Category Archives: Battles

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Landing Party

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard The Sublej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Landing Party

Charles Beresford
Charles Beresford

So the British and American fleets steamed out to sea, while the Spaniards fired upon Valparaiso from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon, setting the place on fire, and then retired to their anchorage outside. The British and American fleets then returned to the Bay, and I accompanied a landing-party to help to extinguish the conflagration.

Five of us were standing on the top of the high wall of a building whose roof had fallen in, so that the whole interior was a mass of burning wreckage, upon which we were directing the hose, when the men below shouted that the wall was falling. We slid down the ladder, and no sooner had we touched the ground than the whole wall tottered and fell inwards.

We put the fires out, but the inhabitants were so angry with us because we had not prevented the bombardment, that they requested that the landing-party should be sent back to their ships. Then the flames broke out afresh. For years the resentment of the Valparaisians remained so hot that it was inadvisable to land in the town men from British ships.

The meeting of the British and American seamen gave rise to much discussion concerning the respective merits of the British and American theories of gunnery. The Americans advocated the use of round shot to deliver a “racking blow”; the British preferred firing a pointed projectile which would penetrate the target instead of merely striking it. When an American bluejacket asked his British friend to explain the new English system of shell-fire, the British bluejacket said: “We casts our shot for the new gun so many fathoms long, and then, d’ye see, we cuts off a length at a time, regulatin’ the length required according to the ship we uses it against. For your ship, I reckon we should cut off about three and a half inches.”

The Spanish fleet was afflicted with scurvy; and we used to pull over to the Spanish ships in the evenings, bringing the officers presents of chicken, fresh meat and fruit.

Having done with Valparaiso, the Spaniards went to Callao; but there they had a more difficult job; for Callao was fortified, and the Spaniards were considerably damaged by the gun-fire from the forts.

During the progress of hostilities between the Chilians and the Spaniards, the Chilians constructed one of the first submarines. It was an American invention worked by hand and ballasted with water. The Chilians intended, or hoped, to sink the Spanish fleet with it. The submarine started from the beach on this enterprise; but it was never seen again. It simply plunged into the sea, and in the sea it remains to this day.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Valparaiso

var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

 

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard The Sutlej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Valparaiso

When we put into Valparaiso the Spanish fleet was threatening to bombard the town. Rather more than a year previously, in [1864], Spain had quarrelled with Chile, alleging that Chile had violated neutrality, and had committed other offences. In March, [1864], Spain began the diplomatic correspondence with Chile in which she demanded reparation, which was refused. Chile sent artillery and troops to Valparaiso. The Spanish admiral, Pareja, then proclaimed a blockade of the Chilian ports, and Chile declared war.

The European residents in Valparaiso, who owned an immense amount of valuable property stored in the customhouses, were terrified at the prospect of a bombardment, and petitioned Admiral Denman to prevent it. An American fleet of warships was also lying in the Bay. Among them was the Miantonomoh, the second screw ironclad that ever came through the Straits of Magellan, the first being the Spanish ironclad Numancia.

When the Miantonomoh crossed the Atlantic in [1866], The Times kindly remarked that the existing British Navy was henceforth useless, and that most of its vessels “were only fit to be laid up and ‘ painted that dirty yellow which is universally adopted to mark treachery, failure, and crime.'”

The British and American admirals consulted together as to the advisability of preventing the bombardment. The prospect of a fight cheered us all; and we entered into elaborate calculations of the relative strength of the Spanish fleet and the British-American force. As a matter of fact they were about equal The Spanish admiral, Nunez, who had succeeded Pareja, visited the Sutlej and conversed with Admiral Denman. It was reported by the midshipman who was A.D.C. to the admiral that, upon his departure, the Spaniard had said: “Very well, Admiral Denman, you know your duty and I know mine.” The information raised our hopes; but at the critical moment a telegram forbidding the British admiral to take action was received from the British Minister at Santiago.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Old Yarn

var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

 

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard The Sutlej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Old Yarn

In those days we had little bright-work, but plenty of whitewash and blacking. The test of a smart ship was that the lines of white or black should meet with absolute accuracy; and a fraction of error would be visited with the captain’s severe displeasure. For he employed condemnation instead of commendation. There was an old yarn about a mate of the main deck, who boasted that he had got to windward of his captain. We used to take live stock, poultry and sheep to sea in those days. The captain found fault with the mate because the fowls and coops were dirty. The mate whitewashed the chickens and blacked their legs and beaks. Now the poultry in question belonged to the captain. Thereafter the fowls died.

It was the custom for the admiral to take a cow or two to sea, and the officers took sheep and fowls. There is a tradition in the Navy that the cow used to be milked in the middle watch for the benefit of the officer on watch; and that, in order that the admiral should get his allowance of milk, the cow was filled up with water and made to leap backwards and forwards across the hatchways. Another tradition ordains that when the forage for the sheep ran short, the innocent animals were fitted with green spectacles, and thus equipped, they were fed on shavings.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

War in the East – 29 Jun 1855

var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

 

This the final installment of our series of posts from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper which gives a daily account of events during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

War in the East – 29 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

 

Friday 29th June 1855

Among the general Orders promulgated yesterday afternoon was the following:-

“The Field-Marshal has the satisfaction of Publishing to the army the following extract from a telegraphic despatch from Lord Panmure, dated the 22nd of June.

” ‘I have Her Majesty’s commands to express her grief that so much bravery should not have been rewarded with merited success, and to assure her brave troops that Her Magesty’s confidence in them is entire.’ “

Within a very few hours after this order had appeared, the electric telegraph brought the melancholy and startling intelligence from head-quarters to the various divisions that the Field Marshal was dead. The cause of his death is stated to have been diarrhoea terminating in cholera. It would appear that he has lately – no doubt from the constant strain on his mental and bodily energies – been far from well, and the death of General Estcourt, to whom he was much attached, the unsatisfactory result of the attack on the 18th inst., and the unhealthy weather since, broke down a constitution already enfeebled by age and long service. The following tells its own melancholy story:

” MORNING GENERAL ORDERS”.

“Head-quarters before Sebastopol, June 29th.

“No. 1. It becomes my most painful duty to announce to the army the death of its beloved Commander, Field-Marshal Lord Raglan, G.C.B., which melancholy event took place last night about nine o’clock.

“No. 2. In the absence of Lieutenant-General Sir George Brown, the command of the troops devolves on me, as the next senior officer present, until further orders are received from England.

“No. 3. Generals of Divisions and heads of departments will be pleased to conduct their respective duties as heretofore.

“J. SIMPSON, Lieutenant-General.”

There is great feeling of regret evinced throughout the camp at the loss of Lord Raglan. His death appears to have at once stilled every other feeling but that of respect for his memory and remembrance of the many long years he faithfully and untiringly served his country.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 26 Jun 1855

var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

 

We’re coming to the close of this series of posts from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper.

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

 

War in the East – 26 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

– In the days before news of the death of Lord Raglan breaks, our correspondent writes:

Tuesday 26th June 1855

The losses in the Land Transport Corps by death would be extraordinary did we not find a parallel to them in the Sardinian army of Tchorgoun, which has lost in three weeks nearly 1000 men by cholera, dysentery, and diarrhoea. The Turks and French encamped in the valley suffer somewhat from the same diseases, but it is observable that the men who die are recruits and old men who are mostly unacclimatized.

At Yenikale the detachment of Land Transport Corps lost in a fortnight fifty men, of whom twenty-five were English and twenty-five native drivers. In its present state it cannot supply all the wants of our army. We could not advance any body of troops without running risks of starvation, and even the 10th Hussars are said to have been unable to keep their horses so far from Balaklava, owing to the want of forage, and their retreat from their advanced position is attributed to that cause rather than to the field-pieces which the Russians brought to bear upon them from an adjoining height.

To understand the difficulties in the way of what is called at home “taking the field” one must come out and stay out here. It would be much easier to take Sebastopol than to take the field. There are only three accessible passes, up the precipitous wall of rock which rises on the north side of the Tchernaya, to the plateau on which the Russians are encamped, and the precipice runs round to the Belbek. These passes are so steep that an army would have some difficulty in ascending them at its leisure, without resistance from any enemy. But they are occupied wherever engineering eyes detect the smallest weakness they are commanded by batteries, intersected by positions threatened by overhanging cliffs all ready for the lever. March round and turn them! Where, and how? We have no transport even if we could march, and we cannot march, because Napoleon himself would never lead an army into such defiles as guard the Russian position. Whether we are not strong enough to detach a great corps of 40,000 or 50,000 men to operate against the Russians north of Sebastopol is not for me to say; but it is certain that the base of operation for any such corps must be the sea, till ample transport is provided.

The Crimea is to all intents and purports a desert – a Sahara, waterless and foodless before an invading army. There is no news of importance to-day.

The mail is closing.  There is no firing or anything of any consequence in the front.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 25 Jun 1855

We’re coming to the close of this series of posts from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper -giving a daily account of events during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

War in the East – 25 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

 

Monday 25th June 1855

The storm which burst over the south-eastern portion of the Chersonese on Saturday night has done more damage than we could have anticipated. Men were drowncd in ravines converted by the tornado into angry watercourses, were carried off roads by mountain torrents, and dashed against hill sides; beasts were swept away into the harbour and borne to sea; huts were broken up and floated out into the ocean; the burial-grounds near Balaklava were swept bare, and disclosed their grim army of the dead in ghastly resurrection, washed into strange shapes from out their shallow graves; and, greatest calamity of all, the railway was in various places decomposed, ripped up and broken down so as to be unserviceable at our greatest need. Orders have been sent down to urge on the necessary repairs, for the demands of the batteries for shot and shell are pressing, and the electric telegraph has been repeatedly in use to-day to force on the attention of the authorities at Balaklava the necessity there is for their promptest exertions, and to order them to send up supplies of materiel for our fifth bombardment as speedily as possible.

The French say they are quite ready, and they have received from us [1500] 32-pound shot for their guns to-day. The railway fails at a critical period, but even if it were in its usual state we could not hope to be in a condition to begin a heavy fire for some time to come, and I believe it will be fully a fortnight or three weeks before the necessary supplies will be brought up to the front. The repairs to the railway will be effected in ten days. Mr. Beatty and Mr. Campbell are away at Heraclea surveying the coal district, but their representatives are men of energy, and the only obstructions to be dreaded will arise from the “navvies,” some of whom have been behaving very badly lately. They nearly all “struck work” a short time back, on the plea that they were not properly rationed or paid, or that, in other words, they were starved and cheated; but the Provost-Marshal brought some of them to a sense of their situation, and, indeed, the office of that active and worthy person and of his myrmidon sergeants has been by no means a sinecure between “navvies,” Greeks, and scoundrels of all sorts. The Croat insurrection is suppressed, but the Croat idleness has not been by any means stimulated into usefulness. How England is squandering her money broadcast all over this part of the world! The Eupatorians with their 2s. 6d. and 3s. 6d. a-aay, and the Croat with the same stipend, are indeed “beggars set on horseback,” and they fulfil the rest of the proverb.

The poor Turkish soldiers, who get scant pay, say that it would be mach better for them to be those dogs of Croats, who receive as much as their own bimbashis, or majors, than to march in the armies of the Sultan; but Lord Stratford’s hard bargain for us must be accomplished; and it was he who was the benevolent genius who deluged Croatian and Tartar hordes with this flood of wealth. No wonder Colonel M’Murdo finds it difficult to get men for the Land Transport Corps, although even he is obliged to pay 2s. 6d. and 3s. a-day to native suridjees, so completely have we ruined the market.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 24 Jun 1855

var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

 

 

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

War in the East – 24 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

 

Sunday 24th June 1855

General Estcourt, Adjutant-General of the Army, died this morning at half-past nine o’clock, after three days’ illness. His death has produced a profound impression of regret on all who knew him, for a kinder or more amiable man did not exist. He was unremitting in the discharge of his duties, and no officer ever applied himself to the labours of the desk, which constitute so large a portion of the business of the department over which he presided, with more assiduity and devotion. General Estcourt was taken ill with diarrhoea six days before he died, and at the end of the third day was attacked with cholera, which his strength of constitution and powerful frame enabled him to resist for three days more; but on Saturday night a crisis came on, a dangerous change supervened, and he expired in the morning, soothed by the presence of his wife and of a near female relative. Every care and attention were paid to him.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 23 Jun 1855






var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

We’re coming to the close of this series of posts from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper -giving a daily account of events during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

War in the East – 23 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

 

Saturday June 23rd 1855

There is no symptom of any activity on our part or on that of the enemy. They can, however, work without our seeing them. At eight o’clock this evening a thunderstorm, advancing from the mountain ranges over Balaklava and Mackenzie’s farm, burst on the valley of the Tchernaya and on the southern portion of the camp. I never beheld such incessant lightning. For two hours the sky was a blaze of fire. The rain fell like a great wall of water behind us. Not a drop descended over the camp in front, but we could see it in a steep glistening cascade, illuminated by the lightning, falling all across the camp from sea to land, just in front of Lord Raglan’s, and nearly in a straight line, as if marked out by a ruler. The rain is a great relief to our parched reservoirs.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 20 Jun 1855

var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

 

We’re coming to the close of this series of posts from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper -giving a daily account of events during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

War in the East – 20 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

Wednesday 20th June 1855

In my former letter*, written hastily and under the depression of our ill success, I could not do more than give a very meagre sketch of the failure of the attack of the allies on the principal points of the Russian defences, and I am not now able to entirely amend my defects.

*A previous letter, communicating the failure of the attack upon the Malakoff and Redan, was not received. The present letter, however, contains full particulars of the assault.

The plan of attack originally proposed was that the allies were to open a cannonade for three hours on the Malakoff and Redan after dawn on the morning of the 18th; that the French were to assault the Malakoff, and that when they had gained possession of it we were to attack the Redan. As the latter work is commanded by the former, it would not be possible to carry or to hold it till the Malakoff was taken.

The fire which we opened on Sunday morning (the 17th) preliminary to the assault was marked by great energy, weight, and destructiveness. In the first relief the Quarry Battery, commanded by Major Strange, threw no less than 300 8-inch shells into the Redan, which is only 400 yards distant, and the place must have been nearly cleared by the incessant storm of iron splinters which flew through it. Throughout Sunday our artillery fired 12,000 rounds of the heaviest ordnance into the enemy’s lines, and on the following day we fired 11,946 rounds of shot and shell. The Russian fire was weak and wild. Had the three hours’ cannonade and bombardment which Lord Raglan decided on administering to the Russian batteries before we assaulted been delivered to them, it is very probable that we should have found but a small body of troops prepared to receive us at the parapets; and it must be esteemed a very unfortunate circumstance that his Lordship was induced to abandon his intention in deference to the wishes of General Pelissier. General Pelissier, in requesting the English General to change the original plan of attack and to forestall the hour which was at first agreed upon, is not stated to have assigned any specific reason for the alteration, but it is reported that he wished to anticipate the enemy, who were about, as he was informed, to make an assault on the Mamelon. He felt, too, that the masses of French whom he had prepared could not be concealed from the Russians for any length of time, and that they would soon be revealed by the noise which always attends the movements of large bodies of men. 

