The Baltic Fleet - Operations in the Baltic - The Hango Massacre - The Fleet Before Cronstadt - Bombardment of Sweaborg - The War in Asia - Capitulation of Kars - Miscellaneous Events.
The preceding chapter is a record of sanguinary and bloody conflicts—great and glorious achievements. This will be an epitome of a rather different character. Although the fleets which proceeded to the Baltic Sea in 1854 and 1855 were perhaps the most complete and formidable that ever ploughed the waters of any sea, yet their achievements were not what was anticipated. This, however, through the cautiousness of the enemy was a natural consequence; for where no foe appeared, no foe could be conquered. But though no Russian fleet was destroyed in the Baltic, many vessels and large quantities of property were destroyed; and the blockade of the different ports harassed and punished the enemy in a very severe manner. The surrender of Kars was an event which cansed sorrow and deep regret in the bosoms of many.
The Baltic Fleet of 1855 was much stronger both in the number of vessels and men, than that of 1854; and the fleet of 1854 was composed of a mixture of sailing vessels and steamers, but the fleet of 1855 consisted wholly of steam-ships. The fleet numbered 50 steamers; and in addition there were 28 gun-boats, 8 mortar-vessels, and 4 floating batteries, hospital-ship, shell magazines, and powder-magazine. The Duke of Wellington carried the flag of Rear-Admiral the Hon. R. S. Dundas, C.B., commander of the fleet.
The fleet left Spithead on the 4th of April, and steamed out to sea in splendid order. When the foremost vessels entered the Baltic they encountered much ice, and were placed in rather disagreeable circumstances thereby. The English fleet arrived at Kiel on 22nd of April, and were joined by the French fleet, under the command of Admiral Penaud. The first intelligence received from the fleet was of a startling and distressing nature. In the middle of June, the telegraph reported that a cold-blooded atrocity had been committed by large force of Russian troops on a small party of British sailors, in a boat under the command of Lieutenant Geneste, who was conveying, under a flag of truce, three prisoners who had been taken in a merchant vessel, to the shore. This diabolical transaction took place off Hango Head. Admiral Dundas despatched Captain Fanshawe to the scene of this catastrophe, to make inquires, and gain what particulars he could of the affair. The following is the statement given by Captain Fanshawe to Admiral Dundas :—
"H.M. Steam-ship Cossack, Nargen Islands 7th June, 1855.
" Sir,—It is with the deepest concern that I have to report to you the destruction of a cutter's crew and the officers who went into Hango with a flag of truce yesterday the 5th inst., in order to land the three prisoners who had been taken with some merchant vessels by her Majesty's ships Cossack and Esk, and also four others to whom I gave a passage to Nargen, they having received their liberty from the prize officers of the vessels captured by her Majesty's steam-ship Magicienne.
" The ship having arrived off Hango Island yesterday forenoon, the boat was despatched at eleven a.m., in charge of Lieut. Geneste, with orders to land the above persons and to return without delay, taking care that no one straggled from the boat. The officers' stewards were allowed to go in the boat on the same conditions, as was also, at his request, Mr. Easton, surgeon of this ship.
" The inclosed statement of what occurred on the boat's approaching the shore is that of the only man who has returned alive, and I have every reason to believe it correct.
" Finding that the boat did not duly return, I sent the First Lieutenant, about half-past four p.m., in the gig, also with a flag of truce, to ascertain the cause of the delay; and as neither had returned at the close of the day, I anchored with this ship and the Esk in the inner roads.
" The gig returned about half-past eight, after a long search, having discovered the cutter hauled within a small jetty, and containing the dead bodies of two or three of her crew.
" It being then late, I made arrangements that the ships should weigh at half-past two o'clock a.m., and take positions as close to the inner village and telegraph station as possible; and, as I then supposed that the rest of the crew and officers had been made prisoners, I proposed to send in a letter to the nearest military authority, demanding that they and the boat should be given up.
" Bat whilst getting under way the cutter was observed to leave the shore with one man at the stern, who was endeavouring to scull her out. I therefore immediately sent a boat to her assistance, which bought her on board, and she was found to contain the dead bodies of four of the crew, which were riddled with musket-balls.
" The man who came out in the boat made the accompanying statement of the details of this atrocious massacre; he is very dangerously wounded in the right arm and shoulder, and was left for dead in the boat; but the account he gives of what he saw before he was struck down is clear and consistent,—viz., that on the boat reaching the jetty, Lieutenant Geneste, Mr. Easton, surgeon, Mr. Sullivan, master's assistant, and the Russian prisoners, stepped on shore, and advanced a few paces, Lieutenant Geneste carrying and waving a flag of truca. On their landing, a large party of soldiers commanded by an officer who spoke English, appeared suddenly, and advanced in a threatening manner. The officers then pointed to the flag of truce, and claimed its protection, and also endeavoured to explain the reason of their landing, but of no avail. A volley of musketry was immediately fired at them, which killed them, and also some or all of the Russian prisoners; volleys were then fired into the boat, by which all were struck down, and the assailants then rushed into the boat and threw most of the bodies overboard, and then removed the arms and ammunition which were stowed underneath.
" Neither before nor during this indiscriminate slaughter was any resistance made, nor hostile intention shown, by the boat's crew with the flag of truce—the muskets that were in the boat not having been loaded, and being in the bottom of the boat; and therefore there appeared to be nothing to justify this barbarous infringement of the usages of war.
" I therefore opened fire with both ships upon the place, at about 600 yards distance; but it was not returned, either with rifles or artillery; and a thick fog having come on shortly afterwards, I ceased firing, and withdrew the ships, the position which they were in not being one in which they could with safety remain at anchor.
" I inclose herewith the names of the officers and men who have met their deaths on this occasion. I have, &c., (Signed) E. G. Fanshawe..
"Rear-Admiral Hon. B. S. Dundas, C.B., &c.
"List of officers and cutter's crew who were killed at Hango on the 5th June, 1855:—Louis Geneste, lieutenant; E. T. Easton, surgeon; Charles Sullivan, master's assistant; Edward Thompson, leading seaman; Benjamin Smith, able seaman; James Cornwall, ordinary seaman; John Gliddon, able seaman; George Boyle, ordinary seaman ; William Roskelly, ordinary seaman; Thomas Stokes, ordinary seaman, 2nd class ; John Haughey, stoker; Francis George, ordinary seaman; Owen Francis, able seaman ; William Lynn, captain's steward; William Banks, gunroom steward; John Lorton, subordinate officer's steward.
(Signed) "E. G. Fanshawe, Captain"
Subsequent accounts were received at the Admiralty, from which it appeared that several of the boat's crew of the Cossack, who were supposed to have been killed, were alive, though prisoners. A complete list is subjoined of the killed and of the prisoners, both wounded and unwounded:—Killed.—Thompson, coxswain of the boat ; Lynn, captain's steward; Cornwall; Benjamin Smith, ordinary seamen; Joseph Banks. —Prisoners.— Wounded.—John Lorton, George Boyle, Joseph Giddon (right arm amputated), Thomas Stokes. —Unhurt.—Lieutenant Louis Geneste, Surgeon Robert Easton, Mr. Sullivan; Owen Francis, William Roskelly, John Hockey, Francis George.
The Journal de St. Petersburg contained a very long reply to the letter addressed to the Russian Government by Admiral Dundas relative to the Hango affair. The Cabinet of St. Petersburg, finding the sensation which that incident had produced, confided to General de Berg the mission of instituting a rigid examination into the circumstances of the case, and, in the report of the officer appointed to carry it on, he says:—" No flag of truce was seen flying on board the Cossack, nor in the boat which came towards the landing-place, nor in the hand of the officer who landed on Russian territory. This declaration has been confirmed by every one who witnessed the occurrence. While the affair was going on on shore, the sailors who remained in the boat had time to throw overboard a small swivel-gun with which the boat was armed. Among the muskets seized during the action, three were found which had been recently discharged, notwithstanding the assertion to the contrary made by Brown, the seaman. Three others were loaded with ball. The crew of the boat had on them 360 cartridges, 400 caps, and two incendiary tubes, with their matches attached. These arms, taken from the enemy, prove that the expedition of Lieutenant Geneste, even though he had ostensibly covered it by a flag of truce, could not have been simply to set at liberty some Finland seamen, and to procure fresh provisions, as stated by the lieutenant."
At noon on the 9th of June, the Merlin, carrying the French Admiral Penaud and several French and English Captains, proceeded to reconnoitre Cronstadt. They were attended by the Dragon, Firefly, and the corvette D'Assas. Going first along the north side of the island, they approached within 4000 yards of the block ships lying in the open water between Cronstadt and St. Petersburg. They consisted of four liners, five frigates, and two corvettes, moored in a line along the three-fathom bank, with their broadsides bearing upon the northern passage. Inside these, fourteen steam gun-boats lay at anchor, and under the wall of Man-of-war Harbour, anchored in three lines, were twenty-four row gun-boats. When the Merlin went in so close, two of the steam gun-boats came out, and one fired a shot at her, but it fell short. In the Man-of-War Harbour were seventeen line-of-battle ships, four fully rigged, and others in progress. Between this harbour and Fort Kronslot were ten steamers of various sizes, some of them screws; and between Kronslot and Menschikoff two three-deckers moored bow to bow, with their broadsides commanding the only entrance. The island seemed full of soldiers; for, besides those quartered in the town and batteries, three large camps were formed outside—two on the north, and the other on the south side. Immense new earthworks had been erected; a complete chain of them ran from the Governor's house across the island to the old Kessel Battery, dividing it into halves—one fortified, the other without a gun upon it. Just as the Merlin was returning, and when going about seven knots an hour, a severe shock was felt, as if she had struck upon a sunken pile. It made the ship quiver from stem to stern. The engines were instantly stopped and reversed, but before she had stern-way upon her, another blow, ten times more severe than the first, struck her on the starboard bow, just before the paddle-wheel, sensibly lifting her over to port, and making her masts bend and shake as if they would topple down. The Firefly was immediately in the Merlin's wake, and before she could stop, she ran to starboard of the Merlin, and partly turned round, when a tremendous explosion took place under her bows, causing her to stagger, and proving very plainly that they were over a nest of Professor Jacobi's infernal machines—the existence of which was now beyond a doubt, and also that they were not such very formidable affairs after all. They then proceeded carefully until they got into deep water, without meeting any more, and then reconnoitred the south side, getting so near the shore as to witness a sort of review of the Russian Horse Artillery, and afterwards returned to the fleet. A diver was immediately sent down to examine the Firefly, and not the slightest injury could be detected; but inside the ship almost every bit of crockery was broken, and the bulkheads were thrown down or displaced. On examining the Merlin, eight sheets of copper were blown, not scraped off, and the side appeared charred. All the inside fitting in the engineers' bath-room, mess-room, and store-room, were completely demolished. An iron tank, which was bolted to the ship's side, and containing 13 cwt. of tallow, was knocked a distance of four feet. Shot were shaken out of the racks, and almost everything moveable in the ship was displaced.
On the 21st of June the Amphion, 36, screw-frigate, Captain Key, while employed in reconnoitring at Sveaborg, accidentally mistook the channel, and in consequence grounded. The boats were immediately despatched in all directions to sound, and, while so employed, one of the nearest forts opened a brisk fire upon the frigate. Four shot struck her, killing one man and wounding two others. Captain Key, however, nothing daunted, returned the compliment with such energy and precision, that he succeeded in blowing up a large Russian powder magazine, and occasioned other serious damage to the fort.
On the 21st of June a small squadron, under the command of Captain Yelverton, succeeded in blowing up the fort at Rotsinshalm, and destroying the barracks, capable of containing 5000 men, at Kotha, also the stables, storehouses, and hospital. And, on the 28th, Captain Vansittart destroyed 30 large galliots laden with blocks of granite, at Werolax Bay. Captain Yelverton also, on the 5th of July destroyed Fort Svartholm, with the barracks and stores at Lovisa. In the latter part of June, Captain Storey destroyed 90 Russian vessels, amounting to upwards of 20,000 tons.
On the 17th of July the Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by Admiral Penaud, Admiral Seymour, and Commodore the Hon. F. F. Pelham, proceeded in the Merlin to reconnoitre Sveaborg and Helsingfors; they were also attended by two gun-boats and a French steamer. When about 3000 yards from the batteries, several infernal machines were exploded by means of galvanic wires connecting them with the shore; but they seem more useless than those which explode by being struck, for it is next to an impossibility for any one on shore to ascertain, by taking angles or any other means, when a ship is so exactly over one of the machines that the explosion would damage her; this was proved by the experience of the 16th, for none exploded nearer than fifty or seventy yards of the ships. To be effective the machine should touch the ship's bottom, for if it exploded with two feet distance between, the shock would be diffused over such a large surface as to be harmless. Two line-of-battle ships had been sunk in the western channel. The Amphion saw them go down. One heeled over as she sank, and remained on her side; the other had her bulwarks just above the water. Only two ships and a few small vessels could be seen in the harbour, but the crest of every hill and small island bristled with cannon. No less than seventy new batteries and earth-works had been erected since 1854. Having satisfied themselves, the Admirals returned to the fleet.
On the 20th of July, a successful attack was made on a Russian fleet at Frederickshaum, situate on the western coast of the Gulf of Finland, midway between Wiborg and Helsingfors. Captain Yelverton commanded the expedition, which consisted of four vessels. The enemy returned the fire of the ships for an hour and a half, and then were compelled to abandon the place, all the guns being disabled, and the fort itself being terribly shattered. The enemy suffered severely, many were seen carted away dead or wounded. A mounted officer was seen to fall from his horse, a shell having cut him in two. The town was set on fire in several places by stray rockets.
It being arranged by the Allied Admirals that possession should be taken of the Island of Kotka, Captain Yelverton, with a considerable squadron, proceeded thither, and, landing the marines, took possession of the Island, without opposition. A very large number of buildings for military purposes were then destroyed ; also a vast quantity of property of a miscellaneous description.
The cruisers visited Uleaborg, Simo, and Windau, and destroyed Russian ships and stores.
The next operation in the Baltic, worthy of note, was the bombabdment of Sveaborg.
On the 7th of August the English fleet sailed for the fortress. At 9.30 a.m. signal was made from the flagstaff, " Outward and leeward-most ships weigh." The fleet, consisting of nine British line-of-battle ships, thirteen steam frigates and sloops, sixteen mortar-vessels, and an equal number of gun-boats, sailed from Nargen, and after a pleasant run of five hours anchored at a distance of about 6000 yards from the fortress of Sveaborg. In the course of the same evening the French fleet joined, and immediately commenced throwing up a battery on the island of Langorn, situate some 2000 yards to the north of the cluster of five islands which form the principal part of the fortress of Sveaborg. Next day, the 8th, both fleets were busily employed preparing for action; the mortar-vessels were towed into position about 3700 yards from the fortress, with 400 fathoms each of cable to " haul and veer on," as circumstances might require. This arrangement proved of the greatest advantage, and much credit is due to the originator of it. The line-of-battle ships remained in the same order they had at first anchored in. The steamers Magicienne, Vulture, and Euryalus took up a position in rear of the mortar-vessels, for the purpose of being ready to give them and the gun-boats any assistance they might require. The Lightning and Locust were ordered to hold themselves in readiness to tow out any gun or mortar-vessels that might be injured, or otherwise rendered incapable of remaining longer under fire; in fact, every possible arrangement having been made which prudence and foresight could suggest, the signal was made from the flag-ship at 7.15 on the morning of the 9th, "Gun and mortar-vessels open fire with shell."
At 7. 30 a.m. the first mortar was fired, and taken up along the whole line, the gun-boats running in to within 3000 yards, and getting their range. The enemy returned our fire very briskly with red-hot shot and shell; but, although their range was good, the damage inflicted was comparatively trifling, owing principally to the excellent handling of the gun-boats and mortar-vessels—the former being continually on the move, and the latter hauling or veering on their 400-fathom cable as soon as they found the Russian shot falling too close to be pleasant. At 10.20 the first Russian magazine exploded, and a fire broke out in the Arsenal. About noon a second magazine exploded; and at 12.15 a most terrific explosion took place, followed by a succession of minor ones. The force of this was so immense that a battery of guns en barbette was literally blown to pieces. At 12.40 more magazines exploded; at this time, the dockyards, arsenal, barracks, all the Government buildings, storehouses, &c., were burning furiously. The sight was most grandly imposing. The yards and poops of the line-of-battle ships were crowded with the excited "tars," who cheered vociferously after every explosion, as only British sailors know how to cheer. To add to this frightful din, the liners Cornwallis and Hastings, and steam-frigate Amphion, opened their broadsides at the same moment; and, as if to crown the whole, the Arrogant, Cossack and Cruise, chimed in with this tremendous chorus, by commencing a heavy fire, with good effect, on a large body of troops which they chanced to espy on a small island to the eastward of the fortress. The cannonade continued with little abatement up to eight o'clock p.m., when the gun-boat recall was hoisted. Several of the mortar-vessels were also found to be injured from the quick and incessant firing, and had to be brought out to undergo repairs; those, however, which were not damaged, still kept their fire, in conjunction with the French mortar battery, until 10.30. p.m., at which hour the rocket-balls from the fleet went in and kept up their part of the performance until daylight. The scene during the night was grand beyond description : the whole of Sveaborg appeared one mass of flame, the rockets and shells adding not a little to the awful splendour of the fiery landscape.
At 5.30 a.m., on the 10th, the fire again opened from our whole line, and continued through the day, at the end of which little appeared left to be done; all the mortars, French and English, were more or less injured. Some idea, however, of the services rendered by these vessels may be gathered from the fact that during the two days' bombardment not less than 1000 tons of iron were thrown into a space of about half a mile in diameter by the English vessels alone, and that upwards of 100 tons of powder were expended.
On Friday night, the 10th Aug., the rocket-boats again went in and played with great effect. On Saturday no firing took place, and Sunday was a day of rest. On that day everything was quiet and in repose. The tolling of the bells at Helsingfors was distinctly heard: the dull and plaintive sounds, mingled with the strains of sacred music from our men-of-war, came floating over the calm waters, and offered a soothing contrast to the noise, turmoil, and excitement of the two preceding days.
At six a.m. on the 13th all the fleet got under way from off what remained of Sveaborg, and, crossing the Gulf in a rather irregular manner, anchored in Revel roads again at noon. At the time they left, the fortress, once so renowned and formidable, was still on fire, having burnt almost without interruption during the space of three days and a half.
One hundred and sixty gun-boat sheds, many with row boats in them, were totally burnt, as were also the Government rope walk, storehouses, dockyard, barracks, main-guard, and signal station. The fire was so hot and the practice so admirable, that the three-decker moored across the entrance, after having several shot in her, was forced to haul out of her position, and take shelter behind the stone walls. The value of public property destroyed is estimated at £2,000,000.
Admiral Dundas gave a long account of the proceedings, but he did not attempt to give any account of the amount of damage inflicted on the enemy. Admiral Penaud, in a despatch to the French Minister of Marine, dated August 11, said:—
" The bombardment ceased this morning at half-past four; it consequently lasted for two days and two nights, during which time Sveaborg presented the appearance of a vast fiery furnace. The fire, which still continues its ravages, has destroyed nearly the whole place, and consumed storehouses, magazines, barracks, different Government establishments, and a great quantity of stores for the arsenal. The fire of our mortars was so accurate that the enemy, fearing that the three-decker which was moored across the channel between Sveaborg and the Island of Back-Holmer would be destroyed, had her brought into port during the night. The Russians have received a serious blow and losses, the more severe, as on the side of the Allied squadron the loss is confined to one English sailor killed, and a few slightly wounded. The enemy's forts returned our fire vigorously, and did not slacken it until the moment of the explosions above mentioned, but the precision of our long-range guns gave us an incontestable superiority over those of the Russians. Every one in the division filled his duty with ardour, devotion, and courage; the crews evinced admirable enthusiasm, and have deserved well of the Emperor and of the country. I am perfectly satisfied with the means of action placed at my disposal. The mortar-vessels and gun-boats rendered immense services, and they fully realize everything that was expected from them. The siege battery produced very fine results, and it may be said that it was from an enemy's island, on which we had hoisted the French flag, that the most destructive shots were fired."
The English and French fleet returned to Nargen on the 13th.
The operations of the Baltic fleet after the Bombardment of Sveaborg, were not distinguished by any important exploit. Squadrons of cruisers continued to destroy Russian vessels and stores wherever they could discover and come up with them.
In returning to events in the Crimea, there was nothing occurred of moment after the evacuation of the south side of Sebastopol, for several weeks. In the month of November, Sir James Simpson, on account of his shattered state of health, resigned the command of the British army, and General Codrington was appointed to succeed General Simpson as commander of the British forces in the Crimea. The despatches transmitted to government from time to time by General Codrington, were chiefly relating to the state of the army, and occasionally noticing the discharges of guns from the north side of Sebastopol against the Allied positions; but these sallies of the Russians did little or no harm.
Frequently reconnoitring parties went out, and occasionally encountered Cossack pickets, when some sharp skirmishing ensued; but invariably the Russian troopers were worsted.
Many were the speculations indulged in by those who were not so fortunate as to be able to penetrate into the future, as to what would be the next move, and where would be the scene of further operations. It was currently reported time after time that the Russians were about to evacuate the north side of Sebastopol, and retire into the interior; but still they remained there, until winter came on. We will therefore leave them there, on the north side, with a determined foe confronting them on the south side; and proceed to notice the operations connected with the Turkish army in Asia.
In October, 1854, it was known that the Russian forces in the trans-Caucasian provinces were more than adequate to drive back those of Turkey, then in Armenia; and the result of the campaign in that year was, to place the Russians in possession of points in advance of their own territory, and within the Turkish frontier, and to shut the disorganised forces of Turkey within the fortresses of an interior or secondary line of her Armenian frontier. To remedy this state of things, a few British and Hungarian officers were sent to remodel the Turkish forces, and no other tangible assistance appears to have been given to this front of the grand campaign against Russia. All these officers nobly did their duty; but one especially, General Williams, displayed military talents and courage that won the admiration of every one.
General Mouravieff, with an imposing Russian force of from 35,000 to 40,000 men, and a formidable train of artillery, surrounded Kars, and completely invested it. The whole Turkish force at Kars did not exceed 10,000; but they had been so organised by their heroic leader, that they were a band of resolute and valiant men, determined to struggle with their foes to the death. Many brilliant sallies did these Ottoman troops make against their Muscovite enemies, whenever they spied a favourable opportunity. The brave General Kmety would select a chosen few, and rush out of the invested city, upon an unsuspecting party of Russians, and cut them to pieces.
At the close of August, Omar Pasha proceeded with 16,000 troops from Varna on his way to Batoum. The Generalissimo, no doubt, was anxious to afford relief to the brave defenders of Kars, but he had so many obstacles to contend with, that he was unable to reach that devoted city, in time to be of service.
On the 3rd of September, a party of horse, chiefly Bashi-Bazouks, left Kars, and were intercepted by a large force of Russian cavalry, and, after sustaining the conflict manfully for some time, they were overpowered, and made prisoners. The Russian General Mouravieff, in the Invalide Russe, boasted of this as a signal victory; but, ere the month closed, his troops had to suffer a defeat as humiliating as ever an army had to endure. We proceed to give a sketch of this brilliant affair, from the pen of a private correspondent to one of the English journals.
"On the 29th September, about 3.30 a.m. the Russians were seen advancing up the Shorak valley in dense masses, but in what order could not then, on account of the darkness, be ascertained. Our troops were in a moment under arms, and at their posts. General Kmety, with one battalion of infantry and seven companies of chasseurs, was stationed in Sheshanegee Tabia; Major Teesdale, with one battalion of infantry, in Yuskek Tabia; and Hussein Pasha, with the Arabistan Corps, in Tahmasb Tabia, where he was soon joined by Kerim Pasha, the second in command of the army. Bashi-bazouks were also dispersed throughout the different works, and the Laz held a small work called Yarem Ai Tabia. General Kmety was the first to open fire with round-shot on the advancing battalions of the enemy; he was immediately answered by two guns placed in position on a height forming the north-west boundary of the Shorak valley. In a few minutes the whole visible force of the Russians charged up the hill with loud cries; they were received with a terrific fire of grape and musketry, which mowed down whole ranks at every volley. General Kmety's position was attacked by eight battalions of the enemy; they advanced very gallantly to within five paces of the work, when so heavy a fire was opened on the head of the column that the whole corps wavered, halted, then turned, and fled down the hill in the greatest confusion, leaving 850 dead. They did not renew the attack there.
"Tahmasb Tabia bore the brunt of the battle; about sixteen battalions, with many guns, were brought , up against it, but its garrison was undaunted, and for a long time the Russians could not even get possession of the breast-work forming the left wing of that battery; but at length an overwhelming force obliged the Turks to retire within the redoubt. A scene of carnage now ensued perfectly terrible to behold. As the Russians came over the brow of the hill within the breastwork, to take the battery in rear, Tchim and Tek Tabias and Fort Lake opened on them with 24-pound shot, which tore through their ranks, but they did not heed this. They charged Tahmasb Tabia, which was one sheet of fire, over and over again, and so resolute were their assaults that many of the Russian officers were killed in the battery, but they could not succeed in carrying it."
"General Kmety, after having repulsed the Russians, went forward with four companies of chasseurs to Yuksek Tabia, which was sorely pressed. Major Teesdale pointed out a battalion of Russian chasseurs which lay hidden behind Yarem Ai Tabia (this work having been abandoned by the Laz at the commencement of the battle,) and begged that they might be dislodged. The General at once determined to carry the battery; so, forming up his men, he charged and drove the Russians down the hill; leaving a company to defend the work, he returned to Yuksek Tabia, from whence perceiving a battalion of the enemy trying to turn the right wing of Tahmasb Tabia, he reinforced his corps with three companies from Major Teesdale, and charged the Russians: here, too, he was successful. In the mean time reforcements were sent up from below; these formed behind the tents of the reserve, and watched their opportunity in attacking the Russian columns, when driven back from an assault on the batteries. For seven hours this went on ; reserve after reserve of the enemy was brought forward, but only to meet death, Nothing could shake the firmness of our troops, till at length the Russians, wearied and dispirited, at eleven a.m. turned and fled down the hills in a confused mass, not one single company keeping its ranks. The army was followed in its flight by the towns-people and Bashi-bazouks, who brought down hundreds as they fled. While the infantry were engaged in this conflict, the Cossacks tried to penetrate into the tents of the reserve, but they were soon driven back by the towns-people and infantry reserves with heavy loss.
"One battalion of Russian infantry attempted to march round the position, and take a small battery situated in a commanding position on the road leading to a village called Tchakmak. It commenced its march in splendid order, but ere it went 600 yards, it was broken and in great disorder, and so terrified, that fifty or sixty of our chasseurs drove the broken mass down the Tchakmak valley like a flock of sheep. The cause of the terror was the terrible fire opened upon it by Yuksek Tabia, the guns of Sheshanegee Tabia and Fort Lake.
"A column of eight battalions, with sixteen guns and three regiments of cavalry, attacked the English lines at half-past five a.m. This line of fortification was at the time very weakly garrisoned; the breastwork was carried in a few minutes; the batteries Teesdale, Thompson, and Zohrab, successively fell into the enemy's hands, and the men who formed their garrisons retired into Williams Pasha Tabia. The Russians then brought up their artillery into position in front of Zohrab Tabia, and began firing upon Fort Lake and shelling the town, but Fort Lake (under the able superintendence of the gallant officer whose name it bears), Arab Tabia, and Karadagh, opened so heavy a fire on them with 24-pounders, that they were compelled to withdraw their artillery altogether. The Russian infantry then charged Williams Pasha Tabia, but were repulsed by a flanking fire from Fort Lake, and a severe fire of musketry from the defenders of the battery attacked.
"They retired into Zohrab Tabia, reformed and again assaulted; a body of their chasseurs was at the same time sent forward to within 500 yards of Fort Lake, to take a small open work called Churchill Tabia, which was doing the enemy outside much harm. This was occupied by two companies of our chasseurs: they turned to receive the attack of the enemy; and, after retiring a short distance, halted, and kept the Russians at bay. While this was going on, Capt. Thompson, who had charge of the batteries of Karadagh and Arab Tabia, sent over the 5th Regiment of Infantry from Arab Tabia to retake the English tabias of Teesdale and Thompson, and from below two battalions of the 2nd Regiment came up to recapture Zohrab Tabia. The forces commenced the attack together from each end of the line, and drove the Russians out of the forts and breastworks at the point of the bayonet. Once out of the lines, they did not attempt to retake them. Unfortunately the enemy had time, while in possession of the batteries, to take away five guns, and to spike three, but they abandoned three of the captured guns at a short distance from the redoubts, so that we only lost two. As the enemy retreated, our long guns again played on their columns, and they retired as speedily as possible.
"Some cavalry attempted to engage the battery above the village of Tchakmak, but again the terrible guns of Fort Lake drove them off. By 10.30 a.m. the English tabias were silent.
"Such was the dreadful battle of ' the heights of Kars.' This is but a very lame account of the glorious fight. I have not the time to enter into greater details, but I will give an idea of what our men did and had to endure. The forces of the enemy exceeded 30,000, while ours, engaged, were below 8000. Not one of our men had tasted anything since the previous afternoon; hungry and thirsty, they remained undaunted, and were rewarded with perhaps the most brilliant victory that has been gained during this war.
"The field of battle was too horrible ever to be forgotten by me; the dead lay in vast heaps in every direction around the forts—the ditches were full of mutilated bodies—the tents were torn to rags—arms, clothes, broken ammunition-boxes, lay strewed about. Upwards of 6000 Russians fell, and more than 4000 muskets have been collected, 150 prisoners taken. The total loss to the enemy in killed and wounded must have been very near, if not more than, 15,000. Several Generals were killed or wounded: amongst the former, reports say, General Breumer, the second in command; and General Baklanoff, who commanded the attack on Canly Tabia on the 7th of August. Thousands of carts have been sent to Gumri (Alexandropoli) with wounded.
"Our list of casualties is but small, about 1000 in killed and wounded. Dr. Sandwith, the Inspector of Hospitals, had made his arrangements, and, thanks to his abilities, the hospitals are in good order.
"For this great victory Turkey has to thank General Williams; during the past four months his exertions to get things into order have been astonishing; night and day he has laboured. He has had many and great obstacles to overcome, but nothing could break his energy. On the memorable 29th he directed the movements of the troops; the reinforcements always reached their appointed positions in time. The great results of the day prove how well his operations were conceived.
"The loss inflicted on the enemy fully shows how well the positions of the redoubts were chosen by Colonel Lake. All the batteries flanked each other, and the Russians were unable to bring up guns to command any of our positions. The troops kiss the batteries, and say that the Miralai Bey (Colonel) was "Chok akilli" (very wise) when he made them work.
"Captain Thompson aided greatly in recapturing the English lines. He directed by order the guns of Arab Tabia and Karadagh, and sent the troops over to attack the Russians.
"Major Teesdale was in the hottest fire, and acted with great coolness and bravery. He is the admiration of the Turks. He showed them how English officers behave in battle.
"All the Turkish officers did their duty nobly. Kerim Pasha was slightly wounded, and had two horses killed under him; Hussein Pasha was hit; two Colonels, and many other officers, were killed."
The Invalide Russe published a nominal list of the officers killed and wounded at Kars. The list was as follows:—1 General (General Kovalevski), 4 Colonels, 2 Lieutenant-Colonels, 6 Majors, 14 Captains, 18 Lieutenants, 16 Subalterns, and 17 Ensigns, making a total of 76 officers killed. The list of wounded comprises—3 Generals (viz., Generals Prince Gagarine, Mafdel, and Broneffsky), 5 Colonels, 3 Lieutenant-Colonels, 14 Majors, 30 Captains, 35 Lieutenants, 39 Subalterns, and 47 Ensigns; making a total of 176. The killed and wounded together thus number no less than 252 officers.
Nothing of importance occurred during the month of October; but, at the beginning of November, Omar Pasha, with an army of about 7000, attempted the passage of the Ingour. The Russians, to the number of 10,000, disputed the passage, when a short but bloody battle ensued; which ended in the utter defeat of the Russians, leaving from 300 to 400 dead and a very great number wounded. The Russians retreated towards Kutais. The loss of the Turks amounted to about 100 killed, and 300 wounded. The English officers in the Turkish army displayed great courage; three of whom had their horses shot under them.
It is now our painful task to record the capitulation of Kars.
The year 1855 advanced, and with it the season for action, when the Russians were found in better order than before, and headed by one of their best native generals, invading Turkey in Asia, obtaining their own supplies, to a great extent, by forays on all the open country, and inclosing the Turkish forces in their lair at Kars, while other Turkish forces in Erzeroum either could not or would not venture out to the relief of their brethren. After the season best fitted for active operations had passed away, Omar Pasha, fretted by idly parading for months with his troops at Eupatoria or Baidar, was allowed to enter the Asiatic field, and made, when too late, and with too small a force, a diversion upon the right flank of the Russians. This movement, however ably planned, both in itself as connected with the Caucasian tribes, and in its bearings on the communications of the main Russian army, seems to have been based on a miscalculation of the condition of the garrison of Kars, and was made too late in the season, and at too great a distance from the Russian base, to produce any effect in relief of the main Turkish force; and Kars, hanging on the events of a few days, eventually fell by famine.
The following were the conditions of the Capitulation :—
Art. 1. Stipulates for the surrender of the fortress and all the materiel of war intact; guns not to be spiked, and stores and arms to be delivered up in the state they were at the time of signing the act of surrender. It then goes on to provide for the manner in which possession of the foregoing is to be given up to the Russians.
Art. 2. Refers to the surrender of the garrison, as prisoners of war, and provides, " as a testimonial of the valorous resistance made by the garrison of Kars," that the officers of all ranks are to keep their swords. The different positions to be taken up by the Turkish troops is then indicated; and the Mushir Commander-in-Chief is required to present a muster-roll of the garrison, which is to be called over by delegates of the Russian army. This article further provides for certain portions of the troops being permitted to return to their homes, and specifies the route they are to take, their order of march, &c. The Turkish military authorities on their part engage to leave behind a sufficient number of medical officers and nurses to attend to the sick in the hospitals.
Art. 3. provides for the security of the private property of members of the army of all ranks.
Art. 4. and 5 refer to the militia regiments and non-combatants, who are to be privileged to return to their several homes.
Art. 6, which evidently refers to the Hungarians and other foreigners who had enlisted in the Turkish army, is as follows:—" To General Williams is reserved the right of designating his choice in a list, which must be previously submitted to the approval of General Mouravieff, of a certain number of persons, to whom permission will be given to return to their homes. Military men, subjects of one of the belligerent Powers, are excluded from this list." We give the remaining articles in extenso:
"Art. 7. All persons indicated in Articles 4, 5, and 6, engage themselves by their word of honour not to bear arms against his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias during the whole duration of the present war.
"Art. 8. The inhabitants of the town throw themselves upon the generosity of the Russian Government, which takes them under its Protection.
"Immediately the troops have given up their arms, the inhabitants of the town are to send a deputation, consisting of the principal inhabitants of the place, to give the keys to the Russian Commander-in-Chief, and to trust themselves unreservedly to the generosity of the august Soverein of Russia.
"Art. 9. The public monuments and buildings of the town belonging to the Government are to be respected and left intact.
"It being the principle of the Russian Government to respect the customs and traditions of the people subjected to its government, and especially the buildings devoted to worship, it will not allow any damage to be done to the religious monuments or historical souvenirs of Kars."
The act of surrender, which bears date Nov. 13 (25), is signed by General Williams on the side of the Turks, and by Colonel de Kauffmann on behalf of the Russians.
The following letter from Erzeroum, dated November 27, before the news of the surrender was known, will give the reader some idea of the miserable imbecility and indecision that pervaded the various classes of Turkish officials:—
" Couriers from Kara follow each other in rapid succession, imploring succour in men and provisions. Meanwhile, Selim Pasha has appealed to the surrounding districts for volunteers, and makes preparation for marching in person in the direction of Kars. As long ago as the 9th and 10th, he assigned 1,000 men of the regular troops to take charge of the heaviest guns, and his best horses to be used in the transport of stores. Nevertheless, I regret to say that all preparations are made with a degree of slowness that is intolerable, and utterly incompatible with the critical situation of the brave and devoted garrison of Kars. Moreover, the mountains are already covered with snow, which threatens to descend to the level of the plains, so as to render any movement of the army difficult and perilous. The pessimists among us go about saying that there is no longer a possibility of relieving Kars, and that, by this time, the garrison, hemmed in by the enemy's cavalry, and pressed by famine, must either have capitulated, or resolved to attempt to cut their way, sword in hand, through the investing army. But if Selim Pasha is sufficiently active, there is room for hope that Mouravieff may find it necessary to retreat to Alexandropol, to avoid finding himself placed between two fires—the advancing succours and the garrison which might make a sortie.
" The Russian detachment at Deli Baba and Uch Klissia remains in position. A few days ago, Mehemet Bey (nephew of Behlut Pasha, a prisoner with the Russians, who commands the Turkish outposts,) had an affair with the enemy, of whom some score were killed and eight taken prisoners, who are expected to arrive here to-day. Mehemet Bey was himself wounded, but not seriously.
" Nov. 28.—Yesterday evening Generals Kmety (Ismael JPasha) and Coleman (Feigi Pasha) arrived here from Kars, which they left three days before. They report that on the 22nd, General Williams had received despatches from this place to the effect that he need expect no succours on our part, inasmuch as the Mushir, Selim Pasha, could not be moved to send them, and that he must look upon himself as abandoned to his own resources. Next day, (the 23rd) the General called a council of all the Turkish officers, over which Muchir Vassif Pasha presided, and represented to them the condition of Kars, and the contents of the despatches he had received, submitting to them the following questions:—Did they believe that the garrison was able to hold out longer? Did they believe that enough of provisions remained to support them for a little longer ? Did they believe it possible to meet the enemy in the field? The whole of the Pashas placed themselves unreservedly at the disposal of the English General. The same evening General Williams despatched his aide-de-camp, Major Teesdale, to General Mouravieff, to request a personal interview, with a view to agree upon terms for the surrender of Kars.
"At the same time, Generals Coleman and Kmety left Kars, with an escort of five Kurds, who pledged themselves for their safety, after having given in their resignations to our brave General, on the ground that their services there were no longer available. The account they give of the condition of Kars is the most lamentable that can be imagined. For more than a week the women and children had been dying of hunger, and had gone in their agony to the door of General Williams to implore him for food, and to lay their bodies on his threshold. The soldiers were dying at the rate one hundred a day ; the hospitals were crammed with sick, the streets with corpses—all from hunger. Let us hope that General Williams may be able to mitigate the sad termination of the siege ; but from what I know of the gentleman, I dread his falling a victim to his sensitive nature."
It would appear from the foregoing letter that all the enthusiasm, all the energy, all the devotedness of the region, were concentrated within Kars; outside of its forts, all—except in the Russian camp—was sheer trifling and child's play. But in Kars the garrison were heroes to the last. When General Williams—after receiving intelligence from Erzeroum that it was in vain to hope for relief from the Mushir—assembled the Turkish field officers, to obtain their opinion as to the possibility or expediency of prolonged resistance, these brave men, with true Turkish sang-froid, placed their fate implicitly in his hinds. Had he said the word, they, with all their soldiers, would have died to a man at their guns, or in the field, fighting hand to hand with the enemy. A strong conviction that to save the place was impossible, and commiseration for the wretched inhabitants, determined the General to surrender. And thus, after six months of heroic endurance, enhanced by repeated displays of desperate valour, the survivors of the garrison of Kars became captives of the Muscovite.
The state to which the town and garrison of Kars were reduced before the capitulation was agreed on, appears to have been painful in the extreme. One account states that 100 men a-day were dying of hunger and privations, and that on the 24th an English officer gave 26s. for a rat! The little meat that remained of the slaughtered beasts of burden was reserved for the hospitals, in which the Russians found 3,000 sick and wounded. On the 27th the enemy sent a large convoy of provisions into the town. Sentries were placed in all the streets for the protection of the inhabitants. According to all the accounts received, the Russians appear to have behaved well and even generously. Surgeons, medicines, and other requisites were immediately supplied to the Turkish hospitals. The number of guns taken in Kars is 250, of which 80 were field artillery.
Dr. Sandwith was set at liberty, and retired to Erzeroum ; Mr. Churchill, secretary, and Zorah, the interpreter, were also set at liberty ; but they preferred to remain with General Williams, and accompany him to Tifiis. Dr. Sandwith has since arrived in England, and has been welcomed by his countrymen with great eclat.
We have now brought the narrative down to the close nearly of 1855; the severity of the season, and other causes, producing a lull in the din of war. The despatches received from time to time by the British government, as well as the letters sent to the English journals by their several Correspondents, spoke in animating terms of the great improvement in the condition of the British army. Indeed, it was declared by our Allies, that the English troops at the close of the year, were as fine a body of men as any nation could produce. The Allied troops, at the end of 1855, and the beginning of 1856, were engaged in demolishing the docks at Sebastopol, which work was successfully accomplished. In the month of December, Austria, which had all along been indefatigable in its endeavours to bring the contending powers to an agreement, submitted to the Western Powers a fresh proposal, to the terms of which, after some deliberation, the governments of the Allies agreed. This document was immediately despatched to Russia, for acceptance or rejection; and, in the middle of January, 1856, an answer was received, stating that Russia accepted unconditionally the terms proposed, as a basis for bringing about peace. This intelligence was received with joy by many ; with doubt by some; and with disapprobation by others. Paris was ultimately chosen as the place where the Conference was to be held; and it was arranged that each of the contracting powers should be represented by two Plenipotentiaries. At the commencement of the Conference, Prussia was not admitted to take part in the deliberations; but towards the close, two Plenipotentiaries were permitted to take part in the discussions on European matters. The first meeting of the Plenipotentiaries took place on the 3rd of March, and the Conference was brought to a close within a day or two of the end of the month. Full particulars are given of the Treaty of Peace, Conventions, and Protocols, in the next chapter.