British Foreign Policy 1815-65

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Letters from the Crimea

Captain WP Richards

I am grateful to Cynthia Dyer-Bennet for permission to reproduce these letters from her grandfather's transcripts. The spelling and grammar are exactly in the original letters.


Letter 8: Still before Sebastopol; December 12th 1854

My dear Isabella,

To you greeting, and a question, What deaths are sculptors most liable to? Answer, look at the end of this letter. And now for a regular commencement.

Very many thanks for your letter which I received per mail before last, and which I should have answered by the next, but we are very busy at present building our huts, stables etc., and the Mail left a day before we expected it. Since I wrote last we have had the most detestable weather, raining all day, and every day, and blowing every now and then Great Guns. The consequence of this has been that the roads between this and Balaklava are next to impassable, and our poor horses have died by hundreds, from exposure and over fatigue. We shot nine in one day, that were quite done up.

The siege is at a standstill, with the exception of Sallies at night from the Town, to harass our men, but they are soon repulsed. The Army has suffered a great deal from the wet and cold, and a great number have died. We have received large reinforcements in the way of Infantry, but being newcomers, they are immediately attacked by cholera, etc., and great numbers of them die, and lots more are obliged to go to Scutari to recover. We have also been obliged to wait for Guns. All our heavy Guns having been either disabled or worn out by excessive firing, we went to Malta and Constantinople for new ones, and they have arrived, but the roads have been so bad, that as yet we have not been able to get them up, but expect to have them all up, with the ammunition, in the next fortnight, when our Batteries are complete we shall open fire for about 48 hours, and then a grand Assault will take place. This will be a most bloody business, as the Russians have had all the time to themselves and have manned, fortified, etc., etc., the whole Town, so it will be taken with immense loss.

This is Lord Raglan's fault, the French are disgusted with him, as he knows nothing about sieges, and will not take advice from anyone. We should have taken the place long ago, if we had anyone to command who knew his work, as all this delay does no good on our side, and only gives the enemy time, and encourages them. Last night they made a sortie, and came up a road slap into the Camp, but were repulsed more by good luck than good management. Lord Raglan had been advised to look to this ten days ago. The French say we fight better than anybody, but our leaders do not understand War. They beat us in everything but fighting, their Hospitals, Commissariat, etc., etc., etc., are all better arranged than ours. Our Horses are at present (besides doing their own work) fetching up the grub for the Army, carrying down the sick, and dragging up all the heavy guns and Ammunition, we are reduced to one half already, and shall soon be ineffective. This is all through bad management.

I have just received at letter from Aunt Robe which has just arrived, give her my best love and say how much obliged I am for the boxes she mentions, and have no doubt that they will arrive safe, also thank Gibbons for the Cocoa, and tell Aunt I will write to her by next mail, also tell Miss Selenah that I have not seen the scrawl from her fist she promised. I have not received any papers from you lately though Aunt mentions that you have sent several. I will give you a hint, they must be sent separately, tied with a string, the direction on the paper, and stamped, I think two on each, but that you will hear at the Post Office.

I have also received a letter from Fanny which I intend trying to answer by this Mail, but if I should not finish in time it will go by the next, give my love to her, and tell her so.

I am as yet well excepting a bad cold, and a touch of Rheumatism, my hand shakes from having been digging before I commenced this, that I am afraid you will not be able to read much of this scrawl. I am very busy fattening a goose for Christmas day, which I bought on board ship, but the puzzle is how to roast it, as boiling won't do in this case. I shall in my next give you an account of our new hut when finished, and a plan also, how we at present spend our time, what we have for dinner etc., etc.

I am going to write home for lots of books, amongst others Soyer's first Cookery Book, I am a first rate at an omelet. I have not time to write any more this mail, so with best love to all, Believe me,

Ever your most affectionate Brother
W.P.R.

P.S. Tell Mama that I have got for Lady Young a Prayer-book which I got at George Young's for her, and also I have the Sash, Breastplate, Epaulettes etc., of Sir William Young's. Tell her to enquire what I shall do with them, also tell Mama that the right Epaulette is covered with blood, so perhaps she had better not mention that. I thought of burying the Epaulette and belt, both of which are rather ugly to look at.

2nd P.S. Because he makes faces and busts (bursts)

3rd P.S. Best love to Sarah.

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