although the body of horse which we had landed was called ‘the Light Brigade,’ the Lancers, the Hussars, and the Light Dragoons of which it consisted, were not of such a weight and quality, and were not so practised in foraging, as to be all at once well fitted for this kind of service. Besides, it was plain that, in advancing through the enemy’s country, the power of the invaders would have to be measured by the arm in which they were weakest, and a material loss in our small, brilliant force of cavalry might bring ruin upon the whole expedition. There was the Commissariat. The officers of that department were gentlemen taken from a branch of the Treasury; and although they could make requisitions on the military authorities with more or less hope of a result, they had no force of their own with which to act. The regimental officers were of course busied with their respective corps. Yet it was certain that the power of operating effectively with the English army would depend upon its obtaining a large addition to its existing means of land-transport. In the result, it was the chief of one
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 195
of the business departments of our Headquarter Staff who pressed forward into the gap, and succeeded in achieving the work upon which, in a great degree, the fate of the campaign seemed likely to hinge.
From the first General Airey had seen that the mere inert presence of armies in an invaded province is a thing very short of conquest. Conquest, he knew, must generally rest upon the success with which supplies can be drawn from the invaded province; and he never forgot that, unless the country could be made to yield means of land-carriage, the Allies would have to creep timidly along the shore, tethered fast by the short string of carts with which they had come provided; therefore, even within a few minutes from the time when the landing began, he was already striving to gain — not the mere occupation of the soil — not the mere licence for the troops to stand or lie down on the ground — but that hold, that military grasp of the country which would make it help to sustain the invasion.
When only a few battalions of the Light Division had landed, and were beginning to form on the beach, he rode* up to the high ground on our right, and there, at some distance, he caught sight of a long string of waggons, escorted by a body of Cossacks. Instantly, he rode* back to the beach,†
* General Airey’s duties as Quartermaster-General made it necessary that his charger should be landed at the earliest possible moment, but I am not quite certain whether he was on horseback when this incident occurred. My impression was that he was already in his saddle, but, according to Colonel Lysons’s recollection, he was on foot . — Note to 4th Edition.
† Or rather to the ridge which overlooked it, for it was there that
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 196
got Colone1 Lysons to give him two companies* of the 23d Fusiliers, and with these advanced quickly in skirmishing order. The Cossacks tried hard to save the convoy by using the points of their lances against the bullocks, and even against the drivers; but, the Fusiliers advancing and beginning to open fire, the Cossacks at length retreated, leaving Airey in possession of just that kind of prize which the army most needed — a prize of some seventy or eighty waggons, with their oxen and drivers complete.†
Colonel (then Major) Lysons was standing with a company of the 23d Fusiliers in extended order. — Note to 4th Edition.
* Only one company, it seems. — Note to 4th Edition.
†After the publication of the 3d Edition, I received from Colonel Lysons a more detailed narrative of this incident than is given in the text. He says
Shortly after landing, Sir George Brown ordered me to extend the company that was with me along the top of the ridge which overlooked the landing-place. While there, General Airey came up to me, and, pointing to a line of arabas which was moving across the plain some way off, asked if I could take them. I answered, “Yes, but Sir George had ordered me to stay where I was.” The General (Airey) then began to write on a piece of paper to ask leave to send me from my post ; but on looking up, and seeing that the waggons were already far off, he exclaimed, “we shall lose them if you don’t go at once. I will take the responsibility on myself.” So away I went in skirmishing order. On approaching a hillock, which screened the arabas from our view, I saw the long lances of some Cossacks waving in the air. Fearing they might attack us, I closed my men to the centre on the march; but as we cleared the top of the rising ground, these gentlemen (the Cossacks) galloped off to the arabas, on which we had gained considerably. A few minutes after, I saw the Cossacks making the drivers unyoke their bullocks, that they might drive them away from us. Knowing they would beat me at that game, I desired three old soldiers to fall out of the ranks and fire at the Cossacks. The first shot fell short. On the second being fired, I saw one of the Russians jump up from his saddle as though he was hit, . . . and forthwith the whole party scampered away over the plain. The drivers then came running to us, and kneeling down and embracing our knees. I made them yoke their bullocks again ,and took the train
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 197
Never ceasing to think it was vital to have more and more means of transport, Airey afterwards despatched the officers of his department in all directions to bring in supplies. Sending Captain Sankey to Tuzla and Sak, he thence got 105 waggons. Sending Captain Hamilton to Bujuk Aktash, to Beshi Aktash, to Tenish, and Sak, he got 67 camels, 253 horses, 45 cartloads of poultry, barley, and other supplies, with more than a thousand head of cattle and sheep.* At a later date, and when the army was moving, he took 25 waggons from a village near the line of march. One day, moreover, it happened that Airey sent his aide-de-camp Nolan to explore for water, and, though he was without a cavalry escort, Nolan boldly cut in upon a convoy of 80 government waggons laden with flour, and seized the whole of it. In all some 350 waggons were obtained, with all their teams and with their Tartar drivers.
In general, the appropriation of the resources of the country is a business which ranges among mere commissariat annals; but in order to this invasion,
back, and handed them over to General Airey. On our way back we passed Sir George Brown.
We saw that (supposing the Britannia boat to have been the first to touch the beach) Colonel Lysons was the first English soldier who landed in the Crimea, and the above incident enabled him also to say not only that the first shot fired by our soldiery was fired under his orders, but that the first prize taken from the enemy was taken by him — was taken by him in derogation of the standstill commands which had been given him by Sir George Brown, but in obedience to the boldly-ventured order by which General Airey unleashed him. — Note to 4th Edition.
* In some, but not all of these expeditions, Sankey and Hamilton had cavalry escorts.
Vol. II The Alma Campaign Chapter XII p. 198
the seizing of means of land-transport was a business hardly otherwise than vital. Even as it was, the army was brought to hard straits for want of sufficing draught-power; and without the cattle and waggons which were seized whilst the troops were landing, the course of events must have been other than what it was.
Those Tartar drivers of whom I have spoken were a wild people, little fit, as it seemed, for the obedience and patient toil exacted from camp-followers; but the descent of the Allies upon the coast was the first military operation that they had witnessed, and before their amazedness ceased, they found themselves unaccountably marshalled and governed, and involuntarily taking their humble part in the enterprise of the Western Powers. Many of them wore the same expression of countenance as hares that are taken alive, and they looked as though they were watching after the right moment for escape; but they had fallen, as it were, into a great stream, and all they could do was to wonder, and yield, and flow on. There were few of those captured lads who had strength to withstand the sickness and the hardships of the campaign. For the most part, they sank and died.