ACTIVE operations were not to be looked for during this month, and, beyond a slight reverse sustained by Vivian's Cavalry, and a couple of unimportant outpost affairs, we hear of nothing in that kind.
Thus the military position continued unchanged — the enemy holding his ground, whilst the Allied Armies remained prepared to seize any advantage which might be offered by his movements. ‘The destruction of the South Side of Sebastopol, its docks and forts, is in our power,’ writes Codrington to Panmure on December 8th, ‘but the enemy holds as much control over the harbour as we do: we have not possession of it at all in a naval point of view; it is a large mutual wet ditch under fire from both sides.’ It would, therefore, have to be decided by the Allies whether the war was to be prosecuted in the Crimea or not, and meantime it was becoming apparent that the French had grown tired of a war so far from home. The comparative advantages of various defensive lines had lately been discussed with the aid of experts in Committee of the Cabinet. But before the end of the month we find Codrington contemplating the situation which would be brought about by a withdrawal of the French Army within its own lines at Kamiesh.
As regards the prospect of peace, the position is defined as follows: After the full of Sebastopol, Austria had submitted to France and Greaat Britain certain new bases of treaty, which she suggested should be sent by her to St. Petersburg. After undergoing modification in London, so as to define the conditions on which England would be willing to treat, these proposals had been accepted by Austria in their new form and were now on their way to the Russian capital.
In the Crimea, by the beginning of the month, bad weather had set in in the shape of rain and gales, which were followed by cold sufficiently severe to cause frost-bites and even deaths. By flooding mines, the rain delayed the blowing up of the docks of the South Side, whilst the depth of the mud interfered with endeavours to restore the Army's drill. The health of the troops, however, continued good; drunkenness abated, or accounts of it proved to have been exaggerated; the state of the supplies was declared to be gratifying, and the progress made in hutting the troops satisfactory. It had also been announced that the road from Balaclava ‘would do.’ Codrington had profited by the criticism directed against his predecessors in the command, and the fulness of his despatches won the approval of all, from the Queen downwards.
Among the questions of organisation discussed between him and Lord Panmure, perhaps the most interesting was that of the advisability of completing each Division with its proper complement of baggage-animals and means of transport, instead of maintaining the Land Transport as a separate and independent department.
December 1, 1855.
Huts lately received are not watertight.
I am sorry to say that the huts sent out are anything but decently watertight. I went into many of them some days ago just after rain, and found that the best new ones, those long ones of seventy feet, with double boards and felt, were yet defective at the junction of the roof-squares to such an extent that the water came in plentifully, and men had to use their waterproofs and all sorts of things whilst lying down. . . .
Older huts out of repair. — Patching of huts.
The huts, old ones, are some of them built round with stone and mud walls close, and the roofs covered with bits of tents, old sacks, condemned blankets. I had ordered that the hospital huts containing sick should first have all assistance that could be given to make them sound; but to limit, at present, to the huts that actually contained sick. . . .
Locomotive engine unequal to its work.
The weather is bad — broke well into winter with rain and gales, varying with frost at night, and depth of mud during the day. The locomotive railway engine, by Colonel M'Murdo's account to me, will scarcely do the work expected of it. He thinks we shall have to trust to horse-power on the rail principally, and complains of the chains of the harness traces being so weak that they snap.
Question as to continued independence of Land Transport Corps.
Colonel M'Murdo goes home to-day, and of course you will see him. The question will have to be decided of the continued independence of Land Transport Corps: if they are to be continued as a corps independent of the Army, they must have the establishment of a little army, which never could go on without officers, and many a good non-commissioned officer. Superintendence is wanting to a degree from what I see, for the English disposition with horses is generally that of violence, pulling and kicking; and responsible non-commissioned officers are wanted with parties to see to that and all details connected with it.
I suspect it will be found, if the Corps is to be made efficient, that a thousand men and non-commissioned officers will not be too many to take from the bayonets of this Army and make the remainder movable.
No word of the Russians retiring.
The accounts and information from the front do not give any present indication of the Russians retiring; why should they now? And I think the visit of the Emperor to the troops in this part of the Crimea has a tendency to confirm this impression of their holding their ground if possible.
Difficulty of drilling troops.
There are no people more anxious for carrying on the drill of the men than the officers commanding, from Divisions downwards: could you but see the sticky and hopeless mud of this plateau, except during frost, you would understand that as much would be lost in efficiency as gained by drilling upon it. I do not mean that there will not be days in which marching could take place, but, if at all like last year, they will be few and far between.
Almost all the Cavalry is gone to its destination in the Bosphorus and Scutari. General Scarlett will command there for a short time, but has requested leave for really urgent business in England for a time, which I have granted: the command would remain with General Lawrenson there. I have settled the point of senior officer command in the Bosphorus command by saying that the senior officer is always the commander; but that Brigadier-General Storks 1 need not be interfered with in any of his orders and arrangements, unless from absolute necessity.
I shall not avoid taking advantage of any opportunity of going to Kertch and elsewhere; but business here would necessarily be delayed by it: the decisions requisite, the references are, of course, perpetual; and many can only be decided by the chief authority of the Army.
The rain and mud made some parts of the new road very bad, and it was not improved by the night frost, but people were put on at once, and the greatest part of it is doing its duty well.
December 2, 1855.
Condition of the Balaclava road.
I shall probably put things down as they happen, as some means of my not forgetting things which may give you information.
The road from Balaclava will do — it has been for three or four days in a curious state. . . . but I have desired Mr. Doyne to put on the road a considerable number of Army Works Corps to be constantly working at it.
Land Transport Corps
When at Balaclava yesterday, I saw Colonel M'Murdo on the point of going on board the [Severn? 2]. He has the impression that the men he has, and is enlisting, will establish the ‘personnel’ of the Land Transport Corps. I do not think so. And where are the non-commissioned officers, or whatever that rank may be called in the Corps? We shall want the steadiest men, the most attentive supervisors of detail (non-commissioned officers of some sort); we shall want many officers for such a Corps as the Land Transport. You must enforce, and have the staff to enforce, military discipline among them. It must be a little army of steady, good men — all the steadier from the nature of their duty, subject to being detached and to accidents. You must let me know if the Land Transport system is to remain an independent establishment, furnishing means of moving to the Army, or whether I am to be responsible for making it so, taking my own means of ensuring it. I am not at all sure, on talking much about it to-day with General Windham, that we shall not have to take it into Army hands, abstract from Brigades 400 or 500 men with non-commissioned officers and officers, let them be the efficient transport attendant upon their own brigade — identified with it, and feeling an interest in it — and consider the main establishment of the Land Transport Corps as the reserve to feed the front by bringing supplies from the main base. The large number of drivers you mention as being sent out are so much raw material, but they will want non-commissioned officers — as all establishments do.
I want to see the Land Transport attached to the Divisions of the Army, made a part of that Division, for the General Officer to control, to arrange, to pay attention to, as the best means of efficiency of his troops; and not to be an excrescence of the Division as it now is. When Colonel M'Murdo gets home, you will make up your mind as to the line you empower me to take.
Accident to huts.
We have had blowing weather yesterday, and last night, on visiting the Guards' Camp, I found that two hospital huts had been regularly blown over — down; it seems the wind was strong enough to unsettle that part of the roof near the sides, lifting it a little; it then got out of sockets and at once gave way. Fortunately only two people were at all hurt.
State of the ground.
As to drill, mentioned in your last private letter, I think I mentioned to you the state of ground here; a poached Northamptonshire clay lane would give you some idea of the majority of the ground on this plateau, marked as it is with similar broad tracks over the face of it, through which it is difficult for a man to lift his feet. And I fully expect that to ease the Land Transport, which would tear itself to pieces on the roads, I shall have to ensure getting huts up by marching almost the whole Division to Balaclava to bring them up on their backs.
Commissariat stores on the plateau to be drawn on during bad state of roads.
I yesterday settled to let Division Generals give authority for their Commissariat officers to issue from their stocks on the plateau, and save the transport animals and carts during this state of the roads; the accumulation will be going on at Balaclava, and they will then take advantage of dry days and roads to work hard.
