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The Russian ("Crimean") War of 1854 - 1856
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Henry Norton Sulivan on the Baltic campaign of the Russian War of 1854-1856 (5/10)
THE FALL OF BOMARSUND.
"Aland Islands, Led Sound,
"July 25th, 1854.
"On the 19th I left the fleet at anchor thirty miles outside, and came on with three vessels, besides Lightning, to examine the passage in, before taking the fleet in. I had been unwell for two days, which made me rather unfit for the hard work that was to follow."
Much difficulty was experienced in navigating the four vessels in a thick fog, and in seeking a way in amongst the rocks. It was evident there was no passage for a fleet.
All that day we were hard at work looking for a better passage in to the westward, through Led Sound. We found a safe but very narrow one, with five and a half fathoms, which we buoyed for nearly a mile; and having placed buoys and two ships on outer shoals, and left Alban to examine farther, I got back to the fleet at 9 p.m., passing through the islands close to Vitko Island. On the 21st, having left a squadron with Commodore Martin to return to the Gulf of Finland, and despatched Dauntless home, the fleet proceeded for this place, and we led them in about 9 p.m.
I had little doubt of finding a good passage for the large ships to Bomarsund; but the admiral said I should take up the Edinburgh, Hague, Blenheim, and Ajax first, with Amphion (my old friend and comrade Key), Alban, and Lightning, all under Admiral Chads. I went in Edinburgh, and we had an easy run for six miles, then anchored to find a better channel than my former one of four fathoms. I went in Lightning, soon found a narrow one, but with five and a half fathoms, bounded by rocks with only four, three, and two fathoms on them. We put some buoys down, and then I returned to Edinburgh., and we went on swimmingly through channels so narrow that the line-of-battle ships seemed like giants looking down on the small islands, and so right into Lumpar Bay in front of Bomarsund, But we passed very close to a rock I knew nothing of nearly in the middle of the narrowest channel. Fortunately all the leading ships cleared it without knowing it, but the last one, Ajax, ran on it: however, she came off directly with her engines, and followed us; so that I may almost say I got them up without a mishap. Admiral Chads was greatly delighted; and as Mr. Brierley, who sends sketches to the Illustrated, was, with a host of amateurs, in Lightning, I dare say you will see a sketch of it. It was the prettiest sight by far yet seen in the Baltic. To complete it, the enemy had built a new battery on a point with five heavy guns, and I saw it just in time to anchor half a mile farther out than I intended; and I thought I had brought up Edinburgh at two thousand five hundred yards, but it was only about two thousand two hundred, and the guns opened on her and on Amphion, and threw the shot so unpleasantly close that Admiral Chads moved both ships farther out. All this made the scene more interesting.
I returned the same evening, but found the admiral would not let me take the large ships up: he had doubts whether he would take them up at all. So next day I was asked by the French admiral to take one of his ships with a number of officers and pilots to show them the channel, Evans at the same time having all the masters of our fleet in Lightning to go with me. We had a nice trip, and Improved the safety of the channel by running the French screw-steamers back in an hour and fifty-five minutes the distance of eighteen miles. Yesterday I had to start at 3 a.m. to pilot Gorgon into an intricate channel, where poor Buckle had Valorous aground, and so injured that, though off, she is leaking terribly. This was close to my old friends in the village of Degerby, where you will remember the custom-house and collector and the nice ladies were. You may also recollect that the people complained of a Russian police officer being 'the very devil,' and wished I would take him away; but he was not there then, and I said jokingly, 'If I ever come back, I will take him away for you'. I waited up there a short time to go on shore and see my friends (some of those in the other ships had landed there). On the way to shore with Evans in the gig, I told the ship's crew that if they saw me pat a man very affectionately on the back to seize his arms behind and take him to the boat. On landing, all the people were indoors but the collector, who came gravely forward, bowing, till he came close and recognised me, when his countenance changed most wonderfully. He began shaking hands very energetically. I saw a lot of faces peeping out of one room. Soon all my lady friends rushed out of the door. They had not recognised me through the window till they saw the collector shake hands with me. Even the collector's old wife, whom you remember had been 'packing up to run away' when I first landed, ran out and shook my hand with both hers, as if she recollected my not burning the custom-house down; and the nicest looking young lady, the married one with the baby, ran in and brought out a most beautiful nosegay of roses of all kinds, which she gave me. I then complained to them that the villagers were acting as our enemies, in spite of all I said when last here, as they were cutting away the buoys we put on rocks; and I said that if they did not prevent it, I should have to burn all the boats of the nearest village, and, if that did not stop it, the village itself. They said it was the police officer made the people do it, threatening if they refused to send them off to the fort. Shortly after a gentleman in a green uniform came, and told me he had charge of the place, and I saw he must be the very man. He certainly was a bold one. I soon after said I must have some sheep, etc., and as the people could not sell them I would take them and give the money. The gentleman in green said he would not allow it, and they should not take our money. I went up close to him and said, 'Then you mean to act as our enemy'. (I had an interpreter.) 'I cannot allow them to take the money. I have charge here, and it is my duty to prevent it'. 'Then', I said, 'I must treat you as an enemy', tapping him on the back at the same time. In an instant his arms were pinned, and he found himself in the embraces of three men, who walked him off to the boat. The ladies screamed; the old Mrs. Collector got hold of my hand, went down on her knees, and cried terribly, saying he had a wife and seven children, the youngest only a year old. I told her I had just the same, but it would not prevent a Russian officer taking me prisoner; and as this man avowed himself a Russian officer and acted against us, though he did his duty only, I was obliged to do mine and take him prisoner. Some of the younger ones screamd, one tall fine young woman went off nearly faint and there was such a scene, but more with fright at the thing than care for him. I believe they thought they were all to be carried off. Soon his poor wife came down in terrible distress, and his eldest daughter begged me very hard to let him go, and almost tried my feelings top much; but all I could promise was, I would take him to the admiral, and I would ask for him to be allowed to go to Bomarsund, where his family might join him, provided he promised not to return here, but that would rest entirely with the admiral. His wife went off with him; and I, with two men, walked to our old village a mile inland, where the people had said they could not sell us lambs; but, now they heard the police officer was gone, they were ready to sell anything. Evans and more men soon joined, and we took back several sheep and nice lambs at three shillings and sixpence each, milk, and cream; and as we could not carry all, I took off my coat and backed a fine lamb. When I came back I invited the ladies off, and all but the old one accepted, and brought off the poor man's eldest daughter. The poor people on shore had been crowding round me, begging me not to let him come back again. The ladies certainly did not seem to think I had done very wrong, or they would not have so readily come off. The husband of the nice-looking one stood on the jetty. I begged him to come, but he said he could not. I said I would keep all the ladies prisoners, and his wife too. He said he was quite willing to trust her with me. They remained an hour, had some wine, biscuits, figs, etc., admired your likeness, took a number of tracts, were rather surprised that the figure of England in Punch praying for the success of the war should be kneeling before a cross, and asked if the figure were not that of a Catholic. I assured them we were Protestants, and I gave the young mother a Swedish Testament for her little daughter when she could read, and then we parted the best of friends, though it was sad to see the poor wife and children taking leave. I think no one ever before captured a prisoner in an enemy's country, and at the same time had a party of six ladies on board to lunch.
"Napier", p. 315, records the progress, of Admiral Chads's fleet to Bomarsund. This, then, was the first attempt to take large ships up to the place. After an hour's examination of the most difficult part, Captain Sulivan found sufficient water, and without any buoys or marks took the ships up through the passages. This exploit was never noticed by Napier in any way, nor in any despatch, but the return of the ships was signalled by a notice, after Captain Sulivan had taught the masters the pilotage and buoyed the whole passage!
