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McNeill/Tulloch Commission of Enquiry

This presentation is based on transcripts by Megan Stevens, and includes the page numbers of the original publication in order to maintain the validity of page references. It is arranged in the following sections:-

Evidence, page 46

TWELFTH DAY. - Friday, 30th March

ALEXANDER CROOKSHANK, Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General.

Has charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade. Has been attached to it ever since it arrived in the Crimea. Has at all times been able to supply the men of the brigade with the regulated rations, except that on the march to Balaklava, it having been ordered that fires should not be lighted, the men were unable to cook their rations; this state of things lasted about two days: with that exception the men have not been without their regulated ration. The rations of meat have consisted of 1 pound of salt meat, or 1 pound, or 1¼ pound of fresh meat. During the month of October the ration of fresh meat was 1¼ pound; but about the end of that month or the beginning of November it was reduced to 1 pound. This reduction in his brigade was effected by instructions to him from the head of the department. Thinks that vegetables were first issued to the brigade about the middle of January. Thinks he can furnish a note of the precise date. The vegetables were furnished on his written order by the department at Balaklava, but cannot state the quantities so furnished, as he has kept no record of the orders given. Has reason to believe, that the whole quantities to believe, that the whole quantities for which he gave orders were supplied, both because he only gave orders to the extent to which he had been informed they could be supplied, and because no complaint was ever made to him that the quantity ordered had not been supplied. The vegetables supplied have been principally potatoes, but also onions, leeks, and cabbages. Has generally been able to supply the quantities for which the regimental quartermasters applied. Since the middle of January, vegetables have been supplied to the extent above mentioned, but during the last six weeks they have been obtained by direct application to the department without an order from him. Believes that the regimental quartermasters applied for vegetables whenever they were wanted, and did not abstain from applying because they supposed they could not be obtained. Cannot state the actual quantities supplied to the brigade, having kept no memorandum of it. The commissariat officers have issued vegetables to the different regiments in quantities nearly proportioned to their respective strengths. It has not been left to the quartermasters to determine the quantities for their regiments. The issue has invariably been to the whole regiments of the brigade. The potatoes have been partly fresh, but chiefly preserved. The latter have, in his opinion, answered very well, and were much liked.

Desires to state, that he has been absent on duty in Asia Minor for about a month, and is not able to speak from personal knowledge of what has been done in the brigade during that time; except that since his return, two days ago, he has made inquiry at each regiment and finds that they have no complaints.

p. 50.

Handed in a return of the number of days on which fresh meat has been issued, and the quantity on each day regimentally. No complaint has been made to him of the long use of salt rations for the men.

The brigade has on the whole been tolerably well supplied with fuel since they came down from the front. They moved down on the 2nd December. Previous to that date, notwithstanding the storm of the 14th November, fuel was not required, except for cooking, and for that purpose a sufficiency was obtained by the men themselves. There was a deficiency of tools for purposes of grubbing up roots for fuel, as well as for digging or levelling. The supply of such tools does not belong to the Commissariat Department. About two months ago, firewood was for the first time issued to the brigade, but charcoal had been issued for about a fortnight before that time. Will give a note of the precise dates. The reason assigned for not issuing fuel after

Evidence, page 47

the brigade came down from the front was, that they had the means of obtaining it where they were encamped. While in front no fuel was issued, but the brigade had the means of obtaining it in that locality. In addition to which, he was in the habit of distributing for fuel all empty packages, such as barrels, tierces, &c.

Up to the first days of November, when the brigade moved to the front, the horses had been regularly and fully foraged. The ration then consisted of 12 pounds of barley and 10 pounds of hay. After moving to the front the supply of hay gradually fell off till the storm of the 14th November, when it ceased altogether. There was then a certain quantity of hay at Balaklava, but there were not the means of carrying it to the front. The roads were then bad, but not impassable for pack horses. But the Commissariat had not sufficient transport to carry the hay to the front. At this time the commanding officers of some of the regiments proposed to him to send down so many horses per troop to bring up forage if he would undertake to supply it at Balaklava. This he undertook to do; but on applying to the officer commanding the brigade was informed, that he could not permit a horse to leave the lines. As has been stated, from the date when the brigade moved to the front, at a greater distance from Balaklava, the roads then daily getting worse, and the transport cattle daily diminishing in number, the supply of hay gradually diminished, till at length, after the catastrophe of the 14th November, it became impossible for the commissariat to supply hay to the brigade. For about twenty days, the supply was irregular, and for several days did not exceed 1½ pound or 2 pounds per day. Made repeated representations, both verbal and written, of the deficiency of food for the horses. Will furnish copies of his written representations to Lord Lucan, Lord Cardigan, and the Commissary-General. The small supply of barley which he was then able to obtain could only be got by his coming down to Balaklava, assisting in landing it, and with great difficulty preventing its being carried off by other parties who had fatigue men at their command, while he had none. The number of pack animals required to carry up the full rations of barley was about 60: during the time referred to he sometimes could not get more than 5, and never more than 10 or 12; and it frequently was near midnight before he got back to the camp. Has on some occasions come down with troop horses to Balaklava for hay or straw and been unable to obtain it. Believes, however, that there was then hay on board ship in the harbour, but which could not be landed in time. After the storm of the 14th November, two or three hundred trusses of hay were floating in and about the harbour, which he has no doubt might have been secured if proper measures had been taken. Knows that a portion of that hay, which was secured, was given to horses, which appeared to eat it readily.

After the twenty days of short rations referred to, the horses being at the same time exposed to very inclement weather on unfavourable ground, the condition of the troop-horses was deplorable. When the brigade moved down on the 2nd December, it was necessary to have the horses led, as they were too weak to carry their riders, and notwithstanding, many of them died on the way from exhaustion; and a considerable number were left on the ground unable to move, with men to attend to them: nearly all of them however died. The cause of this great deficiency in forage for the brigade was the want of transport to carry it to the front. Believes that there never was any want of barley at Balaklava, and that the horses might therefore have had their full rations of grain if there had been the means of carrying it to their camp.

Has nothing further to state in regard to the subject of inquiry.

Camp. Sebastopol, November 18, 1855.

My Lord,

In obedience to your Lordship's orders, I beg to report to you upon the subject of my yesterday's communication with regard to the foraging of this brigade during the winter.

I would commence by bringing to your Lordship's notice, that at this

Evidence, page 48

distance from Balaklava I cannot be afforded any assistance in transport by the brigade, I mean regiments cannot send their horses in for barley, and thus the whole transport devolves upon the commissariat.

The transport allotted to me is insufficient, and at present no more can be given me, nor do I see any prospect of a future increase to its strength. The mules are already showing symptoms of overwork, and as araba after araba breaks down (I have now only 5 out of 17), so much more labour devolves upon the mule transport.

To bring up a day's supply of barley, according to the present strength, 63 mules are required, as the sacks weigh 160 pounds, and they can only carry one each, and, owing to the distance, can make but one journey a day. I have never yet been able to procure more than 35 mules per day (not often that), and with the 11 mule carts and 5 arabas attached to this brigade, I have just been able to complete the requisite quantities of barley and hay.

The least bad weather prevents this exactness, and throws me in arrears, whilst such weather as we have lately had altogether stopped the transport for one day. and has not yet allowed me to recover ground - in fact, I owe the brigade nearly one and a half day's corn and some hay. Should the present weather hold, I hope to make good all arrears; but, after due and careful deliberation, I do not hesitate in saying, that I fear the ordinary weather to be expected at this season, putting aside the possibility of any repetition of the late severe weather, will render the roads so bad, that at times the transport will fail in bringing forage to so great a distance.

I cannot conclude without further bringing to your Lordship's notice the great delay and hindrances we are subjected to when in Balaklava by the slow and awkward manner the barley is landed. The first can be remedied, but the latter, from the nature of the wharf, probably not.

I have, &c.
Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General, Light Cavalry Brigade.

Major-General the Earl of Lucan,
Commanding Cavalry.

Camp, Sebastopol, November 19, 1855.

My Lord,

I have the honour to report, for your Lordship's information, that the late severe weather prevented my keeping the brigade regularly supplied with forage, nor has the state of the roads since permitted me to make good the consequent arrears. At this moment I owe nearly one and a half days' corn and some hay to the brigade, but I am in hopes, from the present state of the roads, to make that good.

A certain quantity of forage has been issued daily since the storm, and last night 39 sacks of 160 pounds each were issued, and this morning 14 sacks of like weight. More barley will be up to-day, probably upwards of 40 sacks, together with some hay.

The men's rations have been regularly issued, and I apprehend no difficulty in that respect.

I have, &c.
Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General, Light Cavalry Brigade

Major-General the Earl of Cardigan,
Commanding Light Cavalry Brigade.

Balaklava, November 21, 1855.

My Lord,

I must again bring to your Lordship's notice the state of the Light Cavalry Brigade with regard to forage.

In my last letter I informed your Lordship, that one and a half day's corn and some hay was due to the brigade, but instead of my having been able to make good any part of that, I have fallen into further arrears. The weather

Evidence, page 49

is in part the cause, but it is chiefly to be attributed to the want of transport. On the 19th I had only 10 extra mule-carts afforded me.

Yesterday, the 20th, none whatever until so late an hour (and then only 15 pack animals) as to be of no use.

It is now midday, and as the transport has not yet come in to Balaklava from its own camp, I have only been able to despatch 30 sacks of barley on my own carts, each only carrying three sacks on the present roads.

I would wish further to bring to your Lordship's notice that the Light Brigade suffers in another respect. Even when I have transport on the beach and a boat-load of barley arrives, a dozen or more Heavy Dragoons, or as many Artillerymen jump in, carry out the sacks, load their transport, my few wretched Turks or Maltese having a very poor chance in the meleé.

While writing this, Deputy Assistant Commissary General Goold, the officer in charge of the depôt transport, has come in and assures me the mules are nearly done up - almost incapable of further work.

I have, &c.
Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General, Light Cavalry Brigade.

Lieut.-General the Earl of Cardigan,
Commanding Cavalry.

Light Cavalry Brigade, Sebastopol,

November 21, 1855.


I have had occasion to bring to the notice of the Major General commanding this brigade, as well as to the Earl of Lucan, commanding the Cavalry, the difficulties of keeping up the supply of forage to this brigade in its present position.

For the last fortnight the ration of barley has not been a full one to each regiment; but I beg to inform you, and I request you will bring it to the Major-General's notice, that some of the regiments have not sent in a correct return to me. It is not in my power to sift the matter, but one instance I give: The 11th Hussars, on the 24th instant, drew for 160 troop horses and charges, on the following day that number was reduced to 130, although on application to the Adjutant I was informed 127 was the total. Such a discrepancy cannot have occurred in one night, and in juxta-position to the quantity of barley I have owned to being in arrears to the 11th, I would wish to know for how many horses, and for what length of time, they have overdrawn.

In no one instance have I found the ration return and memorandum of horses actually with the regiments this day to agree (save the 17th Lancers, whose Acting Adjutant was absent, and from whom I got no memorandum), and I submit to you, that the same precision should be observed in a ration return as in any other document signed collectively by Commanding Officer, Paymaster, and Quartermaster.

I have, &c.
Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General, Light Cavalry Brigade.

Lieut.-Colonel Mayow, Brigade-Major, Light Cavalry.

P.S. Would you oblige me by putting in Brigade Orders that regiments forthwith return to me all empty corn and biscuit sacks in their possession, as our depôt much requires them.


Evidence, page 50

J.W. MURRAY, Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General, examined.

p. 52.

Is attached to the Heavy Cavalry Brigade. Has been with the brigade ever since it landed in the Crimea. With the exception of three days, when no sugar was issued, and two when only a partial issue was made, the regulated rations of the brigade have been fully supplied. Frequently requisitions for vegetables, made by the quartermasters, have not been complied with; but the brigade has had as large a proportion as any other. In December, the men complained of the long use of salt rations. Handed in a return showing the issues of fresh meat, and the amount of each issue. The ration of fresh meat to the heavy brigade has always been 1¼ pound.

The brigade moved down from near head quarters to the vicinity of Balaklava on the 3rd December. Up to the 14th November, the horses had full rations of hay and grain. After the 14th November, for some time hay was deficient, but there was no deficiency of barley, of which a surplus was frequently issued in lieu of the deficiency of hay.

Fuel has been regularly issued to the brigade since the 1st of January; before that date they were able to supply themselves sufficiently. Since the 14th November, troop horses have been daily sent to Balaklava for forage. Handed in a return of the issues of forage made to the brigade. It was necessary to send down troop horses, because the commissariat had not sufficient transport to carry the forage to the camp.

Has nothing further to state in regard to the subject of inquiry.

PHILIP ROLLESTON, Deputy-Assistant Commissary-General, attached to the 1st Division, examined.

p. 54.

Has been with the division ever since it has been in the Crimea. With the exception of two days' sugar to one regiment, and half a gill of rum to another, has been able to supply the regulated rations at all times to the division. Handed in a return by regiments of the issues of fresh meat to the division, showing any deficiency in the quantity issued to each regiment. Has been able to obtain full forage for the horses of the mounted officers of the division, with the exception of the Scots Fusilier Guards, who were, he believes, about ten days in the latter part of November and beginning of December, without hay or straw. Fuel was first issued on the 20th December, but from a deficiency of transport, could not be carried to the camp in sufficient quantities. The Highland Brigade, which forms part of the division, has been in the vicinity of Balaklava for some time. The 93rd never went to the front. The 42nd and 79th have been at Balaklava since the 25th of October. Fuel was not issued to the Highland Brigade at first, because it appeared to the Commissary General that the troops round Balaklava had the means of supplying themselves with a sufficient quantity. No formal complaints were made to him of the long use of salt meat, but is aware that it was complained of. The first issue of vegetables to the division was on the 4th of November: there was then an interval, during which vegetables could not be obtained - thereafter on the 14th of February, vegetables were again issued; since that date they have been more or less regularly issued. Does not believe that any preserved potatoes were issued to the Guards, but will ascertain.[1] No compressed vegetables have been issued to the division, but obtained a supply to day which will be issued.

W.H. DRAKE, Deputy Commissary General, examined.

Has been in charge of the executive duties of the Commissariat since the army arrived in the Crimea. Has always been able to supply the requisitions for rations of the several divisional officers. Delay has occasionally occurred

Evidence, page 51

from deficiency of boats or stress of weather, which prevented supplies being landed in time. There never has been a deficiency of any of the articles included in the regulated ration, in the stores or harbour; but from the stowage of several of the vessels, some of these articles could not be got at till others, which were over them, could be removed - for example, even within the last few days being desirous of landing rum, found that it had been stowed under biscuit and hay, and could not be got at till these were removed; the only place at which he is permitted to land hay, is so blocked up by hay and chopped straw, that no more can be landed at present. The railway affords greater facilities for removing the hay; but hitherto a sufficient number of railway carriages has not been obtained to carry it off as quickly as could be desired. There has never been a deficiency of barley, and when hay has been deficient, there has always been chopped straw; but from the difficulty of removing a sufficient quantity of the latter article, there has been great reluctance to receive it as forage, and on many occasions the parties to whom it was offered refused to take it away. Measures have recently been devised for pressing apart of the chopped straw, which is now pressed in bales to about one third the bulk of loose straw; but a sufficient quantity cannot be pressed, and therefore loose straw is still imported. Since about the middle of February, full rations of grain, and hay, or straw, have been available here for all the public horses. After the gale of the 14th November, efforts were made with the assistance of Captain Christie, principal agent of transports, to secure the hay that was floating in and about the harbour, and a considerable quantity was secured; but for the most part it was found to be unserviceable. There was a deficiency of transport to carry forage to the front; but understands that it has been usual in the British army, when in the field, to send troop horses for the forage when the distance does not exceed three miles. The non-issue of fuel to the troops around Balaklava, was by general order; and the issue at a subsequent period was also by a general order. About the end of October or beginning of November, he was instructed by the Commissary General to purchase for the troops all the fresh vegetables that could be procured in the harbour; and has, in consequence, purchased all that he had an opportunity of purchasing. In consequence of instructions from Lord Raglan, a large supply of vegetables was sent up from Constantinople and Varna, in the "Harbinger", "Cormorant", "Albatross", "Jason", &c. When the "Harbinger" arrived, the Captain reported to him that some of the vegetables were in a dreadful state of putridity, which he attributed to their having been thoroughly wetted by a heavy storm of rain at the time of shipment, the large quantity in the hold of the ship having, in consequence, heated. The cargo consisted of a great variety of green vegetables. He visited the ship and found the stench from the hold very great. His visit to the vessel was on the day of her arrival, and within four hours of her arrival had been reported to him. The Captain, with his own crew, commenced on the following morning he thinks, to land the vegetables; and on the following day he believes received instructions from the Commissary General that they were to be issued gratuitously. Before receiving this instruction, he had, on his own responsibility, issued the vegetables to Quartermasters of regiments and other persons who applied for them, intimating that it was undetermined whether or not they were to be charged to the men, but that one penny per pound would be the extreme price. A considerable quantity was carried away on these conditions. Officers were sent down to hold a board of survey on the cargo, when it was partly condemned. All that were good were issued to the troops, and any one was allowed to remove away such portions as he chose from the part that was condemned. About four-fifths were condemned. The cargoes of vegetables in the other vessels referred to, were subjected to a similar survey, and disposed of in the same manner as the cargo of the "Harbinger", there was a considerable loss on these also, but not quite so great as in the case of the "Harbinger". The "Hope" and "Faith" are employed to bring general supplies from the Bosphorus.

p. 15.

Will furnish a statement of the voyages of the "Faith" and "Hope" for commissariat supplies.

Evidence, page 52

Memorandum respecting the Vegetables, ex "Harbinger", &c.

On the "Harbinger" being reported, the master stated many to be unfit for use. I reported this to the Commissary General, and mentioned in my letter that part of those by the "Jason" remained unissued and in bad order. I requested instructions as to whether they were to be paid for or constitute part of the ration.

I was instructed that "they were to be paid for as extra articles of diet", and a general order notified "that they would be delivered on board the ships and payment claimed as soon as the deliveries were completed".

Vegetables were landed on the 9th and consecutive days and issued, and some were issued direct from the "Harbinger" on the understanding that payment was to be made when demanded.

A subsequent general order notified that vegetables were to be a gratuitous issue.

During the period embraced from 8th to 13th November, 1854, heavy rains were almost continual; and the streets of Balaklava, more especially that bordering on the water, was a sea of mud.

The rain, accompanied by high winds, delayed landing vegetables and other supplies.

On the 14th, the hurricane put a stop to all landing or nearly so, such articles only as were absolutely necessary for existence, were landed on the 15th and 16th, as nearly every vessel was damaged.

Some of the damaged vegetables remained on board the "Harbinger" at this time, but very few of those were fit for use.

These were landed subsequently, and those that were fit were issued on the same terms as those issued before the hurricane.

A Board of Survey was held on the vegetables by "Harbinger" and other vessels.

(Signed) W.H. DRAKE,
Deputy Commissary-General.

Balaklava, March 31, 1855.


General order of 15th November, notifies that rice no longer forms part of the ration.

General Order 27th December, directs rice to be again issued as part of the ration.

General Order of 29th December, directs that fuel and light to be issued to the troops in and near Balaklava, in the same manner as to those in camp before Sebastopol, as notified by general order of the 4th December, 1855.

(Signed) W.H. DRAKE,
Deputy Commissary-General.

Commissariat, Crimea,
Balaklava, March 31, 1855.


 [1] This is an error. Preserved potatoes were issued first on the 14th of February, and have been continued at different times since. - P.R.

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