Letter number 4
Date: 9-12 March 1855 Recipient: William Agnew Letter book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin
Dear Sir —
We got in here last night all safe horses & material[.] I wished this to catch the post which leaves at 2 today, of all the villianous holes that I have ever been in, this is I think the worst what with French & English, Turks, Greeks, Arminiens [sic] Italians & nondescript it seems like a new edition of the Tower of Babel. There appears to be considerable confusions in the Government arrangements & they say that when the new commissioners come out it will make things still worse. We had 80 tons of coals to get in, in a few hours, they say it will take 2 days. From Gibraltar we have had a very good passage I hear there is nothing new of any importance from the Crimea except that the British troops are much more comfortable & that some French general has been detected in correspondence with the enemy. I have been to the Ambassadors but too soon & am going again this afternoon [ — ] should any news turn up I will send it —
Balaclava Friday the 10th We got off from Constantinople sooner than was expected, through great exertions of the Capt[.] The Authorities of the Port did not more than they were actually obliged to do in putting coal alongside, but refusing to lend men to assist in its speedy transfer to the ship — I delivered my letters at the Embassy[.] Lord Shelford was ill in bed, but I saw her Ladyship. Should I need anything here the introduction will no doubt be of great use
We had a good passage then arriving off Balaclava before sunrise on the Thursday morning & lay to a few miles from shore till it was light enough to approach the land[.] there were other vessels waiting to go in, but a signal was made for all to wait outside until further orders, which we did till noon when our Capt got impatient & went in, received a blowing up & we got our birth [sic] the same evening so gaining 24 hours, I went on shore rambled about to reconoiter & called at several places to deliver letters, but found nobody as all were out on duty[.] This morning I went on shore in good time, got a promise of stable room for a few days from the manager of the railway, Also a place to store my boxes in till I can get them up to any permenant quarters. I then kicked about for a few hours from pillar to post, for a lighter to get my boxes disembarked, was promised one for the next day or the day after by Adml Boxer of whom the Times says so much but by the aid of a Capt of a transport near got them ashore in the afternoon all safe & they are now well housed.
I dont know if I have told you I brought out 2 of my assistants [ — ] the best man I did intend to leave at home to manage the business in my absence but the man I intended to take seemed so helpless having been lamenting with his friends in the Irish way with whisky so that I did not feel quite safe to rely upon him alone so I took both & shall make the first take care of the horses & cook. When I applied for rations for three horses Mr Fielder asked me if I were a General Officer I shall get all I want with little trouble but these people must shew their power or they would not be happy[.] One serious omission I have made the purchasing of a saddle & bridle[.] I have extracted a half promise from Mr Fielder that I should be allowed to try one from the Government stores but on enquiry the store keeper had gone[.] The railway people to my surprise have only 2 which are in use[.] Tomorrow I shall rig up something that will do to sit upon if I cant buy or borrow a saddle & go to Head Quarters to deliver my letters to Lord Raglan & to look out for a site to erect my tent on
Sparling my ADC went up last night to the quarters of the 4 light Dragoons to which regt he formerly belonged & tells me of a good site with plenty of water close to the Commissariat Establishment & near head quarters, he slept up in the camp last night & says there was heavy firing going on[.] I slept too well to hear it though it was I am told very distinct down here [ — ] it was an attack on a new battery erected by the English close to the Russian works I saw today a sargeant who was in the battery & he says 1 man was hurt[.] I relied upon Sparling to get me a saddle from the Rgt but he has fallen on the back of his head through the sudden shoving off of a boat in which he was & is so feverish now that I have thought it best I send for a Doctor who thinks his hurt rather serious
every thing seemed in much better order than the Times led to expect [ — ] there are landing places of rough stones run out in several places & store sheds are being put up [ — ] the main street is paved with broken stones with some sand thrown on it & with a fortnights traffic will be a good road. In the narrow passages between the houses may still be seen sufficient evidence of the state in which the roads were a month ago [ — ] the street along the water side is very bad but they are taking pains to get rid of the filth [ — ] all the dead oxon [sic] & horses floating about the harbour have been turned out to sea, do what they will there is an immense quantity of putrifying matter which cannot be got rid of. The ground is heavy where thickly strewn with barley [ — ] the harbour is crammed with ships lying closer than in any docks many of them empty doing nothing themselves & keeping others from discharging their cargo[.] The railway is getting on well it is open to Kadakoi a mile & at ½ & is already useful in sending up stores, the magnificent cart horses belonging to the company excite great admiration among the Turks.
I went while waiting for coals this afternoon to a Hall outside the Town, where were quartered some artillery & part of the Irish brigade[.] I was startled by the wretched appearance of some horses in the artillery stable & on inquiring found it was the hospital[.] I have seen nothing more wretched than the looks of these poor animals most of them were without hair on the greater part of their bodies, covered with sores to allay the irritation caused by mange, mere skeletons with drooping heads & sunken eyes[.] 2 were standing by themselves infected with glanders & are to be shot tomorrow [ — ] one of these a mare was described as the terror of man & horse whilst in health, indeed when we approached the animal, she showed the whites of her eyes & if she could have done it shewed all the inclination to fling out her heels at us — The men who survive look in excellent health but the look of the horses one & all tell a terrible story of bad management. There seems now no scarcity of carriage at least there are quantities of fine mules & many more coming[.] There is also plenty of forage but the green is most of it barley & the bad effect of this more than to the exposure the soldiers with whom I spoke attribute the great mortality among the horses
Lord Raglan was in town this morning with his staff [ — ] the soldiers have nothing but good words to say about him, one of them told me that when the weather was at the worst he was constantly riding about amongst the men. From the hall where I was today I had a good view of the lines constructed from the fort to the hill to Kadakoi across the valley down which the Russians attempted to pass on the 25 of October [ — ] there are none of them in sight now but on a small hill 2 miles distant a solitary sentinel was perched & it is said there is a large body behind the hills. There are all sorts of rumours flying about such as tomorrow the grand attack is to begin [ — ] yesterday we were told that the Emporor [sic] died of apoplexy, this morning it was pleursy & today it is the Empress —
(Saturday) This morning I had another hunt for saddles [ — ] after much trouble Mr Swan of the railway company promised if I would lend him a horse he would lend me a saddle & bridle & on the third horse we put a blanket the bed of one of the grooms & mounted the Capt of our ship on it[.] Sparling was unable to get out of bed to accompany me to the camp of the 4h dragoons [ — ] we could not get the horses shod as the small nails were on board the “Candidate” not get at able so we made the best of circumstances [ — ] awkward riding as ever I saw for of all railway sleepers sharp stones small & large droves of mules with pack saddles artillery waggons Commissariat stores & all sorts of odds & ends blocking the way [ — ] about a mile out we turned on to the hill side glad to get a little out of the throng for the horses being unbroken mad [sic] a row about everything[.] I now was made to feel how foolish I had been in omitting to buy a saddle for in going up a stony rise the horse made a bound at something burst the girth (there is but one) & in a moment I found myself with the saddle between by legs but no horse [ — ] down the hill side I went much shaken but got the saddle on again fastened the girth to the other buckle & mounting again rode out to the 4h light division [ — ] their quarter master named Hill lent me a good saddle & putting the other on the [Cept?] Horse pretty securely [ — ] we went across to the Kadakoi station [ — ] there is great activity with the railway workers here [ — ] a stationary engine is being erected to drag bricks up the hill where the road is at present steep & huts are growing up very fast for the time keepers & workmen [ — ] we had to lead the horses several times which made me wince with pain from this
leaving Mr Swan we went on to Head Quarters[.] I gave my letter for Lord Raglan to Col Steele & was told by him that if I could come tomorrow at noon I could see his Lordship having explained to Col Steele what my principal wants were[.] I was kindly directed by him to the place where I should find some of the Gentlemen to whom I have letters. I found Mr Angell [sic] the Post Master General who gave me a hearty welcome & promised to give me a hut in a weeks time [ — ] he said my letters had better be directed to his care at Head Quarters so that I may be sure of getting them. Leaving him I went across a little valley to Col Adye’s Lord Raglans Adjutant, was lucky enough to find him in his tent[.] I need not say that I received from him the assurance of assistance in every possible way [ — ] as soon as I wish to leave Balaclava I am to give him notice & he will give me 4 strong horses to drag my carriage up the hill for I have seen quite enough to be sure that my three could not do it for they are light & would have to be broken in for draught [ — ] they will do very well on the top[.] Col Adye rode with me (after he had regaled us with ham & biscuits) part of the way back & pointed out the positions of the various troops at Balaclava when the charge took place, on reaching Balaclava I went to one of the railway surgeons & stripped & had the satisfaction of hearing that no bones were broken & I shall be quit of pain in a few days
if I can get on horseback tomorrow I shall go to see Lord Raglan but scarcely think I shall be able for I am badly shaken. It is well I took the opportunity of getting horses at Gibraltar I should otherwise have been comparatively helpless[.] I could have sold them many times over today & met lots of people who are as much distressed for a horse as I was for a saddle, there are lots of horses coming up however. I do not think if I could have seen all the difficulties of my task before setting out that I should have had the courage to come [ — ] by pitching into them one by one I suppose they will be mastered. Will you be so kind as to send a copy of this to my Father & ask him to send it on to my wife [ — ] I have asked them to send you copies of anything interesting as by writing only one letter I have time to send a much fuller account than if I wrote several to all who expect to hear from me
(Sunday) I find I cannot mount on horseback today but shall most likely be all right tomorrow[.] Sparling has got over his damage but seems very weak
Yours Truly —