Added by Marjie Bloy, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore. Christopher Hibbert, who used parts of these letters in his Destruction of Lord Raglan acknowledges Richard Dyer-Bennet, Snr. Cynthia Dyer-Bennet, his granddaughter, has graciously granted permission to include the correspondence in the Victorian Web, and according to her, her grandfather typed the transcriptions in 1961.
My dearest Carry,
Many thanks for your long letter, which I received by last mail, but having written to Aunt or my Mother by the last steamer I am afraid I shall not have much to tell you. In the first place I doubt much if you will be able to make out this scrawl, it being my day off duty for the first time in 8 days. I have remained in bed this morning to write my letters, and nurse a bad cold, besides bed is by far the best place, as by the help of blankets, coats etc., etc., etc., I manage to make myself tolerably warm, excepting my hands, which are so cold I can scarcely hold my pen. The ink with which I write this, was quite frozen, but by dint of my warm blankets and putting the bottle into my mouth, I have managed to thaw it, something like an old hen hatching her eggs, you will say.
It has been very cold here for the last three weeks, last week in particular the wind in addition to the frost and snow, contrived to make us pretty active to keep the circulation up by running up and down, or cowering over a few roots, which we have to go for, some distance, and which is the only fuel we have, except a bag of charcoal now and then which we get from Balaklava, but since we have lost four Officers from its fumes, and several others have had very narrow escapes, we are rather afraid of using is, except in the open air. We are still under canvas, and as far as I can see are likely to remain so. A few huts have it is true arrived at Balaklava, but we have no means of getting them, nor do the Authorities take any means of doing so.
I see in a leading article of the Times of the 23rd of last month (which is an excellent one), that you are at home beginning to find out the true state of things here. It would make the people of England's blood boil, to see one half the miseries the finest Army she ever sent out, have been made, and still are being made to suffer, the horrible waste, mismanagement, and culpable neglect of the public and private stores sent out for us, so generously by the public. The Army are most thankful for them, that is for the intention, but as to the things themselves, they never get them. They are either left on board the transports to rot, or carried into some of the deserted houses at Balaklava, which that most infernal Commissariat have converted into what they call stores, there they are piled in heaps, in an undesirable state of confusion, and when anything is applied for, you find Mr. Commissary Jones, Smith or Robinson smoking a cigar (which most likely has been sent out for the Army, but which he has bagged), who tells you that really he is very sorry, he believes that the article is somewhere in one of the stores, but where he has not the slightest idea, and at present he has no time to look for it. The consequence is, the poor devil is obliged to go to the next Sutler's shop, and pay 200%, for an article, which if the affairs were carried on as they ought to be would have been received from the Government, or our Country for nothing, or at the worst, what they cost in England. If he does not do this, he must starve from hunger or cold, as the case may be. Now this is - I give you my honour - the true state of things.
Another grievance which is complained of deeply here is that cursed Staff, which is worth nothing, and does nothing, except get all the credit, and all the promotion, which is deserved actually by the Regimental Officers, and soldiers. Not content with that, having nothing to do, are well looked after etc., etc., what do you think is the last thing they have done? I will tell you. You know the people at home have raised a fund called the Crimean Army Fund, for sending out the Troops necessaries at cost price, so that we may not be robbed any more by the Sharks at Balaklava. They also send out large quantities of things as donations, or presents, well the other day a shipload of things arrived and will you believe it, the Staff bagged the whole of it, and the Army with the exception of one regiment, which managed to get one or two things, got nothing.
Lord Raglan does not care the least about us. He has a capital house, stabling for his horses, good coal fires, capital grub, and his things washed and starched just as if he was in England, and there he remains, scarcely ever seen except once a week or so, when he takes a ride through the Army, when it is a fine day, but he does not see any of the miseries. He does not see the hundreds of sick in hospital with only a thin tent, and one blanket to cover them. He does not see men carried out of the trenches these cold nights frozen to death, one poor fellow (an Officer of the 23rd) lost both his legs, a night or two ago. They are carried out ten at a time, in fact he sees nothing, he ought to see. Another thing which causes great dissatisfaction is the Mail. Lord Raglan has a bag of his own, which is sent to him, directly the Mail arrives. The other bags are kept sometimes four or five days, before they are distributed, and the consequence is, that one is not able to answer one's friends letters for weeks after they are written, for instance there is a mail in now, and has been at head quarters for three days, and the mail goes out this evening. Now although I expect to get a letter from some of you by it, yet I shall not be able most likely to answer anything you might want to know, no matter how important, because I may have just sent my letter away before yours come. No one would grumble if this was unavoidable, but it is known to be nothing more than sheer neglect. I tell you all this, because you will see it all stated, re-stated, contradicted and twisted, and turned about in the papers shortly, but mark what I say, the Army is getting much dissatisfied and they feel that they are not supported by the imbecile Government at home, and they also see, that the boast, (which they laughed at three months ago), of the Emperor Nicholas is likely to come true at last, it was this, he said he would give a three decker to the remains of the English Army to go home in, in the Spring.
And now I will tell you another fact which you may proclaim anywhere, and give me as your authority, that the English Army in the Crimea this day the 12th of January, does not amount to more than 14,700 bayonets, the same number that we had when we fought the Battle of Inkerman on the 5th of November. You will say what has become of the regiments amounting to 6,000 to 8,000 in seasoning, the other half, just fill up the vacancies of the old Regiments and casualties. We have also just heard of the Foreigners Bill, and a more blackguard transaction never came out. I would not advise them to send any of their two shilling murderers here, the men would kick them out of the Camp. We fight for our Country, and the honour and glory of it, and after all our exertions do not wish to be associated with hired cut-throats at a shilling per day, besides do you think these men are to be depended upon, or do you think they would stand up against any odds like Englishmen did at Inkerman? No, and what is more, they would not cut throats at 1/- per day, but if the Russian offered them 2/-, how many should we have in our Camp in a week, besides the information they would be able to give the enemy of our plans, and situation etc., — And now having blown off a little of my steam and indignation, I will return to your letter and see if there is anything to answer.
Tell Mama, and Aunt, I will have them hung, one on each side of the drawing room chimney piece, if they do not send the cigar lights, they will be quite safe if wrapped up in a piece of old linen. Tell Henry Knowlys to get me 5/- worth of Vesuvius Matches for cigars, and to send them to you to forward, and you can give him the coin.
I am very anxious about my steps now, as I am either head of the list, or promoted, and I want to know where I fall to. On looking at your letter I see something about the Railroad. It is a perfect farce altogether, it would take an awful sum to make it, and the place would be taken, or the attack fail long before it is finished. The men will be useful for other things perhaps. I was the Officer who went with the two guns at Alma. Mind I win half the bets you made about it, so give us half.
My Chum's name is Maxwell, and you will not believe it, but he beats me hollow at the trencher, eats fat pork by the yard, and is celebrated in the Times, and this camp by the name of the apathetic one. I call him the Fat boy in Pickwick. He is mentioned by the correspondent of the Times for his coolness.
I have not yet received the second parcel you speak of, but it has hardly had time enough to perform the journey. I cannot tell you how much Maxwell and myself enjoyed the other two. The gingerbread nuts are much admired, and Finnis's box is first rate, the tongues are capital. We are very careful of the contents, and make it last as long as we can. Poor Maxwell has just heard of the death of his father at Bologne very suddenly of fever, so he is rather down about it.
What an old idiot Mrs. Parker must have become to get married at her time of life, with one leg in the grave, which is the only consolation for her husband, as she will have only one left to kick with. Miss Isabella has by this time I hope received my letter, I thought I wrote to her before you. I also wrote a long and very fine letter to Fanny Knowlys, which I hope she has received. I should have much liked to have come home for the Winter months, and gone back again here in the Spring, for the campaign, as I begin to find the little tenup of a hill we are encamped on, very monotonous. We have not moved for nearly three months. All our horses are nearly dead, having sixty left out of 198.
I am afraid you will hardly be able to make out this scrawl, but you must remember that it is written under difficulties. The Sergeant Major has just come in to say there are not any letters for me, and only two papers, viz., Felix Farley and Morning Chronicle of the 11th. I cannot make this out as by the last Mail, I received the Morning Chronicle of the 13th and 14th from you, and now by a later Mail comes the 11th. I am afraid I have lost a letter by this, as you say in yours, that Selenah and Eliza talk of writing by the next mail. Let me know when next any of you write, if any one wrote by the mail by which the Felix Farley came. I shall then know if one is lost.
I have nothing more to tell you at present, and I have two more letters to write yet, so good bye, with best love to all at home, hoping to hear from some of you seen. Believe me dear Carry,
Ever your most affectionate brother
P.S. I wish you a happy new year. Does it ever strike you how frightfully old
you and I are getting?
Last modified 23 April 2002