War in the East – 21 Mar 1855



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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).

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Sir John Burgoyne Returns to England

Wednesday 21st March 1855

SIR JOHN BURGOYNE left the camp to-day and proceeded to Kamiesch, where he took a passage by the mail steamer, on his way to England. All kinds of opinions and acts have been attributed to Sir John while he was here superintending the earlier operations of the siege, but no one has ever denied the entire devotion and zeal which the veteran General displayed in the prosecution of the works so far as he could control them. If his manner exhibited that stoical apathy and indifference which distinguish the few remaining disciples of “the Great Duke,” his activity and personal energy were beyond his years. Whether he was for an immediate assault after we arrived before the place whether he originated the famous flank march to Balaklava, which has now fallen into popular disfavour whether he counselled delay at first, and afterwards recommended the bayonet whether he allowed the enemy’s defences to grow up under his eyes uninterruptedly whether he left our right at Inkermann undefended, whether he did all these things or not, he will, no doubt, be able to state to those who have a right to ascertain the truth; but it must in justice be remembered that Sir John Burgoyne was in an anomalous and difficult position from the time he joined the army at Varna, when Brigadier-General Tylden was in command of the Royal Engineers, up to the moment that he was relieved from responsibility by the recent arrival of Sir H. Jones.

The Orders are now signed by General Simpson, and the name of the Adjutant-General, Estcourt, is no longer appended to them. It is the Chief of the Staff who waits on Lord Raglan each day to ascertain his wishes, and to receive Orders, and he communicates those Orders to the Quartermaster and Adjutant-General, and sees that they are duly executed. General Simpson is very active for his years, and walks as well as most men. He has been on foot in all directions about the camp. Major-General Jones possesses activity and energy, and it is hoped that these two appointments will contribute to the improvement of the social and internal economy of the army, and to the accomplishment of the objects of this expedition. As yet the lines of our batteries remain very nearly identical with those from which we opened fire on the 17th of October.

The Engineer officers allege there is great difficulty in finding men to execute the necessary works, notwithstanding the improved condition of our army and the diminution of work and labour which has taken place since the co-operation of the French on our right. As steps are about to be taken to remedy the evils which have arisen from the weakness of the force on duty in the trenches, it can be no harm to state that we have frequently had not more than 900 men for duty in the trenches of the left attack, although it is considered that they ought to be defended by at least 1200 men, and that [1500] men would be by no means too many for the duty. I saw one parallel in which the officer on duty was told to cover the whole line of work. He had about 340 men with him, and when he had extended his line they were each nearly thirty paces apart. This was in a work exposed to attack at any moment notwithstanding the ground taken by the French, we are obliged to let the men stay for twenty-four hours at a time in the trenches. On an average the men have three or four nights out of seven in bed. The French have five nights out of seven in bed. With reference to the observations which have been made at home on the distribution of labour between the two armies, it must be borne in mind that when the French and English first broke ground before Balaklava we were as strong as our allies, and that it was some time after the siege began ere the relative proportions of the two armies were considerably altered to the advantage of the French by the arrival of their reinforcements. With that single remark all my comments on this portion of our proceedings here must cease for the present.


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

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