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The Times 4.11.1854 p 6

Leading article


Not until after these lines are committed to the press can we receive the very first detailed accounts of the bombardment of Sebastopol that have found their way to this country. It is possible, and indeed easy, for a man to arrive in London twelve days after leaving the coast of the Crimea, yet one of the most remarkable and momentous events in modern times, corresponding we will not say to the siege of Troy, but to the sieges of Plataea, of Potidaea, of Saguntum, of Carthage, and of Constantinople by the Turks, only reaches us in the most fragmentary and apocryphal form at the expiration of eighteen days, and even today we shall only have the details up to the afternoon of the second day of the bombardment. To guard as much as possible against any confusion between the different reports, it is necessary to give the several streams of intelligence, which, as it happens, are so far not very conflicting. The most authentic and particular is contained in despatches and letters from Balaklava, via Marseilles, up to the 18th. They ought to have been here five or six days since, but the Euphrate, which brought them from Constantinople, broke down, and did not reach Malta till the 29th, whence they were brought on by the Hellespont; and, though their substance is already before our readers, they will only arrive in town today. Anticipating these despatches by a few hours, we have the Russian account of the same two days, the 17th and 18th, but including the night of the 18th, contained in two reports from Prince MENSCHIKOFF, published in the St Petersburg Journal. The Moniteur published a despatch from General CANROBERT, dated the 23d, and therefore five days in advance of the two last mentioned accounts. It will appear in our columns today. We yesterday published the substance of a despatch from Constantinople to Semlin, forwarded thence by telegraph to Vienna, up to the same date as the above, and probably carried to Constantinople in the same steamer with it. Besides these there have arrived two telegraphic messages from Vienna, giving the substance of despatches that had arrived at that city by various routes, the latest, via St Petersburg and Berlin, giving news from Sebastopol up to the 25th, 26th, and even the 27th. It will be observed that for the first two days of the bombardment, the 17th and 18th, we have authentic and particular accounts from the besiegers and the besieged. For the next five days - viz, up to the 23d, besides various telegraphic messages from Vienna, we shall now have General CANROBERT’S despatch to his Government. For the next four days - viz, up to the 27th, we have hitherto been wholly left to such news as the telegraph has brought us from Vienna, now the converging point of the several routes of intelligence. But to all these sources of information we have now to add a letter from Lord STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE, dated midnight, October 28th, and communicating intelligence from Balaklava up to the evening of the 26th, the date of one of Prince MENSCHIKOFF’S despatches, of which news has been received at Vienna.

As to the work done on the first two days there can now be no doubt, as there is no discrepancy between the accounts of Prince Menschikoff and the allies but what may be easily explained. It is a matter of history that on the 17th Sebastopol was attacked by land and by sea. The Admiral in command of the French fleet and both the English Admirals shared in the attack on the sea forts. The Russians admit on these days a loss of 500 men, including Admiral KORNILOFF, the hero of Sinope, killed, and General NACHIMOFF wounded. The Constantine Battery, at the northern entrance of the harbour, was almost destroyed; two other sea batteries suffered; a large land battery was destroyed, nearly all the pieces being dismounted, and a redoubt was much injured by the explosion of its magazine. The allies lost 96 men the first day, the Retribution and the Agamemnon were much injured, some French magazines were blown up, and the French works considerably damaged, owing to their slightness and the heavy metal opposed to them. Here, then, we have the great problem of wooden walls against granite solved with as much success as was ever expected. The ships attacked the sea forts, for some time at short range, and almost destroyed the nearest without nearly so much damage or loss of life on their own part as inevitably takes place in a naval action at close quarters. It will also be observed with just satisfaction that both Admiral DUNDAS and Sir E LYONS took part in this attack. Indeed the Britannia, the flagship, was the only English first-rate engaged; and the hope we expressed on Tuesday last that Admiral DUNDAS would be equally zealous with the French Admiral in defence of the honour of his flag has not been disappointed. The attack from the sea was not renewed on the 18th, but the bombardment from the land batteries seems to have been continued up to the very last date, with more or less activity. The British have advanced their batteries within 300 yards of the Russian works. The loss of life in the city was so great that the dead lay unburied, a threatened to cause a pestilence. Five Russian generals were among the slain, while on our side a son of OSMAN PASHA was killed. Two sorties of the garrison have been repelled, and three vessels sunk in the port. A fire broke out in the town on the morning of the 23d, and continued burning a long time. Meanwhile the allies were continually menaced from their rear, and, according to a report of Prince MENSCHIKOFF’S, diverted, to some extent, from their operations on the city.

Up to the 25th the state of affairs remained much the same, nothing decisive having occurred. On that day, however, there can be no longer any doubt that the allies suffered a reverse. The detached English camp in the direction of Balaklava was unexpectedly attacked by about 30,000 Russians, under LIPRANDI. The Cossacks, who covered the attack, were encountered by the Turks and the Highland Brigade. The former retreated, leaving their guns in the hands of the enemy; the latter stood their ground. On the arrival of other forces, the Russians were beaten back, not so much, however, but that they retained possession of two forts, from which they fired on our troops. Three regiments of English light cavalry, exposed to the cross fire of the Russian batteries, suffered very much. According tho the Russian account of the affair, we lost 500 horses. The eleven cannon claimed by the foe are doubtless those abandoned by the Turks. The subsequent fate of the four redoubts said to have been stormed by the Russians is not expressly stated. As, however, we are informed on the authority of the British Ambassador’s letter that on the 26th the position of the allies was attacked by 8,000 Russians, as well from the side of the town as from that of Balaklava, and that they repulsed the enemy with great slaughter, while the Russians did not venture to make any report after the 25th, except that nothing had occurred with Liprandi’s corps, we may reasonably conclude that by the 27th we had entirely recovered our lost ground. It ought not to be omitted that the French took a part in this affair with their usual bravery. Meanwhile nothing has occurred to shake the expectation of the early capture of Sebastopol. The fire from the batteries of the town had very much slackened, the prospect of famine had been added to the presence of a pest, and the commander had to choose between the surrender of the city, and the wanton destruction of a brave garrison and the unoffending inhabitants.


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