Yesterday was a fine day, and I rode for an hour or two towards the Monastery, meeting Marshal Pélissier and apparently all the officers of the Army at a steeple-chase; the arrival of the mail did not allow me to share more than half an hour of [sport 3] which is of interest to so many, and therefore does good. Referring to your private letter of the 19th, I again say, look at the time of year.
Well out of the Arabat expedition.
I am glad that the Arabat expedition is viewed in the light it was by me. To-day, for instance, as a consecutive of one fine day yesterday, we have a soaking S.W. rain; we should have been in the thick of that operation — indeed I don't think we should have got into the thick of it, for siege guns could not move over this country in the rainy time without enormous expenditure of transport.
Reticence as to scene of recent explosion.
You will get my official account of the explosion, which I wrote in such a way as to avoid public mention of the mill containing — or which will when repaired contain — small-arm ammunition. The French wished it not to be again used for powder, but I decided it should be: the walls are nearly three feet thick, a circular (former) windmill; it has been a magazine from the first arrival, and the French have put themselves, long since that time, in its neighbourhood. They had a hospital establishment and a canteen village close about it, the latter blown to pieces, the former so much damaged as to make the removal of both easy. It is perhaps quite a work of supererogation not publishing the word mill, for the very first thing that was done in October, or November, 1854, was to publish the fact in our newspapers for the information of the Russians.
As to the schoolmasters which it is proposed to send out to the Army.
You have telegraphed about schoolmasters coming out. Like many other people who come to this Army, the first thing we shall have to do will be to take care of them, for they can't take care of themselves; and the next thing we shall have to do will again be to take care of them, and the third thing — to take care of them. Are they also to march with the Army hereafter, with the separate rights and establishment which it is my impression they rather affect?
Necessity of a effective Land Transport.
There is one corps that must be put on an effective footing, and which is not so — the Land Transport Corps.
Requirements of the above.
I have the utmost confidence in its being done by Colonel Wetherall, if done at all; but we must not be hampered; it will require a total change, a large number of officers and non-commissioned officers and men of the only really organised body we have, viz. the Army. You must take from the Army to make the remainder of the Army efficient, you must make up your mind to the deduction from the fighting-men in order to put these others in the place for fighting. People seem to think that when Sir J. Paxton has shipped 100 navvies, when Messrs. Some One Else have sent 50 skilled labourers, when John Bull has sent 3000 drivers, of all sorts of trades unconnected with horses and carts — has sent about 5000 ‘natives’ — that everything has been done for the Army. Why, these numbers are regiments; brigades — human creatures: have sickness, have misery, have quarrels — want food, cooking, medicine, rest, and, above all, supervision and arrangement, like the rest of the world: more indeed than many others, for there are animals, pack-saddles, carts and waggons to be cared for, inspected and replaced. You want therefore a large, intelligent, and steady staff; and you have comparatively nothing.
The foundations of discipline are good non-commissioned officers; and you will hear from Colonel M'Murdo how utterly he has felt and feels the want of them.
The fighting-men — the regiments — and the transport to enable them to feed and fight in the right place, these are the main things of an army, and to these we must put our whole, our first consideration, if the Army is to move.
Army Works Corps quite inadequate to possible requirements.
The very ‘Army Works Corps’ — on my direct question to Mr. Doyne a few days ago, as to whether he could ensure me the presence in the front of these men, if I wanted to throw up an earthwork ten or twenty miles from hence, after a march, he had no idea that at present I could make sure of a hundred. I suspect two-thirds of them expect to be carried in waggons, and work in shelter.
Sir Colin Campbell's return.
I am more surprised at Sir Colin Campbell's coming out again than I am at his going home: you know I have expressed publicly what I feel for his services and character; and any casual private communications which I have had with him formerly lead me to think that personally all will go smooth. Human nature is human nature, however, and it is one element of military nature; and it is no use, now that you and Lord Hardinge have settled the point, inquiring whether his position in this Army is one which consideration towards me would have suggested.
December 3, 1855.
Approval of Codrington' [sic] spirit.
I have just received your letter of the [Blank in copy] inst. . . . It gives me great satisfaction to see that you allow neither confusion nor difficulty to dismay or dishearten you, and the cheerful manner in which you face everything contributes much to lighten my burthen here. The voyage of the Contingent Cavalry sounds very ridiculous, and what on earth made Vivian send for them so late I cannot imagine! However, I dare say they will find good quarters at Baltchick.
I have desired a most stringent inquiry to be made into the stowing of the vessels named in your despatch, and I will certainly have somebody hanged if I can only bring the crime home to him, I cannot imagine where the bulk of our huts can be, as all should have reached you ere the time you wrote.
Relative powers of the writer and Sir W. Codrington.
I have had a long conversation with Lord Hardinge on the subject of the Corps d'Armée. We both agree that you have judged prudently in not forming them at once, and though we must keep faith with Sir Colin, who will soon return, we shall leave you perfect discretion to form the 2nd Corps when you please, or not at all unless you like it. I wish to impress on you that, while I direct the war from here, I do not wish to alter the organisation of the Army without giving you full freedom to carry out any views I may express as you think right. I set the question of the two Corps on a right official footing; you had better write me a despatch in which you set forth your reasons for not concurring in the recommendation, and to this I can reply so as to leave on record the reason why the proposal was abandoned to some degree.
You will no doubt be inundated with many vague reports from all quarters, and dark hints from Pélissier as to the future. Rumours of peace will be circulated, but you must believe in none which you do not receive from me. I think you should know confidentially the political aspect of affairs, which may guide to a certain extent your military contemplations.
The French Emperor weary of the war.
There can be no doubt that the Emperor of the French is tired of war at so remote a distance from France, and he is fast making up his mind to do no more in the Crimea. What object he has in desiring to bring the bulk of his Army home I cannot say, but such is his drift.
He tries to deceive us by saying that he replaces those he takes away by similar numbers sent out. We are incredulous, but you can easily keep me informed on the point.
A Council of War probable.
They point to a Council of War to deliberate on future operations, and if this Council confines itself to chalking out a sphere of operations, and abstains from fixing any precise plan, it may do some good.
It may well deliberate as to whether we should prosecute an advance into the Crimea or not, or whether the French should attack Nicholaieff or Cherson, and we Georgia and Circassia. It may settle that the two armies shall each operate under its own Chief from distinct bases and with defined purposes, but into no minutiae of a campaign must the Council descend, otherwise it will be blazoned throughout Russia, and all success rendered doubtful by being anticipated. In case we turn our eyes to Georgia, you will do well to collect all the information you can as to the climate, roads, localities for magazines, as well as to an organisation of your transport corps to suit it to as many men as possible. I have given orders to get the best maps for you, but I fear any detailed plan of the country is not in existence.
December 7, 1855.
The accounts you give me of your weather and the progress you have made in getting your men under cover is very gratifying, and the state of your supplies seems to place you beyond risk for the coming winter. I cannot yet make out how far the enemy will be able to keep the open field when winter sets in with its usual severity, but, in case he weakens his outposts and is driven from them by stress of weather or deficiency of provisions, I hope you will have a flying corps ready to fall on any weak point and to make a little harvest of glory even in midwinter. As soon as the troops have done with their roads, I would suggest your securing, as far as you can, your position to protect Balaclava. I am not sufficiently master of the ground to enter into the question, but I believe it to be a general opinion that, unless you occupy and defend the plateau, an enemy in possession of it would annihilate your shipping and shell all your magazines. You must lay out your plans on the supposition that your French allies withdraw within their lines at Kamiesh, and you may require to replace them by troops of your own drawn from Scutari, Smyrna, or Malta.
As to a possible Russian attack on Kertch.
To this extent you will have to take counsel with the Admiral in command to keep means of transport at his command throughout the winter. Again I am by no means easy as to the force at Kertch. Rumours are rife that an attack is intended when the ice will enable the Russians to collect force and material for the purposes. This may or may not be true, but it must be considered. Vivian writes that he is throwing up works, but has no means of arming them. He says you can spare him 32-pounder guns from Balaclava. There is no use in works without guns, and I do hope that somehow or other they will be forthcoming. But supposing no attack is made, there is no little anxiety as to the supply of provisions for the garrison, to which I hope your attention will be turned. I know not how you hold communication with Kertch, but you must see to its being regular. Should General Wrangel form any deliberate scheme on Kertch, I think you should be prepared to throw 20,000 men on Kaffa, so as to threaten his rear whenever he moves. These you may get, as follows, in a little time. Two thousand Swiss, well-trained and old soldiers, from Smyrna; 3000 Germans, ditto, from Scutari; 8000 men from Malta to fill up your ranks at head-quarters. Total 13,000; and with 7000 of your present numbers, you can make up the force to which I refer. I hope this is only speculation, but it proves that we must not lapse into any false security against a foe up to all dodges. Such a movement as this would require transport, and affords another proof of [necessity] for its being kept in readiness.
This is a hurried letter, and I have only to add in conclusion that I am glad to hear that you are busy with the docks. The sooner they are blown up the happier I shall be.
December 8, 1855.
As to temporary withdrawal of Turkish troops.
Some time ago Marshal Pélissier suggested to the Ambassadors at the Porte that the Turkish troops at Eupatoria, who were in a bad state of health, and, I believe, of Commissariat arrangement, which was the cause of it, should go partly to Varna and elsewhere to recover, and be available for next spring. I understand that he objected to their being taken so entirely from hence, viz. to the Asiatic campaign; which would prevent their being again available in the Crimea.
The Ambassadors at the Porte seem to have settled with the Porte that the troops should go, and the Simoom is now at Eupatoria with orders to embark some of them, the Pasha of the Turkish troops having, however, no such orders.
Marshal Pélissier also cannot consent, unless by orders from Paris direct, to their removal. The telegraph is broken, and probably seriously, at sea — consequently delay is taking place. The Ambassadors and probably Omar Pasha consider the arrival of troops at Trebizond as of great importance, but the defence of Eupatoria is in French hands now; our Cavalry is withdrawn to the Bosphorus. Marshal Pélissier would be willing to consent, personally, to the departure of the Turkish troops, but he cannot do so till he receives the approval of the Emperor of the French.
In order to secure the efficiency of the Turkish troops at Eupatoria, the French had undertaken to supply them.
British Cavalry embarking for the Bosphorus.
The last of our Cavalry were embarking yesterday at Balaclava for the Bosphorus. . . . You must not suppose in the possibility of much drill going on during a short, severe, and excessively muddy season.
SEBASTOPOL, December 8, 1855.
Necessity of deciding whether the war is to be continued in the Crimea.
One point, one general outline has to be settled by the Allied Government[s] as a guidance to their Generals in Command, viz. whether the war is to be continued in the Crimea as long as the enemy holds positions in it more or less menacing, more or less of political or military importance.
The destruction of the South Side of Sebastopol, its docks and forts, is in our power; but the enemy holds as much control over the harbour as we do: we have not possession of it at all in a naval point of view; it is a large mutual wet ditch under fire from both sides.
Present position of hostile armies.
It is probably of political consequence to the enemy thus to keep their hold of the North shore: it is also of military consequence for them, as putting the Allies to a similar difficulty as that which has long existed — of attacking a central, and in some points naturally unattackable, position.
The enemy would probably leave troops in sufficient numbers to continue that difficulty to us; and yet not so numerous as to have difficulty in supplying them.
Our business here is to overcome that difficulty of attack upon them, when once it is settled that the war is to be continued here: it is not necessary for me to enter now into any details; the main point only requires to be settled for us first.
PS. — I shall probably send a copy of this to Marshal Pélissier.
December 9, 1855.
Defence of the nearer line of Balaclava.
The Queen wishes me to write to you, to say that Sir W. Codrington's telegraph is no answer to your question as to what he can do to defend the nearer line of Balaclava, so as to protect an embarkation or the shipping. He states the difficulties of embarking, when pressed by the enemy, probably very correctly, but, whether we mean to embark or not, Balaclava ought to receive all the protection by fortified lines which it may be capable of, as a security in case of the Tchernaya line being broken through. The Queen is very anxious that this should be made clear to Sir W. Codrington.
The Queen would further wish to have Morning States regularly sent of the Turkish Contingent under General Vivian, and the Land Transport Corps under Colonel Wetherall. They are the two only forces who make no return at present.
With respect to the Bath, I wish to remind you that it would be very important that the investiture should take place at Paris whilst the Duke of Cambridge and our other Generals and Admirals are there. . . .
December 10, 1855.
Many thanks for your letter of the 8th. Your return of huts sent out to the Crimea leaves no room for doubt that the Army will be well covered when they shall all have arrived.
I am glad to find that your meetings for the consideration of home defence proceed satisfactorily.
I have seen Colonel Laffan and gone over the plans of the Cavalry barracks with him, which are very well worked out. . . . Colonel Laffan sees no difficulty in adopting the plan.
Opinion of Airey on present position of the Army.
I had a long talk with Sir Richard Airey. His opinion on the present position of the Army is that neither Balaclava nor Kamiesh could be held by themselves, (he told the Emperor at Paris that the Russians, once on the plateau, could completely drive the French into the sea) — that the line from the Careening Ridge and Inkerman heights to Balaclava was strong, but very extended, and by no means unassailable; that the strongest line was that of the Tchernaya, now occupied by the French and Sardinians, and the one most easily defended, covering the whole position.
Strength of the French position on the Tchernaya.
The features of the ground were much stronger than our maps and plans showed, and art might make them almost impregnable. That position acquired great strength from the Tchernaya and Aqueduct running parallel to each other; the former is passable only in two or three places, and the latter impassable for Artillery, as the banks are perpendicular, the inside is deep and only eight feet wide, so that a vessel once striking there could not be extricated again. I should advise you to hear him on this point, and then to compare his opinion with that of Sir Colin Campbell and others. Your Council of War in the Cabinet ought to take this into consideration, and I should be very glad to hear from you on the subject afterwards.
WAR DEPARTMENT, December 10, 1855.
I have seen and had a long conversation with Airey, and I am well satisfied with his report of the advance of the Army in its provision for the winter.
Airey's opinion of Eupatoria as a base.
There is scarcely anything on that head which he leaves me to suggest, as all seems going on better than I could make it do by any advice of mine. We had a long talk as to our future operations, and I find that he has a strong impression that Eupatoria, in spite of all that is said to the contrary, is a sound base of operations, and the want of water in the line of advance is more imaginary than real. He thinks, too, that, were that to fail of being undertaken, Kaffa would likewise make a good base, from which you might advance by Karasa or Baidar to the same point.
He gives me many interesting details, and the satisfactory assurance that your temporary annoyance from the intemperance of the troops had begun to disappear.
You must send Vivian what guns you have to defend his position at Kertch, and I hope you will soon take a look at it with one of your Engineers.
I have talked much with Airey about the Land Transport Corps, and I shall have to write you my views on that now that you have got a new head to it.
Sir Colin Campbell has not yet informed me of the day of his departure, but I have written you an official despatch to form a Corps for him, and left it discretionary with yourself when to form the second, if at all. . . .
December 11, 1855.
The mail this instant arrived, as that from hence leaves the Army, I can only acknowledge your private letter.
Pressure of correspondence, and how alone it can be reduced.
Do not imagine that I am released from writing: it is endless; it must be constant with the number of questions which can only be decided by the head authority; I get out when I can, and see all I can, but it will require operations in the field to simplify the correspondence of this Army, and all its civil and half-independent offshoots. . . .
Congestion in the harbour.
I have stopped for the present the sending more ships up with huts from Constantinople: the harbour here cannot hold them, the wharfs could not receive their cargoes; and, if landed, we could not get them away from the heap of all descriptions of things now daily being moved out of Balaclava. The railway carriages! — the idea of sending them out so that forges, coals, carpenters are positively necessary to repair, and sometimes materially alter, them before they can be of use.
They have now to occupy sound trucks to get them away from encumbering the wharf, and require days and days and labour at another spot before they can be useful to us, and this at a time we most essentially want them. . . .
December 11, 1855.
Unsuccessful attempt to surprise a French outpost.
General Rose came here yesterday evening, and mentioned that the Russians attempted to surprise a French outpost beyond Baidar. They not only did not succeed, but lost 130 or 140 men killed and wounded, 3 officers, and several men taken prisoners by the French.
The French lost 4 killed and 8 or 9 wounded; but I have no written or authentic details. I did not see General Rose myself.
WAR DEPARTMENT, December 14, 1855.
I have very little to say to you by this mail, and I shall confine myself to a very brief letter. We have been interrupted in our usual telegraphic correspondence by the breaking of the wire in the Black Sea, and I am afraid we shall have some trouble in picking up the flaw. I am engaged on a secret despatch to you on the subject of our next year's campaign, and I hope to get it done by Monday next, and despatched to you by that mail. I have had the benefit of my colleagues', and also of Sir Harry Jones', Sir Richard Airey's, and Lord Hardinge's advice on the subject, and we all are pretty well agreed on the various points to be submitted to your consideration, and on which you should give us your opinion.
‘The Army has had its spree.’
I am glad to find that the Army has had its spree, and that you have, tightened the reins, and are, as I hear you are, at drill and organisation and ball-practice. A note which I have from General Vivian states that he has just heard of the enemy, in some force, within eight miles of him, and he was on the point of making a reconnaissance. I hope he will give a good account of whatever he meets. I am not altogether satisfied in my own mind with his position, but I hope the best. Colonel Lefroy, who is my wandering A.D.C. just now, is to visit and report to me on all he can overtake, and he will have paid his respects to you before you can receive this. I have no doubt you have, or will have, given him every detailed information which you think it necessary for me to know and to combat Parliament withal.
We meet on the 31st January, and, I hear, are to have some warm work.
We have reports of the fall of Kars, but nothing certain, and I for one still hope even against hope.
SEBASTOPOL, December 15, 1855.
I received a very kind letter indeed — a most valuable one from the Queen, and I should be obliged to you to forward the enclosed. . . .
Arrangements for destroying docks impeded.
The pressure of water, by sudden flood of rain, has half filled the shafts of the mines for the docks; it has also, I find, since my public letter, damaged the French arrangements, and I do not think they will begin on the 17th. . . .
The weather has for a day or two been very cold — thermometer down to 22°; but clear and healthy, roads hard.
I thought it right to send a copy of my letter to you, on the subject of a decision being come to as to the war being continued here or elsewhere, to Marshal Pélissier and General La Marmora. The enclosed is the answer from Marshal Pélissier: I do not quite make out whether he thinks attack from any side upon the enemy impracticable; and whether he would move the war to another part of the south of Russia, holding positions at Kamiesh and Balaclava only — and that these two places are the ‘gage’ he refers to.
Argument against confining the British position to Kamiesh and Balaclava.
I do not think much of this sort of ‘gage.’ If the Allies confine themselves to the occupation, opposite the enemy here, of Kamiesh and Balaclava, it puts the enemy at once into the town, though ruined, of Sebastopol; it puts them on this plateau, it puts them apparently on the offensive, and ourselves certainly on the defensive and cooped up. And with all this abandonment of the morale, and indeed the physique of this main position, my impression is that we shall require the same number of men to defend the two separate points effectually, when once the enemy is admitted to these heights and the town, as we now have to defend the strong line of the plateau itself.
I have no communication from the Sanitary Commissioners about the ration of rum; but for some time it has been diminished to one half what it was: I have desired attention to the wearing of the flannel given by Government and to inspections to see it is done.
Au QUARTIER GÉNÉRAL,
le 10 Décembre, 1855.
Pélissier on future operations.
MON CHER GÉNÉRAL, — Je vous remercie cordialement de la communication que vous avez bien voulu me faire, en portant à ma connaissance copie de la dépêche que vous avez adressée le 8 de ce mois à S. E. le Ministre de la Guerre, au sujet des projets ultérieurs de nos deux Gouvernements sur la conduite de la Guerre. Nos affaires n'auront qu'à gagner à ce que l'on prenne une prompte décision.
Quant à moi, mis en demeure par mon gouvernement de donner mon opinion sur ce qu'il serait avantageux d'entreprendre, en Crimée, au printemps, en supposant que les puissances alliées se décident à y maintenir la totalité de leurs forces, j'ai répondu: qu'il résultait, à mon avis, des renseignemens recueillis par les reconnaissances faites en forces, et qui ont tâté les positions ennemies, à l'automne, de Mackensie jusqu'à vers Batchi Serai, que ces attaques. [sic] pousseés [sic] à fond, offriraient des chances peu favorables de succès; qu'en admettant qu'on réussît, on n'achèterait cette victoire qu'au prix de pertes énormes, que ne compenserait pas le résultat obtenu, car l'ennemi aurait toujours la possibilité de se retirer devant nous, que ces considérations, enfin, me portaient à penser qu'il fallait renoncer à pousser la guerre de ce côté.
Je concluais aussi à ce que le théâtre de la guerre fût déplacé, tout en conservant en Crimée les forces nécessaires pour défendre contre tout attaque le gage que nous y avons conquis.
Voilà, mon cher Général, comment j'ai envisagé la question générale, et comment je l'ai soumise à mon Gouvernement. Il me semble, en lisant attentivement votre dépêche à Lord Panmure, que tout en parlant de l'attaque possible des plateaux de Mackensie, vous ne laissez pas ignorer que cette entreprise présenterait de grandes difficultés. A ce point de vue, je me félicite de la concordance de nos opinions, qui pourront, dès lors, amener nos deux gouvernemens à juger la question de la même manière. — Veuillez agréer, etc.
(Signé) MAL. PÉLISSIER.
FOREIGN OFFICE, December 15, 1855.
As to the writer's attending the Council in Paris.
I am ready to go to Paris, or to do anything else that may be thought useful, as long as for my sins I am in office, but I must feel for myself whether it really will be useful or not. Now I have great doubts whether my going to Paris for the Council of War would be the right thing at the right moment. I have privately consulted Cowley, on whom I entirely rely, and he advises me by no means to go now, and his reasons, which are too long for writing, appear to me sound. I think if we make up our minds as to what our policy should be as respects both Circassia and the Baltic, there would be no difficulty in having it clearly expounded by Cowley. I can have no objection, however, to the subject being discussed at the Cabinet. . . .
PLYMOUTH, December 16, 1855.
I have just been reading a despatch from Milbanke at Munich, of which a copy has been sent to your office, containing a description of an improved gun-lock invented by a man at Munich, and which he is willing to make over to the ENGLISH Government for £25. The merit of the invention is said to consist in its simplicity.
I think it would be desirable to try the invention, and give the man what he asks. If you write to this effect to the Foreign Office, they will manage the matter.
PS. — I see that Zamoysky is not yet gone. It would be very desirable to settle all his affairs, and pack him off, before we begin negotiations with Russia, if negotiations there are to be. If he is at work before we begin, his levy will be a very useful instrument of pressure upon Russia. If we delay, and send him off after negotiations are opened, those who do not know how long the arrangement has been hanging fire will think that it began only with his departure, and will consider it as a step calculated to irritate and to impede the negotiation. . . .
WAR DEPARTMENT, December 17, 1855.
I send you by this post a despatch covering a Memo of Lord Hardinge's on the subject of Corps d'Armée, in which I concur with him. He, however, prefers two Divisions to three, and his reason is that he may have room to attach to the corps a Division of foreign troops in British pay, should such be expedient. We must remember, however, that we have promised Sir Colin three Divisions. He is not a man to break faith with, and you must adhere to the arrangement.
Highlanders enthusiastic over Campbell's return.
The papers say that the ‘Highlanders’ are wild at his return. . . .
Alas for Kars! It is gone, and Williams and its brave defenders are the victims of intrigue, cowardice and ignorance on the part of the Turks. However, I console myself with the idea that Mouravieff will have a day of reckoning for it all as soon as our Army can move.
You must not take it amiss that you are not at the Council at Paris; but as Pélissier was not sent for, and as you could not well be spared, I did not suggest your presence. You will have to devote all your energies to your Land Transport Corps. Why should not you fit Division by Division with their transport animals, carts, etc., etc., and if you find weather, turn them out in marching order. I am sending you European drivers by hundreds, and your proposal to take men from your own ranks will soon supersede the necessity of employing natives at all.
