War in the East – 7 Nov

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Picture of the Battlefield – 1854

The Field – After the Battle – 7th November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Tuesday – 7th November 1854

I went carefully over the position to-day, and the more I examined it, the more I was amazed at the noble tenacity of our men when assailed by such vast masses of infantry; though I must give great credit to the Russians for the obstinacy with which they sought to drive us back, and the laborious determination with which they clambered up the hill-side to attack us. 

The tents of the Second Division are pitched on the verge of the plateau which we occupy, and from the right flank of the camp the ground rises gently for two or three hundred yards to a ridge covered with scrubby brushwood, so thick that it is sometimes difficult to force a horse through it.  These bushes grow in tufts, and are about four feet high.  On gaining the ridge you see below you the valley of the Tehernaya, a green tranquil slip of meadow, with a few white houses dotting it at intervals, some farm enclosures, and tufts of green trees.  From the ridge the hill-side descends rapidly in a slope of at least 600 feet high.  The brushwood is very thick upon it, and at times it is almost impervious.  At the base of this slope the road winds to Inkermann, and thence to Sebastopol.  The sluggish stream steals quietly through it towards the head of the harbour, which is shut out from view by the projections of the ridge towards the north.  At the distance of a quarter of a mile across the valley, the sides of the mountains opposite to the ridge of the plateau on which our camp stands rise abruptly in sheer walls of rock, slab after slab, to the height of 1200 or [1500] feet.  A road winds among those massive precipices up to the ruins of Inkermann – a city of the dead and gone and unknown – where houses, and pillared mansions, and temples, have been hewn out of the face of the solid rock by a generation whose very name the most daring antiquaries have not guessed at.  This road passes along the heights, and dips into the valley of Inkermann, at the neck of the harbour.  The Russians planted guns along it the other day, to cover the retreat of their troops, and at night the lights of their fires are seen glimmering through the window and door places from the chambers carved out from the sides of the precipice. 

Looking down from the ridge, these ruins are, of course, to one’s left hand.  To the right the eye follows the sweep of the valley till it is closed in from view by the walls of the ridge, and by the mountains which hem in the valley of Balaklava, and one can just catch, on the side of the ridge, the corner of the nearest French earthwork, thrown up to defend our rear, and cover the position towards Balaklava.  Below, towards the right of the ridge, at the distance of 200 feet from the top towards the valley, is the Sandbag, or two-gun battery, intended for two guns, which had not been placed there on the 5th, because Sir De Lacy Evans conceived that they would only invite attack, and would certainly be taken, unconnected as they would have been with any line of defence.  On the left hand overlooking this battery, there is a road from Balaklava right across our camp through the Second Division’s tents on their front, which runs over the ridge and joins the upper road to Inkermann. Some of the Russian columns had climbed up by the ground along this road; others had ascended on the left, in front and to the right of the Sandbag Battery.   In every bushon every yard of bloodstained ground lay a dead or dying Russian.  The well-known bearskins of our Guards, the red coats of our Infantry, and the bright blue of the French Chasseurs, revealing each a silent horror in the glades, and marking the spot where stark and stiff a corpse lay contorted on the grass, pointed out the scenes of the bloodiest contests.

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

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil