At half-past six a.m. on a beautiful morning on the 17th of October, the English and French batteries suddenly opened, completely taking the enemy by surprise; but though the guns from the top of the Malakoff tower were overthrown by the English guns, the Russians kept up a steady fire from the earthen batteries round, and from the Redan and Barrack batteries.
The French siege-guns were, however, of less use, and totally inadequate for the work; consequently at half-past ten a.m. they ceased firing, one of their magazines also having blown up, and killed or wounded 100 men. This undoubtedly was one of the main causes of the failure of the attempt. The fleets at the mouth of the harbour were warmly engaged, and suffered considerably.
The Russians lost Admiral Kermileff, killed, and Admiral Nachimoff, of Sinope celebrity, was wounded, with about 500 men killed and wounded.
The English lost 44 killed, and 266 wounded.
The French were greatly in want of guns, whereas the Russians had the means of increasing their garrison to any extent; and, by sinking their ships, they added 500 to the fortifications and obtained their crews to work them. Sickness and fighting had sadly reduced the English forces, who now numbered only 16,000 men, though the French had still 35,000 fit for service; yet they also soon suffered greatly from sickness and want of food and shelter.
To those who have not before them a plan of Sebastopol, a slight description of the place and the surrounding country will be necessary. It is situated on the south side of an inlet of the sea, with another smaller inlet running up on the east side called Dockyard Creek, and one on the west, some little distance from the intrenchments, called Quarantine Bay. Thus it has water on three sides. Ships of war were stationed in each of the smaller inlets, with their guns bearing on the ravines leading down to them. On the north side of the harbour, at the mouth, was Fort Constantine, with several batteries, and farther inland the Star Fort, while across the harbour's mouth was a line of powerful ships of war.
Only one side, therefore, remained open to attack. At the commencement of the siege, on the east was a round stone tower, built on commanding ground, and mounting four guns, called the Malakoff, and on the west a crenelated wall terminated by another tower overlooking the Quarantine Harbour; and between them, at one or two intermediate points, there were a few earthworks not completed, and apparently not armed.
Now these defences do not appear to be very formidable, and it is probable that, had the allies left their sick and wounded to the tender mercies of the Cossacks, and pushed on at once after the battle of the Alma, they might have entered the city; but they would have entered a trap in which they would have met certain destruction. The Russian fleet commanding the town would have thundered down on them, and they in their turn would have been subjected to an immediate attack from the powerful Russian forces hastening towards the place. It was therefore decided by the allied chiefs to wait till their siege-trains were landed, and then to lay regular siege to the place.
The river Chernaya ran into the head of the harbour from the east, passing under the heights of Inkerman. A range of hills and high ground extended from its mouth to the town and small harbour of Balaclava, with a broad valley intervening, in which the British cavalry was encamped, with a line of Turkish redoubts in their front, and the village of Kadikoi on their right. On the northern end of this range of heights above Inkerman, the Guards with the 2nd division were posted; while the French, under General Bosquet, were encamped extending along the whole line of heights, till they were terminated by the valley where the cavalry camp was pitched. The other three English divisions faced Sebastopol itself. Balaclava harbour is surrounded by heights, on which some powerful batteries were placed, and only one mountain road led up to them near the sea. Some way below them was the village of Kamara. The weakest points of the position were at the two ends of the long range of heights at Inkerman and Balaclava, and on both these the Russians made their fiercest attacks.
In the valley the only infantry regiment was the gallant 93rd Highlanders, posted in front of the village of Kadikoi.
BATTLE OF BALACLAVA—25TH OCTOBER.
The enemy had for some days before the 25th of October been observed hovering in the neighbourhood of Balaclava; and on the morning of that day, reinforcements of 20,000 infantry, 40 guns, and a strong force of cavalry arrived, under General Liprandi. The heights above Balaclava were now garrisoned by the marines landed from the fleet; and they, with the 93rd and a few detachments from other regiments, were under the immediate command of Sir Colin Campbell. Early in the morning the Russians, in great force, attacked the Turkish batteries, which they succeeded in capturing,—the English gunner in each, with noble self-devotion, spiking the guns before he attempted to escape. One large body of the enemy now attacked the 93rd, under Lieutenant-Colonel Ainslie, but were bravely repelled. Another, and the most powerful, turned towards the cavalry. As they did so, Lord Lucan ordered General Scarlett to charge, although the ground was far from favourable for the operation. It was the moment every trooper ardently longed for. Nothing could stop their impetuosity; but all descriptions would be tame after that of Mr Russell, for never has there been sketched a more vivid picture. "As lightning flashes through the cloud, the Greys and Enniskilleners passed through the dark masses of the Russians. The shock was but for a moment. There was a clash of steel, and a light play of sword-blades in the air, and then the Greys and the redcoats disappeared in the midst of the shaken and quivering columns. In another moment we saw them emerging with diminished numbers, and in broken order, charging against the second line. It was a terrible moment. 'God help them, they are lost!' was the exclamation of more than one man, and the thought of many. With unabated fire the noble hearts dashed at their enemy. It was a fight of heroes. The first lines of Russians, which had been utterly smashed by our charge, and had fled at our flank, and towards the centre, were coming back to swallow up our handful of men. By sheer steel and sheer courage Enniskilleners and Scots were winning their desperate way right through the enemy's squadron, and already grey horses and redcoats had appeared right at the rear of the second mass, when, with irresistible force, like one bolt from a bow, the 4th Dragoon Guards, riding straight at the right flank of the Russians, and the 5th Dragoon Guards, following close upon the Enniskilleners, rushed at the remnant of the first line of the enemy, went through it as though it were made of pasteboard, and put them to utter rout. The Russian horse, in less than five minutes after it met our dragoons, was flying with all its speed before a force certainly not half its strength. A cheer burst from every lip. In their enthusiasm, officers and men took off their caps, and shouted with delight, and then, keeping up the scenic character of their position, they clapped their hands again and again. Lord Raglan at once despatched Lieutenant Curzon, his aide-de-camp, to convey his congratulations to Brigadier-General Scarlett, and to say, 'Well done!'"
We may suppose the heights overlooking the plain or valley crowded with eager spectators—the enemy below—the Russian hosts beyond.
This was not that desperate charge known as the "Balaclava Charge," which took place soon afterwards.
THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.
That the reader may understand the circumstances which led to that terrible charge, a description of the ground must be given.
From the lofty plateau of the Chersonese, on which the British army was posted, a long ridge of elevated ground extends to the eastward, on the top of which runs the Woronzoff road. Along this ridge was a line of forts armed with carriage guns, which had just before been captured by the Russians from the Turks who had garrisoned them. To the south was the broad valley, with the heights of Balaclava on the farther side, in which the charge of the heavy cavalry, under General Scarlett, took place. On the north side of the ridge was a narrower valley, with the Fedhoukine hills to the north.
It was towards the latter part of that memorable day, the 25th of October, that the British cavalry were drawn up under Lord Lucan at the western end of this narrow valley directly under the steep heights of the Chersonese. On the summit, at the very edge of the heights, Lord Raglan with General Airey and other officers had taken their post, so as to overlook the Woronzoff ridge and the Fedhoukine hills with the whole of the intermediate valley. The eastern end of the valley was occupied by some powerful batteries of Russian guns, supported by large bodies of cavalry and several regiments of infantry, while the heights on both sides were crowned by Russian artillery and infantry. Lord Raglan, perceiving that it was the intention of the Russians to carry off the guns they had captured from the Turks, ordered up General Cathcart's brigade to prevent them from effecting their object. Some delay occurred before the brigade began its march; and the Commander-in-Chief, seeing that the Russians would succeed in carrying off the guns if not at once attacked, despatched Captain Nolan, an officer on General Airey's staff, with a written order to Lord Lucan to charge the Russians with the light brigade of cavalry commanded by Lord Cardigan, and to recapture the guns. Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan saw only the heavy guns in their front—those to which Lord Raglan referred being concealed from their view by the high ground. They, therefore, supposing that they were to attack the guns which they did see, naturally demurred about performing an act which might prove the destruction of the whole brigade, while the aide-de-camp, who thought only of the guns on their right, insisted in strong language that the order must be obeyed. Supposing that the order was understood, Captain Nolan then placed himself on the left of the light brigade, intending to charge with it. Lord Cardigan, still under a wrong impression, obedient to the order which he conceived had been sent him, placed himself at the head of his gallant light cavalry, and gave the order to advance. Instead of wheeling with their left shoulders forward towards the slope on their right front, as the Commander-in-Chief expected them to do, the cavalry continued straight down the valley, Lord Cardigan, on his tall charger, at a distance of some five horses' lengths in front of the line, leading them.
Scarcely had they gone a hundred paces when Captain Nolan, dashing out from the left of the line, galloped diagonally across the front, waving his sword and pointing eagerly towards the Russians on the right. There might yet have been time to remedy the fatal error into which the cavalry guards had fallen, but at that moment a shell burst close to the brave aide-de-camp. His sword fell from his hand, while his arm still remained extended; his horse wheeling, dashed back towards the advancing ranks, passing between the 13th Light Dragoons, and he fell to the ground a lifeless corpse.
Steadily on went those 600 men, almost to certain death, a perfect marvel of discipline and heroic courage. From the Woronzoff heights on the right, from the Fedhoukine hills on the left, came showering down upon them shot and shell and rifle bullets, thinning their advancing ranks. Each gap made by the deadly missiles was immediately filled up. On went the devoted band. More and more dropped. Riderless horses galloped back, some falling in their course, others uttering cries of agony from the wounds they had received. Here and there human forms could be distinguished lying in the quiet of death, others writhing on the ground, or endeavouring to drag themselves back up the valley. As the brigade, still as steady as if on parade, dashed forward, the guns in their front opened their fire, filling the air with dense masses of smoke. Right up to them they charged, Lord Cardigan still leading. Amid the guns they forced their way, cutting down the gunners, who either fled or endeavoured to find shelter under the carriages.
Lord Lucan, in the meantime, followed with the heavy cavalry to support the light brigade, but having lost many men, he judiciously retired, at once seeing that his brigade would be destroyed before they could even reach the guns, and they were now compelled to remain inactive while the action continued, as their brethren in the light cavalry had been in the morning. At this juncture a portion of the French cavalry—the famous regiment of D'Allonville—moved forward, sweeping round the western base of the Fedhoukine hills, up which they charged, rushing forward as fast as the uneven nature of the ground would allow them, on the Russian artillery and infantry posted there, and which had caused such fearful loss to the light cavalry as they passed. As the French approached, the artillery limbered up and galloped off to the eastward, while the infantry quickly retreated, although not until many a gallant Frenchman's saddle had been emptied. Some minutes of awful suspense had passed since the last of the red line of cavalry had been seen rushing into the smoke. Those posted on the height of Chersonese could discern, as the smoke cleared away, a dark mass in the distance, and the glittering of sword-blades, while the sounds of musketry and the confused murmur of voices which came up the valley indicated that the fight was still raging. The guns which had dealt death into their ranks had ceased to roar. They had fought their way through, attacked, and put to flight the Russian cavalry. Then breaking into several bodies, after enduring a heavy fire from the rifles of the infantry, had wheeled round and were making their way back towards the point from which a few minutes before they had set forth in brilliant array. One body had to encounter a whole regiment of lancers drawn up on their flank. Although the Russians thrust at them with their long spears, every blow was parried, and they passed by unscathed. At length, here and there a single horseman was seen moving slowly back, he or his charger sorely wounded. Now more and more appeared, several dropping as they returned, the whole centre of the valley, as far as the eye could reach, being strewed with bodies of men and horses. The number of those coming up the valley now increased. Among them appeared the tall form of their leader, he and his horse uninjured; then came larger parties, followed by single horses and men on foot, still exposed to the fire from the Woronzoff ridge. Presently a number of Cossacks came galloping up after the retreating cavalry, spearing some, and taking others prisoners; but the Russian guns on the causeway again opening fire, the Cossacks, to avoid being struck by their friends, were compelled to abandon the pursuit, many of those they had surrounded making their escape. Among the last who came in was Lord George Paget, who with Colonel Douglas led out the remnant of the 4th Dragoon Guards and a portion of the 11th Hussars. Of the Gallant Brigade, which half an hour before had numbered 600 horseman, not 200 now remained fit for duty. 113 officers and men had been killed, and 134 wounded, while upwards of 400 horses were killed or rendered unfit for service. Although the Russian batteries still kept up their fire, many of the troopers who had themselves escaped dashed back to search for their wounded officers or comrades, and several were thus saved from perishing on the battle-field.
The Russian loss was far greater. Sir George Cathcart, with the 4th division, coming up, the enemy fell back, and abandoned the attempt to carry off the guns. On the next day, the 26th of October, the Russians made an attack on the 2nd division, that part of the British force which was posted above the ruins of Inkerman.
About 8000 men, supported by artillery and skirmishers, advanced against this division; but so admirably did they sustain the attack, that when General Bosquet led up some French troops, they retreated, and were chased down the ridge towards the head of the bay. This attack has been called the Little Inkerman.
Battle of Inkerman 5th November. The allied commanders had decided on a general assault for the 7th of November; but the enemy, who had received immense reinforcements, anticipated their plans, and prepared for another terrific attempt to raise the siege, and to drive the allies into the sea.
The camp of the 2nd division was on the extreme northern end of the heights, above the ruins of Inkerman, with Careening Bay on the left, and the river Chernaya in front. The extreme right of the British position, and the left of the French, was the weakest point. Sir De Lacy Evans had pointed it out, and Sir John Burgoyne had especially urged the French General Biot to strengthen it, but he paid no attention to the advice; and at length the English, their strength already overtaxed, had erected a small work there, but no guns had yet been mounted. Of this the Russian generals were fully aware when they formed their plan of attack. Two corps of the Russian army were detailed for the grand attack. One, under General Pauloff, was to march from the north side, and crossing the marsh from the causeway, was then to wind up the heights in front of the 2nd division, and force the English right. Simultaneously with General Pauloff's movement, the other corps, under General Soimonoff, was to leave Sebastopol by a road near the Malakoff, which would have brought it up in front of the British light division. Instead of this, by mistaking the ground, he moved to his left, and found himself in front of the English 2nd division; so that, when General Pauloff's leading regiments arrived, the ground intended for their attack was already occupied, and the battle had begun. The Russians, confined therefore in a narrow space, encumbered each other during the day, and could not find sufficient room to deploy. It was dark and wet, and a thick fog lay on the ground as the day dawned on the 5th of November. It is said that Major Sir Thomas Troubridge, who commanded the outposts of the first brigade of the light division, after relieving the advanced sentries, went down before daybreak towards the Mamelon, and sweeping the ground with a field-glass, descried the enemy on the opposite side of the ravine. While he hastened to get the 2nd division under arms to meet the threatened attack, the advanced pickets were surprised, but behaved with the greatest gallantry, disputing every inch of ground with the Russian riflemen. One detachment, in falling back, held the Sandbag battery for a short time, but were driven out by the enemy. The 2nd division, under General Pennefather, was formed at once on the ridge in front of their own camp, the other English divisions getting under arms and hastening to the front. The three regiments of Guards proceeded to the right, and General Bullar's brigade to the left of the 2nd division. General Codrington's brigade took up the ground in front of its own camp, on the left side of Careening Bay ravine, on the spot where it had been intended Soimonoff's corps should have deployed. On the noble Guards fell a large share of the work of that sanguinary day. Pressing forward, they drove the enemy out of the Sandbag battery; and, though fiercely assailed on both flanks, they maintained that forward position during the day, except for a short time. Once they had to retire before overwhelming numbers and a terrific fire of artillery; reinforced by the 20th Regiment, they again rushed forward and retook the redoubt. In vast masses the Russians pressed on, their artillery of heavy calibre supporting their advance, and often throughout the day the fortune of the fight seemed doubtful; but never did troops behave with more heroic courage. Shrouded by a thick fog, each man, and each company, and each regiment, felt that they must in a great part depend upon themselves. Meantime, Sir George Cathcart, with part of the 68th Regiment, and a few other men, hearing that the enemy were attempting to force the extreme right, and that it was the point most open to danger, pushed rapidly forward, hoping to act on the flank of the Russian troops storming the Sandbag battery. He had not gone far when he discovered the enemy on his front, on his right flank below him, and on his left above him. At that moment he fell, shot through the head, while several of his staff were killed with him. General Torrens, who had come up, was also wounded; the men were withdrawn to the ground on the flank of the battery, which they, with other troops, continued to maintain. By this time several of the Russian generals, with the officers of their staffs, and colonels of regiments, were killed, and their troops thrown into confusion. While the battle thus furiously raged and numbers were falling, the Russians, 5000 strong, made a sortie against the left of the French batteries, and succeeded in spiking several guns; but the French troops, rallying, charged them so furiously that they were driven back; some of the French, carried on by their ardour, entering the batteries with them. The brave French General Lourmel was killed; but the Russians lost 1000 men. For several hours had the battle of Inkerman raged; the English, but 8000 strong, supporting the whole brunt of the fight. The termination seemed doubtful; fresh troops were brought against them, but yet not a man who stood on those bloody heights ever dreamed of yielding. Yet, overwhelmed at length, the Guards were pressed back. Not only were they assailed by the fire of the Russian field batteries, but by the guns of Sebastopol, and by those of the ships in Careening Bay. Suddenly the shrill tones of the French horns were heard above the rolling and rattling of the firing. The regiments of the first brigade, which arrived with that dashing intrepidity for which the French are distinguished, immediately pressed forward into the thick of the fight, and almost reached the Sandbag battery, the contest for which had been so often renewed. But even these fresh troops found difficulty in maintaining themselves, and were almost surrounded. A second brigade, however, quickly reinforced them, and several French batteries coming up on the right of the English ones, the enemy were at length completely driven from the ground, and had now no alternative but a difficult retreat down precipitous slopes. Heavy masses were observed retiring over the bridge of the Chernaya, and ascending the opposite heights, abandoning on the field of battle 5000 or 6000 dead and wounded.
