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HE Russian War of 1853-6 differed from all preceding wars in this among other characteristics-that it admitted, to a very remarkable degree, of historical narration during the progress of the events themselves. This facility was due to a combination of favourable circumstances. More numerously than at any former period were official documents made public by the British government, and papers relating to passing occurrences printed at the request of parliament. More fully than ever before was light thrown upon the conduct of those intrusted with the management of the War-whether political, military, or naval-by the Reports of Royal Commissions and Parliamentary Committees. It is worthy of note, too, that the parliamentary debates revealed to a greater extent than usual the inner workings of government departments, in the explanations given by Cabinet Ministers consequent on the collisions of parties and the rupture of ministries. Again, the periodical press displayed an activity, and diffused an amount of information, never equalled during any other period of warfare-not only in the fulness of news obtained from all parts of the world, including translations of official documents promulgated in the chief European countries, but also by the maintenance, at the various seats of war, of skilful writers, who traced day by day the movements of armies and fleets, and vividly described battles witnessed by them under circumstances of difficulty and peril. Literary enterprise tended towards the same result, in the publication of numerous volumes by military officers, describing rapidly but faithfully such portions of the scenes and events of warfare as came under their personal observation. The facilities of the postal service contributed towards the same end, by enabling soldiers and sailors to send their simple narratives to home-friends, with a frequency which, in earlier times, would have been rendered by costly postage almost impracticable; many of these letters, made public through the medium of the newspapers, revealed truths otherwise unattainable concerning the daily duties, multiplied sufferings, and heroic endurance of
the humbler combatants. Physical science and mechanical inventions lent their aid towards the same general result, by supplying steam-ships, railways, and electric telegraphs: rendering many things possible which were impossible in former wars, and substituting celerity for slowness in many others. All these favourable circumstances combined to render practicable the writing of a History of the War during the progress, and shortly after the termination, of the war itself: leaving to a later generation that more complete analysis of events, in their causes and their consequences, which can only be wrought when generals and statesmen-by means of Memoirs, Letters, and Dispatches-have given to the world their knowledge of occurrences fully to be explained by none but themselves.
The Author of the present volume has endeavoured so to avail himself of all the above-mentioned resources-augmented and in some instances corrected by private communications-as to present a truthful picture of that short, but fearful and extraordinary war. While estimating the contest conscientiously as a whole, in its national and international aspects, he has endeavoured to be-so far as such a character is possible -an impartial spectator; and while seeking to trace events up to their causes, to deduce the probable consequences, or to disentangle perplexities, he has deemed it a duty to observe caution in passing judgment on the actors in those scenes-judgment which cannot fairly be pronounced until angry controversies have been smoothed away by the lapse of time, or by the shedding of new light on transactions hitherto obscure.