Full its glory on me streaming

Wrapped in my cloak and blanket, I had fallen into an uneasy slumber,
close by a fragment of ruined wall, the boundary, perhaps, of a deserted
Tartar garden, when I was roused by Sergeant Stapylton of my troop.

“I beg pardon, sir, for disturbing you,” said he, in an apologetic way;
“but as I was returning from the river side with water for some of the
wounded horses, I passed a Frenchwoman, as I take her to be, dying to
all appearance, and thought, as she can’t be left where she is, that if
you would come and speak to her——”

“Of course,” said I, springing up; “where is she?”

“Near a grove of olive trees—just a pistol-shot or so beyond our
advanced sentries. You can pass me to the front, sir, as your guide.”

Leaving the sleeping group of my brother officers, I accompanied
Stapylton, with stiffened joints and chattering teeth. The morning was
yet dark, but a red streak of light above the hilly ground that rose
between our left flank and the Perekop road, showed where the dawn was
about to break. All was still around me. Save the occasional neigh of
a horse, scarcely a sound broke the silence of that place, where so many
thousands of our soldiers were sleeping, or dozing as men may do, after
reflecting that the night which was passing away might be their last in
the land of the living, and that the coming day must find them face to
face with danger, and—death! On the chill breeze of the September
morning, I could hear the rush of the Bulganak over its stony bed,
between which and our bivouac could be traced the line of our cavalry
vedettes, seated, cloaked, in their saddles, with carbine on thigh, and
the advanced sentinels, muffled in their great coats, standing
motionless, with “ordered arms,” and their faces turned to the
southward, where all knew the enemy lay. Passing through the Light
Brigade, where each man slept beside his horse, I stumbled over a
sleeper, in whom I recognized a medical officer, and asked him to
accompany us, which he did readily; and, guided by Stapylton, we
proceeded towards the grove of olive trees.

As we quitted the bivouac, the medical officer said—”You perceive that
vapour which is rising so steadily from the ground?”

“Yes,” said I, with an irrepressible shudder; “I saw enough of it at
Varna.”

“You are right,” he continued, in a low and impressive voice; “that
pale, blue, fetid vapour is the cholera mist—always a bad sign. We
shall have many cases on our lists ere sunset to-morrow, and Heaven
knows they are full enough already. Nearly all the women and children
of my regiment were buried on the roadside yesterday. A sick
Frenchwoman, I think you said, sergeant?” he observed, recurring to the
business in hand.

“Yes, sir,” replied Stapylton, saluting.

“Strange! What should bring her here? The French are at present far
away on our right, and in the rear. I presume you have heard of what
took place this evening, Captain Norcliff?”

“Where?”

“At head-quarters.”

“The little post-house on the Bulganak, where Lord Raglan passes the
night?”

“Exactly. Marshal St. Arnaud, attended by Colonel Trochier, of the
imperial army, rode up there to concert the plan of an attack to-morrow.
So, whatever it is, our part in the play of to-morrow is already
assigned us; and now, sergeant, your Frenchwoman.”

“Is here, sir, to speak for herself, if she can, poor thing.”

Close by the grove of olive trees, with a coarse blanket spread over
her, lay the woman of whom Stapylton had spoken.

“Cholera!” said the surgeon, as he turned down the blanket, and knelt
beside her; “cholera, and in the last stages, too. No pulse can be felt,
the extremities cold and rigid, the face ghastly, the strength
exhausted. I can be of no use here,” he added to me, in a low voice.
“A little time and all will be over.”

From my hunting flask he poured a little brandy between the lips of the
sufferer, who proved to be a _soeur de charité_, by her white coif and
black serge dress; and, on drawing nearer, imagine what were my
sensations on recognising, through the twilight of the coming day, the
pale and convulsed features of Sister Archange—of Mademoiselle de
Chaverondier! An exclamation of sorrow and astonishment burst from me.
All the memory of her kindness when I lay sick in the house of the
Armenian merchant at Varna; all her singleness of heart; all her purity
and self-devotion; all the memory of her story, and of her own happy
home amid the mountains of Beaujolais, and how and why she had devoted
herself to Heaven and acts of charity; all her simple belief in magic
and miracles, with her child-like love and piety; her regard for her
brother Claude, the gallant officer of Canrobert’s regiment, his wife,
Cecile Montallé, and the cruel Lucrece, whose revenge wrought all their
sorrow—all the memory of these things, I say, rushed upon me like a
flood, as I stood, bewildered, by the side of the dying girl—dying like
an outcast in that wild and savage place—and they deeply moved me. To
leave her to die thus, untended and uncared for, was impossible. Yet
what was to be done? How was I to succour her? Already the trumpets of
the cavalry, and the ringing bugles of the infantry, were sounding the
“rouse” and the “assembly,” and the army was getting rapidly under
arms—all the more rapidly that there were no tents to strike and no
baggage to pack. Each man fell into the ranks on the ground where he
had slept; the cavalry were mounting, the artillery were tracing their
horses and limbering up, and long ere the Bay of Kalamita glittered in
the rising sun, the whole British army was on the move towards the Alma.

My friend the surgeon, finding that he could do no more—that he had,
perhaps, patients enough elsewhere—suggested, ere he departed, that she
might be put into one of the _kabitkas_ of the ambulance corps; but, as
he assured me that she could not live above an hour, I despatched
Stapylton to explain the matter to Colonel Beverley; and in a few
minutes he returned with Pitblado, Lanty O’Regan, my groom, and four
other lancers and our horses, and with permission for me “to look after
my sick friend; but, at all risks, not to be ten minutes’ march behind
the rear guard, as General Bosquet’s division was already advancing
rapidly on our right flank, and the French sister might be more properly
handed over to her own people.”

We lifted her into the olive thicket, out of the way of the passing
troops; for already our advanced guard, under Lord Cardigan—”Prince
Albert’s Own,” with their blue jackets and scarlet pelisses covered with
glittering lace, and the 13th Light Dragoons—were once more splashing
through the Bulganak, laughing and joking merrily, as if it were a fox
that was to break cover in the Lincolnshire fens, and not the hordes of
the southern and western Russias that were before them. By means of
three barrel-hoops and a horse-sheet, we improvised something like that
which the French term a day-tent, to hide her and her sufferings. Then
the idea occurred to me as to what I could do if she survived beyond the
time allotted to us by the colonel. Could I leave her in that wild
place to die alone, and to lie unburied, save by the wolves and birds of
prey? Alas! a very brief time now resolved all my doubts and fears. A
little way apart from us, a silent and sympathetic group, my seven
lancers stood, each by his horse’s head, leaning on his lance, and
awaiting me. If they conversed, it was in half whispers, for they
sincerely pitied the girl, those French sisters of charity being the
admiration of the whole army. I was bathing her lips with some diluted
brandy, when she fully, and for the first time, recognised me. Then a
little smile of joy passed over her ghastly face, and she began to
speak, painfully, huskily, and at long intervals.

“It is my turn now; but I am dying, you see, _mon frère_,” said she,
“dying. Many of my sisters have died in the camp—but—but few thus.”

“Few, indeed,” said I, in a low, sad voice.

“In ardent prayers for the repose of my soul you find no solace. I say
not this upbraidingly, yet the mortuary chants of the ’Dies Iræ’ and the
’De Profundis’ will never be said for me, because I die—die thus!” she
said, in a low and piercing voice, as she closed her eyes.

Perplexity was now added to my sorrow, for I knew not what the poor girl
wished or meant; but I implored her to tell me how she came to be left
thus alone and in illness. In the night when, asleep and weary, she had
fallen unseen from a French ambulance cart, some scouting Cossacks had
found and carried her off in mocking triumph; but, on finding that the
deadly pestilence had seized her, they barbarously flung her into the
Bulganak. She had crept ashore, and was making her way to our bivouac,
when the progress of her illness became so rapid and destroying that she
was reduced to the condition in which Stapylton found her. Such was the
short story she told me, in long and painful intervals, her voice being
at times so low that I had to place my ear close to her lips.




“And now,” she added, with a divine smile, which brought back much of
the wonderful beauty of her face, “I am so glad—so happy that I shall
die!”

“Why, _ma soeur_?”

“Lest I should live longer; because, in doing so, I could scarcely fail
in some way to offend heaven,” replied the poor girl. “I confessed me
two days ago—I die in peace, and forgive those Cossaques—_mon ami_—_mon
frère_, I should say—you will close my eyes—you will see me
buried—promise me that you will!”

I could only answer her by my tears; and strange it seemed that all
around the thicket where this solemn scene was acting, and when the
spirit of this good being was hovering between eternity and time, the
thousands of our army, horse, foot, and artillery, with ammunition and
stores, were pouring past in the bright morning sunshine, towards the
passage of the Bulganak.

All around was instinct with the glitter and bustle of martial life; but
within that olive grove was death, sublime humility, and suffering.

“Are you in pain now?” I asked, as this thought occurred to me.

“Oh, no—pain is long since passed away. If I could but live till three
in the afternoon, I could then die more than ever happily.”

“Why at three?”

“For at that time our Blessed Lord yielded up his soul on Calvary!” said
she, with a voice of enthusiasm, while a strange brightness seemed to
pass over all her face.

As she turned restlessly her eyes fell upon Sergeant Stapylton and the
lancers, and beckoning them forward, she bestowed her blessing on each;
and they listened with bowed heads, and took off their caps. I was
deeply moved, and drew a pace or two aside.

“Heaven has always been so good to me,” she muttered, in broken English,
as the sergeant placed his cloak as a pillow under her head; “because,
as you must know, _messieurs les soldats_, my mother dedicated me to
heaven, and I am a child of the Holy Virgin.”

Poor Stapylton, a worthy but stolid John Bull, looked rather bewildered
by this information; but my Irish groom understood her.

“Thrue for you, miss,” said Lanty, wiping his eyes with the worsted
tassels of his yellow sash. “Oh, it’s fast she’s goin’ to glory, the
poor cratur. Oh, never a ha’porth she thinks of herself; but it is us
she’s prayin’ for, boys.”

“Other souls than mine shall pass away to-day, for ere nightfall a great
battle is to be fought—I know that.”

At that moment, through an opening in the olive trees, we saw a regiment
of infantry marching past in close column of subdivisions, with the band
in front, colours flying, and bayonets gleaming in the sun. It was our
88th, of gallant memory, with Colonel Shirley riding at the head of the
column, and the drums and fifes made the blue welkin ring to the air of
“The Young May Moon.” She looked wistfully at the defiling ranks; there
was so much of life there, so much of death here! Then, clasping her
white hands, which were so thin and tremulous, and, closing her eyes,
she began to repeat a little prayer in Latin, for those who were to fall
on both sides—the Russians as well as the English.

Of that prayer I can only remember a single sentence—

“_O clementissime Jesu, amator animarum, lava in sanguine Tuo peccatores
totius mundi, nunc positos in agoniâ et hodie morituros._”[*]

[*] “O most merciful Jesus, lover of souls, wash in Thy blood the
sinners of the whole world who are now in their agony and are to die
this day!”

Then, whispering something of her “mother who was in heaven, kneeling
for her before the Mother of God,” the pure spirit of this French girl
passed out into the black night of eternity. We stood for a time
silent, and nothing roused us but our rear-guard defiling to the front
from the right of troops, and then the orders of the colonel recurred to
me. Were I to live a thousand years I shall never forget the calm and
soothing, yet sorrowful, impression made upon me by this poor girl’s
death. I closed her eyes, and their long, dark lashes fell over the
pale cheek, from which they never more would rise, and she lay under the
poor horse-rug, looking so calm, with a peaceful and beautiful
expression on her sweet dead face. Her hands were now folded on her
breast; her black ebony crucifix had fallen from them; but Lanty O’Regan
replaced it gently, and kindly closed the stiffening fingers round it,
and there was a big sob in Lanty’s throat as he did so. Death brought
back all the strange loveliness of other days to Sister Archange; and I
could not behold her lying there, looking so peaceful, so white and
still, without feeling my heart very full indeed. For when I saw so
much self-devotion, poverty, and charity united with peace and goodwill
to all mankind—to Christian and Osmanli, to friend and foe alike—it
seemed to me truly that of such as she was the kingdom of God. I kissed
the dead girl’s forehead as we drew the horse-rug over her, and prepared
for her interment, as we had not a moment to lose.

The soil was soft, and we had only our sword-blades and hands to dig
with; but we contrived to scoop a hole about three feet deep.
Reverently, as if she had been their sister, my comrades laid her in it,
and then we heaped the mould above her. She lies in that little thicket
of olives, about a mile from Bulganak, and sleeps in what is called
unconsecrated earth; though the ashes of that sister of charity might
bring a blessing on the city of the Sultan. We now mounted, put our
horses to full speed, and soon passing our rear-guard, came up with our
brigade, and rejoined the regiment. By this time the whole army was on
the march to force the position of the Alma, and already our right flank
was almost united to the left of the French column under General
Bosquet, as the allies advanced together.

Continue Reading

That well delights thy brand!

Physical endurance is not a more necessary quality to the soldier than
mental elasticity. There seemed to be no want of the latter among our
fellows, when we unbitted our horses and sat down to a meal which was
improvised by our servants near a grove of turpentine and caper trees.
It was a lovely evening now, and many a wreath of purple and golden
cloud lay cradled in the amber sunset. The infantry had piled their
arms by regiments, brigades, and divisions, and the thousands of our
host lay panting on the sward, or preparing to cook their rations in
such a fashion as suited the emergency or their fancy. In the distance
were flocks of bustards crossing the now arid plain, which in summer had
been covered by a profusion of aromatic herbs. Our accoutrements were
cast on the grass, our uniforms were unbuttoned, cigar-cases went from,
hand to hand, freely interchanged, and even the last copies of _Punch_
were conned over and laughed at.

Thanks to me, and the use of a _kabitka_ I procured, we had plenty of
provisions. A ham, some cold fowls, Bass’s pale ale, sherry, even
champagne, were produced by some of ours; and these, with a few
cucumbers and gourds, medlars, and filberts, which Willie Pitblado had
found in the deserted garden of a Tartar, formed, all things considered,
a sumptuous repast, and what it lacked in style and equipage was amply
made up for in fun and jollity, for “men accommodate themselves
unconsciously to the modes of living that are forced upon them. It is a
law of our being, and it is well that it should be so. A bomb bursting
in the midst of a fashionable London dinner party would do no more
mischief than one of the numbers which used to burst daily within the
walls of Lucknow; but assuredly it would produce a far greater
impression.”

“This is really the tug of war!” exclaimed Wilford, who, after various
ineffectual efforts to uncork a champagne bottle, adroitly struck off
its head by the stroke of a knife.

“Yes, by Jove! and think of the mess!” added Jocelyn.

“To feel,” said the colonel, “that one has a soul—and what is more, an
appetite, a taste, and decided predilection for turtle soup and
_recherché entrées_—and yet compelled to appreciate this style of
thing!”

“I can appreciate everything and anything,” exclaimed the paymaster.

“Even an ’aggis, eh?—haw!” said Berkeley.

“Yes, even a haggis. My stomach is as empty as a kettledrum,” replied
the paymaster, as he sliced away at the ham.

“I think there is something going on in front,” observed Wilford,
pausing in the act of dissecting a fowl.

“Yes,” said Beverley; “Lord Raglan, with some squadrons of the 11th and
13th, has crossed the river to reconnoitre; but let us make the most of
the present, our turn will come all in good time. Pass the wine,
M’Goldrick; a slice of meat, Studhome—thanks.”

“Ugh!” remarked the paymaster; “’the bed of honour,’ as Jean Paul
Richter says, ’since whole regiments lie on it, and frequently have
received their last unction, should really be filled anew, beaten and
sunned.’”

“What—aw, haw—does that quotation mean?” asked Berkeley, adjusting his
eyeglass, contracting the muscles of his eye, and giving our old Scots
paymaster an inquiring and quizzical stare. “It sounds doocid queer,
and—haw—unpleasant.”

“I was thinking of the hard bed I shall sleep on to-night, sir,” replied
M’Goldrick, rather sternly.

“By Jove, some of us may sleep sound enough to-night yet,” said the
colonel, half starting up. “There is a decided movement in front, and
here comes a French mounted officer.”

At that moment a subaltern of Zouaves, mounted on a French dragoon
horse, in a somewhat excited manner, dashed up to where we lay lounging
on the grass, reined his trooper sharply in on the bit, shouting
something of which I could only make out the prefix, “_Messieurs les
officiers_!”

“_Diable!_ you don’t speak French?” he added, in English, to Travers of
ours.

“No, sir; I am sorry——”

“_Peste!_” interrupted the Frenchman; “every staff officer should speak
at least two European languages.”

“_Dioul na bocklish_! There, I can speak my mother tongue, being an
Irishman; and if that won’t do, the devil is in it. But I am not a
staff officer,” he added, to the stranger, in whom I now recognized M.
Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves.

“The enemy is in great force in front, and your commander-in-chief, with
the two regiments of your advanced guard, will be surrounded and cut
off.”

“Lord Raglan, with the 11th and 13th!” we exclaimed, starting to our
feet; and just at that moment an aide-de-camp, Captain Bolton, of the
1st Dragoon Guards, came galloping up, and exclaimed—

“Boot and saddle, Colonel Beverley; the 11th and 13th, under Lord
Cardigan, are engaged in front. Cavalry supports and horse artillery
are instantly required.”

The trumpets sounded, the regiment formed by troops, and joined the
brigade, which formed in squadrons, and advanced rapidly in search of
the enemy.

“Aw—doocid bore, after our pleasant little tiffin,” I heard Berkeley
say, with a bantering air; but I could see that he looked very white for
all that, and Beverley only smiled superciliously, as he twisted his
thick moustaches.

“I wonder Berkeley has not his white gloves on,” he whispered to me, and
I saw some of our men smiling, for it was a regimental joke, or
notoriety, that he was in the habit of pencilling on his gloves the
words of command he had to issue in succession.

As the junior regiment, we were in the centre of the brigade, the senior
corps being on the right, and the next in seniority on the left; and we
advanced at a rapid trot, in a column of squadrons at wheeling distance,
while the artillery, making a dreadful clatter, with all their tumbrils
limbered up, their spare wheels, forge waggons, rammers, sponges,
buckets, and other apparatus, went thundering at full gallop to the
front.

“In a few minutes, my lads, we may be hand to hand with the enemy,”
shouted Beverley, as he stood up in his stirrups and brandished his
sword; “let us be true to the old motto of the regiment!”

All knew what he meant, and responded by a long and ringing cheer, for
our lancers had been raised as light dragoons in 1759, by Colonel John
Hale, the officer who came to London with the news of Wolfe’s fall and
victory at Quebec; and in that year it was ordered by his Majesty George
II. that “on the front of the men’s caps, and on the left breast of
their uniforms, there was to be a death’s head, with two crossbones over
it, and underneath the motto, ’_Or Glory_.’” And this grim but
significant badge we still wear on all our appointments.[*] It would
appear that, early in the afternoon, and before the whole army had
halted, our old and one-armed leader, the good Lord Raglan, who had
ridden far in advance of the first division of infantry, observed a
group of Cossacks hovering on the brow of a green hill, towards the
south, on which he ordered part of Lord Cardigan’s command, the 11th
Hussars and 13th Light Dragoons, forward to reconnoitre. On this
occasion Lord Lucan was also present.

[*] Our predecessors in the service were the old Scots 17th Light
Dragoons, raised at Edinburgh in the winter of 1759, during the alarm of
the projected invasion under the Marechal Duc d’Aiguillon, by Sholto,
Lord Aberdour, afterwards sixteenth Earl Morton, who died in Sicily in
1774. This corps, which never consisted of more than two troops, served
in the Seven Years’ War, and was disbanded in 1763. One of its
officers, Lieutenant the Honourable Sir T. Maitland, son of the Earl of
Lauderdale, died so lately as 1824, a lieutenant-general, G.C.B.,
governor of Malta and the Ionian Isles.

Where the road from Eupatoria to Sebastopol crosses the Bulganak, the
bank of the river rises for several hundred yards, and then the ground
slopes down into a valley, beyond which rises a succession of grassy
undulations. The hussars and light dragoons rode boldly forward.
Formed in four squadrons, they splashed through the stream, galloped up
the bank, and descended into the hollow, before they became aware that
no less than two thousand Russian cavalry were advancing to meet them,
with a line of skirmishers in front in extended order.

“Forward, skirmishers!” was now the command.

The trumpet sounded, and from the flanks of each squadron, as it halted
to form line, the few selected men for this duty spread at intervals of
twenty yards from each other, at the distance of two hundred yards from
the column; sheathing their swords and unslinging their carbines, as
they took up their dressing from the right. Beyond the crest of the
second eminence, a steady glittering in the sunshine revealed to the
keen eyes of General Airey that it came from the points—the mere tips—of
fixed bayonets, and that there were concealed in the hollow way many
battalions of an infantry force, quietly waiting to open a close and
murderous fire upon our little body of cavalry, when they were lured
sufficiently far forward to secure their total destruction. In fact,
our advanced guard, composed of only two slender regiments, was thus
suddenly opposed to six thousand men of the 17th Russian division,
posted in ambush, with two batteries of artillery, a brigade of regular
cavalry, and nine sotnias of Cossacks, the whole under General
Carlovitch Baur. It was a perilous—a terrible dilemma! Lord Raglan
knew that he must avoid an action on one hand, and secure the retreat of
the 11th and 13th with complete honour on the other. To the
roughly-mounted and loosely-handled Russian horsemen, the beautiful and
ceremonious formation of our gay hussars, with their glittering dolmans,
and our smart light dragoons in blue and buff, with all their swords and
bright appointments flashing in the sunshine, was a cause of hesitation.
They could not suppose but that this slender force had a greater body of
troops at hand, and feared the very snare they were preparing for
others; thus they were quietly and tranquilly confronting each other,
out of musket-range, when we, with the light and second division, the
8th Hussars, and nine-pounder batteries, came up at a gallop, to succour
our comrades, and got into position. After this, the wily and savage
Muscovites found their opportunity gone, and the gallant Baur was rather
nonplussed.

When the regiments of the infantry divisions came up, they deployed into
line, and all their bright steel ramrods glittered in the sunshine, as
they loaded with ball cartridge and “capped.” We, the cavalry support,
took up a position in the left rear of the advanced force under Lord
Cardigan, and rapidly loaded our pistols and carbines, awaiting further
orders. In each of my holsters I carried a six-chambered revolver. So
close were we to our advanced guard, that we could hear the officers of
the 11th and the 13th recalling their skirmishers.

“Retire the skirmishers,” rang again and again on the clear air;
“shorten stirrups—girth up—reload and reform.”

Every heart was beating high, for we were now face to face with an
enemy—many among us for the first time.

“Keep your dressing, squadron leaders,” said Colonel Beverley, whose
eyes were lit up by a strange brightness—indeed, it seemed to spread
over all his handsome and sunburned face; “close up, gentlemen. We have
all been used to ride to hounds, and that is more than any of those
Russian fellows have done. By Jove! I should like to see them crossing
a stiff stone-wall country. In a few minutes, lancers, I repeat we may
be hand to hand with the enemy; so, when we come to close quarters,
remember the old fencing-school advice, ’Watch your antagonist’s eyes,
not his blade.’”

I was leader of our left squadron, and had my post, of course, half a
horse’s length in front of the standard, which was carried by Sergeant
Stapylton. It was a white swallow-tailed pennon, with a skull, and the
words, “Or Glory” embroidered beneath—terribly significant at such a
time, as it rustled out in the breeze. My secret enemy, Mr. Berkeley,
was a troop leader on my left, at some little distance, and at this
exciting moment there was a singular expression in his eyes. I thought
he was about to ride up and extend his hand to me, for I had known of
forgiveness being often asked and accorded when men were face to face
with death; but if it were so, I was pitiless. I remembered Lady Louisa
Loftus, and the cottage by the Reculvers, and resolved that the hard
expression of my glance should chill him. Little did I know the ideas
that were in his mind, and the mischief he was yet to work me, ere we
passed the heights of Alma. On this evening, so cool were some of our
fellows, that I detected several of the rear-rank men tickling the
front-rank horses, to make them kick. Lord Raglan now became
apprehensive that the numerous cavalry of General Baur, in their longing
for a little sword exercise, might be tempted to charge the Earl of
Cardigan’s slender force; thus it became necessary to draw it off
without further delay, and to express his desire to that officer,
despatched General Airey, whose movements we watched with irrepressible
excitement.

“Your brigade will immediately retire, my lord, and by alternate
squadrons,” said the general, reining in his horse, and saluting.

Lord Cardigan bowed, and gave the necessary orders for throwing back the
squadrons of direction.

“Right squadron and left—threes about—march—trot!”

The remainder of the 11th and 13th remained motionless in their saddles,
with swords drawn, waiting till the flank squadrons halted and fronted,
about a hundred yards in their rear, when their own turn came to retire,
and so the movement of retreating alternately in this fashion went on.
But the moment it began, General Baur’s Russian brigade of horse
artillery came galloping out of the hollow, and were wheeled round and
unlimbered in battery on the ridge. The red flash of the first
field-piece made every heart bound and every pulse quicken; and ere we
had time for reflection, another and another boomed, with a cloud of
white smoke, from the green eminence. Then a gap appeared here and
there in the ranks of the 11th and 13th, as a horse, a hussar, or light
dragoon went down, and we saw them rolling in agony on the sward; but
their comrades closed in, holster to holster, and still the retreat by
alternate squadrons went coolly and quietly on. The six-pounder guns
attached to Cardigan’s force had no power upon the enemy; but the
nine-pounders which accompanied our brigade slew many of the Russians at
their guns. At every boom that echoed through the still evening air,
the scared birds flew about, screaming and flapping their wings wildly,
till, at last, they actually grovelled among our horses’ hoofs.

The 11th and 13th retired beyond us, and then came our turn to go threes
about, and fall back by squadrons, under cover of our artillery, whose
balls told so well that Beverley mentioned he could reckon through his
glass at least thirty-five Russian dragoons, with their horses, lying
stiff enough on the slope, where our nine-pounders had roughly loosed
their “silver cords” for ever. Prior to this, we had moved ten paces to
the left—a lucky thing for me, as a shrub which my horse had been
nibbling was torn into pieces by a five-inch shell a second or so after.
Glory apart, I was not sorry when we got the order to retire, for we
could achieve little honour here. My horse seemed sensible of our
danger, when the balls of the Russian artillery began to plough and tear
up the earth at his feet, or to hum past with a sound that made him
shrink. He kicked, lashed out behind, pawed with his forefeet, bore
with his teeth on the bit, and uttered strange snorts.




“By heaven! there is one of ours down!” exclaimed Jocelyn, my sub, in an
excited manner, as he turned in his saddle; and we saw a lancer in blue
lying on his back in our rear, his horse galloping away, and three
Russian skirmishers busy about him, while four dragoons were cantering
on to join them.

“’Tis poor Rakeleigh,” said Studhome, galloping up; “a shot has just
smashed his right thigh.”

“Colonel, may I try to save him—to recover his body?” I asked,
hurriedly.

“Certainly; but, Norcliff, be wary.”

“Who will come with me?” cried I, wheeling round my horse.

“I, sir,” replied Sergeant Dashwood.

“And I!” added Pitblado.

“And I! and I!” said others, unslinging their lances.

“Thanks, my brave lads!” cried Beverley. “Go at those devils like
bricks, and show them what true British pluck is!”

Attended by the first six who spoke, I galloped back to where the poor
fellow lay, heedless of the Russian cannon shot, and the three
skirmishers, in long grey coats and flat blue caps, who, after firing
their rifles without effect at us, scampered off to meet their troopers.
We found poor Rakeleigh quite dead, almost stripped already, and
hideously mutilated about the body. He had always been particular in
his person, and studiously fashionable in his dress. How often had we
quizzed those bandolined moustaches, now covered with froth and blood
gouts! His handsome face was terribly distorted, and his uniform was
almost gone—torn from him by those brutal Russian plunderers! Watch,
purse, and rings were also gone. We could but cut off a lock of his
rich brown hair to send to his poor mother in Athlone. He probably had
not been dead when overtaken by the Russians, as a bayonet wound was
perceptible in his breast. I had barely time to remark this, when a
shot from a Minie rifle whistled past me; and just as I sprang into my
saddle there was a shout and a crash—we were engaged in a _mêlée_ with
the seven Russians. Sergeant Dashwood pinned an infantry man to the
turf with his lance, and shot a trooper with the pistol which he grasped
in his bridle-hand. A gigantic Russian dragoon, with a red snub nose, a
thick black beard, and coarse green uniform, all over red braid, cut
through the shaft of Pitblado’s lance, inflicting on his shoulder a
wound which many a volunteer officer would give a good round sum for the
honour of possessing; but, quick as lightning, Willie’s sword was out,
and, after a few passes, he clove him through the glazed helmet down to
the nose. It was one of those tremendous strokes we read of sometimes,
but seldom see; such a stroke as that which Bruce gave Bohun, when he
“broke his good battle-axe” in front of the Scottish line. It rather
appalled our new acquaintances, who spurred away, dragging their two
infantry men with them. We then rode back to the regiment at a
hand-gallop; for we were compelled to leave the body of poor Rakeleigh.
What became of it I know not; but every vestige of it had disappeared
when we marched past that way on the morrow.

And so, as the twilight came down on land and ocean—on the plains of the
Chersonesus Taurica, and the waters of the Black Sea—ended this “first
approach to a passage at arms between Russia and the Western Powers;”
and Lord Raglan rejoiced in the steadiness and coolness displayed by his
slender force of cavalry in the now forgotten skirmish of Bulganak,
which the greater glories of the following day so completely eclipsed.

“Poor Rakeleigh,” said Beverley, as we gradually gathered at the place
where we had squatted before the alarm was given, and threw off our
accoutrements, while the grooms were unbitting our horses; “poor
lad—lying yonder to-night, mutilated and unburied—his first engagement,
too! Thank Heaven, his mother and sister don’t see him as we have done!
But greater work is to come.”

“Aw—the dooce, colonel!” said Berkeley, who, after the past danger, was
smoking his cigar vigorously, in a great flow, or rather revulsion, of
spirit; “what do you mean—haw—to infer?”

“That to-morrow we shall see the Russians, where their strength is all
concentrated in position on the heights of Alma!”

His words were rather prophetic; but all knew that matters must come to
the musket ere long. We passed the wine bottle from hand to hand, and
wrapped our cloaks and blankets about us preparatory to passing the
night as best we could. We were certainly less chatty and hilarious
than before, and had quite relinquished our jovial friend, _Mr. Punch_.
Doubtless each one was reflecting that poor Jack Rakeleigh’s fate might
have been his own. If mine, would Louisa have shed a tear for me? The
doubt was a pang! We saw no more of General Baur, who fell back towards
the river Alma in the night; but long after we thought the affair over,
a shell, the last missile fired, came souse from a long gun into our
bivouac, and caused a new alarm.

Pitblado, after his wound was dressed, was about to feed his horse, and
placed the corn in a tin platter on the ground. While grooming the
charger, he saw a large raven come to feed at the corn. Twice he threw
a stone at it in vain—the greedy bird continued its repast obstinately.
On the third occasion, armed with another stone, he ran towards it, on
which the raven flew into a tree, where he croaked as angrily as if he
had Elijah to feed as well as himself. At that moment a shell—a
five-inch one—-came whistling from the other side of the stream, and
exploded on the very place Pitblado had left, disembowelling and killing
his horse; so, in this instance, a raven was not the precursor of evil
fortune, or, as Willie said, sadly, while contemplating his dying
charger, “one hoodiecrow didna bode an ill wind.”

At a future period I was fated to see more of the gallant Schleswiger
who commanded the Russian reconnaissance at Bulganak; but there is an
anecdote connected with his origin, and how he became a soldier, so
creditable to human nature, and that which is dying fast among us,
genuine love of home, that I may be pardoned relating it here, just as
Beverley told it in our bivouac—especially as it is only to be found in
the old _Utrecht Gazette_, or the scarcer memoirs of a Scottish soldier
of fortune, Count Bruce, neither of which may be within the reader’s
reach. Prior to the conclusion of the dispute between Denmark and the
ducal house of Gottorp, when the Muscovite troops were in Schleswig and
Holstein, their cavalry were commanded by a general named Baur—a soldier
of fortune, who had attained his rank by merit and bravery alone, his
family and country being secrets to all save himself. His troops
occupied Husum, a small seaport at the mouth of the Hever, while he,
with his staff, lived in the old palace of the Duke Karl Peter of
Gottorp, who became Emperor of Russia, and lorded it over the people
with somewhat of a high hand. The little bailiwick was then a charming
place. The green meadows were fertile and rich, and spotted by golden
buttercups; the uplands were well tilled, and covered with wavy corn, or
deep rich clover; the farmhouses, of red brick and bright, yellow
thatch, were wondrously clean and pretty, their quaint porches covered
with flowing trailers, and borders gay with gorgeous hollyhocks.

