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Letters from Headquarters

by Lt-Col S J G Calthorpe

Extract — The Battle of Balaclava


It is with sorrow that I sit down to write, as I have to tell of the deaths of so many brother officers who fell in the action of October 25th, 1854, before Balaklava — for the most part uselessly sacrificed, as the results do not at all make up for our loss. But I should first endeavour to give the reader some sort of idea of the position occupied by the Allies on the morning that the battle took place. Ever since the occupation of Balaklava we have been strengthening the position — already strong by nature, but still quite open to the attack of an enterprising enemy. As I before mentioned, the harbour is almost surrounded by hills of great height, the sides of which rise with perpendicular abruptness from its quiet waters. The hills on the west of the harbour continue in succession until they merge, near the monastery of St. George, into the high plateau before Sevastopol. On the east of the harbour the heights are the commencement of a long range of hills — indeed one may call them mountains — that extend all along the southern coast of the Crimea. Fortunately for the strength of our position, the first hill is almost cut off from the remainder by a deep ravine which runs up from the plain before Balaklava towards the sea, and is only connected by a narrow ridge a few yards in breadth. One of the earliest works done after our arrival was to construct a battery that would sweep this ridge, and thus render it impracticable for anybody of the enemy to force, except at an enormous sacrifice of life. From this point all the way down to the plain a parapet, with occasional small batteries, had been constructed. In these works are several 32-pounder iron howitzers, which for the most part are manned by marine artillery, as the entire heights have up to this time been occupied by 1100 of the Royal Marines from the fleet — as fine a body of men as you could wish to see.

In front of Balaklava, at the distance of rather more than a mile, near the village of Kadikoi, a considerable work has been constructed, armed with several guns of position, but being unconnected with the heights on either side is not of any great strength, as it is liable to be turned on both flanks. In a short time these defects will he remedied, but up to the present moment our men have been overworked; indeed I think it is quite wonderful the amount of labour that they have accomplished during the short time we have been here. To the west from the last-mentioned work (in front of the head of the harbour) are two small batteries on elevated ground on the road to Sevastopol, and after following this for a mile one comes to the base of the great plateau on which the allied armies are encamped. The edge of this plateau forms the northern side of the Valley of Balaklava, and continues in a northeasterly direction till it reaches the valley of the Tchernaya, when, turning sharply round to the west, it passes the heights of lnkermann, and terminates at the head of the harbour of Sevastopol. From the southern extremity of this same valley (Balaklava), commencing at the village of Kamara, winds (literally so) a ridge of hills, coming to an abrupt ending in the table-land in the neighbourhood of Mackenzie’s Farm. I have already recorded that we have been for some time constructing a series of redoubts across the above-mentioned valley, about two miles north of the town of Balaklava. The most easterly of these works is situated on Canrobert’s Hill; it is that of the greatest importance, as from its elevated position it overlooks the village of Kamara, and commands the two nearest of the chain of redoubts. Such are the works constructed for the defence of our base of operations.

Early one morning it was discovered from the most advanced of the Turkish redoubts that large bodies of troops were marching towards Balaklava. Lord Lucan was in the redoubt at the moment, and lost no time in ordering the Cavalry Division under arms; an affair of only a few moments, as the cavalry are always ready to turn out an hour before daylight. Information of this was sent to Sir Colin Campbell and Lord Raglan. In the meantime Barker’s Battery (9-pounders) and Maude’s troop (6-pounders) of horse artillery were ordered up, supported by the Greys. Our guns opened a smart fire on the enemy, but, the distance being too great, they did not tell with much effect. The Russians replied with several batteries of heavier calibre than ours, and we therefore got rather the worst of it; added to which, for some reason that I have not heard explained, our artillery had only a few rounds per gun, instead of the usual quantity of ammunition.

On receiving the report of the Russian advance, Sir Colin Campbell immediately ordered out all the available troops under his command. The batteries were all manned, and the Royal Marines lined the parapets on the eastern heights of the town. Sir Colin caused the 93rd Highlanders, and a company from the Invalid Battalion (mustering about 100 men),to be placed in line midway between the defences of the place and the line of redoubts, in a position where they could best repulse any attempt on the part of the enemy to advance on the town. Shortly before 8 a.m. Lord Raglan received intelligence from Lord Lucan (commanding the cavalry) that the enemy were advancing in force towards Balaklava. Lord Raglan and his Staff immediately proceeded to the edge of the plateau, where the whole of the valley could be overlooked, as well as the port and town of Balaklava. On arriving at this point we saw strong bodies of troops advancing, some along the valley (mostly cavalry and artillery), and others appearing over the ridge, at the end of which is the village of Kamara. On seeing the force in which the enemy were, Lord Raglan sent an aide-de-camp to order the 1st and 4th Divisions down into the valley, to reinforce the troops under the command of Sir Colin Campbell. Information was also sent to General Canrobert, who immediately ordered the division of General Bosquet to be got under arms, and came himself with his Staff shortly after and joined Lord Raglan.

A few moments after our arrival the Russians established a battery of field artillery close to the village of Kamara, and opened fire on No.1 redoubt (that on Canrobert’s Hill); at the same time a column of infantry (some 1200 men) advanced up to it, the Turkish garrison firing on them in a desultory sort of way with small arms, but without attempting to serve their heavy guns. To our intense disgust, in a few moments we saw a little stream of men issue from the rear of the redoubt, and run down the hill side towards our lines; these were immediately followed by a regular cloud of fugitives, and the Russians entered the fort to find it garrisoned by dead and wounded men. In this work they captured four iron guns of position which we had lent the Turks. A man of the Royal Artillery had been put in charge of these guns, and did his duty well by spiking them when he found they were to be abandoned to the enemy. They were consequently rendered useless for the time. Thus in a few moments we lost, through the confounded cowardice of the Turks, the key of our advanced line of defence. The Russians poured into the work, and very speedily got some field-pieces up to it, and then opened fire on the next redoubt. The garrison of No.2 redoubt, when they saw the Russians enter No. 1, immediately bethought themselves of flight, instead of attempting to hold it for a moment against the enemy, and, to the indignation of all, we saw these miserables coming out of the work laden with their baggage, etc., and deliberately marching to the rear. The Russians opened on them from the fieldguns they had in No.1 redoubt, and caused them severe loss. Directly the Turks found they were being fired into, they dispersed like a flock of sheep, and ran across the valley, numbers throwing away their arms and accoutrements to facilitate their flight. So much for our Turkish allies. Many were the curses loud and deep heaped on their heads.

During this time the Russians had been advancing, and we now began to guess pretty accurately as to their numbers. They were variously stated at from 20,000 to 30,000 men. Of these about 2000 were artillery, 6000 cavalry, and the remainder infantry. Large parties of the enemy’s cavalry, consisting chiefly of the Cossacks of the Don, were let loose on the runaway Turks. The yells of these wild horsemen could be distinctly heard where we were as they galloped after these unhappy Moslems, numbers of whom were killed by their lances. Directly the Turks abandoned No.2 redoubt, the enemy sent a body of infantry with two or three field-pieces to occupy it and fire into No.3 redoubt. They also got possession of three more iron guns of position (12-pounders), but which had been spiked by the English artilleryman in charge. A certain number of the Turks of No.2 redoubt, when they vacated the work, ran over to No. 3, and thus strengthened its garrison. These, after firing a few shots, were seized with a panic, and consequently got into confusion, and, in the course of a few moments, we had the annoyance of seeing No.3 redoubt evacuated in the same manner as the others, its garrison for the most part running towards Balaklava, though some few ran into No. 4 redoubt. The enemy directly occupied the vacated fort, and thus captured two more of our guns. Sir Colin Campbell, who was with the 93rd Regiment and invalids, managed to check a certain number of the fugitives, and formed them up on each flank of the English troops. Some 300 might have been thus disposed, but the greater number continued on till they arrived inside our works at Balaklava.

The enemy’s cavalry now began to advance over the rising ground between Nos. 2 and 3 redoubts, formed up in a heavy column. These divided in two parts, the larger portion remaining in reserve, and the other (a body of Cossacks and Hussars of 500 horses) moved across the valley in the direction of the English and Turkish troops in line, under the command of Sir Colin Campbell. The enemy advanced at a good pace, but in anything but a confident manner, as there was much tailing and flying out of the ranks on each side. On they rode, and, when about 600 yards off, the Turks on our flank (without orders) fired a harmless volley, then turned, and ran as fast as their legs could carry them towards the town, some calling out, “Ship, Johnny, ship!” alluding to the vessels in harbour. The advancing Russians, seeing this cowardly behaviour on the part of our allies, gained fresh courage themselves, and came on with a rush, yelling in a very barbarous manner, and which on badly disciplined troops would probably have had an intimidating effect. The British soldiers, however, only laughed at their yells, and, when they had come a hundred yards nearer, gave them their first volley, which materially checked both their pace and noise. Volley number two then rang out, as clear and compact as at an ordinary field-day. This was enough for the Ruskies; we immediately had the satisfaction of seeing them wheel round to their left, and gallop off towards Canrobert’s Hill in great confusion and fear, marking their course by the killed and wounded that dropped from the saddle, and the number of riderless horses galloping about in all directions.

In the meantime the Russians had been collecting their forces on the most commanding ground. A large mass of infantry was posted close to the village of Kamara: some were also hid from our view, between it and Canrobert’s Hill; whilst opposite, extending from there to the Tchernaya river, were several battalions of infantry, three or four batteries, and another large body of Cossacks; and on some high ground close to the river projecting into the valley, was a battery of eight guns, supported by a regiment of infantry. On seeing these preparations on the part of the Russians, Lord Raglan ordered the brigade of Light Cavalry to take post on the ridge, just at the foot of the plateau where we were standing. From this point they could watch and take advantage of any movement on the part of the enemy. Lord Raglan’s object was to place the cavalry in a position of safety, and at the same time prevent a general action coming on until the arrival of the 1st and 4th Divisions. I should mention that Barker’s Battery of artillery, placed near Sir Colin Campbell and his infantry, had done good service against the flying enemy when they retired before the volleys of the Highlanders. The troop of horse artillery attached to the division of cavalry was stationed near the Heavy Brigade, under cover of a vineyard, ready to come into action at a moment’s notice. The body of Russian cavalry that remained on the ridge between the two redoubts last captured had witnessed the defeat of their comrades. They now turned their attention to the English cavalry, and, seeing a portion of the Heavy Brigade without support, at once descended, and advanced at a rapid pace against them. Directly the Turkish garrison of No.4 redoubt saw the enemy’s cavalry in movement, fancying that it was to cut them off, they rushed out of the work towards our troops. The enemy, seeing this, sent a body of infantry to occupy it. Fortunately there were no guns in this work. Brigadier-General Scarlett, by Lord Lucan’s order, immediately placed the Greys and Enniskillens in line, sent to the 5th Dragoon Guards to support them on the right, and to the Royals and 4th Dragoon Guards to attack on the left.

The Russian cavalry, consisting of Hussars and Dragoons in front, backed up by a host of Cossacks, mustering in all some 3000 sabres, came on, gradually slackening their pace as they saw the English cavalry advance towards them in such perfect order and confidence. The pace of the Russians got slower and slower the nearer we approached, and, at the moment the two bodies met, the Russians were almost at a halt. The front line of the English cavalry was not able to meet the enemy at the pace that they wished, as they had to cross through what had been the camp of the Light Cavalry, and the ground was strewed with articles that had not as yet been removed, and consequently impeded the rapid movement of these two regiments. Nevertheless, our fellows went in with a will that told with striking effect on the enemy, and, after a moment’s pause, we saw them disappear in the midst of the mass of Russians. For a second we were all anxious for the result: but a minute later and the 4th Dragoon Guards and Royals charged the enemy on the one flank, whilst the 5th Dragoon Guards attacked them on the other. The Russians made a momentary stand, and then you saw the entire body of men and horses move back a little; and after a minute or two the whole made a rush to the rear, our Dragoons cutting and slashing about them with an energy and force that must have been deeply felt on the heads and shoulders of the fugitive Russians. In this encounter our loss was scarce 20 casualties, whereas that of the enemy was put at over 200. When Lord Raglan saw the successful manner in which the charge had been made, he sent down an officer of his Staff to say “Well done!” to General Scarlett. It is much to be regretted that the Brigade of Light Cavalry, under command of Lord Cardigan, did not attack the enemy in flank and rear when they first met the Heavy Brigade, as the defeat would have been more complete, and numbers of prisoners might have been taken. Captain Morris, who commanded the 17th Lancers, pointed out to Lord Cardigan the opportunity that offered of charging the enemy; but the Earl said he was placed in that particular spot, and should not move without orders. In vain Captain Morris begged to be allowed to charge with his regiment alone. Lord Cardigan would not give his permission.1 The Heavy Brigade were unable to pursue the Russian cavalry for any distance, as they came under the fire from the redoubts captured by the enemy.

Shortly after this successful charge a portion of the Turks who had bolted were led back by their Pasha into redoubt No.5, which they had abandoned just before, and which had never been occupied by the enemy. The Russians were evidently very much cowed by the reverse their cavalry had met with, and all their forces were somewhat drawn back, and placed closer together.

At 11 a.m. General Canrobert and his Staff came up to Lord Raglan, and about the same time two squadrons of the Chasseurs d’Afrique moved under us to the left of the Turkish redoubts, and formed up across the Woronzoff road. The 1st Division of the French army had been ordered to join the English in the valley, together with two batteries of artillery; these arrived after a time and were placed in reserve, under the heights on which Lord Raglan and General Canrobert had stationed themselves. The enemy still continued to place his troops on the defensive. They brought a battery of eight guns, and posted it at right angles to the chain of redoubts, between No.2 and the Tchernaya river, so as to sweep the valley. On each flank they had also artillery; on that nearest the river eight guns, and on the opposite side, close under No.2 redoubt, a battery of six. Behind all this artillery they had withdrawn their cavalry, in support of which were masses of infantry.

It now becomes my task to record the sad catastrophe of the day. If gallantry, courage, and daring can compensate in any way for the noble lives that were then sacrificed, we have every reason to be proud of the chivalry displayed. Indeed, I question whether we can look upon it as a disaster, when we think of the impression that noble little band must have made upon our foes. Although the result was not that of victory, still it will be remembered in future days as one of the brightest actions of British daring, and as a brilliant proof of how little our troops consider the odds opposed to them when ‘duty points the way’. But to return to the action. It was now shortly after 11 a.m.: Lord Raglan, from the place that he occupied, commanding as it did so extensive a view of the whole of the valley of Balaklava and the position of the Russian forces, thought that he perceived a retrograde movement on the part of the enemy. Upon a closer examination with our glasses it appeared pretty evident that the Russians were removing our guns which they had captured in the forts. Lord Raglan, wishing, therefore, to prevent their object being attained, sent an order to Lord Lucan, to the effect that the cavalry were to advance and take any opportunity that might offer to recapture the heights. He also ordered the 4th Division, under the command of Sir G. Cathcart, to support them. This opportunity did not occur, according to the view that Lord Lucan took of the matter.

A pause of over half an hour ensued, after the lapse of which time Lord Raglan, still under the impression — whether erroneous or not it is impossible to say — that the Russians intended immediately to retire and take with them our guns, sent another order to Lord Lucan. The order was written by General Airey, the Quartermaster-General, who had been constantly at Lord Raglan’s side during the day. It was in the following terms: ‘Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop of horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate.’ This order was intrusted to Captain Nolan, aide-de-camp to General Airey, a cavalry officer of great experience. Previous to his departure he received careful instructions both from Lord Raglan and the Quartermaster-General. But before going any further, I must say that what follows is not meant in any way to disparage Captain Nolan. He was a man for whom I had a personal regard, and whose opinion, in matters of his profession, was generally respected. Poor fellow! he is now no more; and perhaps the best tribute we can pay to his memory would be to say that he died from an act of over-daring and courage. When the order was delivered to Lord Lucan he demurred for a moment to put it into execution, and asked Nolan what it was that he was to attack, who replied, I am told, “There, my Lord, is our enemy, and there are our guns;” at the same time pointing down the valley to where the enemy had the battery of eight guns, placed as I before mentioned, with artillery also on each flank.

Captain Nolan appears to have totally misunderstood the instructions he had just before received: ‘the guns’ in the written order, of course, alluded to those the enemy had captured in the redoubts, and which it was thought they were carrying away; and the direction which he (Nolan) pointed out to Lord Lucan was quite contrary to that intended by Lord Raglan. His manner also was scarcely that in which an aide-de-camp ought to address a general officer, and for which there was no reason or excuse. Lord Lucan appears to have considered that he was bound to charge the enemy, therefore made arrangements to carry out the object which he supposed Lord Raglan had in view. He consequently communicated with Lord Cardigan, and desired him to form the Light Brigade into two lines. Lord Cardigan remonstrated, and urged the uselessness of making such an attack; but Lord Lucan replied that his orders were imperative from the Commander-in-Chief, or words to that effect. The fatal order to advance was then given, and, to the horror of all of us on the heights above, we saw our handful of light cavalry advance down towards the Russian batteries. We all saw at once that a lamentable mistake had been made — by whose fault it was then impossible to say. Lord Raglan sent down two of his Staff to ascertain the cause of all this, so little was it his intention that an attack of this nature should take place.

But to follow the fortunes of the Light Brigade. It consisted of scarce 700 horses, although composed of no less than five different regiments. In the first line were four squadrons of the 13th Light Dragoons and 17th Lancers; in the second were four squadrons of the 4th Light Dragoons and 11th Hussars. Again, in their rear was one squadron of the 8th Hussars, as a sort of reserve. As they started into a trot, poor Nolan galloped some way in front of the brigade, waving his sword and encouraging his men by voice and gesture. Before they had gone any distance the enemy’s guns opened on them at long range. Nolan was the first man killed: some grape-shot hit him in the chest: his horse turned and carried him to the rear through our advancing squadrons. His screams were heard far above the din of battle, and he fell dead from his saddle near the spot where the order had been given for the charge. The pace of our cavalry increased every moment, until they went thundering along the valley, making the ground tremble beneath them. The awful slaughter that was going on, from the fire the enemy poured into them, apparently did not check their career. On they went, headlong to the death, disregarding aught but the object of their attack. At length they arrived at the guns, their numbers sadly thinned, but the few that remained made fearful havoc amongst the enemy’s artillerymen. Scarce a man escaped, except those who crept under their gun-carriages, and thus put themselves out of the reach of our men’s swords. This was the moment when a General was most required, but unfortunately Lord Cardigan was not then present. On coming up to the battery (as he afterwards himself described it) a gun was fired close to him, and for a moment he thought his leg was gone. Such was not the case, as he remained unhurt; however, his horse took fright — swerved round — and galloped off with him to the rear, passing on the way by the 4th Light Dragoons and 8th Hussars before those regiments got up to the battery. I have said that the enemy’s cavalry were posted in rear of their guns. On our advance some of their squadrons had been withdrawn to the higher ground on each flank, the infantry remaining in its old position, and these our cavalry had next to attack. The Russians did not wait to be assailed, but, on the approach of our men, a very large majority ran back to some brushwood behind them, and where our men could not follow. At this time the whole of our squadrons that composed the first and the greater portion of the second line were in considerable disorder. No blame was to be attached to anyone for this, as so many officers had been either killed, wounded, or had had their horses shot under them. The amazing number of riderless horses that were galloping about, many of them wounded and wild with fright, added also to the general confusion. Some of our cavalry chased the Russians almost down to the Tchernaya river, but then had to return on their exhausted horses to rejoin the brigade.

