G. A. Henty
Part 2 out of 6
until, when at last a landing-place was fixed upon, near Eupatoria,
and the disembarkation was effected, fourteen precious days had been
wasted over a journey which is generally performed in twenty-four
hours, and which even the slowly moving transports might have easily
accomplished in three days.
The consequence was the Russians had time to march round large bodies
of troops from the other side, and the object of the expedition--the
capture of Sebastopol by a _coup de main_--was altogether thwarted. No
more imposing sight was ever seen than that witnessed by the bands of
Cossacks on the low shores of the Crimea, when the allied fleets
anchored a few miles south of Eupatoria. The front extended nine miles
in length, and behind this came line after line of transports until
the very topmasts of those in the rear scarce appeared above the
horizon. The place selected for the landing-place was known as the Old
Fort, a low strip of bush and shingle forming a causeway between the
sea and a stagnant fresh-water lake, known as Lake Saki.
At eight o'clock in the morning of the 14th of September, the French
admiral fired a gun, and in a little more than an hour six thousand of
their troops were ashore, while the landing of the English did not
commence till an hour after. The boats of the men-of-war and
transports had already been told off for the ships carrying the light
division, which was to be the first to land, and in a wonderfully
short time the sea between the first line of ships and the shore was
covered with a multitude of boats crowded with soldiers. The boats of
the "Falcon" were employed with the rest, and as three weeks had
elapsed since Jack had received his wound, he was able to take his
share of duty, although his arm was still in a sling. The ship to
which the "Falcon's" boats were told off lay next to that which had
carried the 33d, and as he rowed past, he exchanged a shout and a wave
of the hand with Harry, who was standing at the top of the
companion-ladder, seeing the men of his company take their seats in
the boats. It was a day of tremendous work. Each man and officer
carried three days' provisions, and no tents or other unnecessary
stores were to be landed. The artillery, however, had to be got
ashore, and the work of landing the guns on the shingly beach was a
laborious one indeed. The horses in vain tugged and strained, and the
sailors leaped over into the water and worked breast high at the
wheels, and so succeeded in getting them ashore. Jack had asked
permission from Captain Stuart to spend the night on shore with his
brother, and just as he was going off from the ship for the last time.
Simmonds, who had obtained his acting commission in place of Mr.
Pascoe, said, "Archer, I should advise you to take a tarpaulin and a
couple of bottles of rum. They will be useful before morning, I can
tell you, for we are going to have a nasty night."
Indeed the rain was already coming down steadily, and the wind was
rising. Few of those who took part in it will ever forget their first
night in the Crimea. The wind blew pitilessly, the rain poured down in
torrents, and twenty-seven thousand Englishmen lay without shelter in
the muddy fields, drenched to the skin. Jack had no trouble in finding
his brother's regiment, which was in the advance, some two or three
miles from the landing-place. Harry was delighted to see him, and the
sight of the tarpaulin and bottles did not decrease the warmth of his
welcome. Jack was already acquainted with most of the officers of the
"Hallo, Archer," a young ensign said, "if I had been in your place, I
should have remained snugly on board ship. A nice night we are in
So long as the daylight lasted, the officers stood in groups and
chatted of the prospects of the campaign. There was nothing to do--no
possibility of seeing to the comforts of their men. The place where
the regiment was encamped was absolutely bare, and there were no means
of procuring any shelter whatever.
"How big is that tarpaulin, Jack?"
"About twelve feet square," Jack said, "and pretty heavy I found it, I
can tell you."
"What had we better do with it?" asked Harry. "I can't lie down under
that, you know, with the colonel sitting out exposed to this rain."
"The best thing," Jack said after a minute's consideration, "would be
to make a sort of tent of it. If we could put it up at a slant, some
six feet high in front with its back to the wind, it would shelter a
lot of fellows. We might hang some of the blankets at the sides."
The captain and lieutenant of Harry's company were taken into
consultation, and with the aid of half a dozen soldiers, some muskets
bound together and some ramrods, a penthouse shelter was made. Some
sods were laid on the lower edge to keep it down. Each side was closed
with two blankets. Some cords from one of the baggage carts were used
as guy ropes to the corners, and a very snug shelter was constructed.
This Harry invited the colonel and officers to use, and although the
space was limited, the greater portion of them managed to sit down in
it, those who could not find room taking up their places in front,
where the tent afforded a considerable shelter from the wind and rain.
No one thought of sleeping. Pipes were lighted, and Jack's two bottles
of rum afforded a tot to each. The night could scarcely be called a
comfortable one, even with these aids; but it was luxurious, indeed,
in comparison with that passed by those exposed to the full force of
The next morning Jack said good-bye to his brother and the officers of
the regiment, to whom he presented the tarpaulin for future use, and
this was folded up and smuggled into an ammunition cart. It was not,
of course, Jack's to give, being government property, but he would be
able to pay the regulation price for it on his return. Half an hour
later, Jack was on the beach, where a high surf was beating. All day
the work of landing cavalry and artillery went on under the greatest
difficulties. Many of the boats were staved and rendered useless, and
several chargers drowned. It was evident that the weather was breaking
up, and the ten days of lovely weather which had been wasted at sea
were more bitterly regretted than ever. No tents were landed, and the
troops remained wet to the skin, with the additional mortification of
seeing their French allies snugly housed under canvas, while even the
4000 Turks had managed to bring their tents with them. The natural
result was that sickness again attacked the troops, and hundreds were
prostrated before, three days later, they met the enemy on the Alma.
The French were ready to march on the 17th, but it was not until two
days later, that the British were ready; then at nine o'clock in the
morning the army advanced. The following is the list of the British
force. The light division under Sir George Brown--2d Battalion Rifle
Brigade, 7th Fusiliers, 19th Regiment, 23d Fusiliers, under Brigadier
Major-General Codrington; 33d Regiment, 77th Regiment, 88th Regiment,
under Brigadier-General Butler. First division, under the Duke of
Cambridge--The Grenadier, Coldstream and Scots Fusilier Guards, under
Major-General Bentinck; the 42d, 79th and 93d Highlanders, under
Brigadier-General Sir C. Campbell. The second division, under Sir De
Lacy Evans--The 30th, 55th, and 95th, under Brigadier-General
Pennefather; the 41st, 47th and 49th, under Brigadier-General Adams.
The third division under Sir R. England--The 1st, 28th and 38th under
Brigadier-General Sir John Campbell; the 44th, 50th, and 68th
Regiments under Brigadier-General Eyre. Six companies of the fourth
were also attached to this division. The fourth division under Sir
George Cathcart consisted of the 20th, 21st, 2d Battalion Rifle
Brigade, 63d, 46th and 57th, the last two regiments, however, had not
arrived. The cavalry division under Lord Lucan consisted of the Light
Cavalry Brigade under Lord Cardigan, composed of the 4th Light
Dragoons, the 8th Hussars, 11th Hussars, 13th Dragoons and 17th
Lancers; and the Heavy Cavalry Brigade under Brigadier-General
Scarlett, consisting of the Scots Greys, 4th Dragoon Guards, 5th
Dragoon Guards, and 6th Dragoons. Of these the Scots Greys had not yet
It was a splendid sight, as the allied army got in motion. On the
extreme right, and in advance next the sea, was the first division of
the French army. Behind them, also by the sea, was the second division
under General Canrobert, on the left of which marched the third
division under Prince Napoleon. The fourth division and the Turks
formed the rearguard. Next to the third French division was the second
British, with the third in its rear in support. Next to the second
division was the light division, with the Duke of Cambridge's division
in the rear in support. The Light Cavalry Brigade covered the advance
and left flank, while along the coast, parallel with the march of the
troops, steamed the allied fleet, prepared, if necessary, to assist
the army with their guns. All were in high spirits that the months of
weary delay were at last over, and that they were about to meet the
enemy. The troops saluted the hares which leaped out at their feet at
every footstep as the broad array swept along, with shouts of laughter
and yells, and during the halts numbers of the frightened creatures
were knocked over and slung behind the knapsacks to furnish a meal at
the night's bivouac. The smoke of burning villages and farmhouses
ahead announced that the enemy were aware of our progress.
Presently, on an eminence across a wide plain, masses of the enemy's
cavalry were visible. Five hundred of the Light Cavalry pushed on in
front, and an equal number of Cossacks advanced to meet them. Lord
Cardigan was about to give the order to charge when masses of heavy
cavalry made their appearance. Suddenly one of these extended and a
battery of Russian artillery opened fire upon the cavalry. Our
artillery came to the front, and after a quarter of an hour's duel the
Russians fell back; and soon after the army halted for the night, at a
stream called the Boulyanak, six miles from the Alma, where the
Russians, as was now known, were prepared to give battle. The weather
had now cleared again, and all ranks were in high spirits as they sat
round the bivouac fires.
"How savage they will be on board ship," Harry Archer said to Captain
Lancaster, "to see us fighting a big battle without their having a
hand in it. I almost wonder that they have not landed a body of
marines and blue-jackets. The fleets could spare 4000 or 5000 men, and
their help might be useful. Do you think the Russians will fight?"
"All soldiers will fight," Captain Lancaster said, "when they've got a
strong position. It needs a very different sort of courage to lie down
on the crest of a hill and fire at an enemy struggling up it in full
view, to that which is necessary to make the assault. They have too
all the advantage of knowing the ground, while we know absolutely
nothing about it. I don't believe that the generals have any more idea
than we have. It seems a happy-go-lucky way of fighting altogether.
However, I have no doubt that we shall lick them somehow. It seems,
though, a pity to take troops direct at a position which the enemy
have chosen and fortified, when by a flank march, which in an
undulating country like this could be performed without the slightest
difficulty, we could turn the position and force them to retreat,
without losing a man."
Such was the opinion of many other officers at the time. Such has been
the opinion of every military critic since. Had the army made a flank
march, the enemy must either have retired at once, or have been liable
to an attack upon their right flank, when, if beaten, they would have
been driven down to the sea-shore under the guns of the ships, and
killed or captured, to a man. Unfortunately, however, owing to the
jealousies between the two generals, the illness of Marshal Arnaud,
and the incapacity of Lord Raglan, there was neither plan nor concert.
The armies simply fought as they marched, each general of division
doing his best and leading his men at that portion of the enemy's
position which happened to be opposite to him. The sole understanding
arrived at was that the armies were to march at six in the morning;
that General Bosquet's division, which was next to the sea, was,
covered by guns of the ships, to first carry the enemy's position
there; and that when he had obtained a footing upon the plateau, a
general attack was to be made. Even this plan, simple as it was, was
not fully carried out, as Lord Raglan did not move his troops till
nine in the morning. Three precious hours were therefore wasted, and a
pursuit after the battle which would have turned the defeat into a
rout was therefore prevented, and Sebastopol saved, to cost tens of
thousands of lives before it fell. The Russian position on the Alma
was along a crest of hills. On their left by the sea these rose
precipitously, offering great difficulties for an assault. Further
inland, however, the slope became easy, and towards the right centre
and right against which the English attack was directed, the hill was
simply a slope broken into natural terraces, on which were many walls
and vineyards. Near the sea the river ran between low banks, but
inland the bank was much steeper, the south side rising some thirty or
forty feet, and enabling its defenders to sweep the ground across
which the assailants must advance. While on their left the Russian
forces were not advanced in front of the hill which formed their
position, on the lower ground they occupied the vineyards and
inclosures down to the river, and their guns were placed in batteries
on the steps of the slope, enabling them to search with their fire the
whole hill-side as well as the flat ground beyond the river.
The attack, as intended, was begun by General Bosquet. Bonat's brigade
crossed the river by a bar of sand across the mouth where the water
was only waist-deep, while D'Autemarre's brigade crossed by a bridge,
and both brigades swarmed up the precipitous cliffs which offered
great difficulties, even to infantry. They achieved their object,
without encountering any resistance whatever, the guns of the fleet
having driven back the Russian regiment appointed to defend this post.
The enemy brought up three batteries of artillery to regain the crest,
but the French with tremendous exertions succeeded in getting up a
battery of guns, and with their aid maintained the position they had
When the sound of Bosquet's guns showed that his part of the programme
was carried into effect, the second and third divisions of the French
army crossed the Alma, and were soon fiercely engaged with the enemy.
Canrobert's division for a time made little way, as the river was too
deep for the passage of the guns, and these were forced to make a
detour. Around a white stone tower some 800 yards on their left, dense
masses of Russian infantry were drawn up, and these opened so
tremendous a fire upon the French that for a time their advance was
checked. One of the brigades from the fourth division, which was in
reserve, advanced to their support, and joining with some of the
regiments of Canrobert's division, and aided by troops whom General
Bosquet had sent to their aid, a great rush was made upon the dense
body of Russians, who, swept by the grape of the French artillery,
were unable to stand the impetuous attack, and were forced to retire
in confusion. The French pressed forward and at this point also of the
field, the day was won.
In the mean time the British army had been also engaged. Long before
they came in sight of the point which they were to attack they heard
the roar of cannon on their right, and knew that Bosquet's division
were engaged. As the troops marched over the crest of the rounded
slopes they caught glimpses of the distant fight. They could see
masses of Russian infantry threatening the French, gathered on the
height, watch the puffs of smoke as the guns on either side sent their
messengers of death, and the white smoke which hung over the fleet as
the vessels of war threw their shells far over the heads of the French
into the Russian masses. Soon they heard the louder roar which
proclaimed that the main body of the French army were in action, and
burning with impatience to begin, the men strode along to take their
share in the fight. Until within a few hundred yards of the river the
troops could see nothing of it, nor the village on its banks, for the
ground dipped sharply. Before they reached the brow twelve Russian
guns, placed on rising ground some 300 yards beyond the river, opened
"People may say what they like," Harry Archer said to his captain,
"but a cannon-ball makes a horribly unpleasant row. It wouldn't be
half as bad if they would but come silently."
As he spoke a round shot struck down two men a few files to his right.
They were the first who fell in the 33d.
"Steady, lads, steady," shouted the officers, and as regularly as if
on field-day, the English troops advanced. The Rifles, under Major
Northcote, were ahead, and, dashing through the vineyards under a rain
of fire, crossed the river, scaled the bank, and pushed forward to the
top of the next slope. It was on the plateau beyond that the Russian
main body were posted, and for a time the Rifles had hard work to
maintain themselves. In the meantime, the Light Division were
advancing in open order, sometimes lying down, sometimes advancing,
until they gained the vineyards. Here the regular order which they had
so far maintained was lost, as the ground was broken up by hedges,
stone walls, vines and trees. The 19th, 7th, 23d and 33d were then
led, at a run, right to the river by General Codrington, their course
being marked by killed and wounded, and crossing they sheltered
themselves under the high bank. Such was the state of confusion in
which they arrived there that a momentary pause was necessary to
enable the men of the various regiments to gather together, and the
enemy, taking advantage of this, brought down three battalions of
infantry, who advanced close to the bank, and, as the four regiments
dashed up it, met them with a tremendous fire. As hotly it was
answered, and the Russians retired while their batteries again opened
There was but little order in the British ranks as they struggled
forward up the hill. Even under this tremendous fire the men paused to
pick grapes, and all the exertions of their officers could not
maintain the regular line of advance. From a rising ground a Russian
regiment kept up a destructive fire upon them, and the guns in the
batteries on their flank fired incessantly. The slaughter was
tremendous, but the regiments held on their way unflinchingly. In a
few minutes the 7th had lost a third of their men, and half the 23d
were down. Not less was the storm of fire around the 33d. Confused,
bewildered and stunned by the dreadful din, Harry Archer struggled on
with his company. His voice was hoarse with shouting, though he
himself could scarce hear the words he uttered. His lips were parched
with excitement and the acrid smell of gunpowder. Man after man had
fallen beside him, but he was yet untouched. There was no thought of
fear or danger now. His whole soul seemed absorbed in the one thought
of getting into the battery. Small as were the numbers who still
struggled on, their determined advance began to disquiet the Russians.
For the first time a doubt as to victory entered their minds. When the
day began they felt assured of it. Their generals had told them that
they would annihilate their foes, their priests had blessed them, and
assured them of the protection and succor of the saints. But the
British were still coming on, and would not be denied. The infantry
behind the battery began to retire. The artillery, left unprotected,
limbered up in haste, and although three times as numerous as the men
of the Light Division, the Russians, still firing heavily, retired up
the hill, while, with a shout of triumph the broken groups of the 23d,
the 19th, and 33d burst into the battery, capturing a gun which the
Russians had been unable to withdraw.
Not long were the Light Division to enjoy the position they had won.
Breathless, exhausted, bleeding, they were but a handful; and the
Russians, looking down upon them and seeing that they were
unsupported, again advanced in heavy masses, and the Light Division
Had their division had the whole of their strength they might have
been enabled to hold the position they had won. But just as they
crossed the river, there was an unfounded alarm of a cavalry attack on
the flank, and the 77th and 88th were halted to repel this, and took
no share in the advance by the rest of the division.
As the shattered regiments fell back before the Russians in a state of
disorder, they saw advancing up the slope behind them the brigade of
Guards in as regular order as if on parade. For a moment the splendid
formation was broken as the disordered troops came down upon them. But
opening their files they allowed the Light Division to pass through
them, and then closing up again moved forward in splendid order, the
Highland Brigade keeping pace with them on their left, while the
regiments of the Light Division reformed in their rear and followed
Steadily, under a storm of fire, the Guards advanced. Grape, canister,
round shot, shell, and shot, swept through them but they kept forward
till nigh crossing bayonets with the Russian infantry.
At this moment, however, two British guns mounted on a knoll opened
upon the Russians, the victorious French threatened their flank, the
Russian gunners limbered up and retired, and their infantry suddenly
On the right of the Light Division, General Sir De Lacy Evans had also
been fighting sternly. The second division had advanced side by side
with that of Prince Napoleon. The resistance which he encountered was
obstinate, but more skilled in actual warfare than his brother
generals, he covered his advance with the fire of eighteen guns, and
so bore forward, suffering far less than the division on his left. He
had, however, very heavy fighting before he gained the river. The
village had been set on fire by the Russians, and the smoke and flames
greatly incommoded the men as they fought their way through it. The
95th, however, dashed across the bridge under a storm of missiles,
while the 55th and 30th waded through the river, and step by step won
their way up the hill. Then the firing ceased, and the battle of Alma
The force under the Russians consisted of some 37,000 men, of whom
3500 were cavalry. They had eighty guns, besides two light batteries
of horse artillery. Inferior in number as they were, the discrepancy
was more than outbalanced by the advantage of position, and had the
troops on both sides been of equally good material, the honor of the
day should have rested with the defenders.
The British loss consisted of 26 officers killed and 73 wounded, 327
men killed and 1557 wounded. The French had only 3 officers killed and
54 wounded, 253 men killed and 1033 wounded. The Turks were not
engaged. The Russians lost 45 officers killed and 101 wounded, 1762
men killed and 2720 wounded. The Allied Army had 126 guns against 96
of the Russians; but the former, owing to the nature of the ground,
played but a small part in the fight.
The whole of the loss fell upon a comparatively small number of the
English regiments, and as the French had 9000 men in reserve who had
not fired a shot, there was no season why the greater portion of the
army, with all the cavalry, should not at once have followed on the
track of the beaten Russians. Had they done so, the war in the Crimea
would have been over in three days. That time, however, elapsed before
a move was made. The reason assigned was the necessity of caring for
the wounded and burying the dead. But this might have been committed
to the hands of sailors and marines, of whom 5000 might have been
landed at night; in which case the whole Allied Army could have
marched at day break.
It was a sad sight when the four regiments of the Light Division
mustered after their work was done. Hitherto in the confusion and
fierce excitement of the fight, men marked not who stood and who fell.
But now as the diminished regiments paraded, mere skeletons of the
fine corps which had marched gayly from their camping-ground of the
night before, the terrible extent of their losses was manifest. Tears
rolled down the cheeks of strong men who had never flinched in the
storm of fire, as they saw how many of their comrades were absent, and
the glory of the victory was dimmed indeed by the sorrow for the dead.
"I wanted to see a battle," Harry Archer said to Captain Lancaster,
who, like him, had gone through the fight without a scratch, "but this
is more than I bargained for. To think of half one's friends and
comrades gone, and all in about two hours' fighting. It has been a
deadly affair, indeed."
"Yes, as far as we are concerned, Archer. But not for the whole army.
I heard Doctor Alexander say just now that the casualties were about
1500, and that out of 27,000 men is a mere nothing to the proportion
in many battles. The French have, I hear, lost rather less."
"I thought in a battle," Harry said, "one would see something of the
general affair, but I certainly did not. In fact, from the time when
we dashed up the river bank till the capture of the battery, I saw
nothing. I knew there were some of our men by the side of me, and that
we were all pushing forward, but beyond that I knew absolutely
nothing. It was something like going through a tremendous thunder
shower with one's head down, only a thousand times more so."
After parade the men scattered in groups; some went down to the river
to fill their canteens, others strolled through the vineyards picking
grapes, and in spite of the fact that in many places the dead lay
thickly together, a careless laugh was sometimes heard. The regiments
which had not been engaged were at work bringing in the wounded, and
Doctor Alexander and his assistants were busy at the ghastly task of
amputating limbs and extracting balls.
The next day a few officers from the fleet came up; among these was
Hawtry, who was charged with a special mission from Jack, who could
not again ask for leave, to inquire after his brother. The wounded
were sent down in arabas and litters to the ships, a painful journey
of three miles. The French wounded fared better, as they had
well-appointed hospital vans. Seven hundred and fifty Russian wounded
were collected and laid together, and were given in charge of the
inhabitants of a Tartar village near; Dr. Thomson, of the 44th
Regiment with a servant volunteering to remain in charge of them, with
the certain risk of capture when the Russian troops returned after our
On the morning of the 23d the army started, continuing its march along
the road to Sebastopol, the way being marked not only by debris thrown
away by the retreating Russians, but by the cottages and pretty villas
having been sacked by the Cossacks as they retired.
The troops halted for the night at Katcha, where the French were
reinforced by 8000 men who were landed from transports just arrived,
and the English by the Scots Greys and the 57th. As it was found that
the enemy had batteries along the northwest of the harbor of
Sebastopol which would cause delay and trouble to invest, while the
army engaged in the operation would have to draw all its provisions
and stores from the harbor at the mouth of the Katcha River, it was
determined to march round Sebastopol, and to invest it on the southern
side, where the Russians, not expecting it, would have made but slight
preparations for a resistance.
Towards the sea-face, Sebastopol was of immense strength, mounting
seventeen guns at the Telegraph Battery, 104 at Fort Constantine,
eighty at Fort Saint Michael, forty at battery No. 4, and some fifty
others in smaller batteries. All these were on the north side of the
harbor. On the southern side were the Quarantine Fort with fifty-one
guns, Fort Alexander with sixty-four, the Arsenal Battery with fifty,
Fort Saint Nicholas with 192, and Fort Paul with eighty. In addition
to these tremendous defences, booms had been fixed across the mouth of
the harbor, and a three-decker, three two-deckers, and two frigates
sunk in a line, forming a formidable barrier against the entry of
hostile ships. Besides all this, the whole of the Russian Black Sea
fleet were in harbor, and prepared to take part in the defence against
an attack by sea. Upon the other hand, Sebastopol was naturally weak
on the land side. It lay in a hollow, and guns from the upper ground
could everywhere search it.
At the time when the Allied Armies arrived before it the only defences
were an old loop-holed wall, a battery of fourteen guns and six
mortars, and one or two batteries which were as yet scarcely
The march from the Katcha to the south side was performed without
interruption, and on the 26th, six days after the battle of Alma, the
Allied Army reached their new position. According to arrangements, the
British occupied the harbor of Balaklava, while the French took
possession of Kamiesch and Kaznatch, as bases for the supply of their
armies. At the mouth of Balaklava Harbor are the ruins of a Genoese
fort standing 200 feet above the sea. This was supposed to be
unoccupied. As the staff, however, were entering the town, they were
astonished by four shells falling close to them.
The "Agamemnon," which was lying outside, at once opened fire, and the
fort immediately hung out a flag of truce. The garrison consisted only
of the commandant and sixty men. The officer, on being asked why he
should have opened fire when he knew that the place could not be held,
replied that he did so as he had not been summoned to surrender, and
felt bound in honor to fire until he did so.
The British ships at once entered the harbor, and the disembarkation
of the stores and siege-train commenced. The harbor of Balaklava was
but ill-suited for the requirements of a large army. It was some half
mile in length and a few hundred yards broad, and looked like a little
inland lake, for the rocks rose precipitously at its mouth, and the
passage through them made a bend, so that the outlet was not visible
from a ship once fairly inside. The coast is steep and bold, the rocky
cliff rising sheer up from the water's edge to heights varying from
400 to 2000 feet. A vessel coasting along it would not notice the
narrow passage, or dream--on entering--that a harbor lay hidden
behind. On either side of the harbor inside the hills rose steeply, on
the left hand, so steeply, that that side was useless for the purposes
of shipping. On the right hand there was a breadth of flat ground
between the water and the hill, and here and upon the lower slopes
stood the village of Balaklava. The valley extended for some distance
beyond the head of the harbor, most of the ground being occupied with
vineyards. Beyond was the wide rolling plain upon which the battles of
Balaklava and Inkerman were to be fought. Taken completely by
surprise, the inhabitants of Balaklava had made no attempt to escape,
but upon the arrival of the British general, a deputation received him
with presents of fruit and flowers.
By this time the fleet had come round, and the sailors were soon hard
at work assisting to unload the transports and get the stores and
siege materials on shore. It was reported that a marine battery was to
be formed, and there was eager excitement on board as to the officers
who would be selected. Each of the men-of-war contributed their quota,
and Lieutenant Hethcote found that he had been told off as second in
command, and that he was to take a midshipman and twenty men of the
The matter as to the midshipman was settled by Captain Stuart.
"You may as well take Archer," he said. "You won't like to ask for him
because he's your cousin; but I asked for his berth, you know, and
don't mind doing a little bit of favoritism this once."
And so, to Jack's intense delight, he found that he was to form a
portion of the landing party.
These were in all 200 in number, and their work was, in the first
place, to assist to get the heavy siege guns from the wharf to the
It is necessary that the position occupied by the Allies should be
perfectly comprehended, in order to understand the battles and
operations which subsequently took place. It may be described as a
triangle with one bulging side. The apex of the triangle were the
heights on the seashore, known as the Marine Heights.
Here, at a point some 800 feet above the sea, where a ravine broke the
line of cliffs, was the camp of the marines, in a position almost
impregnable against any enemy's force, following the seashore. On the
land-slopes of the hills, down towards Balaklava, lay the Highland
Brigade, guarding the approach from the plains from the Marine Heights
to the mouth of Balaklava Valley, at the mouth of which were the camps
of the cavalry, and not far off a sailor's camp with heavy guns and
This side of the triangle continued along over the undulating ground,
and some three miles farther, reached the right flank of the position
of the Allies above Sebastopol, which formed the base of our imaginary
This position was a plateau, of which one side sloped down to
Sebastopol; the end broke steeply off down into the valley of
Inkerman, while behind the slopes were more gradual. To the left it
fell away gradually towards the sea. This formed the third side of the
triangle. But between Balaklava and Sebastopol the land made a wide
bulge outwards, and in this bulge lay the French harbor of Kamiesch.
From the Marine Heights to the crest looking down upon Sebastopol was
a distance of some seven miles. From the right of our position above
Inkerman Valley to Kamiesch was about five miles.
A glance at the map will enable this explanation to be understood.
At the commencement of the siege the British were posted on the right
of the Allies. This, no doubt, was the post of honor, but it threw
upon them an enormous increase of work. In addition to defending
Balaklava, it was upon them that the brunt of any assault by a Russian
army acting in the field would fall. They would have an equal share of
the trench-work, and had five miles to bring up their siege guns and
stores; whereas the French harbor was close to their camp.
It was tremendous work getting up the guns, but soldiers and sailors
willingly toiled away, pushing, and hauling, and aiding the teams,
principally composed of bullocks, which had been brought up from
Constantinople and other Turkish ports. Long lines of arabas, laden
with provisions and stores, crawled slowly along between Balaklava and
the front. Strings of mules and horses, laden with tents, and driven
by men of every nationality bordering the Mediterranean, followed the
Parties of soldiers, in fatigue suits, went down to Sebastopol to
assist unloading the ships and bringing up stores. Parties of officers
on ponies brought from Varna or other ports on the Black Sea, cantered
down to make purchases of little luxuries on board the ships in the
harbor, or from the Levantines, who had set up little shops near it.
All was life and gayety.
"It is all very well, Mr. Archer," growled Dick Simpson, an old
boatswain, as the men paused after helping to drag a heavy gun up one
of the slopes, "in this here weather, but it won't be no laughing
matter when the winter comes on. Why, these here fields would be just
a sheet of mud. Why, bless you, last winter I was a staying with a
brother of mine what farms a bit of land down in Norfolk, and after a
week's rain they couldn't put the horses on to the fields. This here
sile looks just similar, only richer and deeper, and how they means to
get these big carts laden up through it, beats me altogether."
"Yes, Dick," Jack Archer answered, "but they expect to take the place
before the winter comes on."
"They expects," the old tar repeated scornfully. "For my part, I don't
think nothing of these soldier chaps. Why, I was up here with the
first party as come, the day after we got here, and there warn't
nothing in the world to prevent our walking into it. Here we've got
50,000 men, enough, sir, to have pushed those rotten old walls down
with their hands, and here we be a-digging and a-shovelling on the
hillside nigh a mile from the place, and the Russians are a-digging
and a-shovelling just as hard at their side. I see 'em last night
after we got back to camp. It seems to me as if these here generals
wanted to give 'em time to make the place so strong as we cannot take
it, before they begins. Why, it stands to reason that the Rooshians,
who've got their guns all stored close at hand, their soldiers and
their sailors handy, and no trouble as to provisions and stores, can
run up works and arm them just about three times as fast as we can;
and where shall we be at the end of three months? We shall be just
a-shivering and a-shaking, and a-starving with cold, and short of grub
on that 'ere hill; and the Rooshians will be comfortable in the town
a-laughing at us. Don't tell me, Mr. Archer; my opinion is, these 'ere
soldiers are no better than fools. They don't seem to have no common
"I hope it's not as bad as all that, Dick," Jack laughed. "But it
certainly does seem as if we were purposely giving the Russians time
to strengthen themselves. But you'll see when we go at them we shall
make short work of them."
"Well, I hope so, Mr. Archer," Dick Simpson said, shaking his head
ominously, "but I'm dubious about it."
By this time the oxen and men had recovered their breath, and they
again set to at their tiresome work. Although the weather was fine and
the position of the camps high and healthy, the cholera which had
ravaged their ranks at Varna still followed them, and during the three
first weeks in the Crimea, the Allies lost as many men from this cause
as they had done in the Battle of Alma.
By the 4th of October forty pieces of heavy artillery had been brought
up to the front, and the work of the trenches began in earnest.
On the morning of the 10th the Russian batteries for the first time
opened a heavy fire upon us. But the distance was too great for much
harm to be done. On the 11th the Russians made their first sortie,
which was easily repulsed.
On the 17th of October the bombardment commenced. The French and
English had 117 guns in position, the Russians 130. The fire commenced
at half-past six. By 8.40 a French magazine at the extreme right blew
up, killing and wounding 100 men, while the French fire at this part
was crushed by that of the Russians opposed to them. All day, however,
the cannonade continued unabating on both sides, the men-of-war aiding
the land forces by engaging the forts.
During the night the Russians, having plenty of guns at hand, and
labor in abundance, mounted a larger number of guns, and their
superiority was so marked that the bombardment was gradually
discontinued, and even the most sanguine began to acknowledge that an
enormous mistake had been made in not attacking upon our arrival, and
that it was impossible to say how long the siege would last.
Ammunition, too, was already running short.
For the next day or two, however, our guns continued their fire. But
the French had been so completely overpowered by the heavy Russian
metal that they were unable to assist us. The sailors had had their
full share of work during the bombardment. Captain Peel, who commanded
the party, was just the man to get the greatest possible amount of
work from them. Always in high spirits, taking his full share in all
the work, and exposing himself recklessly in the heaviest fire, he was
almost idolized by his men.
Jack Archer lived in a tent with five other midshipmen, and was
attended upon by one of the fore-top men, who, not having been told
off for the party, had begged permission to go in that capacity.
Tom Hammond was the most willing of servants, but his abilities were
by no means equal to his good-will. His ideas of cooking were of the
vaguest kind. The salt junk was either scarcely warm through, or was
boiled into a soup. The preserved potatoes were sometimes burned from
his neglect of putting sufficient water, or he had forgotten to soak
them beforehand, and they resembled bits of gravel rather than
vegetables. Sometimes the boys laughed, sometimes they stormed, and
Tom was more than once obliged to beat a rapid retreat to escape a
volley of boots and other missiles.
At first the tent was pitched in the usual way on the ground; but one
of the boys, in a ramble through the camp, had seen an officer's tent
prepared in a way which added greatly to its comfort, and this they at
once adopted. Tom Hammond was set to dig a hole of eighteen inches
smaller diameter than the circle of the tent. It was three feet in
depth, with perpendicular sides. At nine inches from the edge a trench
a foot deep was dug. In the centre was an old flour barrel filled with
earth. Upon this stood the tent-pole. The tent was brought down so as
to extend six inches into the ditch, the nine-inch rim of earth
standing inside serving as a shelf on which to put odds and ends. A
wall of sods, two feet high, was erected round the outside of the
little ditch. Thus a comfortable habitation was formed. The additional
three feet of height added greatly to the size of the tent, as the
occupants could now stand near the edges instead of in the centre
only. It was much warmer than before at night, and all draught was
excluded by the tent overlapping the ditch, and by the wall outside. A
short ladder at the entrance enabled them to get in and out.
Tom Hammond had grumbled at first at the labor which this freak of his
masters entailed. But as the work went on and he saw how snug and
comfortable was the result, he took a pride in it, and the time was
not far off when its utility was to become manifest. Indeed, later on
in the winter the greater portion of the tents were got up in this
The camp of the Light Division was not far from that of the sailors,
and the two brothers were often together. Fortunately both of them had
so far escaped the illnesses which had already decimated the army.
On the morning of the 25th Harry ran into Jack's tent.
"Wake up, Jack, there is a row down near Balaklava. The Russians are
coming on in force. You're off duty, are you not? So am I. We only
came out of the trenches half an hour ago. Hurry on your things and
Jack was only a minute or two getting into his clothes, the other
midshipmen off duty also hurrying up. Tom Hammond brought in four cups
of hot coffee, which they drank hastily, and then munching their hard
biscuits as they went, the party of four hurried off.
On reaching the edge of the plateau the whole scene was visible. On
four knolls in the plain, redoubts had been erected, and these were
garrisoned by the Turks. Some two miles out ran the little river
called the Tchernaya, which runs through the valley of Inkerman into
the head of the harbor of Sebastopol, and upon this a body of Russian
troops had been for some time encamped. Large bodies of the enemy were
known to be gathered on the Mackenzie heights, a range of hills which
bounded the plain upon the opposite side. These had been strongly
reinforced, and at daybreak the Russian army, having gathered at the
Tchernaya, advanced upon the Turkish redoubts. The scene when the boys
reached the edge of the plateau was a stirring one. Great bodies of
infantry were marching across the undulating plain. Strong regiments
of cavalry swept hither and thither, and two batteries of light guns
had already opened on the redoubts. Lines of British infantry could be
seen drawn up at the foot of the slopes from Balaklava to the Marine
Heights, where the marines were getting the guns in a position to
command the plain. Solid bodies of British cavalry were drawn up near
the mouth of the valley. The drums and bugles were sounding all over
the plateau behind the group, and the troops were already forming up,
and staff-officers were dashing about with orders.
"There goes my regimental call," Harry said. "I must go back again,
"I shall push on," Jack said. "Come along, you fellows, we're too far
off to see much of it here. Let us get down as near Balaklava as we
So saying, the midshipmen set off at a run. For a few minutes the guns
of No. 1 redoubt, the farthest out of all, replied to the Russian
fire, and then the Turks, menaced by overwhelming forces, and beyond
the possibility of any assistance, left their guns and bolted across
the plain towards the second redoubt. Few of them, however, reached
it, for the Russian cavalry swooped down on them and nearly all were
sabred as they ran. As soon as the Russians obtained possession of the
redoubt they turned its guns upon the British, and the 93d Highlanders
who were drawn up in front of the entrance to the Balaklava valley,
were forced to fall back. Our cavalry, which were formed up in a
slight dip of the ground, were invisible to the enemy. As the Russians
advanced, the Turks in the second redoubt fled towards the third, but
the Russian cavalry were too quick for them, and but few escaped. The
guns were turned by the Russians upon the third redoubt, and, untaught
by the fate of their comrades that it was safer to stand than to run,
the Turks here also bolted, and ran for the town. Again did the
Russian cavalry sweep down. The naval guns from the Marine Heights,
the French and Turkish batteries on the road up to the camp in vain
spoke out, and sent their shot and shell far out on the plain. The
distance was too great, and many of the Turks were cut down, the rest
reaching our lines where they formed up behind the 93d.
By this time the whole sweep from the Sebastopol plateau to Balaklava
was alive with spectators. The British infantry were drawn up ready to
defend their position or to march down and take part in a general
battle. Heavy columns of the French were marching from their distant
camps, while groups of generals and mounted officers watched the
progress of the fight. Lord Raglan and General Canrobert, who now
commanded the French (Marshal St. Arnaud having gone on board ship a
day or two after the battle of the Alma, where he died two days
later), had taken up their position on some rising ground above
Kadikoi, a village which lay near the mouth of the Balaklava valley.
As the Russian cavalry on the left of their advance crowned the slope
they saw the Highlanders drawn up in line across the plain. They
halted till joined by numbers of other squadrons. Then they dashed at
the Highlanders. As they came sweeping in magnificent array the Turks
fired a volley and bolted. The Highlanders stood firm and immovable.
When the Russians came within 600 yards, a long flash of fire ran
along the British front. The distance, however, was too great, and the
Russians came steadily on, although the shot from the British
batteries were plunging thick among them.
When within 250 yards of the Highlanders another flash of fire swept
out along the line, and this time so great was the effect that the
Russian squadrons recoiled, and in another minute were galloping back
towards their main body, while a cheer ran along the heights from the
marine battery to Sebastopol.
Lord Raglan now sent orders to Lord Lucan to advance, and the Heavy
Brigade moved forward just as a large body of Russian cavalry came
over the brow in front of them. The British trumpets rang out the
charge, and the Scots Greys and Inniskillings, who formed the first
line of the Heavy Brigade, dashed at the enemy. Gathering speed as
they went, these two splendid regiments rode at the heavy masses of
Russian cavalry. Faster and faster grew their speed till, with a
mighty shout, they flung themselves upon the foe. For a moment all
seemed wild confusion to the spectators. Redcoats and black were
inextricably mixed together, and over them like a play of rapid
lightning was the flash of steel as the swords rose and fell.
Presently the Redcoats were seen emerging from the rear, having cut
their way through the surging mass. The flanks of the Russian column,
however, were lapping them in, and it seemed that the little body
would be annihilated, when the 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards, forming the
second line of the Heavy Brigade, burst upon them like a torrent.
Smitten, as if by a thunderbolt, the Russian cavalry, men and horses,
rolled over before the stroke, and the column, shattered and broken
into fragments, galloped away to the shelter of their infantry, while
a roar of triumph arose from long lines of the allies.
By this time the French infantry had arrived upon the ground, and
Balaklava was safe. Then came the episode by which the battle of
Balaklava is best known, the famous charge of the Six Hundred. An
order was sent from Lord Raglan to Lord Lucan to advance the light
cavalry farther. Captain Nolan, who bore the order, was himself a
light cavalry officer of great enterprise and distinction, and who had
an unlimited faith in the powers of British light cavalry. Excited
probably by the sight of the glorious feat achieved by the "heavies,"
and burning to see it emulated by his comrades of the light regiments,
he so gave the order to Lord Lucan that the latter conceived it to be
his duty to charge. The order was simply to advance, but when Lord
Lucan asked him, "How far are we to advance?" he replied, pointing to
the Russians, "There are the enemy and there are the guns."
Lord Lucan, conceiving that his orders were absolute, ordered Lord
Cardigan to advance upon the guns. Lord Cardigan saw at once the
desperate nature of the enterprise. The guns were a mile and a half
distant, backed by the whole Russian army. The line to be ridden over
was swept not only by the fire of the guns he was about to charge, but
by those of other batteries on the flank. No support was possible, for
the heavy cavalry were at this time far away, executing a movement
which had been ordered. Lastly, even if successful, the charge could
be attended with no great results, as it would be impossible either to
hold or carry away the guns.
The enterprise was indeed a desperate one. Lord Cardigan gave the
order, and the Light Brigade, numbering in all but the strength of a
single regiment, set out at a trot towards the distant Russians. As
they approached they quickened their speed, and the spectators saw
with feelings of mixed horror and admiration, the enterprise on which
they had embarked. When at the distance of 1200 yards from the
Russians, thirty pieces of artillery opened fire upon them. Men and
horses rolled over before the iron shower, but the squadrons closed up
their gaps and rode straight forward, with sabres flashing in the sun,
leaving the plain behind them dotted with killed and wounded.
Again, as they neared the battery, the iron shower swept through their
ranks; then with a mighty shout they dashed upon the guns. Brief was
the struggle here. The Russian gunners were cut down, and gathering
together, boot to boot, the British cavalry rode straight at a Russian
line of infantry which formed up 100 yards behind the guns, poured a
volley into them. There was no pause, but straight, and with the shock
of an avalanche, they hurled themselves at the Russians. There was a
yell, a crash, the clash of sabre on bayonet, the shout of the victor,
the scream of the dying, and the British horsemen burst through the
Russian line. Their work was done. They were conquerors, but alone in
an army of enemies. Turning now, they swept back again through the
guns on their homeward way. The flank batteries belched their fire
upon them, the rattle of musketry sounded round them, a regiment of
cavalry was hurled upon their flanks, but these, weak as they were,
they dashed aside, and wounded and bleeding, the remnant of the
gallant band rode on until met by the Heavy Brigade, advancing to
assist them and cover their retreat.
Our infantry now made a forward movement. The Russians fell back, and
at half-past eleven the battle of Balaklava was over. While the
British charge was going on, 200 of the French cavalry made a
brilliant charge on the left and carried a battery, but had to retreat
with a loss of two captains, and fifty men killed and wounded. Our
loss in all was thirteen officers killed or taken, and twenty-seven
officers wounded, 162 men killed or taken, and 224 men wounded. There
were 394 horses killed or missing, and 126 horses wounded. The
Russians carried off some ten guns from the redoubts which they
captured in the morning.
Jack and his friends returned at the conclusion of the fight to camp,
where, as they had rather expected, they met with a severe reprimand
for their absence, being told that upon such an occasion, whether off
duty or not, their duty was to remain in camp. Captain Peel indeed,
was nearly sending them back to their ships again. But after a very
severe reprimand he allowed them to remain. The boys went back to
their tent somewhat crestfallen, but agreed that such a sight as they
had witnessed was worth anything.
October ended, and the batteries of besieged and besiegers continued
to play, the Russians causing much annoyance by the heavy shell which
they threw up from their mortars; the battery worked by the
blue-jackets suffering particularly. The Russians had now 240 guns in
their new works, a number far superior to those of the allies. As yet
no damage whatever had been inflicted on the enemy's works. Each day
their faces were pitted with shot, each night the Russians repaired
the damages. In the mean time the Russians had received very large
reinforcements. Two of the Imperial Grand Dukes had also arrived, and
they were preparing for an attempt to sweep the allies into the sea.
