War in the East – 15 May 1855

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Below is another compelling installment from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper, it gives a daily account of events during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

The book and our excerpts cover from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

War in the East – 15 May 1855

The Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) was a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia – most of the conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula.

Tuesday 15th May 1855


THE active operations of the siege are suspended for a time; our batteries are complete, our works finished, but the armament of them is not yet accomplished. Even the French are tired of a useless cannonade, and there has not been much firing for the last two nights. The Sardinians are accumulating at Balaklava daily. Two or three steamers arrive every four-and-twenty hours laden with those excellent and soldierlike troops. They land all ready for the field, with horses, carts, etc. Their transport cars are simple, strongly made, covered vehicles, not unlike a London bread-cart, painted blue, with the words “Armata Sarda” in black letters, and the name of the regiment to the service of which it belongs. The officers are well mounted, and everyone admires the air and carriage of the troops, more especially of the “Bersaglieri” (Chasseurs), and the eye is attracted by their melodramatic head-dress – bandit-looking hat, with a large plume of black cock’s feathers in the side. The officers of the corps wear a plume of green ostrich feathers. General della Marmora and his staff have arrived, and Lord Raglan has received him with marked consideration.

Those nocturnal frights which went on so briskly last week have ceased for the present. Although our losses were not heavy, we were generally deprived of the services of the best men. The old soldiers would go to the front and were knocked over, and in that respect our losses were serious. The Russians lately adopted various “dodges” to get our men into their hands and to draw them over the parapet, such as putting their caps on the muzzles of their firelocks and holding them just over the trenches, etc., or shoving their bayonets above the earthworks, and keeping men ready to fire at any soldiers who came forward to seize them.

On Friday night, a Russian bugler, a mere lad, leaped upon the top of the trench, and was killed by numerous balls in the very act of sounding the charge. His dead body fell into our trench. The enemy are repairing and strengthening their batteries, and are busy throwing up new works inside the town itself. It is not correct to say that there are any earthworks about Sebastopol with tiers of guns in them; indeed, it would not be possible to construct earthworks with guns placed one above the other in them. The expression applies rather to the fact that there are some batteries formed on the slopes of hills, and that the intrenchments rise up one inside the other, so that the inner one is higher up on the hill-side than that in front of it.

I regret to say that the cholera has commenced its ravages. It is reported that twenty men died of that terrible disease last night. The 71st Regiment are about to shift their encampment to the high ground on the left of the Third Division. Both the Buffs and the 71st were in a miserable plight during the rain. Their camping-ground became a slough, and illness rapidly increased in a few days – no doubt because of the wet ground on which the men lay.

Omar Pasha, after visiting Lord Raglan this morning, proceeded to Kamiesch, and embarked for Eupatoria.

Miss Nightingale is suffering from an attack of Crimean fever. M. Soyer has been inspecting the hospitals and kitchens, and it is hoped he may effect some change for the better in our present abominable mode of regimental cooking. He had an interview with Lord Raglan again yesterday. Numbers of amateurs are arriving. The Royal Yacht Squadron yacht “Stella” came in on Sunday.

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