War in the East – 12 Feb 1855


Search the library for more like this

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).

The Arrival of Sir George Brown

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

Monday 12th February 1855

Sir George Brown arrived to-day, and Lord Raglan went down to meet him, and returned with him to head-quarters. The weather has changed again. The sun is out, the rain is over, and a cold, drying wind is blowing over the plain. The French are arming our right attack. The left attack is completely armed. There is no appearance of any considerable force of Russians either to the north of Sebastopol or over the heights of Balaklava. All danger of attack from Baidar seems very trifling. It would be almost impossible for the enemy to deploy on the hills and in the ravines over our position, and the plain is impassable for artillery. The Tchernaya is now our great line of defence, and it is a line which defends itself. There is only one bridge over it, descending from Mackenzie’s farm, and that is not fit for the transport of either artillery or cavalry; and the banks of the river are so steep, that bridges must be thrown over whenever it may be desirable to send either arm across it. Towards Inkermann, the whole valley is flooded, and turned into marsh and bog.

The preparations to remedy our great error in the plan of our first attack proceed rapidly. Our troops are in better condition, and huts are being erected on every side.

Tuesday 13th February 1855

It blew half a gale of wind all night, and the rain fell till two o’clock p.m. in the day, but the wind was warm, and the temperature agreeable. The roads are very heavy, and the country is not easily traversed. The soil is not so tenacious, however, as it is when drying up in fine weather after heavy rains. It is then so sticky, that the wheels of artillery wagons actually “drag” in it, and the earth accumulates solidly between the spokes. It need not be said with what difficulty men get over the ground on foot.

As to the condition of the horses, it is really pitiable. It is now four or five days that our cavalry and artillery horses have been without hay, and that all they have had to eat has been the ration of barley, and, now and then, a little chopped straw. The reason of this is simple. No hay has been received by the commissariat in harbour; and yet it is stated that Mr. Filder wrote last September to the authorities at home, to state that it would be absolutely necessary for them to take steps to send out forage for the horses from England. What is the result of our mode of doing business? At a recent board, the veterinary surgeons condemned no less than 140 horses out of the Royal Artillery alone! The diseases of most of these animals – once fine English horses, the glory and pride of Woolwich holidays – were simple; they were the produce of hard work in carrying up shot and shell, and of insufficient food.

The mounted staff corps is now reduced to about twenty-eight effectives.

The French workmen have made considerable progress with the new batteries on our right. On the left they were exposed to a heavy fire from four till half-past four o’clock, and the Russians blew up another French magazine inside the batteries. They at once opened fire along their lines with six tremendous salvoes of artillery, and rushed up on their parapets and gave three loud ringing cheers. The damage done by the explosion was, I am happy to say, very insignificant, and before the Russians had ceased cheering, the French took their revenge by discharging a tremendous volley of heavy shells, which burst on the walls of the Admiral’s house, and silenced for a time the guns in No. 3 Battery at the Flagstaff Fort.

The railway progresses very rapidly, and has now reached a point 300 yards from the town. The enemy appears to have abandoned any attempt to annoy the workmen, and nave not put guns on Canrobert’s-hill.

The French mortar batteries are within 1300 metres of the inner batteries of the Russians. A sortie of insignificant strength was made by the garrison last night, and was repulsed as usual. The French lost five men only. The Cossacks on the hills to the northeast of Balaklava have nearly disappeared, and there are no indications that they intend to reoccupy the hills on which it was supposed the enemy were about to reconstruct redoubts.

The utmost secrecy is observed respecting our future operations. Strict orders have been issued that artillery and engineer officers are not to give information respecting our works to any one but officers entitled to demand it; and infantry officers are not allowed to get any details concerning the works and armaments.


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