As soon as the Russians saw that all our squadrons had arrived at the guns, they sent a large body of Lancers, near No.3 redoubt, to cut off our retreat. This was first observed by one of the officers of the 8th Hussars (which regiment, as may be remembered, was in rear of the brigade), who immediately rode up and informed Colonel Shewell, the commanding officer, of this movement by the enemy’s cavalry. Colonel Shewell at once ordered his regiment to wheel about, which being done, he gave the word to charge, and was himself the first to enter the Russian Lancers. These unfortunates, completely surprised by the manoeuvre, offered but feeble resistance, and this single squadron of the 8th Hussars passed through the Russians, of four times their strength, cutting down all in their way, while the rest dispersed to the right and left. A way was thus cleared for the remainder of our cavalry to retire unopposed — but not unmolested, as the enemy opened upon them with grape from their guns, on both flanks, besides throwing out swarms of skirmishers, which combined fire made fearful havoc of the gallant remnant of the Light Brigade. Lord Lucan brought up the heavy cavalry to cover the retreat of their comrades, which they did with perfect order and regularity, although they suffered some loss of men and horses. I should have mentioned that, during the retreat of the Light Cavalry, the two squadrons of the Chasseurs d’Afrique, which up to that period had not been engaged, made a brilliant attack on the Russian battery on their left front, which was pouring its deadly volleys on the retreating groups of British heroes. They succeeded in silencing for a time several guns, and only retired when they found that they were opposed to an overwhelming fire from some Russian infantry, which was brought up to repel their attack. In this charge they lost two officers and over 50 men and horses killed and wounded. It was a daring act, and one well worthy of their reputed ‘elan’. The losses our light cavalry sustained in this brilliant but unfortunate charge were very great.

 WoundedKilled
and
missing
Total
Casualties
Officers12921
Serjeants91423
Trumpeters347
Rank and file98129227
122156278

Besides 335 horses killed in action, or obliged afterwards to be destroyed from wounds. It has since been ascertained that the Russians took many prisoners.

Directly it was perceived from the heights that the light cavalry were retiring, Lord Raglan, General Canrobert, and their respective Staffs, descended into the valley. Shortly after Lord Lucan came up to the Commander-in-Chief and the first thing Lord Raglan said to him was, ‘Why, you have lost the Light Brigade!’ or words to that effect. Lord Lucan denied this, and said he had only carried out the orders which he had received from Captain Nolan. Some more conversation ensued, in which Lord Raglan blamed Lord Lucan for not using his discretionary power, and for not taking advantage of the auxiliaries suggested to him in the last order, viz. ‘Troop of horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left’. It would appear also that Lord Lucan did not see any connexion between that and the previous order, in which he was informed that the infantry (meaning the 1st and 4th Divisions) were also ordered to advance and support him in regaining the heights. In fact, the whole thing seems to have been misinterpreted by Captain Nolan to Lord Lucan, or at any rate misunderstood by him.

Lord Raglan now sent to Sir George Cathcart to desire him to occupy No.3 redoubt, which had been abandoned by the enemy. This he immediately did, and placed riflemen in such a position that they caused the Russians in No.2 great annoyance. The enemy seemed desirous of not renewing the action if possible, and contented themselves with the occupation of Nos. 1 and 2 redoubts. From this time they gradually withdrew their troops to the high ground beyond the village of Kamara, and towards dusk only a portion of cavalry and artillery remained in the valley, apparently to prevent their flank from being turned by any attack of the Allies. The allied Commanders-in-Chief now had a consultation together, when they decided that it would only be a useless sacrifice of life to attempt to retake the redoubts, as it was not their intention to occupy them again. They considered that they had not an adequate force at their disposal to defend in sufficient numbers so extensive a line of work. At the same time they arranged to augment the number of troops in the vicinity of Balaklava. Lord Raglan determined upon leaving the brigade of Highlanders at the disposal of Sir Colin Campbell; and General Canrobert ordered the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division, together with a battery of artillery, to camp on some high ground on the left of our work situated near the village of Kadikoi. This brigade was under the command of General Vinoy, who was instructed to use his discretion in adopting any suggestion from Sir Colin Campbell in the event of an attack from the enemy. As to our unfortunate allies the Turks, they were to be placed in such a position that they should never have an opportunity of running away again. The only thing to be said in defence of their disgraceful conduct is, that they are so badly commanded, their officers being for the most part men entirely devoid of all education or experience in their profession. I understand that a large number owe their present appointments to having been chibouqueji (i.e. pipe-bearers) or attendants on Pashas, and have only lately left these servile employments. They can hardly be supposed, therefore, to understand military order and discipline. Their loss on the 25th was very considerable. I believe nine officers and upwards of 250 men were killed or wounded; of these at least two-thirds were struck down when running away after they had abandoned their works.

After dusk the brigade of Guards and the 4th Division returned to their respective camps, as also did the remainder of the French troops. It was dark when Lord Raglan and the Staff returned to Headquarters, all rather melancholy at the results of the day, and each mourning the loss of several dear friends and brother officers, whose lives had been uselessly sacrificed to a misconception of orders.2

The following morning (October 26th) Lord Raglan and the Staff rode down to Balaklava, in order to see in what manner it could be best protected against any attack of the enemy. We found Sir C. Campbell in the redoubt on the crest of the heights to the east of the harbour, where he had been all night, ready, in case the Russians should renew the attack on our position.

After some consultation with Sir Colin Campbell and the officers who are chiefs of the military departments, it was decided that a line-of-battle ship should be anchored across the upper part of the harbour, and thus bring an overwhelming battery of the heaviest artillery to sweep the usual approaches to Balaklava. Then all the works on the heights and in front of the town are to be materially strengthened. As our Turks do not appear to be able to fight, it was determined that they should be employed chiefly in working parties, both at Balaklava and also in the trenches. For this purpose 1500 of them were sent up during the afternoon to go into our two attacks, and work there for the following night. The 42nd Highlanders were placed in rear of the redoubt at Kadikoi, and the 79th, between them and the 93rd, on the eastern heights. These regiments are to strengthen the redoubt and construct a parapet and ditch across the valley to connect the works on the opposite side. The brigade of French under General Vinoy, camped to the east of Kadikoi, were ordered to fortify the ground they occupy, and complete the defence of the position before Balaklava.

On returning, half-way between Balaklava and Headquarters, Lord Raglan was met by a staff officer sent by Sir De Lacy Evans, who begged to inform him that the Russians had made a sortie in force from Sevastopol on our extreme right, opposite Inkermann. Lord Raglan immediately galloped off to the 2nd Division, and, on his arrival, found that the enemy had been repulsed and driven back to the town. It would appear that soon after 1 p.m. a strong body of infantry, with two batteries of artillery and two squadrons of Cossacks, left the place, and advanced towards the heights on which our 2nd Division is encamped. This movement they made with such rapidity, that our outposts and pickets had to engage the enemy’s skirmishers for some little time before any supports could be brought to them. Directly Sir De Lacy was informed of the Russian attack, he ordered out the 2nd Division, and the two batteries of artillery attached to it: in a very short time it was under arms, and instantly marched to the scene of action. In the meantime our pickets had been so hard pressed by the enemy’s that they had to retire, and, on the division coming up, our guns opened with great effect. Shortly after, the brigade of Guards was brought up by H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge in support of the 2nd Division; it was not however engaged, but the battery attached to it joined those already in action.

Our 18 guns now opened so destructive a fire upon the enemy’s artillery, that it was driven out of the field immediately. They then turned their attention to the Russian infantry, which precipitately retired in great disorder and confusion, followed by our men, who kept up a sharp fire upon the retreating columns. It was with considerable difficulty that our soldiers could be recalled from the pursuit. As the broken forces of the enemy entered the Karabelnaia suburb, near the water’s edge, they came within range of one of our Lancasters in the 5-gun battery, which opened up and caused them enormous loss. All this had taken up but little more than half an hour. We captured over 80 prisoners, of whom two officers and 17 men were untouched. I ought to state that General Bosquet, on hearing the cannonade, turned out five battalions of his division, and marched them in the direction of the firing, and sent an officer of his Staff to inform Sir De Lacy Evans of the fact; but before the French arrived the enemy had been driven back, consequently their proffered assistance was not required. On the following morning (October 27th) the prisoners who were not wounded were brought up to Headquarters and examined by Mr. Calvert. From their account it appears that the guns captured before Balaklava on the 25th were brought round the same evening and paraded through the streets of Sevastopol, and it was generally circulated in the garrison that a victory had been gained over the English. Consequently the rejoicings were great, the church-bells were rung, and the Admiral gave a ball. The next day they decided upon making an attack and, as the troops were told that the English were quite disheartened, there was no difficulty in obtaining volunteers for that service. They consisted of 4500 infantry, with 12 guns and two squadrons of Cossacks. They must have been not a little surprised at the readiness with which they were met and repulsed by the British troops, whose number did not exceed 2000 men.

