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AUSTRIA'S LATER MOVE-SIEGE OF SILISTRIA.
righteously. At the end of the year the determination for war had not abated. There was a general demand that a blow should be struck at Russia by direct invasion of the Crimea for the purpose of seizing Sebastopol. This was the course recommended by the Emperor of the French, and Lord Palmerston had by a circular addressed to the cabinet considerably influenced the action of the government. He believed that some heavy blow should be struck at the naval power and territorial dimensions of Russia, and that if that were not done during the year it would become much more difficult, and that the reputation of England and France would materially suffer. It had become evident enough that the whole brunt of conflict would be left to the two nations. Prince Albert, deploring the war in a letter to his stepmother, the Dowager-duchess of Coburg, said, "If there were a Germany and a German sovereign in Berlin it could never have happened." And the opinion was probably shared by the majority of the people of England.
The invasion of the Crimea would have appeared less difficult but for the necessity to support Omar Pacha in raising the siege of Silistria, which had been invested by the Russians. The garrison of that place was suffering from the effects of a prolonged resistance, but the allied forces were not able at that time to transport troops to the scene of action, and Lord Raglan was expecting to hear that the defenders had been compelled to surrender. Palmerston had, as Cobden implied, miscalculated the defensive strength of the Russian fortifications. He thought there were not more than 40,000 of the troops of the czar in the Crimea, and that if 25,000 English and 35,000 French could be landed somewhere in the large bay to the north of Sebastopol, they would be able to take the fort on the hill on the north side of the harbour, and would then command the harbour, fleet, and town. The capture or destruction of the Russian fleet would of course imply the surrender of the Russian troops forming the garrison of the place, or their evacuation of the Crimea by capitulation; but if the attack
were deferred the Russian government would
These were Palmerston's conclusions, but they were not altogether accurate - he had not received an intimation of the latest events. When the czar refused to retire from the principalities, Austria had concluded a convention with the Porte, by which she began to move a large and well-disciplined army into the
principalities for the purpose of restoring there the state of affairs which had existed previous to the Russian invasion. This was followed by two striking and unexpected events. The resistance of the Turks to the continued assaults of the Russian forces had excited a good deal of surprise and admiration. The whole efforts of the Russian generals were now directed against Silistria, and at the very time when its fall was considered to be imminent, and after the Duke of Newcastle here received intelligence that it was about to surrender, there came news that the garrison there had repeatedly repulsed the besiegers. Urgent representations had come from Silistria itself that the place must be taken unless the defending force could be supported by the allied forces, but Lord Raglan had found it impossible for want of the means of land transport to move any of his troops from Varna to the scene of action. As many as 70,000 Russians were engaged under Prince Paskiewitsch in the siege and bombardment of Silistria, and tremendous preparations had been made for taking a place which was in reality the gate through which Turkey was to have been invaded. The chief fortifications of Silistria were earthworks, the principal of which was about 2000 yards in advance of the ramparts, while about midway was another. All the conventional resources of a siege were brought against them, but were ineffectual. As often as the enemy entered they were driven back in spite of mines and a storm of artillery, and the works were repaired almost as soon as they were destroyed. Nothing could overcome the dogged obstinacy of the fighting Turks. Omar Pacha, fully alive to the importance of the position, sent reinforcements to the almost overwhelmed garrison, and on the 4th of June 30,000 men went to the rescue, broke through the Russian lines, and entered the outworks. Four days afterwards 1000 Turkish soldiers stole in at midnight over the corpses of the Russians who had fallen in heaps during the repulse. The end was near, and it was perhaps to be attributed to the presence of two British officers to whom the Turks yielded the command when their own general Mussa Pacha was slain by a cannon-ball, that the