The weather had set in wet; the soldiers were weakened by their
incessant work in the trenches, by wet and exposure, and the strength
of many of the regiments was greatly reduced by disease. All hopes of
capturing the fortress and returning to Constantinople to winter were
now at an end, and the roads having become mere quagmires, the
supplies of food and of fuel were growing scanty. On the 3d, Jack had
been sent down to Balaklava with a despatch from Captain Peel to
Admiral Lyons. Mr. Hethcote lent him his pony, and having delivered
his message in the guard-ship in the harbor, whence it would be taken
out to the "Agamemnon," Jack went on board some of the transports, and
discharged a number of commissions with which he had been intrusted by
his comrades. So numerous were they that he was obliged to get a
couple of sacks which were completely filled with hams, bottled stout,
fresh bread, potted meats, brandy, matches, and tobacco. He had, too,
succeeded in purchasing several waterproof sheets and tarpaulins, and
these being fastened on the top of the sacks, were placed upon the
pony's back, and, taking his bridle, Jack started through the mud for
his long tramp back to camp, for it was quite out of the question that
the pony could carry him in addition to these burdens. Not a little
laughter was excited on his arrival, and there was quite a rush of the
various officers to procure their share of Jack's purchases, for no
officer had been down to Balaklava for a fortnight, and the stores of
luxuries were completely exhausted.
Next night Jack and his messmates gave a grand entertainment. Harry
and two other lieutenants of the 33d--for the battle of the Alma had
made so many death vacancies in the regiment that he had obtained his
promotion--were there, and two young officers of the 30th who were
cousins of one of Jack's tentmates. It certainly was a close pack. Tom
Hammond had obtained some planks, and, laying these on the flour
barrel, had contrived a sort of circular table, round which the
parties sat with their backs to the wall, on boxes, empty preserved
potato tins, rum kegs, and portmanteaus. There was no room for Tom to
enter the tent, so the full dishes were handed in through the
entrance, and the empty ones passed out. Each guest of course brought
his own plate, knife, fork, spoon, and drinking tin. As for a change
of plates, no one dreamed of such a thing.
Outside, the night set in wet and gloomy, but four tallow candles
stuck in bottles threw a grand illumination.
The first course was pea-soup. It smelt good, but it had a suspicious
appearance, globules of grease floated upon its surface. All fell to
with a will, but with the first spoonful there was a general
"What on earth is this, Jack?" Harry exclaimed.
"What the deuce is it?" another said. "It is filthy!"
While one of the young officers of the 30th exclaimed to his cousin,
"Confound it, Ned! you haven't brought us here to poison us, have
This explosion was followed by a simultaneous shout for Tom by his six
The top-man put his head in at the slit.
"What the deuce have you been doing to this soup?" roared the
"Soup, your honors? Nothing."
"Nothing! Don't tell me, you ruffian!" exclaimed Allison, the oldest
of the midshipmen. "It's poison! What have you been doing to it?"
"Well, your honor, the only way I can account for it is that a while
ago I took off the lid to see if it was boiling nicely, when a bit of
tallow candle I had in my fingers slipped and fell into it. I couldn't
get it out, though I scalded my fingers in trying, and it just melted
away in no time. I skimmed the fat off the top, your honors, and
didn't think it would make no matter."
The shout of laughter which greeted the explanation was loud and
"You're a scoundrel, Tom!" Allison said, "and I shall have to ask Mr.
Hethcote to disrate you, and get some one here who is not a born
idiot. Here, take this horrible mess away! Pour the contents of your
plates back into the pot, boys, and put the plates together. You must
wash them, Tom, or the tallow will taste in everything we have."
The things were passed out of the tent, and after five minutes the
plates were returned, and with them a great tin piled up with Irish
stew, the contents of five tins. A cheer rose as the smell of the food
greeted their nostrils.
"Hurrah! This is something like! I don't think there's any mistake
Nor was there. The stew was unanimously voted to be perfect, and Tom
was again called to the tent-door, and solemnly forgiven.
Then came fried rashers of ham, eaten with hard biscuit. Then came the
great triumph of the banquet--a great plum-pudding, which had been
sent out from England in a tin, ready cooked, and which had only
required an hour's boiling to warm it through.
In order to eat this in what the midshipmen called proper style, a tin
pannikin half filled with brandy was held over the candles, and the
brandy being then ignited, was poured over the pudding. Not a scrap of
this was left when the party had finished, and the table being
cleared, pipes were brought out and lighted; the drinking-cups
refilled with grog, and the party set-to to enjoy a long evening.
"It is a beastly night," the one sitting next to the door said,
peering out into the darkness. "It is a fine rain, or rather a Scotch
mist, so thick I can hardly see the next tent. It will be as much as
you fellows will be able to do to find your way back to your camps.
"Now," Allison said, "let us make ourselves comfortable. It is only
seven o'clock yet, and you've got three hours before 'lights out.'
It's my duty as president of the mess to call upon some one for a
song, but as I'm a good fellow I will set the example myself. Upon the
present occasion we can't do better than begin with 'The Red, White,
and Blue,' and, mind, a good chorus every one. Any one shirking the
chorus will have no share of the next round of grog, and any one who
does not sing when called upon, or who attempts to make any base
explanations or excuses, will have to drink his tin full of salt and
Without further delay Allison began his song, one very popular at that
time. There was no occasion for him to use his authority as president
in the infliction of fines, for every one in turn, when called upon,
did his best, and the choruses were heard over the whole of the naval
"Hullo! What's all this noise about?" said a cheery voice presently,
as a head was put through the opening of the tent.
The midshipmen all jumped to their feet.
"We are having a jollification, sir," Allison said, "on the things
Archer brought up from Balaklava yesterday. Are we making too much
"Not a bit, lads," the first lieutenant said. "It's cheerful to hear
you. It isn't much enjoyment that we get on this bleak plateau. Well,
good-night. You mustn't keep it up after 'lights out,' you know."
"That's something like a first lieutenant," Allison said, when Mr.
Hethcote had retired. "Most of them look as if they'd swallowed a
ramrod, and treat middies as if they were the dust of the earth. I'm
quite sure that a man who is genial and nice gets his work done ever
so much better than do those stand-off fellows. I see in your camp,"
he said to the officers, "colonels and majors standing and chatting to
the young officers just as pleasantly and freely as a party of
gentlemen on shore. Why the captain of a ship should hold himself as
if he were a little god, is a thing I have never been able to make
out. I'm sure you fellows obey orders on parade none the less promptly
and readily because the colonel has been chatting with you in the
mess-room half an hour before. But don't let us waste time. Archer,
it's your turn for a song."
And so merrily the hours passed away, until it was time to break up
and put out the lights. And as the young fellows laughed and sung,
while the mist and rain came down pitilessly outside, they little
thought what was preparing for the morrow, or dreamed that the
churches in Sebastopol were crowded with Russian soldiers praying the
saints to give them victory on the morrow, and to aid them to drive
the enemies of the Czar into the sea.
It was soon after five in the morning when the pickets of the second
division, keeping such watch as they were able in the misty light,
while the rain fell steadily and thickly, dimly perceived a gray mass
moving up the hill from the road at the end of the harbor. Although
this point was greatly exposed to attack, nothing had been done to
strengthen the position. A few lines of earthworks, a dozen guns in
batteries, would have made the place secure from a sudden attack. But
not a sod had been turned, and the steep hillside lay bare and open to
the advance of an enemy.
Although taken by surprise, and wholly ignorant of the strength of the
force opposed to them, the pickets stood their ground, but before the
heavy masses of men clambering up the hill, they could do nothing, and
were forced to fall back, contesting every foot.
Almost simultaneously, the pickets of the light division were also
driven in, and General Codrington, who happened to be making his
rounds at the front, at once sent a hurried messenger to the camp with
the report that the Russians were attacking in force. The second
division was that encamped nearest to the threatened spot. General
Pennefather, who, as Sir De Lacy Evans was ill on board ship, was in
command, called the men who had just turned out of their tents, and
were beginning as best they could to light their fires of soaked wood,
to stand to their arms, and hurried forward General Adam's brigade,
consisting of the 41st, 47th, and 49th, to the brow of the hill to
check the advance of the enemy by the road from the valley, while with
his own brigade, consisting of the 30th, 55th, and 95th, he took post
on their flank. Already, however, the Russians had got their guns on
to the high ground, and these opened a tremendous fire on the British
Sir George Cathcart brought up such portions of the 20th, 21st, 46th,
57th, 63d, and 68th regiments as were not employed in the trenches,
and occupied the ground to the right of the second division. General
Codrington, with part of the 7th, 23d, and 33d, took post to cover the
extreme of our right attack. General Buller's brigade was to support
the second division on the left, while Jeffrey's brigade, with the
80th regiment, was pushed forward into the brushwood. The third
division, under Sir R. England, was held in reserve. The Duke of
Cambridge, with the Guards, advanced on the right of the second
division to the edge of the plateau overlooking the valley of the
Tchernaya, Sir George Cathcart's division being on his right.
There was no manoeuvring. Each general led his men forward through the
mist and darkness against an enemy whose strength was unknown, and
whose position was only indicated by the flash of his guns and the
steady roll of his musketry. It was a desperate strife between
individual regiments and companies scattered and broken in the thick
brushwood, and the dense columns of gray-clad Russians, who advanced
from the mist to meet them. Few orders were given or needed. Each
regiment was to hold the ground on which it stood, or die there.
Sir George Cathcart led his men down a ravine in front of him, but the
Russians were already on the hillside above, and poured a terrible
fire into the 63d. Turning, he cheered them on, and led them back up
the hill; surrounded and enormously outnumbered, the regiments
suffered terribly on their way back, Sir George Cathcart and many of
his officers and vast numbers of the men being killed. The 88th were
surrounded, and would have been cut to pieces, when four companies of
the 77th charged the Russians, and broke a way of retreat for their
The Guards were sorely pressed; a heavy Russian column bore down upon
them, and bayonet to bayonet, the men strove fiercely with their foes.
The ammunition failed, but they still clung to a small, unarmed
battery called the Sand-bag battery, in front of their portion, and
with volleys of stones tried to check their foes. Fourteen officers
and half the men were down, and yet they held the post till another
Russian column appeared in their rear. Then they fell back, but,
reinforced by a wing of the 20th, they still opposed a resolute front
to the Russians.
Not less were the second division pressed; storms of shot and bullets
swept through them, column after column of grey-clad Russians surged
up the hill and flung themselves upon them; but, though suffering
terribly, the second division still held their ground. The 41st was
well-nigh cut to pieces, the 95th could muster but sixty-four bayonets
when the fight was over, and the whole division, when paraded when the
day was done, numbered but 800 men.
But this could not last. As fast as one assault was repulsed, fresh
columns of the enemy came up the hill to the attack, our ammunition
was failing, the men exhausted with the struggle, and the day was
well-nigh lost when, at nine o'clock, the French streamed over the
brow of the hill on our right in great force, and fell upon the flank
of the Russians. Even now the battle was not won. The Russians brought
up their reserves, and the fight still raged along the line. For
another three hours the struggle went on, and then, finding that even
the overwhelming numbers and the courage with which their men fought
availed not to shake the defence, the Russian generals gave up the
attack, and the battle of Inkerman was at an end.
On the Russian side some 35,000 men were actually engaged, with
reserves of 15,000 more in their rear; while the British, who for
three hours withstood them, numbered but 8500 bayonets. Seven thousand
five hundred of the French took part in the fight. Forty-four British
officers were killed, 102 wounded; 616 men killed, 1878 wounded. The
French had fourteen officers killed, and thirty-four wounded; 118 men
killed, 1299 wounded. These losses, heavy as they were, were yet small
by the side of those of the Russians. Terrible, indeed, was the
destruction which the fire of our men inflicted upon the dense masses
of the enemy. The Russians admitted that they lost 247 officers killed
and wounded, 4076 men killed, 10,162 wounded. In this battle the
British had thirty-eight, the French eighteen guns engaged. The
Russians had 106 guns in position.
Jack Archer and his comrades were still in bed, when the first
dropping shots, followed by a heavy roll of musketry, announced that
the Russians were upon them. Accustomed to the roar or guns, they
slept on, till Tom Hammond rushed into the tent.
"Get up, gentlemen, get up. The Russian army has climbed up the hill,
and is attacking us like old boots. The bugles are sounding the alarm
all over the camps."
In an instant the lads were out of bed, and their dressing took them
scarce a minute.
"I can't see ten yards before me," Jack said, as he rushed out. "By
Jove, ain't they going it!"
Every minute added to the din, till the musketry grew into one
tremendous roar, above which the almost unbroken roll of the cannon
could scarce by heard. Along the whole face of the trenches the
batteries of the allies joined in the din; for it was expected that
the Russians would seize the opportunity to attack them also.
In a short time the fusillade of musketry broke out far to the left,
and showed that the Russians were there attacking the French lines.
The noise was tremendous, and all in camp were oppressed by the sound
which told of a mighty conflict raging, but of which they could see
"This is awful," Jack said. "Here they are pounding away at each
other, and we as much out of it as if we were a thousand miles away.
Don't I wish Captain Peel would march us all down to help!"
But in view of the possible sortie, it would have been dangerous to
detach troops from their places on the trenches and batteries, and
the sailors had nothing to do but to wait, fuming over their forced
inaction while a great battle was raging close at hand. Overhead the
Russian balls sang in swift succession, sometimes knocking down a
tent, sometimes throwing masses of earth into the air, sometimes
bursting with a sharp detonation above them; and all this time the
rain fell, and the mist hung like a veil around them. Presently a
mounted officer rode into the sailor's camp.
"Where am I?" he said. "I have lost my way."
"This is the marine camp." Captain Peel said, stepping forward to him
as he drew rein. "How is the battle going, sir?"
"Very badly, I'm afraid. We are outnumbered by five to one. Our men
are fighting like heroes, but they are being fairly borne down by
numbers. The Russians have got a tremendous force of artillery on to
the hills, which we thought inaccessible to guns. There has been gross
carelessness on our part, and we are paying for it now. I am looking
for the third division camp; where is it?"
"Straight ahead, sir; but I think they have all gone forward. We heard
them tramping past in the mist."
"I am ordered to send every man forward; every musket is of value. How
many men have you here in case you are wanted?"
"We have only fifty," Captain Peel said. "The rest are all in the
battery, and I dare not move forward without absolute orders, as we
may be wanted to reinforce them, if the enemy makes a sortie."
The officer rode on, and the sailors stood in groups behind the line
of piled muskets, ready for an instant advance, if called upon.
Another half-hour passed, and the roll of fire continued unabated.
"It is certainly nearer than it was," Captain Peel said to Mr.
Hethcote. "No orders have come, but I will go forward myself and see
what is doing. Even our help, small as it is, may be useful at some
critical point. I will take two of the midshipmen with me, and will
send you back news of what is doing."
"Mr. Allison and Mr. Archer, you will accompany Captain Peel," Mr.
And the two youngsters, delighted at being chosen, prepared to start
"If they send up for reinforcements from the battery, Mr. Hethcote,
you will move the men down at once, without waiting for me. Take every
man down, even those on duty as cooks. There is no saying how hard we
may be pressed."
Followed by the young midshipmen, Captain Peel strode away through the
mist, which was now heavy with gunpowder-smoke. They passed through
the camp of the second division, which was absolutely deserted, except
that there was a bustle round the hospital marquees, to which a string
of wounded, some carried on stretchers, some making their way
painfully on foot, was flowing in.
Many of the tents had been struck down by the Russian shot; black
heaps showed where others had been fired by the shell. Dimly ahead,
when the mist lifted, could be seen bodies of men, while on a distant
crest were the long lines of Russian guns, whose fire swept the
"I suppose these regiments are in reserve?" Jack said, as he passed
some of Sir R. England's division, lying down in readiness to move to
the front when required, most of the battalions having already gone
forward to support the troops who were most pressed.
Presently Captain Peel paused on a knoll, close to a body of mounted
"There's Lord Raglan," Allison said, nudging Jack. "That's the
At that moment a shell whizzed through the air, and exploded in the
centre of the group.
Captain Gordon's horse was killed, and a portion of the shell carried
away the leg of General Strangeway. The old general never moved, but
"Will any one be kind enough to lift me off my horse?"
He was laid down on the ground, and presently carried to the rear,
where an hour afterwards he died.
Jack and his comrades, who were but a few yards away, felt strange and
sick, for it was the first they had seen of battle close at hand. Lord
Raglan, with his staff, moved slowly forward. Captain Peel asked if he
should bring up his sailors, but was told to hold them in reserve, as
the force in the trenches had already been fearfully weakened.
"Stay here," Captain Peel said to the midshipmen. "I shall go forward
a little, but do you remain where you are until I return. Just lie
down behind the crest. You will get no honor if you are hit here."
The lads were not sorry to obey, for a perfect hail of bullets was
whistling through the air. The mist had lifted still farther, and they
could obtain a sight of the whole line along which the struggle was
raging, scarce a quarter of a mile in front of them. Sometimes the
remnants of a regiment would fall back from the front, when a fresh
battalion from the reserves came up to fill its place, then forming
again, would readvance into the thick belt of smoke which marked where
the conflict was thickest. Sometimes above the roll of musketry would
come the sharp rattle which told of a volley by the British rifles.
Well was it that two out of the three divisions were armed with
Minies, for these created terrible havoc among the Russians, whose
smooth-bores were no match for these newly-invented weapons.
With beating hearts the boys watched the conflict, and could mark that
the British fire grew feebler, and in some places ceased altogether,
while the wild yells of the Russians rose louder as they pressed
forward exultingly, believing that victory lay within their grasp.
"Things look very bad, Jack," Allison said. "Ammunition is evidently
failing, and it is impossible for our fellows to hold out much longer
against such terrible odds. What on earth are the French doing all
this time? Our fellows have been fighting single-handed for the last
three hours. What in the world can they be up to?"
And regardless of the storm of bullets, he leaped to his feet and
"Hurrah, Jack! Here they come, column after column. Ten more minutes
and they'll be up. Hurry up, you lubbers," he shouted in his
excitement; "every minute is precious, and you've wasted time enough,
surely. By Jove, they're only just in time. There are the Guards
falling back. Don't you see their bearskins?"
"They are only just in time," Jack agreed, as he stood beside his
comrade. "Another quarter of an hour and they would have had to begin
the battle afresh, for there would have been none of our fellows left.
Hurrah! hurrah!" he cried, as, with a tremendous volley and a ringing
shout, the French fell upon the flank of the Russians.
The lads had fancied that before that onslaught the Russians must have
given way at once. But no. Fresh columns of troops topped the hill,
fresh batteries took the place of those which had suffered most
heavily by the fire of our guns, and the fight raged as fiercely as
ever. Still, the boys had no fear of the final result. The French were
fairly engaged now, and from their distant camps fresh columns of
troops could be seen streaming across the plateau.
Upon our allies now fell the brunt of the fight, and the British,
wearied and exhausted, were able to take a short breathing-time. Then,
with pouches refilled and spirits heightened, they joined in the fray
again, and, as the fight went on, the cheers of the British and the
shouts of the French rose louder, while the answering yell of the
Russians grew fainter and less frequent. Then the thunder of musketry
sensibly diminished. The Russian artillery-men were seen to be
withdrawing their guns, and slowly and sullenly the infantry fell back
from the ground which they had striven so hard to win.
It was a heavy defeat, and had cost them 15,000 men; but, at least, it
had for the time saved Sebastopol; for, with diminished forces, the
British generals saw that all hopes of carrying the place by assault
before the winter were at an end and that it would need all their
effort to hold their lines through the months of frost and snow which
were before them.
When the battle was over, Captain Peel returned to the point where he
had left the midshipmen, and these followed him back to the camp,
where, however, they were not to stay, for every disposable man was at
once ordered out to proceed with stretchers to the front to bring in
Terrible was the sight indeed. In many places the dead lay thickly
piled on the ground, and the manner in which Englishmen, Russians, and
Frenchmen lay mixed together showed how the tide of battle had ebbed
and flowed, and how each patch of ground had been taken and retaken
again and again. Here Russians and grenadiers lay stretched side by
side, sometimes with their bayonets still locked in each other's
bodies. Here, where the shot and shell swept most fiercely, lay the
dead, whose very nationality was scarcely distinguishable, so torn and
mutilated were they.
Here a French Zouave, shot through the legs, was sitting up,
supporting on his breast the head of his dying officer. A little way
off, a private of the 88th, whose arm had been carried away, besought
the searchers to fill and light his pipe for him, and to take the
musket out of the hand of a wounded Russian near, who, he said, had
three times tried to get it up to fire at him as he lay.
In other cases, Russians and Englishmen had already laid aside their
enmity, and were exchanging drinks from their water-bottles.
Around the sand-bag battery, which the Guards had held, the dead lay
thicker than elsewhere on the plateau; while down in the ravine where
Cathcart had led his men, the bodies of the 63d lay heaped together.
The sailors had, before starting, fill their bottles with grog, and
this they administered to friend and foe indiscriminately, saving many
a life ebbing fast with the flow of blood. The lads moved here and
there, searching for the wounded among the dead, awed and sobered by
the fearful spectacle. More than one dying message was breathed into
their ears; more than one ring or watch given to them to send to dear
ones at home. All through the short winter day they worked, aided by
strong parties of the French who had not been engaged; and it was a
satisfaction to know that, when night fell, the greater portion of the
wounded, British and French, had been carried off the field. As for
the Russians, those who fell on the plateau received equal care with
the allies; but far down among the bushes that covered the hillside
lay hundreds of wounded wretches whom no succor, that day at least,
could be afforded.
The next day the work of bringing in the Russian wounded was
continued, and strong fatigue parties were at work, digging great
pits, in which the dead were laid those of each nationality being kept
The British camps, on the night after Inkerman, afforded a strong
contrast to the scene which they presented the night before. No merry
laugh arose from the men crouched round the fires; no song sounded
through the walls of the tents. There was none of the joy and triumph
of victory; the losses which had been suffered were so tremendous as
to overpower all other feeling. Of the regiments absolutely engaged,
fully one-half had fallen; and the men and officers chatted in hushed
voices over the good fellows who had gone, and of the chances of those
who lay maimed and bleeding in the hospital tents.
To his great relief, Jack had heard, early in the afternoon, that the
33d had not been hotly engaged, and that his brother was unwounded.
The two young officers of the 30th, who had, a few hours before, been
spending the evening so merrily in the tent, had both fallen, as had
many of the friends in the brigade of Guards whose acquaintance he had
made on board the "Ripon," and in the regiments which, being encamped
near by the sailors, he had come to know.
Midshipmen are not given to moralizing, but it was not in human nature
that the lads, as they gathered in their tent that evening, should not
talk over the sudden change which so few hours had wrought. The future
of the siege, too, was discussed, and it was agreed that they were
fixed where they were for the winter.
The prospect was a dreary one, for if they had had so many discomforts
to endure hitherto, what would it be during the next four months on
that bleak plateau? For themselves, however, they were indifferent in
this respect, as it was already known the party on shore would be
THE GREAT STORM
Two days after the battle of Inkerman, the party of sailors who manned
the batteries before Sebastopol were relieved by a fresh set from on
board the men-of-war. Some of those who had been away at the front
returned on board ship, while others, among whom was Jack Archer, were
ordered to join the camp at the marine heights above Balaklava, to
fill the places of some men invalided on board ship.
The change was, in some respects, an agreeable one; in others, the
reverse. The position was very high and exposed to wind; but, on the
other hand, the men, being able to obtain materials at Balaklava, had
constructed warm shelters. The ravines below were well wooded, and
they were consequently enabled to keep up cheerful fires; whereas at
the front the supply of fuel barely sufficed to cook the food, and was
almost useless for any purposes of warmth. There was far less
privation here, for Balaklava lay within twenty minutes' walk, and
stores of all kinds could be bought on board the ships. There was,
too, an entire absence of the heavy and continuous work in the wet
trenches. The great drawback to the position was, indeed, the absence
of excitement and change, and the quiet seemed almost preternatural
after the almost continual boom of cannon at the front.
Jack was pleased to find his chum Hawtry on duty at the height.
"This is a grand view, Hawtry," he said, as he stood at the edge of
the cliff the morning after his arrival.
Below at his feet lay a great fleet of transports. To the left the
cliffs stretched away, wild and precipitous, rising to heights far
greater than the point at which they stood, some 600 feet above the
sea. On his right the hill sloped gradually down to the old Genoese
castle, and then sharply to the harbor, in which lay several
men-of-war. In Balaklava, lines of wooden huts had been erected for a
hospital, and their felt-covered roofs contrasted with the red tiles
of the Tartar houses, and with the white walls and tower of the
church. Along the valley at the foot of the harbor long lines of
arabas and pack-animals, looking like mere specks from the point where
the lads were standing, could be seen making their way to the front;
while seven miles distant, on the plateau above Sebastopol, rose, like
countless white dots, the tents of the Allied Army. Turning still
farther round, they saw the undulating plain across which the light
cavalry had charged upon the Russian guns, while standing boldly
against the sky was the lofty table-land extending from above the
village of Inkerman, right across the line of sight to the point known
as Mackenzie Heights, from a farm belonging to an Englishman situated
there. On these heights were encamped a large body of Russian troops.
"It's a splendid view, Dick," Jack Archer said; "but," he added,
turning to look at the fleet of transports again, "I shouldn't like to
be on board one of those ships if it came on to blow. It must be a
rocky bottom and no holding-ground."
"That's what every one is saying, Jack. No one can make out why they
don't let them all go inside. Of course they could not all unload at
once, but there is room for them to shelter, if laid in tiers, as they
would be in a crowded port. Yes, if we get a storm, and they say in
the Black Sea they do have terrific gales during the winter, I fear we
shall have a terrible business here."
Two days later they had a taste of what a storm in the Black Sea was.
On the afternoon of Friday, the 10th, the wind got up, blowing
straight into the bay. Very rapidly the sea rose. As dusk came on the
sailors on the marine heights gathered on the edge of the cliff, and
looked anxiously down upon the sea. Already great waves were tumbling
in, dashing against the foot of the cliff, and sending clouds of spray
half-way up to the old castle, 200 feet above them. The ships were
laboring heavily, tugging and straining on their cables. From the
funnels of the steamers volumes of black smoke were pouring, showing
that they were getting up steam to keep the screws or paddles going,
and relieve the strain upon their anchors.
"I wouldn't be aboard one of them craft," an old sailor said, "not for
enough money to find me in grog and 'bacca for the rest of my life. If
the gale gets stronger, half them ships will be ashore afore morning,
and if they do, God help those on board!"
Happily the storm did not increase in violence, and when morning broke
it was found that although many of the vessels had dragged their
anchors, and some damage had been done by collisions, none had gone
ashore. The knowledge, however, of how heavy a sea got up in a gale of
even moderate force, and how frightfully dangerous was the position of
the vessels, would, it might be thought, have served as a lesson, but
unhappily it did not do so. The naval officer who was in charge of the
harbor was obstinate, and again refused the request of the masters of
many of the transports that the shipping might all be allowed to enter
the harbor. He refused, and upon him is the responsibility of the
terrible loss of life which ensued. On the 14th the wind again began
to rise, and the sailors, as night came on, looked over the sea.
"We are going to have a bad night of it again," the officer in command
of the post said, as he gazed seaward. "It looks as wild a night as
ever I saw. Look how fast the scud is flying overhead. Last week's
gale was a stiff one, but, unless I'm mistaken, it will be nothing to
that which is upon us."
Louder and louder roared the wind, till men could scarce keep their
feet outside shelter. The tents shook and rocked. Men could hardly
hear each other's voices above the storm, and even in the darkness of
night the sheets of foam could be seen dashing up to the very walls of
Jack Archer and Dick Hawtry, who with two other midshipmen occupied a
tent, sat listening awe-struck to the fury of the gale. There was a
gust fiercer than usual, accompanied by a crack like the sound of a
pistol, followed by a stifled shout.
"There's a tent down!" Hawtry exclaimed, "and I shouldn't wonder--"
He did not finish, for at the moment the pole of their own tent broke
asunder like a pipe, and in an instant the four were buried beneath
the folds of the canvas. With much shouting and laughter they
struggled to the entrance and made their way out. Half the tents were
already levelled to the ground, and ten minutes later not one remained
standing. The midshipmen crowded into the turf huts which some of the
officers had had erected. Scarcely had they entered, when there was
the boom of a heavy gun.
"I thought so," Dick Hawtry said. "There's the first of them. How many
more will there be before morning?"
The door opened, and a sailor put in his head.
"Gentlemen, the captain says you are to turn out. He's going to take a
party down to the castle with ropes."
In a few minutes a hundred men mustered, and moved down the hill. So
fierce was the gale that, during the squalls, it was impossible to
keep themselves on their feet, and all had to lie down till the fury
of the gust had passed. It was pitch dark, and they groped rather than
made their way along. Fast now, one after another, came the sound of
the signal guns.
"There must be a dozen of them adrift," Dick shouted into his friend's
ear during one of the lulls. "God help them all; what will become of
them? A ship would be dashed to pieces like an eggshell against these
When they reached the lowest point of the cliff, the party were halted
and told to lie down and keep themselves in readiness, in case their
services should be required. The officers struggled forward to the
edge, and tried to see what was going on down in the bay below; but
little could be seen, save the mighty sheets of spray, as the waves
struck the cliffs. Here and there in the wild waters they fancied
occasionally that they could see the dark forms of the ships, but even
of this they could not have been certain, save for the twinkling
lights which rose and fell, and dashed to and fro like fire-flies in
their flight. Now and then the flash of a cannon momentarily showed
some ship laboring in the trough of the mountainous sea.
"I believe that is the 'Black Prince,'" Jack shouted to his friend.
"That big steamer which has been lying there the last week. If it is,
she's ever so much nearer to shore than she was."
Suddenly a blue light threw its glare on the sea. It came from almost
under their feet.
"Good heavens, Dick, there is a vessel on the rocks already; and look,
a dozen more close in!"
The example was followed, and several other blue lights were burned
showing plainly the terrible nature of the scene. The vessels were
wallowing in the tremendous waves. Many had cut away their masts to
relieve the strain on their anchors. The paddles and screws of the
steamers were working at full speed, for the lines of white foam
behind them could be plainly seen. But even this availed them but
little, for almost every ship lay nearer to the line of cliffs than
she did when night fell; several were close to the foot of the rocks,
and the lookers-on noticed that some which had lain near the shore
were missing. On the decks of the ships could be seen numbers of
persons holding on to ropes and bulwarks. Sometimes from the deck of a
vessel a rocket soared up, the wind catching it as it rose, and
carrying it far inland.
By the captain's orders several blue lights, which the party had
brought down, were burned, to show those on board that their position
was perceived, but beyond this nothing could be done. Presently even
above the noise of the gale a tremendous crash was heard, and they
fancied that they heard a wild shout come faintly up.
"Can nothing be done?" Jack shouted to his friend.
"Nothing, sir," an old sailor said close by. "They are all doomed.
There were over thirty ships there this morning, for I counted them,
and I doubt if one will live out the night."
By this time the sailors, unable to lie inactive, had joined the
officers, and all were scattered in groups along the cliff.
"Is there no possible way of getting down near the water?" Jack said.
"I don't think so, sir; but if it were daylight we might make a shift
"Let us try, anyhow," Jack said.
"Oh, there is another!" as another crash was heard above the gale.
"Anything is better than standing here. I don't think the cliff goes
quite sheer down everywhere. Let us try, Dick; it would be a relief to
be doing something."
"All right, Jack. Let you and I stick together. Do you lads," he said,
turning to three or four sailors who were standing by, "keep close to
us, and lend a hand." At the point where they were standing, it was
clearly impossible to get down, for the rock sloped straight from,
their feet. Farther to the left, however, it went down more gradually,
and here the boys began to try to descend.
"There is a sort of hollow here," Jack shouted, "a sort of ravine.
This is our best place."
Cautiously, step by step, holding on to such bushes as grew among the
rocks pausing sometimes flattened against the rocks by the force of
the gust, and drenched every moment by the sheets of spray, the boys
made their way down, till they paused at a spot where the rock fell
away sheer under their feet. They could go no farther. At the moment
they heard a wild scream. A vessel appeared through the darkness
below, and crashed with a tremendous thud against the rocks. The
masts, which were so close that the boys seemed almost able to jump
upon them, as they reached nearly to the level on which they were
standing, instantly going over the side. Peering over, they could see
the black mass in the midst of the surging white waters at their feet.
The sailors had paused some way up the ascent, appalled by the
difficulties which the boys, lighter and more active, had
"Go up to the top again," Hawtry said, climbing back to them. "Bring
down one of those spars we brought down, a block, a long rope, and a
short one to serve as a guy. Get half-a-dozen more hands. You'd better
fix a rope at the top firmly, and use it to steady you as you return.
There's a ship ashore just underneath us, and I think we can get
In a few minutes the sailors descended again, carrying with them a
spar some twenty feet long. With immense difficulty this was lowered
to the spot which the boys had reached. One of the sailors had brought
down a lantern, and by its light a block was lashed to the end, and a
long rope roved through it. Then a shorter rope was fastened to the
end as a guy, and the spar lowered out, till it sloped well over the
edge. The lower edge was wedged in between two rocks, and others piled
"Now," Dick said, "I will go down."
