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Crimean texts

[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]

The Times 3 Feb 1857 p 6


The volume of Colonel Tulloch, referred to in the correspondence which we published on Wednesday, the 28th ult., is now before us, and we at once invite the attention of every Englishman to its exposure of the illusory inquiry at Chelsea. The report of the Chelsea Board has been hitherto received with that vague but justifiable distrust which its constitution and mode of procedure inspired. The Crimean Commissioners could not be expected to recognize the authority of its verdict, and accordingly Sir John M'Neil, being unconnected with the military profession, declined altogether to appear before it. But Colonel Tulloch, though sharing his colleague's objections, had not the same option. As a soldier he was bound to defer to a body appointed by the General Commanding-in-Chief, and in consequence of the imputation of unworthy motives made against him by Lord Lucan he was forced to present himself before the Board in his own defence. His appearance was, however, to little purpose, for on the 5th of May he was suddenly prostrated by severe illness, and was obliged to retire and leave all further proceedings unchecked. The result therefore corresponded with the antecedent probabilities. The Board had no local experience of the Crimea, for not one of the seven members comprising it had ever been there. These members had been arbitrarily selected, and were “all of one political bias.” In answer to Lord Lucan, even the Judge-Advocate-General observed that “the noble lord's judges, they who tried him and who judged and acquitted him, were all his own political partisans.” The Board was thus destitute of even the semblance of fairness in its constitution as well as of the qualification of local knowledge. Not only had they none of them visited the Crimea, but they entered on their functions without making arrangements to bring home those witnesses from the Crimea on whose statements the report of the Commissioners had been founded. The officers who complained of animadversions in their report had, however, every facility in this respect extended to them at the expense of the public, while no steps were taken to insure any similar advantage to the Commissioners, who were treated as if it was they who were on their trial, with the exception of the fair protection which justice ordinarily affords to the accused. The first official intimation of the existence of the Board received by the latter was from Mr. Peel, dated the 4th of April, 1856, and informing them that the Board would commence proceedings on the 7th of the same month. These gentlemen were not informed in reasonable time of the animadversions complained of, that they might be prepared with evidence to establish their statements; but in the cases of Sir Richard Airey and Colonel Gordon all information of this kind was withheld, and “up to the very hour when these officers opened their cases not the slightest hint had been conveyed to either of the Commissioners of the parts of the report intended to be assailed, or whether objections were to be raised at all.” Almost every witness was directly or indirectly interested in discrediting the statements of the Commissioners; yet, sufficient care was not taken to sift their evidence thoroughly, while their evidence, moreover, was not given upon oath. That the report which the Board drew up, as the conclusion of such loose proceedings, was most unjust to Sir John M'Neill and Colonel Tulloch — that it was unduly favourable to those whom they had censured — that it was generally wrong in its facts and mistaken in its inferences — that “it presents features of so extraordinary a character as to deserve the serious consideration of every one who wishes well to the profession of arms, or is interested in the reputation of those who belong to it” — that it involves larger consequences to the interests of the nation and the credit of its Government — and that the Commissioners are now about to raise all these questions by this appeal to the common sense and public opinion of the country, was no more than we ourselves anticipated or than our public men must presently prepare for. The report of the Board, after this searching exposure, is in effect just so much waste paper. Its members are not put on their defence by those whose work they professed to review, and we may wish them in turn “a clear deliverance,” without perceiving that a deliverance is possible. At the same time that their case is apparently hopeless the issue has expanded into a popular question. If the Board of General Officers gravely arrived at the conclusion that the frightful calamities which befell us in the Crimea were “solely attributable to the want of pressed hay from England,” what security have we, asks Colonel Tulloch, that such frightful calamities may not occur again?

“Whether such a conclusion is warranted by the evidence, and whether hay would have supplied the men with fresh meat; recovered the clothing lying useless in their squad bags and knapsacks; provided fresh bread and supplied lime-juice and medicine for the sick; roasted green coffee for the healthy; and secured shelter for the horses which perished, because nothing was done in one brigade at least for their protection, the public will now be able to decide for themselves. I can only say (says Colonel Tulloch) that I would prefer such a conclusion being promulgated to the world under the authority of seven General officers, rather than by any statement of my colleague and myself.”

The Commissioners are now able to maintain their view of the question without the least occasion for reserve. At the time they issued their Reports they laboured under the very serious disadvantage that while their conclusions and deductions were published the facts on which these had been founded were only partially made known. Inquiry had been made into the extent of the sickness and mortality during the previous winter, and as to the diseases which occasioned it, but it was thought objectionable to publish such facts while the war continued and every exertion was still requisite to recruit the army to its full establishment. At that time, therefore, at a considerable disadvantage, they restricted themselves to a mere statement of the total loss, but important particulars are now forthcoming, of which Colonel Tulloch gives a valuable analysis, which we shall quote on another occasion, before we close our account of his volume. This analysis collects the whole of the inquiries into a single question, but on the present we take the Colonel's observations in their order, and abstract first his remarks on the case of Lieutenant-General THE EARL OF LUCAN.

The first question with respect to this officer is not of extreme importance. Were the calculations of the Commissioners with respect to the deaths of the cavalry horses accurate or inaccurate? The Board has admitted that their figures were “perfectly accurate,” but it differed as to the best mode of calculating percentages of mortality. On this point Colonel Tulloch offered to refer them to the calculations of Dr. Farr, probably the best qualified person in the kingdom to offer an opinion, but “they neither availed themselves of that source of information nor inserted in their report a letter from that gentleman, confirmatory of the calculations objections to by them.” In the second place, the Board declared any comparison of deaths between the cavalry and commissariat animals impossible, on the ground of the difficulties of ascertaining the periods at which the latter arrived in the Crimea, so that the difference of 38 per cent. as against the former, on which the Commissioners had laid stress, was excluded from consideration. To this Colonel Tulloch replies that a fair approximation to the dates of arrival of most of the baggage animals might have been obtained, and, had the Board assumed even the whole number unaccounted for as deaths, they would have found the loss not to have equalled that sustained by the cavalry.

But the above questions are merely subservient to the more definite and important question — how the horses died, and why they died — on which subject the Colonel confutes Lord Lucan from his own Divisional Order. This order was dated January 20, 1855; it was passed unnoticed by the Board, and was never communicated to the Commissioners till the proceedings of the Board were made public. The seven Generals had it before them for several months, yet not one of them thought of asking Lord Lucan how he reconciled the assertion that the Commissioners' report in this respect as prompted by “malice and malignity,” and was “totally at variance with the fact and the truth,” when in censuring the “want of promptitude” in devising shelter for the horses they were much within the mark of his own official declaration. Before the Board he pledged himself to remove “the slightest breath of reproach” from “himself and the cavalry,” he was “prepared to show that every endeavour, every strain, and everything on earth that could be done to promote and hasten the building of the stables was done; that not an hour was lost,” &c., and he was “prepared to show, by his orders, for he had no other means of proof, that so far from the stables not having been commenced till the end of January, they were nearly completed by that time.” With these profuse engagements by his own divisional order, left in the appendix of the Board's proceedings, and by the Board unnoticed, is now, for the first time, contrasted by Colonel Tulloch. It is dated, as we observed, as late as the 20th of January, and is thus emphatic:—

“The Lieutenant-General is sorry to observe that in the Light Brigade no exertion whatever — not even an attempt has been made to put any of the horses under cover, a fact not creditable to commanding officers. They should have shown some desire to save the few that remain; and as the disproportion between men and horses is, in this brigade, far more favourable than in the Heavy Brigade, it is impossible to explain, far less to justify, why, while the one brigade has hutted more than one-half their horses, the commanding officers of the Light Brigade have done nothing. Each of these commanding officers will be good enough to report daily how many disposable men he had the day previous, and what progress they have made.”

Even so late as the 7th of February, within a week of the period when his Lordship gave up the command, another divisional order shows that a slight “breath of reproach” might still attach to himself or some other member of the Cavalry:—

“While the Lieutenant-General yesterday was much pleased by finding the whole of the horses of the 4th Dragoon Guards under cover, well groomed, and with horse clothing clean and in repair, he was as much displeased with the ——, who, with house-room at their command, positively had their horses exposed to the weather; the horses were encrusted with mud and dirt;” and again, “but few horses had clothing at all, and that clothing in filth and rags. Lord Lucan scarcely ever visited a camp with less satisfaction.”

Thus the discredit of Lord Lucan is transferred to the Board who listened to his reclamations against the Commissioners, for repeating in modified terms what had been expressed in the strongest possible language by himself, and who yet passed unnoticed the official documents under his own hand expressly contradicting his own repeated and most emphatic assertions.

The Board, it seems, preferred to refer the loss of horses to “delays and difficulties” and to a want of “intrenching tools,” which, with other impediments, Colonel Tulloch shows also, from Lord Lucan's orders, to have been mainly imaginary. Sailcloth to afford the horses temporary shelter, he contends, apparently on satisfactory grounds, might have been procured either from the fleet, from the transports, or from Constantinople. In answer to the objections to its use he refers to Aldershott, where it has since been extensively used without the consequences apprehended by Lord Lucan and some of his witnesses. He contends that to place the horses in pits was not, as Lord Lucan contended, to consign them to “graves” in the event, which did not seem to occur to his Lordship, of the pit floors being sloped to render their drainage effectual. He quotes a recent case where shelter was completely obtained by this means in a few hours against a four days' storm by the French cavalry in Algeria, and makes the observation which was really necessary to remove Lord Lucan's difficulty, “that in the Crimea, as well as in Algeria, water usually finds its level,” and, “with every respect for his Lordship's testimony and the soundness of his opinion, both must be doubted when opposed to the laws of nature.”

The conclusion of the Board that no officers were influenced by the threat alleged to have been addressed by Lord Lucan to Colonel Griffith is, as Colonel Tulloch remarks, “exceedingly difficult of proof,” so we pass by this and all other considerations relating to Lord Lucan, to do justice to his cavalry subordinate, Major-General the Earl of CARDIGAN. The grievance of his Lordship appears to have consisted in the presumed imputation that he was responsible for the starvation of the horses of the Light Cavalry Brigade, the circumstances of which exploit were detailed by the Commissioners. To repeat them in the most summary fashion, the circumstances were as follows:— The brigade was removed to Inkermann on the 1st or 2d of November, a distance of seven or eight miles from Balaklava. Up to the 14th of November the Commissariat could bring up but little hay, and after that date the supply failed entirely. Barley was to be had, but with the means of transport at the disposal of the Commissariat enough only could be brought up to afford 1½lb. to 2lb. daily to each horse. The Commissariat officer proposed that a detachment of the horses should be allowed to go down daily, upon which he would engage to bring up enough for the rest of the brigade; but Lord Cardigan declined to accede to this for reasons which are not specified. On the 2d of December the brigade was directed to return to its previous position, but by that time the horses were reduced to such a state from starvation that they could no longer bear the weight of their riders; they had to be led down; many were left on the ground in a dying state, and of the remainder 17 died on the road before they could reach their former station, a distance of only about six miles. The question raised by Lord Cardigan and avoided by the Board is now completely met by Colonel Tulloch. Did the means exist within his Lordship's reach of feeding and saving these unfortunate animals?

There is no evidence to show that Lord Raglan's attention was called to the proposal of the Commissariat officer, so that the responsibility of rejecting it cannot be imputed to him. The exhibition of an array of cavalry may, indeed, have been made in submission to his orders, but to ascertain the turning point of the question, we should mark the numerical difference for which a brigade of real cavalry was recklessly converted into a brigade of spectres. The Assistant-Commissary-General Crookshanks stated that the number of animals required to carry up the full allowance of barley to the brigade would have been 63. Of these about the 18th of November he had 35, but later only 10. The board appears to have ignored the fact that Lord Cardigan was only asked to supply the difference, and accepted his loose statement, for which there is “not the shadow of a reason,” that so many as 120 horses must necessarily have been taken from his effective force for this purpose. It appears, indeed, that at the latter end of November he had 350 horses to 286 men, and, as the Commissariat required not men but horses, the 44 horses in excess of riders had only to be placed at their disposal with a few dragoons to protect them from ill-usage, and every difficulty might have been overcome. Forty-four, or say 50, horses would almost have met the requirement in its heaviest form, for, considering what the infantry were doing, it was not too much to expect that the men detached with the horses should walk and lead them. Lord Cardigan might have had some difficulty in carrying up all the barley — about half the difficulty which he himself alleged — but this was by no means required at his hands. He might have carried up the required proportion of barley easily, but the question is, with the resources at his disposal, was he justified in carrying up none whatever?

The Board held that his refusal was supported by the absence of hay at Balaklava, its sages not observing that it was barley which was in question, the food on which horses could be maintained for a limited period with least difficulty as to transport, and of which “there was plenty.” This shameful piece of confusion was the Board's contribution to the question.

About midway between Balaklava and the Light Brigade it is material to add that the Heavy Brigade was posted, numbering from 800 to 900 men and horses, yet no application was made by Lord Cardigan for their assistance. And why not? The board did not inquire, or it might have ascertained how far Lord Lucan could have afforded such assistance. A fortnight after the starvation of the Light Cavalry he was able from a diminished force to spare 494 horses, and half that number of men daily, to carry up provisions to the infantry; and can we believe that none could be spared for the salvation of the Light Brigade at so momentous a crisis? There was no unusual amount of sickness either of men or horses; then what rendered it “quite enough for the Heavy Brigade to forage for themselves?” Colonel Tulloch could not ascertain this, for he was precluded by previous arrangement from directing any questions himself upon this subject. But wherefore was the Board content not to ask for an explanation on which the inculpation or exculpation of Lord Lucan, or Lord Cardigan, or of both, mainly depended?

“Unhappily,” says Colonel Tulloch, “there was but too much reason to fear, from the official correspondence of these noblemen that there had not been between them that cordiality of feeling which is essential to effective co-operation in the field, and it was but just, by a rigid inquiry, to have afforded them an opportunity of showing that their private feelings towards each other had not been allowed to operate to the prejudice of the public interests, and that the starvation of the Light Cavalry Brigade could in no respect have been attributable to the one of these officers having been too proud to ask and the other too hostile to offer assistance in so dire an emergency.”

These noblemen were concerned, and they are concerned still, in completing this inquiry and affording this explanation. The nation also had, and continues to have, some interest in receiving it. Then, why was it disappointed? Were the “seven” of Chelsea simply incompetent, or were their instructions, “that the truth should be made to be manifest, and that justice should be done to all parties,” an official pretence to which they responded by an accommodating sham?

(To be continued.)

* The Crimean Commission and the Chelsea Board, being a Review of the proceedings and Report of the Board, by Colonel Tulloch, late Commissioner in the Crimea, London, Harrison, 1857.

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