result was so speedily effectual. These officers, Captain Butler and Lieutenant Nasmyth, both belonged to the East India Company's service, and had offered themselves at Silistria as volunteers. Their services were at once accepted as invaluable, and to their abilities no less than to their courage the defenders owed the success of the defence. The Russians had to prepare their own defences against the expected attack of the allied forces from Varna, and they had so to concentrate their troops as to be able to retreat in case of not holding their ground. They therefore determined on a grand assault on the 13th of June, and after a tremendous cannonade and the explosion of mines, the Russian order was given to advance; but the men were suffering from sickness, they were dispirited and unwilling, and the assault was postponed to the following day. When the time came they were twice driven back from the earthworks. In vain their commanders threw themselves in front of the wavering and halting troops. Prince Paskiewitsch was slightly and Prince Gortschakoff seriously wounded, and so were Count Orloff, General Luders, and General Schilders, who had taken Silistria in the war of a quarter of a century before. Nearly all the leaders were struck down, and others had to take the command when, on the 18th, the Russians advanced to the assault towards a gap twelve yards long which had been made in the Turkish parapet. The breach seemed to promise a successful attack, but on reaching it they discovered that a new wall had been constructed behind it, manned by ready troops and bristling with guns. They fell back, and as they retreated the Turks rushed out and repaired the damage on the outer wall amidst a heavy fire of musketry. With all the enormous appliances for a regular siege, and with the loss of 12,000 men either during the assaults or by disease, the Russians had not been able to get beyond even the first earthwork. They were disheartened, and the siege was raised without much further attempt. Lieutenant Nasmyth survived the terrible conflict to receive the rewards of his gallantry, but his fellow-officer Captain Butler died of the exhaustion of endemic fever brought on by his exertions and
LORD LYNDHURST DENOUNCES THE CZAR.
the privations which he in common with the rest of the garrison had to endure.
No one was more surprised than Lord Raglan at the news that the siege of Silistria had been raised, and soon afterwards another reverse was given to the Russian arms by the complete defeat of General Soimonoff at Giurgevo on the 7th of July, after which the whole of the Russian forces precipitately retired beyond the Pruth, their movements having probably been accelerated by the preparations made by Austria, added to the necessity for giving all their resources to the defence of Sebastopol and the prevention of the advance of the allied armies in the Crimea.
The retreat of the Russians from Silistria made the invasion of the Crimea easier, because the Turkish garrison was released, and there was no longer need to send troops from Varna to their assistance. In any case an attack on Sebastopol would have taken place; all England seemed to be crying out for it, and the popular voice was represented in the House of Lords by no less a personage than the aged Lord Lyndhurst, who spoke with much fire and enthusiasm, his words being hailed with repeated cheering.
"Look," he said, "at her whole conduct, and then, if any person can be credulous enough to trust in any statement of Russia, or in any engagement into which she may enter contrary to her own interests, all I can say is, that I admire the extent of his faith. Let me recall to your lordships' recollection what took place at St. Petersburg. . . . Sir H. Seymour heard that Russian troops were being collected on the Russian frontier: he was satisfied with his authority, and he mentioned the circumstance to Count Nesselrode. The count contradicted the statement; he said to Sir H. Seymour: 'Do not believe what you hear, believe only what you see; all that is taking place is only a change in the position of our armies, which is usual at this season of the year. I assure you, you are mistaken.
Is this the system, and are these the persons on whose assurances we are to depend. . . .? "When the interests of millions are at stake, when the liberties of mankind are at issue,
away with confidence. Confidence generally ends in credulity. This is true of statesmen as of individuals. My lords, the history of Russia, from the establishment of the empire. down to the present moment, is a history of fraud, duplicity, trickery, artifice, and violence. The present emperor has proclaimed himself protector of the Greek Church in Turkey, just as the Empress Catherine declared herself protector of the Greek Church in Poland. By means of that protectorate she fomented dissensions and stirred up political strife in the country. She then marched into Poland under the pretence of allaying tumults, and stripped the kingdom of some of its fairest provinces. We know the ultimate result; it is too familiar to require more particular reference.
"Look at another instance of Russian policy of more recent occurrence. Russia agreed to a treaty with Turkey, by which she recognized the independence of the Crimea. Nevertheless she stirred up insurrections in that country, under the old pretence of protecting one party against another, and when the opportunity offered she sent Suwaroff, one of her most barbarous generals, into the Crimea, who murdered the inhabitants and despoiled them of their territory, while a line of Russian ships invested the coast, and cut off all communication with Constantinople. At the very moment when this was being done Russia was not only at peace with Turkey, but was actually negotiating a treaty of commerce with her. .. Russia has doubled her European territories within the last fifty years, and yet she is bent on possessing herself of Khiva. The loss of two armies does not deter her from prosecuting this purpose, although the place cannot be of the slightest value to her, except as affording her the means of annoying us in respect to our Eastern possessions. In this way does Russia go on for ever. Take the most recent instance. While Nicholas was pretending to act the part of protector of Turkey, and trying to cajole the sultan with professions of friendship and esteem, he was at the time planning the partition of his empire. This is the emperor with whom you are now dealing, and on whose statements and representations we are to rely."
"This will depend a good deal on the events of the war. This, however, I unhesitatingly declare, that in no event, except that of extreme necessity, ought we to make peace without previously destroying the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, and laying prostrate the fortifications by which it is defended. 'My lords," said the old orator in conclusion, "I feel strongly on this subject, and I believe that if this barbarous nation, this enemy of all progress except that which tends to strengthen and consolidate its own power, this state which punishes education as a crime, should once succeed in establishing itself in the heart of Europe, it would be the greatest calamity that could befall the human race."
This was strong enough, and it roused Lord Clarendon into the declaration on the part of the government, that all Europe was not to be disturbed, great interests were not to be injured, the people were not to have fresh burdens imposed upon them, great social and commercial relations were not to be abruptly torn asunder, and all the greatest powers of Europe were not to be united in arms for an insignificant result.
The effect of these declarations was somewhat damaged by what followed. Lord Derby rose and delivered a violent harangue, which was little more than a repetition of the emphatic protest of Lord Lyndhurst, and the Earl of Aberdeen then thought fit to reply in terms so mild and reluctant, that they increased the suspicion that he was coldly prosecuting a war, which, as it was now unavoidable, must be prompt and effective. So quick were the indignant remonstrances at his supposed desire to defer hostile operations, that he had to defend himself by references to his expressed opinions at the time of the treaty of Adrianople. There were still so many men who held moderate views, and who deplored the war, that the prime minister was able for a time to convince the house that he had acted throughout only with a desire to avoid war as long as possible, and with no intention of abating the demands or the just claims of the nation against Russia.
The bitter attacks on his personal sincerity (for he was accused of acting under a sentiment of friendship for the czar) or his honest patriotism he would not stoop to reply to. Of his attitude with respect to the war he said:
"It is true, my lords, that I have, perhaps more than any other man in this country, struggled to maintain a state of peace. I have done so because I thought it a duty to the people of this country, a duty to God and man, first to exhaust every possible measure to obtain peace before we engaged in war. I may own, though I trust my conscience acquits me of not having done the utmost, that I only regret not having done enough, or lest I may have lost some possible means of averting what I consider the greatest calamity that can befall a country. It has been said that my desire for peace unfits me to make war; but how and why do I wish to make war? I wish to make war in order to obtain peace, and no weapon that can be used in war can make the war so sure and speedy, to attain peace, as to make that war with the utmost vigour and determination."
A plan for the attack of Sebastopol had been sketched by the Emperor of the French, and received by the Duke of Newcastle, who stated that it met with his approval as well as that of Lord Raglan, Lord de Ros, and Lord Clarendon. It could not be carried out in the early part of the campaign, while Constantinople had to be protected by the whole force, but now it became more feasible, and at a cabinet council at Lord John Russell's house at Richmond it was determined to adopt a draft of instructious, urging a prompt attack upon Sebastopol and the Russian fleet. It was understood that the final decision was to be left to Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud after they had consulted with Omar Pacha; but, perhaps with the peculiar indefinite blundering which characterized so many of the immediately practical details in relation to the war, this decision does not seem to have been very clearly expressed. The document may have been drawn with anxious care and attention, but if we are to believe Mr. King