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ing about one or two o'clock; we had to cross the stream, and ascend the hills, and battle with them hand-to-hand, and face-to-face; and we did it. The balls came down upon us, from the heights above, like a shower of hail, whizzing about our ears and faces, and doing their work; but we pressed on, in spite of the numbers shot down amongst us, drove away the Russians, and established ourselves in their strong position. Had we been in that position, and the Russians below in ours, we should have held the place for ever, and laughed at them. Don't think I'm going to detail you over a description of the battle. I know no more how it was won than
do: and will gather a deal more of its progress from newspapers, than you could possibly have done had you been at it. All I saw, was a fearful scene of confusion, excitement, and tumult. Enemy's balls and shells cracking past us, ours thundering off in return, commanders' voices hoarse with calls to the divisions, men shouting and cheering, the wounded groaning, the dying shrieking, and we pushing on to gain those infernal Russians, pushing on through all. " I saw nothing but the heights above, the black masses of men, whom we were burning to destroy, the eager spirit that pushed on those just around me, and the wounded, falling in our path. All the rest of the battlefield may as well have been over in England, for what I saw of it. Those who play the part of lookers-on may be qualified to describe the details of an engagement, but I'm blest if they who have to do the fighting can. The French fought well, and did good service; but we bore the chief brunt of the day, our position being more exposed to the guns
of the enemy. The Russians fired the village and burnt it up-where do all the people find shelter, who are burnt out of these farms and villages ? go into the ground, like the moles? The battle was over by six o'clock: we were on the enemy's heights, and they were flying from us in all directions. If we had owned a good body of available cavalry, we could have stopped their flight and their future fighting. Roll was called, and we found we had suffered a terrible loss, especially of officers; the blackguards having picked out our officers to fire on. It seemed a mystery, or a miracle, that no general officer was touched, their white plumes rendering them a conspicuous mark; but it came out afterwards, through the revelations of a Russian officer whom we captured, that they had taken these white-feathered hats to be the distinguishing badges of the commissariat, and so did not aim at them. If the English journals get this bit of news into their pages, and a stray one or two find their way to St. Petersburg, I should think our commanders will doff the white, before Sebastopol. I suppose all battle-fields are alike, when the work's over, but I never care to see again anything so horrible as was this of the Alma. In the fury of engagement, you have not time to think of the dead and dying, but when the confusion's over, and there's nothing else strewed out before you, as far as the eye can see, then comes the horror. Nothing could be done for the wounded that night--nothing to speak of. A few legs and arms were amputated, but they mostly lay all night as they fell. The yells of despair and pain, that night, from the dying were awful; the smell emitted from burning human flesh, set on fire by the bursting of shells, was sickening; and wounded horses, shrieking in their agony, galloped madly about, over the dead and the living. People
talk carelessly of the horrors of a battle-field, but let them come and see
As to the trash in the newspapers of the soldier's hardiness and insensibility to pain, don't you be so green as to take it in. It only applies (and in a limited degree) to the moment when the heat of the engagement's on. Amidst the roar of the cannon, the eager struggle and thirst for victory, the tumult and confusion of the raging battle, if a fellow gets a jaw or a foot shot off, he is buoyed up with the excitement around him, and has not leisure to think of the mishap : but when the battle’s over, the field quiet, the excitement gone, then come and see whether they feel the pain or not. Ay, ten times more for lying there, as they do, without succour or comfort
, with every imaginable physical horror around them. Sufferers get thinking of their far-off home, their loving friends, whom they are trying to make up their minds to the prospect of never meeting again ; they dream of a warm bed, clean linen, cooling drinks, a tender, ministering hand, and a surgeon ; and you may judge they do not feel their wounds the less, for groaning on the hard earth, under the blazing sun by day, and in the cold and dew by night, unlooked to and uncared for. A few hours' neglect to such a man seems then like a lifetime. Gus ! I saw men that night (if you can call what's left of them such) trying to wriggle their poor carcases along, in search of help and shelter, without arms or legs, all four gone. I don't mind whether you believe it or not: I swear I saw it ; many instances : and I swear, moreover, that my ears will never forget the howls and groans of agony, which went up from all quarters of the plain. Say that soldiers don't feel pain ! let those who live in the delusion come here now.
When morning came, we set about doing what we could for the wounded, which was not much. The first thing was to rush about after the hospital-vans, ambulances, and all the rest of the comforts and necessaries, that I told you were so elaborately ordered. But we might have searched till now, for nobody had carried the orders out. We saw the French taken to the ships in easy, well-covered spring-vans, drawn by mules. Capital contrivances for the transport of wounded, each holding a dozen men. All their officers, up to General Canrobert-St. Arnaud was too ill — were superintending the work, as solicitous for the comfort of the men as if they had been officers. But how were ours conveyed to the ships, a distance of from two to five miles, as the men happened to lie? You'll never guess. Not in hospital-vans, or stretchers ; there were nothing of the kind; they were bundled into our precious arabacarts, and so were jolted down. Those who could not get arabas, got litters, very rude and badly contrived, for we had nothing much to make 'em of. Some did not get taken down till the second day after the battle, and
many would never have got taken at all, but for the sailors coming to help. Some got no water all that time, many got no food, and scarcely any a surgeon.
But, I'll be shot if it was fair to send the cholera patients (and such a many had been seized that day and night!) on board the same ships with the wounded, but it was done. The wounded, who were able to use their tongues, called out lustily against it ; but nobody listened. We buried the dead in pits, dressed as they were, English by themselves, French by themselves, Russians by themselves : every hour was adding to the graves. It was said the Russians, as they lay, fired on our men when they went to their assistance; but, so
far as I saw, they were thankful for any little help we could give them changing their positions, or giving them a drink. Some of our fellows went plundering amongst the dead. Down would squat a soldier, and place his foot against that of a dead Russian's: if the length agreed tolerably, off came the dead man's shoes, and were stowed away, or forthwith put on by the soldier: if the size did not suit, they went along, measuring others. Some of the men wore portraits hung round their necks, some had the Koran inside their clothes at the chest, and many had leathern purses, containing a little money, tied below their left knee. Jekyl, one of our cornets, was such a fool as to go and dress himself up, for sport, in a Russian officer's entire uniform. It had like to prove no sport to him though. He was capering about the field, playing antics and pointing a sabre, when a soldier fired his musket at him. Down dropped Jekyl on his face, to avoid it, and yelled out that he was English.
Towards mid-day, as I was going over the field, making a detour here, dodging there, jumping yonder, all to avoid treading on the dead and dying, and in the crimson pools, some voice from amongst 'em called out
“Pepper;" and stooping down, amidst a mound of prostrate forms, I found my face close to poor Gill's. “Hallo!" said I, “what's the matter with you ? Sick?" “ No, old fellow,” he answered, with the rummest try at a smile that you ever saw, “ I'm wounded. Get me away: I've been lying here since yesterday, in agony, without a bit or drop. Where's the field-hospital ?" Field-hospital !" cried I, “there isn't one. The fellows are being taken down on board ship.” “ Then the surgeons ?” ejaculated Gill, who was looking ghastly. “ I'm blest if I think there's any surgeons either,” I said to him, “ for the wounded are crying out for them from all parts of the field.” “ But the orders we saw on paper ?" persisted Gill, scarcely able to get out the words from his dry lips, * what's become of those who were to carry them out ? the bedding, and the tea they promised us?” “Don't know an earthly thing about it, Gill,” I cried. “Suppose the bedding's left on board the boats, or was forgotten at Varna.” I hailed a man to help me, and we took Gill away. He had got some canister into his calf, and could not walk a step. We got him to a large shed, which smelt like a stable. Plenty more were lying there, and a leg, which the surgeon had that moment taken off, rolled right against Gill's face, as we laid him down. Pleasant! I told
! the surgeon to come and look to him, and he did. But he did nothing: He said too many around were dying, against time, for want of medical assistance, for him to attend to any but the worst cases. spoke truth, and time gained the race in many instances. Some of the fellows in the shed were, like Gill, not wounded sufficiently bad to be attended to : but they groaned enough. And some, who had just had their limbs taken off, were waiting for the stumps to be dressed, but nobody came to do it, and they went on board ship like that. I heard the surgeons grumbling that there was no lint or linen-not a fiftieth part of what was required. I got Gill a drop of weak brandy-and-water: I think he was worse than the surgeon said, for he groaned awfully. He lay in the shed till late in the day. Some of them had had nothing to eat since marching, the day before. It was a nasty place, that shed, for sick people. The stench and heat nearly turned me up, so you may judge
what it was for them. The worst nuisance were the fies. Swarms of them were buzzing about the wounds, and uncovered faces. I told Gill he would be better outside, but he opened his eyes, and called out not to be moved again, the pain was so great. In the evening, he, with the rest, were hoisted into arabas, and taken on board the Colombo. She sailed on the morning of the 24th; it took a long while to get the wounded down to her : there were four hundred and fifty of them, and a hundred Russian prisoners. We heard, afterwards, a tremendous account of the voyage; nobody believed it; but it was truth. Half the wounds had never been touched since the men fell in battle, and of the limbs which had been amputated, many had not been dressed, so of course they turned bad. Three medical men, only, went down with them, and the surgeon of the ship, but he had enough to do with his crew. It ought to have been twenty speaking moderately) to do any good, and the ship got into an awful state. The disabled were lying one upon another, as they were first put on board ; the sailors were unable to move amongst them to work the ship ; there was no getting below to the sextants (like on the Kangaroo), and the ship was steered hap-hazard. Before they reached Scutari, the vessel was a pest-house, not with fever, but with the stench arising from the undressed wounds; they had become putrid, and swarmed with maggots, which were crawling everywhere. Gus! as I live, it's truth! I saw some of our officers turn sick when they heard the