"You'll never get down alive, sir," one of the sailor said. "The wind
will dash you against the cliff. I'll try, sir, if you like; I'm
"Let me go down with you," Jack said. "The two of us are heavier than
a man, and we shall have four legs to keep us off the cliff. Besides,
we can help each other down below."
"All right," Dick said. "Fasten us to the rope, Hardy. Make two loops
so that we shall hang face to face, and yet be separate, and give me a
short rope of two or three fathoms long, so that we can rope ourselves
together, and one hold on in case the other is washed off his feet
when we get down. Look here, Hardy, do you lie down and look over the
edge, and when you hear me yell, let them hoist away. Now for it!"
The boys were slung as Dick had ordered. "Lower away steadily," Dick
said. "Stop lowering if we yell."
In another minute the lads were swinging in space, some ten feet out
from the face of the cliff. For the first few yards they descended
steadily, and then, as the rope lengthened, the gusts of wind flung
them violently against the face of the cliff.
"Fend her off with your legs, Jack; that's the way. By Jove, that's a
ducking!" he said, as a mighty rush of spray enveloped them as a
mountainous sea struck the rock below. "I think we shall do it.
There's something black down below, I think some part of her still
holds together; slowly!" he shouted up, in one of the pauses of the
gale, and Hardy's response of "Aye, aye, sir," came down to them.
It was a desperate three minutes; but at the end of that time,
bruised, bleeding, half-stunned by the blows, half-drowned by the
sheets of water which flew over them, the lads' feet touched the
rocks. These formed a sloping shelf of some thirty feet wide at the
foot of the cliff.
The wreck which had appeared immediately under them was forty feet
away, and appeared a vague, misshapen black mass. They had been seen,
for they had waved the lantern from the edge of the cliff before
starting, and they had several times shouted as they descended, and as
they neared the ground, they were delighted at hearing by an answering
shout that their labors had not been in vain, and that some one still
"Throw us a rope," Dick shouted at the top of his voice; and in a
moment they heard a rope fall close to them. Groping about in the
darkness, they found it, just as a wave burst below them, and, dashing
high over their heads, drove them against the rock, and then floated
them off their feet. The rope from above held them, however. "Lower
away!" Dick yelled, as he regained his feet, and then, aided by the
rope from the ship, they scrambled along, and were hauled on to the
wreck before the next great sea came.
"I've broken my arm, Dick," Jack said; "but never mind me now. How
many are there alive?"
There were sixteen men huddled together under the remains of the
bulwark. The greater portion of the ship was gone altogether, and only
some forty feet of her stern remained high on the rocky ledge on which
she had been cast. The survivors were for the most part too exhausted
to move, but those who still retained some strength and vigor at once
set to work. In pairs they were fastened in the slings, and hauled up
direct from the deck of the vessel, another rope being fastened to
them and held by those on the wreck, by which means they were guided
and saved somewhat from being dashed against the cliff in the ascent.
When those below felt, by the rope no longer passing between their
hands, that the slings had reached the top, they waited for a minute
to allow those in them to be taken out, and then hauling upon the
rope, pulled the slings down again for a fresh party. So, slowly and
painfully, the whole party were, two by two, taken up from the wreck.
Several times while the operation was being performed great crashes
were heard, followed by loud shouts and screams, as vessel after
vessel drove ashore to the right or left of them. But Jack and his
friend, who consulted together, agreed that by no possibility could
these be aided, as it was only just at the point where the wreck lay
that the rocks at the foot of the cliff were high enough to be above
all but exceptionally high waves, and any one adventuring many yards
either to the right or left would have been dashed to pieces against
the cliff by the first wave.
The midshipmen were the last to leave the ship. Dick had in vain
begged his messmate to go up in one of the preceding batches, as the
last pair would necessarily be deprived of the assistance from the
lower rope, which had so materially aided the rest. Jack, however,
refused to hear of it. When the slings came down to them for the last
time, they put them on, and stood on the wreck watching till a great
wave came. When it had passed, they slipped down the side of the ship
by a rope, and hurried over the rocks till immediately under the spar,
whose position was indicated by a lantern held there. Then, in answer
to their shout, the rope tightened, and they again swung in the air.
The wind blew no more fiercely than before; indeed, it was scarce
possible it could do so; but they were now both utterly exhausted.
During the hour and a half which they had stood upon the remains of
the wreck, they had been, every minute or two, deluged with water.
Sometimes, indeed, the sea had swept clean over them, and had it not
been that they had lashed themselves with ropes, they must have been
Every great wave had swept away some plank or beam of the wreck, and
when they left it, scarce a fragment of the deck remained attached to
the rudder-post. Terrible was the buffeting they received as they
ascended, and time after time they were dashed with immense force
against the face of the cliff.
To Jack the noise and confusion seemed to increase. A strange singing
sounded in his ears, and as the slings reached the top, and a burst of
cheering broke from the seamen there, all consciousness left him.
The officer in command of the party was himself at the spot; he and
many others having made their way down, when the news spread that a
rescue was being attempted. Dick, too, was unable to stand, and both
were carried by the sailors to the top of the slope. Here a cup of
strong rum-and-water was given to Dick, while some pure spirits poured
down his throat soon recalled Jack to consciousness. The latter, upon
opening his eyes, would have got up, but this his officer would not
allow; and he was placed on a stretcher and carried by four tars up to
the heights, where he was laid in one of the sod huts, and his arm,
which was badly fractured, set by the surgeon.
The sixteen rescued men had, as they gained the top, been at once
taken down into Balaklava, the sole survivors of the crews of over
twenty ships which had gone to pieces in that terrible hurricane.
Of the fleet of transports and merchantmen which, trim and in good
order, had lain in the bay the afternoon before, some half-dozen only
had weathered the hurricane. The "City of London" alone had succeeded
in steaming out to sea when the gale began. The "Jason" and a few
others had ridden to their anchors through the night. The rest of the
fleet had been destroyed, victims to the incompetence and
pig-headedness of the naval officer in charge of the harbor. That
there was ample room for all within it, was proved by the fact that,
later on, a far larger number of ships than that which was present on
the day of the gale lay comfortably within it.
The largest ship lost was the "Prince," with whom nearly 300 men went
down. Even inside the harbor vessels dragged their anchors and drifted
ashore, so terrible was the gale, which, indeed, was declared by old
sailors and by the inhabitants of the town to be the most violent that
they ever experienced. Enormous quantities of stores of all kinds,
which would have been of immense service to the troops in the winter,
were lost in the gale, and even in the camps on shore the destruction
was very great.
"That arm of yours always seems to be getting itself damaged, Jack,"
Hawtry said next morning, as he came into the hut. "You put it in the
way of a bullet last time, and now you've got it smashed up. How do
you feel altogether?"
"I am awfully bruised, Dick, black and blue all over, and so stiff I
can hardly move."
"That's just my case," Dick said, "though, as you see, I can move. The
doctor's been feeling me all over this morning, and he said it was
lucky I was a boy and my bones were soft, for if I had been a man, I
should have been smashed up all over. As to my elbows and my knees,
and all the projecting parts of me, I haven't got a bit of skin on
them, and my uniform is cut absolutely to ribbons. However, old boy,
we did a good night's work. We saved sixteen lives, we got no end of
credit, and the chief says he shall send a report in to the Admiral;
so we shall be mentioned in despatches, and it will help us for
promotion when we have passed. The bay is a wonderful sight. The
shores are strewn with floating timber, bales of stores, compressed
hay, and all sorts of things. Fellows who have been down to the town
told me that lots of the houses have been damaged, roofs blown away,
and those gingerbread-looking balconies smashed off. As for the camps,
even with a glass there is not a single tent to be seen standing on
the plateau. The gale has made a clean sweep of them. What a night the
soldiers must have had! I am put on the sick list for a few days so I
shall be able to be with you. That's good news, isn't it?"
"Wonderfully good," Jack laughed, "as if I haven't enough of your jaw
at other times. And how long do you suppose I shall be before I am
"Not for some little time, Jack. The doctor says you've got four ribs
broken as well as your arm."
"Have I?" Jack said, surprised. "I know he hurt me preciously while he
was feeling me about this morning; but he didn't say anything about
A broken rib is a much less serious business than a broken arm, and in
ten days Jack was up and about again, feeling generally stiff and
sore, and with his arm in a sling. The surgeon had talked of sending
him on board ship, but Jack begged so hard for leave to remain with
the party ashore, that his request was granted.
Winter had now set in in earnest. The weather was cold and wet;
sometimes it cleared up overhead, and the country was covered with
snow. A month after the accident, Jack was fit for duty again. Seeing
what chums the lads were, the officer in command had placed them in
the same watch, for here on land the same routine was observed as on
board ship. The duties were not severe. The guns were kept bright and
polished, the arms and accoutrements were as clean as if at sea. Each
day the tars went through a certain amount of drill, and fatigue
parties went daily down to the harbor to bring up stores, but beyond
this there was little to do. One of the occupations of the men was
chopping wood for fuel. The sides of the ravine immediately below the
battery had long since been cleared of their brushwood, and each day
the parties in search of fuel had to go farther away. Upon the day
after Jack returned to duty, he and Hawtry were told off with a party
of seamen to go down to cut firewood. Each man carried his rifle in
addition to his chopper, for, although they had never been disturbed
at this occupation, the Russians were known not to be far away. The
sailors were soon at work hacking down the undergrowth and lopping off
branches of trees. Some were making them up into faggots as fast as
the others cut them, and all were laughing and jesting at their work.
Suddenly there was a shout, and looking up, they saw that a party of
Russians had made their way noiselessly over the snowclad ground, and
were actually between them and the heights. At the same moment a
volley of musketry was poured in from the other side, and three or
four men fell.
"Form up, form up," Hawtry shouted. "Well together, lads. We must make
a rush at those beggars ahead. Don't fire till I tell you, then give
them a volley and go at them with the butt-end of your muskets, then
let every one who gets through make a bolt for it."
The sailors, some twenty strong, threw themselves together, and,
headed by the midshipmen, made a rush at the Russians. These opened
fire upon them, and several dropped, but the remainder went on at the
double until within twenty yards of the enemy, when pouring in a
volley and clubbing their muskets, they rushed upon them.
For a moment there was a sharp _melee_; several of the sailors were
shot or bayoneted, but the rest, using the butt-ends of their muskets
with tremendous execution, fought their way through their opponents.
Jack had shot down two men with his revolver, and having got through,
was taking his place at the rear of the men--the proper place for an
officer in retreat?--when he saw Hawtry fall. A Russian ran up to
bayonet him as he lay, when Jack, running back, shot him through the
head. In a moment he was surrounded, and while in the act of shooting
down an assailant in front, he was struck on the back of the head with
the butt of a musket, and fell stunned across the body of his friend.
When he recovered consciousness, he found that he was being carried
along by four Russians. He could hear the boom of cannon and the
rattle of musketry, and knew that the defenders on the heights were
angrily firing at the retreating party, who had so successfully
surprised them. As soon as his bearers perceived that Jack had opened
his eyes, they let him drop, hauled him to his feet, and then holding
him by his collar, made him run along with them.
Back to Full Books