Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

and bitterness ;” and probably the good understanding which always existed between him and Lord Raglan is to be attributed to this quite as much as to the caution of the latter in avoiding argument.

As for the ridiculous charge of endangering the alliance by his wish to command the Turkish army, and again by proposing that when French and English troops were acting together, the senior officer should take the command, it is a sufficient answer to say that he abandoned these plans cheerfully the moment they were objected to. In fact, it appears clearly enough from his correspondence that it was a part of his character to take up a dozen schemes every day of his life in order to abandon them on the morrow. This was the “fougue de M. le Maréchal;” and Mr. Kinglake might have been more merciful to it than he is, for it gave Louis Napoleon an opportunity of crowning his perfidies by forbidding the revival of these schemes as soon as he heard of them.

A curious instance of this fickleness of purpose occurred soon after. The advance to Varna was agreed to, and the marshal writes to his brother in the highest spirits, on the 25th May, “ Nous avons choisi Varna comme base d'opérations. Je crois qu'il faut entrer en ligne le plus tôt possible. L'embarquement de nos troupes est ordonné; il va commencer dans trois jours.” On the 30th of May, five days later, all is changed. Nothing is in readiness. Only the heads of columns can be sent to Varna, but as soon as the divisions are complete, they are to be marched on the line of the Balkans. “ The second division will march on Adrianople; and about the 15th of June the third will quit Constantinople to march on Bourgas.” But on the 9th of June the marshal was nevertheless at Varna, and writing to his brother, “ Je tiens à sauver Silistrie. La raison politique, comme la raison militaire, ont marqué ma place à Varna.” The first of these changes is due to the marshal's having been “checked, as is supposed, by the authoritative counsels sent out to him from Paris, through Colonel Trochu. The supposition does not seem very consistent with the fact that the colonel had come from France on the 10th of May, and the marshal's change of intention was certainly not formed before the 26th. But be this as it may, we agree with Mr. Kinglake that the plan of forming behind the Balkans carried strategical prudence to an absurdity, and that Lord Raglan did well to intimate that he would not join in it, but should remain on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus, ready to embark at any moment for Varna. Thenceforth the movements went on; but before the allied commanders arrived there, the siege of Silistria had been raised, and the Russians were in full retreat. By the 2d of August they had repassed the Pruth.

A second change of plan was now necessary. Austria having engaged to occupy the Principalities, Turkey had no longer to dread a Russian invasion. The proverbial unhealthiness of the country forbad the Allies to follow up the retreating enemy. Out of two divisions, which St. Arnaud would not be deterred from sending into the Dobrudscha, no less than from eight to ten thousand men are said to have died in a few days by cholera. And so all men's eyes turned towards the Crimea. It was no new scheme; society had long been full of it. As early as the 3d June St. Arnaud writes that it had been his favourite idea.” The English people were eager for action, and on the 19th June public opinion was sufficiently pronounced to justify the Times in throwing its weight into the same scale.

By the end of that month the ministry was prepared to follow suit, and the Duke of Newcastle drew up the despatch which sent a cabinet to sleep, according to Mr. Kinglake. To the hypothetical causes of this phenomenon which he enumerates, the heat of the weather, and that the ministers had all been hocussed, may be added another at least as probable—“ the astonishing facility of writing" attributed by him to the Duke. But setting a ministry to sleep was nothing to what this magic document did in the Crimea. The first thing Lord Raglan did on receiving it was to ask Sir George Brown's advice. Sir George thought that the Duke of Wellington would not have invaded the Crimea without accurate information as to the Russian force there ; and that Lord Raglan should imitate the Duke of Wellington by invading it without any such information, in order to save himself from being superseded.

66 This suggestion,” says Mr. Kinglake, “ did not at all govern Lord Raglan's decision.” It would have been strange if it had. What Lord Raglan did was this: he reflected within himself that the Duke always wrote very submissively to the Secretary of State, but forgot that he always “fiercely, wilfully, and contemptuously” snubbed the same secretary if he presumed to send him orders. Lord Raglan therefore resolved to obey, being quite as unhappy in his attempt at imitation as his subordinate.

The French had failed equally with ourselves in obtaining any information ; so that Mr. Kinglake's grave assertion that Lords Stratford and Raglan were too much of gentlemen to employ spies, is as unnecessary to account for their ill success as it is silly and incredible. Unfortunately the Home Office intelligence was not thought trustworthy, though it turned out accurate enough.

Two conferences were held in July. St. Arnaud-we utterly reject Mr. Kinglake's inference (ii. 95), that he was directed by the Emperor to follow Lord Raglan's lead—was burning for action. His health was rapidly failing him, and he was loth to leave his command till he had struck at least one blow. Lord Raglan's mind was made úp. Admirals Lyons and Bruat were in favour of the expedition, and every other officer in either army or navy was opposed to it. The commanders had their way; and the plan finally adopted was, eschewing regular operations, to land a movable column at the mouth of the Katscha, force on a battle, and carry Sebastopol by a coup-de-main.

