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Frank Leward: Memorials

Same to the Same

page 263

Same to the Same.

Balaclava, Sept. 16, 1855.

Dear Mr. Saunders,—I am going away from the Crimea tomorrow for good very early so as Im not going to turn in to night I spend it in sending you a short account of what has happened since I wrote last in May I think just before our false start for the sea of Azoff. Thanks for your jolly letter and account of Bampton. I got one from him too last month. I have done what you said and kept a sort of journal of what goes on most days but its been written on scraps of paper and put into my pocket any how and some of its got lost some how and others I cant very well make out. After I wrote last we went off to Kertch some of our ships and some French and after three days sailing the French said they had orders to go back at once and off they went we waited about sometime and then as we were too few to go alone we had to get back to Balaclava awfully provoking. It seems Canrobert after agreeing to the expedition got frightened and sent to tell them to come back. He resigned soon after and General Pellisier was appointed and there was a great improvement at once.

We made another start about three weeks afterwards and had a good cruise. There are big villas and gardens along that side of the Crimea some splendid houses. Wherever we stopped we had a tremendous blowing up of all the public buildings and things for ships and stores. At Kertch where the people were in an awful page 264funk we did a lot of damage blowing up batteries and burning ships you could feel the shock four miles out at sea. It seemed poor sort of work destroying property hardly defended at all but I suppose it had to be done. Then we went into the Sea of Azoff and took a place there and destroyed all the public property but spared private houses as much as we could. Altogether I believe we destroyed 300 ships during that expedition and a tremendous lot of grain and military stores as much as it would take a lot of labour for a long time to replace. Why we couldnt have taken a lot of it back with us I dont know.

We got back June 15th and three days after a lot of our sailors under Cap. Peel went at the Redan and the French at the Malakoff what we used to call the white tower. You should have seen the middies and the blue jackets going at the Russians but it was too much for them and they came back licked at last They say we lost 1500 and the French double the number and I suppose the enemy more still. With half that loss we might have taken the whole place last September before they had fortified it as they have now. Our officers get too much to the front they dont like looking as though they were keeping out of danger and so a tremendous number get killed and the command falls on young ones who dont know what to do or what the plans of the days attack were. Col. Yea one of our best men who had done pretty nearly every thing all through got killed that day at last pointing to the Redan as he died. Its rather melancholy to see a fine man like that who had gone page 265through such a lot and escaped so far killed just at the end. On June 20th Lord Raglan died and I shall never forget the scene when they took his body down to the harbour. No one knew he was ill he wouldnt give in. He was a splendid character and awfully beloved by every one. I saw the new French Commander coming out after he had been to see him dead crying like anything. The wory of all this time was too much for him I suppose and the difficulty in managing things here and the government at home and the French and preventing a row with them. And though I always blamed him for not making a push right on directly after the Alma he did his best to make up for that as well as he could especially after Inkerman by trying to get Canrobert to go on and I suppose altogether he was about the best general we had to send out.

The French English Turk and Italian commanders in chief walked at the four wheels of the gun carriage that carried the body of the general down to Balaclava to be put on board the Caradoc and all the guns stopped firing even the enemy's out of respect to him. It was awfully affecting to hear the bands playing. I knew him only by constantly seeing him doing his work people who knew him well were awfully fond of him.

I forgot to tell you a lot 15,000 Italians or Sardinians as they call them came in May and made the place much more lively. They are awfully jolly fellows. I like them better than the French and they seem to take to us more than they do to the French. The harbour here got quite lively looking with such a lot of different page 266uniforms and people talking all the languages under the sun pretty nearly. Maltese Greeks Croats Tartars French and Italians. I have made friends with a lot of the Italians and Ive promised to go to see them in Italy. The Russians made an attack on them a month ago and La Marmora and the rest went at them splendidly and drove them back and right over the Schernaya and took a lot prisoners. I wish wed had them here before.

On the 8th the French made their last attack on the Malakoff and took it in grand style the best thing I think thats been done through the whole campaign they had to go through a tremendous cannonade before they could get it. We were to have taken the Redan at the same time but we didnt we sent as usual too few and most of them recruits just come out who hadnt fought before and didnt even know their own officers many of them. They didnt fight well Im sorry to say. It was difficult to get them to go forward at all. They could scarcely be got out of the trenches. It made the old hands savage to see the officers obliged to pull them out by their belts and when they got them out they stood doing nothing and wouldnt move forward they were in such a funk. Some of them ran away and the officers had to threaten to cut them down and those who were made to go up against the Redan tried to hide themselves there anywhere they could and they wouldnt put up the ladders. More officers were killed while trying to make the men go on than they were going at the Redan, 150 officers were killed and wounded altogether.

However the French got the Malakoff and the enemy page 267didnt seem to think it worth while holding out any longer and at four next morning the Redan was blown up with row enough to wake the dead. Then the town burst into flames battery after battery went into the air like church towers of smoke rising up in the air it was grand and when it was over and the smoke cleared away a bit we could see the strong place was deserted all the ships were burnt or sunk and the people going over to the north side of the river. What a lot of time and money and men and misery it has cost us to take a place we might have had with scarcely any of these things.

Next day I got into the place and I think the sight there beat everything even that Ive seen out here. All the time we have been envying them and thinking they were so comfortable they must really have been suffering worse than we were. The town was in a fearful state two thousand in the hospital dead or dying some fearfully mangled they hadnt time to bury the dead or take the wounded away with them. Some had crawled along to get water and had died before they could drink it. Underneath there were a lot more dead and two hundred dead officers in coffins they hadnt time to bury. The hot weather we have now they say its been the hottest summer they recollect here makes it awfully bad.

For some reason or other our men werent allowed into the town so the French got all the booty there was. It certainly wasnt much but it made our men discontented. I got some things that came out of a church I am going to send to Bampton.

To-day the naval brigade left the camp. They were page 268played out by the bands as well they might be for they have done as much as anyone and you never heard them complain and to-day they looked as jolly and smiling as though it had been all fun instead of the fearful hardships they have had to endure.

As my sailors have gone Im going too. Ive done what I said I would and seen Sebastopol taken at last. So Ive said good bye to a lot of friends here and I wonder if I shall ever see them again for Im off tomorrow today really for its morning now. Its just a year since we first landed in the Crimea. No one will ever know except those who did it what its been. As far as we were concerned the first part was pretty glorious I wish I could say as much for the end. People forget Alma and Inkerman and only remember the last disgrace. The Turks say the French beat the Russians and the Russians beat the English and they look upon us as an inferior nation.

Ive been rather done up lately and feel about twenty years older so Im going to Egypt again for the winter to get better. I dont know what I shall do then I should like to come home but you know how I dread that. Goodbye sir for the present yours affectionately

F. Leward.