War in the East – 26 Jun 1855

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We’re coming to the close of this series of posts from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper.

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.


War in the East – 26 Jun 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.

– In the days before news of the death of Lord Raglan breaks, our correspondent writes:

Tuesday 26th June 1855

The losses in the Land Transport Corps by death would be extraordinary did we not find a parallel to them in the Sardinian army of Tchorgoun, which has lost in three weeks nearly 1000 men by cholera, dysentery, and diarrhoea. The Turks and French encamped in the valley suffer somewhat from the same diseases, but it is observable that the men who die are recruits and old men who are mostly unacclimatized.

At Yenikale the detachment of Land Transport Corps lost in a fortnight fifty men, of whom twenty-five were English and twenty-five native drivers. In its present state it cannot supply all the wants of our army. We could not advance any body of troops without running risks of starvation, and even the 10th Hussars are said to have been unable to keep their horses so far from Balaklava, owing to the want of forage, and their retreat from their advanced position is attributed to that cause rather than to the field-pieces which the Russians brought to bear upon them from an adjoining height.

To understand the difficulties in the way of what is called at home “taking the field” one must come out and stay out here. It would be much easier to take Sebastopol than to take the field. There are only three accessible passes, up the precipitous wall of rock which rises on the north side of the Tchernaya, to the plateau on which the Russians are encamped, and the precipice runs round to the Belbek. These passes are so steep that an army would have some difficulty in ascending them at its leisure, without resistance from any enemy. But they are occupied wherever engineering eyes detect the smallest weakness they are commanded by batteries, intersected by positions threatened by overhanging cliffs all ready for the lever. March round and turn them! Where, and how? We have no transport even if we could march, and we cannot march, because Napoleon himself would never lead an army into such defiles as guard the Russian position. Whether we are not strong enough to detach a great corps of 40,000 or 50,000 men to operate against the Russians north of Sebastopol is not for me to say; but it is certain that the base of operation for any such corps must be the sea, till ample transport is provided.

The Crimea is to all intents and purports a desert – a Sahara, waterless and foodless before an invading army. There is no news of importance to-day.

The mail is closing.  There is no firing or anything of any consequence in the front.

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