Sir — Without entering into the controversy whether or not your Reviewer in his able notice of Mr Kinglake’s highly-coloured narrative of the “flank march” was justified in his inferences respecting that movement, I offer the following statement, taken from my notes, written partly during the actual day in question, and partly the next morning as soon as it was light.
On September the 25th the English army received the order to march at 7 am, and, after a considerable delay, entered the wood at 9 am.
Sir Colin Campbell, on learning the nature of the ground, gave orders to the Highland Brigade that, a regular formation being impossible, it was imperative for the officers to keep their men together as much as possible, and not to hurry them unnecessarily.
The wood was thick, but there were intervals of brushwood, and mounted officers could often see for a considerable distance.
At 12.30 noon the 1st Division came upon the ridge overhanging the valley of Inkerman, with a good view of Sebastopol on the right.
Keeping along this ridge, which was rocky, but less wooded for about a mile, we struck into a narrow path cut through the wood, and at 3 o’clock debouched on the broad road, a few hundred yards in rear of the meal carts and baggage abandoned by Prince Menschikoff’s force.
The First Division halted at this spot, Khutor Mackenzie, for one hour, giving time for the stragglers to come up, and, passing Prince Menschikoff’s waggons, descended the escarped road and traversed the valley in regular formation of sections, reached the bridge over the Tchernaya at 5.45, and finally took up the bivouac on the rising ground, on the further side of the river, at about 7 pm.
On getting into the plain, somebody having remarked to Sir Colin Campbell that Menschikoff’s abandoned baggage comprised barley and meal, he despatched me to point out the circumstance to any commissariat officers I might meet. Having to mount the hill against the descending stream of troops, I was in a position to see the whole of one Brigade of the 2d Division march down, and on arriving at the summit found other battalions and batteries drawn up in the road, while, having occasion in the execution of my mission to proceed somewhat further, I found more troops in a similar position — I imagine the 3d Division.
The baggage was close up to the troops, and, indeed, mixed up with them, and but for the darkness of the night could easily have found out the different brigades. At 8.30 I fell in with Sir Colin Campbell’s baggage, and learnt from my servant that it had got down the hill before nightfall.
It is not to be denied that during the early part of the day many men fell out; the march through the wood was laborious; cholera and diarrhœa were prevalent, and the army was weak from marching, bivouacs, and indifferent food, but I do not recollect on subsequent days to have heard that any considerable numbers were missing, if, indeed, there were any.
I do not speak of the Light Division, which, according to Sir William Codrington, arrived in due time and formation at the Tchernaya, and on this head it is impossible for that General to be mistaken.
The flank march, in reality, was far from being so perilous as is supposed; the whole of the French army virtually covered the descent of the army into the valley from any attack from Prince Menschikoff, while an attack from a force from Sebastopol must have encountered at least two divisions of the English army, continually reinforced, as the troops descended the escarped road.
I have often heard the late Lord Clyde remark that it was unfortunate the English advanced guard had not met the head instead of the rear of Prince Menschikoff’s column, as in the former case we might have driven them back into Sebastopol, entering the place with them, and in the panic and confusion have become masters of Sebastopol, all the works being thus taken in the rear.
With many apologies for the prolixity of the above,
I am, Sir your most obedient servant
C E MANSFIELD, Lieutenant-Colonel,
Late Aide-de-Camp to Sir Colin Campbell in the Crimea.
Her Majesty’s Consulate-General, Warsaw, Aug. 25