CAMP NEAR DEVNO, BULGARIA, JULY 21
There was a council of war on Tuesday at Varna, at which Marshal St Arnaud, Lord Raglan, Admiral Hamelin, and Admiral Dundas, &c, were present, and it seems to have been resolved that the time is come for an active exercise of the power of the allied forces by sea and land. On Wednesday orders were sent out by Lord Raglan to Sir George Brown, at Devno, to proceed to head-quarters at Varna immediately. Sir George Brown lost no time in obeying the summons. He sent a portion of his baggage on at once, and went on to Varna attended by his aide-de-camp, Captain Pearson. Lord Raglan and his second in command had a long conversation, and on Thursday morning Sir George Brown, attended by Captain Pearson, Colonel Lake, of the Royal Artillery, Captain Lovell, of the Royal Engineers, &c, went on board the Emeu, Captain Smart, and immediately proceeded to the fleets at Baltschik. At the same time General Canrobert took ship for the same destination. The generals went on board the flagships of the respective admirals, and on Thursday evening the whole fleet stood out to sea, steering towards the Crimea. Of course, the object of this expedition is a dead secret; but it is believed that Sir George Brown will make a reconnaissance all round the coast from Kostendje to the Circassian shore below Anapa, and that he will be away for a week. On Friday (this) morning the first division of the French army, under the command of General Canrobert, struck their tents and broke up their camp outside Varna. They have taken the road which leads twt Dobrudscha, and it is said that they will march at once to Kostendje, and that when their general has joined they will proceed to seize the Sulina mouth of the Danube, clearing the Dobrudscha of Russians and Cossacks, and laying hold of Isaktcha and Matschin. Others are of opinion that they will halt at Kostendje and wait till the transports are ready to convey them to the scene of operations.
To-day at noon Sir Richard England’s division, also encamped close outside Varna, received orders to march at 5 o’clock to-morrow morning, but they will only shift their quarters a short mile or so, in order to get better water and change the air of the camp.
The cholera has appeared among the troops at Varna, but the English forces are as yet tolerably free from it. Sixteen French soldiers have died from this terrible scourge out of 25 who were attacked by it. A good deal of sickness prevails among the Turkish and Egyptian troops. There has been some mortality among the cavalry at Devno also, and the chaplain performed six funeral services among the two cavalry brigades this week. A sergeant of the 8th Hussars, who had been suffering for some time from an affection of the head, committed suicide by drowning. The poor fellow, who was one of the best non-commissioned officers in the regiment, is greatly regretted. Several officers are invalided, and will be sent home by the first opportunity — among them, Messrs Balfour and Alexander, of the Rifle Brigade. Lord Dupplin, who has been seriously ill, is now much better, but it is said that he also will be obliged to go to England. Dragoons Macdonald, who has been sent in to the general hospital, is also somewhat better. Three officers of the Guards are unwell, but not seriously so. Diarrhœa is only too prevalent. Nearly every one has it in his turn. The quantity of apricots ("Kill Johns") and hard crude fruit which are devoured by the men may in some degree account for the prevalence of this debilitating malady. The commissariat bread is not so good as it used to be, and speedily turns sour; but the officers are taking steps to remedy the evil by the erection of ovens in which the bread will have more room to swell. As a general rule the French bread is lighter and better than our own. It is not to be supposed that the average sickness of the army is considerable. On the whole, it is below the average of garrison returns; but it is to be remembered that one source of illness in towns is almost entirely cut off in this country. The general hospital at Varna is, however, packed as full as it can hold, and regimental surgeons are enjoined to treat as many cases as possible in the field. Whenever it is practicable, the divisional surgeons engage houses in the villages for sick officers, and some four or five very tolerable rooms have been taken in the village of Devno for the reception of invalids. Some cases of low fever have appeared, but as yet they have given way to the usual treatment. The meat furnished by the commissariat is excellent. Some of the surgeons think the ration is not large enough, as the meat is lean and deficient in nutritive quality when compared with English beef and mutton; but it should be stated, that in order to compensate for that deficiency, the weight of the ration has been increased from the home allowance of 3/4 lb to 1 lb per man per diem.
No one unacquainted with the actual requirements of an army can form the smallest notion of the various duties which devolve upon a commissariat, or of the enormous quantity of stores required for the daily use of man and horse. At this very moment the quantity of food supplied for horses daily by the commissariat seems to a civilian almost fabulous, and, as it is all drawn from store at Varna, because the harvest is not yet thrashed in the country, the exertions of the officers charged with the supply are taxed to the uttermost to keep pace with the demand, so as to have a proper reserve. What do you suppose the daily issue of rations for horses amounts to? To no less than 110,000 pounds weight of corn, chopped straw, &c. 110,000 pounds! and this quantity will be increased day after day as horses come in from the country. Add to this about 27,000lb rations of meat, 27,000 lb rations of bread, the same quantity of rice, tea, coffee, sugar, &c, and it will be seen that the commissariat has enough on its hands. But the issue and supply of rations is but a small portion of their duty. They have to supply horses, carts, saddles, packsaddles, tents, carriages for Dragoons, Light Cavalry, Infantry, Artillery, Sappers and Miners, and interpreters, and to provide for the innumerable legitimate wants of an army in the field. The supply of packsaddles is not equal to the demand, and, notwithstanding all their exertions, the commissariat have not yet been able to comply with the orders given to them to furnish saddles for the interpreters and various persons attached to the forces. Large as our commissariat staff may appear, I can answer for it that they are worked to the very uttermost. Commissary-General Fidler’s office in Varna is like a bank in the City in the height of business, and the various officers at their desks are to be seen writing away as if their lives depended on it. The officers at the other branch departments are equally busy, and in this hot weather it is not unusual for some of them to ride to Varna and back to Devno, a distance of more than 40 miles, between sunrise and sunset. The officers of the various regiments who have been sent all over the country to purchase horses have now all been ordered in, and most of them have returned. Captain Prettyman, 33d Regiment, and Captain Gambier, RA, are still out, the former at Bourgas, the latter at Shumla. Mr Phillips, 8th Hussars, has just returned from Tirnova, having purchased 494 horses in three weeks. Captain Kennedy, of the 77th, has also returned from Pravady, where he made some excellent purchases. The way in which this department is managed is this:— The officer on duty, accompanied by an interpreter, and provided with proper credentials to the authorities, proceeds to the place indicated, and, with the aid of the Pasha or head man, establishes a fair, at which the average prioce is about £4.10s a-head. When he has purchased 30 or 40 horses he sends them into Varna, under the escort of a Turkish officer and of zapties (county police), and consigns them to the care of Colonel Dickson, RA, who is at the head of this department. The officer receives a gratuity, ranging with the distance, and the men in charge all get a fixed sum and rations for their services till their return, and Colonel Dickson gives a receipt for the horses, and hands them over to the commissariat officer, Mr Smith. Most of the animals sent in are provided with packsaddles and equipments complete. It often happens that some die on the road, and that others run away, and are lost. When the officer who makes the purchases has concluded his mission he comes up to Varna and checks his accounts with Colonel Dickson; and, on the production of a receipt from the latter, he is paid by the commissariat whatever expenses he may have incurred. The pay for his services while on this duty is £1 a-day; and that sum has been found barely sufficient for the expenses of the living, &c, in the Turkish towns, and sometimes is quite inadequate to the outlay. I believe there are about 16,000 horses now on rations, and the baggagers are cut down in their allowances as far as possible. There is a difficulty in getting "grooms," though the Government gives 300 piastres, or £2.15s, a-month and rations to each.