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Frank Leward: Memorials

Frank to Mr. Saunders

Frank to Mr. Saunders.

Balaclava, May, 1855.

Dear Mr. Saunders,—It was very good of you to write I wanted to hear from you very much. It was a long time since you had written and Im afraid I didnt answer it. I am beastly lazy at writing though when I once begin I can go on like anything. I dont quite understand you now nor a letter I got a little time ago from Bampton which he wrote ever so long ago the most curious letter you ever saw. It went to Australia and then followed me here round by Egypt and goodness knows where. You and Bampton are too clever for me I cant make it out sometimes but you must remember I have been knocking about wasting my time while you have both been working hard and have read I suppose nearly every book there is. I wish I had more time to read because though you wouldnt think it I like it awfully page 250supposing Ive got something worth reading and not rubbish.

I cant understand what you mean for my part I feel as sure we shall live forever as I am we are living now. I know Bampton thinks so too and you know hes as clever as anybody. Its awfully rude of me to say so and I shouldnt only you told me to say what I think I generally think when I hear people laughing at our religion or doubting about it that it comes from weakness in their minds or else from pride because they think themselves cleverer than others or want to look as if they were. As though what they know was anything really cornpared to what they dont know. I believe sir weve got leading lights to steer by and if we dont keep to them we may be getting upon shoals very likely.

As to Inkerman I cant describe that well because I never could quite make it out myself. I didnt see much of it it was so dark all you could see sometimes was the flashes of the guns in the dark. I wasnt up there at the beginning and so Ive only got what people have told me to go by and I dont believe any one knows much about it or ever will. It was so dark people could only see what was going on close to them and such a lot were killed who were the only ones who could explain what happened near them they could get no accounts from many places.

General Troubridge I believe was the first to see or hear the Russians coming and he lost both his eyes shot out soon after but wouldnt go till some one had come to take his place. What we chiefly know is that our men fought splendidly and the French didnt except the page 251Zouaves. I think we quite made up for what we lost at Balaclava, It showed more than ever our men out here are not enough to do the work. Its all rot trying to do a thing of this sort unless youve got enough men to do it.

It began so early in the morning scarcely any one was up except those who had been up all night. Lord Cardigan was asleep on board his yacht as usual and didnt know anything about it till it was too late and so the remains of his light cavalry about 200 didnt do much. We had about 15, 000 infantry about the place altogether but I dont think at the most we ever managed to have three thousand engaged at one time and a part of the time not so many as 900.

The enemy had about 62,000 altogether but 22,000 of them were under Prince Gortchakoff and didnt do anything. The other Prince MentchikofF or whatever his name is wasnt allowed to have anything to do with if that day hes such a duffer.

A lot came up on our men over by the other side of Mount Inkerman about six o'clock in the morning beastly dark drizzling raw morning the clouds were so low down over there our men couldnt see how many were coming at them and that very likely was a good thing. They didnt see them at all till they were just up to them. It seems Col. Egerton of the 77th with about 300 men happened to be about there and beat back a lot of the enemy and followed them some way while in another place as 6000 of them were creeping along Col. Mauleverer jumped over a wall followed by 200 men and went page 252at them till they ran and then up came Gen. Adams with about 500 more and actually licked the lot of them and 9000 more of the enemy seeing the others going off went off too without striking a blow and by half past seven in the morning 15,000 out of the 40,000 were on their way back to Sebastopol quicker than they came and stopped there the rest of the day.

Then they say at least 7000 Russians made for what we call the Home ridge if they could have got that they would have got round on our camp and goodness knows what we should have done. Then General Adams with his 700 kept what we call the sand bag battery till the Duke of Cambridge came up with the grenadiers but their guns were wet and wouldnt go off so they had to keep charging the enemy and every time they drove them back but couldnt follow them up they were too few, so on the enemy came again and that went on for a long time. Besides a lot of the muskets being too wet to fire those whose guns were dryer soon got to the end of their amunition. That kept happening all through the day and then they had to stand looking like fools and being fired at except when they were allowed to charge. Why their amunition fell short I dont know some body's blunder I suppose.

So it seems it went on for a long time our men in parties of 100 or even only 20 all over the place coming up suddenly and keeping back tremendous numbers of the enemy till the French came to support us. But for the French we must have been surrounded before long. Only when the French came they didnt do much except page 253keep our retreat open and prevent the enemy getting round us. Our men naturally thought when they saw the French coming they would charge like anything directly as we had been doing and they gave three cheers for the French. But when they saw them halt and the French officers wouldnt let them go on our mens remarks werent at all complimentary. One of our officers asked a lot of them whether they really were the same nation that fought so well against us in the Peninsular he was in such a rage. The men are all right and so are most of the officers as dare devil as any one only a little too stuck up and fond of bragging and beastly conceited, its the generals who are such a lot of imbeciles from the commander in chief downwards, no earthly good. I never saw finer men for a charge than the Zouaves. Some of them were so disgusted at not being allowed to go at the Russians they got over to our men somehow and got led by one of our Generals by Jove they do go at a peg. Lord Raglan got a couple of 18 pounders on the ridge splendid guns. I got up just about when they opened on the enemy and saw the cannister tearing away through the Russian columns thats what drove them back at last those two guns.

I cant make it out though how it was the Russians didnt manage to get up to them there were such a lot of them and many of them are as brave as any one. In one part they did get right up to some guns of ours and about thirty got inside the breastwork right up to the mouth of the cannon and got blown away they found bits of them sticking to the mouths of the cannon not one escaped and page 254the others came on and got on the bodies of a lot who had been killed and potted away at our artillery men till they were shot down themselves, it was as good a thing as anything that has happened here yet every bit as brave as our wonderful charge at Balaclava you are all making such a fuss about and much more meaning in it. Their officers are good too. Ive seen a young Russian officer rush out before the ranks urging his men to come forward and come right at us and get killed rather than go back when his men hesitated.

Early in the day one Russian division coming up to prevent our getting reinforcements on to Mount Inkerman lost its way and got round by my battery and got tremendously peppered they retired with a run if it hadnt been for that they would have prevented the others of ours coming up to help the few at Mount Inkerman and they must gave been smashed.

It was all over soon after eleven o'clock the last of the Russians who could go were on their way back by that time and I say considering everything I cant make out how we managed to do it. Most of our men who had the hottest work to do had been up all night and had nothing to eat nor a drop of water to drink and were pretty nearly in rags thanks to the government at home. You should have seen the difference between the French and even the Turks and our men about that time. They looked tolerably smart and clean while our men with their gaudy looking uniforms worn out with holes in their boots and rags on their backs were the most miserable looking lot you can imagine squalid and dirty. page 255Many of them for want of better were obliged to wear ugly Russian caps they had taken from dead Russians.

As soon as the enemy was in full retreat Lord Raglan wanted Canrobert to go after them. He had 20,000 men he could have spared all fresh and willing but he wouldnt unless the guards went too. Lord Raglan wouldnt let them they had been up all night and had done a tremendous lot of work fighting and beating over 20,000 Russians since half past seven and were dead beat. So the French wouldnt go and we lost another chance of getting Sebastopol. If the French had followed the retreating Russians into the town they could have taken it easily. Polish prisoners and deserters have told us since they thought we should have been sure to come on and that if we had the enemy was so stupified at being repulsed like that nothing could have stopped us and with our fleet banging away in front we must have taken the place. Canroberts a driveller no earthly good. He stops everything we want to do. In my opinion its all rot two armies going at one place. The French would do very well by themselves in their own way and they can get enough men. We should do too if we had enough men of our own or others under our orders but its no use having two heads. When anything is proposed by us Canrobert refuses to do it, or if it is done its not till after a lot of palavering between the two commanders in chief and it isnt done till its too late instead of being done right off. The French ought to have come here alone or let an English army of 60,000 come and the other attack Russia somewhere else then it would have been all right and we should page 256soon have shut up the old Czar. Now goodness knows what we have suffered no tongue can tell that or ever will and we dont seem to be much nearer the end than we were before we began.

I may say all that suffering began after that battle and weve had little peace since how any have lived through it I sometimes wonder. Of all the horrid scenes Ive seen yet the first few days after what they call Inkerman though the battle wasnt fought at Inkerman beat them all. Our men wouldnt have the Russians put in the same grave with ours. The Turks had to bury the Russians and we had enough to do to look after our wounded and dying. The Turks got ropes and tied them round the bodies of the Russians and carried them off that way and werent particular whether they were quite dead or not I believe heaps of wounded Russians were buried before they had died. Our dead were put rather more decently into carts and taken to the big graves where there were always men below to pack them properly. How those men swore when there came a body twisted about at all that wouldnt pack straight, it was a horrible sight. Bodies lying about without heads or legs smashed in all manner of ways and then the poor beggars of wounded Russians with their bags of black bread under their heads for pillows it seems thats all they get to eat and they were awfully frightened we should come and take that away from them. One of our men who had been taken prisoner and come back said the common Russian soldiers who get precious little pay and hardly ever get anything but that black bread to eat got up a page 257subscription amongst themselves for our men who were prisoners to get them white bread because they knew our men couldnt eat such beastly stuff.

It would be impossible for me to go on and give you a full account of all the misery that has happened since. We have suffered far more from disease and want than from all the fighting there has been or is likely to be. First came the fearful hurricane nine days after Inkerman. It blew over Balaclava like a whirlwind. Twenty one of our ships of one sort or another went to bits and lots more got dismasted. Trees were blown up by the roots and knocked over like ninepins. Tents all over our camp were torn, to rags and disappeared for ever. Thunder lightning hail rain and at the end snow came to make it worse for the poor beggars who had nothing to sleep under. The Hospital tents were the first to go and left the wounded and the men dying from cholera and other things exposed to all the storm. The trenches were filled with water and it was impossible to get any fire lit in the whole place to cook by. Barrels of food came bounding along like cannon balls horses with men on them were blown clean over you never saw such a sight. If you wanted to keep on your legs you had to lie down as an Irishman said to me afterwards. The shipping was the worst. I saw the Avon a transport blown into the harbour go cannoning off the other ships all the way up. The worst of all was the Prince going down with all the winter clothing for the whole army and all manner of other things tremendously wanted on board.

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Any one could have seen the storm coming yet the Prince with its priceless cargo was allowed to stay outside with only one anchor and all because the harbour was full of ships that had unloaded and stopt there. With proper management every ship as fast as it unloaded would have been made to go out and let others come in. It seemed to break the mens hearts when they found the ships with all the things they wanted so much had gone down. They became down hearted and looked careworn as well as cold and wet and ragged after that

Then the road from here to the camp you should have seen it. One mass of mud thick clay mud that stuck to you you couldnt get along and carts and waggons and all sorts stuck in the mud all the way along up there. Besides we wanted the road then more than ever because the hurricane had swept away all the reserves of food up there and for a long time they could only get what we took up day by day and had often to go off on night duty in trenches half full of water with nothing to eat. Instead too of having proper cooks to cook the food it was served out raw and the men were often too tired cook it themselves or to get wood to make a fire so they either eat it raw salt beef and pork or shied it away and did as well as they could with biscuits and rum. And all this time at least from the beginning of January there were not only necessaries but all manner of luxuries lying in the harbour which we couldnt any how get up to the camp. So before long scurvy broke out and what with that and the cholera our hospitals have been overflowing though as many as a hundred a day have been page 259dying in the hospitals there isnt proper room there for half the men in them.

Between November and February nearly 9000 died in hospital and besides that close on half the army over 13,000 were laid up. The Fusiliers had only about 100 left able to go on duty Another regiment had only thirty and the 63rd that came out over 1000 strong at one time had only seven men effective, and yet numbers of men who were as bad as they could be wouldnt give in and go into the hospital. It wasnt the fault of the people here. Lord Raglan did his best so did his staff and the commissariat as far as the stupid rules and regulations would let them it was the bungling at home did all the mischief. I thought at one time the whole army would disappear. It wasnt the cold so much though that was bad enough if you hadnt proper clothes day or night it was the bad management. In all the wet men were going about in boots with holes in them because the government had sent cheap boots out that werent big enough and the great coats that ought to have been here at the beginning of winter didnt come till it was getting warm and they werent wanted and were a nuisance.

Even the hospitals hadnt decent provisions. Scarcely any beds most of the men though so awfully bad had to sleep on the bare ground and you would hardly believe it there werent enough blankets. No one got more than one over him and none under him on the most freezing nights. Lots of the wounded and ill might have pulled through if there had been enough blankets. And when they were moved off from here to go to Scutari or other page 260places near there there werent enough ships to take them and hundreds were thrown over board on the short passage who had died because there wasnt proper room on board.

Then the Government wouldnt even send hay though we had been sending for it ever so long so the horses died off from starvation and one pitied the poor brutes that didnt die more than those that did they were so overworked and underfed. Even a tough old soldier killed himself one day he said he couldnt stand it any longer.

If your Government were sensible and let us have a proper supply of men instead of sending them out by dribblets we could get nearly all the food we want in the Crimea itself. Theres plenty of corn and hay and sheep to keep a much larger army but the Russians have really all the time had complete control of the Crimea and we have only held a confined bit of land just round one part of Sebastopol and they get all the produce of the place. If we can fight as well as we did at Inkerman as they call the battle on Nov. 5th and we had enough men we could soon turn the Russians out of the place. Its amusing to hear the sailors talking in the trenches sometimes. They say if all their men were allowed to land from the ships they could go and take the place themselves in no time. These trenches of ours are not very successful they are much too far off many of the guns wont carry to the walls and are no good. The French are licking us hollow now at this kind of work. They are getting cross ways made and covered page 261ways pretty nearly up to the walls working awfully pluckily. Of course they suffer tremendously from the fire from the batteries but its nothing to what it was in the winter. The men in the trenches were sometimes so numbed with cold at night the Russians used to come out and stick them while they were asleep or take them off prisoners and the mortars.

At the end of January we at last began a railway from here to head quarters what we ought to have had at first if we were going in for this siege. As I had got some experience at pick and shovel work in Australia I volunteered and became a sort of ganger over a lot of English navies they got out. In February the weather was fearful while we were at work. Snow and hail bang in your face all day and then it froze and your beard became a mass of ice as hard as iron. On the 6th of last month we opened our splendid railway it was rather disastrous the first train coming down with a lot of the 71st ran off the line and a lot were hurt and a few killed they were got to the hospital as soon as possible, now its going all right. Then there came a water spout I had seen them at sea but never on land before it did make one feel queer and it did a lot of damage and tore up a lot of the line so we had to set to work, again.

On the 10th the bombardment began again four hundred guns going all day the enemy directed most of his attention to the naval brigade and thats been going on on and off ever since. We silenced Malekoff once and there was to have been a final assault on the 24th but Canro-page 262bert changed his mind at the last moment and wouldnt. He never knows his own mind long together lots of the French are in a tremendous rage with him.

Now its getting jolly and warm again and the officers are getting gardens round their huts and cocks and hens theres a tremendous row in the morning from the crowing of cocks. The hens are not particular where they lay and if you find an egg on your bed you are supposed to stick to it. When the Russians found after Inkerman it was no use attacking us in the open field they gave up the idea and set to work to make the fortifications on the land side stronger than ever and still more since they found we managed to survive January and February. So it is more difficult to take than ever. Besides the Russian artillery is now very good so is the French I cant say so much for ours. We arent doing half as much as the French now.

Its my birth-day tomorrow Im 33 getting quite an old man and Im going off on an expedition to Kertch and the sea of Azoff where a lot of our ships and French ships are going to cut off Russian supplies from there. I must conclude Im afraid I havnt written very intelligibly its difficult to write here, at any rate Ive written enough I never wrote such a long winded affair in my life. Ill send some more soon if theres anything worth writing about.—Yours very affectionately

F. Leward.