A Reconnaissance en Force – 26th December 1854
by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper
Tuesday – 26th December 1854
The French have thrown up a fine battery to protect Kamiesch and the left of their lines and parallels from the enemy’s ships. They have a trench lined with riflemen within 180 yards of the Flagstaff fort wall.
Wednesday – 27th December 1854
The 18th Regiment (Royal Irish) arrived in the “Magdalena” today, all well. Their fur caps and new coats made them objects of great attraction to the tattered old campaigners on the beach. The Russians are very active getting up guns in every possible direction along our approaches. The French have also pushed a trench within 180 metres of St. Vladimir. Continual firing and skirmishing are going on at night in front of our lines and along the French works. The Turks continue “to die like flies.” They literally are found dead on their posts where they have mounted guard.
Friday – 29th December 1854
Fine weather. Firing is very slack on both sides. We have a large number of mortars and new siege guns ready to be put in position whenever the state of the ground and of the weather permits us to recommence the siege and bombardment. Scurvy is diminishing among the men, but dysentery and diarrhoea continue their ravages. Our loss in horses is enormous. I do not believe the whole of the Light Cavalry Brigade could muster 60 horses.
The Russians opened a heavy fire on the French last night, and poured in shot and shell through the rain along the whole of their left attack for upwards of an hour, but did very little mischief. The French batteries are in good order, and contain twice as many guns as they did when they opened fire on the 17th of October. The Russians are getting up guns in every possible corner and on every eminence about the place, and now and then unmask guns where they were little suspected to be in position.
Saturday – 30th December 1854
Last night Orders were sent from Sir Colin Campbell to the 70th Regiment, and to the four companies of the 2nd battalion of the Rifle Brigade, commanded by Major Bradford, to be ready and under arms at half-past 6 o’clock this morning. It was a cold but fine day, and at dawn all the troops were drawn out, and remained on the heights above Balaklava for some time, very curious to know what they were going to do.
Soon after 7 o’clock the advanced guard of a strong division of French troops appeared in the Valley on the left, and proceeded towards the hills lately occupied by the Russian redoubts. Sir Colin Campbell was on the ground, with several of his staff, and, with General Bosquet, whose division seemed to furnish the bulk of the troops on the field, had the direction of the movements of the day. The force was all in motion before 8 o’clock, the Rifles and Highlanders turning to the right, and covering the flank of the little expedition as it marched on, or beating through the woods and ravines which abound along the mountain chain on the left of the valley. As the force approached Komara the Cossack vedettes came in sight, retiring slowly, but the French pushed on rapidly, and the Cossacks retreated from the village, which has been in a ruinous state since the storm of the 14th of November and the first French reconnaissance.
The vedettes fell back on a strong body of Lancers and light cavalry, which seemed disposed to await the shock of the French Chasseurs. The retiring and advancing cavalry skirmishers exchanged a few carbine shots before they fell in with their respective squadrons. And when the French had arrived within about 800 yards they broke from a trot into a gallop, and dashed right at the Russian cavalry. The latter met the shock, but made no attempt to charge upon the French, who broke them in an instant, and chased them right back to the infantry, who were assembled in three small bodies on the hills, close to the village of Tchorgoun. As the French approached Tchorgoun they were received with a brisk fire of shot and shell from some heavy field-pieces, to which their guns were unable to reply at so great a distance; but they soon pushed within range of the enemy, and the Russians again retired, and abandoned the village of Tchorgoun to our allies, as well as the line of cantonments and huts which they had constructed since Liprandi’s advance in October.
The object of this expedition was merely to beat up the Russian position and to ascertain the strength of the enemy – it was, in fact, a reconnaissance in force, and there was no intention of bringing the Russians to an engagement.
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 BikWil