"Sunday, July 30th, 1854.
I do not like writing on Sunday, except my private letter, but I could not possibly write to you at all if I did not. The whole week has been spent in one continual work of piloting ships either to Bomarsund or through the channels to the north-east, in buoying and marking the main channels to Bomarsund, reconnoitring the shores near Bomarsund to find the best landing-place, piloting the admiral up in Driver to see the place, and finding a new channel round from north to south of the fort without passing within range of the batteries. We have been working from 4 a.m. to late in the evening, and yet expected to be back alongside the flag-ship every night, which we have only failed to do once, when I was too tired to return, and getting alongside Arrogant, Amphion, and Alban, my old shipmates Yelverton (Henry), Key, Otter, and I had a most pleasant evening together. One day Caffin, Scott, and Henry were sent with me with the masters of their ships to see the channels, and they said they had the most pleasant day they had spent in the Baltic. I had a letter to deliver at Degerby to his wife from the prisoner I took, and had orders to bring his clothes down, he being kept in Duke of Wellington; so we all landed, had a walk to the village out in the country, got some cream and milk, called on all our lady friends, got lots of roses from the gardens, had a very kind reception even from the prisoner's wife, and, knowing that from the blockade they were deprived of all their common necessaries, I was in the act of sending on shore some coffee, sugar, and a few bottles of wine, when a boat came alongside, put a large basket of green peas and a wooden milk-bucket of raspberries in the cutter, said they were for the captain, and pulled away before an answer could be given. Thinking we were about to start, they could have expected no return. It was a very nice way of showing a civility. I also had the luck to collect three hundred nice fresh eggs at a cost of five shillings per hundred - of course some are for my friends.
Yesterday I got to bed at 12.30 and slept till seven this morning, and was just congratulating myself on a quiet Sunday, when my signal was made, 'Get up steam and weigh instantly', and a boat from Duke of Wellington brought Moriarty the master - a very nice, excellent fellow, whom I like to have with me - to say that the squadron with troops was in sight, and I was to go out to pilot them in, Moriarty coming if I wanted more help. We met the four line-of-battle ships outside about twelve miles; and sending Moriarty to St. Vincent and Evans to Royal William, so that we need not wait for them, I went to Hannibal, the commodore's ship, and we pushed on, followed by Algiers. On our way in we met the master of the fleet with a message to me that title admiral wished the two screw-ships inside him, and the two sailing three-deckers outside. It was a lovely morning - a light breeze, not hot - and the ships crowded with troops in all colours. The fleet inside was anchored pretty thickly; but I found no difficulty in helping the effect of the saluting, cheering, flags displayed, etc., by running first past a French liner, then between the two French admirals, cheered French fashion by each (hardly able to make the helmsmen hear me for the row); then close under Duke of Wellington's stern, where cheering began English fashion; and then brought up between Cumberland and James Watt. But to the surprise of every one the Algiers, instead of following, anchored outside with the sailing-ships; and when Talbot came on board, he said that the master of the fleet had come on board and taken charge, saying he was to take her inside; but that when he came near his heart failed him - he said he could not get her through the ships, that there was not room, and he anchored her outside; so half the effect was lost.
You will recollect in my last my describing taking up a French steamer with the officers and pilots of the fleet to teach them the channels. The commander seemed intelligent, and took notes and sketches innumerable, marking everything I told him on the chart, and I thought he seemed quite up to it. I told the admiral he seemed thoroughly to understand it. A few days after he went up again in his little vessel, and in coming down actually mistook the channel where it was most plain, and ran her into one where there was only one and a half fathoms water. Of course she was soon hard and fast, and the master of Edinburgh had to go to her assistance, and after getting her off pilot her down. So much for their attempting to pilot their own ships. I suppose it is no harm my telling my own friends that I met with plenty of compliments. One brother-officer asks, 'Do you ever sleep?' another, 'When are they going to give you a little rest?' 'How do you stand it?' etc., etc. The French admiral told me a few days since that he 'thought I must be made of iron', and that he had felt it his duty to specially report to the Minister of Marine how much I had assisted them by my exertions. Another French officer asked Yelverton, 'What will they do for Captain Sulivan when he goes home? What will they make him?' Hall is really a very fine fellow; but after his coming into Cronstadt with the signal flying 'Have successfully bombarded Bomarsund', every one who looks at the fort and sees only a few external marks of shot on the granite wall naturally laughs at the idea of their having at all injured the fort, or done more than burn a few wooden houses. Buckle, who was there, laughs at it himself; yet the papers at home speak of it as if the fort had been silenced by three steamers, when now a whole fleet and ten thousand troops are going to attack it. It is too bad the way the papers publish directly false articles. A few days since we read, under the head of 'Surveying Work in the Baltic', an account of the arduous duties in finding channels for the ships, etc., and that among other ships that had taken a prominent part in it was the ---- and three others, not one of which had ever taken the slightest share in it. Yet neither Lightning's nor Alban's name was mentioned in the article. This is a specimen of the truth of such puffs. In fact, there are a set of people who try through their friends or by more direct means to puff themselves off, and make the public believe they do everything, while here they are laughed at.
(Hecla's bombardment. - "So useless was this waste of shot and shell that the granite was scarcely marked, and the Russians, in derision, painted blockmarks near each hit to mark the spots. The forts, being casemated,|the guns could not be elevated at long range, so that it could be shelled out of range of its guns. One might as well have thrown peas at the fort, as the bomb-proof roof had four feet of sand on it. The real force opposed to the steamers was the masked battery of field artillery, which came down to the point of the bay.")
We expect the French ships with the remaining troops on Tuesday, and I suppose by this day week they will be hard at it. I hardly expect the governor will surrender when summoned, as some think; but I fancy, when the west hill fort is taken, he will see how useless it is to continue the defence, so that there will be very little to do. I think we have selected a nice landing-place - a smooth, grassy flat at the head of a cove, on which guns, etc., could be landed, and where I could run Lightning within a few yards, and close to it a nice steep rocky point, rising to a little hill, no trees to cover riflemen, and yet a strong position for the leading troops to hold and protect the others landing; while at the entrance of the cove the Edinburgh may lay within a hundred yards of both shores and sweep them, so that nothing can oppose us; besides which, we may tow all the boats four or five miles above, as if going to land at Castellholm, then turn and go fast back to the cove, before any soldiers could return there. They have only five hundred riflemen that they can venture to detach from the forts, and they will, I suppose, do all they can to check the advance; but a regiment of the French chasseurs will be landed first, and they will soon deal with the riflemen if they make a stand. Our share of the whole thing will be trifling, as no seamen will, I believe, be landed, except a few with guns. The French commander-in-chief has gone to Stockholm, and will not be here for two or three days.
We continue to be quite free from sickness, and the fleet is generally healthy, though a case of cholera occurs now and then in a screw-ship.
It was a curious sight seeing a thousand French soldiers paraded on the deck of an English ninety-gun ship. They have got on capitally, all pleasant and mutually pleased.
Monday, 31st. - We have been all day with General Jones, Commodore Grey, Captain Mundy, and all the engineer officers, showing them the forts north and south. On the north side the two round forts tried to reach us with shot, both by ricochet and direct fire; but I kept just out of range, so they failed to hit us. I had eight to dinner with me after leaving. I have since been with the general and commander-in-chief till late in the evening.
Led Sound, Wednesday, August 2nd.
Yesterday the two commanders-in-chief - Napier and Duchesne - the French general-in-chief, four other French generals, General Jones, and all their staffs, went in the Emperor's yacht to examine the place, Lightning going with them and leading through the channels. When we reached Bomarsund I went on board, as did Admiral Chads. It was evident they did not like taking the yacht close along the shore, as she drew more water than we did; so they all, great and small, went on board Lightning, and what with colonels, naval captains, captains and lieutenants on the staff, etc., they crowded our deck under the awning from the main-mast to the wheel. I gave them a good look at everything, got in on the flank of the battery on the point recently constructed where no gun could bear on us, and then went to the landing-place in the bay Admiral Chads and I had looked at before, and of which the French general highly approved. After seeing everything, and shooting the poor forts tremendously with spy-glasses, and carrying off every bit of them on paper, they wanted to go round to the northward. I told them I could not take the yacht in that way, as it was too intricate; so they all agreed to stay in Lightning, and meet the yacht on our return. On our way round I got lunch, in the shape of cheese, sardines, biscuit, wine, etc., on the table, and in turn had the whole party in the cabin, beginning with the 'great guns.' They seemed particularly well pleased with a very good cheese, and still more so with ale, which the Frenchmen pitched into uncommonly, and said was far better than wine. As we entered the northern harbour near the forts, I said to Evans I would go closer to-day, as we saw they could not reach us by three or four hundred yards yesterday, adding jokingly it would not be fair to the Russians not to give them a chance at such a party. Evans said, 'Take care, sir, they don't get a bag of extra strong powder today'. I then went aft and stopped her abreast of the forts, and, as I thought, two hundred yards out of their range. I was talking to the general-in-chief and the admiral just abaft the main-mast, where all the six generals, three admirals, and the colonels were congregated, when one fort, the low one, fired a ricochet shot, which, after making fifteen ducks and drakes, ended a hundred and fifty yards short of us. The general asked me which fort was nearest. I said the high one by a hundred yards. As I spoke a gun flashed from it, and I was watching to see the shot coming, and how short it would fall, when to my surprise it rushed close over our heads abaft the mainmast, and fell about fifty yards beyond us. It was evident that they had an unusually large gun there, for it made a great noise. I did not wait for a second, but went on full speed, and kept her right off for two or three hundred yards more; but no shot reached us again, and we went on examining the shore. It was a most providential thing its passing just over us. Had it been a little lower, or we fifty yards farther off, it would have come in among all the great men, who were so crowded that it must have made fearful havoc among them, and it would have been entirely my fault for going so close when there was no necessity for it; but they certainly had never before thrown a shot so far by two hundred yards. On our way back I had to pass rather close, and the old admiral was at me about it, saying I ought to go farther off; but I pointed out to him some nasty rocks near, and said I did not like going too close to them, as it was better to risk a shot than risk running her on shore in such a position, which he allowed. I assured him we would not pass within shot again; and as they fired at us again in passing, the nearest shot did not come within a hundred yards, and most of them shorter by far. One shell burst nicely in exact direction, and high; so that, had they cut their fuse better, it would have nearly reached us; but it burst four hundred yards short of us. We then returned towards this place, met the yacht, put all the Frenchmen in her, and got back to the fleet at about 7 p.m.
If I was not pretty well proof against flattery, I should have had my head turned yesterday. The channels to the northward are particularly intricate, but we went on full speed in Lightning all the way, and astonished the big-wigs not a little, particularly the French general and admiral, as well as our chief and Chads, and I had many compliments paid me by all. Napier said, 'How did you ever find it all out? It seems to me wonderful how the ships were ever got up here at all.' And he repeatedly interpreted for me sundry speeches of the French chief. One person likened me to the dogs that dig for truffles in France. I suppose he meant that they find them by smell, and he thought I found the rocks the same way. When I showed them a rock under water a few feet from our side, with not more than four feet of water on it, they seemed greatly puzzled to know how I found them all. The chief told me that the French admiral had been writing most strongly about me to the Minister of Marine, and they would be sending me the Legion of Honour. At present I have really done nothing to deserve anything of the kind: the distinction would only have value if given for some real service, such as at Obligado. I have been up to-day with some captains and masters to show them the channel. The French captain, who commands a steamer, and was yesterday in the yacht, came to-day, before I was dressed, to ask me to give him some instruction about the channel. I kept him to breakfast, and before it was over my signal was made, and I found it was to ask me about some arrangements and to go with him to the French admiral; but just as we were going in the barge these captains and masters came, and I was sent off with them instead. One was Clifford, who was a youngster in Undaunted; another Broke.
On my return this evening I had another chat with the chief and General Jones about the plans, and to-morrow I am to be there at breakfast, that we may settle everything. The general is to land to the northward with seven hundred marines and his hundred sappers, to make a diversion in favour of the grand landing to the southward, where all the French will land. I shall have to arrange about the steamers that can get through the channel into the northward, as no one else knows the channel. I want to get Otter to have the leading of the vessels and boats of the other landing; he is up to the northward with Plumridge, and I am doubtful if he can be back in time. We are only now waiting for the two French line-of-battle ships that ought to have been here also. I do not think there will be much, if any, resistance to the landing, as they will not know in time where we intend doing it.
Led Sound, Friday, August 4th.
We are still waiting for two French ships that have the artillery and sappers on board, and the general will not move till they come through, though our admiral and General Jones want to commence with the force in hand. Yesterday I took General Jones and Buckle up, the general wishing to have another look, and Buckle going merely to look at it and learn the channel. We found the enemy had burnt down all the houses outside the fort, so as to deprive us of any cover near it. I went to Edinburgh's mast-head to get a good look at the inland portion of the ground our northern party have to go over after landing, and saw it was very favourable to us, - sloping gradually over clear land, with corn-fields, etc., and a village at the bottom, so that there is little or no cover for their riflemen for a mile beyond where we land and crown the ridge near the coast. This will be done, if opposed, under the fire of the vessels. I also saw that the besieging force must occupy a new work or entrenchment of some kind being thrown up on a hill, which was not known before. I believe eight hundred marines and marine artillery, with four field-pieces with seamen, will constitute our force, and the French add two thousand to it. I had this morning to settle the steamers, etc., with the French captain of the fleet. I am to have Driver and Pigmy, besides Lightning, and I have tried hard for Alban, but cannot get it settled yet. The French send four steamers that I have selected from their draught of water for the shallow passages; and I was nearly having the old Fulton also, that suffered so at Obligado. To-day I went up with some masters who had not seen the channel, and with Stewart, captain of Termagant, whom you will recollect in Rattlesnake at Falklands. On our arrival there we found the village on Presto Island opposite the large fort in flames. It had the best houses in the islands; but they feared, I suppose, our advancing under their cover. This seems the first step in the horrors of war. It looks as if they intend to defend it to the last.
A deserter soldier and two convicts took a boat and escaped to our ships last night from the fort.
Saturday, 5th. - The French ships have just arrived, Vulture also.
It is now settled that I take Driver (our old friend and companion Cochrane, whom I have manoeuvred to get with us from the first, and prevented his being left up the gulf) and Pigmy with Lightning, and seven hundred marines and a hundred sappers, General Jones and his staff, four field-pieces from the block-ships manned by seamen, and our rocket-tube, which the general wants; and I claimed the privilege of landing our own men with it, so the gunner and ten men from us, with ten from some other ship, take it, and Cudlip (lieutenant of Lightning) will command. As he is the senior lieutenant in the fleet, it will ensure his promotion if he lands, so as to get his name mentioned. I take five French steamers under my orders, and old Fulton, that I so often piloted in Parana, with them. I understood at first I was to command afloat in the northern division; but now Admiral Plumridge is to meet us there, which will cut me out. I have just left the French admiral, who waited to see me, and who was most anxious to know how I would get the French ships through the difficult channel. I told him I proposed putting an officer (Evans) in one in the middle of our line to keep it straight, and when we got to the difficult pass I would take them all through one at a time, and then we would go on in line again. He seemed quite delighted at my making sure of taking all through, and shook hands with both of his. In fact, I am a much greater man with the French than I shall ever be with our own service. Their captains come to me and consult me and ask my advice as if they were youngsters and I was their admiral. Mind, this is private, and must not be mentioned out of our own circle. If it were not for my feeling certain these things will never be mentioned out of it, I might be accused of egotism in writing them, but I know you expect to hear all particulars.
Sunday, August 6th. - This day has been like anything but Sunday. The admiral came on board Lightning this morning at nine, to go to both Admirals Plumridge and Chads and arrange all about the disembarkation of the troops to-morrow. The general and Admiral Seymour were with us, and we were busy all day, not getting back till near 7 p.m., when we found the mail arrived. I find General Jones is an old friend of Tucker's, and has often enjoyed the hospitality of Trematon: he is a very fine fellow. I wish we had other such clear heads; but the difficulty of planning and arranging everything with the French chiefs is very great. The want of one head is very evident, and we have not very good managers to assist our chief, so that there is a sad want of method. Then there is too much desire on the part of certain persons in power to have all to do and to share out all the ships lying here, so that the captains of the senior ships have to lie doing nothing; and, even now that guns are sent from all the ships to put into batteries, they are not allowed to send men, but all is to be done by Admiral Chads' block-ships and the smaller steamers. I cannot help exerting the influence I have with the admiral to endeavour to get things managed justly to all; and where that clashes with the wishes of some above me, they show that they think I have too much power - at least in one instance it has been so; but I do not care, as I feel I have had no motive but the good of the service and the success of our attack with as little bloodshed as possible, which to me is of more importance than that certain parties should keep all to themselves. I have succeeded in getting two or three included in the business that would have been left out, but entirely from a desire to do them justice and from no other feeling. However, I think there are very few who do not believe I take a right view of these things, and I am very pleased to find that my views on most points have been confirmed by the great soldiers who now manage affairs.
We move the troops into the smaller steamers at 1 p.m. to-morrow and start directly, getting to our positions before evening, ready to land at daylight next morning. I take Driver, Pigmy, and three French vessels under my orders, and land eighteen hundred French and eight hundred English marines and sappers, four guns, and two rocket-tubes. Admiral Plumridge meets me at the landing-place and takes the command, bringing some steamers with him, and their paddle-boats for landing the troops. While at anchor to-day at Bomarsund three Russian deserters came down to the shore, and we brought them off. They are Polish Jews, and have been seven years here as soldiers. They gave us much information about the place. The houses outside and villages have been all burning the last two days, and they seem determined to make a strong resistance. I do not expect to find the landing opposed on our side at least; and as the general-in-chief leads with three thousand men in the first boat-loads, they cannot well be opposed either.
To have seen the old admiral with me to-day, no one would have supposed he could have let out at me as he did for a fancied error two days since. When several were discussing to-day the position some would hold, others being shared out, one of our leading men said that, no matter what difference of opinion there might be about these points, there was none as to any position, for all felt that our great success lay in having brought such large ships where they thought it impossible, and that all the information they collect up there confirms this; in fact, if all said was to be believed, I am to be made a 'bishop' at least!
Monday, 7th. - We are off with the troops, and we land at daylight to-morrow.
A short outline of the operations will enable the journals to be followed more readily. It will be seen by the accompanying plan that the large fort of Bomarsund was supported by the round towers of Tzee, Nottich, and Presto, and by the seven-gun battery at Tranvik Point. The latter was attacked and destroyed on August 8th by Captains Key and Desbois. On the same day the British force, of about seven hundred sailors and marines and seventy sappers, together with a covering force of two thousand French marines, were sent in vessels conducted by Captain Sulivan through an intricate channel to the landing-place chosen by him to the north of Bomarsund. Thence the guns (three short thirty-two-pounders, four field-guns, and the rocket-tube) were dragged over steep and rocky ground four and a half miles to the spot chosen for the battery, seven hundred and fifty yards north of Fort Tzee. The officers in command were Captain Ramsay, R.N., and Commander Preedy, R.N. On the same day the French force, conducted by Commander Otter, R.N., and numbering about ten thousand men, was landed to the west of Tranvik Point. They had fifty horses to help drag their guns (four long sixteen-pounders, and four thirteen-inch mortars) to the station fixed upon, four hundred and fifty yards west of Fort Tzee. The French battery, being ready early on the 13th, commenced firing without waiting for the British, and Fort Tzee surrendered the same evening. When ready, on the 15th, Captain Ramsay turned his guns - not now needed for Fort Tzee - against Fort Nottich, at a distance of nine hundred and fifty yards, and breached it in eight hours. Meanwhile Captain Pelham, R.N., had landed his ten-inch pivot-gun at Tranvik Point, and used it against Bomarsund. The combined fleet kept up a harmless fire against the fort, and the French general prepared his breaching battery north of Tranvik Point. The Russian general, seeing he was done for, surrendered, and the commander of Fort Presto did likewise. Three of our ships to the north of Presto Island had joined in the bombardment.
Bomarsund, Tuesday, August 8th, 1854.
We got up all right yesterday. I got Driver through the difficult passage, and took all the troops up to the landing-place, meeting there Admiral Plumridge and his steamers. Otter had been there early, and had gone a mile inland to a village on the road the troops advance by, and saw no enemy; so he goes now with the general as guide.
Here follow regrets at his not receiving any position in connection with the action, and even not being allowed to remain to look on after the landing.
We heard firing, which was Key in Amphion, who went in six hundred yards on the flank of a mud battery, which did not return a shot. He quickly sent the people out of it, landed, and spiked six guns. When we came the chief was in Bulldog, with Stromboli, firing long-range shot at the west tower, the French all landing, and the chasseurs on a hill about half a mile inland. The chief then came to Lightning and hoisted his flag, and we are now waiting for him while he has gone to see Admiral Chads. The forts are firing shell occasionally at the nearest ships: none came within four hundred yards of Bulldog, but they burst near enough Amphion to send a few bits beyond her. There will be little for the navy to do, except the men landed now from the block-ships with four field-guns - Cudlip with the gunner and ten men from here, and Wells and ten men from Driver with the rocket-tube, and the men who get the battering-guns up. I had General Jones and staff, Captain Mundy, and the chaplain of Duke of Wellington with me. Dinner for six at 8 p.m.; beds in cabin for four; went to bed at 11.30; got up at 2 to breakfast; landed at 3.
Bomarsund, August 14th.
