« PreviousContinue »
terated assurances of Russia, refused to believe in the reality of those apprehensions. France, more directly interested, was naturally more alarmed, more prudent, more attentive; she resolved not to remain inactive in the face of a position the gravity of which might increase daily. Such was then the position : Turkey was in consternation--France attentive-England still credulous." Poor, stupid John Bull! Good-hearted, dull people are, nevertheless, sometimes endowed with sensitive feelings. When the bubble burst in the hands of Prince Menschikoff, every one was struck of a heap; but "England, which had believed most blindly, was most profoundly wounded. Her government was forced to confess that it had been deceived. Lord Clarendon bemoaned himself bitterly to Sir Hamilton Seymour.” Poor simple John Bull ! The wretched animal heav'd forth such groans, That their discharge did stretch his leathern
coat Almost to bursting.
and he makes it plain to the meanest French capacity for glory, that the struggle would have been a very short one, had poor, heavy, fat-witted John Bull not hung like a millstone upon the active thoughts and nimble limbs of the great nation.
It was, as the Baron truly enough states, the attention given by the French government to the squabbles of the Greek and Latin monks about the holy places at Jerusalem, that gave the first impulse to the Russian quarrel. We are far from wishing to deprive them of any credit that may be their due upon that score; and, we confess we are not sorry that the ridiculous part played by the Aberdeen government in this, which M. de Bazancourt denominates the religious part of the Eastern question, should be recalled to the public memory. We quite agree in the Baron's opinion that the proceedings of the English cabinet at that period would present a very curious subject of examination. When France and Russia were both pressing Turkey to abdicate her sovereign authority over her own subjects," it is at this moment England makes her appearance; she is not a mediatrix, she looks on, she examines." The result of the examination was a suggestion to the French cabinet, to treat upon a strictly Turkish question directly with Russia, and the result of that wise suggestion was the war. Had England at that crisis manfully declared her purpose of standing by Turkey against all foreign aggression, whether French or Russian, there is every ground for believing that a hostile shot would not have been fired. Under the guidance of the Aberdeen cabinet, she determined “ to listen, to observe, but to maintain the most strict neutrality," and in that ludicrous posture she is truthfully enough depicted by the French chronicler, “blindly believing in the protestations of St. Petersburgh." Meanwhile the Russians entered the Principalities ; and instinct, we are told, taught Turkey her danger. The Grand Vizier appealed for help to the representatives of France and England : they said they would ask for orders from their respective governments. «Turkey will be lost before those orders can arrive,” cried the Seraskier, in the most profound consternation. Still “ England, leaning in blind good faith upon the rei
The Baron does not deny, however, that the irritation of the wound inflicted upon John's feelings had the effect of rousing up his spirit; and he admits that, after the rejection of the Vienna Note by Turkey, it was the French cabinet which yielded to the just arguments of Lord Clarendon, and marched with England by great strides towards war. There is no doubt that the main facts of M. de Bazancourt's sketch of the causes of the war are perfectly true. To the chronicle which follows, the name of St. Arnauide might be appropriately applied ; for, in truth, arma virumque --the arms of France and the man St. Arnaud-form exclusively the theme of the song. Whenever the English army is mentioned, it is in order to adorn a tale of French generosity or valour, displayed in the rescue of the brave allies from a peril in which their slowness had involved them, or to supply an explanation of the loss of some fair occasion by their immobility. A few instances in illustration of this characteristic of the book, may perhaps amuse some readers; and, considered in connexion with its imperial patronage, they may induce in certain minds reflections of a graver nature upon the probable future of the entente cordiale; but this is absolutely all that can be said
for this épopée vivante. Its style and diction are of the most florid Gothic: its matter is of the weariest, stalest, flattest, and most unprofitable description. No one who has read the real chronicles of the correspondents of the English journals will gain from its perusal the knowledge of a single additional fact, nor will such a reader run the smallest danger of being deceived by the glare of French colouring with which the well-known facts of the expedition are thinly disguised.
There is one of these facts long familiar to all English minds to which the Baron's pencil gives ludicrous prominence. We allude to the condition of horrible fear into which their exaggerated notions of Russian power plunged the allied commanders; which betrayed them into the mischievous absurdity of entrenching themselves at Gallipoli ; and which assumes a truly French form in the details of Marshal St. Arnaud's first proceedings. Upon his arrival at Constantinople, the rumours in circulation of the rapid march of the Russians, and of their possible arrival at Adrianople, torment, disquiet him ; his blood bounds in his veins with impatience and anxiety. “I do not fear reverses," he cried; "I dread nothing but delay: I have faith in God and in my star.” At that moment it was upon the star of Butler and Nasmyth the course of events depended ; and our readers will, perhaps, scarcely believe that the names of those gallant men, or the share which they took in the defence of Silistria, are not once mentioned in the chronicles of the Froissart of the Eastern war. The obstinate bravery of those young officers and of the Turkish garrison was, nevertheless, the cause of many profound emotions in the breast of the marshal. He would gladly, he informed the ministers, temporise and make an alliance with time; but inaction was not possible. Omer Pacha began to speak out plainly, and his words, pronounced with a soldierlike animation, produced a profound sensation upon the byestanders : “Silistria will infallibly be taken," he said at a conference held at Varna ; "I hope it may hold out six weeks, but it may be taken in fifteen days; and we may any morning be surprised by that news, and the intelligence that the Russians are marching upon
Schumla. Further, as I have told you, I am almost certain of beating the Russians if they will come to altack me; but is it possible that the French and English, who are upon Turkish ground at Gallipoli, within twenty days march of Varna, or within twenty-four hours by sea,) will leave me to be shut up here; will deprive themselves of the services of a good army, which, I promise you, will fight well; and will leave us to be crushed by the Russians, when, with them, we should be able to drive the enemy across the Danube, and save Turkey ?" It is no matter of wonderment that this discourse, maintained in an elevated voice, and with visible signs of animation, should have struck Marshal St. Arnaud and Lord Raglan, and proved to them that inaction was indeed no longer possible. Many 'sublime efforts' were, therefore, resolved upon, with the view of comforting the Turks and satisfying Europe by the appearance at least of action. Reviews were held at Gallipoli; the marshal precipitated himself hither and thither; innumerable councils of war were called, and yet obstinate Silistria would not surrender. Two largearmies were concentrated about Varna; it became diffcult to make Turkey understand why they remained there doing nothing; the opposition in Parliament began to make logic out of the calendar-it is so easy and often so agreeable to be discontented. Lord Raglan was urged by his general officers to do some thing, and the marshal was obliged to cast the shield of his protection over the English commander, by "giving him in writing, with new instructions, a statement of the prident and rational motives" whereupon his plan of doing nothing was based. As for the marshal himself, "actually in grips with facts, his thoughts, ceaselessly tormented, became the echo of the guns of Silistria !” Fortunately for the garrison, they had in their own stout hearts and strong arms a better stay to rely upon than they were like to find in the troubled fancy of M. St. Arnaud.
They held out so long and so obstinately, that the Russians began to apprehend that the indignatiou of Europe would force the allied generals to change the goose step, which they had been practising upon Bulgarian soil, into an actual advance,
The siege was accordingly raised, and the marshal was atterré by this news which came to his ears at Varna, on the 25th of June. “The Russians flee from before me," he cried, in an accent of profound bitterness which he sought not to dissemble. “Is their movement a stratagem or a reality? What a host of conjectures were made upon that sudden, unexpected departure !" The marshal became very pugnacious ; every league of ground the retiring Russians put between them and him, the fuller of fight was he. The more he thought, the more puzzled he grew. “I cannot,” he cried, “ rise under the blow that shameful retreat of the Russians has inflicted upon me. I had hold of them ; I should have infallibly beaten them----bundled them into the Danube. Behold us again plunged into uncertainty ; I know not where they are, what they are doing, what they will do." It was not long, however, until the marshal and his men began to recover their spirits, which they kept up by recounting to one another the heroic episodes of that memorable siege. “ Courage is the bond of union between nations : it is the rallying point of all noble hearts." Tears fell from the eyes of the marshal ; but, so far as we are informed in the chronicles of M. de Bazancourt, the heroes of Silistria had no names. Butler died, and Nasmyth lived, if not unwept some of M. St. Arnaud's tears perhaps fell on the early grave in the Arab Tabia--yet unhonoured and unsung by the bard of France.
