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Chapter XXV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 4


Pages: 1 2 3 <4>

The French Emperor, finding he had unwittingly spoiled a fine design, sent another telegraphic message, ordering Canrobert to resume the expedition, if Lord Raglan assented. Lord Raglan, thinking the enemy, apprised of the intended attack, might have strengthened the place, said it would now be prudent to employ a larger force. To this Canrobert demurred. The fact was, he had lost a good many men in the trenches, and he was employing a whole division in perfecting the lines at Kamiesch, that essential prelude, according to Imperial views, of the Imperial plan of campaign. Omer Pasha was willing to spare 14,000 of his best troops for the Kertch expedition, but Lord Raglan did not deem it expedient to accept this offer. About- this time the Sardinian contingent, under General la Marmora, landed in the Crimea. The far-sighted policy of Count Cavour had led him to join the Western League. Austria, who had not fulfilled her qualified pledge, to engage in active war, was now less inclined than ever to do so. The sight of the Sardinian tricolour, of the flag of Italy, was not pleasant to her eyes. It looked like a portent. It appeared to wear too much the appearance of a renewal of the dreams of Italian independence, and a recovery from the defeat of Novara; and she regarded with alarm the bold step taken by the able counsellor of Victor Emmanuel. By sending her contingent to the Crimea, under the flag of Italian unity, Sardinia took rank among the effective powers of Europe, and won that place in the general councils of Europe which Cavour knew so well how to use for the profit of his country. The Sardinians were under the orders of Lord Raglan. His British force now numbered 32,600 men, effective; the Sardinian troops raised it to 47,600 men, not counting the sick.

The troubles of General Canrobert now reached a climax. His Emperor found that he could not go to command the allied army in the Crimea. The " voice " of the French people, the "prayers" of the French people, and we suspect something more potent than either, showed the Emperor that he must abandon this dream of ambition. But he was eminently gratified by the realisation of another. Louis Napoleon, Emperor of the French, and Eugenie, his Empress, became the guests of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Windsor Castle - recognition of royalty more precious than the glory of commanding a huge army in the Crimea.

When it was decided that his Imperial Majesty must refrain from his projected adventure in the East, he sent an aide-de-camp with a grand plan of campaign; and poor General Canrobert, already harassed by Imperial interference, had to submit this scheme of operations to Lord Raglan, and press it upon his acceptance. This he did about the 12th of May. The Emperor's proposal was to divide the armies into three. One he proposed should consist of 60,000 men, half French and half Turks. This, under Pélissier, was to hold Kamiesch and the trenches, not with the object of continuing the siege, but of blockading the south side. The French were to guard their own batteries; the Turks were to hold ours. The second army, 55,000 strong, composed of the British, with the Sardinians and certain French and Turks, the whole under Lord Raglan, was to hold the Tchernaya in front of Balaclava. Behind these 40,000 Frenchmen were to gather ready to pour into the valley of Baidar, while 25,000 from Maslak landed at Alouchta, forced the pass of Ay en, and being joined by the 40,000 men from the valley of Baidar, moved in a compact body upon Simpheropol. Then, if the Russians advanced towards Batchi-Serai, Lord Raglan was to storm the heights of Mackenzie, and seize the "position" of Inkermann; but if the Russians awaited an attack on the north side, then Lord Raglan was to file through the Baidar valley, and joining Canrobert at Albat, the combined force was to advance and throw the Russians into Sebastopol or into the sea. If the pass of Ayen could not be forced, the 25,000 men sent to Alouchta were to return to Balaclava, and in that case the whole disposable force of 65,000 men was to enter the Baidar valley, and break through the mountain chain by Albat. Such was the pretty paper plan sent by the Emperor. The alternative plan was an advance from Eupatoria upon Simpheropol; but this he only discussed to destroy by numberless objections.

When General Canrobert unfolded this scheme before Lord Raglan and Omer Pasha, both the English and the Turkish chief deemed it impracticable. The immense extent of the works before Sebastopol rendered it impossible of execution in their eyes; for they rightly judged that 60,000 men, one-half Turkish, could not hold the trenches, now crowded with artillery. Lord Raglan would not entrust English guns to the guardianship of the Turks. He preferred to go on with the siege; but if he adopted any plan of field operations, he would have chosen an advance from Eupatoria or the mouth of the Alma, and, failing that, an attempt to turn the heights of Mackenzie by Baidar and Albat. As he found Lord Raglan indisposed to fall in with the Imperial scheme, Canrobert exclaimed suddenly, " My Lord, take the supreme command yourself! " The origin of this extraordinary ejaculation, made without adequate authority, is to be found in an expression of regret, which occurred in a private despatch from the Emperor to his general, that the armies were not under one generalissimo - the post he had hoped no doubt to fill. In answer to Canrobert's abrupt proposal, Lord Raglan said, hypothetically, that if he took command he should require either that, if he undertook operations in the field, the French should occupy the British trenches, or that the siege should go on, beginning with the immediate assault and capture of the Mamelon and White Works. To this Canrobert at once said he should not consent - an answer testifying to the prudence of Lord Raglan in putting him to the test. The council of war broke up without coming to any decision. On the 16th, unable to face the difficulties that beset him, General Canrobert resigned; the Emperor accepted his resignation, and General Pélissier was appointed to the command of the army of the East. By carrying out the will of the Emperor, Canrobert felt, as he said, that he had got into a false position, and he withdrew, much to his credit. But, more to his credit, he begged that he might remain with the army, and that he might be reinstated in the command of his old division. This request was granted. From the 19th of May to the end of the siege, Pélissier commanded the French army in the Crimea.

Early in the morning General Pélissier drove over to the English head-quarters, and announced in person that on him had devolved the command of the French army. In doing so he explained that he agreed in the views of the English chief as to the best mode of carrying on the war. For some hours the two commanders discussed their prospects, and Lord Raglan was personally glad that he had now for a colleague a man of firm will and decided purposes. About noon an immense concourse of officers assembled at the French head-quarters, and in their presence General Canrobert formally handed over to Pélissier the command of the army, and took his farewell. The two generals paid each other handsome compliments, both verbally and in glowing orders of the day; and every one admired the simplicity and dignity with which General Canrobert resigned his high honours and great power. But few knew that he was, in the main, a sacrifice to the meddling of the Emperor Napoleon in the direction of the war. The Emperor was not ungrateful; for when the war was over, he did not fail to bestow a marshal's baton on his faithful servant.

In the afternoon, with a small escort, Canrobert betook himself to the head-quarters of the British commander. The Field Marshal, we are told by one of his staff, received him, if possible, with even more than his usual courtesy, for Lord Raglan was the most courteous of men. Moreover, he could not but feel admiration for a man who had been placed by his sovereign in an equivocal position, who had so nobly forgot his self- interest, and who felt that he could not lose dignity or honour in receiving orders from Pélissier, who had been accustomed to take orders from him. Lord Raglan paid to Canrobert that respect which he would have shown him had he still been at the head of 90,000 men. The Frenchman, on his side, was quick to congratulate his old colleague on the change which had been effected, saying that he knew General Pélissier to be a man who had the greatest respect for his lordship's judgment, and that Pélissier agreed, even in detail, with Lord Raglan's plans He thanked his lordship for the kindness he had always shown him, and said he should ever remember the period of their intercourse with great pleasure. In taking leave the French general was a good deal overcome, as a sensitive and high-spirited Frenchman well might be, who had just resigned the command of a mighty army, and now bade adieu to a comrade; and Lord Raglan was touched at parting from a very brave and frank soldier, who had stood by him at Inkermann, and with whom, in spite of some professional antagonism, he had lived on friendly terms. So General Canrobert departed from the British head-quarters to resume his old post as General of Division.

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Pictures for Chapter XXV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 4

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General Niel
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