On Tuesday (8th) the troops all landed early. The chief hoisted his flag in Lightning, and, after taking him to one or two points, we took him round to the north to Admiral Plumridge, and then returned. All the troops advanced without firing a shot, and closed the enemy up in their forts. Wednesday and Thursday (9th and 10th) we were landing guns, stores, etc., the forts sending only an occasional shot or shell inland. The marines and seamen were rather exposed about fifteen hundred yards from the fort on the hill. The marines had bought a potato-field for £3 from the owners, and a number were digging potatoes, when a shell burst in the valley, scattering balls six ounces in weight. One hit the pillow of a lieutenant who was lying down, one went into our men's hut, and others in different directions, but hurt no one. I walked out to see the camps that evening. It was a curious scene, - the French advanced chasseurs, with their little tents, hidden under rocks or rise of ground; the park of artillery behind some rocks ready for placing in battery; thousands of men in red inexpressibles [breeches] in every direction; and the round fort on the hill looking down on all within good range, but only firing an occasional shot or shell. At the village headquarters there was a beautiful band playing while the general was at dinner. Several native women mixed with the soldiers listening, which I was glad to see, as it showed they were not ill-treated. People were at work getting in their hay and corn in one field, while in the corner of another several French soldiers had just dug a grave for a comrade alongside two others: all three died of cholera; but they brought it from the ships, where it began to be very bad, - they are now very healthy.
We had an unfortunate occurrence on Friday (11th), by which some lives were lost. Admiral Chads has been anxious from the first to send ships through the channel round Presto Island near the fort, and to send two block-ships through, as it is difficult for them to get through the channels round outside. The admiral always seemed to object; and when he asked me I told him that if there was any object worth risking lives for they might go through, but I thought not otherwise, as they must pass under the fire of the large fort. The day the troops landed (the 8th), when the chief and Admiral Chads were on board Lightning, the latter again spoke on the subject. The chief told me to bring him the chart. Admiral Chads said that a ship would not pass nearer the battery than two thousand five hundred yards. The admiral asked me, and I said two thousand one hundred, or at most two thousand two hundred. Admiral Chads said it was no such thing. I could not get him to examine the charts for himself, so I let it alone, and pointed it out afterwards quietly to his son. The next day the admiral let a steamer go through, and no shot reached her. The morning after at breakfast he said to me, 'You see Admiral Chads was right and I was wrong', I said, 'I suppose, sir, I was wrong also'. However, that morning, we were coaling in the ship, and therefore, not having men to spare, Evans and I took the dinghy with only two men to get angles on a point of Michelso Island. Just afterwards we saw Penelope passing under the pilotage of the master of the fleet; and just as she reached the nearest point to the fort, and the shot were reaching her, she ran on a rock, and could not back off again. We went to her directly, and were the first that reached her. Just as we got alongside we saw the splinters flying from her, showing that they were hitting her. While I was on board speaking to Caffin two more shot struck her, and others were passing over her. We got a lead-line, and Evans taking an oar, we sounded near her to find the deep water. She was on the edge of a rock with five fathoms on the side farthest off the fort, and deep water ahead and astern. Even with only two or three boats soundings, the shot pitching round us came unpleasantly close. At one time two fell close on each side of our dinghy, the one on the off side passing the stern very close behind me. Seeing the Gladiator coming through the channel to assist, I pulled to meet her, and told her the deep side and where to go. Hecla at the same time having just arrived, came down the other way, and both got hold of Penelope. The fort soon struck them also. As we passed Hecla we saw the splinters fly from her quarter. As the boats began to assemble I feared they must be hit, but providentially only one was struck - a French boat, and one man killed. Seeing I could do no more good, and also seeing that the block-ships were getting up steam, and thinking they were going in to cover her, and I should be wanted to pilot them, I went back to Bulldog (the flag-ship) just as Buckle was ordered to take Valorous into long-shell range and shell the fort. I went to place her at two thousand five hundred yards, but was too close at first, so that the shot came over us, till we moved out a little and anchored just at the enemy's extreme range, only a shot or two going over and none striking Valorous, while she threw her shell well. Out of a few she fired there were four struck the roof of the fort.
Just as the chief sent a boat for me to pilot them in Bulldog, the Penelope got off and the recall was made. She had two men killed and three wounded, and Hecla three wounded - a loss quite useless, and which might have been saved. Had I been piloting her, I have no doubt many would have cried out against the surveyors. However, I believe no one was to blame, as the rock was not known before. The fault was sending her at all that way.
In spite of Captain Sulivan telling him he was waiting till the bright moon was obscured, or rose later, to sound the bay closer to the fort, and that to go in on light nights would be useless and draw the attention of the enemy, the master of the fleet, wfth three large black boats, went in on a bright moonlight night, and was fired on at a thousand yards from the fort, outside the small bay. Two nights after, when cloudy, Captain Sulivan went in in a small boat painted light blue, the crew dressed in the same colour, and he was enabled to go closer in and examine the bay thoroughly five hundred yards from the fort. The buoys dropped at night and fixed by day showed the exact position the boats had been in. On page 360 of "Napier" the master's exploit is mentioned, with the name of every master who went near Bomarsund, but none of the work of the surveyors is refered to. Captain Sulivan again went close in another night Commander Otter and Lieutenant Ward of Alban had landed and examined the line of advance for the troops for some distance the day before the attack, and guided the force on the advance, but no notice of this appeared in the despatches.
Sunday, August 13th, 1854.
I succeeded in doing all I wanted that night, and was close in without being discovered, though the moon shone out brightly. To-day the fire from the French battery opened on the west tower, and with some effect. Before breakfast we had to tow a collier, and then had a quiet day and our regular service. After dinner I went ashore with Key, and soon after we saw a white flag from the tower. I hoped it had surrendered, but it proved a false idea, for they have been firing as hard as ever since. I saw the general and returned with Key. He wanted me much to dine with him, as Hope was with him (three old Paranas); but I told him I preferred a quiet evening on board, and would not go. I had our evening service: one or two extra men and two engineers attended. I hoped to have written more to you to-night, but the admiral has ordered me to complete the soundings inshore to-night, and it is now past nine o'clock, so I shall not have a Sabbath to the end. There is one thing that would remove all hesitation on my part in doing it to-night, and that is that it is dark and gloomy - a fresh breeze, and by far the best night we have had for such work, and therefore the risk of men's lives is less, which makes it a work of necessity. I was in hopes to-day it was really all over with trifling bloodshed, but I fear it is to go on longer.
On Sunday (the 13th) the French got some sixteen-pounders in battery, and worked them all day against the west fort on the hill, while a cloud of chasseurs fired rifles at the casemates to prevent the enemy loading. In the night all was quiet; but the tower was so shaken by the shot, that is the outer stones, and the swarms of rifle-shot had killed and wounded so many through the casemates, that this morning they did not fire a shot in return, and some chasseurs, running up, found the soldiers would not stand any longer, but gave up their arms. The commandant refused to surrender, and made a pass with his sword at a chasseur, who bayoneted him: he is only wounded, and is in the French hospital-ship with his wife, who was sent off to him. (This gallant Russian officer afterwards died of his wounds. Later note written by Sir B.J.S.)
"Napier", p. 369, gives an account of the firing of the land batteries. Sulivan remarks in marginal notes: "The French general ordered our battery not to be prepared, saying theirs would not be ready, and then pushed on his own battery, and opened fire the morning of the 13th, hoping to prevent our having any share in the success. They had heavy siege-guns, sixteen-pounders, or about seventeen and a half English, and nearly the same charge of powder as our thirty-twos. If they had fired as well as our men, they ought to have breached Fort Tzee (the western fort). But the effect on the front of the fort was that it was only slightly honeycombed; no stone was displaced, as they had not put their shot into one place, but spread them over nearly the face of the tower. The fort was really taken by their riflemen, who killed so many of the enemy through the embrasures. From the delay caused by the French general's strategy, Captain Ramsay's battery was not built in time to join in the attack on Fort Tzee; so later (15th) he turned his guns (only forty-two cwts.) against Fort Nottich, nine hundred and fifteen yards, at double the distance the French had fired at, and so good was the practice made that the fort was breached."
Tuesday, 15th. - Only time to give a short outline of an eventful day. I had to go at daybreak to put buoys down, and on returning at eight I found that the English battery had opened against the north tower, and a French mortar battery at the big fort, and a ten-inch gun, under Captain Pelham, mounted on shore in the old mud battery also. I forgot to say that the night before last I was sounding in before the battery when a panic seemed to seize them, and all the forts fired guns and muskets in all directions. It was a beautiful sight! I knew they did not see us, and it was safer for us. The burning fuses of the shells showed the red tracks passing high and beyond us, and a good many were fired at the battery which Pelham was preparing for the ten-inch gun. I went to it on my way back, and saw them hard at work at a new parapet, all done by sailors, but beautiful work. I returned on board at two, and was up again at six. To-day I got leave from the admiral to go on shore on my return; and with Evans, the chaplain of flag-ship, two marine officers, and my coxswain, we went to the scene of action. I wanted particularly to see the rear of the large fort, and what effect our ships' fire - for several were shelling with heavy guns at long range - had on the fort. The west tower had been set on fire by the French, and the flames were coming through every casemate; but I did not know there was powder in it. After trying with Freshwater (my coxswain), the others having left us, to look over Telegraph Hill (the rifle-balls were sounding over our heads too much to go there), I found a fine stone about twenty yards from the burning tower, over which I could look and see everything, with my cloak rolled up to put before my head to peep over. I had just seen several French officers and men near the tower, which made me think it safe, when in a moment there was a loud rumbling shock, and I saw the tower in the air in a dark mass, that looked as if it would overwhelm us. It was an awful moment! But I was given presence of mind to see that it was useless to run, as the masses of stone were flying beyond our position: they were then in the air, and as I looked up I saw them coming down in every direction. My eye caught one large one falling near me, and then a rather clear space with only splinters, two or three yards wide apparently. I had no cap on. I saw the thing was to avoid the big pieces, and try to keep on this open space, not minding the little stones. I moved one step on one side clear of the largest stone, and in another moment found myself unhurt, and saw Freshwater rolling down the rocks. I thought he was killed, but he got up almost unhurt: he had a slight blow on the shoulder. Now the special providence that preserved us was in this way: On all sides but one the fort went outwards, as well as into the air, and the mass was carried farther than our distance, enough to bury any number of men. On our side alone the outer wall stood for about one-sixth the circumference of the tower, and that saved us from instant death; while the stones were prevented on that side flying out, and went right up into the air. Directly the stones had fallen I ran, fearing another explosion, and about fifty yards farther off met a French midshipman leaning against a rock, looking up as pale as death. I found he had been struck in the leg, and his trousers were torn; but it was not much, and he soon walked pretty well. Evans and the others were about four hundred yards off, and the French soldiers were asking where the English captain was, as they had seen us go up. I then found a snug nook between two rocks, occupied by a chasseur, who had two sand-bags placed, and who fired at the casemates in the rear of the fort, where guns were firing in different directions, one right over our spot; but it was as safe as possible, as we had only to sit down when the gun flashed, and everything, either shot or grape, whistled over us. I had a capital view of the rear and interior of the fort, and of the destruction going on from the shells of those fired from the ships: one-third only went in, the others falling short; but the destruction was very great. I then went to the English breaching battery firing at the north tower to see the effect of the fire. There were two guns firing at the battery from that tower and two from Presto Fort, so I watched the effect from a position a hundred yards from the fort, so that all the shot went well clear of me, and, watching, when all had fired, I ran up under the safe sand-bag battery of the fort, where directly the enemy's guns flashed every one ran behind the parapet. I found Creyke in the battery: all the three guns had been struck, but all the day only one man was killed, one severely wounded, and several slightly touched. Old Ramsay, captain of Hague, was commanding, and in great glee at seeing the wall go down by wholesale under his guns; but for want of rifles like the chasseurs to fire at the casemates, the enemy were loading and firing their guns through their ruined masonry. The one unfortunately killed is an engineer officer - the Hon. Mr. Wrottesley - who lost a brother last year in the Kaffir war. Having seen all I wanted there, I returned to my safe position near, and there watched while Ramsay's shot broke through the wall and opened the interior of the fort. The battery was entirely worked by seamen. Cudlip and our party had their turn at it to-day.
Fort Tzee at Bomarsund, which blew up while Captain Sulivan was behind the stone in the foreground.
(After a sketch by Brierley)
On my way back I paid another visit to my friend the chasseur, and had a good look at the big fort and the firing. The gun sent several shots over us, and I watched with my glass when the men showed to load it for the chasseur to fire. You may fancy what my feelings were and are at looking at the ruins of the fort that blew up. I shall not easily forget that moment.
I came off afterwards, giving the chief the first report of the tower being opened by our shot. I had to dine with the French admiral - the admirals, flag-captain, and myself being invited for Napoleon's fete day. I am now writing in a great hurry at 10 p.m., Admiral Seymour lying asleep alongside me, ready to go with me at 2.30 a.m. to tow the boats through Presto Channel, to pass over eleven hundred English and French marines to occupy Presto Island. I believe all the ships are to assist in firing at the fort to-morrow morning. I am happy to say the north tower has shown a white flag to-night, and our marines are in it; so Ramsay has done his work well.
[Private] August 15th. - I am sure you will agree with me that my preservation to-day, amid the falling ruins of the exploding fort, calls for special remembrance from us. How true 'God protects where thickest dangers come!' One piece of wall standing was the means of saving us. I will try to get a sketch of it, to keep in remembrance of such a mercy. I hardly knew how to feel to-day at the compliments paid me at dinner with the French admiral. Many were in French from one to the other. I find the French admiral has specially requested that the Legion of Honour may be sent to me. Do not mention this. The chief says it is no use any one else going to the French admiral or officers about moving the ships, etc., but Captain Sulivan, but they will do anything he wishes. The old man seems rather proud of it, and not at all to think it strange. He said to-day he believed they were jealous of everything English, except Captain Sulivan, and that they seemed not to have the slightest jealousy of him. It would give you pleasure to hear the way all brother-officers speak of the credit due to me. There seems no jealousy of my position, but real friendly desire on all sides to see me rewarded.
Wednesday, 16th, 6 a.m. - We went through the Presto Channel at 3 a.m. with boats in tow: they never fired at us. We then passed over eleven hundred men and four guns, and anchored with two small vessels to cover the landing, if opposed. On our way back the fort fired several shots at us, but none struck us. Some of our steamers are in position for shelling at two thousand four hundred yards, but no move is made. French mortar battery and our ten-inch gun battery are throwing shell steadily into the fort. I think to-day may decide it; but if they hold out to the very last, as some forts have done in olden times, they may stand two or three days' shelling yet.
Saturday, August 19th, 1854.
The telegraph will, ere this, have told you of Bomarsund having fallen. Shortly after I had closed my last letters on Wednesday morning, I went on board the flag-ship and asked Admiral Chads if he did not think that our breaching battery might be turned on Presto Tower, as it was only fourteen hundred yards off, and at that distance, and from our being high above it, I thought we might do it much injury, if not silence it. He agreed with me, and spoke to the chief about it, and gave me a note to take to General Jones, asking him to try it. He also gave me a note to the French general-in-chief. All this time a steady fire of shell was kept up both ashore and afloat, and apparently with some effect, as the roof was fast being destroyed. When I reached the French general, I found I had to settle with him the signals for the next day, as it was determined to send in ships to batter the front, while the French breaching battery made a breach in the rear, and when that was done another signal was to be made for our ships to cease firing, and then our storming parties were to advance and carry it by assault. Having settled the signals and left the general, I had a walk of nearly a mile to General Jones' camp. On my way you may suppose I thought much of the horrors of the following day, and most earnestly did I pray that the Almighty would so guide those on whom it depended as to prevent the necessity of its taking place. I had been about half an hour with General Jones, and we were just discussing our right to have a portion of the storming column formed from our marines, when a lieutenant galloped in saying the fort had surrendered unconditionally. We hurried off for it as fast as we could, but before we reached it I met Ramsay, who said, 'The admiral wants you.' And on my joining him outside the fort, I found it was to order me instantly to Led Sound, to direct Commander [Commodore] Grey to prepare his ships to take home two thousand Russian prisoners, so I lost the sight of the surrender and the troops laying down their arms. I think he might have thought of that, after my having so much to do with it! However, all other feelings are sunk in those of gratitude that with so slight a loss the place has fallen in the very way I said from the first it should be attacked, though I little thought it would fall so easily. The fact is, the towers falling made the fort untenable, and knowing the breaching battery would be ready that night, and that there are weak walls in the rear of the fort that would not stand an hour, the governor very properly surrendered before extreme measures were used. My report that the fort was protected against shelling by its bomb-proof roof, on which four feet of sand had been added, has been proved correct to the very letter. Not one shell out of the immense number thrown has gone through, so that the interior, both in casemates and officers' quarters, is perfectly uninjured. The best way was to take the towers, and then the fort must fall. The whole loss in the fort does not exceed seven killed and about twenty wounded. Nearly the same number were killed and wounded in the north fort that our batteries breached. It is an extraordinary sight to see the interior of that fort in the casemates immediately exposed to our shot - guns dismounted or disabled, and the whole wall for about twenty feet beaten in. It is extraordinary that three guns should have done so much work so well. The Russian commandant of that fort, when taken through our battery, asked where the other guns were, as he would not believe it had all been done by three guns, and latterly by two, as one was disabled. I fear people at home are too apt to measure the credit due by the number of killed and wounded, and so will think lightly of our work. They may well be astonished at the providence which preserved all but one through the dangers of a whole day; and if they will consider that the men in that battery did their work coolly and quickly, under a fire in return which struck every gun and disabled one, and which, besides all the shot and shell that came in through the embrasures or passed through parts of the parapet, lodged thirty-eight large shot in the parapet among the sand-bags, where they have been found in taking the bags away, I think they will be satisfied that our men deserve double credit for doing it all so carefully and with so slight a loss.
I have carefully examined the scene of my wonderful preservation from death by the fort blowing up. I was farther off than I thought, being forty-seven yards off, but in every other direction the ground is covered with the ruins above a hundred and fifty yards from it, and the heavy stones in the face of the building have been driven above two hundred yards, tearing up the ground like shot. At forty-seven yards the ruins are from ten to twenty feet deep, so that, had I been on any other spot, or had the wall on my side been blown out like the rest, we should have been buried deeply under the ruins. The shower of falling materials on my side was composed principally of bricks from the interior. They fell chiefly about twenty yards outside me, so that, had I run, I could hardly have escaped. Mr. Brierley, the artist, has made a sketch for me of the ruins, showing the standing wall, and the stones where I stood, with the masses of ruins right and left to treble the distance. It will remind me, should I ever for a moment forget it, of the merciful Providence that watched over me at that moment and throughout my life. Whilst watching the falling fragments, rifle-balls were singing past me. While behind my stone, with my cloak rolled up on it, I was well protected; but as I got up and ran a yard or two till I stood still, they saw me to my feet from the fort, and of course popped away at me. You may perhaps think I had no business there at all, and certainly I was not sent on duty, but there were reasons why I ought to look at what was going on, and particularly to get a good sight of the rear of the fort, and watch the effect of our shelling, otherwise I could not give the admiral advice on many questions he was likely to put to me, so that it was my duty to obtain all the information and knowledge I could of the place. I was to the admiral in the position of an engineer officer, and might at any moment have had to give an opinion on the use of shelling, battering, or assaulting. I have received many congratulations from brother-officers on the share I have had in the success. There has been much ill-feeling and jealousy ahput the way it has been managed - some ships excluded from all share, etc., etc.; but several in speaking of that have said, 'There is no doubt about your share in it, and the position you ought to hold, whatever credit others may get.' Admiral Chads told me yesterday that every one had felt how well my share of the work had been done, and that the chief felt it strongly, and had given me credit for it in his letters. I do not anticipate more than very faint expressions on the subject from him, as he is, I think, one who will write short despatches, with no more mention of individuals than he can help. The French will, I think, make a much grander story of the whole affair.
I do not think anything more will be attempted this year. It is too late for Sweaborg, even if we had force enough to attack, which we have not. I believe I am going there shortly with all the head men to reconnoitre it. Some are beginning to talk already of our moving down the Baltic; but I do not see how we could leave the gulf till the beginning of October, and be out of the Baltic about the end of that month. The weather is very warm yet; in fact, it is the middle of summer, so that I cannot fancy the winter drawing near. The cholera still lingers in some ships. It commenced severely in Hannibal directly she arrived, and with nearly two thousand men on board it was no wonder. She has now a hundred and fifty sick out of six hundred, and has, I think, lost about twelve; and now that Russian prisoners are going home in her, I fear she will not get better, especially as the cholera is in England also. I am most thankful to say that we have not had a sick man for some time. Cudlip will, I suppose, be promoted for this, as he is the senior lieutenant either afloat or on shore. Our gunner was the only one in the land party, and worked the powder of the battery all the time. He was close to the poor young engineer officer when he was killed. They had been on guard together the night before, and he told the gunner of his brother having been killed in the Kaffir war last year. One marine lost his leg from a shell bursting when in the act of putting a sand-bag on his back, which our gunner had lifted up for him. No one else was struck by the fragments of the shell. Captain Ramsay spoke very highly to me of the conduct of our ten men, as many from other ships behaved so ill they had to be sent off after giving much trouble. There was much corn brandy to be got from the cottages, and that caused it all.
Since then I have been rather completing my former survey. I have been lying close under the walls in the channel, which I find more dangerous and intricate than I supposed, and it quite settles the question as to whether we were right in not taking the ships in. I thought so when I supposed three might go in, but now I find there is only space for one, and then the channel is so narrow that Lightning could not swing in it with only twelve fathoms of cable out, and I had to move her out. What chance would there have been of bringing up a large ship in such a place under a heavy raking fire? Yet I expect still to hear that there are men who pretend to think ships could have gone in. They are parties interested in getting up a feeling against the old admiral. A man yesterday introduced himself to me as a brother of ------ (using two officers' names). I thought him only a travelling gentleman, but he put such questions to me that I declined answering him. In fact, he tried to pump out of me opinions (which I do not hold) that would convey a censure on the chief, whom he evidently wanted to find complaints against. I was obliged to be rude to him to get rid of him, but before he went over the side he avowed himself the correspondent of the Morning Herald. Then I gave him my opinion on the subject of newspapers and their correspondents, and the falsehoods they publish, and the system of puffing some parties that was springing up, in a way that will get me anything but favourably mentioned, particularly as I bowed him over the side in anything but a civil way afterwards. There are parties in the fleet in league with these reporters for the sake of getting themselves puffed. We are all amused at seeing that even here, according to the newspapers, we had nothing to do with getting the ships up, the only mention of Lightning's name being that 'the masters of the fleet had surveyed the channel in Lightning, and found it fit for the largest ships.' They forgot that a preceding paragraph mentioned the large ships as having gone up, though it did not mention who took them up - the truth being that, after I had found the channels and taken up the large ships, the admiral directed me to take the master of the fleet and all the masters in Lightning to show them the channels, that they might be able to help taking other ships up; and this is called their 'surveying the channel in Lightning'.
I remember my father saying that the French general was anxious to lay regular siege to the big fort with trench work, after the destruction of the two towers, etc.; but my father pointed out it could be taken by simply placing two guns on Telegraph Hill to the rear of the fort, looking down into the interior and the rear windows of the casemates, with only a brick wall to resist the shot. This would gain our end with little loss on our side, perhaps with not enough to gain a marshal's baton! Napier was much perplexed, hesitating between the two ideas, when my father said to him, "If you adopt the plan entailing greater loss, when you can effect your object with hardly any, on you will rest the responsibility of the death of every man that falls unnecessarily." By the time the French general had laid his breaching batteries against the great fort, the governor, seeing he was checkmated, surrendered.
After the peace, when my father was talking with General Count Ignatieff in London, the former said that, although the Russians blamed the governor for surrendering so soon, he himself thought the governor had shown great moral courage. He risked his own reputation to save the lives of his defenceless soldiers. A weaker man would have held out unfil many had been killed, for the sake of his own credit. The only point on which he might be censured was in not doing more to hinder our going up the narrow channels.
As to the new batteries which "Napier" (p. 395) says would have rendered Bomarsund unassailable, if completed, my father's note says:-
It would have fallen just as easily by a land attack, as only one more tower was to have been added on the high ground, and the same battery that breached Fort Nottich would also have breached that. The new forts would then have been useless. If they had held much larger bodies of troops, a larger attacking force would have been necessary, but success would have been as certain. The forts at Bomarsund would have been trebled in strength by the new works, but they would have added very little to the land defences.
Referring to Napier's proposal (p. 404) to attack Abo, after the fall of Bomarsund, with the French troops, and the objection of General D'Hilliers to do so, a note says:-
The French general was quite right. There was no object worth the risk. The French troops had lost one-eighth of their strength by cholera, and the men were affected by it in health and spirits. At Abo they must have landed in a wooded country and in the face of a force of at least equal strength, and our vessels could not have covered the landing on the mainland. I believe they would have failed. General Jones quite agreed with the French general.
The military chest taken at Bomarsund contained only paper roubles. Sulivan suggested to the admiral that our Government might utilise them by handing them to Russia as part of our payment for the Dutch loan, and so save the value of them. As it was decided that we had to pay on that loan, though at war, it would, he thought, have been fair to pay them with their own paper.
I extract the following from Captain Sulivan's evidence before the Royal Commission on Naval Promotions, 1863:-
There was a case in which a commander (Preedy) and gunnery lieutenant (Somerset), who fought a breaching battery in a very gallant affair, as far as a few were concerned, and who were specially recommended by the admiral in the body of his despatch, were passed over in the selection for promotion, and other officers, who only dragged the guns on shore, and handed them over to these to fight, were promoted, although I do not think that those officers were selected by interest. Yet it is true that the two officers, the commander and lieutenant, who fought the guns and astonished the French by the accuracy of their fire, breaching a large granite fort in eight hours - those two officers, in spite of the recommendations of the admiral, having been passed over in the Board promotions, never got a step for their gallant conduct until they got it by another action in the next year; and if they had not then got it, they might have been left unpromoted for years. The commander, although a young commander, was known to be one of the best officers in the service. That was such a striking case, that, when speaking upon the subject to the First Lord of the Admiralty, I could not help pointing out the case to him, and his answer to me was that this officer was a young commander. But he was about forty years of age; he had been serving long as first lieutenant and mate; and there were much younger men in point of age promoted, who had not played such a distinguished part as he had. Had those two officers, with two others who were promoted, been alone promoted for that service, though the officers of the fleet would have said it was rather scanty promotion, no one man could have complained.
The following despatch from Napier, showing how well the officers of both surveying-ships worked, makes some amends for former omissions:-
'Duke of Wellington', Led Sound,
August 27th, 1854.
Having received information that Russian troops and gun-boats were among the islands, I sent Captain Scott with a small squadron to find them out. ... Captain Scott threaded his way through the islands in a most persevering manner, as their lordships will see by the chart I send. His ships were repeatedly on shore, and the Odin no less than nine times, before they discovered the enemy's gun-boats and steamers lying behind a floating boom, supported on each side by batteries and a number of troops covering the town of Abo, where they have collected a large force.
I take this opportunity of bringing under their lordships' notice the very great exertions of the surveying officers, Captain Sulivan, assisted by Mr. Evans, master of the Lightning, and Commander Otter of the Alban, and I have no hesitation in saying that it is owing to their exertions this fleet have found their way, with comparative little damage, into creeks and corners never intended for ships of the line; day and night have they worked, and worked successfully. Commander Otter is an old officer and well worthy of promotion, and Captain Sulivan and his assistant surveyor deserve the protection of their lordships.
The ships sent to Abo were the Odin, Alban, Gorgon, and Driver. The object was a reconnissance only. After going in as far as possible in the Alban, Commander Otter pulled in with his gig, sounding just within range of the batteries, which were all the time keeping up a constant fire. Captain Scott's despatch spoke in high terms of Otter.
The following is the copy of part of a letter written to some newspaper by Admiral Sulivan in recent years. It may not be out of place here:-
I believe I first started the idea of plating [our ?] ships with thick iron, and even in 1855 floating batteries had been built, protected by armour. If our Government had persuaded the French Government to send them to the Baltic instead of the Black Sea, it would almost certainly have resulted in the destruction of Cronstadt. By the year 1859 the French were iron-plating some of their ships. We had several two-decked ships building about the year 1860 that would have been useless if opposed to iron clads, even of inferior force; and feeling anxious on this point - I was then naval officer of the Board of Trade - I wrote either to the Secretary of the Admiralty officially, or to the First Lord's private secretary - I forget which - suggesting that these ships building should be cut down to frigates and iron-plated; and I knew that Admiral Sir R.S. Dundas, then Senior Lord, strongly approved of this being done.
The wooden iron-clads have one great advantage over those built of iron, in case of war, though not perhaps sufficient to compensate for the extra durability of iron ships. I allude to the additional safety in case of getting on shore.
No officer who had the experience of the inshore squadron in the Baltic, if he had to command a squadron on similar service, would, I think, hesitate for a moment in preferring ships with wooden bottoms. Most of the ships and smaller vessels employed inshore among the rocks of Finland were so often on shore that their bottoms were terribly damaged, and in my own small surveying-steamer the bottom was torn in places deep into the timber. In a large paddle-steamer - the Leopard - the flag-ship of an inshore squadron, the whole bottom was so torn to pieces that in dock at Woolwich she was visited as a curiosity. Captain Cooper Key, in a large frigate, saved her on one occasion by forcing her in a gale by a press of sail over an extensive reef, when every blow in the hollow of each sea jerked up the boats on the upper deck. Yet these and other ships much damaged remained out and did their work to the end of the season: had they been iron ships, they would have left their bodies on Finnish rocks. If such work was required again as was done by Plumridge, Yelverton, Watson, Buckle, Hall, Key, and others in the Baltic, without losing a ship, it could not be done by iron bottoms without losing many of them. We had only one iron ship there, a transport, bringing out stores, etc., and taking home invalids. ..." (She, I believe, was the only vessel lost. - Ed.) (Continuation missing.)
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