It is your difficulty, and if you overcome it your credit is pinnacle high.
December 18, 1855.
Opposed to a contemplated council of war.
By Marshal Pélissier's conversation with me on the 16th there seems to have been some idea of all the Commanders going from hence to a sort of council of war. Though General la Marmora is ordered home, and to Paris for this purpose, it seems the other idea must have been abandoned: so much the better; for the fact of the necessity (seeming necessity) of such a meeting would show undecided purpose.
We are well in winter; snow covering the whole face of the ground, with heavy dark clouds and patches of blue sky — rapid hail-storms which blind everything for the time: the thermometer was low, down to 13° and 18° a day or two ago, but it is generally healthy weather; the rain and mess of mud, with its accompanying change of temperature, is apparently that which most affects health, and certainly so the comfort of the men.
Army of Kars entirely independent of that of the Crimea.
I have heard nothing official from Erzeroum and Trebizond about the fall of Kars: so little has this Army been apparently considered as in communication with, or of any intended support to Kars. If much of this army had got into the difficult passes between Trebizond, Erzeroum, and Kars, it would have arrived too late to be of use, unless much earlier arrangements had been made, and would probably have lost half its men and two-thirds of its transport in doing it. Omar Pasha certainly went to Somboun Kale, and thus far from Erzeroum; but he must have left this and Constantinople at the end of August, and his troops have had no effect as yet in preventing the Russian success at Kars. But for next spring, from Katais, he can put himself on a very vital line against the Russians if he has a large and movable army.
Turkish troops from Eupatoria have sailed for Trebizond.
The Turkish troops from Eupatoria, about which there was a difficulty made by Marshal Pélissier, have sailed for Trebizond: about half of them at all events.
The docks are still encumbered with water; the French have suffered by the same — the destruction is thereby delayed.
PICCADILLY, December 18, 1855.
Huts for seat of war.
Would it not be right to ask Codrington to explain his reasons for stopping the hutting of the Army, and to tell him that we attach more importance to the comfort of the men of the Army than to the condition of the animals of the Land Transport Corps? If the soldiers are not well sheltered during the winter, they will not maintain their health, and the Army will not be fit for service in the spring. If the Land Transport horses are a little overworked in the winter, we can buy others to take their places for the campaign. We shall make a bad figure if it can be said that there are plenty of huts at the Port, plenty of draught animals to carry them up to the Camp, plenty of men at the Camp shivering for want of the huts; but the General will not let the huts be brought to the men for fear of tiring the horses.
Such a state of things would have made a spicy passage in the Report of the Sebastopol Committee.
December 19, 1855.
Against a reduction of Cavalry.
Lord Panmure is in error when he argues as if the Queen asked for an increase of Cavalry beyond the numbers submitted by the War Committee. She requires the regiments to be replaced, not more men. The Duke of Cambridge's memorandum contemplates even fewer men than Lord Panmure's submission, but more regiments. It is because the House of Commons do not understand and feel the necessity of keeping up a Cavalry force that the submitted proposal would act so injuriously to our future military condition, for it would leave us at present with seven, but permanently with five, regiments less than we had at any time since the peace of 1815, even in our worst times for the Army; and this is proposed for no imaginable reason! Nothing has happened to call for such a change except that new heavy demands have been made upon our Cavalry, which require additional strength for the future to meet them.
Against suggested innovations in regard to Cavalry.
When further reductions shall be contemplated, the regiments reduced in number will be infallibly cut down to the strength of which the Cavalry used always to consist, and then the whole arm will be destroyed. But even if the House of Commons could be prevailed upon to keep up regiments of 600 strong, the system would be bad in itself for a Peace Establishment, as in time of war you could not increase your Cavalry in a short time by increasing the strength of regiments already ample, but you would be obliged to form new corps, which could do no service for a very long time. Moreover, the barracks in the country are built and arranged for a large number of regiments at a lower establishment; you would have to leave many empty, and the others would be incapable of containing the stronger regiments. To break the regiments up into detachments would ruin the service.
OSBORNE, December 20, 1855.
The Queen has to acknowledge several letters from Lord Panmure. She cannot sufficiently express her great satisfaction at Sir William Codrington's letters; he attends to everything with an energy and activity which is most praiseworthy and satisfactory.
Land Transport Corps.
The Queen most strongly advises Lord Panmure to adopt Sir William's proposed plan of attaching the Land Transport Corps to each Division of the Army. These detached Civil Corps as at present composed, instead of being an assistance, are only a clog to the Army. Upon this subject the Queen knows there is but one opinion amongst the officers of the Army. By Sir William Codrington's account, it is clear that the Army is even now totally unfit to move, which is a very serious question. Lord Palmerston and Lord Clarendon should see Sir William's letters, as they will be much struck by them.
The Queen rejoices to hear that the ground for the Hospital is at length to be purchased.
Lord Panmure has not reported to the Queen the result of the meeting which he had to have with Lord Hardinge, Sir R. Airey, and Sir H. Jones as to the future plans of campaign.
December 20, 1855.
Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty, and has the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Your Majesty's note of this morning.
Lord Panmure quite subscribes to Your Majesty's opinion of Sir William Codrington's letters, which are most refreshing; and they leave the conviction on the mind of those who read them that they have a zealous and honest man to deal with. It happened very curiously that Lord Panmure had written to Sir William Codrington privately to ask his opinion as to the feasibility of completing each Division with its proper complement of baggage, animals, and means of transport, instead of keeping that department, as it is at present, entirely separate and independent. 4
Land Transport Corps.
Your Majesty appears to think that the Land Transport Corps is a Civil Corps. This is not the case; it is entirely and essentially military, and under the Horse Guards. Colonel M'Murdo tried to avail himself of the aid of native drivers, and of people gathered from all quarters, but he has found such aid to fail, and 3000 men are already enlisted and despatched to fill up the Corps, and 2000 more remain to be sent. Sir William Codrington's plan to appoint some steady men from the combatant ranks of the line, both non-commissioned officers and privates, is well worth consideration. Lord Panmure does not gather from Sir William Codrington's letters that the Army is so totally unfit to serve as Your Majesty fears, though as a whole the Army could certainly not take the field. All Sir William Codrington's private as well as public letters are circulated to the Cabinet.
Conference as to best and most economic mode of defending positions now held by Allies.
Lord Panmure has to offer a thousand apologies to Your Majesty for having omitted to inform Your Majesty of the result of the meeting of the Committee of Cabinet at which Lord Hardinge, Sir H. Jones, and Sir R. Airey were summoned to attend. Lord Hardinge was not present. The conference with Sir H. Jones and Sir R. Airey was confined to the best mode of defence, with the smallest number of men, of the positions now held by the allied armies. These lines were discussed; first, an advanced line behind the Tchernaya and aqueduct, extending the position where the battle took place. Second, a line from the old French right, resting on Mount Sapoune and covering the Inkerman heights, and carried round till it meets and concludes in the Balaclava lines; third, independent fortified lines round Balaclava for the British Corps, and round Kamiesh for the French.
Comparative merits of different lines of defence discussed in Committee of the Cabinet.
The general opinion was in favour of the first plan, because it required fewer men to carry it out, and therefore left more at liberty for other operations; moreover, it was stronger and far more compact than the second line, which was nearly nine miles long. The plan of two distinct occupations of Balaclava and Kamiesh was ridiculed by Sir H. Jones and Sir R. Airey, because if the Russians were once in possession of the plateau they could shell everything in both lines.
The campaign in Asia was not discussed, as it was agreed that, in respect to it, Lord Panmure should write a despatch to Sir W. Codrington in reference to the whole question. This despatch is not yet in shape for submission to Your Majesty, but will be forwarded as soon as prepared.
In preparation of the Estimates, Lord Panmure has spoken to Lord Palmerston and Lord Hardinge, and they both concur in the expediency of taking 2000 men fewer for the line, and adding that number to the Artillery. An increase, likewise, of 1400 Sappers has been agreed to, and if these changes meet Your Majesty's approval, Lord Panmure will submit them in the usual manner.
WAR DEPARTMENT, December 21, 1855.
I have just received your letter of the [Blank] inst., and I am happy to find that all the regulations as to the sale of spirit are so well defined in our lines. I quite subscribe to your doctrine that it is best to leave the remedies for such a condition of things as my despatch referred to in the hands of those whose paramount interest it is to preserve the sobriety of the Army, and who know better than we at home can the ins and outs of the question. But John Bull is not easy to deal with, and unless some anxiety is exhibited he is apt to think that we sleep on our posts. To a certain extent he makes one do so, for I am chained like a slave to my desk. The great cry now, and Miss Nightingale inflames it, is that the men are too rich; granted, but it is added that they have no means to remit their money home. In vain I point out that this is not true, — that the soldier may put his money in the Savings-Bank, or remit it through the Paymaster, with no trouble at all.
The soldier ‘not a remitting animal.’
We have now offered the Post Office to them, but I am sure it will do no good. The soldier is not a remitting animal; all who are inclined to do so do remit continually, but there are many so selfish and brutish, whose appetite is their God, and everything is offered up to gratify its sensual longings.
You must change the class of the British soldier if you would have it otherwise. I got your telegraph about huts; we are all frightened that we should find part of our Army frozen up some night, but, as long as I see Dr. Hall's columns in the Morning State as they are, I am easy.
The interruption of the telegraph is not felt by the British public, as I have not treated them to a ‘wiry word’ for many a long day, and they are sulky in consequence.
Kars is up, and unless the Russians attack Kertch, I see no prospect of whetting your sword. Thanks for the guns you have sent there though, for they will inspire confidence. . . .
WINDSOR, December 22, 1855.
Land Transport to be organised forthwith.
The Queen has received Lord Panmure's answer to her letter from Osborne, and is glad to see from it that he is quite agreed with the Queen on the subject of the Land Transport Corps. She would most strongly urge Lord Panmure to give at once carte blanche to Sir William Codrington to organise it as he thinks best, and to make him personally responsible for it.
We have only eight weeks left to the beginning of spring, — a few references home and their answers would consume the whole of that time! The Army has now to carry their huts on their backs up to the Camp; if it had been fighting, it would have perished for want of them like last winter. If each Division, Brigade, and Battalion has not got within itself what it requires for its daily existence in the field, a movement will be quite impossible.
The Queen approves the intended increase of Artillery and Sappers and Miners, but hopes that these will be taken from the nominal, and not the existing, strength of the Army.
SEBASTOPOL, December 22, 1855.
Severe cold, with deaths therefrom resulting.
We had very cold weather on the 19th. The thermometer was down to 2°, and this with a breeze made it cold indeed. Several men had their ears frost-bitten, and during the several cold nights we have had four men have died — two of them in huts with other men, one in a French Guard tent, one found out of doors. It is usually found that in these cases drink, either at the time or previous habit, has been the cause of it.
Cessation of working-pay.
I had been arranging the cessation of working-pay before I received your official letter on the subject. You will see the terms of a General Order I have given: I shall to-day so far except Balaclava troops as to give them half working-pay per day for their loading and unloading, etc., as it is work for the whole Army. I put it on the constant wear and tear to their clothes. Either the garrison ought to be changed, for others to share the constant work, or men marched down from this plateau, which is a loss of four hours' work per day. Not worth while. Skilled labour such as miners', or any really extra work, I shall consider myself still empowered to order.
Snow is covering the ground; but to-day is mild and thawing, and the face of the country will be indeed in a mess if it breaks up. I went to see about some business of the Purveyor's stores at Balaclava: what a heap of things! — many necessities, many non-necessities, many luxuries!
The sick and their consumption of liquor.
The last week's expenditure from the store there for the sick, which cannot number above 3000 in all, was 124 dozen port wine, 116 dozen porter, and other things: in all, 3244 bottles.
The next week was 272 dozen port wine, 86 dozen porter, 8 dozen brandy, 6 dozen ale; in all, 4264 bottles!
This cannot be right or necessary. I have desired an account of numbers of sick and stores in Regimental and Division hospitals, to check such expenditure as this. The Purveyor's stores are heaped up, where room is valuable, with a cargo of chairs, I see, with sheets sent down to Scutari and Malta for washing, blankets, ditto — all this requires an immense stock. Thirty large affairs of vitriol (dangerous stuff) and lime, to make artificial soda-water! I think one need not be ashamed of thinking that such things for an army on service are absurdities, to use plain terms.
Best material for ‘tentes d'abri.’
About tents: I think we had better have some tentes d'abri: the French have tried waterproof, have tried everything: they say there is nothing so good as the plain strong linen cloth; but it is closely made — not a mere contract affair, but real good close and light linen material. It would be well to send us 5000 such tents and poles — get them from the French, if they will let you have them, and either have them marked W. D. or not, as you choose; but they have had experience — it is a good material, and you might not be sure of an imitator with us. 5000 tents give cover to 15,000 men.
A dock to be blown up.
The French blow up one, their west, dock to-day at half-past twelve: I have ordered all our people out of the Karabelnaia, for it is somewhat of an experiment and may send stones, etc., very far. Also the Russians are pretty sure to begin to fire upon the place immediately. If I can get away from post in time, I shall go down to see it from the neighbourhood of the Redan.
The French from D'Autemarre's Division at Baidar surprised a Cossack post, killing 1 officer and 9 men, and taking all the horses and arms of the party — this a few days ago.
The general information about the Russian troops in the Crimea is that there are 120,000 of all arms, and 298 guns.
Strength and distribution of Russian force.
About 4000 of these 120,000 men on the harbour, about 13,000 men about Inkerman, about 14,000 men about Mackenzie, about 12,000 men at Orta Korales, about 10,000 men in front of Yeni Lala, Upper Belbec, about 8000 on Lower Belbec, about 2000 Bakshi Serai, about
17,000 Regular, } 4,800 Militia, at Alma Kermen (Upper Alma), 1,600 Cavalry
about 11,000 Infantry (some of them Militia), 6000 Cavalry, in neighbourhood of Eupatoria.
The Army is very healthy: the cold weather was dry; but we must expect that the wet weather will make some difference, when it comes.
You will have received by this time, I see you acknowledge the receipt, indeed, of my official letter on the subject of the ‘Corps d'Armée.’. . . . I shall be somewhat puzzled about the position of Sir Colin Campbell, and should be glad, if possible, to leave Divisions as they are. . . .
THE GROVE, December 23, 1855.
Melancholy conclusions as to our Army.
. . . I read Codrington's letters that you circulated yesterday with some pain and anxiety; they are satisfactory as regards himself, for I think they show that he is alive to the realities of his position, and that he sees with his own eyes, and forms his own opinions and has reasons to give for those opinions; but it is impossible not to draw from his letters the melancholy conclusion that, after two years' experience and boundless expense, we have an Army ill-housed, ill-disciplined (for discipline cannot exist where drunkenness prevails), and worst of all, unable to move.
It is clear that many things want reform, but I cannot help fearing that, work your brain and your fingers as you may, think and write as hard as you can, you will not be able to meet all the requirements of a case that is urgent and that is 3000 miles off. Bit-by-bit reforms won't do, and yet you can only apply remedies when the evils come to your knowledge. It is the man on the spot who, if he is worth his salt, should be the best judge of the remedies for the evils which he must be the first to perceive and to suffer from, and I believe Codrington is worth his salt, that the Army approved your choice of him as Commander-in-Chief, and that his conduct has always justified the opinion of the Army. You have given him the best man as Chief of the Staff, and upon those two together should devolve more responsibility than they at present seem to have for securing unity of purpose and harmonious action between the different Departments.
You, I am sure, would not shrink from any amount of responsibility, but the question in my mind arises whether, if you took upon yourself the responsibility of delegating a portion of it to the man on the spot, the objects you have in view might not be better promoted.
Writer's views as to the Army.
The letters of yesterday might justify you in calling upon Codrington for a comprehensive report upon the Crimean Army question, and how in his opinion the evils he points out might be cured by the means at his own disposal or that the Government might provide, and further to permit him, subject to your final approval, to adopt any measures he thought urgent for rendering the Army more efficient and more movable; for it must be remembered that we are now at the end of December, and that in eight weeks' time the Army ought to be ready to take the field if the weather permitted, and that, if constant references home are required, this precious time will be lost, and that the spring will again bring with it unavailing regret.
You will probably think that I have been writing about what I don't understand, and that I had better stick to protocols, but I am sure you will not misunderstand my motives. . . .
WAR DEPARTMENT, December 24, 1855.
I send you a secret and confidential despatch on the subject of Land Transport Corps and Army Works Corps, and referring slightly to what I trust is gone by of intemperance and to what is progressing in organisation.
I give you full powers to deal with your transport as you please, and I shall continue to send you English drivers as I can pick them up.
Contemplated change in transport.
The new system which you mean to adopt differs considerably from Colonel M'Murdo's, and I have no doubt he will not be pleased with the change which you contemplate making. Nevertheless I think you are essentially right, and I have no hesitation in giving you as full powers as you desire to have. There are a great many mules waiting you at Gibraltar and in Spain, and you can get horses in considerable numbers nearer to you. Your proposal to take from your combatant ranks a sufficient number of men to form steady N.C.O.['s] seems to me to be an excellent plan, and I think it not improbable that you may find among the German regiments some good men for the purpose as soon as you call them up to the Army. The evil against which you have to contend is the proneness of our men to ill-use the animals committed to their care. They neglect the 'stitch in time saves nine,' and thus in many cases a useful animal is ruined. Perhaps when the distribution of animals is made as you propose, one of the results will be that Divisional and Brigade Officers, being more responsible for the efficiency of their Transport Corps, will look better after them.
You will have to keep Sir G. M'Lean alive to having forage for the Army ready to transport to such points as it may be required, and you must let me know as soon as you can by telegraph what you wish me to send you. All the carts and ambulances should be overhauled.
State of matters as regards peace.
You will no doubt hear reports of all sorts circulated with respect to peace, and it may be as well that you should know in confidence from me how matters stand in that respect. Some little time since Austria submitted to France and England a proposition, which she proposed to be sent by her to St. Petersburg, containing new bases of treaty. We altered these so as to define generally the conditions on which we could consistently with the English honour treat, and, Austria having adopted them, they are now on their way to St. Petersburg. I confess I cannot see how Russia can accept them, and yet I can scarcely conceive how Austria should have offered them without some notion of their being acceptable. The result will not be known for some weeks. I see rumours in the Russian Press of an intention to attack you. I fear no such good luck is in store.
You must see to your means of sea-transport for early operations being soon looked to, and as I understand that Admiral Fremantle is the N.O. Commanding, you will doubtless communicate with him.
December 24, 1855.
Exchange of decorations.
1. I send you to-day (to Hammond) 3000 medals asked for by the Emperor. I can now give you 10,000 a-week till he has got all.
2. The orders: I will cause to be transmitted to your care as soon as possible the insignia for all the officers recommended in the Emperor's list for the Bath, and will thank you to ask him to send to you the insignia of the L. of H. 5 destined for our people, of which I will cause an official list in numbers to be sent to your Office. . . . Never imagine that in writing to me on the conduct of the war you travel out of your line. It is the act of a friend as well as the privilege of a colleague, and I value both.
I have telegraphed to Codrington to arrange the Land Transport Corps as he thinks best for the Army. He is alive to the condition of his Army, and I feel with you that he is fully to be trusted, and perfectly safe to be supported in all he may contemplate.
The Army in the East to be reported on.
I don't take quite so gloomy a view of the Army as you do, but I have already asked Codrington to give me a comprehensive view of his Army before the Meeting of Parliament, and I have had for some weeks past Colonel Lefroy, 6 of my Office, in the East, inspecting every hole and corner, from Crimea, including Balaclava and Kertch, to Scutari and Smyrna, and he is to be home by 14th or 15th of January with all details.
The medical reports of the Army are excellent, and so long as they are so satisfactory I am quite sure that physically our troops are fit for work. . . .
THE GROVE, December 24, 1855.
International feeling not at present quite what might be wished.
. . . Cowley says there is to be a great ceremony for distributing our medals, and I hope it will do good to the international feeling, which is not quite what we could desire at this moment. Pray have the additional medals expedited.
December 25, 1855.
The Light Division, which suffered so much from the explosion, has with regard to huts even benefited by it, for that Division is now more hutted than any of those on the plateau. . . . All damage of huts, etc., consequent on the explosion, you may consider as rectified.
Forestalls criticism at home on the subject of canvas versus huts.
Perhaps you will hear about the horror and inhumanity of stopping the supply of huts for the ‘poor men’ — quite possible. I am quite willing to bear the brunt of any arrangement I think best, and even of sending huts away from hence in the ‘depth of winter,’ ‘living under canvas in such inclement climate,’ and all those expressions.
Lucky perhaps that the two poor fellows — or, rather, hard drinkers — who were dead of cold were actually in huts and not under canvas. It has nothing to do with it, but probably it would have come on our shoulders. As I myself lived all last winter under a tent, and past the 14th November in a bell tent, and without the appliances now to be had, I know what can be done, and that one is not necessarily frozen to death.
Drunkenness in Camp not after all so very bad.
I was quite sure people had run wild about drunkenness: there was certainly more than enough of it, and the very appearance of it was not creditable; but see what in reality it amounts to, and judge if many a town and village in England would have done better. I am sure it is what you have officially in my letter: the drunken and noisy man is seen, and seen in a confined space in which there are 30,000 or 60,000 men assembled in the prime of life with money in their pockets.
21st November 1855,
} 36,522. Cases of drunkenness
(not men, who would be fewer)
for 12 weeks,
— that is, 197 per day. That is, in rough numbers, 365 companies of 100 men had a little more than one man drunk in two days in each such company.
The facilities of a camp, of course, prevent many cases being known and seen; but let us double or treble the amount — take two men or three men a-day out of every company of 100 men. Is it anything so horribly bad that the Army is to be held up as nothing but drunkards?
. . . The other points in your letter of the 7th are too important for me to answer in a hurry; but they are vital — for many things. The English and Sardinian Armies cannot hold this corner of the Crimea alone as an offensive position: we should be reduced to a difficult defence, I think, from the immense extent, and after the deduction of 100,000 French.
December 26, 1855.
In view of a Russian advance on Erzeroum.
Mouravieff's Order of the Day seems to indicate in the last sentence a march upon Erzeroum, and if he goes there, and things there remain as they now are, Selim Pasha and his small force will either take to their heels or surrender. The only chance of preventing this second reverse will be to send Turkish reinforcements without delay to Trebizond, from whence they may be able to get to Erzeroum. I wish you would by telegraph instruct Codrington to enter into communication with the British Admiral on the station, with Pélissier, and with the Turkish Commander at Eupatoria, with a view to make arrangements for sending off to Trebizond the Turkish and Egyptian troops now at Eupatoria, in order that they may get on from Trebizond to Erzeroum.
I have written to Charles Wood to ask him to give similar instructions to the Admiral.
Clarendon will probably desire Stratford to urge the Porte to send what they can from Constantinople. But what is wanted as much as anything is a Commander of courage and activity at Erzeroum.
I fear it would scarcely be possible to send a British force to Trebizond, and, if it were possible, such a force could scarcely at this time of year make its way over the mountains to Erzeroum.
Considers conditions under which possession of Erzeroum would be an advantage to Russia.
If the war goes on, and we have a campaign in Georgia next spring, General Mouravieff and his army will not find themselves comfortably placed in Asia Minor with their communications with Russia cut off; but if we are to negotiate, the Russians would be on a vantage ground if in possession of Erzeroum as well as of Kars.
I was told a few days ago that the Swiss troops in the service of the King of Naples are many of them leaving his army, their period of engagement being over, and it was said that many of them might be disposed to enter into our Foreign Legion. This may be worth attention.
December 28, 1855.
The new decoration, viz. Victoria Cross.
I return you the Draft of Warrant for the new decoration. Having gone through it carefully together with the Queen, I have marked in pencil upon it all that occurred to us. I should recommend, however, a reference to Lord Hardinge before the places of the Army and Navy are assigned in such a formal document, so that the Army should have been heard on the subject as well as the Navy.
December 28, 1855.
I have just received your letter of the 11th inst., and, though I reserve a public answer to your despatch on the subject of the Land Transport Corps and the reports of General Windham and Colonel Wetherall for another day, yet I cannot avoid touching on the question.
As to Codrington's proposed changes in Land Transport.
Having placed you at the head of the Army, it is my duty as well as my inclination to give you full scope to make that Army useful for operations of any kind which it may be called on to make. Your representation to me that the Land Transport Corps was not organised on a good principle, and your intimation that you could arrange it with more efficiency, was no sooner intimated to me than I resolved to intrust the responsibility to you, and to sanction any new system that you decided on introducing. I am sorry to find that so many men are required from the ranks to work your future scheme, but I cannot deny the force of your reasoning. I shall expect a full report on your means of transport, and I do trust that General Windham will find that he may do much on wheels which he does not at present conceive to be easy. Though, of course, we shall be fallen upon for not having hutted all our men, still I shall uphold your double and floored tents as being better than green huts. They will be of use to set up in the spring wherever the face of your field operations is decided upon to be made.
Malconstruction of railway trucks.
The railway trucks are all sent out in pieces, and I have sent to the maker to call him into court for their malconstruction. I cannot comprehend how the apparently shameful cases occur.
We look every day for news of the docks. We had heard of the French affairs; I wish they would give you a chance!
I am sure you will regret Kars. The immediate blame rests with Selim Pasha.
We have some gallant British blood in Erzeroum, which offered to make a dash on Kars on horseback and to throw provisions in, but Selim Pasha would not agree!!
December 28, 1855.
As to reinforcements for Erzeroum and Trebizond.
I send you a despatch from Major Stuart, which is satisfactory, as he says he can defend Erzeroum. Pray return it, and let me know how matters stand as to sending reinforcements to Erzeroum or Trebizond.
Palmerston told me two days ago that he was about to write to you and Colonel Wood on the subject, and I should like to inform Stratford by the mail of to-day what assistance the Turks may expect and what they ought to be doing. . . .
December 29, 1855.
I have your telegraph about the Land Transport Corps, and shall begin at once. . . .
Mission of Colonel Fielding.
I have sent Colonel Fielding in Banshee to Sinope, and subsequently to Omar Pasha, with a letter from me in general terms to him, desiring Colonel Fielding to get all information he can through Colonel Simmons 7 of present situation and future intentions, as well as notes on the country, landing in all places he wished. Sinope, Somboun Kale, or Anaklia, Trebizond, and return by Sinope, will probably be his course.
If landing on enemy's coast is contemplated, recommends sending out more ships.
If there is any idea of even a small number of troops moving, and landing on an enemy's coast, I think we should have many more men-of-war, and very many more merchant steamers. But no doubt you will see Sir E. Lyons: he will tell you that this climate is not to be reckoned on at ten miles' distance, or half-a-day's fine weather. Kertch is half ice-bound: the fine siege guns arrived, and they hoped to land them on the ice.
Loss sustained by Vivian's cavalry.
That is a bad business about the loss of Vivian's cavalry — 1 officer killed and 43 men, 37 horses gone: all done contrary to his orders. He gave a severe reprimand to Major Macdonald, but mentions in the private letter that his is a peculiar force, and that he thought it better not to take stronger measures so as to lower an English officer in the eyes of the Turks.
The weather is very fine — clear but cold, particularly at night. The men healthy; do not be afraid about their not being hutted.
The French killed an officer and some men of a Russian outpost some few days ago. This besides a former one I mentioned: it does not compensate, however, for our cavalry small disaster at Kertch.
I hope one dock will be blown up by us three days hence.
December 29, 1855.
Contemplates a possible withdrawal of the French.
There are many important vital considerations hinted at in your letter. I can scarcely suppose that the French Army will withdraw from the plateau and the occupation of Sebastopol itself except for the purpose of evacuating the Crimea.
It is a question for the Allied Governments to consider if a defensive occupation of this corner is to be left to the English and Sardinians; I say defensive, for the amount of troops in the Russian position, particularly if reinforced in the spring, must reduce this Army, after the withdrawal of 100,000 French, to defence, and that of a somewhat precarious nature.
Sebastopol, Inkerman heights, and the edge of this plateau form a large semicircle, terminating at Balaclava — this, being in a hollow, is not defended entirely by this plateau, but requires the strong occupation of heights on its further side.
Pursues the same subject.
The plateau being held, there has been no necessity for lines or batteries to defend it from the plateau itself; but, give up this position, it becomes a very different state of things, with an enemy (and that supposes a superior enemy) in possession of the plateau itself.
Your Lordship mentions the general opinion that Balaclava cannot be held without the plateau, that I must lay my plans on the supposition of the French withdrawing to their lines of Kamiesh, and that I may require to replace them by our own troops from Scutari, Smyrna, or Malta.
In the eventuality contemplated, the British Army could only act on the defensive.
That is to suppose that, unless for mere defence, 10,000 or 12,000 men can fill the gap made by the French Army of 80,000 or 90,000 bayonets.
The lines of Kamiesh will probably require from 35,000 to 40,000 men.
More are scarcely necessary to defend the outer line, viz. the edge of the plateau itself.
During the last winter the Feduchine heights, those running, as it were, across the plain and parallel to the general course of the Tchernaya up to the Sardinian position and our position at Kamara, were occupied by the Russians: they once made an attack towards Balaclava, a large force of theirs being in the plain; it was thought probably too much risk to continue an attack in length of line, in presence of troops up here. It was dangerous, and might so be again if Balaclava could take care of itself by strong defensive works.
WAR DEPARTMENT, December 31, 1855.
I have sent your letter to the Queen. You seem to imagine that I might be absent at this merry season, but, except going down to Scotland for a few hours to deposit my poor brother's remains in their last resting-place, I have never been out of reach of the bag since I took Office. All have their holidays but me.
I am quite aware of your difficulties about the docks, and wait with patience, but hope with earnestness to hear of their destruction every morning. One pair of gates is all we care about. I am glad to hear you have cold weather, for I am sure it is best for your troops, and your Bill of Health seems to be excellent.
Effect of a withdrawal from Sebastopol.
I quite concur with your view of Pélissier's letter. It is meant to be vague, as he has not got his instructions from Paris. If you and he retire within your dens at Balaclava or Kamiesh, you return Sebastopol to Russia, confessing before all Europe your inability to hold it, and, as you observe, from assailants you become assailed. This will neither suit you nor us.
As to Codrington's powers of disposing of his Army.
Your public despatches on Land Transport Corps and your powers of disposing of your Army shall be answered officially when I have an opportunity of consulting with my colleagues on Thursday. In regard to the former, I trust my full powers to do as you think best for moving your Army have arrived ere this, and that with Windham and Wetherall you have already begun to organise.
In regard to the latter question, it is not easy to answer you off-hand. While the Allied Armies lie together and hold, as it were, different portions of one large position, no one Army can direct any considerable portion of its force to any other quarter. But if, for instance, Vivian was threatened by a superior force, you would be perfectly justified in sending, or even moving yourself, to his relief either directly or by a division.
The Government and myself will support you in any attempt to aid Omar in Asia, should he require assistance, as we feel that you will do so judiciously. But you have asked for official Instructions, and you shall have them. Colonel M'Murdo has arrived. He comes to me on Wednesday for a regular Land Transport discussion, and we shall then go over all the details and yours and Colonel Windham's suggestions.
Lyons will also be here on Wednesday, and I hope our Council will meet at Paris soon.
I hear Pélissier does not like the idea of it.
December 31, 1855.
As to Neutral Powers supplying munitions of war.
. . . We have a great case now against the Prussian Government for exporting powder to Russia, but the Prussian Government say that we get munitions of war from Prussia, and that what is fair for the one is fair for the other. I don't know what contracts you have still on hand, or whether you consider it important to supply yourself from Prussia, but if not, we might call upon the Prussian Government to do as the Austrian Government have done, and strictly to prohibit the exportation of all munitions of war to any of the belligerent Powers. . . .