Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

a

a

Te-Deums were sung all over Russia in honour of this fragmentary success. However, the Russian commander

, did not abandon the hope of being able to obtain possession of Balaclava. On the very day following the affair which has just been related, the Russians within the town made a sortie with a force of about 6000 men; but near the village of Inkermann they encountered so strong a resistance from a far inferior force, that they were obliged to retreat. The Russian army at Balaclava had been prepared to coöperate with them; but the promptitude and vigour with which the allies repelled the sortie prevented the Russians from entrenching themselves at Inkermann, and thus frustrated the plan of a combined attack on the allied position which had probably been formed. The village of Inkermann, which was the scene of this skirmish, shortly after witnessed a more deadly and decisive contest. It was on the morning of Sunday, November 5th, that the approach of the Russian army was heard, while it was still concealed from view by the mists which overhung the British position. That had been greatly increased by the arrival of large reinforcements, and every effort had been made to exalt the courage of the soldiers : they had been stimulated by religious services and exhortations, as well as by an abundant supply of ardent spirits; and they came on in the full confidence that they would be able to sweep the comparatively small British force from the position it occupied. That position was the centre of a grand attack made by the whole Russian army. The obscurity prevented the generals of the allies from discovering what was going on, or from clearly discerning, among a series of attacks on different parts of their position, which were real, and which were mere feints. There was a good deal of confusion in both armies; but the obscurity, on the whole, favoured the Russians, who had received their instructions before they set out, and were moving together in large masses. in fact, a battle fought pell-mell, man against man, and regiment against regiment, with very little guidance or direction from the commanding officers, and consequently one in which the superior skill of the British gave them little advantage. The principal point of attack throughout was the plateau of Inkermann, occupied by the Guards and a few British regiments, who maintained a long and un.

army

It was,

1854.]

INKERMANN.

13

equal struggle against the main body of the Russian army. It was, in fact, a hand-to-hand contest between superior civilization on the one hand, and superior numbers on the other, in which it is probable that the small British force would have been eventually swept off the field. Bosquet, the ablest of the French generals, with a soldier's instinct at once divined, amid all the obscurity, turmoil, and confusion, that the British position was the real point of attack; and therefore, leaving a portion of his force to defend his own position, he marched off to Inkermann, and never halted till his troops charged the Russians with such fury that they drove them down the hill, and decided the fate of the battle in favour of the allies. The Guards on this occasion displayed courage and firmness which has perhaps never been surpassed, and probably their valour and determination saved the British army. When Lord Raglan, in his report of the battle, after highly praising the gallantry they had displayed, and doing justice to the service they had rendered, added that at length they had been forced to retire, they indignantly contradicted the statement, declaring that they had never retired at all, but had maintained the position assigned to them against all the efforts of the enemy till the French came to their assistance. Thus the Russians sustained another repulse, attended with very heavy loss, which put an end for the present to their attempts to drive the allies from the position they occupied.

Meanwhile Mr. Sidney Herbert, the minister at war, had succeeded in inducing Miss Florence Nightingale, well known in London for her skilful and self-denying benevolence, to go out and take charge of the military hospitals in which the wounded soldiers were received. Everything connected with the hospitals there was in a state of the most chaotic confusion. The medical and other stores which had been sent out were rotting in the holds of vessels, or in places where they were not wanted. Provisions had been despatched in abundance, and yet nothing could be found to support men who were simply dying from exhaustion. The system of check and counter-check,

. which had been devised to prevent waste and extravagance in the time of peace, proved to be the very cause of the most prodigious waste, extravagance, and inefficiency in the great war in which England was now embarked. The sort of dictatorial authority which had been conferred on Miss Nightingale, supported by her own admirable organising and administrative ability, enabled her to substitute order for confusion, and procure for the multitudes of wounded men who came under her care the comforts as well as the medical attendance they needed. She arrived at Scutari with her nurses on the very day of the battle of Inkermann. Winter was setting-in in the Crimea with unusal rigour and severity. In less than a week after a storm of terrific violence swept over the Black Sea, producing indescribable confusion among the ships of war and the transports. The Agamemnon and Sanspareil, two of the finest ships in the British Navy, were stranded, but were afterwards got off ; great numbers of transports perished; some were dashed against one another; others were scarcely able, with all the anchors they could throw out, and all the force of steam they could exert, to keep themselves from being driven on the shore. An immense quantity of clothing and other stores, which had been sent in them for the army, was cast away. Among the ships belonging to the transport-service that were lost in this storm was the Prince, a magnificent vessel of 2700 tons burthen, which had been specially purchased for this service by the government. She had on board a body of troops, and the greater part of the winter-clothing of the men, as well as medicines, and all things likely to be required for the sick and wounded. She had landed her troops, and was then ordered out of the harbour, which was already overcrowded with transports, and in which, before the commencement of the storm, the greatest confusion and disorder reigned, through the divided anthority and ill-defined responsibility of those who had the management of it. When the storm came on, her anchors would not hold; she was dashed against the rocks, and nearly all her crew, together with the valuable and almost indispensable stores she contained, were lost. The want of proper system that prevailed, the blundering character of the arrangements by which these terrible and almost irreparable losses were caused, were faithfully reported by the correspondents of the English journals who had been sent out to the Crimea, and produced a strong feeling at home.

The hurricane which had caused these disasters on the 1854.]

THE HURRICANE.

15

:

sea produced consequences scarcely less terrible on the land. It came rushing over the plateau on which the greater part of the English army was stationed, carrying away the tents, breaking the tent-poles, tearing the canvas to tatters, bearing off the baggage of officers and men, drenching its contents with rain, forcing the very mud from the rocks and dashing it in the faces of the soldiers, who were attempting to save something from the general wreck. Such was the violence of the storm, that much of the stores of the commissariat was blown away, and those who had the care of them were so occupied with endeavours to preserve what was left as to be unable to serve out the rations to the men: the cooking fires were extinguished; the very coverlets that afforded a last shelter to the wounded and sick were carried away; and many of these poor creatures, exposed to the cold blast and rain, without help or protection, found an end to their sufferings in death. Some of those too who had previously been in good health succumbed under the privations and cold to which they were now exposed. Never perhaps did an army pass a more wretched night than that spent by our brave troops on the heights above Inkermann during and after this storm. Without shelter, food or fire, wet, cold, and comfortless, they were obliged to lie down to rest, and if possible to sleep, on the mud, to which rain and the trampling of many men and animals had reduced the surface of their position. All these incidents, fully narrated by the correspondents of the daily press at home, called forth a strong feeling of sympathy and compassion, and caused efforts to be made, both by the government and by individuals, to succour those who were exposed to such terrible dangers and cruel hardships. With this feeling was associated one less laudable—a disposition to blame the ministry generally, and those who had the superintendence of the operations especially, not only for those neglects for which they were properly responsible, but for the system which they had found in operation, and for disasters that were the work of the elements, and which no human care or foresight could have prevented.

The English government, as we have seen, had originally cherished the flattering hope that Sebastopol might be taken by a coup de main, or, at all events, after a very short siege; and this illusion was shared by the English people generally, who day by day were anxiously looking for tidings of the capture of Sebastopol, and lending a ready ear to the reports of its fall erroneously or dishonestly raised. But it had now become evident that, if Sebastopol were to be taken at all, it would not be during this year, and that consequently the allied governments must choose between withdrawing their forces from the Crimea altogether, or keeping their fleets and armies as near as they could to the besieged town. They determined on adopting the latter course, which, indeed, was forced on them by public opinion. It only remained, therefore, that they should do their best to render the condition of our troops as comfortable as circumstances would allow, and protect them as far as possible from a recurrence of the hardships and sufferings to which they had been exposed. To clothe, to shelter, to feed the troops that remained; ta take care that the sick and wounded received due care and skilful medical attendance; such were the chief cares and duties of the government at this moment, and more particularly of those members of it on whom the charge and responsibility of the war especially rested—the Duke of Newcastle and Mr. Sidney Herbert.

It is now time to turn from the contemplation of so much

courage and so much suffering to the events that had been occurring in England, while the ranks of our brave troops were being rapidly thinned by the sword and by disease, in the Crimean peninsula.

The parliamentary session of the year 1854 was opened by the Queen in person on the 31st of January. There were circumstances which gave to this customary solemnity more than usual interest and importance. In the first place, there was the expectation that some important announcement would be made in the Queen's speech with regard to the great war which was then impending, of which we have already narrated the commencing scenes, and the thought of which was at that moment uppermost in the minds of all men. Then there was a report which, though contradicted, was still industriously circulated, that Prince Albert had interfered unduly in the negotiations, and carried on a secret and improper correspondence with the emperor of Russia. It was expected that the prevalence

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »