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Crimean texts

[Transcribed by Megan Stevens]

The Times 15 May 1857 p 9


Yesterday evening, in the presence of an audience as numerous as on Monday, Mr. W. Russell resumed the narrative of his Eastern expedition, beginning at the pause, or, as he calls it, the "settled stillness," that followed the battle of the Alma, and ending with the affair of Balaklava. As he had now entered completely upon his important topic, there was less of light introductory matter than in the first lecture, and his description of the grave events of which he was a witness left little room for the details of his own personal inconvenience.

An encomium on the magnanimity of the English to their fallen foes was followed by a lamentation that the advantage gained by the victory of the Alma was not more speedily followed up. Mr. Russell would not venture to throw blame on any party, but asserted that future historians would decide through whose fault so brilliant a victory led to no result, and the scattered masses of the Russians were allowed to collect and renew their opposition to the allies. Delay — procrastination had, he said, been the characteristic of the war from the beginning to the end, and was always reappearing in some new form. The departure from the Alma afforded opportunity for a harrowing description of the masses of dead and “acres” of wounded left behind, while something of the ludicrous was mingled with his account of the condition in which a village on the Katcha had been found, after it had been demolished by the Cossacks. Once it might have been compared to some fashionable watering-place in the south of England, now it was a motley mass of ruins and articles of luxury, heaped together in grotesque disorder. A broken grand piano on which an English officer played “God save the Queen,” beneath a picture of the Russian Emperor, into whose mouth some one had irreverently thrust a cabbage stump, was an excellent little Hogarthian episode in the general picture. Unfortunately, fruit was plentiful and accessible as well as upholstery, in this melancholy place, and a re appearance of the cholera in the army was the result of an imprudent participation in the bounties of nature. It was in the neighbourhood of the Katcha that Mr. Russell was himself taken ill, and he touchingly averted to the emotions he experienced when, lying on the ground exhausted, he saw the troops march past him without any one stopping to offer him assistance, till a benevolent drummer proved an honourable exception to the rest. To the common belief that war developes [sic] the finest feelings of our nature he was by no means disposed to give his assent. The first sight of Sebastopol as the army approached the Tchernaya on its way from the Alma was made especially impressive by the countenance of the Tartar who pointed it out, and denoted by his awe-stricken manner that yonder was the stronghold of the Russian oppressor.

The story of the march to Balaklava was enlivened by a variety of amusing anecdotes; but the most important remark was to the effect that the English were “jockeyed” by the French through the whole of the movement, the latter always keeping to the right of the former, and being, therefore, always guarded by the sea and the fleet. Nor was it in this respect only that the French had the advantage. When the landing of the artillery began they were the first, and they always, in fact, “gave time” to their allies. As for the artillery which was used in the siege, Mr. Russell admitted that it was considerable for Woolwich and for a people in which a faction was opposed to the military defences of the country, but that measured by the strength of Sebastopol its deficiency was positively disgraceful. In the siege operations Mr. Russell considered that the English showed their superiority to the French; indeed, the apparently taught the French how to construct magazines proof against the shells of the enemy. The charge of the cavalry at Balaklava was described with singular animation, and the lecturer, conquering a certain nervousness which had from time to time been apparent in the earlier part of his course, followed the movements of the English with all the fluency of enthusiasm, and communicated his own feelings to his hearers. The “Light Brigade,” he contended, was not lost, but would live for ever in the memory of Britons as a noble monument of that high sense of duty that disregards even the first law of nature — self-preservation.

To-morrow (Saturday) Mr. Russell will bring his narrative to a conclusion.

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