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The Russian ("Crimean") War of 1854 - 1856
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Sir Henry Keppel on the Russian War (3/3)
ST. JEAN D'ACRE
Omar Pasha's Arab.
April 3, 1855 (Eupatoria). Landed yesterday and paid a visit to the Turkish Admiral and Omar Pasha. He is a fine-looking man. It is astonishing the excellent earthworks his army have thrown up round Eupatoria during the last fortnight. The place is now secure against surprise or assault. Omar mounted me on his favourite charger, an Arab said to be very valuable. Never saw so beautiful an animal. Rode with a party and visited the Turkish advanced cavalry picquets.
The country round Eupatoria is a vast open plain, with here and there hillocks supposed to be of Roman construction. On these the advanced Turkish picquets were stationed in pairs. A short distance beyond them were the advanced Russian picquets, looking warlike. Behind them again were different squadrons of cavalry, all ready mounted for work. But on Omar's charger I was safe. He has more than 45,000 men, 7000 of which are cavalry and artillery. I cannot say when I have had so interesting a day.
Had party on board to dine. Colonel Simmonds, Ogilvie, and Commanders present. Weighed at midnight. Nineteen cases of smallpox. Took Surgeon with me to the Admiral, and got permission to land on a small uninhabited island and build huts.
April 4. Weighed at daylight; went on shore at Balaklava to get huts from Admiral Boxer, who had not turned out. Boxer was a salt of the old school. He gave me the order for the houses, and advised me to go on shore and rouse up the soldiers in charge, and he would follow. On my remarking that he had not breakfasted, he replied - "I am an old first lieutenant, and always breakfasts with me hat under the table". Returned to Kazatch, selected ground, marked out sites, and had two houses up by sunset. Yellow flags hoisted and regular lazaretto established.
April 5. Thirty-nine cases of smallpox. Hospital establishment creditable to the designer. Patients doing well. Landed band in afternoon to cheer them. At suggestion of surgeon, walked through my newly erected hospital; airy and clean. The smallpox room was a trial. Having obtained the names, I endeavoured to say something consoling to each. Their heads were swollen into the shape and appearance of huge plum-puddings: eyes closed - their own mothers could not have recognised them. Prompted by the doctor, I was enabled to say something cheery to each and could see by a slight move of their heads that it gave pleasure.
April 6. Building huts, making wells and wards about the hospital - an amusement!
April 11. Banshee arrived with mail, little Harry on board; just in time to see the bombardment.
April 13 (Letter to H.F.S.). The nearest point to us is the entrance left of the French entrenchment, abutting on the sea. This entrenchment and battery being "end on", we see the Frenchmen load and fire and crouch down. We see the Russians doing the same. We easily trace the whole course of the shells, see them burst, sometimes throwing heaps of earth and dirt over the men as they throw themselves down when they see or hear the missive coming.
Higher up in the landscape we see the famous Round Tower and the Mamelon (this last the one the French never ought to have allowed the Russians to take), keeping up a desperate fire on Gordon's and Chapman's batteries, which is returned with interest; then again, further still, are ours and the French batteries blazing away on the Russian fort, while they in the background are firing from numerous newly-raised batteries on the Inkerman heights to the north of the Khersonese.
When it is calm or the wind off the land, the concussion from the reports of the guns shakes the ship. This is kept up night and day, at least it has been so for the last four days, and will go on.
We cannot well make out the amount of damage done to the Russian batteries, but the fire from them gets very slack towards the afternoon, and sometimes is silenced altogether; but they manage to repair damages in the dark, and commence in the morning much the same. Nearer to us we have seen the Frenchmen's battery, considerably damaged, but they replace their gabions and sand-bags, and go at it again. In fact, judging from the supply of shot and shell in rear of his battery, the enemy means to keep the ball going for some time.
We get occasional accounts from the camp. Up to yesterday the bluejackets appear to have suffered most. Two lieutenants, Twyford and Douglas, killed. Captain Lord John Hay wounded, jaw broken, teeth knocked out and throat cut by the fragment of a shell: doing well though, and wishes to return to the trenches. Seventy-six seamen hors de combat, and Lord Raglan asking for more. They are decidedly the best shots, but take no care of themselves.
I am sorry the town of Sevastopol shows as yet little or no symptoms of damage: on the top of one of their sea batteries, I can see ladies admiring, as we suppose, our Fleet. While all this is going on on shore we (French and English ships) form a long and imposing line across the harbour. Our daily routine, muster, bands playing; everything going on as if we were in Plymouth Sound or at Spithead.
(Journal) Visited hospital, all patients except one doing well. Pasley and Talbot to dine. Paget and Drummond went into the harbour after dark in the Valourous, and caused a slight diversion by opening fire on the forts.
April 14. With Admiral to visit Lord Raglan: unusual on mail departure days.
April 15. Until the place is invested cannot see use of the present expenditure of ammunition.
About this time Clarence Paget conceived the idea of placing two lights on shore in such a position that, by bringing them in one, we might on the darkest nights approach the batteries and deliver our fire in succession; in the hope that the enemy, not being able to see the ships, would fire at random and probably miss us, whereas we, knowing exactly the distance and direction, could point our guns with unerring aim. Sir Edmund Lyons, as stated by Paget, brightened on the occasion. Paget with his master had sounded the line the ships had to take. I expected great things of my Jenny d' Acre when her turn should come.
This was Gladiator's turn for night attack on batteries, and as it would be my "St. Jean d' Acre"'s turn next, I got friend Broke to take me on board a little after midnight. All lights out, the paddles just turning noiselessly. I was on the paddle-box when a flash from the shore and the approach of a burning fuse showed how correctly the Russians had calculated the spot. The master fell just before me, and the shell exploded over the opposite box, while a third person fell from the bridge. On inquiry I found that no one was hurt. The master from the Princess Royal was on the bridge and had thrown himself down. The officer on the opposite bridge had done likewise. The young man who fell off the bridge had taken his tea a little too strong, and lost his balance; no harm done.
April 17. Fresh case of smallpox, ditto breaking out in Royal Albert, sent their cases to our new hospital. With permission of Admiral, shifted berth to off Kazatch, to finish hospital. Landed strong party. Dined with Houston-Stewart.
April 21. Oldfield in from trenches. Respite from firing. Things much the same as when trenches opened first.
April 22. Visit from Inspector of Hospitals, Dr. Deas.
April 23. Order from Commander-in-Chief to hoist quarantine flag, and consider ourselves in strict quarantine.
April 24. Lord Rokeby and Baillie having come down, met them at stables with luncheon. Great farce this quarantine!
May 2. Invited to meet Admiral on shore. Plan for an attack on Kertch with 12,000 French and 3000 English discussed. No work, though, for these big ships. Alma troopship arrived. Friend John Astley, recovered from his wound in the neck at Alma, rejoined Fusilier Guards.
May 3. Interruption in hospital works. General signal for captains and ordinary sailing: rendezvous and places of landing issued. Things looking more like business. Weighed at 8 P.M., and steered towards Odessa, altering course for eastward after dark.
May 4. Early morning found Fleet enveloped in fog. Marines preparing to land. Fog dispelled by heat of sun. Signal, to cook three days' provisions. Weather fine, all hands full of hope and expectation. As we drew near, general signal for "Captains to repair on board flag". Disappointment great when it was announced that the expedition was at an end. French Admiral being recalled by Canrobert.
May 5 (Kerch). Before we turned our sterns on Kertch, Lord Lyons told me that he had tried to persuade General Brown, who commanded our troops, to go on with the forces we had to Kertch. But the strict disciplinarian declined. Had he consented, on the appearance of our top-gallant yards above the horizon, the Kertch forts, which had had been prepared a month previously, would have been blown up, the war ended, and millions saved to the country.
May 6 (Kazatch Bay). Ran ahead of Fleet and came to before 8, off Kazatch Bay. Cutter capsized in sailing on shore. Pilkington in her. No one drowned. Rode "Bashi" up to headquarters. Returned with Admirals. Blowing fresh, so did not dine with them.
May 8. Arthur Williams came on board, having arrived in Himalaya from India with his charming wife. All smallpox cases being in hospital, could put my friends up on board. Admiral Houston-Stewart to call upon Mrs. Williams.
May 9. Williams, Colville, and Foley down from camp to dine. Friends Talbot, Horton, and others to dinner. Found Arthur Taylor had called on board, having arrived in charge of artillery in cargo transport.
May 12. Dined with Admiral H. Stewart to meet Commander-in-Chief. Foley and Colville coming down from camp.
