War in the East – 12 Jan 1855


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Continuing our series on the Crimean War as reported by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper.

Desertion among the English and French Troops – 12th January 1855

Friday – 12th January 1855

I regret to say that there are more cases of desertion among our troops and the French than one expects or likes to find. Last night a sentry of the 2nd battalion, Rifle Brigade, posted on the mountain tops above Balaklava, reported that there was a fire in the ravine below, in the direction of the Cossack picquets.  

A small party of Riflemen were despatched in the direction of the light, and as they approached they discovered four men in the uniform of French soldiers seated round it.  On being challenged, the men started to their feet and fled. Two of them were taken by the Riflemen; two of them escaped in the brushwood in the obscurity of the light. The former were immediately handed over to the French authorities by whom they were claimed as two of a party of four deserters who had left camp yesterday, and they will be shot early tomorrow morning.  A man of the 93rd also deserted, and his body has been found in front of the Russian picquet.  He was killed by a musket-shot, and there is no doubt but that as he approached the post, not being able to reply to the challenger, he was fired upon and met his fate – one too good for him. There have been several desertions in front also – at least, men are missing, and it is supposed they have gone over to the enemy.

The army is in somewhat bad humour at the appropriation of the five mortars found in the Old Fort of Balaklava, when we arrived here on the 25th September.  They were taken on board the “Agamemnon,” and are now on board the “Firebrand,” with an inscription on a brass plate affixed to each:

“Agamemnon, Balaklava, 1854.”

The “Agamemnon” certainly shelled the heights, but did no good, and her shells came very near our men as they were advancing up the heights towards the ruins. The little garrison of Balaklava certainly surrendered to the Rifle Brigade, and to Lord Raglan and his staff, and not to the “Agamemnon.”

There is nothing doing except getting up shot and shell and provisions. The French and Russians exchange a few shots now and then, and keep up a constant fire of Riflemen.


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