The windmills whirled gaily in the breeze, and the laden boats, their
brown sails shining in the sun, floated lazily down the clear waters of
the river towards the calm and dark blue sea that stretched in the
distance far away—that sea where, as the Schleswigers aver, Waldemar and
Paine Jager, the Wild Huntsman, and Gron Jette, were never tired of
hunting and killing the mermaids, who sat on the slimy rocks, combing
their hair, and singing in the moonshine. All was peaceful, and all so
calm and rural, that the good men of Schleswig, their plump wives and
pretty daughters, trembled at the woes that might be wrought among them
by their bearded visitors from the Neva and the Wolga; and more than
ever were they alarmed on hearing that the general of the Muscovites had
sent for poor old Michel Baur, the miller by the wooden bridge, and also
for his wife, who went with many misgivings to the palace of the duke,
over which the standard with the cruel double eagle of the Czars was
flying.

“Make yourselves easy, my good people,” said the Russian general,
kindly, as they entered the great hall, with eyes abashed and shrinking
hearts; “I mean only to do you a service, so this day you shall dine
with me.”

Dine—dine with him—the general of the Muscovites? Did they hear aright,
or did their ears deceive them? Then he set the goodman Michel and his
goodwife Gretchen at table among the splendidly attired and brilliantly
accoutred officers of his staff—those counts and colonels of Uhlans,
hussars and cuirassiers, who gnawed their moustaches, and raised their
fierce eyebrows superciliously, with wonder and inquiry, at proceedings
so novel; while some of the younger laughed covertly at the terror and
bewilderment of the worthy couple, who, however, ate heartily of
dainties to which they were all unused, after their first alarm
subsided. The Muscovite general, who sat between them, at the head of
the table, with a kind smile on his handsome face—for handsome it was,
though his hair was now thin and grey—asked Michel many questions about
his family and household affairs—how the mill prospered and flour sold
in the market.

Then Michel, who scarcely ventured to raise his eyes from the order,
with the cross batons and crown of St. Andrew of Russia, which sparkled
on the general’s breast, told him that he was the eldest son of his
father, who had been a miller at the same mill years and years ago, even
when Frederick V. of Denmark, married to the Princess Louisa of Great
Britain, was a boy.

“The eldest son, say you, Michel?”

“Yes, herr general,” replied the miller, smoothing down his white hair
nervously.

“Then you had, at least, a brother?”

“Yes, herr general; poor Karl. He disappeared.”

“How?”

“Some said he became a soldier, others that he was spirited away by the
fairies,” said Gretchen.

“Many a prayer my good wife and I have said for Karl, though it is so
long since he was lost; and in his memory we have named our only son
Karl, too.”

On hearing this, the Russian general became greatly moved, and, seeing
that the astonishment of his officers at the interest he took in these
humble rustics could no longer be repressed, he rose, and taking Michel
and his wife by the hand—”Gentlemen,” said he, “you know me but as a
soldier of fortune, and have often been curious to learn who I am, whose
breast the Emperor has covered with stars and orders, and whence I came.
This village is my native place. In yonder crumbling mill by the wooden
bridge I was born. This is my brother Michel, and Gretchen, his wife!
I am Karl Baur, son of old Karl, the miller of Husum. Here was I
_bairn_ ere I relinquished my miller’s dusty coat to become a soldier.
Oh, brother Michel, who then could have _spaed_[*] the present?” he
added, in their old native dialect, as he embraced the wondering pair.

[*] Foretold.

“I was supposed to have been stolen on St. John’s night by the
golden-haired Stillevolk of the marshes, or the cranky old red-capped
Trolds, who dwelt among the green holms; but it was not so. I became a
hussar under Duke Karl Peter of Gottorp, and have risen to be what thou
seest—general of cavalry under our father the Emperor! So drink a deep
becker of our Danish beer, brother Michel; drink to the old times of our
boyhood, and fear not. I know our patrimony is but one of the poor
_Bauerhafen_, which are divided according to the number of ploughs; but
to-morrow thy _hufe_ shall be a _Freihufen_, Michel, free of all
burdens, even to the duke’s bailiff or the King of Denmark.”

Next day the general dined at the old mill, where he sat upon the same
hard stool he had used in boyhood, supping his Schleswig _groute_ with a
horn spoon from a wooden platter. In memory of the olden time, he placed
a marble cross above his parent’s grave. Three days after the trumpets
were heard, and the army marched from Schleswig to return no more; but
the general—the same General Bauer who served under Suwarrow in the
famous campaigns of Italy—made a plentiful provision for his poor
relatives, and sent the miller’s only son, his namesake, Karl, to Court
for his education, Karl rose to a high place in the household of the
Czar, and it was his son, Karlovitch Bauer, who prepared so specious a
trap for our advanced guard on the Bulganak—a trap happily rendered
useless by the skill and foresight of our leader, the good and brave
Lord Raglan.

Continue Reading

Paid the last mournful honours to the brave

On the 5th of September the allied armies embarked at Varna, and the
14th of the same month saw us landing in the Crimea, on ground near the
Lake of Kamishlu—not that chosen by the gallant Lord Raglan
originally—some miles north of the Bulganak river, at a place where the
cliffs, a hundred feet in height, overhung the beach. But, save a
boat-load of Zouaves, who were run down by a steam-transport, all were
disembarked safely under cover of the cannon of the allied fleets, and
without molestation from the enemy. The change of landing-place was
owing to the treachery of the French, who altered the buoys in the
night.

Lord Raglan could scarcely forget, what many an old peninsular veteran
remembered, that the auspicious day on which we made this landing in the
country of the foe was the anniversary of the death of his former
leader, the great Duke of Wellington.

We were exactly thirty miles westward of Sebastopol. The morning was
fine, and the surface of the Black Sea was smooth as glass. The whole
of the troops of the light division were in their boats, in heavy
marching order, with sixty rounds per man; packed close, each soldier
sat with his firelock between his knees, and the seamen, with their oars
out in the rowlocks, all motionless, and awaiting the signal.

It was given, and instantly a hum, rising to a cheer, passed over all
that vast array of men and boats; a gleam passed over the bright
accoutrements, and the oars fell plashing into the water.

“Give way, lads—lay out upon your oars!” was the order.

And the whole line of boats—a mile in length—shot off from the fleet;
and at half-past eight A.M. the first, which belonged to the
_Britannia_, landed her living freight.

Mid-leg deep in the surf, the sailors lent us valuable assistance in
getting ashore. Fusiliers, Highlanders, guardsmen and rifles, lancers
and hussars, all rapidly formed line upon the beach, where the infantry
piled arms, and the cavalry stood by their horses. Those who may have
witnessed the trouble and care requisite for the landing of one horse
from a vessel, with all the appliances of a spacious quay, can imagine
the difficulties attendant on the disembarkation of one thousand
chargers, armed and accoutred on an open beach.

The French were landing elsewhere, under St. Arnaud and Canrobert; and
ere long, sixty thousand men stood to their arms on that remarkable
peninsula, Crim Tartary—of old, the Isle of Kaffa, and known to recent
fame as the Crimea!

We were entirely without baggage. Our tents, and everything that might
encumber us in advancing to meet the enemy, had been left on board the
fleet; thus, few of us had cause to forget the night of the 14th of
September, when the army halted to sleep in an open bivouac, on bare
ground, for we had learned nothing in the art of conducting a war since
Moore fought and fell at Corunna.

Without cessation the drenching rain fell down. Thus our thin uniforms
and blankets were speedily soaked; but all ranks suffered in common. I
saw the Duke of Cambridge sleeping amid his staff, with his head
protected by a little tilt cart. For myself, I chiefly passed that
miserable night muffled in my cloak, dismounted, in the ranks beside my
horse, with my right arm twisted in the stirrup-leather for support, and
my head reposing on the holster flap. Thus I snatched a standing doze,
with the cold rain pouring down the nape of my neck; and in this fashion
most of the cavalry division passed this night, the effects of which
were speedily shown in the ranks of our young and as yet untried army.

Many of our battalions were already in possession of a hill on the right
of our landing place, and commanding it; and all the evening of the 14th
its sides were brightened by the glitter of their arms shining brightly
in the sun (that was then setting in the golden Euxine), as they formed
along its green slope in contiguous close columns of regiments.

“But,” says an eye-witness, “what were those long strings of soldiery
now beginning to come down the hillside, and to wind their way back
towards the beach? and what were the long white burdens horizontally
carried by the men? Already—already on this same day? Yes, sickness
still clung to the army. Of those who only this morning ascended the
hill with seeming alacrity, many now came down thus sadly borne by their
comrades. They were carried on ambulance stretchers, and a blanket was
over them. Those whose faces remained uncovered were still alive.
Those whose faces had been covered by their blankets were dead. Near
the foot of the hill the men began to dig graves.”

Each poor fellow was buried in his uniform and blanket. Thus began our
war in the Crimea!

The reason for our tents being left on board was occasioned by the curse
of the red-tapeism and ignorance in London. On the outbreak of the
conflict, we were destitute alike of the _materiel_ and the _personnel_
for a transport corps of any description whatever, beyond a few Maltese
mule carts; and had the Russians availed themselves of the ample time so
kindly given them by our ministry, and swept every species of horse and
waggon from the Crimea, our advance upon Sebastopol had been a movement
of greater difficulty than it proved to be. All our most useful baggage
was thus left at Varna, and there I lost with mine much of the lumber
with which I had provided myself at Maidstone, and at good Sir Nigel’s
expense. At last we were on Russian ground. I reminded Studhome of the
conduct of Mr. Berkeley, and urged that now a meeting should be arranged
beyond the outposts. I remember how palpably Jack changed colour at my
angry suggestion. He concealed from me a fact, which afterwards came to
my knowledge, that Berkeley had circulated injurious reports concerning
me through not only the lancers, but the hussar corps of our brigade.
But now Studhome put it to me, as a matter of feeling and discretion,
whether I should insist on this secret duel, for a matter that was long
past, when we would soon be face to face with the enemy, and when one of
us, perhaps both, might not be spared to see another muster day. These
arguments prevailed; I smothered my wrath, and met Mr. De Warr Berkeley
(as he chose to designate himself) on duty with cold civility, but
nothing more. To be cordial was beyond my powers of acting or
endurance. And thus, for the time, our quarrel stood. When those who
were ignorant of the cause of coolness between us remarked it, his
general answer was—

“Aw—haw—don’t know the reason, ’pon my soul; but those Scotsmen are such
doocid awd fellahs.”

Our contingent consisted of twenty-six thousand foot, one thousand
mounted cavalry, and sixty pieces of cannon, divided into five divisions
of infantry and one of horse; an absurdly small force to attempt an
invasion of Russia, even with the greater strength of the French and
Turkish allies—the former being thirty thousand, and the latter seven
thousand bayonets. Our first division, led by his Royal Highness the
Duke of Cambridge, consisted of the Grenadier, Coldstream, and Scots
Fusilier Guards, with three Highland regiments—the Black Watch, the
Cameron, and 93rd Highlanders, all considering themselves the _corps
d’élite_ of the army. The other divisions, under Sir George Brown, Sir
De Lacy Evans, Sir Richard England, and Sir George Cathcart, were
composed of our splendid infantry of the line—as I have elsewhere
said—the noble and carefully developed army of forty years of peace; and
the Earl of Lucan, who in his youth had served as a volunteer with the
Russians against the Turks in the campaigns under Diebitch, led our
mounted chivalry—the cavalry division—the flower of the British
Isles—yet to be covered with glory in the disastrous Valley of Death!
While the armies were advancing, with my troop I was repeatedly
despatched by the Quarter-master-General, Major-General Richard Airey,
to procure provisions and carriages, for that officer, beyond any other,
had seen from the first the necessity of procuring supplies and means of
transport. On one of these occasions, by his orders, I had the good
fortune to capture twenty-five _kibitkas_, or waggons, in a village near
our line of march. On the same day I think it was that his
aide-de-camp, the gallant Nolan, when exploring for water, came upon a
Russian government convoy of eighty waggons laden with flour, and seized
them all, routing the escort. In all we obtained three hundred and
fifty waggons, with their teams and Tartar drivers.




The chief proprietor of the _kibitkas_ I had taken was the patriarch or
leading man of the village—a Tartar of venerable aspect, wearing a
pelisse or long robe of blue stuff, with a small black lambskin cap, not
unlike an Egyptian tarboosh, from under which his white hair flowed upon
his shoulders.

Accustomed only to the lawless and brutal military tyranny of the
Muscovites and Cossacks, nothing could equal the good man’s astonishment
when I informed him, by means of an interpreter, that we merely required
the loan of the carts, and that he would be duly paid. Allah, ho
Ackbar!—think of that—actually paid, for any inconvenience or loss the
villagers might suffer by their detention.

On the morning of the 19th we quitted our miserable bivouac, and
commenced our march in search of the enemy, for we were on perilous
ground, and had the Russians come suddenly upon us, we might have been
compelled to risk a battle with our rear to the cliffs which overhung
the Euxine (where the sea-calves basked on the beach a hundred feet
below), and on a field where defeat would have been certain ruin and
death to all. But, as the French had assumed to themselves the honour
of the right wing, they had thus a greater risk than we British, who had
quietly taken the left flank, as the allies advanced along the coast.

The 11th Hussars and 13th Light Dragoons, under Lord Cardigan, formed an
advanced guard; and in their rear marched a detachment of rifles, in
extended or skirmishing order. We knew that the enemy was somewhere in
front; but in what force, or where or how posted, we were in perfect
ignorance. Occasionally an excited voice in the ranks would exclaim
that a Russian vedette was in sight on the distant hills.

The atmosphere was calm, the sky almost cloudless, and high into its
azure ascended the smoke of the allied fleet, which kept moving under
steam far away on the right flank of the French army, which rested on
the shore. The sun shone hot and brightly; but at times there came
pleasantly a light, fresh breeze from the shining Euxine.

The colours were all uncased and flying; the bands of the cavalry and
infantry, with the merry bugles of the rifles, filled the air with
music; and I could hear the pipes of the Highlanders, under the Duke of
Cambridge, alternately swelling up or dying away upon the ambient air,
as the first division traversed the undulating country in front.

As we proceeded, I could not resist letting my horse’s reins drop upon
his neck, and soaring into dreamland, my thoughts went far away to our
distant home beyond the sea. Sometimes I imagined how my name would
look in the list of killed or wounded, and of what Louisa Loftus would
think then. And with this morbid fancy came always another idea—was it a
conviction?—that such an announcement would cause a deeper and more
lasting grief in Calderwood Glen than at Chillingham Park; and I thought
of my good uncle reading the heavy news to his two faithful old
henchmen, Binns, the butler, and Pitblado, the keeper.

Louisa’s lock of raven hair which I had received at Calderwood, the
miniature which she had sent to me afterwards at the barracks, were with
me now; and with me, too, was the memory of those delicious words she
had whispered in my ear in the library at Chillingham—

“Till we are both in our graves, dear Newton, you will never, never know
how much I love you, and the agony which Berkeley’s cunning cost me.”

This was strong language: yet it would seem now that, amid the whirl of
fashionable life at Chillingham Park, balls, routs, dinners, suppers,
and reviews, the race, and the hunting-field dotted with red coats, she
had been compelled, or had allowed herself, to forget me—I, who thought
of her only. And amid that more brilliant vortex, the world of London
life, the Queen’s Court, the royal drawing-rooms, the crowded parks, the
gaieties of Rotten Row and the Lady’s Mile, the splendours of the opera,
and the wonders of the Derby, it seemed likely enough that a poor devil
of a lancer serving in the East was to be forgotten, and for ever too!

From such a reverie I would be roused by Jocelyn, Sir Harry Scarlett, or
some other of ours, exclaiming—

“Look out! By Jove! there’s a Russian vedette!”

Then through my field-glass I might discern, between me and the sky, a
Cossack in a fur cap, riding along the green ridge in the distance, with
his knees up to his girdle, his back bent, his lance-head glinting in
the sunshine, and the snub nose of his Calmuck visage planted almost
between the drooping ears of his shaggy little horse, as he uttered a
shrill whoop and galloped away.

“We seem to be coming closer and closer to those fellows,” said the
colonel. “Every moment I expect to see Cardigan with the advanced guard
draw the cover, and receive a dose of grape from flying artillery.”

“And those vedettes seem to be thrown forward from a large force,
colonel,” said Studhome. “I have already detected five or six different
uniforms.”

“Yes, Jack. So I would advise you to write a dutiful letter to your
friends.”

“Why, colonel?” said our adjutant, laughing.

“Because we shall certainly be under fire to-morrow.”

To-morrow proved to be the day of the Alma—an eventful day for many.

The approach of danger made all who were in health grow high in spirit
and hilarity.

“Rather different work this from the gravelled yards at Canterbury and
Maidstone,” said Wilford, joining us at a canter, to share a little
conversation.

“Ay, Fred,” said the colonel; “and very different from our daily service
of a year or so ago.”

“At Allahabad and Agra—eh?”

“Yes. Lying half the day on an easy _fauteuil_, in a silk shirt and
cotton drawers, fanned by an Indian girl; or cooled by a punkah, and
guarded by mosquito-curtains, making up our books on the Meerut race
meeting; calculating the rising or falling of the thermometer, and
studying the ’Army List?’”

(Another year or two was to see very different work cut out at Cawnpore
and Delhi for our Indian comrades.)

Five nights spent amid the mud of our bivouac had somewhat tarnished the
finery of our lancer uniforms. Already the bullion of our large
epaulettes was crushed and torn, our gorgeous lace defaced and frayed;
but our horses were all in high condition, and our arms and appointments
bright enough to have satisfied even Count Tilly himself.

On this short day’s march we lost one lancer of Wilford’s troop.
Passing where a Coldstream guardsman lay by the wayside, black in
visage, and dying of weakness, thirst, and heat, he gave him the entire
contents of his wooden canteen, and falling from his saddle soon after,
died himself for lack of that which he had so generously given another,
as there was not a drop of water with the regiment; for, in the Crimea,
by the end of August, all springs, rivulets, and fountains are alike
dried up; verdure disappears, and the thermometer, even in the shade,
rises to 98 or 100 degrees.

Twice on this march I saw a sister of charity kneeling beside the sick
or dying, and rode on to learn whether she might prove to be
Mademoiselle Chaverondier, or, as I preferred to call her, my dear
sister Archange, but on both occasions I was disappointed. All were
high in courage, and full of ardour; but their spirit changed and sunk
as the hot and breathless day wore on, and our poor men’s strength
became worn out. The music ceased, as band after band gave in, and the
drummers slung their drums wearily on their backs. Even the Scotch
bagpipes died away, and the massed columns, each some five thousand
strong, trod silently over the undulating steppes, with all their sloped
arms, and the glazed tops of their shakos, glittering in the sun. But
long ere the noon of that first day of toil, many had begun to fall out,
in all the agonies of cholera. At one place my horse had actually to
pick his way among them. All looked black in the face, and choking; the
heavy bearskin caps and thick leather stocks were cast aside, and their
jackets were torn open. Some were writhing in agony, and others,
weakened by toil and thirst, lay still and voiceless. On we marched, on
and on, and the sufferers were left to the Cossack lances, or a more
lingering death, while the wolves from the groves of the Alma, and the
Alpine vulture and kite from the rocks of Kamishlu, hung on our skirts,
and waited for their prey. Our thirst was intense and indescribable,
when a shout of joy announced that the advanced guard, under Lord
Cardigan, had reached that long-wished-for river the Bulganak, where we
were to bivouac for the night. The moment a division came in sight of
the cool stream that rippled between its green banks, and groves of wild
olive and pomegranate trees, the men burst with a shout from the ranks,
and rushed forward to slake their burning and agonizing thirst.[*]

[*] In one brigade a stronger governance was maintained. Sir Colin
Campbell would not allow that even the rage of thirst should loosen the
discipline of his splendid Highland regiments. He halted them a little
before they reached the stream, and so ordered it that, by being saved
from the confusion that would have been wrought by their own wild haste,
they gained in comfort, and knew that they were gainers. When men toil
in organized masses, they owe what well-being they have to wise and firm
commanders.”—Kinglake’s “Invasion of the Crimea,” vol. ii.

The infantry were speedily bivouacked along the bank of the stream; but
we—the cavalry—were fated to have a little passage at arms with the
Russians before the sun set.

Continue Reading