Letter number 12
Date: 6 May 1855 Recipient: Grace Fenton Letter book: Annie Grace Fenton letter-book, Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford
May 6th 1855
got D Becker’s note
Yesterday was Mayday and a lovely day we had. I got old Sir G Brown to sit to me, he was very amiable put on his uniform & a cocked hat & did just as I wished him. He asked me to dine with him at 7 — In the afternoon I rode with Hallewell to Inkerman, got half way down the slope, took the bridles off our horses, let them graze & lay basking in the sun & looking through the glass at a picquet of Cossacks along the Tchernaya & a regiment of infantry being drilled about 6 miles off in front of the lines which the Russians have made across the country where the Mackenzie farm road comes down. Wherever the ground is not quite safe to go on (where it is commanded by Russian batteries) it is quite surprising to see the mass of wild flowers with which the ground is covered. All over the deep side of Inkerman, the grass & flowers are gradually hiding the pieces of torn cloth, ragged caps shoes not worth soling which now form the principal indications of the struggle which took place there. I have been there now three times & with people who were in the battle & none of them can tell me where any of the principal incidents took place. Everybody was busy about what immediately concerned his own corps or department & saw nothing of the general action. I was told a new version of the French attack on the Russian flank. It was said that a French regiment mounting the hill to meet the Russians was observed all at once when on the top, to turn right about face & come down again. An aide de Camp rode up to the Colonl & said Mais Monsieur are you retreating” The answer was “Mais ami, Voilá ces Russes” —
On our return just before dinner Sir George sent for Hallewell & told him something which made him come dancing back to his tent in high glee. After dancing & kicking & emptying a tumbler of champagne. he gew able to inform us that an expedition was to start off the next day by sea somewhere or other & that he had been chosen to go with it as deputy adjutant general. At dinner the general was very silent about the matter, merely telling us he was going to have 4000 English & 8000 French under his orders & that he meant to take some of his own staff with him. That night & this morning there has been such a scene of packing and rejoicing among those chosen for the expedition, & sulking & trying to look as if they did not care among those going to stay here, that you would have thought they were all school boys. No one knows where they are going, some say Eupatoria, to join in a grand attack on the Russian rear, others Kertch, & some Odessa. Hallewell has been stalking about in front of his tent with an imaginary young Odessian beauty hanging on his arm, speculating occasionally as to the possibility of sending the fair captive (when caught) home to England & as to the reception she would be likely to meet with from his wife. He is off & is now on ship board, leaving me heir to his tent & servant.
The night before this Corbet [sic] came on board the Hecla to dine but he was already drunk and after being very uproarious, went to sleep with his head on the table. He woke up in an hour & called for his poney, got very riotous when it did not come & tried to get over the side of the vessel. I was only just in time to pull him back[.] We got him balanced on his poney at last & he set off with a brother officer whose probations had been deeper but whose head was stronger. I called at his tent to day and was told he was at the races so he must have got home safely.
Last night there was unusual firing between the French and Russians & it is said the former took a trench from the Russians & actually kept it. I have made considerable progress during the past week with my work; have got several more of the generals & hope that another fortnight will finish what I have to do at the front & that then I shall have nothing to do but sell my baggage & pack up.
The Hecla goes tomorrow. I sleep on board to night for the last time. I have a faint hope that she will be detained to convey troops for this expedition & that I may thus return by her. I have given the Capt £200 to convey to London for me. He is to put it into Mr Cunliffes bank & I have made him promise to call on you & have told him that you will invite Stephen to meet him & hear the news.
We have had a good deal of rain the last few days with cold wind. Yesterday & to day it has been perfectly delightful sufficient cloud has been floating about to give a beautiful variety to the outline of the distant hills & all the place is changing its dull brown into a delicate green. Have you seen that picture in the illustrated news of Sebastopol from the sea. It has caused the greatest astonishment & amusement out here as it is a regular fancy sketch.
