THE EXPEDITION TO THE CRIMEA.
"He that has sail'd upon the dark blue sea
Has view'd at times, I ween, a full fair sight,
When the fresh breeze is fair as breeze may be, -
The white sails set - the gallant frigate tight -
Masts , spires, and strand retiring to the right; -
The glorious main expanding o'er the bow, -
The convoy spread, like wild swans in their flight -
The dullest sailor wearing bravely now, -
So gaily curl the waves above each dashing prow!"
BYRON."Epeita dèe Kimmerioisin
Nha qohn epagonteV ikanomen."
FRIDAY, September 1st. - The embarkation began at six o'clock. Whilst the troops were filing down, Captain Lockwood, one of Lord Cardigan's aides-de-camp, rode up with an order from Lord Lucan that no officer was to embark more than one horse; those who had embarked more were to send them ashore again. Pleasant news this for me! However, I had no time to grumble, but hoisting myself into an araba full of baggage, and disguised as much as possible, I went down to the shore. Lord Lucan, who was there, scanned every woman, to find traces of a lady; but he searched in vain, and I, choking with laughter, hurried past his horse into the boat. Here the crew received me very hospitably, gave me some water, and a compliment on the clearness of my cheeks, which "did not look as though I had done much hard work in the sun," and finally put me safely on board the "Himalaya," where I was immediately handed down to my cabin.
Monday, 4th. - We hoped to sail to-day.
Tuesday, 5th. - I have remained in my cabin ever since I came on board. Well may we pray for "all prisoners and captives." After my free life under the "sweet heavens," to be hermetically sealed up in the narrow cabin of a ship - I cannot breathe, even though head and shoulders are thrust out of window.
Since I have been here death has been amongst us. Poor Captain Longmore, who on Friday helped me up the ship's side, was dead on Sunday morning -
Death with such inexorable gripe appears in hm most appalling shape. He was seized but on Friday with diarrha, which turned to cholera on Saturday, and on Sunday the body left in its silent and solemn desolation. During his death struggle the party dined in the saloon, separated from the ghastly wrangle only by a screen. With few exceptions, the dinner was a silent one; but presently the champagne corks flew, and - but I grow sick, I cannot draw so vivid a picture of life and death. God save my dear husband and me from dying in the midst of the din of life! The very angels must stand aloof. God is our hope and strength, and without Him we should utterly fail.
To-day the signal came to proceed to Balchick Bay; and having hooked ourselves on to No. 78., with the Connaught Rangers on board, we steamed to join the flight of ships sailing from Varna. About two hours brought us to Balchick; and the appearance of the bay, crowded with every species of ship, from the three-decker man-of-war down to the smallest river steam-tug, filled the mind with admiration at the magnificent naval resources of England.
Delay prevails here as everywhere. The fleet are all collected and awaiting the order to proceed. Sebastopol is within thirty-six hours' sail, and apparently there is no impediment: but not a vessel has weighed anchor.
Wednesday, 6th. - Some say we are waiting for the wind to change, or lull; others that we are to wait until the "Banshee" arrives with despatches from England. Many more are betting that peace is proclaimed, and that we shall be met at Sebastopol by a flag of truce. I incline to the opinion that we are waiting for the "Banshee." The weather continues lovely. The master of the "Echinga" came on board to-night, and tells me that Lady Erroll is in his ship, and that she intends remaining on board during the siege. I had fully made up my mind to, and until this unhappy order of "Only one horse" threw over all my plans. My husband, too, seems to think that I could not encounter the fatigue on foot, so I fear I must (most reluctantly) consent to follow him by sea to Sebastopol. Our sick list increases frightfully.
Thursday, 7th. - We sailed in company of the fleet, a truly wonderful sight ! News arrived last night of the taking of Bomarsund, which put us all in spirits; and as no accident occurred beyond the snapping of a hawser, we made a successful start.
Friday, 8th. - No motion is perceptible in this magnificent ship, though her mighty heart throbs night and day, and there is sufficient sea to make the transport behind us pitch disagreeably. Were it not for the rush of water beneath the saloon windows, I should fancy myself on land. Walking on the deck, between the lines of horses, I cannot fail to have made friends with two or three - one in particular, a fine large Norman-headed chestnut, with a long flowing mane, and such kindly eyes.
Saturday, 9th. - At a signal from the flag-ship, we pulled up to anchor, in order to concentrate the fleet and allow the laggards to come up. Ignorance concerning our movements prevails everywhere, and conjectures are rife. Many absolutely doubt whether Sebastopol is to be our destination or not. Henry has been very far from well these last few days, and is laid up with an attack of lumbago, particularly unwelcome just now. Dr. Evans, who has been appointed to the regiment, shows very humane feeling; and I trust, under his kind care, my dear husband will soon recover. Poor Connell, our soldier-servant, still lies sick and suffering; but I hear from Sergeant Lynch that he is, if anything, better.
Sunday, 10th. - Still at anchor, 160 miles from Sebastopol. Yesterday, when we stopped our engines, we were nearly meeting with a serious accident. The transport ship behind us, having too short a hawser, and too much way on her, ran into us, smashing our jolly-boat, and crashing through our bulwarks and taffrail like so much brown paper.
Monday, 11th. - The "Caradoc" and "Agamemnon" have returned. Signals fly from the mast-head of the flag-ship: "Prepare to get under weigh." Discussion of our unknown destination; some say Odessa - some Sebastopol.
Sunshine above, and smooth water below. On board not half-a-dozen men feel "as if they were on the eve of fighting."
Tuesday, 12th. - At 9, A.M., we came in sight of the Crimea. We have been on board twelve days to-day. Twelve days accomplishing 300 miles ! The delay puzzles as much as it grieves and disgusts. Lord Cardigan, too, is growing very impatient of it. Towards evening the ships drew up closer together. Magnificent two- and three-deckers sailed on each side of the transport fleet. A forest of masts thrust their spear-like heads into the sunset clouds. Birnam Wood is come to Dunsinane! At even-fall, the Brenda, a little Danube boat, drawing four feet of water, was ordered off to Sebastopol to reconnoitre. An answering pendant was run up to her peak: a puff of smoke, a turn of her paddle-wheels, and away flew the little craft, shaking out her white wings like a bird.
Wednesday, 13th. - The entrance to the harbour of Sebastopol is distinctly visible. Every one is roused up and full of energy, except my dear husband, who lies sick and full of pain in his cabin. I much fear he will not be able to land. A signal at twelve o'clock to "Keep in your station." We are near enough to the shore to see houses, corn, cattle, and a horse and covered cart.
Not a shot has been fired; all is tranquillity in the serene sky above, and the unrippled waters beneath. All are quiet except Lord Cardigan, who is still full of eagerness. Poor Connell is not nearly so well. There is a soldier's wife on board, too, suffering severely from fever. What will become of her when the troops disembark!
Thursday, 14th. - Leaving Eupatoria behind us, we hauled close in shore, about nine o'clock, about thirty miles from Sebastopol. The French began to disembark forthwith, and by ten o'clock the tricolor was planted on the beach. I have a painful record to make. During last night our poor servant Connell, after struggling long with fever, succumbed to it, and closed his eyes, I trust, in peace. I did not know of his danger till I heard of his death. To-day he was committed to the keeping of the restless sea, until the day when it shall give up its dead.
Friday, 15th. - English troops disembarking in a heavy surf. The landing of the horses is difficult and dangerous. Such men as were disembarked yesterday were lying all exposed to the torrents of rain which fell during the night. How it did rain! In consequence an order has been issued to disembark the tents. The beach is a vast and crowded camp, covered with men, horses, fires, tents, general officers, staff officers, boats landing men and horses, which latter are flung overboard, and swum ashore. Eleven were drowned to-day. I am glad to say we lost none. Lord Cardigan begins to be eager for the fray, and will be doing something or other directly he has landed, I fancy. He landed to-day at five.
Saturday, 16th. - All our horses were ashore by half-past ten, and started immediately on outpost-duty, for which they tell me Lord Cardigan has taken a force of Rifles and Artillery as well. At ten o'clock to-day, with failing heart, I parted from my dear husband, and watched him go ashore; whilst I, alas! having no horse, cannot follow him, but must go on board the "Shooting Star," and get round by sea. How I hate it! How much rather I would endure any hardship than be separated from him at this time! But my reason and strength both tell me it is impracticable, and so I must make up my mind to it. Captain Fraser received me with his usual most considerate kindness, and tried by every means to make me forget my wretched position.
Sunday, 17th. - Artillery disembarking all day from the "Shooting Star." One poor fellow caught his hand in a block, and tore it terribly.
Monday, 18th. - To-day I set my foot in the Crimea.
A lovely day tempted me to disembark and try to see my dear husband on shore. Captain Fraser and I started at twelve o'clock. On landing amongst the Artillery, we first inquired for the poor fellow who was hurt yesterday, and then for the Light Cavalry. "They are seven miles inland!!" I never can forget, or be sufficiently grateful to the officers of Artillery for, the kindness they showed me this day. After looking about for a quiet horse to carry me, they decided on stopping a party of Horse Artillery, and getting them to give us seats on the gun-carriage. Mr. Grylls, who had charge of the party, most courteously assented, and by his kindness I was able to reach the outposts. Here I surprised my husband, who shares a tent with five officers, and who was delighted to see me. Whilst I remained there, a patrol of the 13th Light Dragoons came in, commanded by Colonel Doherty. They had seen a body of about six hundred Cossacks, who had fired at them, but without effect. These same Cossacks, a few minutes later, had set two of the neighbouring villages, and all the corn, on fire.
After about an hour spent in camp, Henry put his regimental saddle on his horse, and I mounted him, Henry and Captain Fraser walking by my side, and we returned to the shore. Our road was lurid with the red glare of the vast fires. This country is as fertile as Bulgaria, and has all the advantages of cultivation. In the village close to the outposts, of which the Rifles had possession, were found comfortable and well-furnished houses, with grand pianofortes, pictures, books, and everything evincing comfort and civilisation. Several of our riflemen have been killed by the Cossacks, who hover round the army like a flying cloud. We reached the beach at dusk; and again taking leave of my husband, with a heavy heart I stepped into the boat and was rowed on board.
Tuesday, 19th. - The troops have all advanced to-day; and about half-past three we heard the heavy sound of the guns booming across the water, as we lay quietly at anchor. What can those guns mean? I wonder if, among the annals of a war, the sickening anxieties of mother, wife, and sister ever find a place. Let us hope the angel of compassion makes record of their tears.
Wednesday, 20th. - Left Kalamita Bay, and, with several other ships, joined the rest of the fleet off Eupatoria.
Thursday, 21st. - Captain Tatham, of the "Simoom," took me ashore in his boat. It was a lovely day. We walked about Eupatoria; and Captain Tatham introduced me to the governor, Captain Brock, who showed me great kindness and attention. In his house (a very comfortable one, with polished oak floors and large windows) he had safely secured in "durance vile" two prisoners, the land steward and shepherd of Prince Woronzow. After leaving Captain Brock, we met a Russian propriétaire - one of the very few who remained in the town. He conversed with us in French for some time, and showed us over the Greek church. Nearly all the inhabitants, terrified at the apparition of an enemy's fleet, had fled. Captain Brock, in the hope of procuring prompt supplies, has fixed a tariff regulating the price of all kinds of stock; and the Tartar population, delighted at the ready and large circulation of money, bring in provisions freely and willingly. Eupatoria is rather a pretty town, interspersed with trees, with large, low, comfortable-looking, detached houses.
Friday, 22nd. - Was awoke from a restless sleep by the entrance of my maid - a soldier's wife - with her apron over her eyes. I naturally asked what was the matter. "Oh, ma'am! Captain Tatham has sent to say he has received despatches, which will oblige him to leave Eupatoria to day. And there has been a dreadful battle - 500 English killed, and 5000 Russians; and all our poor cavalry fellows are all killed; and, the Lord be good to us, we're all widows."
God, and he only, knows how the next hour was passed - until the blessed words, "0 thou of little faith," rang in my heart.
At breakfast I asked Captain Fraser for the particulars of the message; but he, from a feeling of kindly wishing to save me anxiety, assured me he had heard nothing about the battle, and did not believe a word of it. However, at two o'clock, I went ashore to see the Governor, and ascertain the words of the despatch. He told me that there had been a severe battle at the river Alma, but no official particulars had yet reached him.
Saturday, 23rd. - I heard more particulars of this great fight, though very few: 2090 English killed and wounded; the 7th and 23rd Fusiliers almost destroyed, and, thank God! the Cavalry not engaged. How can timorous, nervous women live through a time like this!
The guns which we heard as we were breasting our swift way from Kalamita to Eupatoria, were merely messengers to us of the heavy firing inland, causing wounds, blood, and sudden death - lives, for which we would gladly give our own, extinguished in a moment; hands flung out in agony, faces calm and still in death; all our prayers unavailing now: no more speech, no more life, no more love.
Sunday, 24th. - Again awoke by the guns. Captain Fraser assured me they were the guns of the fleet. The Cossacks, last night, made a descent upon Fupatoria, and having secured some plunder, fired on our soldiers. Their fire was returned with such interest that they were soon glad to retire.
The "Danube" steamboat went this afternoon to Katcha, laden with sheep, and taking with her a Russian prisoner - a gentleman - and supposed to be a spy. I met him directly after he was taken, as he was walking from the guard to the shore.
Monday, 25th. - A steamboat came in this morning, and Captain Fraser immediately sent off a boat to the "Simoom" (which had not left, as she threatened, on Friday) to ascertain the news.
Until as late as six o'clock we had been listening to the guns, but were little prepared for such news as Captain Tatham sent back to us.
The fleet are at the Katcha, and the army also. The fleet stood in yesterday, and fired about twenty shots. The Russians sunk five line-of-battle ships and two frigates across the harbour. Three remain, which cannot get out, nor can we get in. A prisoner reports that all is consternation - Menschikoff in tears. At Eupatoria news flies from mouth to mouth. They say that, at Alma, the charge of Highlanders was most magnificent; that they swept over the Russian entrenchments like a sea. Our Cavalry being so weak we were unable to follow up our advantage, or we might have cut off the enemy in their retreat. It is said that the whole garrison of Sebastopol was engaged at Alma - 50,000 Russians to about 45,000 English and French. I hear the English bore the brunt of the fight.
Went ashore this afternoon, and rode with Captain Brock, who most kindly provides me with both horse and saddle. After we had finished our ride, we went to one of the deserted houses, where we found a grand pianoforte - the first I had played on for so long! It was like meeting a dear and long absent friend.
The house and garden were soon filled, and echoing to the magnificent chords of "Rule Britannia ;'' whilst Tennyson's sweet words, "Break, Break, Break," and the "Northern Star," fitted both the occasion and the place.
One more song and I must hasten back, to be on board my ship by twilight. Heavy guns are pouring their dull broadsides on our straining ears. What shall the song be, sad and low, or a wild outburst of desperate courage ? I have it: -
"Non curiamo l'incerto domani:
Se quest' oggi n' è dato goder."
Tuesday, nine o'clock. - The day rose foggy and gloomy, and my heart, notwithstanding its elation yesterday at the brilliant conduct of our troops, was dull, anxious, and sad. I am engaged to ride with Captain Brock, and am restless to go ashore, in the hope of hearing news. Oh this suspense! How could I be so weak as to allow myself to be separated from my husband? A life-time of anxiety has been crowded into these ten days.
Eight o'clock found me on board the "Danube," steaming, trembling, rushing through the water towards the fleet at Katcha. A note from Captain Tatham, brought up by the "Danube," at three o'clock, induced me to go and see whether I could not get on board the "Star of the South," and so go down to Balaklava with the siege train. I had one hour to decide; and, packing up a few things in a carpet bag, and taking my saddle, I went on board at four o'clock.
September 27th. - Mr. Cator having duly reported my arrival to Admiral Dundas, the admiral did two things: first, he sent on board some excellent white bread, milk, eggs, &c. &c., for breakfast; and, secondly, he proposed either that I should go down to Balaklava in the "Simoom," and so be passed to the "Star of the South;" or else, if, as was most probable, this latter ship had been sent to Scutari with wounded, that I should return to Eupatoria, and be sent down by the earliest opportunity. I decided, therefore, on availing myself of Mr. Cator's kind offer to take me back to Eupatoria, and we started at eleven o'clock. To-day we stood close in shore, on the coast of ALMA. On our right stood heights occupied by the Russian army; on our left the place where our army bivouacked. Huge volumes of thick, smouldering smoke still rolled heavily over the plain. The "Albion," close in shore, was occupied in removing wounded. Here and there dark masses lay about, war's silent evidence; and over all was the serene heaven, smiling on a lovely landscape, sunny and bright. And I, too,
"Smil'd to think God's greatness shone around our incompleteness,
And round our restlessness - His rest."
The cabin of the "Danube" was full of trophies of the fight - helmets pierced with shot and dabbled in blood, little amulets of brass, all blood-stained and soiled, muskets, bayonets, and swords stained with the red rust of blood. We hear that our army have taken Balaklava, after a slight resistance. Balaklava is a small harbour to the southward of Sebastopol, affording, from its depth and shelter, a wonderful anchorage for ships. This we suppose will be the base of operations; here all our ammunition stores, troops, &c., will be disembarked. They compute the number of men inside Sebastopol at about 16,000. On arriving at Eupatoria I heard, with feelings of great sorrow, that Colonel Chester and Captain Evans, of the 23rd, are both killed; that Lord Erroll is wounded; and that poor Mrs. Cresswell is a widow. God help and support her under a blow that would crush me to my grave! The last tidings heard of Mrs. Cresswell were, that she had gone down to Varna in the "War Cloud." I conclude by this time she has gone home, as Captain Cresswell died of cholera on the Monday of the march. Major Wellesley also died about that time, on board the " Danube; " and his boxes, sword, hat, &c., were lying in the cabin - a melancholy sight! How full of anxiety I am!
About two o'clock we were safely at anchor off Eupatoria. We went ashore. Captain Brock very kindly mounted Mr. Cator and me, and we three rode round the fortifications. Captain Brock received information, last evening, of 1800 Cossacks within a few miles of the town. - We, too, shall have to record the Battle of Eupatoria. The ride over, I adjourned to the "Shooting Star;" but during the afternoon I met, and was introduced to, Captain King, of the "Leander," who very kindly asked me to dine to-morrow. Thus ends my birthday! - day ever to be remembered, as on it I saw my first battle-field. How many more shall I see ere I am a year older? Shall I ever live to see another year? Look on into the winter, with its foreboding of suffering, cold, privation, and gloom!
......................................"What wilt thou become
Through yon drear stretch of dismal wandering? "
September 28th. - The "Leander's " boat came for me at two o'clock, and I had a very rough and wet passage on board. I met the captain of the "Jena," a French man-of-war, Colonel D'Osman, in command of the French troops, Captain Brock, &c.; a very agreeable party, at which we were most hospitably entertained.
Friday, 29th. - I take a letter to Henry ashore with me to-day, as I trust to find some means of forwarding it, and I cannot bear the suspense any longer.
To-day I am all unnerved; an indefinable dread is on me.
Captain Fraser caught a magnificent Death's-head moth, and gave it to me. I shivered as I accepted it. This life of absence and suspense becomes at times intolerable. Oh, when shall I rejoin the army, from which I never ought to have been separated! Any hardship, any action, is better than passive anxiety.
A friend of Captain Fraser's, who came on board, tells me that none have had the courage to acquaint Mrs. Cresswell with her loss; and she is actually coming up to Balaklava with troops. Cruel kindness!
Saturday, 30th. -
"Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my heaviness laid in the balances together, - for the sorrows of the Almighty are within me, and terror sets itself in array before me."
Sunday, lst October. - The "Shooting Star" is under orders for Katcha; and I am engaged to ride with Captain Brock ashore. Not a ripple stirred the water; so, trusting to Captain Fraser's assurance that the ship would not move to-day, I went ashore after breakfast. It was indeed a heavenly day! Our horses sauntered along, and my heart involuntarily looked up, through the radiant sky, to the universal God of peace and war, sunshine and storm!
We saw an immense cloud of locusts making for the sea. The air was quite obscured by them. Returning about one o'clock, what was my dismay to see the "Shooting Star" spreading her white wings, and dropping quietly out to sea! Fortunately, the "Danube" was going down at two o'clock. I did not lose a moment, but after taking a most regretful leave of pleasant, cordial Eupatoria, I went once more on board the "Danube," and started in pursuit of the "Star." The breeze had got up considerably, and favouring her, we found her at anchor at Katcha when we arrived.
Monday, 2nd October. - To-day my adventures have been more amusing still. Not liking a dull day alone on board, I wrote a note to Lord George Paulet, who called on me immediately after breakfast, and took me away to the "Bellerophon." Here I was in the middle of a most agreeable, lazy morning, looking out on the sparkling sea, and listening to the wondrous harmonies of a most perfect band, when Admiral Dundas sent on board to say, that if I wished to go down to Balaklava, "the 'Pride of the Ocean' was then passing with troops, and he would order her to be hove to; but Mrs. Duberly must not keep her waiting a rnoment longer than necessary." My transit from the Bellerophon (through one of the lower ports), laden with a ham, some miraculous port wine, and all sorts of good things provided by Lord George's kind hospitality, was accomplished in a very short space. The admiral, however, was impatient, and Captain Christie more so. Mr. Cator was sent in the "Britannia's" galley to take me on board; and after accomplishing my packing in ten minutes, and taking my desk and carpet bag, I started in the galley and had some difficulty in overtaking the "Pride of the Ocean."
Tuesday, 3rd. - We expected a three hours' sail; but the wind dropped, and we were becalmed for four-and-twenty. By three o'clock we were lying almost stationary before the forts of Sebastopol, and within range of the guns. It was a moment not altogether free from nervousness; but no guns molested us, and we passed unharmed. Presently we passed the light off Chersonese. We lay off the point beyond the Monastery of St. George all night; and at morning, the "Simla" came to tow us to our anchorage just outside Balaklava harbour. This anchorage is a wonderful place; the water is extremely deep, and the rocks which bound the coast exceed in ruggedness and boldness of outline any that I ever saw before. The harbour appears completely land-locked. Through a fissure in the cliffs you can just see a number of masts; but how they got in, or will get out, appears a mystery; they have the appearance of having been hoisted over the cliffs, and dropped into a lake on the other side.
At three o'clock, tugs came alongside the "Pride of the Ocean," to disembark her troops, the 1st Royals, who, horses and all, were landed before dark.
At dinner, whilst I was quietly eating my soup, I heard some one enter the cabin, and looking up saw Henry, who had heard of my arrival, and had come on board. I need not say that the evening passed happily enough! He brought me a handful of letters, which occupied me till late at night.