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 13 Jun 1855






var addthis_config = {“data_track_addressbar”:true};

Below is another compelling installment from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper, it gives a daily account of events during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

War in the East – 13 Jun 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

Wednesday 13th June 1855

KERTCH,

The mission of the fleet and army having been accomplished, the force is on its way homewards. Sir George Brown and his staff are embarked. The Admirals are at Ambalaki. The troops are on board, with the exception of those who are ordered to remain in garrison at Yenikale and Pavlovskaya, and we leave the roadsteads this afternoon for Balaklava and Kamiesch. The streaks of smoke which rise from Kertch, from the Quarantine station, and from the very face of the waters, where the worthless prizes lie burning on the sandbanks, speak for our success. It has keen decided to occupy Pavlovskaya, because it is in a fine position to command the entrance to Kertch and Yenikale, at a place where the channel is narrowed by one of the sandbanks from Taman to the breadth of a mile and a half. The lines which have been thrown up around Yenikale are extremely strong; they are of the most massive and durable character, and reflect great credit on the engineers who designed and superintended their construction. They enclose the ramparts of the old town, and present on every side towards the land a broad ditch, a steep parapet, defended by redoubts, and broken into batteries, which are aided by the fire of the pieces on the walls. In fact, the place is lost to Russia so long as we like to keep it.

The point or bank of Tchechka, opposite Yenikale, is one of the many extraordinary spits of land which abound in this part of the world, and which are, as far as I know, without example in any other country. Of all these, the Spit of Arabat, which is a bank but a few feet above the water, and is in some places only a furlong in breadth, is the most remarkable. It is nearly 70 miles in length, and its average width is less than half-a-mile from sea to sea. The bank of Tchechka (or Szavernaia Rosa), which runs for nearly eight miles in a south-westerly direction from Cape Kammenoi past Yenikale, closes up the Bay of Kertch on the west, and the Gulf of Taman on the east, is a type of these formations, and is sufficiently interesting to deserve a visit. It only differs from Arabat in size, and in the absence of the fresh water wells, which are to be found at long intervals on the great road from Arabat to Genitchi. It is so low, that it is barely six feet above the level of the sea into which it runs. A bank of sand on both sides of the spit, piled up three or four feet in height, marks the boundary of the beach. The latter, which is a bank of shingle, shells, and fine sand, is only a few yards broad, and is terminated by the sand and rank grass and rushes of the spit, which rise up a foot or two above the beach. In the interior or on the body of the bank there are numerous lagunes – narrow strips of water much more salt than that of the adjacent sea. Some of these are only a few yards in length and a few feet in breadth, others extend for a quarter of a mile, and are about 100 yards broad. They are all bounded alike by thick high grass and rushes. The bottom, which is found at the depth of a few feet – often at two or three inches – consists of hard sand covered with slimy green vegetable matter. The water abounds in small flounders and dabs, and in shrimps, which leap about in wild commotion at an approaching footstep. Every lagune is covered with mallards and ducks, in pairs, and the fringes of the spit are the resort of pelicans and cormorants innumerable. The silence, the dreary solitude of the scene, is beyond description. Even the birds, mute as they are at this season, appear to be preternaturally quiet and voiceless. Multitudes of odd, crustaceous-looking polypous plants spring up through the reeds; and bright-coloured nycatchers, with orange breasts and black wings, poise over their nests below them. The first day I went over we landed on the beach close to the battery which the Russians placed on the spit at the Ferry station. It consisted of a quadrangular work of sandbags, constructed in a very durable manner, and evidently  not long made. In the centre of the square there was a whitewashed house, which served as a barrack for the garrison. The walls only were left, and the smoke rose from the ashes of the roof and rafters inside the shell. Our men had fired it when they landed. A pool of brackish water was enclosed by the battery, which must have been the head-quarters of ague and misery. The sailors said the house swarmed with vermin, and had a horrible odour. Nothing was found in it but the universal black bread and some salt fish. The garrison, some 30 or 40 men probably, had employed themselves in a rude kind of agriculture, and farming or pasturage. Patches of ground were cleared here and there, and gave feeble indications that young potatoes were struggling for lite beneath. Large ricks of reeds and coarse grass had been gathered round the battery, but were now reduced to ashes. At the distance of 100 yards from the battery there was another whitewashed house, or the shell of it, with similar signs of rural life about it, and an unhappy-looking cat trod gingerly among the hot embers, and mewed piteously in the course of her fruitless search for her old corner. The traces of herds of cattle, which were probably drivaen down from the mainland to feed on the grass round the salt marshes, were abundant.

 

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

===+++===

Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil