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

Chapter XVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2

Pages: 1 <2> 3 4 5

When the morning broke it was supposed that the signal would be given to weigh anchor. All were ready, but no signal came. The wind blew from the northward, that is, from the point whither the ships were bound; it freshened to a stiff breeze, and as it was feared the violence of the waves might break the tow ropes and disorder the convoy, Admiral Dundas gave no signal. So another day was spent. In the meantime the Marshal was fretting out at sea. "At mid-day," the 6th, so runs an entry in his diary, " I write to Lord Raglan to make him understand how inconvenient it is " - this waiting for your allies whom you have abruptly sailed away from. On the 7th he grew more anxious, and sent a letter to Admiral Dundas, and a steamer to look after his ally. The steamer returned in the afternoon. " It was only this morning," he goes on, "that Admiral Dundas resolved to make sail; and this determination was only come to after a lively talk with Admiral Lyons, who wished to weigh yesterday." It was very distressing, especially as nothing was gained by being the first to move. And in the end, finding himself getting further and further from his ally, he requested his Admiral to put about and return towards the British fleet.

The wind, which had vexed the impatient Marshal on the 6th, fell, and early on the morning of the 7th the welcome signal to weigh was visible from the "Britannia." It was still twilight, for the sun was behind the giant range of the Caucasus, and it is said the moonlight still quivered on the waves. The wind had changed, and was now blowing from the land, and the tideless sea was smooth. Several hours were spent in getting the transports into order. The ships had to be ranged in six columns, and when this was completed the war-fleet formed a seventh in line of battle, steering between the convoy and Sebastopol. The columns of transports were five miles long and nearly a mile apart. In this order they quitted the anchorage, and moved out into the sea which so well deserves its name - the Black Sea. "Now, as in old time," writes Mr. Kinglake, "the voyager leaves a coast smiling bright beneath skies of blue and glowing with sunny splendour; yet, perhaps, in less than an hour, the heavens above and the waters around him are dark with the gloom and threatening aspect belonging to the Northern Ocean." The ships were all out of the bay at ten o'clock. Soon the black smoke from the funnels of the steamers spread over the whole, shutting out the view of the sky, and settling down on the surface of the waters. And so within this dismal atmosphere, the mighty mass of ships and men laboured along on its way to a hostile shore. It was not lovely to the eye this moving cloud of sombre smoke; it looked like a thick dirty fog which had settled down upon the waves. But to the imagination, how imposing, how full of power! It represented the might of two great nations, the will, the intellect, the marvellous discipline, the brawny strength of the Maritime Powers, projected three thousand miles from their-native seat in the islands and the Continent of Western Europe, to execute stern judgment on an ambitious despot, who had regarded himself as the destiny of the Eastern world. And while this destructive machine was gliding over waters he had called his own, his fleet was rocking idly within the fort-encompassed harbour of Sebastopol; and his huge armies were far away from the peninsula on which the powers of the West were about to descend.

The fleet moved on, not without meeting some buffets from winds and waves. On the 8th, some twenty miles off the Isle of Serpents, the missing Franco-Turkish fleet rose above the sea line. They were tacking back towards Baljik, in order to meet the British and their own ships left behind. As soon as our fleet hove in sight, the French stood off on the opposite tack and ran to the eastward. The regularity of the line they kept was remarked with admiration by the British sailors. The British squadrons came up while the French and Turks were still sailing eastward, that is, across the line of direction taken by their allies. Suddenly the French lay to on the right hand and the Turks on the left. The British men-of-war in one long line swept through the interval, and then the transports in good order, "like regiments of vessels " in open column, glided swiftly after. Fears of a storm arose. The sky grew dark, the wind rose in hasty gusts, and the waves rose with it. But the tempest did not touch the fleet, except with the mere fringe of its violence; and on the 9th the armada was once more steadily pressing on towards the trysting- place, a point out at sea forty miles west of Cape Tarkan, a promontory on the western coast of the Crimea. On the 10th, the British transports and guardian warships anchored near the appointed place. They were awaiting the issue of a final reconnaissance on the coast of the peninsula.

For when Lord Raglan, in the Caradoc, joined Marshal St. Arnaud on the 8th, fresh doubts had sprung up in the mind of the invalid. He was still balancing between two schemes. He still doubted which would be the better course, to land somewhere in Kalamita Bay, or to double the Chersonese, and seize Kaffa and Arabat as a base of operations. If he chose the latter course, at Kaffa he would entrench himself, raise the people of the country, await reinforcements, then fight the Russians, beat them, and move on Sebastopol by Batchi-Serai. In fact, when Lord Raglan came up with the French fleet on the 8th, Marshal St. Arnaud sent word that he would like to see the British General and Admiral on board the Ville de Paris. The Marshal was himself too ill at this time to leave the ship, and as the sea was rough, Lord Raglan, with one arm only, could not climb the side of a French line-of-battle ship. So he sent his Secretary, Colonel Steele, with Admiral Dundas, to hear what Marshal St. Arnaud had to say. They arrived, and found in his cabin Admirals Hamelin, Bruat, and Bouet-Willaumez, Colonel Trochu, and Colonel Rose. The council was summoned to discuss a proposal to revise the whole plan of operations determined upon at Varna.

The French Emperor had studied the map of the Crimea. Surveying its extended coasts, he had observed at the eastern extremity the peninsula of Kertch and the bay of Kaffa. Other military eyes had looked upon it before, and had seen that here was the vulnerable point, the place where a force coming from the sea might safely debark, might fortify themselves, and then proceed to work through the Crimea, according to the rigorous principles of military theory. In his instructions to St. Arnaud in April, 1854, Napoleon had dwelt upon this scheme, as the one correct scheme to be executed, and when the war was far from being over, he, in the following year, published his views in the Moniteur, with an official expression of regret that they had not been adopted. It was this scheme, regularly drawn out on paper, and purporting to originate with the very heads of the French staff, that was brought under the notice of Colonel Steele and Admiral Dundas on board the Ville de Paris. What did it mean? Surely when the expedition was projected by the British Cabinet, the Emperor assented to the plan, and agreed to leave the execution to the two generals. That plan was in the nature of a sudden descent upon the coast of the Crimea, at some point not too far from Sebastopol, and it involved the contingency of a battle with the Russian army, which, if successful, was to be followed by a rapid dash into this great place of arms. The project of landing at Kaffa would have changed the whole character of the expedition; substituting for a battle a march, and an assault a regular campaign. And this proposed change was to be debated, not before the fleets had put to sea, but when they were actually lying at anchor in its midst. Marshal St. Arnaud took no part in the conference, he was too ill, but his letters show that on the 10th he was still pondering on the merits of the Emperor's plan. When Colonel Steele reported to Lord Raglan the purpose for which he had been called on board the French ship, the British General was astonished. The French officers were carried on board the Caradoc, where they found Lord Raglan and Sir Edmund Lyons. Colonel Trochu was commissioned by St. Arnaud to say that he left the decision in the hands of Lord Raglan, and Lord Raglan would not do more than listen to any such a radical change. Neither Admiral Bruat nor Admiral Lyons gave it any countenance, and even Colonel Trochu took care to state that it did not meet with his approval. Mr. Kinglake, writing with Lord Raglan's letters before him, says that the English general inferred from the document, " that it evinced ' an indisposition to the expedition among the officers who are supposed to be looked up to, and to exercise influence in the French army [Canrobert, Martimprey, chief of the staff; Thiry, Artillery Commandant; Bizot, head of the engineers]; and 'in fact,' said he, ' we were told as much at the meeting here on Friday.' " This, if correct, reveals a strange state of things in the French army. Canrobert was to be second in command. What would have happened had the marshal died at sea? Lord Raglan put aside the project with a firm hand, but he proposed a final reconnaissance of the coast of the Crimea, in which he himself took part.

There were five points on the west coast to be inspected. The allies had to consider whether they would attempt to land on the Chersonese, close to Sebastopol, at the mouths of the Belbek, the Katcha, the Alma, or on the sandy beaches near Eupatoria. Four steamers, the Agamemnon, the Sampson, the Primauguet, and the Caradoc - the latter bearing Lord Raglan, Sir Edmund Lyons, Sir John Burgoyne, Sir George Brown, and the French officers - started on the 9th to begin the inspection at Sebastopol. At dawn on the 10th, the place was visible, and Lord Raglan saw it for the first time. The Caradoc went close in; the Russian soldiers were peering in crowds over the battlements, and although they saw that the little steamers bore persons of importance, they did not fire. From the mouth of the harbour, the Caradoc steered for the jutting point of the Chersonese, to look in at Kamiesch Bay, and thence turning northward, ran slowly up the whole coast as far as Eupatoria. The officers on board found Kamiesch Bay too close to the place, the mouth of the Belbek to be under fire from earthworks, the beach at the Katcha to be too small, and also watched by a Russian force in camp; and the mouth of the Alma impracticable for various reasons. Stretching along the low reddish cliffs, they found a practicable place near the saline lakes and mud baths of Sak and Kamishli. Speaking the opinions of St. Arnaud, General Canrobert had expressed his approval of the mouth of the Katcha; but naval opinion was against him, and he gave way. "It was finally decided," writes an officer who was on board the Caradoc, "that the landing should be made about seven miles north of the little stream dignified by the name of the Bulgānak; the English to land on the strip of land between the sea and Kalamita [Kamishli] salt lake; the French just south of them," at a place the Tartar name of which signified "Old Fort." So the final step was taken. The Caradoc and her consorts steamed off for the fleets, glancing at Eupatoria by the way, and rejoining them on the 11th.

The place where they lay at anchor was forty miles west of Cape Tarkan, itself the most westerly point of the Crimea, and the ships were as near to Odessa as they were to Sebastopol. The French and Turkish ships were still distant thirty miles, and when the British started on the morning of the 12th, their allies were only faintly Visible on the western horizon. To reach the appointed landing-place, the fleets had to pass Cape Tarkan, leaving it on the left hand, then to follow the course of the coast, and rounding a point, enter the bay of Eupatoria. On the 12th, eager spectators on shipboard were able to make out the low shores of the Crimea, looking like "the dunes of France," then becoming clearer, and showing clumps of timber and white farm-houses. Later in the day, keen eyes detected to the south-east, far away over the sea, a high, bold, mountainous region, with a flat top, which some knew to be the Tchatir Dagh, the highest ground in the Crimea, a sight destined to become familiar to many eyes, as they turned for a moment from gazing on the white forts and brown earthworks of Sebastopol. The English portion of the convoy, being amply supplied with steam power, could easily have reached the landing-place on the morning of the 13th; but they were compelled to lag in their course because the French, with weaker steam power,' could not keep up with them. So that on the evening of the 12th the fleet had not arrived even in the bay of Eupatoria. The war ships, guarding the convoy, steamed out on its right or seaward flank, and kept a vigilant watch, although as the wind blew from the north-west - that is, towards Sebastopol - it was unlikely that the Russians would venture to send out their men-of-war.

The sun went down over the western sea, amid piles of mountain-like clouds, over whose ridges, and peaks, and deep chasms he spread the mantle of his golden rays. " When night came on," says an observer of the scene, " and all the ships' lights were hung out, it seemed as if the stars had settled down on the face of the waters." Then the light of the real stars was blotted out by lowering clouds, and heavy rain fell from them, and brilliant flashes of lightning leaping from their depths effaced for a moment the twinkling rays of the ships' lanterns, and revealed also for a moment the dark forms of the ships rocking upon the disturbed waters. Happily, the storm rolled away towards the south-east, and the stars, were visible once more, and calm stole over the surface of the sea.

Before daylight on the 13th, the town of ships was again in motion, and again creeping slowly along, for the French and Turkish fleets were only just beginning to come up with our own. The convoy rounded a point of land, and stood into the bay of Eupatoria, coming abreast of that town about noon. From the decks of the in-shore ships were seen a low, marshy coast, a white-looking town, and beyond that a vast and level plain, on which were many windmills, numerous herds of cattle, and stacks of corn and fodder and over which men were riding hither and thither on the common errands of every-day life. To the south-east were the famous salt lakes, and beyond them the wide plains which extend up to the foremost spurs of the group of Crimean hills on the southern shore. From the town itself the people came forth to gaze on the utterly novel spectacle of the sea covered with ships as far as the eye could reach. The few Russian soldiers in garrison - invalids they were called - lounged about after the manner of soldiers, playing on the shingle as children play, by throwing stones into the water. Ladies and gentlemen, in rigorous Parisian attire or in sea-side costume, were walking or riding on the beach, or looking out of their windows upon the ship-encumbered sea. The invading host of sea-kings had no terrors for them. Its very magnitude rendered ridiculous the idea of resistance. So the busy folks pursued their callings, and the idle their pleasures, and for one day the ordinary dulness of life was broken by a real sensation, caused by a sight which they would never see again.

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

Pictures for Chapter XVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2

Lord Raglan
Lord Raglan >>>>
Admiral Dundas
Admiral Dundas >>>>
Formation derived from Marshal Bugeaud
Formation derived from Marshal Bugeaud >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About