[ocr errors]

A MODERN historian, laborious in research, skilful in narration, and not burthening his subject with much of that philosophy which makes politics a difficult science, proclaimed to the world, a few years ago, his fears that “the days of British greatness are numbered, and that, with the growth of the selfish passions springing out of long-continued and unbroken good-fortune, the virtue to deserve, the spirit to defend it, is gradually wearing out of the realm.”* Sir Archibald Alison rests his declamation upon the fact that the military forces of Great Britain, at the time he wrote (1839), had been reduced to a very low estimate compared with the period when Wellington entered upon the Peninsular war. Lamenting over these reductions, he ascribes to “ the growth of manufacturing wealth," and " the longcontinued and undue preponderance, since the peace,

of the popular parts of the constitution, that decay of the warlike element which has “ blasted the strength of the British empire.” He crowns his argument by quoting the somewhat hackneyed axiom of Bacon, that “in the declining age of a state, mechanical arts and merchandise

rish ;” and still more impressively adduces one of Napoleon's paradoxes in his exile, that“ il a monarchy were made of granite, it would soon be reduced to powder by the political economists.”

We have no desire to enter upon any elaborate refutation of these predictions of our fall. They have already met the fate of most prophecies of fallible reasoners, which are based upon a one-sided view of human affairs. We think, as we have been accustomed to think, with reference to the past, that the great military power of England, at the time when she had those mighty fleets, those armies in every hemisphere,-those two hundred and forty ships of the line, and three hundred thousand regular soldiers and militia,-was based upon the growth of our manufacturing wealth, and our mechanical arts and merchandise. We have come to the deliberate conclusion, as regards the present, that the political economists, so far from breaking our granite walls to powder, have built them up stronger than ever ; that the wondrous resources which the present war with Russia has called forth, have been accumulated by the judicious husbandry of a long peace; and that the temper which the British nation has displayed during the progress of that war may, in a great degree, be attributed to the preponderance of the popular part of the constitution. In the narrative of the Campaign, which we shall attempt to continue from that of our last publication, there will be ample proofs exhibited that the national strength has not decayed,—that the national spirit has not been corrupted, -that, in the very outset of a great war after forty years of peace, the bravery of the army in the Crimea has been as remarkably displayed as in the palmiest days of the Peninsula ; and, what is of equal importance, that the fortitude, the heroic patience, the unswerving discipline of the troops, under sufferings the most continued and severe, have been far greater than in that dark period of his defence of Portugal, when Wellington wrote that “ a British army could bear neither success nor failure."*

* Alison, ' History of Europe,' vol. vii. p. 818.

The last page of our publication in 1854 contained the brief telegraphic announcement of the great battle of Inkermann. It was a day of immortal honour for the British arms—a day of terrible carnage in the assertion of the “ majesty with which the British soldier fights.” It was the soldiers' battle. Strategy there was none. It has been described as “ a series of dreadful deeds of daring, of sanguinary hand-to-hand fights, of despairing rallies, of desperate assaults-in glens and valleys, in brushwood glades and remote dells, hidden from all human eyes, and from which the conquerors, Russian or British, issued only to engage fresh foes, till our old supremacy, so rudely assailed, was triumphantly asserted, and the battalions of the Czar gave way before our steady courage and the chivalrous fire of France.” Of the British there were 462 killed, of whom 43 were officers; and 1,952 wounded, of whom 103 were officers. In that tremendous conflict, where 8,000 of our soldiers, many of whom had Leen all night in the trenches, kept 45,000 Russians at bay for three hours, one of the noblest of our generals fell. Sir George Cathcart was such an officer as we have more than once wanted during the great siege. Brigadier-General Strangways, and Brigadier-General Goldie, most meritorious commanders, were also killed. Lord Raglan's despatch told the story of this deadly fight,-in which the Russians left near 5,000 dead upon the field, with characteristic clearness and simplicity :

“The morning was extremely dark, with a drizzling rain, rendering it almost impossible to discover anything beyond the flash and smoke of artillery and heavy musketry fire. It, however, soon became evident that the enemy, under cover of a vast cloud of skirmishers, supported by dense columns of infantry, had advanced numerous batteries of large calibre to the high ground to the left and front of the 2nd Division, while powerful columns of infantry attacked with great vigour the brigade of Guards. Additional batteries of heavy artillery were also placed by the enemy on the slopes to our left; the guns in the field amounting in the whole to 90 pieces, independently, however, of the ship guns, and those in the works of Sebastopol.

“ Protected by a tremendous fire of shot, shell, and grape, the Russian columns advanced in great force, requiring every effort of gallantry on the part of our troops to resist them. At this time two battalions of French infantry, which had on the first notice been sent by General Bosquet, joined our right, and very materially contributed to the successful resistance to the attack, cheering with our men, and charging the enemy down the hill with great loss. About the same time a determined assault was made on our extreme left, and for a moment the enemy possessed themselves of four of our guns, three of which were retaken by the 88th, while the fourth was speedily recaptured by the 77th regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Egerton. “ In the opposite direction the Brigade of Guards, under his

* Despatch, May 3!, 1809, Gurwood, vol. iv, p. 374.


Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, was engaged in a severe conflict. The enemy, under the cover of thick brushwood, advanced in two heavy bodies, and assaulted with great determination a small redoubt, which had been constructed for two guns, but was not armed. The combat was most arduous, and the brigade, after displaying the utmost steadiness and gallantry, was obliged to retire before very superior numbers, until supported by a wing of the 20th regiment of the 4th Division, when they again advanced and retook the redoubt. This ground was afterwards occupied in gallant style by French troops, and the Guards speedily re-formed in rear of the right flank of the 2nd Division.

" In the meanwhile, Lieutenant-General the Hon. Sir George Cathcart, with a few companies of the 68th regiment, considering that he might make a strong impression by descending into the valley, and taking the enemy in flank, moved rapidly forward, but finding the heights above him in full occupation of the Russians, he suddenly discovered that he was entangled with a superior force, and while attempting to withdraw his men, he received a mortal wound, shortly previously to which Brigadier-General Torrens, when leading the 68th, was likewise severely wounded.

Subsequently this the battle continued with unabated vigour, and with no positive result, the enemy bringing upon our line not only the fire of all their field-batteries, but those in front of the works of the place, and the ship guns till the afternoon, when the symptoms of giving way first became apparent; and shortly after, althongh the fire did not cease, the retreat became general, and heavy masses were observed retiring over the bridge of Inkermann, and ascending the opposite heights, abandoning on the field of battle five or six thousand dead and wounded, multitudes of the latter having already been carried off by them. I never before witnessed such a spectacle as the field presented.

General Canrobert, in his despatch, thus describes the amount of force with which the Russian General determined to attempt a decision of the great question at issue by an overwhelming attack :

At the first gun-shot the deserters who came to us revealed the real situation of the Russian army, in regard to numbers, and enabled us to calculate the reinforcements it had successively received since the battle of the Alma. They are- e-1st contingent, from the coast of Asia, Kertch, and Kaffa ; 2nd, six battalions and detachments of marines from Nicolaieff ; 3rd, four battalions of Cossacks from the Black Sea; 4th, a great portion of the army of the Danube, and the 10th, 11th, and 12th divisions of infantry, forming the fourth corps, commanded by General Danneberg. These three divisions were transported by express, with their artillery, from Odessa to Simpheropol in a few days. Afterwards arrived the Grand Dukes Michael and Nicholas, whose presence could not fail to produce great excitement among this army, which forms, with the garrison of Sebastopol, a total of at least 100,000 men.”

In the instance of the battle of Inkermann, as in almost every other case, that attention to minute incidents, and those vivid de scriptions which are rarely attempted in the formal despatches of our commanders, have been abundantly supplied by the correspondents of our daily newspapers. It is from their glowing details, written under such extraordinary circumstances of difficulty, and sometimes of danger, that we collect those peculiar facts wbich constitute the difference between one battle and another. It is impossible, however, for the most watchful observer, and the most eloquent writer, adequately to describe a great battle, so as to convey a distinct impression of what is going on upon an extended space. In the battle of Inkermann Lord Raglan and his staff, assembled upon a knoll, could not get a glimpse of the strife which was raging below them; and yet they were at no safe distance, for General Strangways was morially wounded by a shell at this spot. The indefatigable reporter has the advantage of collecting his interesting details after the event, and we are thus enabled to form a general picture, however imperfect. From such valuable communications, and from other sources, we are now able, far better than at the outset of the war, to understand the localities of the great events of this memorable campaign.

