War in the East – 21 Nov

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A Smart Affair – 21st November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Tuesday – 21st November 1854

Last night a smart affair, in which three companies of the Rifle Brigade (1st battalion), under Captain Tryon, displayed great coolness, energy, and courage, took place with the enemy.  In the rocky ground between our first and second parallels, in the ravine towards the left of our left attack, about 300 Russian infantry had established themselves in some caverns and old stone huts used by shepherds in days gone by, and had for the last twenty or thirty hours annoyed the working and covering parties of the French right attack and of our left battery by an incessant fire of rifles.  

It was found expedient to dislodge them, and at seven o’clock this party of the Rifle Brigade was sent to drive the Russians out of the caves in which they had taken shelter.  These caves abound in all the ravines, and are formed by the decay of the softer portions of the rock between the layers in which it is stratified.  

The Rifles advanced, and very soon forced the enemy to retreat after a brisk tire, in which they killed and wounded a considerable number of the Russians with comparatively little loss to themselves.  The enemy fell back on their main body; and when the Rifles had established themselves for the night in the caves which the enemy had occupied, where they found blankets, great coats, etc., they were assailed by a strong column of Russians, who fired volleys of musketry and rifles against their small force continuously, and were only kept at bay by the deadly return of our Minies. The action ended in the complete repulse of the Russian columns, but we have to deplore the loss of that most promising and excellent officer, Captain Tryon, of the Rifle Brigade, who was killed by a shot in the head.  We had seven men killed and eighteen or nineteen men wounded in this affair.  

The draughts of the Guards and of the 19th Regiment, as well as of the various men belonging to other portions of the force out here, which arrived in the “Queen of the South,”  disembarked this morning.  Greatly astonished did they seem as they were invited to walk ankle-deep in the mud through arabas, Turks, camels, Frenchmen, Crim Tartars, Greeks, and Bulgarians, along the principal thoroughfare of Balaklava out to their camps.  Like young bears, they had their troubles all before them, and the brilliancy of their uniforms, which has just renewed our notions as to what a red coat ought to be; was fading fast when they were last seen before the coating of liquid filth which the natives of Balaklava seem to consider as the normal paving of their thoroughfares.  

Notwithstanding a northerly wind, the weather to-day was fine and mild, something like that which Londoners are apt to rejoice in occasionally in a genial February.  Carts are busily employed in conveying to the camp stores of provision and ammunition.  The French are hutting themselves, or rather they are burrowing holes for themselves, which they thatch over with twigs and branches all along their lines. 

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.

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Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil