[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]
Sir, - I hope that in the interest of truth and fair play you will insert the accompanying correspondence in The Times.
I remain, yours very obediently,
Treasury, May 4.
A story has been in circulation in London for some weeks as described in the accompanying paper, and I shall be much obliged by your informing me whether your son’s letters contain any confirmation of it, and, if so, to what extent. My sole object is to bring out the truth.
The following story is in circulation:- Mr. Blackwood, a Commissariat officer, attached, I believe, to the First Division, had with great difficulty brought up his stores from the exhausted state of the animals he had for transport. At last they utterly failed, and he applied to the authorities to furnish him with mules or horses to carry up food for the troops. The only answer he could get was that they had none to give. ‘What am I to do, then?’ ‘What you can; you are all in the same predicament.’ ‘But the men will perish for want of supplies.’ ‘What can we do? We cannot give what we have not got.’ Mr. Blackwood went away in great perplexity, and before he was far from the place heard, to his delight, that a considerable supply of mules had been brought on speculation. He rushed back to tell the good news, and to beg that he might at once go and secure them. ‘Do you think this is the first time we have heard of them? but they ask extravagant prices.’ ‘Good Heavens! You surely are not going to haggle for prices when men’s lives are at stake?’ ‘Oh, we shall have them. Wait a few days, and they will come down in their demands! It never does to give these people their first price.’ In infinite disgust Mr. Blackwood went away and bought up 40 mules at his own expense. The rest were bought that day by the French. With the 40 he had, his division was kept well supplied with food, &c., the whole time.
Lately, or subsequently, Mr. Blackwood applied to be repaid the money he had spent, and was told ‘We have nothing to do with it. You chose to make the purchase unauthorized and on your own responsibility, and we do not undertake any repayment.’
Colonial-office, April 2.
None of my son’s letters to his family and friends at the Treasury mention a syllable of the story about the mules; and, as we have no official or private information on the subject, I must think that it is one of the ‘canards’ of the camp brought home by some invalided officer.
The nearest approach to any purchase by my son of bât animals is contained in the enclosed, which I send you to use as you think proper.
My transport, which at first consisted of 30 carts, has now, from the death of oxen and breaking down of carts, diminished to one! And if it had not been that Rolleston and I had bought up right and left all the ponies and pack-saddles we could, my brigade would have now been starving. As it is, the only thing wanting as yet was yesterday, when, instead of a full ration of rum, I was obliged to give them half a ration.
A story has been circulating for some weeks in London society at the expense of the department (to which you have by your exertions done so much credit), and, as I believe, of truth. I did not pay much attention to it when I first heard it, but, finding it repeated again and again with great circumstantiality, and nearly in the same terms, I asked the person from whom I last heard it to write it out in detail as he had received it, and I then sent the statement to your father, and asked him whether he could throw any light upon it. As your correspondence with your family afforded no confirmation of the story, he inquired in vain at the War Department, the Treasury, and other quarters from which it might have emanated. I now send you a copy of the correspondence, and shall be obliged by your informing how much or how little truth there is in the story, and by your giving me liberty to publish your letter if I think proper.
With best wishes, and continued warm interest in your success, yours, &c.
Camp, Brigade of Guards, near Balaklava, April 21.
The story of my having bought 40 mules and being refused payment is entirely without foundation.
We did buy bât-horses, but from officers of this army — some even from French officers.
The Commissary-General gave us, and other officers attached to divisions, authority to do this, and has approved the accounts.
I have ascertained, moreover, from the best authority, that no cargo of mules or bât-horses was ever brought to the Crimea on speculation.
You are perfectly at liberty to use this letter as you think fit.