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A.W.Kinglake, The Invasion of the Crimea

Vol. II (5th. edn.)


Vol. II The Alma Campaign Appendix p. 547

No. II*

Correspondence respecting the placing of the Buoy by the French in the night between the 13th and 14th of September.

FIRST LETTER.

Captain Mends on the subject of the Buoy.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ‘TIMES.’

Sir,—May I ask the insertion in your columns of the following remarks?

As I have been referred to by many as to the truth of Mr Kinglake’s statement, in his ‘Invasion of the Crimea’ ‘that the landing of our army at Old Fort was materially delayed by the wilful misplacement of a buoy by the French,’ I feel called upon, in justice to the French naval service, to state the facts which came under my own observation; and here I desire to observe that, during two years of very close intercourse with that service, their whole conduct, so far from being such as to bring our harmony into grievous jeopardy, was that of chivalrous, loyal allies.

As I am the officer who, by the direction of Sir Edmund Lyons, planned the whole of the details connected with the embarkation, transfer, and landing of the army, it might suffice for me simply to say, that I remember nothing about a buoy; that Mr Bower, the master of the Agamemnon, who conned the ship under my orders, remembers nothing about a buoy; and that Captain Spratt (who then commanded the Spitfire, and, as the senior surveying officer, was usually intrusted with such delicate and important duties) remembers nothing about a buoy; but I will not take upon myself to state positively that there was no buoy in question, as it is not impossible that Sir

* The publication of the above correspondence as an ‘Addendum’ to this second volume takes place with the assent of Captain Mends. For the purpose of indicating passages which seem to me to be among the most important in regard to the question of fact, I have taken the liberty of causing some portions of Captain Mends’s letters to be printed in italics.

Vol. II The Alma Campaign Appendix p. 548

Edmund Lyons may have entered upon a confidential agreement with the French Admiral that the duty of placing a buoy on the coast selected by the Allied Admirals and Generals during the final reconnaissance on the 10th should be kept in the hands of the French, to be laid by them during the night preceding the landing, in order to prevent so significant a mark of the designed locality becoming known to the enemy; but it is passing strange that Sir Edmund Lyons, in whose confidence I was, and who had intrusted the whole of the arrangements to me, should have given me no instructions relative to it, if he attached importance to it.

The Agamemnon, having weighed from Eupatoria at 1 A.M., accompanied by the Sanspareil, Triton, and Spitfire, and followed by all the transports, was the advance ship, by a long way, of the Allied flotilla. Sir Edmund Lyons, in his eager desire to be in the van, pushed on to the southward of the beach, behind which lay Lake Kamishli the southernmost of the three lakes marked on the maps, until we arrived off the rocky headland lying between two shallow bays, within which lay the beaches, one having Lake Kamishli at the back of it (being that on which the British ultimately landed), the other and more southern beach (on which the French landed) having no lake behind it, and being circumscribed in its limits.

When off the Point, Sir Edmund Lyons, who was anxiously scanning the coast, desired me to stop the engines; while thus hove-to, with the ship’s head brought round to the N.E., or inshore, the French Admiral, heading his fleet, came up, and passing close to us, hailed to say we were too far to the southward; upon which a conversation ensued between Sir Edmund Lyons and the French Admiral from the poops of their respective ships until the onward movement of the French ship terminated it, whereupon a French naval officer came on board immediately with a message from his Admiral to Sir E. Lyons to say that we were too far to the southward, the Point off which we then were being the line of demarcation between the armies. During this short suspense I called the attention of Sir Edmund to the approach of the transports, and pointed out

Vol. II The Alma Campaign Appendix p. 549

that they would fall into confusion if he did not quickly decide upon his anchorage, as the Spitfire and Triton, the two steamers told off to anchor as the points within which our flotilla had been instructed to bring up, were looking to the Agamemnon for position. Sir Edmund instantly gave me orders to steer back to the northward of the Point, and close in with the beach as near as possible. Meanwhile the Agamemnon’s boats had been hoisted out and the artillery rafts put together, so that on the moment of anchoring, which we did about half-past six, we were ready to commence the operation of landing, which Sir E. Lyons desired to do at once, but Sir George Brown, who was on board the Agamemnon, wished to await the decision of Lord Raglan, who was approaching on board the Caradoc. The French had by this time many men landed, for seeing no prospect of opposition they began to disembark as fast as their ships got to the anchorage. As soon as the Caradoc closed, Lord Raglan came on board the Agamemnon, and after a short consultation Sir Edmund Lyons desired me to make the signal to land, and we commenced immediately.* Thus it will be seen that the French were the cause of no serious delay, as British transports had never even arrived at the Point, to the southward of which a buoy is said to have been placed. If the choosing of the beach was left in the hands of the French, they certainly gave us the advantage of position, our landing-place having the lake at the back, and being less circumscribed.

Had it been decided to land both armies in the bay selected by the French, the space on the beach would not have sufficed, for the work, and serious confusion would have ensued, while the anchorage would have been too limited for the assembling of so many vessels.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
W. R MENDS, Captain, R.N.

UNITED SERVICE CLUB, PALL MALL,
March l8

* A careful reader will observe that all the movements backwards and forwards, and the conferences here described, are exactly such as might have been expected to occur upon the supposition that Lord Raglan’s account, as given in the next page but one, is strictly accurate.

Vol. II The Alma Campaign Appendix p. 550

SECOND LETTER

Mr Kinglake to Captain Mends.

12 ST JAMES’S PLACE, April 4, 1863.

Sir,—I have the honour to enclose an extract from that part of Lord Raglan’s private letter to the Secretary of War which relates to the affair of the buoy.

Since the appearance of your letter to the newspaper, you have probably received some communications on the subject; and if there be anything in those communications, or in the enclosed extract from Lord Raglan’s letter, which is calculated to modify the impression under which you thought it your duty to come forward and question my statement, I feel certain that you will take the course which your own sense of fairness must dictate.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient humble servant,

(Signed)A. W. KINGLAKE.

CAPTAIN MENDS, RN., &c. &c. &c.

Enclosure accompanying Mr Kinglake’s Letter.

INVASION OF THE CRIMEA.

THE PLACING OF THE BUOY BY THE FRENCH IN THE NIGHT BETWEEN THE 13TH AND 14TH OF SEPTEMBER 1854.

CAPTAIN MENDS having stated (in a letter which he thought proper to address to the Editor of a newspaper) that he remembers nothing about a buoy, it may be convenient for readers of the book which was the subject of Captain Mends’s remarks to have before them the words in which Lord Raglan described the transaction.

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.

Vol. II The Alma Campaign Appendix p. 551

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 day-light, 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.

THIRD LETTER.*

Captain Mends to Mr Kinglake.

3 BLOOMFIELD CRESCENT, HARROW ROAD, W.,
5th April 1863.

Sir,—In reply to your communication of the 4th instant enclosing an extract from Lord Raglan’s private letter to the Secretary of War, which relates to the affair of the ‘buoy,’ I have the honour to acquaint you that, since writing my letter to the ‘Times’ of the 18th ult., I have heard nothing which is calculated to modify the impression under which I wrote it; for though it would seem there was a buoy, and though I differ from Lord Raglan, whose memory I so highly respect, I aver that not the slightest inconvenience, confusion, nor delay, was occasioned to the disembarkation of the British by any act of the French. I never heard of the buoy until I saw your book; and I feel satisfied that were Sir Edmund Lyons alive, he would be one of the first to do justice to the chivalrous conduct of his colleague, Admiral Bruat, whose heart and soul were in the success of the undertaking, and whose example was

* It seems right to say that this copy has been carefully compared with the original, and found to be strictly correct. In the original, the words ‘by any act of the French’ are underscored.

Vol. II The Alma Campaign Appendix p. 552

cordially followed by every officer under his command; that in my opinion, wherever the buoy was placed, none but the most upright motives prompted the act, and the most sound practical reasons warranted the selection of the spot.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient humble servant,
(Signed) W. R. MENDS.

A. W. KINGLAKE, Esq., M.P., &c &c &c

—Note to 4th edition.


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