[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]
Sir, - In The Times of Wednesday, April 4, there appeared a letter from Mr. Fonblanque, Assistant-Commissary-General to the Third Division of the army before Sebastopol. In this letter Mr. Fonblanque alludes to part of my evidence before Mr. Roebuck's Committee, in which I stated that one day in December the Third Division had had no rations. Mr. Fonblanque goes on to say that he was in charge of the commissariat of that division at the time, and that he begs to give “the most unqualified contradiction” to my statement.
Though I did not fail to observe Mr. Fonblanque's letter at the time, yet, from the impossibility of my at once referring to reliable authority, a delay, which was unavoidable, has occurred in my replying to it.
I am now, however, in a position to do so, and therefore, address you on the subject. I admit that Mr. Fonblanque is, to an extent, correct in what he states on the subject of the rations, and I am glad to find that the case was not so bad as I supposed it; but I must at the same time observe, that circumstances justified my conclusion, that no rations were issued to the men of the Third Division on the day mentioned, as will be seen from the following facts:—
It appears that rations of meat were issued to the Third Division on the day in question, but these rations were only half the proper quantity, and were served out at so late a period of the day that many of the soldiers of the division, whose place of duty for the night lay at a considerable distance from the camp, marched thither without their dinner.
Mr. Fonblanque's letter affords the explanation of this, namely, that the cattle intended for the day's consumption had been permitted to escape.
I left the camp for Balaklava at a late hour; up to which hour no meat rations had been issued. It was therefore naturally concluded that there were none forthcoming, as the commissariat had no reserve, in case of need, at the camp.
While I entirely agree with Mr. Fonblanque — whom I believe to have been an able and excellent officer, who individually, has justly won praise in the exercise of his duty — in his view, that the efficiency of the Commissariat Department would be greatly augmented by its ceasing to be “a civil member” of the army, and by its receiving a more military constitution, yet I cannot admit that the narrative of deficiencies in the Commissariat has been greatly exaggerated, or that these deficiencies were “remotely connected” with the calamities which befell our army.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
26, Pall-mall, May 23.