"There is probably," says Colonel Adye, "no record of any battle in which such great numbers fought on so small a space. There are few which have been so stoutly contested, or in which the valour and perseverance of all the troops engaged have been throughout so conspicuous."
The conduct of the English infantry is immortal. Although enfeebled by previous fatigue and constant night watches, still, on the day of trial, for hours did 8000 men resolutely maintain themselves against successive columns of attack of vastly superior numbers; and at last, when almost overpowered, they found an ever ready and gallant ally at hand to save them in their hour of need.
This battle, too, brought out conspicuously the sterling courage and unmatched steadiness of the English artillery. Repeatedly were the Russian columns close to the muzzles of the guns, and were driven back by volleys of case. In some instances the batteries were actually run into, and the gunners bayoneted at their posts. Their carriages were repeatedly struck, and their loss was 96 men and 80 horses killed.
The casualties of the British army amounted to 2590. Of these, 43 officers and 416 men were killed, and 101 officers and 1332 men were wounded, while nearly 200 were missing. The Russians lost fully 15,000 men.
That of the 25,000 British infantry landed in the Crimea, only 8000 should have been forthcoming to take part in the battle, may seem surprising; but so it was. Three thousand had been killed, 5000 were sick, 3000 were in the trenches, and 6000 of the 3rd division were at Balaclava. Of those present, the Guards had 1300; 2nd division, 2500; light division, 2000; and 4th division, 2200.
And now let us do justice to the memory of as gallant a soldier as ever led the armies of Old England to victory, by looking at the difficulties by which Lord Raglan was surrounded.
Of his already diminished numbers, 2500 men were lying on the field of battle—eight of his generals had fallen—the hospitals were full— cholera was in his camp—no recruits were coming—winter had arrived— the men had no shelter—no transport to bring them food—no clothing, for the Prince, with 40,000 greatcoats, and stores of all sorts, had gone down. Never did an army with more heroic courage and endurance persevere to finally conquer, though its brave General sank under the load of anxiety pressed on him, and the unjust accusations brought against his fame.
The allies had now been nearly a year before Sebastopol. The batteries opened on the 5th of September, and continued firing till noon of the 8th, when the French signal was given for the advance. Onward they rushed, and the Malakoff was taken by surprise without loss, its defenders being at dinner. The tri-colour flying from the parapet was the signal for the British to advance. A column of the light division led, and that of the second followed. The men stormed the parapet, and penetrated into the salient angle. Here Major Welsford, 97th, who led the storming party, was killed, and Colonel Handcock was mortally wounded. A most sanguinary contest ensued, but it was found impossible to maintain the position. Colonel Windham hurried back, and brought up the right wing of the 23rd, when a most brilliant charge was made, but it was of no avail: 29 officers killed and 125 wounded, with 356 non-commissioned officers and men killed, 1762 wounded, showed the severe nature of the contest. Many gallant deeds were done, but the following men deserve especial notice, for bringing in wounded men from the advanced posts during daylight on the 8th:—Privates Thomas Johnson, Bedford, Chapman, and William Freeman, of the 62nd. A considerable number performed the same merciful but dangerous work during the night. It was intended to renew the attack on the following morning with the Highland brigade under Sir Colin Campbell; but explosions were heard during the night, and when a small party advanced, the Redan was found deserted, and it was discovered that, by means of admirable arrangements, the whole Russian army were retiring by a bridge of boats to the north side, while they in the meantime had sunk all the ships of war in the harbour.
Thus was Sebastopol won undoubtedly by the gallantry of the French, for the possession of the Malakoff at that time ensured the capture of the town; but Britons may well feel proud of the heroism displayed by their countrymen from first to last of that memorable siege, and it is an example of the stuff with which English redcoats are filled: officers were killed and fully 5000 men, while upwards of 15,000 died of disease.
In October, Kinburn was taken by General Spencer; and the supplies of the Russians being cut off, they were compelled to sue for peace.
While this most bloody war showed England's might, the undaunted bravery of her soldiers, and their admirable discipline and perseverance, it also showed wherein her weakness lay—that her commissariat was imperfect, and that much of her machinery had grown rusty from want of use. She has profited by the terrible lessons she has received; and though there is still room for improvement, the British soldier need no longer fear that sad state of things from which so many of his gallant comrades suffered in the Crimea.
GALLANT DEEDS OF THE CRIMEAN WAR.
Here I must pause to tell of some few of the many gallant deeds done during that long and terrible year of warfare. First, how at; the bloody fight of Inkerman, Captain T. Miller, R.A., defended his guns with a handful of gunners, though surrounded by Russians, and with his own hand killed six of the foe who were attempting to capture them. How Sergeant—Major Andrew Henry, R.A., also nobly defended his guns against overwhelming numbers of the enemy, and continued to do so till he fell with twelve bayonet wounds in his body. How at the desperate charge of the Guards to retake the Sandbag battery, Lieutenant-colonel the Honourable H.M. Percy, Grenadier Guards, in face of a hot fire, charged singly into the battery, followed by his men; and how afterwards, when he found himself, with men of various regiments who had charged too far, nearly surrounded by Russians, and without ammunition, from his knowledge of the ground he was enabled, though he was wounded, to extricate them and to take them, under a heavy fire, to a spot where they obtained a supply of ammunition, and could return to the combat; and how he engaged in single combat, and wounded a Russian soldier. How Sergeant Norman and Privates Palmer and Baily were the first to volunteer to follow Sir Charles Russell to attempt retaking the Sandbag battery. Onward dashed those gallant men; the Russians could not withstand the desperate onslaught, and fled before them.
I have described those two cavalry charges at Balaclava. Several noble acts of heroism resulted from them. First, I must tell how, when Lieutenant-Colonel Morris, 17th Lancers, lay desperately wounded on the ground, in an exposed situation, after the retreat of the Light Cavalry, Surgeon Mouat, 6th Dragoons, voluntarily galloped to his rescue, and, under a heavy fire from the enemy, dressed his wounds; and how Sergeant-Major Wooden, 17th, also came to the rescue of his fallen colonel, and with Mr Mouat bore him safely from the field. How, likewise, when Captain Webb, 17th Lancers, lay desperately and mortally wounded, Sergeant-major Berryman, 17th Lancers, found him, and refused to leave him, though urged to do so. How Quarter-master-sergeant Farrell and Sergeant Malone, 13th Light Dragoons, coming by, assisted to carry him out of the fire.
Worthy of note is the conduct of Private Parkes, 4th Light Dragoons. In that fearful charge Trumpet—Major Crawford's horse falling, he was dismounted, and lost his sword. Thus helpless, he was attacked by two Cossacks, when Parkes, whose horse was also killed, threw himself before his comrade, and drove off the enemy. Soon afterwards they were attacked by six Russians, whom Parkes kept at bay; and he retired slowly, fighting and defending Crawford, till his own sword was broken by a shot.
Sergeant Ramage, 2nd Dragoons, perceiving Private McPherson surrounded by seven Russians, galloped to his comrade's assistance, and saved his life by dispersing the enemy. On the same day, when the heavy brigade was rallying, and the enemy retiring, finding that his horse would not leave the ranks, he dismounted and brought in a Russian prisoner. He also on the same day saved the life of Private Gardner, whose leg was fractured by a round shot, by carrying him to the rear from under a heavy cross fire, and from a spot immediately afterwards occupied by Russians.
Officers and men vied with each other in the performance of gallant deeds. Major Howard Elphinstone, of the Royal Engineers, exhibited his fearless nature by volunteering, on the night of the 18th June, after the unsuccessful attack on the Redan, to command a party of volunteers, who proceeded to search for and bring back the scaling-ladders left behind after the repulse; a task he succeeded in performing. He also conducted a persevering search close to the enemy for wounded men, twenty of whom he rescued and brought back to the trenches.
Lieutenant Gerald Graham, on the same day, several times sallied out of the trenches, in spite of the enemy's fire, and brought in wounded men and officers.
On that day, also, when assaulting the Redan, Colour-sergeant Peter Leitch first approached it with ladders, and then tore down gabions from the parapet, and placed and filled them so as to enable those following to cross over. This dangerous occupation he continued till disabled by wounds.
Sapper John Perie was on that day conspicuous for his valour in leading the seamen with ladders to storm the Redan. He also rescued a wounded man from the open, though he had himself just been wounded by a bullet in his side.
Private John Connors, 3rd Foot, distinguished himself at the assault of the Redan, on the 8th September, in personal conflict with the enemy. Seeing an officer of the 30th Regiment surrounded by Russians, he rushed forward to his rescue, shot one and bayoneted another. He was himself surrounded, when he spiritedly cut his way out from among them.
Few surpassed Lieutenant William Hope, 7th Fusiliers, in gallantry. After the troops had retreated, on the 18th June, Lieutenant Hope, hearing from Sergeant Bacon that Lieutenant and Adjutant Hobson was lying outside the trenches, went out to look for him, accompanied by Private Hughes, and found him lying in an old agricultural ditch running towards the left flank of the Redan. He then returned, and got some more men to bring him in. Finding, however, that he could not be removed without a stretcher, he ran back across the open to Egerton's pit, where he procured one; and in spite of a very heavy fire from the Russian batteries, he carried it to where Lieutenant Hobson was lying, and brought in his brother officer in safety. He also, on the 8th of September, when his men were drawn out of the fifth parallel, endeavoured, with Assistant-Surgeon Hale, to rally them, and remained to aid Dr Hale, who was dressing the wounds of Captain Jones, 7th Foot, who lay dangerously wounded. Dr Hale's bravery was conspicuous; for after the regiment had retired into the trenches, he cleared the most advanced sap of the wounded, and aided by Sergeant Fisher, 7th Royal Fusiliers, under a very heavy fire, carried several wounded men from the open into the sap.
Private Sims, 34th Regiment, showed his bravery and humanity on the 18th June, when the troops had retired from the assault on the Redan, by going into the open ground outside the trenches, under a heavy fire, in broad daylight, and bringing in wounded soldiers.
Major Elton, 55th Regiment, exhibited the greatest courage on several occasions. On the night of the 4th August he commanded a working party in the advanced trenches in front of the Quarries; and when, in consequence of the dreadful fire to which they were exposed, some hesitation was shown, he went into the open with pick and shovel, and by thus setting an example to his men, encouraged them to persevere. In March, he volunteered with a small body of men to drive off a body of Russians who were destroying one of the British new detached works, and not only succeeded in so doing, but took one of the enemy prisoner.
Colour—Sergeant G. Gardiner, 57th Regiment, showed great coolness and gallantry on the occasion of the sortie of the enemy, 22nd March, when he was acting as orderly sergeant to the field officers of the trenches, in having rallied the covering parties which had been driven in by the Russians, and thus regaining and keeping possession of the trenches. Still more conspicuous was his conduct on the 18th June when attacking the Redan. He remained and encouraged others to stay in the holes made by the explosion of shells, from whence, by making parapets of the dead bodies of their comrades, they kept up a continuous fire until their ammunition was exhausted, thus clearing the enemy from the parapet of the Redan. This was done under a fire in which nearly half the officers and a third of the rank and file of the party of the regiment were placed hors de combat.
Major Lumley, 97th Regiment, especially distinguished himself at the assault on the Redan, 8th September. He was among the first inside the works, when he was immediately engaged with three Russian gunners, reloading a field-piece, who attacked him. He shot two of them with his revolver, when he was knocked down by a stone which for the moment stunned him. On his recovery he drew his sword, and was in the act of cheering on his men, when he received a ball in his mouth, which wounded him most severely.
Sergeant Coleman, also of the 97th Regiment, exhibited coolness and bravery unsurpassed, when, on the night of 30th August, the enemy attacked a new sap and drove in the working party. He, however, remained in the open, completely exposed to the enemy's rifle-pits, until all around him had been killed or wounded; then, taking on his shoulder one of his officers, mortally wounded, he retreated with him to the rear.
Of the many anecdotes of heroism exhibited during the war, none is more worthy of note than one told of Ensign Dunham Massy, of the 19th Regiment, then one of the youngest officers in the army. At the storming of the Redan he led the grenadier company, and was about the first of the corps to jump into the ditch, waving his sword, and calling on his men to follow. They nobly stood by him, till, left for two hours without support, and seized by a fear of being blown up, they retired. He, borne along, endeavoured to disengage himself from the crowd, and there he stood, almost alone, facing round frequently to the batteries, with head erect, and with a calm, proud, disdainful eye. Hundreds of shots were aimed at him, and at last, having succeeded in rallying some men, and leading them on up the side of the ditch, he was struck by a shot and his thigh broken.
Being the last, he was left there with many other wounded. Hours passed by—who can tell the agony suffered by that mass of wounded men! Many were groaning, and some loudly crying out. A voice called faintly at first, and at length more loudly, "Are you Queen Victoria's soldiers?" Some voices answered, "I am! I am!"
"Then," said the gallant youth, "let us not shame ourselves; let us show these Russians that we can bear pain as well as fight like men." There was a silence as of death; and several times, when the poor fellows again gave way to their feelings, he appealed to them in a similar strain, and all was silent.
The unquailing spirit of the young hero ruled all around him. As evening came on, the Russians crept out of the Redan, and plundered some of the wounded—though, in some cases, they exhibited kind feelings, and even gave water. Men with bayonets fixed strode over Massy's body. Sometimes he feigned death. A man took away his haversack. A Russian officer endeavoured to disengage his sword, which he still grasped; nor would he yield it. The Russian, smiling compassionately, at length left him. When the works were blown up in the night by the retreating Russians, his left leg was fearfully crushed by a falling stone. He was found in the morning by some Highlanders, and brought to the camp more dead than alive from loss of blood. Great was the joy of all at seeing him, as it was supposed that he was killed. In spite of his dangerous wounds, he ultimately recovered.
Privates and non-commissioned officers vied with each other in acts of gallantry and dash, as well as of coolness and calm heroism.
Privates Robert Humpston and Joseph Bradshaw, Rifle Brigade, 2nd battalion, especially exhibited their cool bravery. A Russian rifle-pit situated among the rocks overhanging the Woronzoff road, between the third parallel right attack and the Quarries, was occupied every night by the Russians, much impeding a new battery being erected by the British. These two men, seeing the importance of dislodging the enemy, at daybreak of the 22nd April started off of their own accord, made so furious an attack on the astonished Russians that they killed or put to flight all the occupants of the rifle-pit, and held it till, support coming, it was completely destroyed.
Private B. McGregor, also of the same corps, finding that there were two Russians in a rifle-pit who considerably annoyed the troops by their fire, he, being in the advanced trenches, crossed the open space under fire, and taking cover under a rock, dislodged them, and took possession of the pit, whence he fired on the enemy.
Several of the officers, too, of the Rifle Brigade exhibited conspicuous gallantry. At the battle of Inkerman, Brevet-Major the Honourable Henry H. Clifford led a dashing charge of his men against the enemy, of whom he killed one and wounded another; and one of his men having fallen near him, he defended him against the Russians, who were trying to kill him, and carried him off in safety.
Lieutenant Claude T. Bouchier and Lieutenant William J. Cuninghame highly distinguished themselves at the capture of the rifle-pits, on the 20th of November 1854.
There were numerous instances in which, at the risk of their own lives, both officers and men saved the lives of their comrades who lay wounded in exposed positions. Private John Alexander, 19th Regiment, after the attack on the Redan on the 18th of June, knowing that many wounded men lay helpless on the ground, in spite of the storm of round shot, bullets, and shells still raging, went out from the trenches, and, with calm intrepidity, brought in, one after the other, several wounded men. He also, being one of a working party, on the 6th of September 1855, in the most advanced trench, hearing that Captain Buckley, of the Scots Fusilier Guards, was lying dangerously wounded, went out under a very heavy fire, and brought him safely in. Sergeant Moynihan, of the same regiment, also rescued a wounded officer near the Redan, under a very heavy fire; and on the assault of the Redan, 8th of September 1855, actually encountered, and with his own hand was seen to have killed, five Russians in succession. Other acts of gallantry are recorded of this brave soldier, who, as a reward for them, and for a long-continued career of excellent conduct, has been since deservedly promoted to a lieutenancy, and subsequently obtained his company in the 8th Foot.
Sergeant William McWheeney, 44th Regiment, showed probably as much bravery in saving the lives of his comrades, and in other ways, as any man in the army. At the commencement of the siege he volunteered as a sharpshooter, and was placed in charge of a party of his regiment, who acted as sharpshooters. In the action on the Woronzoff road, the Russians came down in such overwhelming numbers that the sharpshooters were repulsed from the Quarries in which they had taken post. On that occasion Private John Kean, one of his party, was dangerously wounded, and would have been killed, had he not, running forward under a heavy fire, lifted the man on his back, and borne him off to a place of safety. On the 5th of December 1854 he performed a similar act. Corporal Courtenay, also a sharpshooter, was, when in the advance, severely wounded in the head. Sergeant McWheeney then lifted him up, and, under a heavy fire, carried him to some distance. Unable to bear him farther, he placed him on the ground; but, refusing to leave him, threw up with his bayonet a slight cover of earth, protected by which the two remained till dark, when he brought off his wounded companion. He also volunteered for the advanced guard of Major-General Eyre's brigade, in the Cemetery, on the 18th of June 1855. During the whole war he was never absent from duty.
Private McDermot, also, at the battle of Inkerman, seeing Colonel Haly lying wounded on the ground, surrounded by Russians about to despatch him, rushed to his rescue, killed the man who had cut down the colonel, and brought him off.
In like way, at the same time, Private Beach, seeing Lieutenant-Colonel Carpenter lying on the ground, several Russians being about to plunder and probably kill him, dashed forward, killed two of them, and protected the colonel against his assailants, till some men of the 41st Regiment coming up put them to flight.
Sergeant George Walters, 49th Regiment, also highly distinguished himself at Inkerman, by springing forward to save Brigadier-General Adams, who was surrounded by Russians, one of whom he bayoneted, and dispersed the rest.
Captain Thomas Esmonde especially exhibited his courage and humanity in preserving the lives of others. On the 18th of June he was engaged in the desperate and bloody assault on the Redan. Unwounded himself, he repeatedly returned, under a terrific fire of shell and grape, to assist in rescuing wounded men from the exposed positions where they lay. Two days after this, he was in command of a covering party to a working party in an advanced position. A fire-ball, thrown by the enemy, lodged close to them. With admirable presence of mind, he sprang forward and extinguished it before it had blazed up sufficiently to betray the position of the working party under his protection. Scarcely had the ball been extinguished, than a murderous fire of shell and grape was opened on the spot.
Lance-Sergeant Philip Smith, on the 18th June, after the column had retired from the assault, repeatedly returned under a heavy fire, and brought in his wounded comrades.
Several acts of coolness, similar to that recorded of Captain Esmonde, were performed.
On the 2nd September, Sergeant Alfred Ablet, of the Grenadier Guards, seeing a burning shell fall in the centre of a number of ammunition cases and powder, instantly seized it, and threw it outside the trench. It burst as it touched the ground. Had it exploded before, the loss of life would have been terrific.
Private George Strong, also, when on duty in the trenches, threw a live shell from the place where it had fallen to a distance.
Corporal John Ross, of the Royal Engineers, exhibited his calmness and judgment, as well as bravery, on several occasions. On the 23rd of August 1855 he was in charge of the advance from the fifth parallel right attack on the Redan, when he placed and filled twenty-five gabions under a very heavy fire, and in spite of light-balls thrown towards him. He was also one of those who, in the most intrepid and devoted way, on the night of the memorable 8th September, crept to the Redan and reported its evacuation, on which it was immediately occupied by the British.
Corporal William Lendrim, of the same corps, also, on the 11th April, in the most intrepid manner, got on the top of a magazine, on which some sandbags were burning, knowing that at any moment it might blow up. He succeeded in extinguishing the fire. On the 14th of February, when the whole of the gabions of Number 9 battery left attack were capsized, he superintended 150 French chasseurs in replacing them, under a heavy fire from the Russian guns. He likewise was one of four volunteers who destroyed the farthest rifle-pits on the 20th April.
Sergeant Daniel Cambridge, Royal Artillery, was among those who gallantly risked his own life to save those of his fellow-soldiers. He had volunteered for the spiking party at the assault on the Redan, on the 8th of September, and while thus engaged he was severely wounded; still he refused to go to the rear. Later in the day, while in the advanced trench, seeing a wounded man outside, in front, he sprang forward under a heavy fire to bring him in. He was in the open, shot and shell and bullets flying round him. He reached the wounded man, and bore him along. He was seen to stagger, but still he would not leave his helpless burden, but, persevering, brought him into the trench. It was then discovered that he had himself been severely wounded a second time.
The gallantry of Sergeant George Symons was always conspicuous, but especially on the 6th of June 1855, when he volunteered to unmask the embrasures of a five-gun battery, in the advanced right attack. No sooner was the first embrasure unmasked, than the enemy commenced a terrific fire on him; but, undaunted, he continued the work. As each fresh embrasure was unmasked, the enemy's fire was increased. At length only one remained, when, amid a perfect storm of missiles, he courageously mounted the parapet, and uncovered the last, by throwing down the sandbags. Scarcely was his task completed when a shell burst, and he fell, severely wounded.
Driver Thomas Arthur, of the same corps, had been placed in charge of a magazine, in one of the left advanced batteries of the right attack, on the 7th of June, when the Quarries were taken. Hearing that the 7th Fusiliers were in want of ammunition, he, of his own accord, carried several barrels of infantry ammunition to supply them, across the open, exposed to the enemy's fire. He also volunteered and formed one of the spiking party of artillery at the assault on the Redan.
Among the numberless acts of bravery performed at the battle of Inkerman, few are more worthy of record than one performed by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles Russell, Bart., of the Grenadier Guards. The Sandbag battery, the scene of so many bloody encounters during that eventful day, had been at length entered by a strong party of Russians, its previous defenders having been killed or driven out by overwhelming numbers. Sir Charles Russell, seeing what had occurred, offered to dislodge the enemy, if any men would accompany him. The undertaking seemed desperate; but notwithstanding this, Sergeant Norman and Privates Anthony Palmer and Bailey immediately volunteered; others afterwards followed their example. On they went, following the gallant Sir Charles at furious speed, and into the battery they rushed. Bailey was killed, but Palmer escaped, and was the means of saving his brave leader's life. The Russians were driven out, and the battery was held by the British.
Sir Charles Russell received the Victoria Cross. We now give an extract from a letter he wrote to his mother after the battle: "After the brave band had been some time in the battery, our ammunition began to fail us, and the men, armed with stones, flung them into the masses of Russians, who caught the idea, and the air was thick with huge stones flying in all directions; but we were too much for them, and once more a melee of Grenadiers, Coldstreams, and Fusiliers held the battery their own, and from it, on the solid masses of the Russians, still poured as good a fire as our ammunition would permit. There were repeated cries of 'Charge!' and some man near me said, 'If any officer will lead us, we will charge'; and as I was the only one just there, I could not refuse such an appeal, so I jumped into the embrasure, and waving my revolver, said, 'Come on, my lads; who will follow me?' I then rushed on, fired my revolver at a fellow close to me, but it missed fire. I pulled again, and think I killed him. Just then a man touched me on the shoulder, and said, 'You was near done for.' I said, 'Oh no, he was some way from me.' He answered, 'His bayonet was all but into you when I clouted him over the head.' And sure enough, a fellow had got behind me and nearly settled me. I must add, that the grenadier who accompanied me was publicly made a corporal on parade next morning. His name is Palmer. I did not know it, but I said, 'What's your name? Well, if I live through this, you shall not be forgotten.'"
Corporal Shields, 23rd Regiment Royal Welsh Fusiliers, among many brave men especially distinguished himself, and he was among the earliest recipients of the order of valour. He received also the Cross of the Legion of Honour from the Emperor of the French for the following brave action:—
On the 8th of September 1855 he was among the foremost at the desperate attack on the Redan, and one of the very few who reached the ditch at the re-entering angle. Finding that Lieutenant Dyneley, adjutant of the regiment, for whom he had a great regard, had not returned, he immediately set forward by himself to search for him, exposed to the hot fire of the enemy, who, although they must have known that he was on an errand of mercy, continually aimed at him. After searching for some time, he found his young officer on the ground, desperately wounded, behind a rock, which somewhat sheltered him from the enemy's fire. Stanching the flow of blood as well as he could, he endeavoured to lift him on his back to carry him to the trenches, but the pain of being lifted in that way was more than Mr Dyneley could bear. Reluctantly he was compelled to relinquish the attempt; and hurrying back to the trenches, he entreated one of the medical officers to render the young officer assistance. His appeal was not made in vain. Without hesitation, the brave Assistant—Surgeon Sylvester, always ready at the call of humanity, volunteered to accompany him. Together they passed across the hailstorm of bullets the Russians were incessantly sending from their walls, when the surgeon knelt down and dressed the wounds of his brother officer, and did all that he could to alleviate his sufferings. Unwillingly they quitted him that they might obtain more succour; and in the evening Captain Drew and other volunteers accompanied Corporal Shields, who then for the third time braved the bullets of the enemy, and together they brought in the young lieutenant. Unhappily, his wound was mortal, and he died that night. While praising the brave corporal, we must not forget the heroism of the young surgeon. For this action Corporal Shields was rewarded with a commission.
Major Gerald Littlehales Goodlake, Coldstream Guards, gained the Victoria Cross for his gallantry on several occasions. A number of the best marksmen in each regiment had been selected to act as sharpshooters. With a party of these he set forth, on a night in November 1854, towards a fort at the bottom of the Windmill ravine, where a picket of the enemy were stationed. Approaching with all the caution of Indian warriors along a difficult and dangerous path, they suddenly sprang on the astonished Russians, who took to flight, leaving their rifles and knapsacks behind. A short time before this, on the 28th of October, he was posted in this ravine, which, with the party of his men, not exceeding thirty, he held against a powerful sortie of the Russians, made against the 2nd division of the British army.
In truth, young officers brought up in luxury and ease vied with soldiers long accustomed to warfare and the roughest work in deeds of daring and hardihood.
These are only some few of the many acts of heroism, coolness, and gallantry performed during the war, and for which the Victoria Cross has been awarded. Undoubtedly many more were performed, which have not been noted, in consequence of the death of the actors or witnesses, and some gallant men, though equally deserving, have not brought forward their claims; but even from the few examples here given, it is shown of what materials the British soldier is formed.
THE CAMPAIGN IN PERSIA—1856-1857.
In 1856 the Persians, thinking that they would be supported by Russia, took possession of Herat, in direct infraction of their treaty with England. To convince them of their mistake, war was declared; and an expedition, under Major-general Stalker, was despatched to the Persian Gulf, which, on the 3rd of December, took possession of the island of Karrack. On the 7th, the troops landed at Ras Halala, about fifteen miles below Bushire. Their first exploit was an attack on the old Dutch fort of Reshire, on the 9th of December. The enemy made a stout resistance. Captain Augustus Wood, of the 20th Bengal Native Infantry, led the grenadier company, which formed the head of the assaulting column. He was the first to mount the parapet of the fort, when a considerable number of the enemy, suddenly springing out on him from a trench cut in the parapet itself, attacked him furiously, firing a volley at his men when only a yard or two distant. Although seven bullets struck him, he at once rushed at his assailants, and passing his sword through the leader's body, being followed closely by his grenadiers with their bayonets at the charge, quickly drove all before him, and established himself in the place. Brigadier Stopford was unfortunately killed in the attack, and other officers were wounded. Captain Wood was so severely wounded that he was compelled to leave the force for a time; but he returned to it even before his wounds were healed. He gained the Victoria Cross for his gallantry on that occasion.
The next morning the British force marched on Bushire, a town of some strength, and walled round; but some of the garrison ran away, and were drowned as they were escaping, and the remainder, 2000 strong, laid down their arms.
Meantime, a much larger force was organised at Bombay to unite with that of Brigadier—General Stalker, with Lieutenant-General Sir James Outram as Commander-in-chief. General Stalker's division was considerably increased, and was called the first division, while a second division embarked under the command of Brigadier—General Havelock. Brigadier Hamilton, 78th Highlanders, commanded one of his brigades, and Brigadier Hale the other.
These forces arrived at Bushire at the end of January. On the 3rd of February, the army broke ground from the camp of Bushire, and marched on the village of Brasjoon, outside of which the enemy were said to be intrenched, and to have eighteen guns. Such was the case. A wall, with tower bastions, enclosed the whole, and detached square towers within overlooked all; while a ditch, fifteen feet deep, ran outside, and beyond it were gardens, with high thorn and cactus fences: altogether it was a very formidable position. Shortly before one o'clock on the 5th, the Persian videttes and reconnoitring parties were made out; but they very rapidly retreated. A smart brush, however, took place between the rearguard and a few of the British cavalry, in which Cornet Speers, of the 3rd Light Cavalry, and two or three troopers were wounded. By two o'clock the British were in possession of the intrenched camp, in which were large quantities of grain, camp equipage, and ammunition. The governor of the place also fell into their hands.
All the stores, guns, and ammunition which could not be carried off having been destroyed, the army commenced its return march to Bushire on the 7th, not expecting to encounter an enemy.
After moving a few hundred yards clear of the intrenchment, the troops were halted to witness the explosion of a large quantity of gunpowder, stated to be 36,000 pounds. A very magnificent spectacle it occasioned. The evening was darker than usual, and the rush of one mighty column into the heavens, with cloud over cloud of bright silvery-looking smoke, mingled with shells bursting like sky-rockets in the midst, attended by a report that made the hills echo again, and a concussion which shook the ground even where the advanced guard stood, formed altogether an event not likely to be forgotten by any who beheld it. The pile of ammunition was fired by Lieutenant Gibbard, of the Horse Artillery, and Lieutenant Hassard, the adjutant of the 2nd European Light Infantry, with rifles and shell-bullets of Colonel Jacob's invention, from a distance of about 150 yards. Both were thrown down by the shock of the concussion. From Outram and Havelock's Persian Campaign, by Captain Hunt, from which the account of the battle of Khoosh-Aub is chiefly taken.
The march was then renewed, the general belief being that the enemy were never likely to approach them. At midnight, however, a sharp rattle of musketry was heard, and it was supposed that the rearguard were attacked. Colonel Honnor so ably handled the protecting troops, that he kept the enemy at bay for some time. In about half an hour, however, after the first shots had been fired, the Persian cavalry advanced in great numbers, and the entire force was enveloped in a skirmishing fire. Horsemen galloped round on all sides, yelling and screaming like fiends, and with trumpets and bugles making all the noise in their power. One of their buglers got close to the front of a skirmishing company of the Highlanders, and sounded first the "Cease fire," and afterwards "Incline to the left," escaping in the dark. Several English officers having but a few years before been employed in organising the Persian troops, accounted for their knowledge of the English bugle-calls, now artfully used to create confusion. The silence and steadiness of the men were most admirable, and the manoeuvring of regiments that followed, in taking up position for the remaining hour of darkness, was as steady as on an ordinary parade; and this during a midnight attack, with an enemy's fire flashing in every direction, and cavalry surrounding, ready to take advantage of the slightest momentary confusion. At length, having been roughly handled by the 78th, the cavalry, and horse artillery, the Persian horsemen kept at a respectful distance.
The army was then thrown into an oblong form—a brigade protecting each flank, and a demi-brigade the front and rear; field-battery guns at intervals, and a thick line of skirmishers connecting and covering all; the horse artillery and cavalry on the flank of the face fronting the original line of march, the front and flanks of the oblong facing outwards; the baggage and followers being in the centre. When thus formed, the troops lay down, waiting for daylight in perfect silence, and showing no fire or light of any kind. Sir James Outram met with a severe accident while carrying out these admirable arrangements; but they were well concluded by Colonel Lugard, the chief of his staff.
Scarcely was the formation completed, than the enemy brought five heavy guns to bear; and iron shot plunging into the 64th Regiment, knocked down six men, and killed one of them. Another shot, first taking off a foot from Lieutenant Greentree, severely wounded Captain Mockler of that regiment. Several of the camp followers and baggage animals in the centre were killed but the orderly conduct of the troops saved them from many casualties, and as no musketry fire was allowed after the guns opened, the enemy had no opportunity of improving his original range.
As the morning approached, the enemy's fire slackened, and it was believed that he had retreated; but as the mist cleared off, the Persians were seen drawn up in line, their right resting on the walled village of Khoosh-Aub and a date-grove, their left on a hamlet with a round fortalice tower. Two rising mounds were in front of their centre, which served as redoubts, and where they had their guns; and they had some deep nullahs on their right front and flank thickly lined with skirmishers. Their cavalry, in considerable bodies, were on both flanks. Soojah-ul-Moolk, the best officer in the Persian army, was at their head. The British army was drawn up in two general lines. The front line consisted of the 78th Highlanders, and a party of sappers on the right; then the 26th Regiment of Native Infantry, the 2nd European Light Infantry, and the 4th Rifle Regiment on the left of all.
The second line had Her Majesty's 64th Regiment on its right, then the 20th Regiment Native Infantry, and the Beloochee battalion on its left. The light companies of battalions faced the enemy's skirmishers in the nullahs, and covered both flanks and rear of their own army. A detachment of the 3rd Cavalry assisted in this duty; and as the enemy showed some bodies of horse, threatening a dash on the baggage or wounded men, they were of considerable service.
The lines advanced directly the regiments had deployed, and so rapidly and steadily did the leading one move over the crest of the rising ground (for which the enemy's guns were laid), that it suffered but little; the Highlanders not having a single casualty, and the 26th Native Infantry, their companion regiment in brigade, losing only one man killed, and but four or five wounded. The brigades in the rear, in consequence of the shot which passed over the regiments in front striking them, suffered far more, especially the 2nd European Light Infantry.
During this time the cannonade had been continuous; but as the Persian fire in some degree slackened, the British artillery advanced to closer action, making most beautiful practice, and almost silencing the opposing batteries. Some bodies of horse soon presented an opportunity for a charge, and the squadrons of the 3rd Cavalry, and Tapp's irregulars, who had hitherto been on the right front, dashed at them, accompanied by Blake's horse artillery, and made a sweeping and most brilliant charge, sabring gunners, and fairly driving the enemy's horse off the field. The 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Forbes. Lieutenant Moore, the adjutant of the regiment, was, however, perhaps the first of all, by a horse's length. As the regiment approached the enemy, thrown into a somewhat disorderly square, his horse sprang into their centre, but instantly fell dead, crushing his rider, whose sword was broken by the concussion. The enemy pressed round him, but speedily extricating himself, he attempted with his broken weapon to force his way through the throng: he would most certainly have lost his life, had not Lieutenant Malcolmson, observing his danger, fought his way through the crowd of Persians, and, giving him his stirrup, carried him safely out from among them. The thoughtfulness for others, cool determination, devoted courage, and ready activity shown in extreme danger by this young officer, Lieutenant Malcolmson, were most admirable. Both these officers most deservedly gained the Victoria Cross.
Meantime, the infantry lines were still advancing rapidly, and in beautifully steady order, to sustain the attack, and were just getting into close action when the enemy lost heart, and his entire line at once broke, and fled precipitately. The men cast away their arms and accoutrements, and, as the pursuit continued, even their clothing. Two or three of the sirbar, or regular battalions, on the extreme right, alone retired with any semblance of order. The 3rd Cavalry charged through, and back again, one of the battalions which attempted to receive them with steadiness, and Colonel Forbes was severely wounded, while Captain Moore, a brother of the adjutant, had his horse killed under him. The rout of the enemy was complete, and the troopers, as well as irregulars, were fairly exhausted cutting down the fugitives. More than 700 were left on the field, and many horses; while numbers more were slain in the pursuit. The British loss was only 1 officer and 18 men killed, and 4 officers and 60 men wounded. Lieutenant Frankland, of the 2nd European Regiment, who was killed, was highly mentioned, as was Lieutenant Greentree, of the 64th, who lost his leg.
Subsequently, on the 2nd of May, a treaty of peace was signed at Bagdad, in which the Shah agreed to evacuate Herat, and to refrain from all interference in future in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
THE INDIAN MUTINY—1857-1858.
The year 1857 saw the commencement of the Indian Mutiny, a terrible outbreak of cruelty and fanaticism which, while it inflicted unspeakable anguish upon hundreds of our defenceless countrywomen and their children, desolated many an English home, and evoked the horror and compassion of the civilised world, was also the occasion of numberless acts of heroism and devotion, not only on the part of British soldiers and their native allies, but of all classes of civilians.
Among other causes which led to the rising of so many of the natives, was no doubt the impression made by the Crimean war, under the influence of which certain ambitious Mohammedan chiefs, combining with some Hindoo rulers, misled by false accounts of the result of the war with Russia, formed the idea that the time had arrived for destroying the power of Great Britain in India.
For this purpose they made use of the prejudices and superstitions of the Hindoo soldiery, and the avarice and worst passions of the Mohammedans; and a story that the new cartridges issued to the troops were made with pig's or bullock's fat—the one being an abomination to the Mohammedans, the other to the Hindoos, who eating it would lose caste—was believed by the more ignorant and fanatical, who saw in it a design to destroy their religion.
The first serious outbreak took place at Meerut, when 85 out of 90 men of the 3rd Light Cavalry refused to use the cartridges. They were condemned to a long imprisonment, and their sentence was read out on parade. The next day, Sunday, 10th May, while the Europeans were at church, news was brought that the 11th and 20th Regiments of Native Infantry were assembling tumultuously on the parade-ground. Colonel Finnis, who immediately rode out to quell the disturbance, was shot by a sepoy while addressing the 20th Regiment, and cut to pieces; thirty other Europeans were speedily slaughtered, and the cantonments given to the flames. Mr Greathead, the commissioner, and his wife, were saved by the fidelity of their servants. The British troops in the place were not called out till the mutineers had time to escape to Delhi; where, on their arrival, an outbreak took place, and the greater number of the British residing there were butchered with the most horrible barbarity.
THE SIEGE OF DELHI—30TH MAY TO 20TH SEPTEMBER 1857.
It was not till many of the mutineers had fled to Delhi that the inhabitants of that city dared to rise in arms against the British. At Delhi resided a pensioner of the British Government, the last representative of the Mogul Emperors—an old man, feeble in mind and body, yet capable of atrocious mischief—who had assumed the title of the King of Delhi. He and his sons and some of his ministers were undoubtedly promoters of the revolt. By agreement with this potentate, no British troops were quartered in the city, notwithstanding that the Government had made the city the principal depot for military stores in India. The city was also inhabited by a large Mohammedan population, who clustered round the king, and clung to the traditions of their former greatness.
On the 11th of May there arrived at Delhi, early in the morning, several parties of mutineers from Meerut. They gave the signal of revolt. With scarcely a moment's warning, military officers, civil servants of the Government, merchants, and others were set upon by the rebel sepoys and by the inhabitants of the city, and cut down without mercy. Ladies and children were butchered with every conceivable cruelty and indignity. Mr Simon Fraser, the commissioner, was murdered in the palace of the king; so was Captain Douglas, of the Palace Guards, and Mr Jennings, the chaplain, and his daughter and another lady. The regiments outside the walls in cantonments revolted, and many of the British officers were killed, though some, with a few ladies, who got over the city walls, effected their escape.
"The magazine, which was within the city walls, not far from the palace, was of course in danger from the very beginning. The officers in charge had seen the mutineers crossing the bridge in the morning, and Lieutenant Willoughby had gone in with Sir T. Metcalf to endeavour to get the gates closed. On his return, he found eight of the officers attached to the establishment—Lieutenants Forrest and Raynor, Conductors Buckley, Shaw, and Scully, Subconductor Crowe, and Sergeants Edward and Stewart—with the native Lascars and servants. Preparations were instantly begun for the defence of the magazine till the arrival of relief from Meerut, which none doubted was at hand. The magazine consisted of a number of buildings enclosed by a high wall. The gates were closed and barricaded. Inside the gate leading to the park were placed two 6-pounders, doubly charged with grape. The two sergeants stood by with lighted matches, ready, should that gate be attacked, to fire both at once, and fall back upon the body of the magazine. At the principal gate two guns were put in position, with a chevaux-de-frise on the inside; and a little behind, but bearing on the same point, were two others. Farther in were placed four more pieces, commanding two cross passages. A train was laid to the powder-magazine, ready to be fired at a given signal. Arms were put in the hands of the natives in the establishment, which they took sulkily. They were getting insolent and disobedient—the Mussulmans particularly so. Scarcely had these arrangements been made, when the Palace Guards appeared and demanded the magazine in the name of the Badsha of Delhi. No answer was given.
"The king, they heard soon after, had sent word that ladders would be immediately brought from the palace to scale the walls. The natives in the magazine scarcely concealed their hostility. One man was seen to be communicating with the mutineers outside through the gate, and ordered to be shot if he was observed doing so again. The enemy, who had thus learned what was ready for them, did not attempt to force the gates; but in a short time the scaling-ladders arrived. On their being placed against the walls, the whole of the Lascars deserted, climbing over the sloped sheds on the inside, and down the ladders. It was found that they had hid the priming-pouches. The enemy now appeared in hundreds on the walls. The guns were immediately pointed at them, and worked with wonderful rapidity considering the small number of the party. Nine Britons, alone in that great Mohammedan city, betrayed and deserted as they were, bravely thought only of holding their post till the death. The enemy kept firing down upon them. In a few minutes several of the little band were wounded; it was clear that in a few more they would all be shot. Willoughby then gave the signal for firing the powder store. Scully, who had distinguished himself in this dreadful emergency by his perfect coolness, in the most careful and methodical manner lighted the trains. The explosion took place almost immediately. The wall adjoining was thrown to the ground; numbers of the enemy were buried among the ruins; and thousands of bullets from the cartridges in store were hurled far off, striking down people in the streets. Wonderful as it may seem, half the gallant defenders of the magazine crept out alive, partly stunned, blackened, scorched, and burned, yet able to make their way through the sally-port by the river for the Cashmere gate. Lieutenants Forrest and Raynor and Conductor Buckley succeeded in escaping to Meerut. Willoughby was seen at the Cashmere gate, and set out for Meerut with three more, who were all murdered in a village on the road. Scully, who was much hurt, was killed, when trying to escape, by a sowar. The explosion of the magazine was of course seen from the flagstaff tower, and was heard even at Meerut."
That afternoon, the sepoys who remained in the lines either deserted or revolted—a general flight took place; the Brigadier was one of the last to leave; and thus was Delhi lost.
No sooner had the Europeans gone, than the treacherous old king hoisted the green flag, and proclaimed himself Emperor of India. He had imprisoned within his palace walls forty-nine Europeans, chiefly women and children. Having for a week allowed them to be treated with the greatest cruelty, he gave them up to be further ill-treated, and finally murdered, by his soldiery. Their bodies were piled in a rotting heap at the Cashmere gate.
The day of vengeance was, however, not long delayed. On the 8th of June a small army, under Major-General Sir Henry Barnard, was collected at Alleepore, one march from Delhi. It consisted of four guns, 2nd troop 1st Brigade, 2nd and 3rd troops 3rd Brigade Horse Artillery; 3rd company 3rd Battalion Artillery, and Number 14 Horse Field-Battery; 4th company 6th Battalion Artillery: detachment Artillery recruits; Headquarters' detachment Sappers and Miners; Her Majesty's 9th Lancers; two squadrons Her Majesty's 6th Dragoon Guards; headquarters and six companies 60th Royal Rifles; headquarters and nine companies of Her Majesty's 75th Regiment; 1st Bengal Fusiliers; headquarters and six companies 2nd Fusiliers; Simoor battalion Goorkhas. On the morning of the 8th this little army advanced from Alleepore towards Delhi. They encountered, strongly intrenched, a body of mutineers 3000 in number. The enemy's guns were well worked; the British artillery were unable to cope with them. There was only one thing to be done. The order was given to charge and capture the guns. With a ringing cheer, Her Majesty's 75th rushed on amidst a hailstorm of musketry, and the sepoys fled in terror to their next position; for they had constructed a line of defence from the signal-tower to the late Maharajah Hindoo Rao's house, and disputed every inch of the ground. However, by nine o'clock the army of retribution was in possession of the parade-ground and cantonments.
The latter, indeed, were now covered with masses of blackened walls, while the compounds were strewed with broken furniture, clothing, and books. Here, at about a mile and a half from the walls of Delhi, the army encamped, and waited for reinforcements.
The British advanced position was a strong brick-built house, on the top of a hill overlooking the city. Near it three batteries were constructed, which played night and day on the city. The mutineers had also three batteries, which kept up a continual fire on the British camp. They also generally sallied out each afternoon with a couple of guns and some cavalry—the greater portion of their force, however, consisting of infantry. The latter advanced skirmishing up, especially towards the large house, among rocky ground, covered with brushwood, which afforded them ample shelter. They always courted this system of desultory fighting, in which the strength of the native soldiers is best brought out. The British soldiers, on the contrary, too often lost their lives from want of caution. Disdaining the advantages of cover, fluttered with fury and impatience, and worn-out or stupefied by the heat, they were often shot down as they pressed incautiously forward to close with their wily foes.
However, after a time, the British soldiers made a very visible improvement in skirmishing; and as they were also well manoeuvred by their officers, they were perfectly able to cope with the enemy.
Hindoo Rao's hill was looked upon as the post of honour, and round it most of the affrays took place. It was held by Major Reid, with the Simoor battalion, and two companies of Rifles.
His losses were afterwards filled up by the infantry of the Guides. The Goorkhas were crowded into the large house from which the place took its name. Its walls were shattered with shells and round shot, which now and then struck through the chambers. Ten men were killed and wounded in the house by one shot, and seven by another the same day. Nobody was then secure of his life for an instant. Through the whole siege, Major Reid kept to his post. He never quitted the ridge save to attack the enemy below, and never once visited the camp until carried to it wounded on the day of the final assault.
The gallant Rifles here, as on every other occasion where they have had the opportunity afforded them, made good use of their weapons. On one occasion ten riflemen at the Sammy house made such execution among the gunners at the Moree bastion, that the battery was for a time abandoned. The Goorkhas, the inhabitants of the hill-country of Nepaul, and who happily had remained faithful to the British standard, were great adepts at skirmishing, and gallant little fellows in the main. A story was told of a Goorkha and a rifleman, who had in a skirmish followed a Brahmin soldier. The last took refuge in a house, and closed the door. The rifleman tried to push it open, but the Goorkha went to the window, and coiling his compact little person into its smallest compass, waited for his enemy. Soon the point of a musket, then a head and long neck appeared: the Goorkha sprang up, and seizing him by the locks, which clustered out of the back of his pugarie, he cut off his head with his cookri, ere the Brahmin could invoke Mahadeo. The little man was brought along with his trophy by the rifleman, to receive the applause of his comrades.
The annoyance which the batteries on Hindoo Rao's hill caused to the city was so great, that the mutineers commenced the construction of a battery on the right of it, to enfilade the whole British position. It was necessary to prevent this. About 400 men of the 1st Fusiliers and 60th Rifles, with Tombs' troop of horse artillery, 30 horsemen of the Guides, and a few sappers and miners, were got ready. The command was given to Major Tombs. Their destination was kept secret. Orders were given and countermanded, to confound the enemy's spies. Major Reid descended from Hindoo Rao's hill with the Rifles and Goorkhas, while Tombs advanced towards the enemy's left, and our batteries poured their fire on the Lahore gate, whose guns might have reached our squadrons. At first their cavalry, seeing the fewness of our sowars, prepared to charge them, but recoiled at sight of our troops coming up behind. Their infantry, taken by surprise, fled without offering the least resistance—many leaving their arms and clothes behind them. Some threw themselves into a mosque. The walls of its courtyard were loopholed, and they began to fire at our men. Tombs had two horses killed under him. His bold bearing and loud voice made him the aim of the enemy. He ordered the riflemen to go up and fire into the loopholes till the doors could be forced. A train of gunpowder was got ready, a bag was attached to the gates, they were blown open, and 39 sepoys were killed in the mosque. A 9-pounder gun was taken. Major Reid, on his side, was also successful. He destroyed a battery and magazine, and set a village and serai on fire. The whole British loss was 3 killed and 15 wounded— Captain Brown, of the Fusiliers, dangerously.
Sir Henry Barnard showed his admiration of the gallantry and conduct of Tombs in the most enthusiastic manner. Visiting the mess-tent of the Umballa artillery, he gave the highest and most enthusiastic praise to the young officer, declaring that he had never seen greater coolness and courage, and a more perfect knowledge of his profession, than had been shown by Major Tombs.
Tombs, on first entering the Company's army, had served with great distinction in the wars of the Punjaub, and his talents had been marked by the keen and wise eye of Sir Charles Napier. He had been made brevet-major when only a lieutenant of artillery. His gallantry at Ghazeoodeenugger had made him conspicuous from the beginning of the siege of Delhi.
In one of the first skirmishes—and it was a very severe one—which took place under Hindoo Rao's hill, Lieutenant Quintin Battye was mortally wounded through the stomach, the ball coming out at his back. He was a joyous, boyish, but noble fellow, whose every thought was honour. He was carried into camp, and was well aware that his last hour was approaching. A comrade went to see him. He smiled, and quoted the old tag, which, when so quoted, ceases to be trite: "Well, old fellow, 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori'; you see it's my case. It is sweet and proper to die for one's country." Poor fellow! he did not survive his wound twenty-four hours. He was a good swordsman, and an excellent rider; and his impatience for an opportunity of distinguishing himself had been remarked at every station he had passed on the march.
Several accounts have been published describing the way in which Major Tombs saved the life of Lieutenant Hills. The following is among them:—
"On the morning of the 9th of July an outlying post of the British camp was unwisely confided to the care of a picket of the 9th Irregulars, who had hitherto remained true to their colours. A large body of rebel cavalry came down and talked them over, and were shown by them the way into the camp. A body of cavalry who were in their way—an inlying picket—proved for the moment unsteady, and thus the rebels reached the post at which two of Major Tombs' guns were placed. This post—a mound to the right of the camp—was under charge of Lieutenant Hills. At about eleven o'clock there was a rumour that the enemy's cavalry were coming down on his post. Instantly Lieutenant Hills hurried to the spot, to take up the position assigned to him in case of alarm; but before he reached the spot, and before there was time for his guns to form up, he saw the enemy close upon them. Issuing rapid orders to his sergeant, he charged single-handed the head of the enemy's column, cut the first man down, struck the second, and was then ridden down, horse and all. Rapidly recovering himself, however, he was attacked by three of the enemy. One he killed outright, another he wounded; but, in a combat with a third, he was brought to the ground. At that moment his commanding officer, Major Tombs, galloped up, having crossed the path of the enemy's cavalry, and escaped the certain death which would have been his fate had he met them. Seeing the critical position of his subaltern, he nobly charged his assailants, shot one and sabred the other, and then dragged the lieutenant out from under his horse, receiving, as he did so, a sword-cut on his head, but the thick turban he wore saved it from injury. The enemy passed on to the native troop of horse artillery, in the hopes of getting them to join; but, failing this, galloped out of the camp.