[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]
Sir, — Lord Panmure, the new Minister of War, well observed on Friday night, in answer to Lord Ellenborough, that, in his opinion, it would be advantageous if military as well as naval officers were invariably called to account before a court-martial for every grave disaster which occurred to the troops under their care.
If a captain in the navy loses his ship, or even runs her aground, a formal inquiry is invariably held upon him, and on the result of that inquiry his future professional character entirely depends. He may, and often does, emerge, from it with enhanced credit and brightened prospects; but submit to it he must, no matter how influential his interest or how noble his birth.
While Lord Panmure was expressing this opinion, which was much cheered by the House, Major-General the Earl of Cardigan was seated opposite to him.
That gallant nobleman has, as is well known, recently returned from the scene of war, and has since been promoted to a high command at home.
Yet, in a speech which he made on the 8th inst. at a public meeting at Northampton, he explained to the mayor of that town that his reasons for not returning thither were based on the fact that his Brigade of cavalry which had been intrusted to his care and guidance had been entirely destroyed. “About 400 of its horses were lost in an attack,” said he, “in which the prospect of loss was so certain and serious, and the probable advantage to be gained so slight, that I shall ever deplore having been compelled by orders from my superior officer to make it.” The remainder of his brigade he described as having died, not of disease, not of cold, or exposure, but simply of starvation! The managers of the war, who had sent the most valuable cavalry and artillery horses this country could collect 3,000 miles across the sea by the most expensive mode of conveyance, and had succeeded in landing them in the Crimea in high health and efficiency, had, according to Lord Cardigan, actually omitted sending thither at the same time sufficient provender to keep them alive!
“For 18 days,” continued the noble Earl, “before I left the Crimea, the horses of the brigade which I had to honour to command had been without hay, and so small a portion of barley was issued to them that they died by hundreds along the lines.”
Now, if on arriving in England the Earl of Cardigan had been brought to a court-martial for the loss of his brigade — more valuable and important just now than many line-of-battle ships — the result, from all I have heard, would have been highly creditable to him, and we should have had the satisfaction of learning, on authority which no Minister could have ventured to dispute, to whom this country has been indebted for the useless slaughter of Balaklava, and for the extinction by starvation of the remainder of the admirable cavalry which neither money nor exertion will be able for years to replace.
Questions in Parliament have hitherto failed to elicit aught save quibbling and unsatisfactory replies; until the nobility on the Treasury benches can learn to speak plainer than they have thought fit to do of late, they need not be surprised that the country should persist in insisting on Mr. Roebuck’s Committee.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,