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.

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