From the entrance of the harbour of Sebastopol to the eastern extremity of the great sea-lake is a distance of about five miles, the bay piercing so far into the land. Inkermann is the name of the promontory which rises at this eastern end of the bay of Sebastopol on its northern shore, looking down upon the marshes of the Tchernaya. “ From Sebastopol to Inkermann the road by land is either very long or very fatiguing. In order to avoid the numberless ravines which cut up the Chersonese, a circuitous route must be taken, and it is hardly possible to attempt to cross in a straight line." *

At Inkermann are the ruins of the castle built by Dio. phantes, the general of Mithridates, and from that period, a little before the birth of Christ, the valley, on the north-eastern side, has been crossed by a causeway and a bridge over the Tchernaya. That portion of the British army, which, at the beginning of November, 1854, was encamped upon the south-western heights, looking down upon the valley of Inkermann, was the 2nd Division. “ It was the only ground,” says Mr. Russell, “where we were exposed to surprise, for a number of ravines and unequal curves in the slopes of the hill towards the valley lead up to the crest and summit, against the adverse side of which our right flank was resting, without guns, intrenchments, abattis, or outlying defence of any kind.” In the darkness of that cold and wet morning of the 5th November, vast masses of Russians were creeping up the rugged heights, just below which a portion of the British camp was sleeping. But all the camp was not sleeping. BrigadierGeneral Codrington- -now called to the chief command—was visiting the outlying pickets, at five o'clock, and was returning to his lines, when a sharp rattle of musketry was heard. He galloped back to the camp and turned out his division. The men, who were up, were · struggling with the heavy rain to light the fires for their breakfasts. There was no time for breakfast. The Russians, in immense force, were upon our position ; and they had brought up formidable batteries of heavy artillery in their night-march. Nothing but the obsti

* •Russia on the Black Sea,' by H, D. Seymour, M.P., p. 137.

nate solidity of the British soldier could have prevented the wellconcerted attack being a fearful victory over the whole of the allied forces. But for the unexpected resistance of this glorious and devoted band, who, hungry, wet, enfeebled by sickness and fatigue, kept an army five times their number from advancing and turning their position, till the gallant Zouaves, still a very small numerical aid, came to wage with them the unequal fight, the victorious Russians might have carried the assault, from other quarters as they had arranged, through the entire lines of the besiegers. Then the order of the Grand Duke Michael that every Englishman and Frenchman was to be driven into the sea might not have been a mere bravado of that insolence which has aspired to supreme domination. Abandoning their own wounded, and butchering ours, the two-thirds who were safe of the brandy-inspired Russians of that dark morning sullenly retired over the bridge of the Tchernaya, destroying all that remained of that work, of which some part had endured through eighteen centuries.

After the battle of Inkermann the wounded were sent off to Scutari. During the month which preceded the 14th November, 3500 sick and wounded had been dispatched to the hospitals there. That 14th of November was a day of terriblec alamity. A hurricane, more serious than was ever remembered to have occurred in the Black Sea, produced the most unspeakable misery in the camp, and the most fearful destruction on its shores. The camp was one wide scene of desolation-tents, and everything they contained, torn up and spread over the miry ground-huts and out-houses unroofedwaggons overturned-cavalry horses loose and flying in all directions--roads impassable-men exposed to the bitterest cold and the driving rain and sleet—even the wounded deprived of their frail shelter : and yet, amidst this general turmoil and wretchedness, the military duties not to be relaxed—the outposts to be guarded, the trenches to be laboured in. At night there came a snow-storm, and amidst this conflict of the elements, a cannonade and a sortie from the Russian lines on the French in their works. The destruction at sea was terrific, both at Balaklava, at the mouth of the Katchka, and at Eupatoria. Between seven and nine o'clock on that morning eleven transports had been wrecked off Balaklava. The steam-ship, the ‘Prince,' a magnificent vessel of 2700 tons, full of the most valuable stores, having lost her anchorage, was carried on to the rocks with such force that hardly a piece of her was left. A few days before she had landed the 46th regiment, which she had taken out; but the loss of her entire cargo, consisting of winter clothing for 40,000 men, shot and shell, and those medical stores which were an absolute necessity, grievously increased the calamities of that fatal season. The storm produced a fearful loss of national property. The war-ships and transports of England and France equally suffered. There was loss of life at sea, but not so great as might have been expected to have attended such a tempest. The inhabitants of Balaklava generally said that they had never seen or heard of such a hurricane in their lifetime, although there was a tradition that once in thirty or forty years such a visitation had occurred on that coast.

« ElőzőTovább »