Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Wakefield Man in the Crimea

Letter from Private John Burgoyne, 23rd Regiment (Royal Welch Fusiliers), to his father who was ‘well known’ in the town.[1]
Inkerman, December 7th[1854]
My Dear Father,
After a Long delay I take up my pen. I will tell you all that has happened since I left England. After we landed in Turkey, we soon commenced our marching. We first went to Bulgaria, and there in the place we lost most of our brave men by sickness, but thank God I enjoyed very good health. After a long and painful stay we got on route to Russia when our men gave three hearty cheers. We landed in Russia (the Crimea), on the 18th Sept. quite safe.  One the 19th our Regiment marched in front of the army with Sir George Brown at our head. At 12 o’clock we met the enemy but our appearance put them to flight, and they were pursued by our artillery, which gave them what they did not like. We lay there that night, and next morning we commenced our march. Sorry I am to say it was the last march for many a poor fellow. At 12 o’clock we halted, and got orders to prepare for the enemy; General Saint Arnand [sic, Marshal Saint Arnaud[2]] came with the news. We all rose and gave three cheers. At half-past one we met our foe mounted on the heights miles above our heads, their cannons pouring upon us, but we advanced coolly with General Brown[3] at our head. He said – “Now Royal Welsh, let them see what you can do!” We gained the day. Our army lost 1400 men. The poor 23rd suffered the most. We lost 210 killed and wounded. We buried the dead, and in a few days commenced our march again. We took a fort and 200 prisoners. At last we came in front of Sebastopol. It is a most beautiful place. We are hammering at it every day, but have not yet commenced work properly. On the 5th of November the Russians sallied out with 40,000 men. There was only about 200 of our regiment and about as many more of the 7th Regiment[4]. They came on the high hills, and we were in a ravine. We kept them in play for three hours, until the French came up to our assistance, when we made a complete massacre of them. We took 400 prisoners, and the French took 9000. We lost very few men, and 1 officer and 12 men made prisoners. If they would only let us go at them we would finish matters very soon. There have been several of the Russians have given themselves up to us, and they say that they are very badly off for provisions in Sebastopol. We are having winter clothing served out to us. It rains very much here. We have to engage every second night. We cannot tell the moment that we shall have to make a rush, but the Royal Welsh will do their duty, you may depend upon it.

[1] ‘Letters from the Crimea to Wakefield’, Wakefield Journal & Examiner (29 December 1854).
[2] Marshal Armand Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud (1801 -1854) Commander-in-Chief of the French army in the Crimea; he died on 29 September 1854 shortly after the battle of the Alma and had previously relinquished command to General Francois Certain Canrobert (1809-1895).
[3] General Sir George Brown (1790-1865), commander of the Light Division (First Brigade (General Codrington) 33rd, 23rd and 7th Regiments; Second Brigade (General Buller) 77th, 88th and 19th Regiments). He was disliked for being a stickler for regulations, making his men wear the hated leather stock and whiten their cross belts even when in the trenches.
[4] 7th or ‘Royal Fusiliers’ part of the Light Division under General Sir George Brown; the 7th were commanded by Colonel Lacy Yea (1808-1855) who was killed in the Crimea.

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