The cholera, which still clung to the allied forces--a fire, at which St. Arnaud " displayed great coolness and judgment,” according to Major Calthorp, and is not, strange to say, asserted by Mr. Kinglake to have contrived to appear in seeming peril”—caused delay, and it was not till the 24th August that the embarkation commenced. On the appointed day, the 2d September, the impatient marshal started with his sailing ships. The English were four days behind time, but they had cavalry to embark. The marshal's petulance soon wore off: he stood back, and the whole flotilla was reunited. Lord Raglan's grave letter certainly implied rebuke; but if St. Arnaud's eager tem. perament sometimes betrayed him, the sweetness of his temper prevented any evil consequences. While on the voyage, the French officers drew up a paper, in which they objected to landing at the Katscha, and proposed to land at Kaffa, in the extreme east of the Crimea. Finally, St. Arnaud left the decision to Lord Raglan, being himself prostrated by illness. This was on the 8th. On the 10th the marshal wrote to his wife. His letter shows that there can be no doubt what the proposal to land at Kaffa meant: it was intended that we should fortify ourselves there, and make it the base for regular operations against Sebastopol in the spring. In short, the whole plan of the campaign was to be altered. St. Arnaud himself was still in favour of landing at the Katscha at all hazards, for he felt the days of his command were numbered; but it is characteristic of the man that he writes throughout as if the choice of a landing-place still rested with him, and the reconnaissance was in the hands of his inferior officers. It was in the hands of Lord Raglan, who himself surveyed the coast, peremptorily rejected the idea of Kaffa, rejected the Katscha, on the opinion of the naval officers that the bay was too small for our enormous flotilla, and fixed on Old Fort.

A mistake was made, according to Mr. Kinglake, by the French on the night of the 13th in laying down the buoy which was to divide the allied flotillas at the landing-place. Perceiving this, Lord Lyons determined at once to avoid confusion by landing the English army about a mile to the

a

north.* It is wearisome to have to notice the continued perverseness with which Mr. Kinglake sees here on the part of our allies either over-greediness for space, or a desire to bring the enterprise to a close. The last notion is perfectly preposterous. An alliance must be weak indeed which could be endangered by a mistake so trifling, and of which the consequences were so easily rectified. In landing, our cavalry again made us two days longer than the French. All the 17th the marshal fumed; on the 18th he says that he wrote to Lord Raglan that he would start the next morning, and nothing should stop him: and it is true that on the 19th the Allies were on the march for the Alma.

At one o'clock on the 20th September, Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud held a short conference in front of the allied line. Before them was a gentle slope leading down to the Alma, to the south of which the ground rises to an average height of about 300 feet. On the plateau at the top the Russian army was ranged in position. The point at which the French and English lines united was opposite to the village of Bourliouk. The French position was to the right of this, and extended to the sea. From Bourliouk to Almatamack, a distance of two miles and a quarter, the hill could be scaled every where by foot-soldiers; but there was but one road practicable for artillery, this was near Bourliouk. At Almatamack there was another, and a third where the Alma enters the sea. Between these two points, about a mile apart, the cliff is altogether inaccessible.

The hill opposite to the English portion of the allied line rose gradually, more like our own chalk downs. It was called the Kourgané hill. Here was the great redoubt containing fourteen guns, which swept the whole naked hill-side. Close to Bourliouk, but on that side which is furthest from the sea, and therefore nearly in the Russian centre, was a ravine in the shape of a V, up which ran the great road from Eupatoria to Sebastopol. This ravine, like the Kourgane hill, was strongly defended by infantry and artillery. The hill to the west of the ravine, and therefore in front of the French left, was crowned by an unfinished turret, and was thence known as the Telegraph hill. The first necessity of the moment was a plan of attack. St. Arnaud, the night before, had proposed that Bosquet should turn the Russian left by scaling the cliff at Almatamack and close to the sea. This being done, he would himself attack in front, while the English turned the Russian right. Lord Raglan, as usual, seems to have let the marshal talk, who went away naturally fancying that silence had given consent. Now that

* So at least says Lord Raglan, in a letter of the 10th September, quoted in the Saturday Review of March 14th. Captain Mends, however, who had the management of the disembarkation, in his letter to the Times denies the whole story.

they were in front of a position over five miles in length, measuring from the sea, it became evident that to turn the Russian right was dangerous, as the ground was peculiarly adapted for cavalry, in which we were just as weak as the Russians were strong. Besides, to have attempted to turn both the flanks of the Russian army would have left a gap in the allied centre. Lord Raglan simply, therefore, said that he would attack in front. The marshal remained till death under the notion that the English had engaged to turn the Russian right. And the battle commenced without a plan.

The cliff to their right was soon scaled by the French ;-by Bosquet with one brigade at Almatamack; by Bouat with one brigade and a Turkish division by the sea. This was the first blunder. The coast, within a mile of the sea, was swept by the fire of the fleet, and Bosquet, with only one brigade, was unable to push on.

Of Bouat and the Turks no more was seen that day. Canrobert now advanced; but though his men climbed the hill, his artillery had to be sent back by Almatamack, and he too was therefore paralysed. Why Prince Napoleon remained where he did so long is a mystery, for he had a road practicable for artillery in his front; but be suffered from minor mishaps, and St. Arnaud was personally present with the division. Therefore things at present looked ill; yet the danger was more apparent than real. So confident had Prince Mentschikoff been that the cliff at Almatamack was inaccessible, that he had never troubled himself to examine it, and had left the ground for two miles from the sea wholly unoccupied. Then, when Bosquet appeared, he was thrown into perplexity, and commenced moving some of his reserves from his right to his left in a vague and helpless way. Had he attacked Canrobert and Prince Napoleon vigorously at this moment, the result of the day might perhaps have been different. But he was not a competent commander.

At least two urgent messages having come from the French, though none apparently from the marshal, Lord Raglan ordered an advance. În front were Sir George Brown with the light, and Sir De Lacy Evans with the second divisions, being respectively supported by the first and third divisions. Sir George Cathcart was in reserve. No sooner was the advance well commenced than Lord Raglan took the extraordinary course of crossing the Alma a little west of Bourliouk, and riding with his staff in advance of his own army, and right into the Russian lines. He left his own army without a general, and ran upon great good fortune. Probably he had divined the fatal gap which here intervened in the Russian line; for the order to bring up Turner's battery seems to have been first given just after he had crossed the river. A few minutes later

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »