Below is another excerpt from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper, its a daily account from the battlelines during the Crimean War (157 years ago). It makes for grim reading with food, shelter and warm clothing in short supply.
The English Batteries too Distant to be Effective
by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper
Wednesday – 7th February 1855
A DULL, heavy day. There was an extremely hot contest last night between the French and Russians: the cannonade, which sounded all over the camp, lasted about an hour. The enemy, not satisfied with what they have already done, are still labouring hard at the works in the rear of the Malakoff (or the Round Tower) and at three o’clock to-day they had about 1200 men employed on the earth slopes and parapets of the batteries.
While I was examining the place to-day there was scarcely a shot fired for two hours. The mail steamers and boats were particularly active, running across the creek and to and fro in the harbour, and everything seemed to go on in the town much the same as usual. One portion of the place containing some fine buildings, and a large church with a cupola, as seen from the picquet-house, put one in mind of the view of Greenwich from the Park Observatory seen through a diminishing glass.
The French mortars have already began to tell on the stonework of the buildings opposite their batteries in a few days our allies will be able to inflict tremendous damage on the town. Lord Raglan has ordered ten of our 13-inch mortars to be lent to the French, and Major Claremont came down to Balaklava to get them landed from the “Firefly” with all speed. They were already preparing platforms for the mortar-beds to-day.
Our left attack seemed in very fine order as seen from the hill over the French right, at the other side of the ravine. The parapets and trenches are said to be in better order than they were on the first day of the siege. All the other works are equally improved, and when the fire reopens, its volume and weight will be prodigious. I should state, however, that the French engineer, General Niel, who visited the English trenches recently, expressed a decided opinion that the batteries were too far to produce any substantial results. When we first sat down before this place it was proposed that the first parallel should be at the usual distance of from 600 to 800 yards from the defences; but to this it was objected that there would be great loss of life in making it so near, and that the old rule of war which fixed the distance of the lines of the besiegers from those of the besieged, was abrogated by recent improvements in gunnery, and by the increased power and. range of siege guns. Our batteries were constructed at upwards of 1000 and 1200 yards from the enemy, and the steadiness of our artillerymen and the activity of our sailors were frustrated by the length of the range, which enabled the Russians to escape the force of our fire, and emboldened them in working their guns.
Meantime, the railway is in the stage of babyhood, and has a very hard time of it in the mud and stones outside Balaklava. The town of Balaklava itself is undergoing vast improvements, partly by demolition, partly by expulsion of the sutlers, and especially by the energetic action of Major Hall and Colonel Harding, and the harbour arrangements have been much improved by Captain Powell.
The harbour presents some appearance of order, and that is saying much, when it is considered that the place is as much crowded as a London or Liverpool dock. The quay is at last something better than a quagmire and a series of mud pitfalls, and the streets of the town nave ceased to fluctuate between water-courses and dirt-heaps. Stones have been laid down, and have been beaten into a rough pavement by endless traffic. There is very little news respecting the Russians or their operations. The French have scarped the Woronzoff road more deeply than before, and have cast a kind of drawbridge over it. The valley of the Tchernaya is still flooded deeply, and the pools afford some excellent duck shooting to our more adventurous sportsmen, who are not deterred by the round shot and shell of the lower Inkermann Battery, very liberally bestowed, from following their game under difficulties.
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