May 13. Held survey on and invalided Captain Sir George Broke. After divine service, sent friends in launch and took Mrs. Ives in gig to Streletska Bay; landed and visited French trenches and left attack. Dined in Wardroom.
May 14. Dined with Pasley. Received pictures of Nelson and Lyons. Foley and Colville took their departure for camp in the afternoon.
May 15. Dined with Pasley - best cook in the Fleet.
May 16. Friends from camp - Wenny Coke, Bob Lindsay, Thynne of Rifles, Baillie, and Fraser, the Master of Lovat, to dinner. Jolly party, having killed the last of my Southdowns. Baillie and Fraser returning at night.
May 17. Commander-in-Chief promising to dine, prepared accordingly. Admiral Stewart sending me turtle soup and fish. Lord Rokeby down too in time from camp. Baillie. Seventeen to, for these times, a first-rate dinner.
May 18. Dined with Commander-in-Chief, to meet Mrs. F. Grey.
May 20. With Admirals to visit by water, in Telegraph steamer, Prince Woronzoff's place Onianda Aloupka, the Emperor's Palace, and village of Yalta. Mrs. F. Grey, Mrs. and Miss Stewart, Lady George Paget, Lord Burgesh, Rose, and others, an agreeable party. Admiral, however, was obliged to go to headquarters. Found Enchantress yacht, Sir Thomas Whichcote, with Freke and George Bentick on board; offered to tow him to Kertch! Another expedition decided on.
May 21. Dined with Wardroom officers to celebrate two years in commission.
May 22. Called on board York Herald, Captain Furber, meeting Mrs. Pentland, and Miss Furber.
Map of Crimea.
SECOND EXPEDITION TO KERTCH
May 22, 1855. I thought this would be a pleasant trip for my yacht friends in the Enchantress, and advised Whichcote to be prepared after dark to pick up the end of a hawser with as little noise as possible, which he would find over the stern of the St. Jean d' Acre, and not cast off until he heard from me; and gave Stella, the option of doing likewise.
At 8.10 P.M. we were moving in line as slowly as the screw would allow, when we perceived the P. & O. steamer Colombo, carrying troops, on starboard bow, creeping out from one of the small inlets, so near that unless she at once stopped she must foul us.
We hailed without effect. We could not stop without fouling next astern: a musket was fired. Colombo stopped, but too late. A crash, and I saw a twelve-foot figurehead drop with a loud splash into the water. My tows astern, not injured. We had quietly embarked 600 Turkish troops.
May 23 (Theodosia). Dense fog during the night. Fleet assembled during the day, and I had time to seek the Colombo, whose captain found his way on board the Acre. Something was wrong with the machinery; he had been unable to stop his ship in time to save her figurehead. The Crimea is to Russia what the Isle of Wight might be to England.
May 24 (Kertch). Arrived at Kertch. Army landed during the afternoon and bivouacked on the beach. Princess Royal and St. Jean d' Acre had similar cargoes of Turkish troops, which we landed without either trouble or complaint. The Russians blew up their magazine, set fire to their stores, ships, etc.
A large open space appeared to be covered with tumuli, varying in size, shaped like the roofs of barns, from which you could not see far without mounting to the top, as Clarence Paget and I did, selecting the highest.
From the top, not more than three miles distant, we saw the Russians evacuating the Citadel. A battery of artillery faced the spot where our troops had landed. In rear of the guns, the Russians, bag and baggage, were retreating.
We returned to the landing-place, and had to pass through a regiment of French Rifles enjoying a rest and sleep in the sun. Paget, who spoke French, told the French officer commanding that there were a thousand Russian troops passing within three miles of him. The officer appeared not to credit the statement, whereupon Paget put his glass into his hand and asked him to mount the nearest tumulus and see for himself.
The officer then drew his sword, calling out, "Aux armes", in which he was joined by the whole regiment. A mile of fishermen's nets were soon in a blaze. Later in the afternoon I took young Stephenson, when we mounted on one of these tumuli and noticed a Russian galloping towards us.
The troops of the expedition were now all alive and had formed across the small peninsula in open skirmishing order, and were advancing to capture the small garrison which Paget and I had seen pass out towards Arabat four hours previously. The Russian was unaware of the danger he was galloping into; he pulled up, but, not understanding us, galloped on. It was now time for us to retreat within our own lines. The Russian, too, who had seen our skirmishers, was in full retreat.
May 25 (Kertch). The next day I went into Kertch in a steamer with Sir Edmund Lyons and party, and had no difficulty in recognising our Russian friend owner of the fishing nets, as well as other property. In the afternoon joined Paget in a foraging party. Took thirty-five bullocks for the Fleet, and milch cows for ourselves.
May 27. Dundas, Turner, and Peck on board to church. Dined on board Enchantress.
May 29. Remained on board, admiring Brierly's Baltic sketches. Dined with Houston-Stewart.
May 31. Admiral made signal for opportunity to go to Kertch and Yenkali. Visited Sir George Brown and the camp. On return found news from Sea of Azov of smart doings there by squadron. Dined with Commander-in-Chief.
June 1. Launches off at daylight to join force in Sea of Azov. Took cruise in Stella yacht with Frankland. Arrival of 3000 troops from Balaclava. Farewell dinner to Whichcote and party on board Enchantress.
June 4. A cruise with Frankland and Jackson in Stella to Yenkali; council of war being held there. Spoony decision not to go to Anapa: younger blood required in council.
June 5. Dined with Commander-in-Chief to meet the French and Turkish Admirals.
June 6. News of energetic proceedings in the Sea of Azov; proof of the advantage of employing young men.
June 7. Cruise in Stella. Landed on sandy spit, Asiatic side; tried to stalk a Cossack. Picked up some sea-birds eggs much the same as plovers. Signal from flag, "Obstacles removed and free to be attacked".
June 9. Mamelon taken by the French. Kertch Government buildings on fire. War, a terrible thing!
June 11. Accompanied Commander-in-Chief on farewell visit to Kertch. Dined with him; got permission to go in Stella to Anapa. Took Prince Victor, and weighed before turning in.
June 12. Arrived off Anapa by breakfast time. Place in ruins; picturesque Circassians moving about.
June 13. After breakfast returned to Kertch Straits. Not sorry to find our allies had already started.
June 14. Fleet weighed at daylight to visit the deserted Anapa; remained a couple of hours there. Ice the only thing worth bringing away. 8 P.M. - Picked up Stella and took her in tow.
June 15. In running in, ship grounded off Sevastopol. Not my fault this time! Got off, too, without damage.
June 16. Briefly mounted on "Bashi", self on "Princess", rode up to camp. Dined with Admiral Houston-Stewart after hot ride to headquarters. Champagne iced.
June 17. All in high force at the idea of entering Sevastopol to-morrow.
June 18 (Off Sevastopol). Got under weigh at 2.30 A.M. Strongly impressed that this would be the anniversary of another glorious victory. But it was not to be. The French attack on the Malakoff and the English on the Redan repulsed with loss. Sad! Sad! We cruising off the harbour.
There was no particular order of sailing. St. Jean d' Acre drifted near enough to tempt a fire from the northern entrance to the harbour, and for us to see our troops retreat from the Redan!
June 19. Landed in Italiska Bay, and rode part of the way to headquarters with Maitland Lennox; returned in time for Admiral Houston-Stewart's dinner to meet Commander-in-Chief.
June 20. Brierly back from camp, and with him William Colville to stay a few days.
June 21. On examination of mids, passed three: young Graham first class.
June 23. Preparation by Quartermaster John Shepherd to destroy, alone, a Russian three-decker. Called with Clarence Paget on newly-made French Admirals. On return found St. George Foley from camp, attached to General Pellissier.
June 24. Took John Shepherd to Admiral. Landed St. George Foley at Streletska. Received General Codrington on board Acre. He with self and friends dined in Wardroom.
June 25. Arthur Williams and his charming wife on board, he returning to camp after dinner.
June 27. Firing from batteries slack. Colonel Campbell and Colonel Pereira of 90th. Phipps and Kingston to dinner.
June 29. Telegraphic signal announcing the sad intelligence of Lord Raglan's death. A leader not to be replaced. Friend Lord Mark Kerr arrived at Balaclava from Gibraltar in command of 13th Regiment.
July 3, 1855. A report going that George King, commanding Rodney, 74, whose crew, she having no steam power, had been landed with the Naval Brigade, was about to invalid. It occurred to me that nothing could be done afloat with a dual command, and that if George King would, with Admiral's approval, exchange ships, I might stand a chance of seeing more service on shore than afloat. Mine was a selfish idea. If ever a man was proud of, and happy in, his ship it was myself.