We buried yesterday (27th) 96 Russian corpses; many more were lying nearer the town, which the garrison would not allow us to approach. All the afternoon after the sortie and the following morning large fatigue parties were employed by the enemy in bringing in their dead and wounded. Altogether their loss is estimated at upwards of 600 casualties; our loss was two officers and 10 men killed, and five officers and 51 men wounded. One of the officers who was taken prisoner informed us that the Russian troops that attacked Balaklava on the 25th were under the command of General Liprandi, and consisted of 17,000 infantry, 5000 cavalry (of whom 2000 were Cossacks, the remainder being regulars), and 62 guns, of which 20 were guns of position. He said that he understood their loss was one General wounded, and 25 other officers, besides about 550 men, killed and wounded.

This morning (28th) Lord Raglan decided that a flag of truce should be sent to ascertain what prisoners the Russians had taken on the 25th. Accordingly he despatched an aide-de-camp to Lord Lucan, requesting him to send a letter by an officer of his Staff to the Russian General commanding the troops on the Tchernaya. Lord Lucan intrusted this mission to Captain Fellowes, Deputy-Assistant Quartermaster General of the cavalry division. He went, accompanied only by the trumpet-major of the 17th Lancers, bearing a white flag at the end of a lance. They rode up to our most advanced vedettes, and then proceeded at a walk towards the Russian outposts, sounding every two or three minutes. As they approached they observed a party of some dozen Cossacks ride out towards them, who, when within 50 yards, halted, and two officers left them and rode up to Captain Fellowes. He addressed them in French, and informed them that he had a letter from the General commanding the English cavalry to the Russian General commanding the troops on the Tchernaya. He also stated the import of the letter, and added that he had observed many dead bodies lying on the ground on the scene of the Light Cavalry charge on the 25th, and begged they would have them interred, or allow us to send parties for that purpose. One of the officers, in reply, said that he would go and ask the General. He then rode off to the rear with a Cossack orderly. The other officer remained with Captain Fellowes, and, as he could speak no civilized language but his own, their conversation was necessarily limited. Nevertheless, they managed to fraternize by exchanging cigars and admiring one another’s swords, etc. In a short time the first officer returned, accompanied by an old officer, who was evidently a man of rank from the respect shown him. He was at first not very civil, and appeared much annoyed at the remarks Captain Fellowes had made on the dead being left unburied. “Dites a votre General que nous sommes ennemis, mais que nous sommes Chretiens,” said he. However, he softened down when he found that Captain Fellowes had brought letters from Russian officers whom we had taken prisoners, and told him that, if he would return tomorrow at midday, he should have the names of the survivors of the 25th.

On October 29th Captain Fellowes went again with a flag of truce to the outposts of the Russians in the valley of Balaklava. He was immediately met by an officer who gave him a letter from General Liprandi in reply to Lord Lucan’s of the day before; from which it appeared that they have only two English officers prisoners, namely, Lieutenant Chadwick, adjutant 17th Lancers, and Cornet Clowes of the 8th Hussars, both severely wounded; the former speared in the neck, and the latter in the back. Both had their horses shot under them, and it was in attempting to return to our lines that they were pursued by Cossacks, and wounded in the manner I have described. Several other wounded officers had been brought in to the Russian camp after the action of the 25th, but none had survived through the night. They had also from 30 to 40 men prisoners, the majority of whom were wounded. There was also a Piedmontese officer of the Sardinian army taken prisoner. He was one of several officers sent by his government, and attached to the Headquarters of the French army, and, having come with the French Staff on the 25th, foolishly joined in the charge of our Light Cavalry, had his horse killed under him, and was himself badly wounded. The Russian officer brought also a letter from Clowes to a brother officer of his regiment, in which he stated that they were very kindly treated, and received every attention and comfort that circumstances would admit, and that they were to leave for Simferopol that evening, to which place most of the other prisoners had already been taken.

We hear from deserters, and indeed we can see, that large reinforcements are daily arriving to the Russian army. It is said that the Corps d’Armee under General Liprandi counts upwards of 40,000 bayonets, and that he is expecting another division. General Osten-Sacken has arrived in the Crimea with a large force: accounts vary as to its strength, but probably it is not less than from 20,000 to 25,000 men. In the meantime the Allies are fortifying their position: the French are constructing considerable works along the edge of the plateau overlooking the valley of Balaklava; and the English have been unremitting in their exertions to strengthen the ground before that town. The Sanspareil screw line-of-battle ship has been brought round to Balaklava, and is now at the head of the harbour, anchored broadside on, so that her guns sweep the main entrances. For some time past General Canrobert has promised Lord Raglan to send a division of infantry to reinforce our troops on the extreme right, opposite Inkermann; but for some reason or other it has been put off from day to day, so that the much-wished-for assistance has never arrived. Sir De Lacy Evans has several times urged on Lord Raglan the necessity of strengthening our position at this point, and Lord Raglan, willing to give him every assistance and support in his power, induced General Canrobert to promise the troops before mentioned. Indeed, more than that — Sir John Burgoyne (Royal Engineers), the other day, took General Bizot (Chef du Corps du Genie) over the ground, and pointed out to him the desirability of increasing the number of troops at that place, which General Bizot admitted. With our present numbers it is impossible for us to construct any intrenchments. The men of the 2nd Division are much overworked, as the ground they have to defend is so extensive that there are necessarily many outposts and pickets to furnish. Although, with the exception of this weak point, our position begins to assume a formidable appearance, the line of defence is of such extent, that our force, as long as the siege lasts, is not numerous enough to defend it properly against a vigorous attack of the enemy, should they make it simultaneously at different points and in sufficient numbers. Though the Russians have a large disposable force, I doubt much whether they will have determination and courage enough to overcome British firmness and French gallantry. All this makes it of great importance that the town should be taken with the least possible delay, especially as the troops begin to suffer from the coldness of the nights.

The 29th was the first really cold day that we have had since we landed in the Crimea, and the contrast to the previous warmth was very great. Far more men go into hospital from the night-work in the trenches than from any other cause; and even those not at work begin to feel the cold very much, being only under the cover of the tents, which are but poor protection against inclement weather. It is strange that there are many, even in high places, who think that we shall not winter in the Crimea; but I do not see how it would be possible to embark the allied armies with a large Russian force close by, unless we made up our minds to sacrifice all the artillery and cavalry, and even then there would be great difficulty in doing so.

I heard from a French officer that some of his men of the Zouaves had been feasting for the last few days upon some Russian horses which had been killed a few nights after the battle. This had been done by mistake: a picket of Zouaves, hearing the sound of galloping horses approaching, and fancying that it was a surprise by the enemy, fired with such effect that several horses were killed, while many others were caught. Upon examination, they discovered they were all without riders, although saddled; and it was evident, from the state of their bridles, that they had broken away from the enemy’s camp, probably frightened by some rockets which the French had been throwing at the Russians. I expressed my surprise to the officer that the Zouaves should care about eating horse-flesh, when doubtless they were well provided with meat by their commissariat; but he replied, that, although they had plenty of salt meat given them, fresh meat was too great a luxury not to be taken advantage of when thrown in their way, as it was very rarely issued to the troops as rations.3

At daylight on November 1st the French at last opened their breaching fire, but with only 32 guns. They appeared to have considerable effect; and although the Russians answered them very briskly for about an hour, the predominance of the French fire was from that time very apparent, and, after some hours cannonade, the enemy ceased to reply altogether. The front line of the Russian works is in a very damaged state; but I suspect they care little for that, as they depend chiefly on the strength of their inner line of defence. They have been, for some time past, making very large earthworks in rear of the Redan and Bastion du Mat Batteries, and in spite of our incessant pounding they continue to increase the batteries in the neighbourhood of the Malakoff Tower. All these great inner works are but little affected by our fire, as their outer or front line of defence acts in a great measure as a screen to the inner one. I believe therefore the only thing that would silence the guns in there would be to bring an overwhelming vertical fire from mortars to bear upon them; but, unfortunately, we have but a limited supply of this ordnance.


1. The Earl of Cardigan has denied the whole of the above statement since the publication of the first edition of this work, and declared it to be “totally without foundation;” adding “that Captain Morris never gave any advice, or made any proposal of the sort;” that “it was not his duty to do so;” and that he “did not commit such an irregularity.” The conversation, however, has been frequently related by Captain (now Lieutenant-Colonel and C.B.) Morris, in the presence of officers of high rank, at various times and places. Besides which, the author has been assured by other officers of the 17th Lancers, who were present at the time, of the truth of his statement, one of them adding that even the men in the ranks clamoured to be allowed to attack the enemy.

2. The loss of the Allies in killed, wounded, and missing, at the battle of Balaklava, was as follows:

 OfficersSerjeants,
Trumpeters,
and
Rank and File
Total
Casualties.
English40386426
French2(about)    5032
Turks9(about)  250259
  737

3. I remember Colonel Lagondie telling me that, when serving in Algeria during the winter of 1833-34, he lived for six weeks(!) on horse-flesh, as well as the greater portion of the French troops, because there was no other meat to be had. I think this was in the province of Constantine. I recollect, when I was travelling in that country, hearing from several French officers that they had often been obliged to eat horse-flesh from the scarcity of provisions.


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