Sir — The letter of “The Reviewer” in The Times of the 20th inst contains the following: “For some reason or other, after Lord Raglan came on the Russian rear guard, a halt of two hours nearly occurred at Mackenzie’s Farm.” An explanation is as follows, and probably it is the right one:— Maude’s Horse Artillery having dashed out of the wood at Mackenzie’s Farm and fired a few shells, limbered up and galloped for about a mile and a half in pursuit along a broad and well macadamized road through woods the same as it had previously passed. Suddenly, at a turn, the leading gun came upon a company of infantry formed across the road for resistance, who fired a volley which did no harm; one or two guns were immediately in action with case shot; the enemy dispersed into the wood. We were at that time on the extreme end of the plateau and at the top of a very steep winding road leading to the plain below. Lord Raglan cantered up, and as he halted on a knoll where I had placed a howitzer I ran to him, saying, “My Lord, this is a very dangerous place for you; the Russian infantry Maude has just dispersed are in the bush.” He seemed greatly pleased, and merely said, “Did you get a shot at them?” The Scots Greys now came up, and, dismounting, with carbines cleared the wood. It was from this point that we saw a Russian army of about 25,000 men — artillery, cavalry, and infantry — in order of battle, about two miles off, in the plain below. General Airey, being of opinion that some of the enemy had taken shelter under a near hill, ordered me to throw a few shells to the spot to disperse them. This I did, making those who were running go faster and abandon some conveyances they had hoped to save.
Now, the descent from Mackenzie’s Farm to the Tractir-bridge was by a steep zigzag road, and Lord Raglan, with Maude’s Horse Artillery and some of the cavalry composing the most advanced troops of the army, had passed beyond that point, as I have just related. They therefore had to return to Mackenzie’s Farm in order to descend to the Tractir-bridge. This little incident, coupled to the uncertainty which of course for a time arose out of it, accounts for the halt of other troops for near two hours, as mentioned interrogatively by “The Reviewer.”
General Codrington, in The Times of the 19th inst, has pointed out that seven battalions of infantry bivouacked around Lord Raglan on the night at Tractir. I beg to supplement the General’s statement by saying, to the best of my recollection, there were also 18, if not 24, guns and four regiments of cavalry at the same place on the occasion in question. According to Siborne, at Quatre Bras, the Prince of Orange, with nine battalions of Dutch infantry, mostly militia, 16 Dutch guns, and no cavalry, successfully held in check for some hours Napoleon’s army under Ney, until reinforced.
Lord Raglan had about him a far more powerful force, composed of the flower of the English army, attached to which was the éclat of victory, and the main body of his army not only close at hand, but in a position to pour down on the flanks of any Russian army, unless it came from Balaclava, that had so far recovered heart after Alma as to molest him.
I venture to think that Lord Raglan was as safe that night as any commander ever was or need be, and I believe few military men think otherwise.
Your obedient servant,
J D SHAKESPEARE, Lt-Colonel (at the time 2d Captain) of I Troop RHA
Witham, Aug. 21