War in the East – 1 May 1855


Search the library for more like this

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 – 1 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 1st May 1855

May-day in the Crimea! Worthy of the sweetest and brightest May Queen in merry England! A blue sky, dotted with milkwhite clouds, a warm but not too hot a sun, and a gentle breeze fanning the fluttering canvas of the wide-spread streets of tents, here pitched on swelling mounds covered with fresh grass, there sunk in valleys of black mould, trodden up by innumerable feet and hoofs, and scattered broad-cast over the vast plateau of the Chersonese. It is enough to make one credulous of peace, and to listen to the pleasant whispers of home, notwithstanding the rude interruption of the cannon before Sebastopol. This bright sun, however, develops fever and malaria. The reeking earth, saturated with dew and rain, pours forth poisonous vapours, and the sad rows of mounds covered with long lank grass which rise in all directions above the soil impregnate the air with disease.  

As the atmosphere is purged of clouds and vapour, the reports of the cannon and of the rifles become more distinct. The white houses, green roofs, and the domes and cupolas of Sebastopol stand out with tantalizing distinctness against the sky, and the ruined suburbs and masses of rubbish inside the Russian batteries seem almost incorporated with the French entrenchments. The French on the left are indeed too near the enemy’s lines; they are exposed to constant annoyance and loss by frequent volleys of hand grenades and cohorns, and their works are interrupted by little sorties of a few yards out and back again.

On the extreme right, however, the English works towards the Round Tower are in advance of the French works towards the Mamelon. On our proper left we can make no considerable approaches in advance of our actual works up to the Redan, in consequence of the deep ravine before our batteries. The ravine winding from the right between the two attacks sweeps down below the Green-hill, with a precipitous ascent on the Russian side towards the Redan, and a gentle rise up to the Green-hill. The French approach towards the Round Tower is obstructed by the Mamelon, which is due south of it, and we cannot approach much nearer towards the Round Tower working from our right, till the Mamelon is taken. The distance from the Mamelon to the Redan is about 550 yards. From the Round Tower to the sea (of the harbour) behind it the distance is about [1700] yards. The French are now within a few hundred yards of the Mamelon, and our advanced parallel, which is connected with theirs, inclines forward of their line towards the Round Tower. Although the Mamelon is pierced for eleven guns, there are not apparently more than five guns mounted, but all the embrasures are screened. The Russians have been checked in their attempts to advance upon our right towards Inkermann, and as I have said the French on the left towards the sea have pushed their lines inside the old Russian outworks; but the centre, protected by the Garden Battery, Road Battery, Barrack Battery. and Redan, still offers considerable difficulty to an approach, and presents a very strong position.

An expedition from the British and French fleets, consisting of the smaller heavy-armed steamers and gun-boats, is to sail this evening for Kertch, to test the strength of the fortifications there and at Yenikale. If the flotilla reduces the forts which guard the entrance to the Sea of Azov, and leaves the navigation open to us, it will effect an enormous service – always supposing the Russians are not allowed to build them up again, and that we will really take some efficient steps to cut off the source of supplies from which the Russians are mainly furnished with their provisions, if not with their materiel of war.

Lord Stratford has gone to Eupatoria in the “Royal Albert,” and is expected back on Monday.

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