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The Times 26.8.1868 p 7

Letter


TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir — In the latter portion of his letter on the 20th inst, “The Reviewer” descends to a mere personal question, which whether of praise or blame, had better have been avoided, for it is not question of an individual; it is whether justification can be shown for his disparagement of an English army engaged in a difficult enterprise. To narrow it to a mere personal conclusion may be convenient, but is unworthy, and is neither argument nor proof.

The language used by “The Reviewer” generally renders it uncertain whether he attacks Mr Kinglake in order to depreciate Lord Raglan, or Lord Raglan in order to depreciate Mr Kinglake, or the army in order to depreciate both.

Mr Kinglake is strong enough to attack, or defend, or leave his work to speak for itself.

Lord Raglan is dead; his services identify him in history with the military triumphs of his country during years of difficult war, from 1809 to 1815. He gained, in conjunction with a French army, the victories of the Alma and Inkerman, and died at his post in front of Sebastopol. If these victories, this constancy unto death, failed to bring “honours” to the title of Raglan, they gained for it additional honour and military distinction which history will not allow to pass away from it — it does not require defence.

But “the Army” — this congregation of regiments, brigades, and divisions, and having no individual existence — is exposed to all sorts of remarks, all sorts of criticisms, safe in their generality of blame, from which it is liable to remain without defence. Thus we see that “The Reviewer,” when obliged to admit the incorrectness of his censure as to one portion of the army, says that the Light Division or a brigade was not “the whole army,” to which he refers, and continues his assertion until contradicted by officers dispersed in the army all over the world; and in your paper today there is additional proof from another branch of the service — the Artillery — that “The Reviewer” is in error.

In all the sentences quoted from Mr Kinglake there is no such opinion, no such expression, as “The Reviewer” has put forward. Facts are mentioned, difficulties described, the danger and exposure of that march pointed out, but it is “The Reviewer” alone who draws the unworthy conclusion — unfounded, as he now confesses, with regard to one portion of the troops — that “there was nothing so unsoldierly and slovenly as that flank march,” and that “the army was wandering for miles in broken, straggling columns close to the enemy,” &c.

Those who were present, and those of your readers who value the credit of the army, may be allowed to feel somewhat indignant at the use of these expressions, and require some better proof to justify the publication of them.

You, Sir, have given fair opportunity for the challenge of these statements, although they are mainly questions of history, to be decided on fuller grounds than letters in your columns; but we may justly look to the antecedents of that army, thus attempted to be disparaged, to guide our opinion.

And history will record that 27,000 English and 25,000 French troops were landed in hostility on an enemy’s coast to attack his stronghold; that this army had an hostile force almost in its presence, in the neighbourhood of which it disembarked, bivouacked, and marched with every warlike precaution from the 14th to the 25th of September. This hostile march was, indeed, magnificent to those who looked upon its columns of infantry and artillery as they covered the face of the country in advancing masses, open enough for ease of march and deployment, yet close enough for defence, and with every preparation for fighting. This army victoriously stormed the intrenched position on the Alma by an attack of which the English bore the brunt. It again advanced, crossing the plains and rivers between it and Sebastopol, bivouacking with every precaution against an enemy. Arriving on the north side of Sebastopol it was ordered on a bold and difficult — perhaps hazardous — flank march in order to seize the port of Balaclava and occupy the plateau south of the fortress.

And now your readers are to be informed that, after these marches, after this well-fought victory, and subsequent readiness to meet the enemy day or night, this army deserves the use of “The Reviewer’s” depreciatory expressions as to its condition and preparation.

I believe “The Reviewer’s” expressions to be as unjust towards the rest of the army as they are proved and acknowledged to be towards one portion of it — the Light Division — which formed the advance of the army on the Tchernaya.

Your obedient servant
W J CODRINGTON, General

Linden, Morpeth, Aug. 23


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