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Crimean texts

The Times Monday 06.11.1854 p.6

Leading Articles — Third leader

It is satisfactory to find that the attention of the two allied Governments has been at length called to the deep and overwhelming necessity of establishing a rapid and regular communication between the western capitals and the seat of war. Hitherto we have been dependent for our information upon the CZAR himself — that is, upon the person most deeply interested in fabricating and spreading false intelligence. We do not speak only of political consequences, though these are grave enough to merit the most anxious attention of all persons concerned in the supreme direction of affairs. Throughout Germany — throughout the European dominions of the SULTAN, teeming as they are with a population but too well prepared by the intrigues of his agents for the dominion of the Russian Autocrat — throughout Asia itself false reports have been daily circulated by the industry and ingenuity of the Russian bulletin-mongers, but too well calculated to produce wavering allegiance, fickle counsels, and unwise resolves. For the moment, however, we would argue the question upon other grounds. There is not a town in the British islands where the inhabitants are not busy in collecting subscriptions for the relief of those helpless beings whose fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons, have fallen in their country’s cause. To their unhappy and forlorn condition the utmost consideration is due. We applaud the patriotic effort, and certainly, we may be permitted to say it, we have not been found wanting ourselves in the endeavour to contribute to the comfort of those brave men who have suffered from the disasters of war. But are there no other persons whose daily and nightly anguish merits attention from the Governments of the two allied countries? Many — too many — have fallen on the field of glory, or are now lying wounded and mutilated upon their beds of pain in the military hospitals. Many thousands, however, happily remain unhurt, although exposed at every hour of their lives to the stern chances of a desperate warfare. The relatives and friends of the glorious dead and of those who have been wounded in the various engagements already know the worst. For them there are no more hesitations — no more anxieties. They can listen with no more fears, though with too sad a sympathy, to the hoarse cries which proclaim, truly or falsely, throughout our streets that fresh intelligence has been received from the armies engaged before Sebastopol. Not so with those who have yet reason to hope that they shall once more see the faces of those dearest to them, who left the shores of England but a few months back full of life and valour, and “burning with high hope” that they might soon be able to engrave an undying name upon a page of their country’s history. It is needless to enlarge upon such a point. There cannot be many among our readers who are not acquainted with some family or other which has sent forth one of its members to do battle with the enemies of England. In place of all argument, let us beg of any one who may hesitate in his belief as to the vast amount of suffering inflicted by dilatory couriers and ambiguous despatches, to spend one short half-hour in the midst of those who are awaiting with sickening expectation tidings of life or death from the armies in the Crimea.

But we have not only to lament the tardy conveyance of intelligence; there is a second, and an equally grave reason, for complaint. The intelligence that reaches us scrapwise is so entirely inconclusive and unsatisfactory that it would perhaps have been better to leave it untransmitted at all. If we were abandoned to the veracity of the Russian CZAR, few would be credulous enough to put faith in news which rested upon such more than questionable authority. He might murder our troops, dismount our guns, burn our ships, take our redoubts at his own good pleasure, and the more emphatically he celebrated his own pseudo-victories the more strenuous would be the scepticism of Europe. The case is different with intelligence transmitted through English hands. We cannot but place confidence in the probity and good intentions of the senders, however hopeless may be the enigmas they may forward, as though for the purpose of testing our ingenuity in solving riddles. We take for an example the despatch which was forwarded by Lord STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE, and printed in our impression of Saturday. By this despatch it appears that the Russians took some redoubts, which were manned by a Turkish force. Before they were driven out, the Turks spiked the guns — so it is stated; but when the Russians had gained possession they instantly turned these spiked guns upon the English Light Cavalry, and inflicted upon them a severe loss. The bulletin again tells us that the Russians were repulsed, and obliged to quit the ground they had won, but yet they remained masters of two forts. Again, we are told that on the next day after the affair in question the position of the French was attacked by a body of 8,000 Russians, as well from the side of the town as from that of Balaklava. Was this an assault upon the French section of the aggregate attacking force? — was it directed against the French who had taken part in repulsing the Russian foray of the 26th? By the last advices no such position was occupied by the French at the point indicated which would have deserved, or could have resisted, the assault of 8,000 determined men. The whole arrangement of the forces must have been changed — a most improbable event at such a time — to render such a movement necessary, or probable. Again, we are told that “the Scotch” remained firm in their position. What regiments are meant? It is mere idleness — we should rather say wanton cruelty — to speak of the Scotch in such a manner. The French or Turks might be introduced into the bulletin in this off-hand manner with greater propriety, for at least the cause for apprehension would be distributed over so numerous a body as to leave families at home less reason for anxiety and complaint. The same remark applies with increased force to the English Light Cavalry regiments which are said to have suffered so severely. Why could not these have been named? The contest occurred on the day before that on the evening of which the English steam transport left Balaklava, so that at least there was time enough to ascertain the numbers of the regiments which had occupied so perilous a position. Finally, as though to turn the whole bulletin into a mere mockery, we are informed that the real intelligence, to which this precious bulletin is to serve as a kind of index, is wandering home in a French ship, and may be received in London and Paris some day or other next week.

The Government appear to have taken measures to rectify the first of their two shortcomings — namely, the one which refers to the transmission of intelligence. It is to be transmitted in future by way of Varna. There is to be a steamer despatched every other day from Balaklava to this port; the run is one of 48 hours at the utmost. From Varna to Kronstadt, in Transylvania, the despatches are to be forwarded by mounted couriers, posted at the most convenient distances for the execution of the service. From Kronstadt the electric telegraph is laid on to Vienna; so that, of course, from this point to Paris or London the transmission may be considered, practically, as instantaneous. We earnestly call the attention of the authorities to the second defective point. Let someone at headquarters — why not the JUDGE-ADVOCATE, a most efficient penman? — be charged with the duty of preparing intelligible bulletins, and submitting them to Lord RAGLAN for his approval. It would be too much to expect that the COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF at such a moment should have leisure for the performance of even so important a duty, but at least he can glance at the bulletins as prepared by another hand, and sanction them with his approval.

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