Consulted my kind friend Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons, who required time to consider. My brother officers decidedly disapproved. Dined early with Houston-Stewart to attend later the embarkation of the remains of Lord Raglan, deeply lamented, on board the Caradoc, Commander Derriman. It was an imposing but sad spectacle.
The Admiral having approved of the exchange, allowed Acre to be shifted into Kazatch Bay. Now it was settled, a sinking of the heart came on at the idea of removing myself from the good fellows with whom I had been serving.
July 7. I had promised Lady Churston, Sir Robert Newman's sister, to remove his remains from "a green field through which ran a small stream by the stump of a tree."
This was my only description. To Cathcart's Hill, however, I had sent a party from the Rodney, early, with the necessary implements to work through granite, and when about it to make a grave large enough to hold two. It took me hours to find the place. At last I examined a space occupied by 3000 Turkish soldiers without a particle of green on it. Stumps of two small trees, a quarter of a mile apart, caused me to think they could not now be standing unless fed by water.
We had not far to dig. I had prepared a coffin large enough to hold that in which poor Newman might have been buried. But, alas! we found only bones, rats had been at work. The only thing that made me believe I had the right remains was a pair of brown silk socks. All we could collect was carefully arranged, and the coffin screwed down: the Union Jack spread over it.
July 9. Rode to the artillery camp at Balaklava, and obtained from the officer in charge a corporal and a six-horse limber waggon, on which the coffin was placed.
With my smart corporal we rode through the camp on our five or six mile journey. Among others we met Honourable William Colville of Rifle Brigade; he was a good draughtsman, and kindly dismounted, taking from his sabretasche pencil and paper, and made a sketch of this cavalcade for me to send to Newman's sister.
July 10. After breakfast read commission on board Rodney, King reading his on board St. Jean d'Acre. Sad day for me. In the evening escorted Mrs. Williams on board Europa for passage to Scutari. Dined with Charlie Talbot on board Algiers.
Jack, to newly-arrived subaltern, "Sorry I can't obleege you with a horse, but I do have a quiet dromedary I can sell you".
July 12. Dined with General Barnard, who had just been appointed Chief of Staff.
July 13. Dined with General Simpson, now Commander-in-Chief, and reminded him of our meeting at his mess when he commanded the 29th at Mauritius in 1829, I then a mid of the Tweed.
July 14 (Letter to M.S.). Find our Jacks queer fellows; they deal in horses or anything else, and as soon as they come out of the trenches they are all over the soldiers' camps, doing work for the officers, repairing tents and that sort of thing, receiving part payment in grog, and then share it with the first "soger" they meet.
I avoid too many restrictions, as long as men appear at the 10 A.M. muster, properly dressed, with their arms cleaned and correct, with correct numbers of the men and battery they have to relieve. They are then dismissed, and find their own way by trenches or over the open. In a body they are pretty sure to draw the enemy's fire.
(In camp, July). In our camp we are tolerably comfortable. My tent is pitched on a patch of ground on the edge of a hill. There is a long open avenue in front, on either side are the tents of the officers and seamen, which they decorate in the most fantastic way. All sorts of devices for weathercocks, etc. The shells that annoy us most are those that burst in the air. We are very close to one another in some places, but I expect we shall soon shut the Russians up, as they fire very wild when fired at; our fellows are as steady as ever; the more casualties, the more jokes are cracked!
In front of our batteries, between us and the Redan and Malakoff Towers, are the trenches, and the Quarries, formerly a Russian position - taken by us before Inkerman, at present held by the guards and other troops. While no particular bombardment is going on, our orders are, to watch the enemy's batteries, and only fire on them when they fire on our advanced parties in the trenches, so that the soldiers are, in a measure, partly under our protection. In this way we get some pretty shooting. A shell from the Redan bursts over our soldiers in the trenches; bang goes an 8-inch shell from the sailors' battery, generally right into the embrasure, from which the mischief came. Another shell reaches them from our Left Attack. The French, too, take it up and pop one into them from the Mamelon, and then for the next half-hour a general scrimmage takes place, exciting to a degree. A very little precaution teaches you to know, by every gun that the enemy fires, whether they are shot or shell. The shot we do not care for. I saw one of our Jacks make a low bow to a shot that he saw coming directly at him: at the right moment he bobbed his head, and it passed about a foot above his body. There are small hollow places on ground above our batteries in which sailors are employed making gabions: having expended their materials the bluejackets were amusing themselves by running at one another with the gabions over their heads, when an enemy's shell exploded without serious damage to any one. Most of the shot strike the parapet and throw a cloud of dust, dirt, and small stones into our batteries. Each day I have been so covered that you could not have told the proper colour of my dress. The shot are very good fun, but the shells are beastly things from which it is difficult to escape. They are no respecters of persons. On Sunday a man was killed by the fragments of a shell while he was sitting in the supposed most secure place inside the entrance to one of our magazines.
Wenny Coke goes into the trenches to-night, and to-morrow I shall be in our batteries all day and will give such a dusting to any Russian battery that has the impudence to molest my favourite Fusiliers. I am going to take grub, and have invited Wenny to dinner in the deepest part of his trench. Had I had time, I could fill a quire with the absurdities of the soldiers as well as sailors, who have given many a good laugh. Directly little Harry heard of my appointment, he got leave and galloped up to my tent.
Sketch by Col. Hon. W. Colville, 1855.
July 15. Visited our right division in trenches. Thompson performing divine service in open air to the Naval Brigade; "Little Harry" with him. A man killed while sitting in the battery reading his Bible.
July 16. Among arrivals from home in Balaklava was a cargo of ice for use of Naval Brigade hospitals. For some unknown reason doctors objected to receive ice in the hospitals! After my superiors afloat had been supplied, the Commander of the Naval Brigade came in for a share. We were not far from the French headquarters. I sent a couple of blocks to General Pellissier, who invited me to dejeuner. He had clever fittings with green branches, etc., for luxury and comfort reminding me of Vauxhall gardens in bygone times. Dined with General Barnard.
July 18 (Letter to H.F.S.). Wenny Coke in the trenches last night bowled over by a spent round. On visiting his tent I found him cheery, but round shot don't touch gently. I was about to sit on a fur coat, rolled up near the head of his bed, when he called out, "Don't sit there, Uncle Harry. A cat from Sevastopol came out last night and dropped nine kittens in the sleeve!"
Shepherd, one of the petty officers of the St. Jean d' Acre, had conceived the idea that he could, single-handed, blow up a man-of-war in Sevastopol harbour. The contrivance appeared simple enough. I had already taken him with his apparatus to the Admiral, who was amused and approved, leaving the time for the experiment to me. The plan was this. To prepare a light iron case a foot long by eighteen inches, with a loop at each end. The case to be fitted with a Bickford's fuse, which burns under water. A sort of canvas duck punt was to be fitted to exactly hold the case amidships. The after part was to hold one sitter, who could easily steer with a canoe paddle without noise. The Russians had been in the habit of sending three or four thousand men across the entrance end of the harbour. The night fire of warships had so inconvenienced this passage of their transport boats, they shifted the line of their passage higher up the harbour.
The dark night for our expedition arrived at last. The spot for embarkation was only separated by a spur of land covered by thick scrub and bush, but the darkness of the night enabled our guide to take us to the water. At half-past twelve the punt left the rough slips and was immediately lost to sight, nor was there the slightest sound. At the expiration of three hours nothing had occurred, and there were signs of daybreak. With us was Colonel St. George Foley, attached to General Pellissier's staff. We were within range of the Russian sentries, and had to creep through scrub and bushes until we were inside the French lines: we soon commenced on our refreshments. I was distressed at having helped to lose poor John Shepherd - as, if caught, he would be shot as a spy. St. George Foley was put out at the loss of his horse, servant, and haversack. My coxswain, who, I think, had been washing his mouth out, was sent in search among an acre of gun carriages, waggons, etc., and returned, announcing to Foley that "The beggar was gone, but had left his painter". Poor Foley applied for explanation. Painter was a rope spliced in a ring in the bow of a boat, and most likely the horse had slipped his head out of halter and gone home -the servant losing no time in following. In fact, all during the night the white light of shells had been flying over our heads from three different Russian batteries at a French mortar battery. Great was my delight an hour after my arrival in camp to hear of Shepherd's safe return. The plucky fellow had pulled past and between a number of Russian steamers, and was within 400 yards of the three-deckers, when a whole string of Russian boats pushed off from the western shore to convey troops across.
For an hour he lay in his little punt hoping for an opening to pass through. Daylight came and he had not time to return the distance to where we were; he therefore struck at once for Careening Bay, one side of which he knew was in the possession of the French. Lord Charles Paget's plan of night attack had caused the Russians to change the route for conveying reliefs across.
July 19. On returning from batteries got news of Lushington's promotion and my appointment to the command of the Naval Brigade! Lucky dog that I am!
July 20. Early ride to Kamiesch and breakfast with the Admiral. Kind and confidential chat.
July 21. Assumed command of Naval Brigade: Prince Victor of Hohenlohe, A.D.C.; Rev. Josiah Thompson, Chaplain; forage allowance for five horses.
Early morning, a cavalry corporal with two orderlies at my tent door. Reported myself at headquarters.
July 22. Sunday, divine service in open air. Visited Right Attack and Quarries with Sir Harry Jones; dined with him.
July 23 (In the batteries of Naval Brigade). Instructions from headquarters to prepare for a sortie, and that I had better communicate with the General at the Quarries. The day was far advanced: a storm brewing. Had an experienced and good officer in Captain Moorsom, who had been in the Naval Brigade from the beginning. Of course Moorsom opened a sharp fire on the Russian batteries, which eventually drew part of their fire off our advanced trenches. He knew the bearings of the Russian forts on which our batteries could tell best. Could not do better than leave him in charge, while I went to the quarries for further instruction. Storm commencing, shifted into pea-jacket and jack-boots, sword and cap. Rain fell heavily. Zig-zags being on the slope, I was soon washed out and took to the open. Dark, too, came on with the storm; lost my way, but knew by descending, and the constant discharge of musketry, I must come to our own troops -which I did; but no one could hear or attend to me. I knew not the way. Took to the right. Came on the Guards, whom I knew by their bearskins; they were equally busy. It was no use pulling their coats; the thunder of guns and muskets rendered one's voice equally useless, so crept on. The storm began to break. Laid hold of a soldier's coat and bellowed to him. He bellowed "sergeant", who bellowed me what my name was. When I told him, he said: "That lie won't do. I know Captain Keppel of the Grenadiers. You must come to our officer". I pleaded inability to walk further. Another bearskin on my left! No alternative. The storm and sortie were over.
By the time we reached the officers, they were enjoying a little rest as well as refreshment. One of them asked the sergeant: "What have you there?" "A prisoner, sir". After a while there was a laugh. Most of them knew and had made me out.
With the assistance of grog and a feed I got back to my tent, but the sun was well up. The kind Lord Rokeby pretended to be angry, and offered that if I attended the camp, the Brigade should march past me; but I don't think my poor father, had he been alive, would have recognised me in my trench costume.
July 28. Our batteries are getting so close to the enemy's that casualties are frequent, and the Naval Brigade gradually reducing, without a chance of recruiting, except in officers, whose vacancies are replaced from the Fleet. Although they hear, afloat, the jokes played, when the time comes they forget. Our chief battery on the left is at the foot of a hill, and a favourite mark for the enemy's shells. The fuses burning in the air are often heard before the shells are seen. We have trained look-out men who know by the sound about where the shell was likely to drop. They call out, "Right", "Left", "Front", "Rear", when those present rush to any point they fancy, dodge close to a gun carriage, or jump through the embrasure, and so risk a Russian bullet.
The favourite resort was the magazine passage, cut out of the hill with a bend in it. The first there, the best chance. The new arrival affords the best sport, and is prepared for. The dirtiest stretcher, on which some bleeding body had lately been carried, is at hand. The shell bursts; the new arrival is struck behind the ear by moist clay, is immediately seized, laid on the dirty stretcher, carried off, without resistance, by bearers to the zigzag cutting and upset into the ditch, which generally holds water. Of course he is received with cheers, and watches anxiously for the next newcomer. Dined yesterday with the Commander-in-Chief at headquarters and met our War Minister, the Duke of Newcastle; I have established a mess-room, where we meet at supposed dinner at eight o'clock. Most of my time is passed in the batteries.
July 30. Visited Left Attack. Found remains of the gallant Colonel Norcott's horse and servant just killed by the same shot. He always rode this white charger in front of his rifle regiment. Mail in. Letter from First Lord, Sir Charles Wood, informing me of my having the Good Service Pension. Visited hospital in Cossack Bay and Admiral Freemantle.
Source: Sir Henry Keppel G.C.B., D.C.L.: "A Sailor's Life under Four Sovereigns", Macmillan and Co., 1899, volume II, 261-287.
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