I hope you have made all your arrangements about your confinement about a nurse and all that. I shall do my best to be back in time but you ought to have every thing so arranged that even if I am away all shall go on right. Would it not be well to ask Fanny to come. I think she will find Harley very dull after her loss. Annie will be a great help to you.
May 6th The day before yesterday I moved my van to Genl Bosquet’s quarters. I did not stop there that night as I had engaged to dine with Sir J Campbell and to sleep at his quarters. After breakfast yesterday I went there ie to Bosquets & I soon got all the staff round me wanting a trial of my skill. I made a group with Genl Cissey the chief of the staff in the centre. We were soon called to breakfast & though I had done very well at Sir John’s at 8½ I was ready again for a French spread at ½ past 10[.] Genl Bosquet made me sit next to him & was very kind. I like him much. After breakfast the officers got together a quantity of soldiers of different corps Zouaves Chasseurs &c & I made several nice pictures of them. In the afternoon a Cantiniere was brought up I made first a picture of her by herself & then a group in which she is giving assistance to a wounded soldier. It was great fun the soldiers enjoyed it so much & entered so completely in to the spirit of the thing.
I took a view or two with my newly arrived Ross’s Lenses with which I am delighted & then walked to the edge of the hill overlooking the plain & lay down to rest for ½ an hour before dinner for the day had been a hard one. When I got back I found a tent pitched for me. Sparling had brought up my bed & that fur wrapper the blankets you know are stolen. I laid the mattress on the ground & the wrapper over it, got some thread & patched up my old coat which is nearly in tatters & by the time that was done we were called to dinner.
The dinner was not bad but less comfortable than at our English Officer’s quarters but I enjoyed it immensely for the general was very chatty he talked about England & France asked me a good deal about Russia & then began to talk about the war & the management of it and the causes of the want of success hitherto. It was very interesting. When he rose we all got up & I was about to take my leave when he made me go with him out into the starlight to tell me about his first interview with Napoleon when the expedition was first thought of. Then he got to the battle of Alma & Inkerman described them & pointed out what in his opinion ought to have been done and what result might have been obtained after each of these battles if the army had been under one head. He talked much of the horror which he felt at all the terrible news of suffering & death which he had witnessed here & said that it was not possible for any one to have a greater dislike of war than a soldier like him whose life for the last 20 years had been spent in burying his friends.
He then got upon politics English and French upon which I enlarged in a way that would have made Stephen’s hair stand on end for I have grown more radical since I got here. I could not help thinking what a queer tableau vivant I was forming part of tête a tête under the stars with one of the most celebrated men of the day discussing the conduct & capacity of the great guns of our acquaintance with much more freedom than if I formed part of a special commission. I see [&] hear many things here which I should never know had I been placed in any official position, Fortunately I know how to forget things which it would be mischevious to repeat. Genl Bosquet is very good looking resembles much the portraits of Napoleon when he began to grow stout, only there is an expression of frankness and good temper which does not exist in Napoleons portraits. He has promised me horses to convey my van & all that I need while I am staying with him. The staff are very nice fellows and make me quite at home.
The Hecla sailed 2 days ago at 5 in the morning[.] I slept on board was turned out at 4 said good bye to all & was put on shore rather down in the mouth at seeing them going while I was left. If Capt Pender should not go to London he will transmit the money by a banker in whatever port he may touch at. I have got another £100 in my box & if I had time could easily increase it as wherever I go I am followed by a swarm of officers wanting their portraits but I have lately refused to take any but those of well known persons. After I have got Bosquets portrait, I shall spend 7 days in taking stereoscopic views with my new lenses & shall then move to Head Quarters —
I have heard nothing of the expedition yet & so far the augury of its success is good. — If you are troubled with any of Agnews bills write to him & inclose them & tell him that the people are bothering you & that you will be glad if he will prevent your being further annoyed.
I have got lots of pictures for him but have no time to print them as it would delay my return if I attempted to do so.
Give kisses to my bairns for me. Tell Annie that I am very glad she has been such a good girl but that I think there must be some mistake. I get all your letters & most of the papers.