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.

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Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

The Surprise of Plataea

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THE SURPRISE OF PLATAEA  – 431BC

Greek HelmetsWar had been only threatened, not declared; and peaceful intercourse, though not wholly free from distrust, was still kept up between the subjects of the two confederacies.  But early in the following spring, [431 B.C.], in the fifteenth year of the Thirty Years’ Truce, an event took place which closed all prospects of peace, precipitated the commencement of war, embittered the animosity of the contending parties, and prepared some of the most tragical scenes of the ensuing history.  In the dead of night the city of Plataea was surprised by a body of three hundred Thebans, commanded by two of the great officers called Boeotarchs.  They had been invited by a Plataean named Nauclides, and others of the same party, who hoped with the aid of the Thebans to rid themselves of their political opponents, and to break off the relation in which their city was standing to Athens, and transfer its alliance to Thebes.  The Thebans, foreseeing that a general war was fast approaching, felt the less scruple in strengthening themselves by this acquisition, while it might be made with little cost and risk.  The gates were unguarded, as in time of peace, and one of them was secretly opened to the invaders, who advanced without interruption into the marketplace. Their Plataean friends wished to lead them at once to the houses of their adversaries, and to glut their hatred by a massacre.  But the Thebans were more anxious to secure the possession of the city, and feared to provoke resistance by an act of violence.  Having therefore halted in the marketplace, they made a proclamation inviting all who were willing that Plataea should become again, as it had been in former times, a member of the Boeotian body, to join them.

Excerpt from The Historians’ History of the World Volume 3 by Henry Smith Williams – 1907

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Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

The Peloponnesian War on Wikipedia

Concluding our John Wilkes Story

THE END – 1788-1797

WHEN the king was taken ill, and it seemed unlikely that he would recover his reason, Wilkes passed through a period of much anxiety.  For him the political situation was full of menace.  If a Regency were established it was probable that he would lose his seat in Parliament, and possibly be deposed from the office of Chamberlain.  From his point of view it was most important that the Prince of Wales should not be invested with the royal authority, for in such a contingency it was inevitable that Fox would come into power.  Although still claiming a nominal independence, Wilkes’s political fortunes were bound up with those of Pitt and the Tories, and it was certain that his old allies would be glad to punish him for his apostasy.1

During the three months that the king’s malady was at its height, Polly Wilkes was staying in Paris on a long visit to her old friend, Madame La Valliere, Duchesse de Chastillon, and all through the momentous winter she received the latest bulletins from her father, who was ever on the watch for news of the royal invalid.  Upon each favourable symptom he dwelt joyously, as though he were announcing the convalescence of a beloved relative, “thanking Heaven” when there was improvement, exulting greatly when the patient slept or was able to take food. “The stories of the King, Queen, and youngest Princess,” he

          1.  Wilkes joined with Fox in opposing the Shop Tax in [1787], Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. lvii., Part I, p144

wrote in a burst of feeling, “are so affecting that I have not courage to transcribe them.”  A very different Wilkes indeed this sentimentalist who paid “the voluntary tribute of tears” to the pathos of royal domesticity from the malicious author of “No. 45.” The jest of his revolutionary days that “he loved the King so well that he hoped never to see another” no longer had a double meaning.

Excerpt from Life of John Wilkes by Horace Bleackley – 1907

Chapter 21 –  The End

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War in the East – 4 Nov

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War in the East – 1854

Sebastopol – The Progress of the Siege – 4th November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Saturday – 4th November 1854

There was not much done to-day in the trenches.  The Russians fired about sixty guns per hour, and we replied as usual.  The French burrowed and turned up the earth most vigorously.  Their third parallel is within 250 metres of the place.  Our casualties were very few last night, and to-day we have not had one man of the siege train disabled.  Our ammunition has come to hand, but we have none to throw away.  A number of 10-inch round shot were landed yesterday, but, unfortunately, we have no 10-inch guns for them, except the Lancasters, for which they are scarcely suitable.  Two guns have been added to the batteries of the right attack.  They now contain twenty-three pieces of artillery.  Whenever I look at the enemy’s earthworks, however, I think of the Woolwich butt.  What good have we done by all this powder?  Very little.   A few guns judiciously placed when we first came here might have saved us incredible toil and labour, because they would have rendered it all but impossible for the Russians to cast up such intrenchments and works as they have done before the open and perfectly unprotected entrance to Sebastopol.  Here has been our great and our irremediable error.

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.

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Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

Building The Parthenon

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Building the Parthenon  – 447 BC

Building of the ParthenonThe Parthenon, built entirely of Pentelic marble, is not the most vast of the Greek temples, but its execution is more perfect and it is this which made it the masterpiece of Hellenic art.  A very small detail will show the finish of the work. It is with difficulty and by the assistance of eye and hand that one succeeds in discovering the joints of the tambours forming the colonnade which surrounds the building, so skilfully have these enormous masses been adjusted.  Even in her masons Athens possessed artists.

The interior of the Parthenon contained two halls: the smaller at the back, the opisthodomus, enclosed the public treasure; the larger, or cella, contained the statue of the goddess born without mother from the thought of the master of the gods, and who was as the soul of which the Parthenon was the material casing.  Figures in high relief, about twice life size, adorned the two pediments of the temple.  The frieze, which ran round the cella and opisthodomus at a height of thirteen metres (42 ft., 8 ins.), and to a length of more than one hundred and sixty metres (525 ft.), represented the procession of the great Panathenaea.

The work was finished in 435 B.C.  It is neither the centuries nor the barbarians that have mutilated it.  The Parthenon was still almost intact in 1687, when on the 27th of September Morosini bombarded the citadel.  One of the projectiles, setting fire to the barrels of powder stored in the temple, blew up a part of it; then the Venetian desired that the statues should be taken down from the pediment and he broke them.  Lord Elgin, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, tore down the bas-reliefs of the frieze and the metopes: this was another disaster.  The Ilissus or Cephisus, the Hercules or Theseus, the Charities, “vernal goddesses” called by some the Three Fates, by others Demeter, Core, and Iris are still, though somewhat mutilated, the most precious of our relics of antiquity.  In [1812] some other Englishmen carried off the frieze of the temple of Phigalia (Bassae), built by Ictinus.  All these fragments of masterpieces were sold for hard cash, and it is under the damp and gloomy sky of England that we are reduced to admiring the remains of that which was the imperial mantle which Pericles wrapped about Pallas Athene.  Thus to understand the incomparable magnificence of the Parthenon, we must render back to it in imagination what men have taken away, then place it on its lofty rock, one hundred and fifty six metres (512 ft.) high, whence a magic panorama is unrolled before the eyes, and surround it with the buildings of the Acropolis; the Erechtheum, which exhibited all the graces of art, beside the severe grandeur of the principal temple; the bronze statue of Athene Promachus, “she who fought in the front rank,”  to which the artist gave a colossal height, so that the sailors arriving from the high sea steered by the plume on her helmet and the gold tip of her lance, maris stella; and lower down, at the only place by which the rock was accessible, the wonderful vestibule of the Propylaea and the temple of Victory which formed one of its wings; but, above all, it must be seen wrapped in the blazing light of the eastern sky, compared to which our clearest day is but a twilight.

Excerpt from The Historians’ History of the World Volume 3 by Henry Smith Williams – 1907

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Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

Visit the Parthenon Sculpture Galleries at the British Museum

Ancient Greece and The Parthenon

War in the East

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War in the East – 1854

Sebastopol – The Progress of the Siege – 2nd November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Thursday – 2nd November 1854

At four this morning we were awakened by a cannonade, which shook the very earth on which we lay.  The Russians have received some information respecting the change and relief of the various covering and working parties, and the result is, that they try their utmost, by flights of cannon shot and shell, to cut up the men and wagons as they go to and fro between the camp and trenches.  We did not reply, and the French contented themselves with a few rounds.  We hear the “distressing intelligence” that 3000 workmen are building huts at Constantinople for the army to winter in, and that they are also fabricating sheds for horses. A “winter” here is a truly dismal prospect.  All that has been written about the beauty of this district and of its fertility is utter rubbish.  There are magnificent mountain ranges over Balaklava, but the country between that town and Sebastopol is a waste, covered with thistles and stones, and intersected by rocky ravines, once full of stumpy brushwood, now full of stumps only.

The weather has been so severe that, for nearly two days, the French could not communicate with their ships.  What would it be with us, who are fed from hand to mouth from Balaklava, if it were taken from us?  The “Emeu,”  which came in yesterday, landed 700 French infantry, of the 3rd Regiment of Foot, to-day, from Constantinople.  There is a great demand for winter clothing just now.  The sales of the deceased officers’ effects are scenes of warm competition for old rugs, greatcoats, cloaks, and horse clothing. A tattered rug fetches 45s. or 50s., a pot of meat 15s., an india-rubber tub 5l., a sponge ll. 5s., a half-worn-out old currycomb and brush may be seen handed over, after a warm contest, for 20s.  Officers perhaps do not know what to do with their money.

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.

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Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil