« AnteriorContinuar »
On the 29th of June a rumour of the death of Lord Raglan was current in London, but was officially contradicted in the upper House by Lord Panmure, and in the lower by Lord Palmerston, both of whom stated that the government had received no intimation of the decease, nor even of the serious illness, of the British commander. The report, however, proved to be well founded; for the next accounts that were received conveyed the intelligence that a sudden and unfavourable change in his symptoms had taken place on the afternoon of the 28th, and that he had expired on the evening of that day.
On the 14th of August parliament was prorogued by commission. The message delivered on this occasion dwelt with great complacency on the French alliance, to which it thus warmly referred : You will share her Majesty's satisfaction at finding that the progress of events has tended to cement more firmly that union which has so happily been established between our government and that of our ally the Emperor of the French ; and her Majesty trusts that the alliance founded on a sense of the general interest of Europe, consolidated by good faith, will long survive the events which have given rise to it, and will contribute to the permanent well-being and prosperity of the two great nations which it has linked together in the bonds of honourable friendship.' The results of this session were small indeed. The public attention was engrossed by the war, and the one thing the people demanded of their rulers was that it should be vigorously and successfully prosecuted. Lord Palmerston was not the man to quarrel with this state of public feeling, or to force on changes which were not demanded ; accordingly little important legislation was attempted, and less accomplished. However, a session of such long duration could not be altogether unfruitful, and we may mention among the measures which it produced, a metropolitan-improvement act, a limited-liability act, the abolition of the stamp-duty on newspapers, and a beer bill, intended as a concession to the feeling that had found expression in the Hyde-park riots.
Four days after the prorogation the Queen and Prince Albert drew still closer the cordial alliance between the two kingdoms and the intimacy between the two courts by a return visit to the Emperor and Empress of the French,
THE BALTIC FLEET.
during which the hospitalities shown to the French ruler were reciprocated by him; and which, to borrow the language of the official statement, was highly satisfactory 'both on personal and political grounds.'
We must now return to the military and naval operations that were being carried on in the two principal theatres of war, the Baltic, and the Black Sea. And first with regard to the Baltic. We have already seen the disappointment of the hopes that had been raised by the boastful talk of the Reform dinner, and by the formidable nature of the preparations intrusted to Sir Charles Napier. This year the public expectations were less highly raised, and were therefore less disappointed. A fleet larger and better appointed than that of the preceding year sailed under the command of Rear-admiral Dundas. Of course the interest and enthusiasm had somewhat abated, the attendance was not so large nor the acclamations so loud as when the first fleet departed; nevertheless the magnificent spectacle drew together a large concourse of spectators, and created a warm interest throughout the nation. The chief difference between this fleet and that commanded by Sir C. Napier was, that whereas one division of the latter was composed chiefly of sailing line-of-battle ships, the former was entirely composed of vessels propelled by steam. The latter too was without floating batteries and mortar-vessels, with which the former was provided. It was followed by a flotilla of gunboats, while Sir C. Napier's fleet was attended by only one. Some delay was caused by a collision which took place between the Duke of Wellington, the largest ship in the fleet, and an American emigrant ship, obliging the admiral to transfer his flag from her to another ship, and to send her back to Gosport for repairs. The allied fleets met in the Baltic on the 1st of June. Their chief exploit there was the bombardment of Sveaborg by means of those gun and mortar-boats of which Sir C. Napier's fleet was destitute. The bombardment was carried on for three days, with scarcely any injury to the men or the ships. Upwards of ten thousand tons of shot and shell were rained on the fortress, setting fire to a large number of buildings, and causing a great destruction of life and property, but producing no appreciable effect on the result of the war.
After its conclusion the state of the weather
rendered it necessary that the fleets should withdraw, and they returned to their respective harbours. Sir C. Napier, in a letter be published on the subject, stated, and probably with truth, that if as large a number of gun and mortar boats had been sent when he commanded the fleet, the fortifications might have been completely destroyed and a way opened for the large ships to operate; as it was, the work was entirely done by the gun and mortar boats, and the sailors in the large ships had no opportunity afforded them of participating in the fight: all they could do was to crowd the masts and yards of their vessels, and encourage their more actively-engaged comrades by their cheers.
At the other theatre of war a more decisive success was achieved. The sufferings of the army at the commencement of the year 1855 were little, if at all, less severe than they had been at the close of the year 1854. Public opinion at home was loudly demanding that our brave soldiers should be supplied with everything necessary to maintain them in health, if not in comfort; but it was only very slowly that the improvements demanded could be introduced; and even when the supplies did reach Balaclava, it was only with great difficulty that they could be sent forward to the men who were in the camp, and with still greater difficulty to those who were labouring in the trenches. The old track-road from Balaclava to the camp, never sufficient for the purpose, was so worn by the transit of artillery and heavy carriages that it had become a sea of mud, through which vehicles could with difficulty force their way. It was determined therefore to lay down a railway; and about Christmas a large body of engineers and navvies, with all the material necessary for its construction and working, were sent out, and reached Balaclava towards the end of January. While the engineers were surveying the country, planning the proposed line, and making their preparations, the labourers they had brought with them were very usefully employed in clearing away the filth that cumbered the streets of Balaclava ; which had been the fertile source of cholera and other diseases, and if allowed to remain would no doubt have proved still more fatal. Having rendered this great service, they next set to work on the railway; and in the course of a very short time it was laid down and in full
RAILWAY FROM BALACLAVA.
operation, conveying all the ammunition which was required for the operations in front of Sebastopol, and ministering to the wants of the troops. Henceforth the soldiers in the camp and the trenches were well clad, sheltered, and supplied, and were consequently much better able to perform their duties. Reinforcements too were rapidly pouring in ; large siege-guns were being brought up to the trenches; and when, on the 9th of April, the bombardment recommenced, the superiority of our fire over that of the Russians was very apparent. But while our men had been labouring in the trenches, the Russians had been as diligently occupied in throwing-up fresh earthworks, and making Sebastopol a far more formidable fortress than ever; so that the allies had a very much greater and more difficult work now before them, after all their trials and sufferings, than they had when they first came before Sebastopol. One great advantage especially the Russians had been allowed to gain. A hill called the Mamelon, a position the possession of which was of the greatest possible importance to both parties, and which the allied troops might easily have occupied, was seized and fortified by the Russians in a way that greatly increased the difficulties with which their opponents had to contend, and served to prolong considerably the duration of the siege. General Canrobert, finding his health failing, and feeling himself unequal to the discharge of the duties of commander-in-chief, sent in bis resignation, with a request that he might be allowed to serve under his successor as a general of division.
In the reply his resignation was accepted; but instead of being made a simple general of division as he had requested, he was placed in command of the first corps of the army. By his own recommendation he was succeeded by General Pelissier. The man thus recommended was in every way fitted for the task that was confided to him. An older and more experienced soldier than Canrobert, having served in the French army for forty-one years out of a life of fiftynine, like most of the eminent French generals of that time the school in which he had chiefly learned the art of war was Algeria. He was a man of strong constitution, firm, resolute, and persistent; one who would work steadily on the same line till he had effected his object. About the same time reinforcements arrived, which brought the army under his command up to nearly 120,000, while the effective English force was raised to its old number of 30,000. A Sardinian contingent of 15,000 reached the Crimea about the same time, raising the total amount of the allied forces, including the Turks, to more than 200,000 effective men; an army more than sufficient, to carry on the operations of the siege and protect those who were engaged in the trenches. On the other side the Russians were endeavouring to entrench themselves more and more strongly against our attacks. It was not so much a siege and defence of a town-for it must be remembered that the allies were never able to invest Sebastopol—as a contest between two armies each in communication with its respective country, one by sea, the other by land. Thus the victory was pretty sure ultimately to be with that party which could bring up its supplies and reinforcements with the greatest rapidity; and in this contest the allies necessarily had the advantage; while the difficulties of their opponents were continually increasing, as the roads, by which the prodigious supplies of food and warlike material they required had to be brought over enormous distances, became worse and worse and afforded a passage which daily became more and more difficult.
At the commencement of June the generals of the allies determined to make another attack on the defences of Sebastopol. On the 9th of that month, and on the two following days, bombs, cannon-balls, rockets, and other fiery missiles were rained on the town with greater fury and persistence than on any previous occasion. The Russian batteries replied with nearly equal vigour. But the tremendous cannonade of the allies was chiefly intended to cover an attack which had previously been arranged by their generals, and which was to be directed against three of the most important of the Russian defences : the Sapone or white redoubts, the Mamelon, and the quarries which lay between the British position and the Redan. The assaults on the two first-mentioned defences were under. taken by the French, that on the latter by the British : to the Turks was assigned the defence of Inkermann, and the other positions from which the English and French troops were withdrawn. The three attacks were separated from