‘IF you desire peace, be prepared for war’ — this would seem to have been the guiding principle of the Allied Governments during January 1856.
So, whilst awaiting Russia's reply to the Austrian peace proposals, a Council of War was convened for the purpose of discussing plans for the campaign of the ensuing spring.
The Council met at Paris on the 9th January, and was attended by military representatives of France, Italy, and Great Britain — the last being the Duke of Cambridge — whose letters to Lord Panmure detail the proceedings from day to day — with Generals Sir Harry Jones and Sir Richard Airey, and Admirals Sir Edmund Lyons and Dundas.
The object of the deliberations is defined as being, ‘simply to propound all plans of every kind’ for the coming campaign, ‘to discuss the merits of each,’ and to record, for the use of the respective Governments, the opinions and conclusions of so many men who are not only familiar with the different fields on which they have acted, but well versed in their own professions.
When this had been done, and the result of the discussions had been laid before the Governments of the Allied Powers, and a decision arrived at on what Codrington calls the fundamental and half-political points relating to the place of operation, it would then (to quote Codrington again) become the duty of the Generals in command to overcome every difficulty in the adoption of those views. Meantime he himself was opposed to dividing the Allied Armies.
The plans most considered by the Council were, first, that of cutting the Russian communications and driving the Russian Army from the Crimea; and, secondly, that of a campaign in Asia, having for its object to drive Mouravieff's army beyond the Caucasus — of which details are to be found in Lord Panmure's letter to Codrington of 7th January, and in the Duke of Cambridge's letter of 12th January; whilst Codrington's letters will be found to give his views as to an evacuation of Balaclava in face of the enemy.
The situation, however, was complicated by uncertainty as to whether the Russians would seek to hold the Crimea at the cost of fighting, as well as by doubts as to the persistence of the French, who had now begun to wish for peace at any price, whilst the difficulties in which the Emperor found himself involved had tended to weaken his personal influence.
The Council continued its sittings until the 21st January, by which time it had been decided that the Crimea could not be abandoned without disgrace, and that the Allied Armies should therefore combine in driving the Russians out of it.
Meantime, in the Crimea, winter operations having been prohibited except in case of pressure, the activity of the troops was directed mainly towards the blowing up of the captured docks, which was begun on December 31st and completed by the end of January.
Except for a cold ‘snap’ in the middle of the month, the weather was favourable, which of course tended to enhance the contrast between the preceding and the present January, and made it all the easier for Panmure to congratulate Codrington on bringing his Army through the winter 'with great éclat.'
At home, among the subjects occupying attention were the military reserves, the enlistment in the Foreign Legion of deserters from foreign armies, and the new decoration called the Victoria Cross.
By the end of the month the prospect of peace had become more promising. But any appearance of a relaxation of Britain's warlike attitude was nevertheless still carefully guarded against.
January 1, 1856.
I am too much pressed in time to do much more than ‘officials.’ . . . I presume this to relate to their health, their camps, their arms, their general state of equipment and well-doing.
Blowing up of docks.
The docks will be gone on with in succession: you will see by my official report that one of ours was blown up successfully (the bottom mines) yesterday, and part of the basin wall also by us.
You will have received some expression of mine long-ago that I was very glad not to be sent for to a Council. I think that all going there would have shown ‘decided indecision.’
There will be some difficult cards to play — particularly if the Russians do continue to think the Crimea worth holding and fighting for; and still more so if our Allies intend to quit, or even retire.
Repeats request for more ships if winter expeditions are in view.
If there is any idea of winter expeditions, and they are, as you will learn from Sir E. Lyons, most hazardous for Navy at this time of year, we should have more steam and sailing transports and ships of war at once at Constantinople: that is the only place that any great number of them can lie with certainty and safety at this time of year.
Ships at Kinburn and Kertch icebound.
PS. . . . The French are somewhat nervous about Kinburn — their men-of-war are frozen in, and apparently not in as favourable positions as they might wish. The vessels are also, some of them, frozen at Kertch. Colonel Lefroy came back a day or two ago. Some heavy guns had been moved from Yenikale to Kertch, and General Vivian and Captain Hall hoped to land on the ice those which I sent from hence.
There was some order (but I have it not) about the Russian works, Redan, etc., being maintained; what was that for? I propose, and shall begin indeed whilst the ground is hard, to take Russian guns up to our depôt for ulterior purposes.
WAR DEPARTMENT, January 4, 1856.
As to the forthcoming Council at Paris.
I am yet scarcely in a position to write you the despatch on the campaign which I promised some days since, and I will therefore still keep to this mode of correspondence till the issue of the Council of Paris enables me more formally to address you. This Council meets on the 9th, and the Emperor proposes to have present at it Marshal Vaillant, Canrobert, Niel, Bosquet, Admiral Hamelin, and another admiral. We send the Duke of Cambridge, Sir H. Jones, Sir R. Airey, Admirals Lyons and Dundas. The course to be taken is simply to propound all plans of every kind, to discuss the merits of each, and to record, for the use of the respective Governments, the opinions and conclusions of so many men who are not only cognisant with the different fields on which they have acted, but well versed in their professions. To me it appears that, so far as our Army is concerned, the campaign has but two faces, 1st, We must either take part in clearing the Crimea, or 2nd, We must carry the war into Asia on the ground now occupied by Omar Pasha, and, in co-operation with him, but not in conjunction, drive the Russians beyond the Caucasus.
Plan of clearing the Crimea considered.
Now, for the first plan, I conceive that, taking the Russian Army at your own numbers of 120,000, there can be no difficulty in accomplishing it by means of a vigorous movement in spring, and by landing an Army between Eupatoria and Alma and marching at once on Simpheropol. The Russians must fight or retreat: if they fight, they will be beat; if they fly, the road is open to the North Side, and you begin the campaign by possession of Sebastopol, and you can use its waters as you require.
The French could do this affair, and if you wished to share its glory, you could send a Division or two to secure the presence of the banners of England. Meanwhile you would hold yourself in readiness to advance if the Russian retreated, or to threaten an attack should he weaken his centre to present a front of battle to the French; on the Russian left demonstration would be made, and I feel quite certain that the enemy must fight at disadvantage or retreat in disorder.
Now, to be prepared for this, you will require your Cavalry to be with you early in March, and all your reinforcements to your Regiments of the line. I should recommend your sending as many of your sick as you can to the Hospitals in the rear, and taking from your men all that is superfluous, giving them every facility to exert those powers which this winter will have fostered. Let us now see how in this case our numbers would stand: I make a note of this on a separate sheet, 1 and my data and base of calculation is your Morning State of the 21st December. I leave you a roving Army of 72,000 men, and I do not believe you can manage more in that country, if you can do that. I cannot suppose that the French can be inferior in strength, and, if you have a joint force to guard your magazines, I see no reason why you should not push the enemy from the Crimea, or at all events from all the country south of Simpheropol.
A campaign in Asia considered.
2. Suppose our destination be Asia, and, as this is the most probable, I think you should turn your attention to it, and consider what should be your base at the sea, your line of advance, and the localities for your depôts to carry the war on your part into Asia.
You must secure your material at Balaclava to begin with. For this purpose you would leave, say, 25,000 men to be added to 35,000 French, who would keep the advanced post on the Tchernaya, which is capable of being strengthened as a position which no Russian Army could force. Landing 60,000 men in Asia, you could sweep the country before you on one side, while Omar Pasha will advance by Trebizond to Erzeroum and prevent the Russians from a further advance into Asiatic Turkey.
I find I must stop this letter, and I will continue it on Monday.
N.C.O. AND MEN. Artillery (96 guns), 5,000 Horse Artillery, 500 Sappers and Miners, 500 Cavalry, 6,000 Infantry, 50,000 From Malta, 10,000 Foreign Levies, 10,000 82,000 Sardinians, 20,000 Turkish Contingent, 22,000 Osmanli Cavalry, 3,000 127,000 Deduct for sick 1/10th 12,700 114,300 Deduct for employés 1/10th 11,430 102,870 Deduct for detachment, 30,000 72,870
This includes no Land Transport Corps or Commissariat employés.
WINDSOR CASTLE, January 5, 1856.
The Queen returns the drawings for the ‘Victoria Cross’; she has marked the one she approves with an X; she thinks, however, that it might be a trifle smaller. The motto would be better, ‘For Valour’ than ‘for the brave,’ as this would lead to the inference that only those are deemed brave who have got the Cross.
The Queen thinks Lord Panmure may be interested in reading these ‘Journals,’ which Sir William Codrington kindly proposes sending to her regularly, and which from their not being formal reports are the more interesting and valuable to her.
January 6, 1856.
We have had a good fall of snow, the earth is all white now; but to-day is beautifully clear, and altogether the winter has been as yet most favourable: it has been dry; but gales of wind and change of weather are wonderfully rapid in this climate.
I have your telegraph yesterday, asking rather an important question — one to which attention has not been fully given, though I have looked at the possibility of it. I cannot yet give you a decided opinion; it is a question of much detail, depending not only on one outline of ground to maintain a fixed position, but of successive positions in retreat, diminishing the number of troops gradually by embarkation; — withdrawing, therefore, to positions defensible by fewer troops, and yet not allowing the enemy's artillery to reach the ships and place of embarkation. In short, to get away from a narrow harbour, with steep commanding sides, in face of a pressing, and, at last, superior enemy.
Difficulties of embarkation of troops at Balaclava in face of the enemy.
This, under the best circumstances, will be no easy matter.
The principle of such a business on our side must be to compensate for our decreasing numbers on embarkation by such works with artillery as will keep the enemy far off; to make a succession of works, open or nearly so in their rear, and commanded by a last, innermost line; and, on evacuation of the last, having ships to secure by fire the embarkation of the last troops.
The fire of ships is not available in support of the flanks of Balaclava harbour; they are too high, and their possession by an enemy at last would cut off ships inside. A ship's broadside could, from inside the harbour, fire along the flat ground at the head of the harbour, reaching a short mile north; but the spurs of the hills forming the sides of the harbour make this line of fire a narrow space, and the spurs, once evacuated, give the enemy cover, though the ground of the spurs is rocky.
It is an anxious question I have long had an inkling of; and I had proposed to myself, and one other, to place Russian guns in any such positions, so as to leave none of our own. That artillery could not be got away from our last defences; therefore Russian guns should be used, and spiked or destroyed at last if possible. The soil on the hills or hilly mounds west of Balaclava is rocky — some of them entirely rock. My impression is that it would require four or five considerable redoubts or works on the west side of Balaclava, and the maintenance of the old lines to the east side of Balaclava at first; but the line of defence must at last be also retired to an inner line there — taking the nearer hills and the old Genoese castle hill as the situation for inner and last defensible works.
In presence of an inferior army — a decidedly inferior army — this retreat might be looked on as comparatively safe; though even that inferior army must at last become the superior.
In presence of a pressing and superior army, your Lordship must be aware that it is dangerous; for the morale and the physique must naturally be with the advancing and repossessing army of ground from which they will affect to be driving us away. I know not if your message contemplates the employment of the Army in any other part of the Crimea, or the quitting the peninsula altogether.
Circumstances of evacuation would count for much.
If the Army (I speak of the Allied forces) is to be employed in attacking the Russian Army, by disembarking so as to move on Simpheropol or Bakshi Serai, that changes much the state of things, and puts the national and allied morale as the attacking party: if we evacuate the Crimea in defence and difficulty, your Lordship will see what national and European use will be made of that fact.
Destruction of docks.
The destruction of the docks is progressing: it is a great point to well destroy the bottom of the dock: it is the most important part; and is effectually done by us. Shall the quays be destroyed also — fine quays, leading to the ruins of Fort Paul, on which are dockyard buildings?
BELGRAVE SQUARE, January 7, 1856.
As to a campaign in Asia.
I again resume the subject that was interrupted in my last letter, though I am sorry to say that I am obliged to use my Secretary's hand instead of my own, which gout has disabled. My last letter to you closed as I was on the confines of a discussion as to the scheme of operating with the English Army on the ground lately occupied by Omar Pasha. With an army of 50,000 or 60,000 men, conveyed to Redoubt Kale, and either landed there or pushed up the river Rion as far as navigable, would (sic) launch you at once upon Kutais, from which you could either advance upon Tiflis or occupy the central passes of the Caucasus. If Omar Pasha, with the body of the Turkish Army, landing at Trebizond, advanced to Erzeroum, you would then have the Russian Army in a trap between you, and, even if he should occupy Kars, the same game is open to you as was to Mouravieff against Williams. The advantage of this scheme of operations is twofold: you, in the first place, will carry on the war amongst a Christian population, and the cry which is represented to have been raised by Mouravieff of ‘Cross versus Crescent’ will be of less consequence; and, secondly, Omar Pasha will be fighting in a country where the hearths and altars of a great portion of his Army are to be found.
Details of proposed Asiatic campaign.
In conducting such a campaign, it appears to me that your supplies could be easily transported to Kutais, as the river Rion is said to be navigable within thirty miles of that fortress. I should imagine that you would find yourself amongst a not very hostile population, and all the more disposed to look with favour upon the advent of an English Army if they were assured that, in driving forth the Russians, their liberties and religion were to be permanently secured to the Turk. I send you in the bag a small map of Asiatic Turkey, which appears to me to give in a small compass an excellent notion of the country.
I think that Colonel Simmons should be able to give you correct and decided information of the nature and resources of the country, the character of its people, and the extent to which you will find forage and supplies as you advance into the interior. You might either summon him to your Camp and get from him all the information he could afford you, or you might send one or two intelligent officers to Omar Pasha's camp to gain the intelligence you require.
The Council at Paris sits on Thursday; you will understand that they are to fix upon no plan of operations whatever, but to discuss every possible contingency which the experience of its members, the amount of force capable of being furnished by each country, and the power of moving that force, may suggest. It will be for the two Governments to decide afterwards what shall be undertaken by each, giving to their separate commanders the earliest possible information, so as to enable them to carry out whatever plan of campaign may be determined on.
The telegraphs have begun to arrive again. I have ordered your tentes d'abri. Dr. Smith tells me that he has heard from some source or another that, if your Army takes the field, you do not propose that it shall be accompanied by its tents. The doctors here are all open-mouthed about what will happen under such circumstances, and I am inclined to think that if you purpose, for want of means to carry it, to leave the bell tent behind, you must send a very much larger supply of tentes d'abri. I suppose the docks are still unpumped out, as we are still without any tidings of their blowing up being un fait accompli.
January 7, 1856.
. . . I shall send you to-day an excellent despatch of Seymour's, 2 with the account which the three American officers give of our Army, and I hope you will send it to Codrington, as it will please him and all English officers. I expect a good result from it in the U.S.
Russia's reply expected.
The Russian answer is expected at Vienna to-day. I should say it was even betting as to whether it is affirmative or negative, but Gortschakoff 3 is making his preparations for departure.
January 8, 1856.
The means of transport, sea-transport, and ships of war must be looked to in England soon: you will have had several letters of mine referring to it. We are six Divisions of the Army, and as a general outline for transporting the Army you must reckon seven large steamers, and fourteen sailing transports to be towed by those seven. The Admiralty probably have the very clear instructions and plan of the vessels and landing (coloured) which was arranged at Varna by Captain Mends 4 and Sir George Brown. It will give me a very good idea of what is wanted.
I have put the amount of the Division at 6000 Infantry and two field-batteries of Artillery.
Sir E. Lyons will, I think, tell you that this fleet and men-of-war should be collected at Constantinople; and he will probably agree with me that no time should be lost in preparing it in England. I mentioned to you in my last letter what we had here of steamers and transports (sailing-vessels). I am just going to see another part of the dock blown up by us: viz. a pier forming the separation of two of them.
. . . The weather has broken from frost for a time: the face of the country was covered with snow, but two days of a warm southerly gale, blowing strong, have made it almost disappear again. Troops very healthy.
January 8, 1856.
As to moving of captured guns.
The moving the whole of the guns — seven hundred, I think, are our portion of iron guns — from the dockyard of Sebastopol will work our horses of Artillery sadly: they are working the French horses heavily: they are surely not worth the moving — many being carronades with carron on them.
I propose taking some of them up; and sending some of those peculiar ones, or knocked-about ones, from the Redan, as Woolwich or Horse Guards' curiosities. But the bulk of those lying on the gun wharf to be destroyed. I should like authority for this — the positive moving the lot will take at least forty-four days: a horse is worth £100, a gun is worth £7.
THE GROVE, January 10, 1856.
I hope you will see Dr. Sandwith, 5 who is a really fine fellow. He will tell you that the Russians had 25,000 men before Kars, hutted for the winter and wanting for nothing.
Investiture with the Order of the Bath.
The Queen writes that she does not wish any of the Baths to be delivered separately, but that all the officers should be invested at once by Cowley. She says the Baltic officers had best be considered separately, but thinks that Admirals Penaud 6 and Dundas should be decorated (i.e. exchange of Bath and Legion of Honour, I suppose).
TUILERIES, January 10, 1856.
Account of the Council's deliberations on the first day.
I have officially written to you to-day to give you an account of what took place at our first meeting. There was not much more done than putting the great question of the day in motion by the appointment of two subcommittees, who were in the first instance to sift the question submitted to them, and which had been drawn up by the Emperor himself. This was clearly a very prudent course to adopt, and it was assented to unanimously. The Emperor reserved to himself a third proposition, to be submitted to another sub-committee in the event of Austria siding actively with the Allies. It was deemed advisable to postpone such committee for the present, and consequently only the two others were formed, the one on the Crimea, the other on the Baltic. These have been sitting in deliberation all day, and I have just learnt from the members of them that, so far, they have got on satisfactorily and well, and have answered the question as to the evacuation of the Crimea as an impossibility, and have further given it as their opinion that 60,000 men would be required to defend the position before Sebastopol as at present occupied. There is not time to-night, before the departure of the messenger, to enter into further details as to what passed in the sub-committees, but you shall be informed of this as soon as possible.
Attitude of the Emperor.
I am happy to tell you that nothing could be more fair or more satisfactory than everything which fell from the Emperor. It is clear that he is de cœur et d'âme with us, and that he enters fully into our views, wishes, and feelings. He is evidently against the evacuation of the Crimea, and I do not think that he thinks an expedition to the Baltic on a large scale practicable, but I see that several of our allied friends are of a different opinion, and these, we doubt, will try to carry their point. But still, with the decided views of the Emperor on these subjects, I question their making much resistance, and I therefore look hopefully to the result of our deliberation. The Emperor was very strong in his views as to a French General-in-Chief having no right to allow political considerations to enter into his military calculations, and his assertion in this respect has, I think, done much good, as it no doubt will prevent much unnecessary discussion. He further laid it down most clearly that all we had to do in Council was to consider every feasible plan, and to sift out those that were practicable from those that were not, leaving it entirely to the two Governments to do afterwards what they thought best.
Attitude of La Marmora.
General La Marmora appears to me to be greatly in favour of a Baltic expedition, which I regret. He further did not seem much disposed to commit himself either as to acting with us or with the French, saying that he thought this must depend on the plan of campaign to be formed. Nothing could be more gentlemanlike than he was, and he by no means said he would make any difficulties if called upon to act with us, but I do not think he is disposed to think that he is called upon to act under our orders, or rather in conjunction with us, in preference to so acting with the French. I have not time to add more to-day, nor indeed have I more to say, but you shall hear again from me, and meanwhile my impression, as far as we have as yet got, is most favourable.
January 11, 1856.
I have been in the sick list ever since I last wrote to you, and I am still incapable of using my hand. I have not much in consequence to tell you. I see my way to obtain for you as many tentes d'abri as you may require, and considerably beyond the number which you have asked for. I should get them as you suggest from the man who makes them for the French intendance, and, so far as my exertions go and Claremont's superintendence in Paris will avail, they shall be the best of their kind.
A campaigning hint.
Talking of them, I merely take this opportunity of mentioning to you that when, as a boy, in Canada, I used to camp out in the woods under a tente d'abri of birch bark, I always took care to put between me and the ground a lot of branches if I could possibly obtain them. This is a campaigning hint which I dare say is useless, as known to you before. I have been turning in my mind every possible means of lightening your transport, and there is a commissary here, of the name of Julian, who thinks he has achieved a sort of compote of forage, capable of doing as much for an animal as pemmican for an Indian. I rejoice to learn that you are busy with the organisation of your transport corps. I will do all I can, when I get hold of Lyons again, to convince him of the necessity of having in the Black Sea the amplest means of transport, because one of the best means of annoyance to the enemy which the Allies possess is the power of embarking their men, and throwing them on shore where they please, and so keeping the enemy dodging them round the coast perpetually. The Council of War met at Paris on Thursday, but their proceedings are to be kept perfectly secret, and all that I tell you of them you must consider as strictly confidential and not to be communicated to Marshal Pélissier. The attendance has been pretty numerous, and they have divided themselves into committees to discuss all the plans which they can think of for the ensuing campaign. My private opinion is that the Emperor has arrived at two conclusions, 1st, that the Baltic is no fit theatre for military operations, and 2nd, that the Crimea cannot be abandoned with honour, and scarcely with safety.
A change in command of French Army probable.
Judging from hearsay and appearances, I think it not improbable that some change in the command of the French Army may be the result of this deliberation in Paris. We shall hear tomorrow or next day the result of the mission to St. Petersburg, and you will hear of it by telegraph in all probability before you receive this. My own opinion is that nothing will come of it, and that the whole case has got to be decided. I published in the newspapers your despatches upon drunkenness. It has turned the tide which had been so set against the Army, and has strengthened your hands as its Commander. I will now close this as my tormentor is troubling me. . . .
January 12, 1856.
I have to acknowledge three letters. The copies of the memorandum of what passed on the first meeting of the Council of War was very satisfactory to the Queen.
The Queen is glad also to hear that you have sent another telegraphic message to Sir W. Codrington, calling his attention to the second line of defence round Balaclava.
Ditto, that the plans for the Military Hospital are under consideration.
With respect to the Bath, the Queen would wish Lord Cowley, as her representative, to hold the investiture, and I would ask you officially to communicate to me, as Grand Master, the Queen's pleasure on this subject. Thinking that a formal investiture in the Crimea will be more agreeable to the French officers, the Queen thinks that, as Lord Stratford cannot be spared from Constantinople, Sir Edmund Lyons might be charged with the commission. He is eligible for the purpose as a G.C.B.; the only other in the Crimea would be Sir C. Campbell, but, as he is second to Sir W. Codrington in the Army command, his performing the ceremony would damage the Commander-in-Chief 's authority. I hope you will also let me hear on this subject.
We trust that your enemy is by degrees retiring, and that you will soon again be quite free from pain.
PS. — The Queen misses, amongst the questions submitted to the Council of War by the Emperor, that of dividing the Armies. She trusts that this will yet be brought forward by us, if not by him.
TUILERIES, January 12, 1856.
Deliberations of the second day.
Our second meeting took place to-day, and I think was on the whole very satisfactory. The great question under consideration was thoroughly and ably sifted by the replies that were embodied in reports from the two sub-committees to the question submitted to them as regards operations in the Crimea and the Baltic. The reports on the latter are not quite completed, but will be issued at our meeting on Monday. Rather lengthened discussions took place on some of the details of various operations. Without entering minutely into particulars, it appears evident to me that most of the members of the Council are of opinion that the Crimea must be held as regards our present position; that to evacuate this position would be most difficult, if not impracticable; that at all events the usual (?) effect of such an evacuation would be most disastrous, that 70,000, or at least 66,000 men would be required to defend this position, and that the rest of the Army, amounting to about 150,000 men, would be available for other operations.
A plan of campaign considered.
That Eupatoria would be the best point for making a diversion, it being thought that, by boring, water might certainly be obtained there at given distances. That, in order to make the diversion an effectual one, a large force should be landed, at least 80,000 or 100,000 men, and that probably the operation would be still further successful if, at the same time, a dash was made to Yenikale in the Sea of Azof, with a view of destroying the Tchorgoun Bridge, with about 15,000 men. You will observe that, allowing for the garrison of Yenikale and Kertch on the one side, and Kinburn on the other, these numbers would absorb our whole available force in the Crimea. Nothing would, therefore, in the first instance, be left for an expedition to Asia; but a campaign such as I have roughly sketched it would not be a big one, and, if the great object to be gained by it could without great difficulty be accomplished, the British force might then be easily moved to Asia, with a view to stop the advance of the Russians in that direction. I cannot help hoping that, for a time, Omar Pasha and his Army, if judiciously posted, might be able to stop the further advance of the Russians upon Erzeroum, and, under any circumstances, the certain defeat of the Russians in the Crimea, and then driving them out of that country, would fully balance any partial successes that the enemy might at the opening of the campaign obtain in Asia.
Objection to a campaign in Asia.
The only real objection to such a plan would be the impossibility of entirely separating, or dividing, the two Allied Armies till the Crimean campaign were brought to a successful close, but this is a difficulty for which, under present circumstances, I see no escape. As the British Government feels most strongly the necessity of remaining in the Crimea and driving the Russians out of that country, or at least striking such a blow as to destroy the power of Russia there completely, I do not well see how we could press a campaign of our own in Asia when it is clear that the whole of the Allied forces are required for a really successful operation in the Crimea. Kaffa as a base is generally felt, I think, to be too wide, and I cannot but think this myself, if we can land and operate from Eupatoria, and at the same time attack the rear of the enemy, which is simultaneously threatened in front by the force left in position on the South Side of Sebastopol, and the Eupatoria force would also threaten if not entirely cut off the communication between Perekop and the Russian Army operating in the field [sic]. Should the Russian Army in the Crimea really amount to 130,000 men, as it is assumed, how would they receive the double attack thus prepared for them, and would the Tchorgoun Bridge be destroyed at the same time? I doubt their even venturing to fight a battle, but I think they would make the best of their way out of the country. I have entered rather fully into these details, as I think this is the drift of a considerable portion of the views expressed, and should they not accord with the opinion or wishes of the Government, it might be well that by Thursday I might hear from you to what objection is made.
Various schemes of attack.
As regards the Baltic campaign, Niel read a long paper as to how Cronstadt was to be bombarded and taken by a fleet, and Canrobert read a very wild scheme for attacking St. Petersburg by land with an army of 60,000 French and an equal number of troops not named, but which I believe were intended to be Swedes. However, the scheme was so wild that he concluded by saying that it was impracticable, and that he might have saved us the time occupied in reading it. I believe any plan of this description so impracticable that it will not be entertained by anybody. . . . In conclusion, I have only to add that everything the Emperor said to-day at the Council was most judicious and prudent, and he expressed his opinion very fully that it was ridiculous to say that with an army of upwards of 200,000 men nothing could be done. This wholesome admonition will no doubt produce its effect on the several members of the Council.
SEBASTOPOL, January 12, 1856.
I send you a copy of a letter which I wrote to-day to Admiral Fremantle, and which will put you au fait with my feelings about transport: I mean sea-transport and naval means. But at the same time I have no doubt that Sir E. Lyons, being in England, will know, and have got from the Admiralty, the necessary boats, or flats, or stages, which should always form part of the equipment of such a force as ours.
Change of weather.
We had snow on the ground up to the 6th. On the 7th, however, a S.W. wind blowing fresh, with the thermometer somewhere about 50°, was the commencement of a rapid thaw; the same sort of weather, warm and fine though blowing hard, continued till the 8th, with thermometer at 56°, and the snow is entirely gone; the ground is somewhat deep and rotten: to-day the weather is beautiful, a warm nice air, and enjoyable. These details will show you the variations of this climate: no doubt we shall have some severe and unpleasant weather yet.
As to despatches addressed to an officer in command.
I received your telegraphic message about General Grey's letter; 7 but I do not quite understand if you mean the memorandum referred to to be an official letter for my guidance (which was not the original intention of it), or whether it is still to be considered a private, or rather a confidential, though public service communication, coming from the Minister of War.
The fact is, an officer must consider all communications which guide his public acts and conduct as on the public service. Not necessarily to be made public, certainly; but they are of a public nature and importance if they are to influence his conduct.
Details of destruction of docks.
My public despatch will show you the present state of the docks; I hope and think that more will soon be done. You must not think our Engineers have had so easy a job as the French: in the first place, the French two docks are at a higher level, and even with that higher level they did not sink their shafts to (I believe) as much as half our depth below the bottom. Some of ours were 12 feet deep; and the destruction of the bottom is the most essential part. With ours this destruction is seen, and its extent known, before the sides have been thrown in upon it. But the rapid thaw pressed the water in upon our remaining dock and again filled the shafts. The mines have been, in fact, exploded in water.
Exchange of prisoners.
Prince Gortschakoff, in answer to my proposal to exchange two Russian officers off the mouth of the harbour, he sending a boat, answered that he thought it might be done by the Parlémentaire in the harbour, as arranged with my predecessor. No, no, thought I, that won't do; I therefore declined other than my first proposal; and, as a ship of war was going to Odessa necessarily, I sent them 8 at once, and have notified by a second letter to Prince Gortschakoff. . . .
Nature of the country overlooking Balaclava harbour.
I have ridden about the ground to the west of Balaclava; it was the scene of advance of the Brigade I commanded when we took the place. We advanced to the mouth of the harbour, from the flat valley of Balaclava, over difficult ground not in military possession of the enemy. There are many defensible points; but the rounded rocky hills are high, and have the same sort of height, which must finally be in possession of an enemy, if superior; and he must be superior at last in the case contemplated. 9
This is the sort of thing, looking towards Balaclava from a brow, a continuation of the hilly undulating plateau, from the Monastery side,
Under what circumstances and to what extent the harbour might be shelled by the enemy.
and the question is if, from this foreground, which would not be within our lines at last, shot and shell could reach or interfere with the embarkation. It would not by field-pieces; but, once the plateau is given up, though there might be difficulty, there would not be impossibility of bringing a heavy gun or two, or mortar, to this foreground; mortars, I think, would reach. On the east side of Balaclava there is a road from Baidar: it would be a long, difficult business for an enemy to bring anything of heavy artillery that line; but when once evacuation begins, it would be a signal for energy on the enemy's side: I scarcely think they could bring heavy mortars or guns on the east side in time to hurt; but if they did, and placed them on the neck at the extreme height we now occupy, they could shell down to the harbour.
Comparative merits of Kamiesh and Kasatch as harbours in case of evacuation.
Kamiesh and Kasatch ground is comparatively flat, and no doubt the fire of two or three line-of-battle ships might be of assistance in last defence and protection of embarkation, when they could be of little use at Balaclava. They could sweep a good part of the ground at last; and, I think, cross their fire in front of the small peninsula which divides the two harbours. But when I get the proposals, or suggestions, you refer to, this important and anxious question will have the best attention of all who can assist me.
January 14, 1856.
I return the Duke of Cambridge's reports, which the Queen has read with much interest, and of which she hopes to receive copies, when they can conveniently be made.
The Council of War seems to proceed very systematically and industriously.
Regiments doing duty in Mediterranean.
With regard to the entire regiments yet in the Mediterranean to do garrison duty, it would be very unwise to add them to the forces in the Crimea, as is done in Lord Hardinge's memorandum. As it is, our reserves bear no proportion to our fighting Army, and a heavy campaign might cripple this altogether, and might render it necessary to replace some regiments which may have suffered beyond the means of filling them up from the depôts which we possess. . . .
January 14, 1856.
I am sorry to say that I have not yet been able to compel my enemy to beat a retreat, and after a painful and sleepless night it is somewhat of an exertion even to dictate my usual letter to you.
No winter operations will be undertaken from the Crimea.
Your mail which reached me this morning gives a most satisfactory account of the state of the Army, and shows you to have set to work in a businesslike manner with the organisation of the Land Transport Corps. No winter operations shall be undertaken from the Crimea, except under most extraordinary pressure. I thought it, however, prudent to put you on the qui vive, in case some extraordinary exertion might be demanded of you. Nothing of importance has yet come from Paris, but to-day there is to be an important meeting of the Council, to discuss the suggestions which have emanated from the committees into which it was divided. The news from Russia tends more to war than to peace, and I have no great expectation that the war will be closed either so speedily or so quietly as some people are disposed to think.
January 14, 1856.
Instrument by which the V.C. is to be instituted.
I received your Royal Highness' note yesterday, with Her Majesty's final approval of the decoration. I will attend immediately to the instrument by which the new order is to be instituted. It must declare, throughout, the Royal Will and Pleasure of the Queen, and bear the stamp of an act of her own prerogative. 10 The Sovereign is the fountain of all honours, and commands their institution as well as their revocation. The drafts which I have hitherto sent for your Royal Highness' perusal were for the object of ascertaining in what manner it would be most agreeable to the Queen to have her commands carried into effect.
I have sent for Her Majesty's perusal some further private communications from the Duke of Cambridge, but into these I cannot enter to-day, as pain and want of rest have made me somewhat unfit for business. I trust therefore to your Royal Highness' kindness to excuse me.
TUILERIES, January 15, 1856.
Distribution of the British medal.
I have just returned from distributing the medals. Nothing could have gone off better, and the greatest enthusiasm pervaded the troops. It is thought here that this ceremony will produce a very favourable effect in France and be advantageous to the Alliance. I have reported the ceremony officially to you, and have sent a copy of the speech I made. . . . There is nothing particular to report of our meeting of yesterday. I hope on Tuesday we shall have our last meeting, and that thereupon the Emperor will intrust me with his views as to what has been said and done, which I shall be able to carry over with me to England. Knowing the anxiety the Government feels at arriving at some definite resolution, I hope I shall have finished my business here and shall be enabled to return to England with the result of it, in conjunction with my colleagues, by the end of this month. . . .
January 15, 1856.
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Royal Highness' various private communications of the 10th, 12th, and 13th instant.
The Council of War.
The Council of War seems to have been conducted with much circumspection and prudence; and the tone and bearing of His Majesty the Emperor, as detailed by your Royal Highness, has given us great satisfaction.
The appointment of committees will facilitate much the clearing away of many points of delay, and get rid of discussions which would only have consumed time without being of the least use.
I gather from your Royal Highness' letter one main point — that it seems the conviction of all that the Crimea cannot be abandoned without infinite disgrace. The views which you take of operations to be conducted within it are those which a practised commander cannot fail to see, and which I have not the smallest doubt are quite capable of being carried out.
The only thing which puzzles me in their accomplishment is the difficulty which will exist of giving separate action to the English and French Armies.
Numbers of the Turkish and Sardinian Contingents computed.
With regard to your Royal Highness' suggestion that I may have miscalculated the Turkish Contingents, 11 I shall briefly run over the data by which I have put them down at 22,000 men. I calculated that the Infantry of that force would be made up to 16,000 men in the spring, that there would be 1000 Artillery, 2000 Cavalry, making 19,000 in all. So then I thought I was not over the mark in adding 3000 as a fair calculation for Zamoyski's Cossacks of the Sultan.
This would have made the 22,000 men which I calculated Vivian would have to command. The Sardinians have over and over again stated that they were good for 20,000, but of this I was so doubtful that, in calculating them, I calculated the Italian Legion in with them, and I think the conclusion will not be found to overstep the boundary of fair calculation. I regret now that in our connection with Sardinia we did not specifically bind her troops to act with ours, but I think La Marmora's good sense will tell him that there are advantages to be gained by casting in his lot with us which are not to be found in casting it in with the French.
I am happy to inform your Royal Highness that I have begun to shake off my attack of gout, and I hope soon to be able to write to you with my own hand.
January 15, 1856.
I went down to the docks on the last post day; but the writing had kept me late, and the mines had been fired — quite right, for it is better not to delay such things when time is of consequence from the powder being almost in water.
Blowing up of docks.
I saw the result, however, which was the complete blowing in, upon the broken foundation of the dock, the two lower projecting angles of the side; part of the top also on the ground level was thrown in, and all the rest so shaken that everything would have to be taken down. The Engineers think it is perhaps better left as it is — half standing, and totally shaken out of place; but I suggest that, as the large copings of granite and stone will have to be moved, they are moved with more facility from their present position than if they were also thrown down upon the mass. This, I think, will be done.
The thermometer yesterday morning was down to 16°, and subsequently 11°, with a gale blowing from the N.E.: it was very cold certainly, and required fur cap and quick movement out of doors. I am afraid we shall hear of some frost-bites. The thermometer had been the previous morning up to 54°, a fine, mild, and agreeable day.
Disturbance among native members of Land Transport Corps.
A sort of disturbance at Sinope among the native Land Transport Corps: this is the second time that something has threatened: I hope it may not be necessary to have to send troops at this time of year. I shall probably send an officer of the Land Transport Corps and an officer of the Army from hence to know, and to arrange something definite. It is rather a strong case to have to take care of these gentry, who are intended to take care of us.
Undated [between 14th January and 21st January.]
Since I last wrote to you I have gone through a fierce ordeal, but I think that the storm is past and I shall soon be able to resume my usual avocations.
Peace prospects developing.
I hope by next week to be able to send you a confidential statement of what has passed at the Council of War in Paris, but a new phase has come over our affairs and the peace prospects are becoming more strongly developed. Still no preparations must be relaxed and no vigilance omitted. Though I confess I shall be glad to see peace restored, I shall feel considerable regret at not giving these fellows a general licking in the field before we withdraw from their country. If we are to have peace, I shall be curious to see the state of Russian affairs in the Crimea when the curtain is drawn up. I fear it will show many golden opportunities lost by the indolence and incapacity exhibited immediately subsequent to the fall of Sebastopol. We have been some days now without any postal communications from you, and there is very little just now to write about. You seem to be bringing your Army through the winter with great éclat, and certainly the contrast between January 1855 and January 1856 affords every one unmixed pleasure.
January 17, 1856.
Papers of Council of War criticised.
We are exceedingly sorry to hear that you are suffering so much. I return the papers from the Council of War, which the Queen hopes to receive copied at a later period. They show a sad relapse to the disease of the Crimean Council of War ‘that nothing can be done.’ Councils of War never fight, is the old proverb, and the French are bent upon peace à tout prix.
January 18, 1856.
I have received the telegraph to destroy General Grey's letter, and note the communication as having come through your Lordship. 12
General Grey's letter stated that I was to consider the communication as a private one of individual opinion, not intended to bias my judgment in any way, or claiming the least authority, and, above all, as requiring no answer.
Duty of Generals when once Government has come to a decision.
In acknowledging the receipt to General Grey hurriedly, and before I had opened other letters, as the post was on the point of leaving, I said:
‘There will be some serious points to decide, both at home and here: when once the Government has decided those fundamental and half-political points relating to the place of operation of this Army, it then becomes the duty of the Generals in command to overcome every difficulty on the adoption of those fundamental views.
Forces of England and France ought not to be merely on the defensive in such a war.
England must remember that we are an Allied Army, strong in union, weak in separation — the nations depending on each other politically for the war, and the armies being a reflection of the same state of things militarily. Although the defensive maintained here is probably greater wear and harm to the troops of Russia, at this corner of her empire, than to us with our facilities of sea conveyance, yet the forces of England and France ought not to be merely on the defensive in such a war.
I trust that if such is the feeling of the Governments of the two nations, we, the Generals, shall be enabled to enter into it with the same feeling, and with success. But, I repeat, the groundwork must be settled by the decision of France upon the employment of her large force.’
I should be glad to know if the memorandum, coming through your Lordship, is still to be considered merely as a private one of individual opinion, and not to bias my judgment; or whether it is intended now to be a public document for my guidance, and for record amongst your Lordship's despatches with the name of the author of it.
January 19, 1856.
I send you the copy of a letter which I have to-day addressed to Lord Hardinge, and I recommend the subject of it to your most serious consideration, as the future condition of our Army in the East may in some degree depend upon it.
We sincerely trust that your enemy will have begun his retreat.
I am very much obliged to you for sending me the copies of your letter to Lord Panmure, with its enclosures, the memoranda with respect to the reinforcements of the Crimean Army. Nothing can be more important than your insisting on a proper quantity of reserve ammunition being attached to the Artillery. The Artillery will be very fine.
Against reducing the reserves.
With respect to the Infantry, I cannot at all agree in the propriety of sending the three Service Battalions in the Mediterranean on to the Crimea, and replacing them by three out of the six at home. As it is, our reserve bears no proportion to our fighting Army, and the same principle which guides you with regard to reserve ammunition is true with regard to regiments. We have fifty-four Battalions before the enemy, and only nine in reserve! Our depôts being only one-third or at the utmost three-fourths (?) of the Service Battalions, will hardly keep them full. What is to happen if our Army should be exposed to great losses in the ensuing campaign? You have got nothing to replace a disabled regiment. The 62nd consisted for a part of the winter of 1854-55 of ninety-three men. As the Army was stationary before Sebastopol, that did not signify so much, but, if it had been moving, this, and many other regiments, would have been entirely broken up. As it was, we should have been obliged to run away from the Crimea, if you had not been able to send fresh regiments out after Inkerman. ‘Send me entire regiments, if you can, not drafts from the depôts,’ was Lord Raglan's continued demand at that critical period.
Such times may occur again, and the safety of the whole Army may depend upon the addition of nine entirely fresh regiments at the right moment. Some of the disorganised ones might require to be relieved, even if no disasters befell the Army.
Pray consider this in your discussion with Lord Panmure, to whom I shall send a copy of this letter.
January 19, 1856.
If I understand the question put by your Lordship with regard to Balaclava lines, it is this:—
That you contemplate the whole Army embarking, quitting this part of the Crimea, evacuating by Balaclava.
I have answered the telegraph in that sense; for it is a question in such cases of saving, securing the embarkation of a rear-guard, to which an active enemy must at last become entirely superior.
Is Balaclava to be evacuated or defended?
It is a very different question that of a permanent and retaining defence of the fortified lines of Balaclava.
In the first case, as I have already, in previous letters, stated to your Lordship, it must be a succession of withdrawals of Infantry to diminishing spaces, protected by heavy Artillery, which must be destroyed before the enemy is admitted to the ground occupied. It can be done, if necessary; but it must at last be with difficulty if the enemy is numerous, active, and pressing — and, above all, if his activity enables him to bring a heavy mortar or two.
Defence of the plateau will scarcely require more troops than defences of the ports.
In the second case, that of permanently holding Balaclava, giving up the plateau, I repeat my opinion that the defence of the plateau itself will scarcely require more troops than the two separate and isolated defences of Kamiesh and Balaclava. I do not know the opinion of Marshal Pélissier or the French Government on this point; but it is one easily known at Paris.
By this time your Lordship will have received private and public letters from me on this point; but I may as well again state that four or five open or closed Artillery works, and lines for Infantry connecting them, will be necessary, west of Balaclava, over a space of about a mile and a half: that I reckon the defence of those lines, and those to the east of Balaclava, would require 20,000 men, and more indeed in presence of a very superior army.
TUILERIES, January 20, 1856.
I thank you for your letters of the 15th and 16th inst. and have carried out the instructions contained in it. . . .
Deliberations of the Council about to close.
I understand that to-day, after dinner, the Emperor intends to communicate to the members of the Council his views or ideas as to a campaign, that with this act our mission will be closed, and that he will communicate to me any further observations he has to make to the English Government as to the conduct of the war. Such being the case, I have communicated with my colleagues and have obtained the consent of the Emperor to our returning to England to-morrow night. General La Marmora will accompany us.
Present position of the French Emperor.
My reasons for wishing to get back as soon as possible are simply these, that, should the war be continued, the preparations necessary for carrying it on, and their direction, should be settled and determined upon with the least possible delay, and, further, that, in the present very altered circumstances of the case, it is most important that I should myself see the members of the Government and communicate to them the real position of the Emperor as regards the French nation, and the very serious difficulties in which he at this moment finds himself placed. This is a matter of so much importance that not a moment is to be lost, and I feel that my usefulness would be greater by direct communication with the Government than by a longer residence here. I shall explain my meaning more fully in a letter I intend writing to Clarendon on the subject. I have not failed to urge upon the Emperor the absolute necessity for allowing all preparations for the continuance of the war to be carried on as vigorously as can be, so as to be prepared for all eventualities, and to prove to Europe, and Russia in particular, that the Allies were determined to carry on the war with the greatest vigour, should the pacific turn that affairs have momentarily taken not be continued in that direction. The Emperor entirely concurs in these views, and I had a further very satisfactory conversation on the same subject with the Marshal Minister of War. I hope to see you certainly on Tuesday, and hoping to find you much better, etc.
January 20, 1856.
Lord Panmure presents his humble duty to Your Majesty, and is glad to be able again to address Your Majesty with his own hand.
Bounty for recruits placed on a more satisfactory footing.
Lord Panmure has the honour to forward for Your Majesty's signature a Warrant which will place the bounty of the recruit on a much more satisfactory footing than at present. An explanation paper accompanies the Warrant.
Lord Panmure transmits for Your Majesty's use the Quarterly Returns from the several civil departments of the Military Service.
The Bucephalus transport has arrived with the Russian trophies from Sebastopol, which Lord Panmure has ordered to be arranged at Woolwich until Your Majesty's pleasure is known as to their disposal. Major Lucan, who has brought them home, is to make an immediate report upon them, which shall, with a correct list of their numbers, be transmitted to Your Majesty.
Lord Panmure has just received the despatches by the messenger; the Army is high in condition and health.
Lord Panmure will submit to Your Majesty a list of recommendations for the Bath during the present week.
January 21, 1856.
Although I do not know that any ideas of mine on the future will be definitely worth having, or sending to you in a more official form than this, I will nevertheless refer to your last letter, namely that of the 4th January.
The North side road must not be considered open.
You must not conclude that the North side road is open; the works on that side are the North Fort; being much strengthened and having had an addition lately of at least fifty guns, it is the centre of lines of entrenchment extending from a steep rocky part of the coast across the whole front, from the sea down to batteries on the harbour — thus cutting off a sort of corner or triangle, and including the stone forts of Constantine, Michael, Catherine at the water's edge, and various intermediate and commanding earthworks. You must not therefore consider the road open now, though it might be made so by starvation or attack upon these works, lines, and batteries.
This is surely well known in England, that there are such lines enclosing the North ground opposite us, for they have been long in existence.
Repudiates the idea of the British Army playing a quite subordinate part.
I am rather sorry to read your idea of the French doing this affair — I mean the landing between Eupatoria and the Alma, and marching on Simpheropol — with an idea of the English casually helping with a small force, in order to be present in name. It would be long before I would willingly consent to the English Army playing so small a game; for it would leave to French enterprise, boldness, and courage the attempt, by the success of which the English Army would come in to claim but faded laurel. No, if such a decisive movement is to take place, let England bear her full — her very fullest — share of the high enterprise; for it will be a high one, a difficult one, and as likely to be a bloody struggle as any in this war; that is, if the Russians intend to hold and fight for the Crimea, and throw their strength into the lists.
If the Russians are as good as many of them have shown themselves to be in this siege, and if they take the advantage of their central position, those who first are landed, or placed in a position, ought to have to bear the brunt of a tough onset. That it would succeed I have no hesitation in believing, and I equally believe that in such an undertaking England and her Army must play no second part. She would do so if the Army here, sending a detachment to assist, were to remain waiting for the success of others, to advance.
Estimate of forces at command.
But the numbers you quote rather puzzle me: where are the 50,000 Infantry you put down? [Codrington here appends an estimate of the force at his disposal, maintaining that, if 25,000 men be left before Sebastopol to take care of the British positions there, the Infantry of his field force will not exceed 33,000.]
Difference between Codrington's estimate and that of Lord Panmure.
. . . I think an Army of 33,000 Infantry, with Artillery and Cavalry in proportion, a very fine force, and that it may do a good deal; but numbers on paper, and numbers in the field with bayonets, are very different things. And if Balaclava and Kertch are to be maintained, as your letter leads me to think, whilst the rest of the Army is taken to Asia, these last will not number 60,000.
Army would require to be not merely landed but maintained.
On the main points you must also remember, with regard to Asia or any other place, that the landing of 52,000 men is not the putting of that number at the fighting point of meeting a Russian army, although, of course, the enemy has his communications to maintain as well as his opponent. I do not mean that the detail of such things need be entered into in England, but they must not be kept out of sight.
Opposes dividing the Allied Armies, or the British forces.
Also, on the main point generally of operations, you know my opinion that it is better not materially to divide the Allied Armies, and not materially to divide the English Army. To bring the greatest number of troops to act on the one decisive point is what we ought to look at; and it cannot be good to do the business half in the Crimea and half in Asia.
I must come back, therefore, to what I have said to you before; when once you, the Allied Governments, settle that it suits your national policy to possess the Crimea, or to beat the Russian arms in the Crimea, let us devote all our attention, all our means, to that point. If the Russians reinforce their army here, there will be no superabundance of troops on our side; if they do not, and that we do, it may make matters more decisive and more quickly done.
Opposes confining the Allies to the defence of the ports.
I again refer to my expressed opinion that the confining ourselves, the Allies, to the restricted defence of Kamiesh on one side and Balaclava on the other side puts the Russians in possession again of Sebastopol, in possession of this plateau, in possession of the offensive, and confines us on this spot to the defensive: that it loses to us the morale and the physique of a commanding position, and that that commanding position, viz. the brow of this plateau, can be held with as few troops as would be required for the separate, less commanding, and more difficult defence of Balaclava and Kamiesh separately.
Recommends strengthening position on plateau.
If the war is to be continued here, our object should be to make our Armies on this plateau strong — to make our position strong, as the best means of departure for placing the largest number of disposable troops on the flank, or main communications, of the Russian Army by transporting them by sea. The Sea of Azof, the commanding the Spit of Arabat by our Navy when that sea is open, turns their line of communication, short of Arabat, by the Tchongar Bridge, their other line being by Perekop.
Kaffa on one side, the west coast from Eupatoria south on the other, are the spaces on which this could be done; but it must be done by an army and a large one — not by a detachment.
January 21, 1856.
I have much satisfaction in learning from your last private letter that your attention has been given to the protection of the western side of Balaclava, with a view to a possible embarkation of the Army in face of the enemy. It is a contingency for which prudence dictates to us to be prepared, but one at the same time which I have not the smallest expectation of having to face.
The Council at Paris breaks up to-day, and I hope before next mail to be able to send you its proceedings in strict confidence. I have not yet received its final conclusions, as the Emperor had not quite made up his mind when I last heard from the Duke of Cambridge. My impression is that the first act of the campaign will be by a series of manoeuvres, and if necessary by a battle to clear the Crimea.
Prospects in case of peace and of war.
But in the midst of these movements towards peace, one can scarcely bring one's mind to settle definitely upon future arrangements for war. With the exception of John Bull, everybody leans to peace. But I am convinced that the people of the country will be disappointed if our Army and Fleet have not an opportunity of showing what they can do.
From the despatches which I have received from General Vivian, it appears to me that he has disposed of his force at Kertch very well. He seems to be under some notion that Baron Wrangel means to attack him, but I don't think the Baron has either the means or the inclination to do so; if Vivian had only had Cavalry, he on the other hand might have attacked the Baron.
I am glad to see the docks going up by degrees, but I hope soon to hear of a more complete destruction than has yet taken place.
January 21, 1856.
Opposed to the French scheme of a campaign from the Rhine.
I return the enclosed papers from the Council of War, which you have sent us, and which the Queen and myself have most attentively perused. The perusal has given us but little satisfaction, as they show that the French are tired of the war, and have only taste for the Rhine ‘pour faire subir à l'Allemagne sa destinée habituelle,’ as General Niel expresses himself, that is to say, to be invaded, plundered, and devastated by the French.
It will be difficult for the two Governments to form a plan of campaign out of these papers.
I was delighted to see your own handwriting again.
Undated [between January 21 and January 28, 1856.]
I have once more recovered my hand, and though I cannot write at great length, I will endeavour to compress as much as I can into this note. The peace is yet but a rumour, and you are not to relax any of your preparations for a keen and vigorous campaign. The Council of War at Paris is finished, and I will send you confidentially all its proceedings as soon as I can get them printed. They tend to one course, and on the whole I think it the most practical one.
Plan of ensuing campaign.
It is proposed to clear the Crimea by sending an Army, composed of English, French, and Sardinians, to Eupatoria and all the coast, to advance to Simpheropol, or at all events till the communications between that place and Sebastopol are interrupted, when it might fall on the North Side and M'Kenzie heights if the enemy remained. This Army to consist of a large proportion of French, three Divisions of English, and all the Sardinians, and to be under a French General-in-Chief. An Army to be formed of English, French, and Turks in English pay at Sebastopol, to occupy the position on the Tchernaya, and to advance or act according to circumstances, and to be under an English General-in-Chief. The Emperor contemplates a diversion by Aloushta, and also to maintain our forts at Kertch and Kinburn. This seems to me to be, on the whole, a wise plan, and with such an army as we can produce in April it will be as inevitable as it is wise. We shall have to provide means of transport for so large an army, so as to throw them on shore in the least possible space of time; but Sir E. Lyons says that this is practicable. If, as I expect, this movement succeeds, you will clear the Crimea in six weeks, and then you may finish your work of destruction north and south and wait orders for withdrawing, or carry the war into some other quarter. Nothing has yet been said of a movement in Asia, but, should the war last, I fancy we should scarcely leave Mouravieff's army unmolested. Omar and his army, landed at Trebizond and Samsoun, will easily prevent the fall of Erzeroum, and keep the enemy in check till we have time to fall on his rear by following Omar's course of this autumn with an English Army of 30,000 strong.
I presume you will soon be sending for your reinforcements to Malta, and making up your regiments. You will not, of course, draw on the Mediterranean for fresh regiments unless you are in earnest need of them.
January 23, 1856.
I now return the last papers from the Council of War, which we have read with great interest. The summing up by the Emperor seems to me very good, but it ought now to be thoroughly sifted by the Government, with the assistance of our members of the Council just returned.
The Queen hopes to receive copies also of these papers.
January 26, 1856.
I know I have plenty to write to you; but I am much pressed to-day for the mail. I have no wish to interfere with the details of telegraph; but pray do not let any one so employed — or in any other capacity with the Army, if possible — suppose that he is not amenable to military power and propriety even.
Fine weather overhead — plenty of dirt — practice of Miniés going on well. Light Division will be armed, and others sent to Kertch.
Possibilities of Sebastopol.
I hope our dealings with Russia with regard to Sebastopol and its forts will be with a high hand: this harbour is THE magnificent place of the Black Sea: if a free port, might become surely the entrepôt of commerce, of the deep-sea ships into which the cargoes of the lighter vessels of Sea of Azof and the coast of Russia and Asia would be transferred for other parts of the world.
January 28, 1856.
The Victoria Cross.
Might I remind you of the Victoria Cross? Parliament meets on Thursday, and the subject will immediately be discussed in debate. It would be very desirable that the statutes should be signed by the Queen and published before.
WAR DEPARTMENT, January 28, 1856.
War preparations not to be relaxed.
I have not a moment to write you, as our Cabinet has lasted till the mail is about to start. Peace looks more definite, but you are not to relax any preparations, notwithstanding any news Pélissier may give you, or any course he may take in consequence of instructions from Paris. I will write you on Friday.
January 29, 1856.
I am sorry to hear and to see that gout continues to molest you. A private note from Lord Stratford mentions (received to-day) that the Russians have accepted without reserve or condition.
Destruction of docks and barracks.
I have continued, as actively as the Engineers can, the destruction of the docks; all are destroyed except the sides of the West Dock, which will be so to-morrow most probably. I have desired the large terrace-wall in front of the barracks, and the barracks themselves, to be examined as to the best means of destruction; and the walls will be mined at once in several places, so as to bring them and the roof down upon the ruins.
Hopes that right of conquest will be maintained.
I hope that England and France will maintain their right of conquest and position here with a high hand: nothing ought to limit our power over our own lines; and if possible we should see our flag in the harbour: if we cannot insist upon that, let us show that we have the power and the will over what we have taken; for if the Russians are to force us to conditions, we are put in the lower position, and they bring us to terms political and military — we do not force them to terms. However, all this is probably decided, yes or no, by this time. We have weather most beautiful: these last two days have been almost summer, no necessity for a fire even. . . .
A Black Sea fog drives over this moment, concealing everything, though when I wrote the sentence above all was clear.
I hope you do not mean to change the principle now adopted of the Land Transport.