All this time poor Lord Raglan, we are told, was in a very sorry position, which every day grew more difficult and more delicate. The English ambassador, public feeling, an exaggerated idea of what he ought to be able to do, urged him onwards to do something ; but then there stood in the way those troublesome Russians, and the everpresent image of possible disaster; nous sommes prudents, Lord Raglan et moi :-_"Day and night," wrote the marshal, “ I seek for the defect in the cuirass. I will find it, and I will strike there. A battle lost would do the Russians little harm; but a defeat would be disastrous for us. The chances are not equal." Intercalated among these observations and reflections, is the following compari
son between the English and French armies, drawn by M. de Bazancourt :
The English troops have a magnificent aspect, their bearing is irreproachable; they maneuvre with a rare precision, but with that calm, reflective, slow coldness which is the characteristic of their nation, and which belongs to both soldiers and officers. The effect is remarkable in all points; the discipline serere, the manner of the officers in commanding, dry, hanghty; but the chiefs are nerer seen in a passion. What a strange contrast with the bearing of our troops, with their proud and reckless look, their martial air, and the energy, the dash depicted on every countenance. We perceive that ardour and impatience course like a fever through the veins of our soldiers, and we understand how, in the hour of combat, an unforeseen result may at any moment be grasped in a difficult situation. In the English army, on the contrary, impassibility seems to be a duty; the commanding officer knows beforehand what each of his soldiers can do ; no one will fall short, but no ono will surpass by a sudden inspiration what was expected of him.
I t would appear, nevertheless, that the English nation was, despite of its characteristic slowness, quite as anxious as the bold marshal to do something; and at last it was the English commander who forced on the expedition to the Crimea. Early in July, it appears, Lord Raglan received positive orders to begin the war in earnest; and somewhere about the 18th of the month his lordship communicated to the marshal “a despatch which he had received from his government, explicit, pressing, such, in a word, as he considered to be almost an order to attack Sebastopol.” The crisis had arrived : the sublimest efforts in the up and down step could no longer delude Europe or the armies ; an advance was the terrible and unavoidable alternative. Whatever could be done to create delay does, however, seem to have been done. There was wonderful considering; but at length a council of war was called, at which the English chiefs, “in obedience to the despatches they had received, and under the pressure of the opinion which goaded them through the London journals, came to a final determination, and voted unanimously for the expedition.” We are bound to say that this resolution seems to have considerably moderated the warlike ardour of the marshal. He confided to his brother, in the strictest confidence, his notion that the enterprise was a very audacious one, which would require enormous means to ensure success, and which would after all promise more advantage to England than to France. His lively fancy continually presented to his mind fearful images of the perils into which his impetuous soul might urge him. “Supposing us landed, (he writes), and one can almost always land, it will require perhaps more than a month of siege to take Sebastopol perfectly defended. During that time succour arrives ; and I have two or three battles to fight. It is easy to say, go seize Perekop and close the passage ; but we should bring troops to Perekop, where we could not land them for want of water for the large vessels. Further, Perekop is mortal!” It is truly curious to follow M. de Bazancourt's chronicle of the sayings and doings, the turnings and twistings, the reconnoitrings and the consultations by which nearly two months were whiled away, from the day when action was decided upon, on the 18th of July, to the 8th of September when the expedition was actually commenced. The caricature of imbecility drawn by the Baron's unconscious pen would be ludicrous in the extreme were it not shaded by the calamities of the army, and the horrid episode of the march into the Dobrutcha; which we may say in passing is perhaps unequalled in the history of war for the faults of its design and execution. It served, however, to put the evil day of actual war a little further off, and that was probably all it was designed to accomplish.
As that dreadful day approached, M. De Bazancourt asserts, the courage of Admiral Dundas began to fail. He and Admiral Hamelin declared against the expedition, about the 19th of August, and the marshal convened another council of war, at which the possibility of the enter prise was canvassed anew. At this period it is plainly stated in the chronicle, that the English “who, at the outset, pressed by public opinion and by the instructions of their cabin net, had demanded rather than accepted the expedition to the Crimea, faltered before the adverse accidents which daily accumulated, and before the difficulties created by unforeseen events. If the chiefs did not openly
oppose the project, they did not conceal their apprehensions." The marshal now went off upon the other tack; as the English officers became prudent he became bold, at least so says the chronicler:-“The marshal dominated the discussion : "we must no longer think of obstacles,' he said,
but to overcome them; it is a great responsibility, be it so, we must learn to rise above it.' He spoke with the impulse, with the energy, with the force that distinguished his words ;" the council was fascinated, and it was again unanimously resolved, as it had been a month before, to continue the preparation for the expedition with activity. Thenceforward, according to the chronicle, nos alliés played a remarkably sinall part: the marshal gave the word, forward, and Admiral Hamelin issued his orders, arranging in the most satisfactory manner everything “concerning the embarkation and debarkation of the troops.” As might be expected, he was greatly hampered by the lubberly, slow-going English tars. In the marshal's private journal it is recorded that on the 5th of September the fleet was ready to sail at four o'clock in the morning, but “Admiral Dundas wrote that he was not ready." On the 6th the English fleet did not appear, and the marshal wrote to Lord Raglan to acquaint him with the inconvenience of that course of not proceeding. “The fleet tacked, waiting for the English.” On the 7th, matters were in the same state, and Admiral Hamelin sent the Print auguet with a letter to Admiral Dundas. “It was only on that morning that Admiral Dundas resolved upon sailing; and that tardy determination was only taken after a very lively conference with Admiral Lyons." Then came more consultation and more reconnoiting, with a view to determining where they should steer after they had got under weigh. For six mortal days did commissions of generals and admirals wander about the coast, until, we may presume, the Russians were fairly overreached, and went to sleep in the belief that the invasion of the Crimea was but a joke. At last it was determined to disembark at Old Fort ; “ Alea jacta est ; profound thought, which marks the limits of what appertains to man and of what rests in the hand of God."
The slowness of the English now began to grow very troublesome : the landing commenced upon the 14th of September ; but on the 17th the English were not ready to march : “an immense quantity of baggage infinitely retarded their operations." The 18th arrives, and th: English are still be hindhand ; but “ whatever may happen, the marshal is determined to march next day." He gave his orders, and wrote to Lord Raglan that he could wait upon him no longer. At last, upon the morning of the 19th, sluggish John Bull was roused up and got into motion ; and about five o'clock of the same day, “the marshal collected the French general officers before his tent, and explained to them verbally his plan of battle concerted with the general-in-chief of the English army.” Later in the evening “the marshal sent Colonel Trochu to the English camp, to communicate the plan of battle to the general-in-chief, and to inform him of the hour at which the troops ought to march, in order to learn from him whether he thought any modifications necessary. Lord Raglan accepted entirely the detail of the plan which was presented to him, as well as the hour of departure, and it was agreed that Prince Napoleon and General Canrobert should put themselves into communication with the English generals, in order to insure harmony in the operations.” The whole affair was, nevertheless, near being botched by the stupid blundering and laziness of the English. At half-past five o'clock in the morning of the 20th, the second division quitted its bivouac, and had already made a considerable advance towards the heights of the Alma, when it was observed at halfpast six that there was no sign of motion in the English army. “General Canrobert, astonished at this immobility, so contrary to the instructions communicated in the evening, rushed towards Prince Napoleon, and they both proceeded in all haste towards the division of Sir De Lacy Evans. They found the English general in his tent. When Prince Napoleon and General Canrobert expressed to him their astonishment at a delay which might gravely compromise the success of the day : 'I have received no orders,' replied Sir D. Evans. There was evidently a misunderstanding. Before finding out the key
of the riddle, the most urgent task was to stop the advance of the division Bosquet, which, operating alone, might be crushed. General Canrobert went, without losing a moment, to the marshal, who was already on horseback, and had quitted his bivouac in the rear of the lines. As soon as he was informed of what was passing, he sent Commandant Renson, an officer of his staff, in all haste to order General Bosquet to halt and wait for the English troops who were behindhand. At the same time Colonel Trochu galloped at full speed to the English head quarters. It was then seven. But with all the haste the colonel could make, as he had nearly two leagues to cover over broken ground, occupied by the different bivouacs of the troops, he was half an hour on the way. The English lines traversed by the marshal's aid-decamp were still in their encampments, and in no wise prepared for the concerted march. Yet Lord Raglan was on horseback when Colonel Trochu reached the head-quarters. 'My lord,' said he to him, the marshal thought, after what you did me the honor to say to me yesterday evening, that your troops, forming the left wing of the line of battle, ought to have been in advance before six o'clock.' 'I gave orders,' replied Lord Raglan ;
we are getting ready and about to start; part of my troops did not arrive at the bivouac until late in the night.' 'For God's sake, my lord, stir yourself,'added the colonel, 'every minute of delay takes from us a chance of success. Go tell the marshal,' rejoined Lord Raglan, 'that this very moment the orders are on their way through the whole line.'
“It was half-past ten o'clock when Colonel Trochu announced that the English were ready to start. But all these unexpected delays and the necessarily consequent indecision in the movements prevented the execution of the original plan of the battle. The Russian army, in place of being surprised by a rapid maneuvre, as it might have been, had abundant time to make its dispositions.” Thus the battle of Alma was all but lost through the laziness and negligence of the English general, and the tardiness and sloth of the baggage-incumbered English troops. Fortunately there were at hand, able and prompt to redeem the consequences; the renowned