OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Attitude of the German Powers page 4


Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5

Before all the troops were concentrated, the news arrived that the Russians had raised the siege of Silistria, and had crossed the Danube. It was brought by a Tatar, who rode in from Shumla on the 24th of June, three days after Lord Raglan had landed, and before Marshal St. Arnaud had come up from Constantinople. The news created a welcome stir in the camps, but the commanders were not in a position to follow up the check by moving on the Danube. They had, moreover, the greatest dread of undertaking any operation beyond it; and they were aware of the treaty between Austria and the Porte. Marshal St. Arnaud, indeed, in his wild fashion, did speak of pursuing the Russians, who had " robbed him of victory," to Bucharest, to the Sereth, and the Pruth; but a few moments' reflection convinced him that he was indulging in a dream. Very little, indeed nothing, could be done with a force wanting in so many of the essentials of an army. The French cavalry, too, were still engaged in marching by land to Varna, and there were only two British regiments at hand. Lord Raglan, however, sent Major Calthorpe to communicate with Omer Pasha, and as that officer had to ride as far as Silistria to find him, he was the first to catch a glimpse of the Russians encamped about Kalarasch. Lord Cardigan and a body of light cavalry were sent to patrol as far as the Dobrudscha. They rode through a desolate country for seventeen days, and saw no enemy; but, after undergoing great privation from want of food, water, forage, and shelter, they returned, having out of 280 horses, 90 with sore backs. There were also immediate changes in the camps, the British forces pushing further into the country. That was all that was or could be done. The Russians were over the Danube far away, and if the allies had been ever so minded to follow them, they could not have done so for want of transport.

Elated with the success of his soldiers at Silistria? Omer Pasha rode off to Varna, to confer with the allied commanders, and to see the armies of the West. On the 3rd of July he inspected the Light Division at Devna. " The coup d'œil" says an eye-witness, " was magnificent. The blue outlines of the distant hills, over which played the shadows of rapidly gathering thunderclouds; the green sweep of the valley below, dotted with tents, and marked here and there with dark masses of Turkish infantry; the arid banks of sand grey cliffs, displaying every variety of light and shadow; and then the crest of the hill, along which for a mile shone the bayonets of the British infantry, topped by the canvas walls behind them, formed a spectacle worth coming far to see." Passing rapidly onward to Varna, where he arrived on the 4th, the Turkish general there saw another splendid military sight - 27,000 French soldiers drawn up in parade order on the heights overlooking the Black Sea.. On the 6th he rode off again, and on his way he inspected the Guards and Highlanders, three batteries, and the 5th Dragoon Guards, in the pleasant camp at Aladyn; so that during his short stay he was able to feast his eyes on the elite of both armies. His visit had been one of courtesy and business; but the business done was not momentous. He learned that the allies could not move - perhaps, that they did not intend to move - unless Russia, by resuming offensive operations, compelled them to march as they best might to the aid of the Turks. But at this moment it was found expedient to throw upon Austria the blame of inaction. Austria had concluded her treaty with the Porte three weeks before, but had not sent a man across the frontier; and practically, at the beginning of July, the situation of affairs was this: the allies were absolute masters of the Black Sea; they had collected, perhaps, 70,000 men at Varna, but were unable and unwilling to move them. The Austrians were on the frontier waiting to step in when the Russians retired. The Russians and the Turks were alone face to face; so that the Russians in the Principalities had to contend against a brave but indifferent army of Turks, and to bear up against the influence exercised by two distant but threatening armies - an influence purely moral. The Russians, although worsted in many combats, had no dread of the Turks, the force nearest to them. But they had a salutary dread of the Austrians in their right rear, and of the Anglo-French army on their left front. In the beginning of July these moral influences began to tell upon the mind of the Czar, and on the minds of his generals. There was hesitation in the camp and the cabinet; and during this period of doubt the Austrians became more pressing, and the Turks more venturesome; and thus the Czar, wrathful as he was, forbidden also by the German Powers, under penalty of war, from striking at the Balkan, even if fortune gave him the opportunity, found it expedient to relinquish his hold of the material guarantee, which, in an evil hour for him, and without consulting a single councillor, he had directed his troops to seize. But before he came to that resolve, a few Turkish battalions and half a dozen English officers once more caused him to endure the humiliation of seeing his soldiers defeated on the Danube.

Omer Pasha had barely reached Shumla when he heard of a conflict on the Danube. The Turkish garrison at Rustchuk had in their front, on the opposite shore, a Russian force under General Soimonoff. The young British officers, at that time roving in Bulgaria, had come into Rustchuk after the fall of Silistria. They were Lieutenant Meynell, of the 75th, and Lieutenants Hinde, Arnold, and Ballard, of the Indian army. Besides these, Captain Bent, and Lieutenant Burke, of the Engineers, and two sappers, were there on duty; and Colonel Ogilvy served as volunteer aide to General Cannon. On the 7th of July, Hassan Pasha, seeing, as he believed, symptoms of a retreat in the Russian camp, sent over a force to seize Giurgevo, or, at least, to effect a lodgment. It was arranged that General Cannon, Bent, and Ballard should cross the river to an island in front of Rustchuk, while other troops, led by Burke, Meynell, Hinde, and Arnold, landed higher up, and joined them by marching down the left bank. Cannon's party crossed, landed, and took up a position covered in front by a strip of water, but open at both flanks. As they had no entrenching tools at hand, the Turks were forced to fight, for the Russians had not retreated, as was supposed. On the contrary, they issued forth from a redoubt on the left, and fell upon the Turks. At first they were repelled by the steady fire of the rifles; but they came on afresh, and gained ground so much that the Turks, though animated by the English, would have been swept into the river, had not a Turkish officer brought over a reinforcement at a critical moment, and brought also the means of covering the position with entrenchments. The troops which had crossed above were now hurrying into the position. They had been compelled to make a flank march under a severe fire from artillery, followed by a close infantry attack. Lieutenant Burke and two sappers, Anderson and Swann, were engaged hand to hand with the enemy - a contest in which Burke, after slaying six foes, fell under a succession of wounds. Anderson fought fiercely for the body of Burke, and won it, but could not carry it far; and when, after the action, he sought and found it, to his horror he saw that the head had been shorn from the trunk, and the fingers from the hands, to secure the rings on them; while he counted thirty wounds in what remained of this brave soldier's stalwart frame. With Burke fell Arnold and Meynell, and Hinde and Ogilvy alone survived to rally the remaining Turks within the fast rising entrenchments; for, in spite of the fierce onsets of column after column on both flanks, the Turks, reinforced from Rustchuk, until they numbered 5,000 men, held fast to the fringe of the bank. The fight lasted for ten hours. Four times the Turks charged into the advancing foes, and drove them back with great slaughter. When the sun set, they stood masters of the left bank, and victors in one of the most hotly-contested and equal actions in which they had yet measured their prowess with that of the Russians. Stung by this defeat, Prince Gortschakoff hurried up a large force from Kalarasch; but when he arrived, he found the Turks had extended the area of their camp, and now stood upon a range of high ground, called the Slobozie heights, well covered by entrenchments. He did not attack. Day after day his chances of success decreased; for, seven days after the fight, a new reinforcement reached the Turks. Captain Page of the Artillery, Lieutenant Pratt of the Engineers, Lieutenant Glyn and Prince Leiningen of the British navy, thirty- four sappers and miners, thirty-five sailors, and fifteen French pontooneers, entered Rustchuk, having ridden from Aladyn on horseback, 120 miles, in five days. Lieutenant Glyn at once took the command of the Turkish flotilla, and carried it into the inner channels between the Turkish and Russian camps; while the sailors, and sappers, and pontooneers built bridges over the inner channel and the main stream. Before the last was finished, Prince Gortschakoff had begun that retrograde movement which did not terminate until the Russians had re-crossed the Pruth. Fighting ceased. On the 28th the Prince announced that he was about to quit " the insalubrious regions of the Danube for a short space, and withdraw to the healthier mountain lands." He fulfilled his promise; and on the 6th of August the Turkish columns coming from the Danube and the Aluta met at Bucharest, where, protected by Moslem bayonets, the natives of the orthodox faith sang Te Deum for their deliverance from the hard rule of the Pontiff-Czar.

The causes of this retrograde step are to be found in the political events of the last days of July, as well as in the military pressure upon the Danube. For Austria had at length determined to adopt a more decisive line of action. She had not only concentrated an army in the Banat and Transylvania, but she had increased her reserves by calling out 95,000 men. Unwilling to draw the war into her own territory, while she was eager to see the Russians fairly out of the basin of the Danube, she wished to accomplish that object without war. Prussia, being devoted to purely German interests, neglectful of the welfare of Europe, and being much swayed by Russia, her reserved position made it necessary for Austria to act with caution. Nevertheless, as we have seen, by her treaty with the Porte, she had, in the middle of June, undertaken to use all means necessary for expelling the Russians; and when she saw that the allies were in Bulgaria, and that the Turks could not only hold the Danube, but operate on the left bank, she took another step, and one which separated her from Prussia. At the request of the English Government, she signed a document, importing that she would not agree to a peace which did not include the abolition of the exclusive protectorate exercised by Russia over the Danubian Principalities, and the substitution of a European protectorate, the cessation of Russian control over the mouths of the Danube, the bringing of Turkey completely and effectively within the limits of the European system, and the absolute and unqualified renunciation by Russia of any claim to a right of protecting the subjects of the Sultan who professed the Greek religion. "Moreover, the Austrian Government were warned, and they did not dissent from the proposition laid down, that the peace to be concluded with Russia must be a solid and honourable peace, and not a mere truce, to be broken at the convenience of Russia. The Austrian Government must have seen from this that, unless Russia gave way at once, the war must go on. As there was not the' slightest probability that the Czar would yield, it was clear the war would go on. Austria, therefore, resolved to act at once upon the treaty of the 14th of June; her armies crossed the frontier, and entered the Principalities. As the Russians retired, during July and August, the Turks had followed them; and as the Austrian troops entered Wallachia, the Turks withdrew until the occupation was complete. It has been said that this measure set free the forces of the Czar; and it is quite true. No doubt the task the allies were about to undertake would have been easier had Austria declared war; but she could not be expected to do that, as she would have had to act alone against Russia. On the other hand, the invasion of the Crimea could not have taken place, had not Austria occupied the Principalities; for in that case the Czar, by continuing to threaten on the Danube, would have detained the allies at Varna; and if they had embarked for the Crimea or Circassia, his best means of defending either would have been a second passage of the Danube, and a vigorous attack on the line of the Balkan. But when Austria resolved to occupy the Principalities, the Czar was compelled either to yield them or declare war on Austria. He preferred, prudently, the former alternative.

The allied Powers, active agents in the war, had resolved on a mode of reaching Russia. They had determined to carry the war into the Crimea, and capture Sebastopol. This was no sudden resolve. It grew naturally, and, one may say, inevitably out of the war itself. The object of the war was, first, the defence of the Sultan's territory; next, the placing of the territory in security. One means of accomplishing that was the diplomatic devices to which Austria had assented - the abolition of the political monopolies enjoyed by Russia, monopolies which, as long ago as 1829, Lord Aberdeen had shown were fatal to Turkish independence. But there were other means essential to complete success. For a quarter of a century all military observers had seen the military importance of the Crimea. This peninsula, united to the mainland only by the Isthmus of Perekop, and the sandy ledge of Arabat, was the seat of enormous power. At its southern extremity, within a few hours' sail of Constantinople, stood Sebastopol, upon an inlet of the sea forming an excellent harbour. The Russian Government had spent millions in constructing here a series of fortresses impregnable to a maritime attack, and within the harbour and on the shores of a creek running southward they had built vast docks, overlooked by extensive barracks for sailors and soldiers. Here they had accumulated thousands of guns, tons of ammunition, and huge piles of marine stores. Here they kept a powerful fleet ready at any moment to sail forth and give the law to the Sultan and to domineer in the Euxine. Long before the phrase was used in Parliament or by statesmen, soldiers had come to regard Sebastopol as a "standing menace" to the Turkish Empire; and at the very outbreak of war, the Duke of Newcastle, British War Minister, had directed the attention of Lord Raglan to this point. The Emperor Napoleon often cast glances on the map of the Black Sea, and Marshal St. Arnaud dwelt with trembling excitement on the prospect of an invasion of the Crimea. But the military men, knowing how precarious are operations based on the sea, were doubtful of success. They wanted large means; they contemplated long campaigns; they looked to the observance of all the principles of the art of war. Not so the civilians and the bolder spirits. They conceived the idea of descending on the shores of the Crimea, and carrying Sebastopol by a coup de main. Very little trustworthy information respecting the obstacles in the way, and the numerical strength of the Russian army in the Crimea, could be obtained. Lord Raglan could get none. The French had none. Omer Pasha averred that there were only 70,000 men in the Crimea, and Lord Clarendon, from some source of his own, received the positive assertion that there were not more than 45,000 men in the peninsula, including the seamen; while Admiral Dundas reported the number of the Russian force to be 120,000 men. The British Cabinet, looking to all the circumstances, believing the smaller estimate to be correct (and it was nearly correct), seeing that the allied fleets had entire control of the Black Sea, and that any reinforcements sent to the Crimea must march thither by Perekop, sure that Austrian battalions would cover the road to Constantinople, pressed upon their ally the project of an invasion of the Crimea. The nation went entirely with them in this. Being responsible, they naturally hesitated longer than those who were not responsible; but it is not true to say, as Mr. Kinglake says, either that the Times brought about the decision, or that the Government merely obeyed the popular voice. Those who are responsible for the expedition are the Cabinet, the Parliament, the people - in short, the British nation. And the nation was right. For unless Sebastopol and the naval power of Russia in the Euxine were destroyed, a treaty of peace would have been a mere truce devoid of any sound security either to Turkey or to Europe. It is really puerile to contend that Russia could determine the war by relinquishing the Principalities. The wrongful act which led her there was only a symbol, a manifestation of the existence of a state of things injurious to Europe. When she retired, that state of things was not changed; Russia was still the domineering power, and still held in her hands the means of disquieting, threatening, nay, of attacking Turkey. No doubt the object of the war enlarged with its progress; but that, within certain limits, is common to all wars. Having gone to the vast expense of sending armies and fleets to Turkey, the allies would have been culpable, had they neglected to use the power collected for the broad purpose of obtaining the amplest possible security for the independence and integrity of Turkey.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 <4> 5

Pictures for Attitude of the German Powers page 4

Lord Stratford de Redcliffe
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe >>>>
Departure of the Guards
Departure of the Guards >>>>
Marshal St. Arnaud
Marshal St. Arnaud >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About