Letter number 5
Date: 15 March 1855 Recipient: Grace Fenton Letter book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin
March 15 1855. Balaclava
I said in my last I had been up to Lord Raglans, getting an awkward spill on the way up [ — ] having delivered my letters to him & being told by Col Steel to call the next day, I went on to Col Adyes, he was in his hut among a little cluster of tents on a little hill by itself & before I got an answer from the orderly as to his whereabouts, a voice inside which was very nearly akin to his brothers made the orderlies answer superfluous [ — ] ½ an hour passed very pleasantly in his company not the less pleasantly that a bottle of sherry & a ham were invited to contribute their quota to the general entertainment. Adye seems to be a great favourite here.
On Sunday my ribs were too sore for me to get on horseback, I did not attempt to go over the ships side until Afternoon, when with Capt Pender I took a walk up the hill behind Balaclava & enjoyed some beautiful views of the bay & opposite hills[.] On Monday I set about getting my van ashore had it hoisted up by pulleys from the Main yard & put upon its wheels & while this was doing went to see about a barge which had been promised to me by Capt Christie the night before[.] I found the secretary & he told me that the boats had all been sent out but that I should have one the next day. Seeing that nothing was to be done in that duration I went on board & got out of the hold all boxes directed to persons here & intrusted to my care & then found out the parcel office & gave notice to them to send a boat for them, besides this, I delivered several of my letters of introduction, & by evening was well tired out, with running about from pillar to post [ — ] hunting out any one you want at Balaclava is good sport to a person not in a hurry but if you want to make a find, it is vexation of spirit.
On Tuesday a small boat came to look at my carriage for the Secretary had been specially appealed to by Capt Anderson, to whom I had an introduction & by Major [Mac’Gelloway?] to whom (much better persuasivly [sic] I had introduced a bottle of Porter [ — ] he the said Secretary having looked at the van said I should want a barge & for that application must be made to the Admiral, I met Capt Raymond Manager of the railway shipping “Oh said he” why didnt you come to me I’ll manage it for you, You should always go to the proper people in these matters you shall have a boat tomorrow & if I cant get to the ships side I’ll have the vessel shifted & put into the berth of yon red funnel steamer that leaves tonight, You must know that the ships here are packed here as close as herrings in a barrel & it is really hard to get anything heavy over the side, feeling somewhat relieved in mind I resolved nevertheless to go to the Admiral but on my way called in at the Vincent on board of which ship lives Simpson who is sketching for Colnaghi [ — ] while here I found sitting in the cabin Capt Christies Secretary, so I asked him to inform me whether it was not extremely likely that Admiral Boxer would refuse me to Capt Christie & he to the individual before me, the probability of such an event being admitted I then enquired as blandly as I could to whom in that case I should be next referred, to Capt Hamilton of the Drummond was the reply, & he will supply you with a barge & perhaps men to work it, then please give me a note to Capt Hamilton & I will try my luck with him[.] I had seen a lighter lying empty down down [sic] the harbour & marked down its number so when Capt Hamilton said he would willingly assist me but could not say when he should have a barge at liberty I told him of this & he gave me permission to take it, giving me a note to take to the commander of the Vesuvius, the officer there told me that the barge was ordered to take shot on board, but there was another lying alongside the next ship to ours which was loading with shot & when that was full my carriage could be put on the top & so be carried ashore
back again I went to the Hecla & enquired of our neighbour when it was probable the barge would be loaded, if I can get men by tomorrow night, was the reply, this was encouraging, having tried (with these results) the Government Official assistance, & being informed by then I knew that I should most likely find Capt Raymonds promise of his aid mere expressions of good will, I bethough [sic] me of Capt Barclay of the Mohawk transport who got my horses on shore & whose boat I had not applied for through fear of its being too small & upsetting, he gave it to me in a minute sent it round to the Hecla & in half an hour the carriage was on it looking very top heavy it is true but still able to retain it perpendicular & being towed down the harbour was brought to a landing stage running from shore to the Mohawk & by pulleys from the yard arm of the ship was hoisted upon the stage a glorious example of the successful working of private enterprise, I have given you the whole of this story just to shew what a hunting up of people there is if one wants the simplest matter done here, in all my interviews I received the utmost attention & civility & I believe that as much was done for me as the system would allow of, but it is very slow work, I am sure it would have taken a week before by Government aid, I could have disembarked my van[.] By the time all this was done it was getting dark.
MrAngell [sic] postmaster & Major [Mac’Gelloway?] came on board to dine with us. On Wednesday having set William & Sparling to clean glasses, & getting every thing ready for work next day I got off on horseback to the camp with Capt Pender[.] I had heard of a saddle & bridle which might be bought for £15, so got it lent to me on trial [ — ] there is no need to amuse you with my sufferings for my country, by aching of the ribs as I hobbled over the stones these three days but this morning I have sufficiently recovered to get into the saddle without any lavish expenditure of expletives, I wanted an order for a hut in which to store my heavy boxes at Balaclava so that I might take up to the camp nothing more than was immediately wanted. This I could only get from head quarters. Col Steel [sic] introduced me to General Airey who gave me a letter to Capt Reeve at Balaclava containing the necessary order also a letter to Sir Colin Campbell, I did not see Lord Raglan he was unwell, having been hospitably entertained by an A D C of Genl Aireys & received my letters, I thought of enquiring for the letters & papers sent up again to the post office for me but on enquiring was told they must be at Balaclava [ — ] prepared by previous experience to apply elsewhere I was only moderately disgusted the more so as I had previously taken my revenge on Angell [sic] the P.M. by approaching him under the guise of friendship, enquiring about the state of his health, & conversing about the weather, friends at home & things in general until he was reduced to a state of unsuspicious confidence when I suddenly stabbed him with the question “Well Angell [sic] when do you expect the next mail” D— the mail was the answer.
Having a good part of the day before me, I rode on towards the front & enquired for Genl. Barnard to whom Mr A gave me an introduction [ — ] his tent is pitched on a slope looking down towards the town a beautiful situation. he was at lunch with another officer & made me join in, some more bacon was fried & another bottle of Porter discharged, its cork against the Russian batteries & we refreshed the inner man watching the puffs of smoke, as the batteries on either side, discharge occasionally at each other, afterwards he got on horseback & rode with us to the picket house [ — ] a hut on a hill commanding a fine view of the town, The Malakoff was just in front & from the earthworks there were coming balls into one of our batteries a little to the right down the hill, which again was firing shells at a battery [ — ] the Russians are smoking on Gorden’s hill, the same the French were driven from some nights since with loss, I could see the shells from our guns go right into the Russian works & was much surprised at the accuracy of the firing at objects such a distance away.
home we rode to Sir Richard Englands quartors [sic] & I was introduced to him & after some chat he joined us & volunteered to shew us St Georges Monastry [sic]. Sir Richd may be a bad soldier, but he is not a bad rider for he led us across a pretty country for delicate nerves, steep ascents of bare rock just sprinkled with a little earth, marshy hollows with a sluggish stream in the middle, vineyards with stumps sticking a few inches out of the ground, & rugged upland, all jagged with rock & loose stones, having some miles to go the pace was stiff, this, & the jolts & the jumps tried my damaged rib sorely, but the view at the Monastry [sic] was well worth the trouble, a quiet sunny nook perched upon a platform of rock beneath the crest of a hill, the blue seen far, far down, lazily crisping its margin against the base of huge fantastic rocks, half way down, patches of Olives & Evergreens wherever a little earth had gathered, a few Russian peasants loitering about, a monk or two [blank] silently on to join in the evening service [ — ] these formed a picture of dreamy repose which was only heightened by the contrast of a dashing Zouave clad in a garb of many colours. When service began we entered the little chapel, which has been used by the monks since the the storm of the 14th Novr which so shook their church that the doors have got jammed [ — ] the same storm has turned up the edges of the Copper roof which would be stripped off (if not repaired) by such another storm, In such an out of the way place the service of course is simple compared with that of the great convent at Kief but I enjoyed it much as it brought before me again impressions which I never expected to receive but from memory or in dreams,
Leaving this place we parted from the two Genls[.] After I had received from Genl Barnard an invite to repeat my visit & a promise of a bed in his tent whenever I liked to sleep up at the front, We had to find our way back to Balaclava a matter no other way difficult than that we had occasionally to retrieve our steps to get round to the top of impassable ravines On our way we passed a little level space about ½ mile across where there had just been taking place “The Great Crimean Hurdle Races” At the top of the hill before beginning the descent we stopped to look at the vally [sic] of Balaclava spread out like a map beneath our feet, the heights round the harbour dotted with tents looking like mole hills with pins heads on it was dark before we got home.
A day or two back while getting down the ships side my famous knife dropped into the water [ — ] having duly lamented its loss I considered it “Down among the dead men” & grew resigned [ — ] on my return this night it was put into my hand very little the worse for its aquatic excursions. On our vessel there are 4 divers who came out with us [ — ] they wanted to try their apparatus so went down at the place where I dropped the knife the water being about 20 feet in depth it was found in ten minutes & another one besides, they say the bottom of the harbour is covered with beef bones thrown out of the ships[.] They had been thrice down to the wreck of the Prince [ — ] the first time they went upon the Engine which does not appear to be much injured [ — ] the hull of the ship & that of a wooden vessel sunk near is torn about as if pounded in a Mortar parts turned upside down & the wood torn to shreds — Today they came upon a quantity of saddles all rotten & after a little search they found a great quantity of dead bodies their clothing all wasted away by the water [ — ] few of the bodies were entire being mangled & disjointed by the wreck grinding about them what a horrible sight! The men seem to shrink from speaking of it.
Yesterday I presented my order to Capt Reeve for a hut & was assured by him that if I would call again next week[.] I should have one but that there were none taken upon shore yet[.] I could not content my self with such an answer & upon further enquiry found that there were already two huts on shore appropriated but not called for in a hurry by their owners[.] I got one of these which was labelled for General Barnard thence I went to Col Hardinge Govenor of Balaclava to ask him for a site to erect it & he gave me one at once a very good spot in the rear of his own quarters [ — ] he is the only officer who did not tell me that I could have what I wanted in two or three days, the hut was up at the end of harbour on the other side so I had to go & borrow a boat & a couple of hands to get it across[.] Col Hardinge gave me a gang of Croats to level the ground I set them to work with an English soldier to keep them at it, on my return with the boat they had all [illegible] it could not be helped so I went with the boatmen set them to work transporting the hut in pieces to its destination & returned to my van where I had left Sparling & William preparing for work[.] I took a few pictures beginning with Her Majesty’s post office —
Here began troubles of a newer character. In order to avoid the necessity of explaining to all comers what my carriage was for I had made Sparling paint on it “Photographic Van” While developing a picture a conversation when [sic] on outside which I give as a specimen of many similar ones “Eh Jem whots that P.H.O. to graph, is that anything to do with the line” no they say theres a chap in there taking pictures, is there then he shall take mine” a knock at the door & a good pull to open it without waiting for an answer [ ndash; ] the door being locked there was another knock & another speech “Here you fellow open the door & take my picture” The door was opened & he was told that we were not taking portraits “What did you come for if you’re not going to take pictures, I’ll have mine done cost what it may what’s to pay?” It can’t be done now, pay or no pay” Can’t it though? I’ll go to Mr Beattie & get an order for it I’ll have it & I’d like to see the man that’ll stop me You wont nor Lord Raglan himself” Many of these interruptions are very droll but they were still interruptions. At five I went out for a ride up the hill side where the guards are now quartered to find out Col Hamilton & Captn Turner. It is steep riding in places[.] Both these gentlemen were out. I ascertained where they lodged then rode up to the top of the hill & came upon a quiet spot covered with brushwood & short grass, with the sea in front no one in sight but an officer gun in hand looking for a hare & the omnipresent Zouave making up a bundle of brushwood to carry back to his tent miles away
(Friday) Got the carpenter from the ship to work at my hut, received a notice that the stables where my horses were, were wanted for the railway mules & that I must have them out that day, having no place to put them in decided to take no notice of the intimation. I find William almost useless to me, if I speak to him he stares & “says sure I do my best sur” There are all kinds of interesting wars going on here, between the Admiral & the railway & the naval officers between the transport Capts engaged by the railway company[.] The Naval management of the railway here does not seem at all good. The ships do not get unloaded & the Admiral has been obliged to order some of them away[.] After running about in the evening I took a few pictures after 12 but not very successful ones as my van is in the midst of all the dust & turmoil of the railway yard & as I have too much anxiety about preliminary arrangements to be able to work to any purpose. Capt Holden of the gaurds came up & introduced himself to me, he is a Photographer & knows Mr Tennyson & seems much interested in my work, William came into the Town from camp[.] Halliwells [sic] servant called at the Hecla & left a note for me written in his usual jolly style. I have lots of invitations from the camp to go & stay with them but have really too much bother to accept them at present & if not otherwise prevented, can get too touchy about the ribs to get on horseback as my ride two nights since did me harm
Today I went to Col Hardinge about stabling he could not give me a site for stabling near my hut but told me that in 2 days an officer residing with him was going up to camp & that I might put my horses into his stables [ — ] after that I got out the quietest of my 3 nags harnessed him & went up to get the loan of a small cart to train him to draft with Major [Mas [sic] Gilloway?] of the Artillery who gave me leave to take one of their carts & put the horse to it got it under way cleverly enough & walked it about — He went on very well while leading him & for a while after one of the soldiers got into the cart & drove but happening to step upon a broken bottle he kicked out, threw his leg over the shaft & came down breaking the harness to pieces. Not having come to train horses & seeing that without any faculty for breaking them in without any clear space for them to jump about in, it would take me a long time to get them fit for draught I got rather dismal & sent the horse back to the stable & thought with solomn [sic] that all things were vanity & vexation of spirit, In the walk back I got over it & resolved to try some other place, so first of all went to Major Anderson & by his advice wrote a demand for a couple of draught horses or mules to the Col commanding & wrote also to Col Adye begging him to back the demand[.] Having done this I went to Mr Beattie chief engineer of the railway & made the same request to him during my stay down here, he acceded at once telling me that on giving notice the night before they were wanted I should have horses.
I then went to my hut & accompanied the carpenters across the harbour to look up some missing planks & on my return somewhat weary & dispirited I met Capt Holden who gave me some hints about my hut & asked me to accompany him to his hut up the hill side, He is in the Cold Stream Gaurds [sic], who are camped outside on the hill in a very busy place. The walk & magnificent view refreshed me or else the glass of beer he gave me, he accompanied me up to find Capt Turner[.] When you see Mr Hawkins tell him that Turner is higher up in the world than any other man in the gaurds [sic] having pitched his tent on a quiet little plateau overlooking all his brethren[.] He was at home & looking in a very satisfactory state of health,
There I have given you a brief sketch of all my labours sorrows & pleasures down to this present. It is a very imperfect sketch of both, such as it is however you must take care of it for me to read when I get home, as I have too much to do to be able to appreciate properly what I am seeing & hearing & I shall like to know when I return what I have been doing all the time.You may depend upon it I will come but the moment I have done my work[.] There does not seem any liklihood of any thing of much interest occuring for many weeks to induce me to prolong my stay
When with General Barnard the other day he told me that a Polish Officer of rank had come over to them & read me the information obtained from him[.] It was “that there are 50,000 men in Sebastipol with plenty to eat but short of Raiku (spirits) worn out with work but quite ready to fight [ — ]that they had plenty of ammunition [ — ] for their communications were all open [ — ] that they would fight for the new Emporor [sic] as for the old [ — ] that the Poles were all anxious to desert but were closely watched [ — ] the Soldiers all swore allegiance to Alexander the day before” The same night there was heavy firing[.] I sat on deck smoking a cigar & watched the flashes for about ½ an hour the sky was continually lit up with the red glare there seemed to be 80 or 90 shots per minute[.] Altogether the firing lasted about 2 hours with such violence [ — ] there was an attack of some kind, but by whom or with what results I could not learn for there were 50 different stories[.] I heard the most opposite stories from the men actually engaged[.] The Trench soldiers seem to be getting into disrepute in our Army as wanting in pluck, this is a strange character to give them but every one say [sic] the same thing about them. They were beaten back by the Russians on attempts they made to take Gordons battery & I am told the other night they ran away through the midst of our working parties[.] This may be all scandal, very likely is. I tell it as it was told to me
I have got my portmanteau at last but it is not the fashion to wear shirts here. There is no such institution as a washerwoman[.] Those who are send their linen to Malta to be washed I have bought a guernsey shirt fm Mr [Leam?], a vessel sent out by the Earl of Eglington to sell things at cost price & found that I could have got the same quality cheaper fm one of the regular dealers[.] Whatever the intentions of the senders of the ships somebody is making a very large profit out of the Articles contained in them —
Sunday, it is very cold & bleak today[.] All the soldiers are trooping up to camp to see the “Rooshins” I have had the Dr again to look at my ribs, he says there is no serious damage but they dont get better[.] I am going to ride up to camp today if I can get upon my horse —