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[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]

The Times 19.2.1857 p 9


TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir, The interest attaching to the subject is my only excuse for requesting space in your columns to draw attention to the conclusions arrived at by Colonel Tulloch,1 and published at page 179 of that officer’s recent review of the “Proceedings and Report of the Board of General Officers”.

These conclusions are of great importance, as they appear to be the deliberate opinion of Colonel Tulloch, who has had every opportunity of studying the question, and are the more remarkable as they contain the only suggestion of a remedy that might have been applied to the state of affairs existing in the Crimea during the winter of 1854-55 that has yet emanated from either of the Commissioners. These deductions are as follows:—

“1. That such severe duties, combined with scanty nourishment and insufficient clothing, must, no doubt, have added greatly to the sickness and mortality.

2. That they necessarily prevented any such extensive undertaking as the formation of a road to Balaklava.

3. But that they could have presented no positive obstacle to the employment, say, of 100 men from each regiment for a single day early in December, and the like number for another day in the end of that month or early in January, to carry up the rugs, greatcoats, blankets, coatees, and trousers in the Quartermaster-General’s store, provided no other means of transport could have been devised.”

Nos. 1 and 2 need no comment. I propose how to deal with No. 3.

The premises on which Colonel Tulloch has based this deduction are published in his work from page 172 to 178, and include a return from the Adjudant-General2 showing the effective strength of, and the duties furnished by, the army during that winter.

At page 175 it is stated “that many of the men nominally returned as effective were not capable of taking their duty”. I might, therefore, deduct a certain number of men, say 3 per cent, from the effective strength, but this I do not propose doing, for, although the convalescents were unfit for trench duty or to be sent “on fatigue” to Balaklava, they might have been fit for guard camp. I must, however, add to those on duty in the trenches the men on guard and picket, as it is evident they would not have been available to be sent to Balaklava to fetch stores.

Colonel Tulloch mentions “any day towards the latter end of December or beginning of January” for sending the number he proposes to Balaklava. I therefore take the week between the 22nd of December and the 1st of January, as being the time specifically alluded to, and it being immaterial what period is taken, as Colonel Tulloch states the proportion between effectives and duties varied very little during the months of December, January, and February.

The effectives during that week appear to be have been 13,161; the duties furnished, exclusive of “fatigues”, were 7,177 men daily.

It is apparent that at this time there were not two reliefs of duty men. The men, therefore, off duty on any given day had returned from the trenches and pickets at daylight, and a large proportion of the former would have to return to the trenches the same night. Now, considering the nature of that duty, it is difficult to imagine how Colonel Tulloch could propose that men who for 13 hours had been exposed to the elements of that season, to the efforts of the enemy, to great labour in the construction and repair of the works, and without food, should immediately on their release from those duties be sent to Balaklava and back, a distance of 14 miles, through a quagmire, returning heavily laden, and who, after depositing their loads about sunset, must have been immediately marched down to the trenches again. Supposing that men could have performed this, which cannot be admitted, it would have been impolitic in the highest degree, for what reliance could have been placed on men so exhausted for either a vigorous defence of the trenches against sorties, which were constantly occurring, or for the performance of the labour required in the night?

It is equally surprising that Colonel Tulloch should have proposed that the entire position of the British army on the heights should have been denuded of troops for a whole day at a time, when the recollection of Inkerman was fresh in the mind and an attack constantly pending; deducting, therefore, the men on duty and the relief for the trenches (amounting then to 5,971), or 13,148 on “for duty” from the effectives, 13,161, it appears there were 13 men available on paper in the whole army to be sent to Balaklava on any day of the week selected.

I trust that the people of England will be able to appreciate the difficulties attending the administration of the Crimean army, when an officer of Colonel Tulloch’s experience, after having been specially sent to the Crimea to investigate and report upon those difficulties, and who, after nearly two years’ constant study of the subject is only able to produce on suggestion for their alleviation, which could only have been carried out by the violation of all military rules, and at the risk of sacrificing the honour and existence of the army.

A soldier might have spared Lord Raglan’s3 memory a reproach for having declined an expedient attended by such a risk.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
E.R. WETHERALL, Colonel.4

Dublin Castle, Feb. 17.


[Transcriber’s notes]

  1. Sir J. McNeill and Col. Alexander Tulloch went to the Crimea to conduct a Commission of Enquiry into the Commissariat. See also letters 1857/02/18 ACS London Times, 1857/02/19 H London Times, 1857/02/20 JF London Times, and 1857/02/24 WHD London Times for reaction to the tabling of the report.
  2. Adj.-Gen. Sir James Estcourt, aged 52. [R.L.V. ffrench Black, The Crimean war, p.40.]
  3. FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan (1788-1855). He took part in the Peninsular War under Wellington, and lost his right arm at Waterloo. He commanded the British forces in the Crimean war from 1854. The raglan sleeve, cut right up to the neckline with no shoulder seam, is named after him. [The Wordsworth Dictionary of Biography, (Ware, Herts., 1994), p.356.]
  4. Col. E.R. Wetherall succeeded Sir Richard Airey as Quartermaster-General in the Crimea.

[M.S.]


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