accounts (a deal worse and more detailed than I have time to write), and Gum said if we ex. perienced this disgust in the recital, what must have been the horrible state and suffering of the poor wretches themselves! There were plenty of deaths going down, all the blankets had to be thrown overboard, the vessel itself had turned putrid (it's true !), and when the mass, dead and living, human and animal, were got out of her, a body of men were set to cleanse, fumigate, and disinfect the ship, and try to put her wholesome again. Forty or fifty of the poor wretches were left on board still for two days after the ship anchored at Scutari. Gum said he would have worked his arms off, and made others work, but what he would have got 'em at once out of the poisoned ship, had he been there, even if it had been to lie 'em on the open beach. The Colombo towed two transports full of wounded, whose state was little better, and it is said ditto to the Vulcan. She took down four hundred wounded, and nearly two hundred cholera patients, four surgeons to attend on all. Gill, however, was in the Colombo, and what I have told you of that, I know to be truth. When the Kangaroo and Dunbar had arrived at Scutari, some days before, their freights of sick were placed in the hospital, but they had now to turn out for the wounded. “As litter after litter left the ship's side, the men were asked their name and regiment, but many
could not answer. Some were too weak, some delirious, and some in the death-agony. The hospital was an improvement on the ship, but many were obliged to die there from neglect. We can't make out whether the government at home did not reckon upon so many being wounded all at once (Cuff says they thought we should overcome Russia with blarney and soft soap, as the Peace-Committee recommend), or whether they have freighted the sur
off to some distant quarter of the globe, in mistake; but it is certain that something's wrong, for there are not a fourth enough here. They sent out (at least they say so) unlimited cargoes of lint, linen,
bandages, and other medical requisites for the field-hospital, but it seems they have gone astray, like the doctors. Lots of poor devils lay there, in the hospital at Scutari, without so much as an old shirt between them to tear up. If they, by good luck, caught the eye of one of the very scarce surgeons, and their pitiful, imploring faces brought him aside for a moment, to look at their wounds, he could do little or nothing, being cramped for material. I heard a man, who came up from Scutari, giving the recital, just in these words, to Gum and Cuff. Now I don't mind telling you my opinion, Gus (and it's not an uncommon one here), that it's an infernal shame. And those who pretended to manage things at home, and have succeeded like this, had best not attempt to manage again. Gum says the medical stores and things must have been lying at Varna; Cuff says he does not believe there were any stores to lie : we don't know. The French have their tents, and are not exposed to every variety of night-weather; they have field-ambulances, and their wounded are removed to the hospitals in comfort; they have sufficient doctors, and a full supply of medical necessaries, with dressers, nurses, sisters-of-charity, and priests. We don't grumble, but we can't help noting the contrast: we leave grumbling to our friends at home. It is a crying fact, Gus, that hundreds of families, rich and poor, would not now be mourning the loss of a son or husband, had the arrangements, out here, been better. A set of stupid, thickheaded, brag-all and donothing boobies, are our managers at home ; and you may go and tell 'em I say so.
Well, we moved on two days after the battle, on the morning of the 23rd. Orders were issued, the previous night, to be in readiness, and at daybreak we were up and stirring. Tylden died that morning in his tent, and was buried before we marched. We left the wounded Russians, about seven hundred of them, lying on the field where they fell : sixty hours they had had of it then. Dr. Thompson, of the 44th, remained behind to do what he could for them-no very enviable appointment. He had some salt meat, biscuit, and rum served out to him, and was left to it. Lord Raglan sent for the people from an adjacent Tartar village, and told them they must look to their friends, these Russians. Since then, poor Thompson has died. Our march still lay through a barren country, nothing verdant in it but thistles ; but, in the afternoon, we reached a place called Katcha, and found an improvement. Villas, large and small, were scattered in a luxuriant valley ; clusters of green
shrubs and verdant hills rose behind it; the vegetation was flourishing; the gardens were beautiful. Fancy us, Gus, poor hungry, weary, thirsty soldiers, coming suddenly upon unlimited crops of fine ripe fruit ! of vineyards, where the grapes grew in profusion, and a stream of delicious water! We were in hesitation which to make a rush to first, the fruit or the water. Peaches, apricots, pears, apples! as many as we could cram. Of a different flavour from what we had tasted before ; a deal more delicious : my mouth has watered ever since, thinking of it. Orders speedily ran along the lines that we were not to make too free with the fruit, on the score of sickness. They might as well have ordered the moon not to shine. The Russians had been before us, and, save the fruit, had destroyed everything. I wonder they left that. The houses were lovely little white boxes, surrounded with flowers; but when we got