British Foreign Policy 1815-65

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Charles Usherwood's Service Journal, 1852 - 1856

The Battle of Inkerman and a hard winter

This material graciously had been shared with the Victorian Web by the Green Howards. Thanks are due to the Green Howards Regimental Museum, Richmond, North Yorkshire and to Mr. Kenneth Usherwood, the living relative of Charles Usherwood. This document has been taken from its primary location on The Victorian Web

4 Nov l854 In today's General orders the payment for shot carried to the camp of the siege train is cancelled. Detail for duty for 19 Regiment for tomorrow; The 19 Foot will furnish at 4.30 am a Guard of 5 companies to the Frenchman's Hill.

5 Nov 1854 At early dawn this morning shots were heard from the direction of Inkerman and which every now and then became more rapid the sound bearing with it every indication that an attack was being made but in what force or nature could not be ascertained owing to the thick mist which covered the ground.

Soon, however, from the rapidity of the discharges commingled with the yelling of the approaching force the truth oozed out that; the Russians were bent on crushing the right flank of the British army driving before them as they did the picquets in that locality. Surprised (as it was nothing else) of an attack of such magnitude the troops encamped on that flank assembled under arms whom tho' weak in numbers and 'ere Divisional formations could be made at once moved out to meet the foe who by this time had brought into play batteries of Artillery which it appears had been in position during the night. Nothing daunted however the troops attacked them relying upon reinforcements soon to make their appearance.

The enemy in the meantime being but opposed gradually encroached toward the lines and in fact seemed at one time able to carry out their intentions but upon the arrival of fresh bodies of the British the action became more obstinate and extended, the fog too clearing off rendered the combatants visible to each other when the real tug of war began. Deficient as the British were in Artillery to oppose theirs the Russians had the advantage for a time and which enabled them to inflict serious loss upon the English, but on the arrival of two 18 pounders dragged to the scene of action as they were by the Artillerymen themselves the tide turned in favour of the latter.

Meanwhile as the battle raged with more determination especially on the part of the British who from the smallness of their numbers were in reality overmatched, a Division of the French troops appeared on the extreme right and at once entered the engagement where at this point the struggle was the most severe, the Guards having suffered much in killed and wounded nevertheless maintained their ground.

By the timely arrival of the Allies together with the troops of the Divisions from the left of the British position the engagement became more equal tho' comparing the strengths of the combatants it was in favour of the Russians. Baffled in their repeated attempts to establish themselves on the British right they pressed on upon the centre of the field but were met bravely by the 3rd & 4th Divisions who charged upon them with the bayonet as well also on the left of the field, the position of the Light Division, where the 88th Regiment were at one time obliged to fight their way out of them being in a most critical position owing to their impetuosity in following up a charge which this Corps carried through the enemy's ranks.

On the arrival of Lord Raglan and staff and which certainly was not until some time after the engagement began matters were most critical each Corps and Detachment fighting as it were independently of each other and taking such advantage of their various positions as they entered time field of action. Well may it be said that the Battle of Inkerman was the soldiers' battle for in fact the attack was a surprise and the battle was fought under these circumstances.

By the hour of 9 am or so the enemy appeared as if he would carry all before him, numbers of them having fallen around the tents of the 2nd and 1st Divisions but as noon approached evident signs appeared that from the heavy losses they had already sustained and their inability to hold even a single position on the heights met as they were at every point by the most determined antagonism, tho' ably assisted by a well and efficient park of Artillery, they must sooner or later quit the field.

Finding no doubt to their grievous vexation that they could not sustain themselves any longer fearing perhaps also they might be cut off from retreating within the town by the Carreen bay along the road that ran at the base of the slopes near the harbour over the viaduct that enters the Karabelnaia, gradually drew off their troops leaving an immense number of dead and wounded on the field and who fell into the hands of the British.

This action which was the most severe yet fought could not have been fairly over till about 3 pm when the field covered as it was at this time with low brushwood presented a most fearful picture especially on the extreme right where a small battery piece for two guns protecting the road that leads from the wooden bridge. Here lay together within and around the precincts of this Work heaps of dead Russians and Britains whose embrasures were literally choked with the bodies of the enemy. In other places of the field one could scarcely step along without treading upon the body of a dead or dying man. The sights there beheld was enough to fill one with awe.

In this encounter the 19th Foot had only 3 Companies on the field their position being the left near to the Victoria Redoubt or rather to the right advance of this work. Consequently their loss could not be much the casualties being as follows:

Captain Ker, Leg shattered afterwards amputated, when he died.
Serjeant Major Madden, Leg shattered, amputated and died
Private Levi Cooper killed, head knocked off, and two other privates wounded both of whom died.

The other 5 companies being on duty at Frenchman's Hill as detailed in orders of the previous evening.

On the evening before this battle a little party had assembled in my tent amongst whom was the Serjeant Major of the 88 Foot. We kept up our convivial party till near 12 o'clock never once thinking what was to happen in the morning or that the Serjeant Major alluded to would be a corpse and which was the case on that day, his body being found after the action pierced by no less than 7 bayonets and which must have been done as he lay helpless on the ground from a shot in the knee.

6th & 7th Nov 1854 Fatigue parties employed in bringing in the wounded and of burying the dead.

9 Nov 1854. The following is the substance of a General after order on the Battle of the 5th. The Commander of the forces returns his thanks to the Officers and Troops for their conduct in the Battle of Inkerman on the 5th inst in which aided by their gallant Allies they succeeded in completely repulsing and defeating the enemy by whom they were attacked in very superior numbers with masses of Artillery both of Field and position as well as Ship Guns. Those who fell nobly discharging their duties were Lt.General the Hon.Sir George Cathcart, Br. General Strangeways and Br. General Goldie.

14 Nov l854. As it would appear all our troubles were to come on in succession a terrible hurricane visited the whole of the camps tearing along with it everything moveable, throwing down our tents and leaving us exposed to the bitter blasts of a winter's anger, accompanied as it was with rain, and sleet abated not for one moment from early dawn till nightfall. Wretched tho' those in health were so to speak yet the poor unfortunate sick were worse, emaciated by disease and starvation and clinging as it were on the last hopes for relief were like the rest forced to withstand the cruel torture and abide the storm. So forcible was the hurricane that it was utterly impossible to put up the tents again until it had somewhat decreased and as the camps at the best of times were deep with mud this day was more so aided by a most bitter cold the wind tore and roared vehemently sufficient almost to annihilate the most sturdy man amongst us.

To describe the feelings of the various individuals who experienced this trial would be to attempt an impossibility for fearful must it have been when numbers of victims both in men and horses were the results besides immense damage done to the various shipping.

In today's General after orders Turkish Troops were authorized 3d per diem for mending the road from Balaklava to the encampment it having become so bad.

15 Nov 1854 To commemorate yesterday's storm the Russians saluted us with a heavy fire, evidently as we supposed for us to know that the storm made no impression upon them and which continued for a time then died away.

By today's orders Working pay was authorized on the following scale.

Non Comd Officers 1 for every 20 men 1 shilling by day and 1 shilling by night.
Rank & File 8d per day and 10d per night to be paid when the men come off duty or placed to their credit as they may prefer it.

Men and officers still pestered with vermin and which are impossible to be rid of.

Diarrhoea and dysentery very common among all and deaths therefrom accelerated by bad cooking, want of proper medicine, proper nourishment, clothes, food and accommodation. Green Coffee, when it happens to be issued, still considered good enough for soldiers.

20 Nov 1854 An attack made by the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade during last night on the enemy's posts in front of Frenchman's Hill and which succeeded.

Weather very wet - camps in a state of inundation of mud and water decidedly most wretched tho' the air is not so cold as one would imagine from the lateness of the season.

21 Nov l854 Today a draft of 102 men (the first since landing on the Crimea) joined the 19th Foot. Of this number the greater part died from disease 'ere the end of the month had expired.

22 Nov 1854 During last night much musketry was going on between the French and the enemy on the left attack.

24 Nov 1854 In today's General orders the Commander of the Forces proposes to give to each man of the army a woollen jersey, 1 pair of worsted socks and other winter clothing as soon as it is in his power to do so.

25 Nov 1854. Orders were issued that all Working parties to carry their arms with themand to pile them where the Commanding Officer will point out.

27 Nov 1854 Today in General orders a notice appeared that the April clothing was to be issued.

Deaths alarmingly numerous, duty excessively hard, rations extremely scarce, in one Company for 16 men there were only 4 rations (commissary unable to convey the requisite supply of forage etc. to Camp even only from Balaklava in consequence of the badness of the roads and death among the Transport animals G.O.No 3,27 Nov 1854).

Weather very inclement and cholera raging, brought on by want of food, of exposure, want of nourishment, excessive duty, scarcity of medical comforts and proper accommodation for the sick.

Cooking still done by the men themselves individually wherever they could scrape together any fuel, as none now served out to them. Green coffee still issued when available, 5 beans about one man's allowance twice a week.

29 Nov 1854. In the event of serious alarms and attacks likely to be made orders were issued that the Reserve Minnie Ammunition to be carried on 4 or 5 Pack Horses. Very well for orders to be so given but where are the Pack Horses.

30 Nov 1854 Day fine, nothing occurring except death and misery.

1 Dec 1854 Weather very wet.

2nd Dec 1854 Today the sun shone out; during the night the enemy made an attack upon the picquets. Notification that potatoes had arrived at Balaklava and were to be paid for as extra diet.

3 Dec 1854. Sunday, five men of the 19th Foot were buried today which was very wet.

Brigadier General Buller assumed command for a short time of the 2nd Division, and Colonel Shirley 88 Foot, takes command of the 2nd Brigade Light Division for a short time in lieu of Br. Buller.

Today a Guernsey and a pair of socks were given to the men of the Light Division being the first issue of warm articles.

4th Dec 1854 General orders No 2 of the day, Patent fuel and charcoal as also lights for the use of the troops were ordered to be issued at the Balaklava stores, tho' it will be well to remember that plainly as would appear by orders the Troops were better off than represented. We never had speaking of my own Corps any lights served out to us, our means being of a novel character using as we did an empty sardine tin filled with the fat from the salt pork of our rations after boiling and by placing in the fat a strip of linen or cotton torn off our own shirts to serve as a wick. As to patent fuel and charcoal it was only at a later period and when Company cooking was established that fuel was served out and this so sparingly as to be of very little use, the men having to seek their own. In the same orders but number 3, skins of dead horses were to be preserved and 2/6 for each skin properly cleaned and cured would be paid by the Commissariat of Divisions.

5 Dec 1854 Tattoo and the Reveille were ordered to be recommenced as hitherto there had been none. Today was fine.

6 Dec 1854 Brisk cannonading by the enemy. The 90th Regiment. to be attached temporarily to the 2nd Division, The 19th Regiment augmented to 16 Companies by War Office circular.

7th Dec 1854 A wonderful change for the better tho' doubtless only for a while. Full rations were issued i.e. every man got what he was entitled to by the regulations. Day very fine, considering the time of the year.

8th Dec 1854 Frosty day.

9th Dec 1854 In expectation of an attack from the enemy.

10 Dec 1854 Vegetables when we could have them were authorized to be issued free, the men still obliged to carry the provisions for the day from Balaklava tho' they may have been in the trenches all night and had to be out again on their return.

11 Dec 1854 Last night there were heavy exchanges of musketry.

12 Dec 1854 The 54 Regiment joined and were attached to the Light Division; today is unusually fine and which certainly brightens up our spirits. In today's orders Deserters from the enemy employed under the Provost Marshal were allowed one shilling per diem.

13 Dec 1854 Weather mild - firing from the batteries regular.

14 Dec 1854 The 90 Foot were ordered to be attached to the Light Division and took up their positions in front of the 2nd Brigade. Wet day.

15 Dec 1854 Still raining, on the tip toe of an attack from the besieged, Regiment turned out and marched to the Middle Ravine but returned shortly afterwards.

16 Dec 1854 Still raining. On this day the men discontinued conveying rations from Balaklava.

17 Dec 1854 Heavy firing from the enemy. A sunshiny day.

18 Dec 54 Continuous fine weather - 17th Regiment to be attached to 4th Division. Duties still furnished by Companies.

19 Dec 1854. Fine weather

20 Dec 1854 During the night of today the enemy made on attack on Frenchman's Hill works and entered the breast work killing 4 men, wounding 18 others, and took with them 1 Officer and 12 men prisoners. The 1st Brigade Light Division furnished the duties at this point and whom it appears quitted the breastwork on the approach of the enemy bringing down upon them a severe reprimand from the Major General Commanding the Division in an order which he issued on the 21st.

At last it was discovered that some system of cooking by messes should be adopted and orders were given that it should be looked into.

22 Dec 1854 Today requisitions for warm clothing were desired to be sent to the Asst. Q Mr General. - part of the day wet.

27 Dec 1854 Fine morning, nothing unusual occurring.

24 Dec 1854 Visited by sleet, snow then rain alternatively today - air chilly - and camp deep in mud.

25 Dec 1854 Frostbites very prevalent.

27 Dec 1854 In Divisions orders No 8 of today Returns of them entitled to the Alma Clasp were required describing those who marched from the Bulgarian River as only entitled thereto. Rice or pearl barley authorized to be issued.

29 Dec 1854 Division orders No 8 special Working parties at Green Hill and Frenchman's batteries were to be furnished until further orders from the guards to the trenches.

5 Jan 1855 A draft of 1 Captain (Hugh Massey) 2 Subs and 16 Privates joined 19 Foot - being the 2nd lot.

13 to 15th Jan 1855 Heavy falls of snow, weather bitterly cold, our tents thin and rotten; no fuel and cannot get any and no stoves in nearly almost every tent. Pitiable objects certainly we look, crawling over as we are with vermin, and what remains of a shirt unwashed for 4 months. Water scarce and what can be obtained being more sand than liquid. Men dying in great numbers.

21 Jan 1855 A third Draft consisting of 1 Captain, 1 Sub and 50 Rank and File have joined us today, 19 Foot.

During the greater part of the month of January the enemy was very considerate whether in compassion or in ignorance of our deplorable state was best known to themselves for they molested us but little - objects of commiseration we certainly claimed by our dogged silence while undergoing the inexplicable misery (the faults of others). A consideration from someone, who can tell, but the heart of him who rules the destiny of the world was touched at our sufferings and withheld for a time the annoyances from the enemy before us, for if man pitied us not, providence it would seem did so. For me to explain the hardships consequent on the errors of the Government of England would be impossible, for language either verbal or in writing fails to convey the slightest approach in explanation of the feelings of the victims of incompetence and neglect which had its fountain 3 thousand miles away from the scene of anguish. Judging from the number of deaths below will give but a faint idea of the missing in one Corps alone, the whole having died from disease brought on for want of proper provisions in each respect.

In the month of

Dec 1854 the 19th Foot lost by deaths - 3 Serjts, 1 Dr. and 55 Rank & File
In Jan 1855 - 1 Drummer and 51 Rank & File. Total in two months 111 men.

2 Feb 1855 Weather dull, and inclined for rain. Evening wet. Exchanges from the Garrison but little.

3rd Feb 1855 Wind rounded to North West and snow falling accompanied with a freezing breeze.

4 Feb 1855 Cold and frosty day. A poor Private soldier of the 23rd Fusiliers killed while in the act of gathering fuel to cook his meal.

6 Feb 1855 Weather finer, exchanges from the enemy brisk.

7th Feb 1855 Dull morning, in the evening snow and frost

8 Feb 1855 Dull and foggy. The enemy opposite Balaklava on the move, Allied Troops called under arms during the night the enemy made an attempt upon the French.

9 Feb 1855 All quiet today, in the evening had a fall of snow.

10 Feb 1855 Dull morning and snowing but at 9 am cleared up - in the evening had rain.

11 Feb 1855 Fine and frosty day - very little firing going on.

12 Feb 1855 Tho' the Sun shone out beautifully the day was windy, occasionally a fall of snow and weather cold.

The following are the numbers of rations drawn for the 19th Foot today and the strength of the Corps or Service Companies.

No of Rations drawn 489
Fit for duty - 31 Serjts, 10 Drs, 259 Rank & File.
Sick present 60 Rank & File
Otherwise employed - 3 Serjts & 99 Rank & File
Sick absent - 11 Serjts, 1 Dr., 342 Rank & File
On command - 5 Serjts & 35 Rank & File
Absent or missing - 6 Rank & File
Total - 50 Serjts, 11 Drs and 801 Rank & File

13 Feb 1855 Rough and winderly morning but towards evening it turned out to be fine. The Garrison has been firing heavier today than usual. The subjoined is the detail for the trenches this evening by the 2nd Brigade Light Division.

19th Regiment - 100 men
77th Regiment - 77 men
88th Regiment - 167 men
90th Regiment - 56 men
Total - 400 men

88th Regiment - 50 for Piquet; 77th Regiment. 50 for Piquet tomorrow morning and 19th Regiment. 50 for Piquet tomorrow evening.

14th Feb 1855 Heavy cannonading from the enemy, day fine.

15th Deb 1855 Cannonading still going on as yesterday. In Division orders of today 2 Bandsmen are always to be with the party in the trenches with stretchers.

16 Feb 1855 Fine day but windy weather.

17 Feb 1855 Cold but fine - the firing from the enemy abated.

19 Feb 1855 An order was issued as follows: When salt meat is issued to the Division the men in hospital will receive ½ lb of fresh meat as part of their ration.

21 Feb 1855 The 2nd Division furnishes the Troops for the trenches for the next 24 hours

22 Feb 1855 Lt General Brown KCB rejoined this day and assumed the command of the Light Division, he having been wounded on the arm at the Battle of Inkerman.

22 Feb 1855 Orders that all bugling will consist of Reveille, Retreat and tattoo only.

22 Feb 1855 Dull and showery day. Enemy rather lively with his cannon.

Some time about the middle of this month Lieut.& Act Adjutant Thompson and Lt. Col. Unett left the Service Companies to join the Depot in England - as well with Captains Clay & Barrett. Glad I suppose to get away.

1st March 1855 A very sharp and keen breeze visited the camps attended occasionally with sleet.

2nd March 1855 Windy, snowing and frost - By Division orders No 1 each man going on duty to the trenches were in future to carry one shot.

3rd March 1855 Not quite so cold and dreary as on the two previous days; exchanges of solids between the Allies and the Enemy not more than usual tho' of course shells during the nights are.

4 March 1855 Very fine day and during the night our friends the French and the Russians warmly engaged each other with musketry

5 and 6 March 1855 Two fine days. The men are now beginning to pick up a little, a smile or two have seated themselves upon their countenance displacing the forlorn abjecture that so long had possessed himself of this seat of horror, better food, more clothes, less disease and finer weather rousing the almost worn out soldier into vigour-hood.

7 March 1855 Sir George at his long cherished wishes will make the men wear stocks. Orders in No 5. Officers commanding regiments to obtain stocks for their men. Not content as he was to compel each man whose chaco was either damaged or lost to get another many of whom had to do so at their own cost and government saving, the enemy having blown them to pieces. Speaking of Regimental Head dresses, the chimney pots as we termed them or Prince Alberts pattern were we found a most incommodious and useless piece of furniture and glad were we when we were allowed to do all our work in the common forage cap.

8th March 1855 Another dull morning. The Good ladies of Bradford in Yorkshire having sent out a Cheshire cheese for the men of the Light Division, and which of course when divided would scarcely have amounted to a crumb each it was decided that a raffle should take place among the various Regiments of the Division the one winning to take the lot including the rind, and which as luck would have it fell into the hands of Serjt Forristall 19 Foot who bore it off in triumph to his own Corps.

9 March 1855 There is a change in the weather today as well also in the habits of the besiegers and besieged for they pummelled each other pretty smartly during the night especially on the left attack of the Allies.

21st March 1855 During this night the French right attack captured an earthwork from the enemy.

23rd March 1855 A smart sortie was made this night by the Garrison on the French right attack joining that of the British adjacent to the middle ravine at the foot of the Mamalom - the fight was obstinate and long, the enemy also attacking that part of the British Works joining the French in which Captain Vicars 97th was killed as well also a number of his men.

This map is taken from Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan, (Longmans, 1961), p. 94, with the author's kind permission. Copyright, of course, remains with Dr Hibbert.

Click on the image for a larger view

24th March 1855 Early this morning could plainly be seen what had occurred last night from the heaps of dead Russians lying about between the French Works and the Mamalom, the French in the meantime having received strong reinforcements. At 12 noon a truce was granted to enable the enemy to take off their dead whom they piled on heaps and removed to their own position in front of the Mamalom. The truce was granted till 3 p.m. when as the white flags were taken own from the 21 gun battery and the Redan the firing began as usual.

On this evening the Light Division furnished 1200 men for duty in the trenches.

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