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From Historical Hastings
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MAY 2, 1855. 3rd Edition


At the time we write, there is nothing to indicate an immediate conclusion of the mighty struggle in which the great powers are now engaged. The Russian defences at Sebastopol, planned by an Englishman, have hitherto resisted the efforts and ingenuity of the Allies to demolish them. Never, in the history of sieges, was there such a terrific attempt at destruction, and never, perhaps, so general a feeling of disappointment at the result. There can be no doubt that, in such a tremendous onslaught, considerable damage has been inflicted both on the fortifications and the town itself, but such is the pertinacity with which our antagonists defend their positions, such their boldness in throwing up new and formidable works, 80 continually harassing their nocturnal sorties, so novel their movements, so secret their plans, so numerous their garrison, 80 great their determination--at whatever sacrifice - to render useless that noble fleet, on whore achievements, by anticipation, we had placed so much reliance - so deep their fanaticism and so strong their faith in ultimate success, that, the allied generals, unabled to subdue the resistance, have, temporarily or otherwise suspended the bombardment.


An attempt has been made to assassinate the Emperor. of the French. A rupture between England & Persia is imminent The Russian peasants have risen in insurrection. The French fired 3 mines on the 18th, with partial success. The Russians fearing an assault, opened a tremendous cannonade on all the line. The French lost 6 officers & 300 men, & the Russians an enormous number. General Bizot was buried on the 16th. A man of war fires a broadside into Sebastopol every night. The Russians receive provisions, daily, and construct immense works to the north and east The English sailors have lost 116 in Killed and wounded. Two Russian ships were burnt on the 16th. There are 100,000 Russians in and about Sebastopol, besides 60,000 that have arrived from Simerophol. The English have taken by assault the ambuscades under the Mamelon, in front of the Malakhof tower. The Russians have abandoned the batteries of Careening bay.


On Friday night Lord Panmure received the following: telegraphic despatch from Lord Raglan:--“‘A sharp engagement took place on the night of the 1st of May. The whole of the Russian rifle-pits were taken, eight light mortars, and 200 prisoners. The whole affair was brilliant for the Allies.”

The Daily News publishes a later despatch, which is as follows:--“On the night of May 2nd, the French having taken up a position before the Quarintine Bastion, advanced briskly upon Bastion No. 4, attacked the Russian advanced works, and carried them at the point of the bayonet. In this attack the French took 12 mortars from the enemy.

The Engineers immediately occupied the ground, and began to carry on a flying sap. At daybreak, they had established themselves in the conquered works. Last night, (Thursday) the Russians made a general sortie, with the object of retaking their lost ground. After a sanguinary combat, they were driven back into the place. Our losses have been great, but bear no proportion to those of the enemy, nor to the advantages gained This (Friday) morning, the Russians have neither a man nor a gun outside the regular enclosure of the place.”

The summary of the latest news is that, the Allies have gained considerably on the Russian works--that, their advanced parallel is within 26 yards of the place--that, another expedition is rapidly preparing for the Crimea--that, instead of 80,000 additional French troops being called out, it will be 200,000--that, active operations are about to be taken against the Russian army in the field, by the French reserve, the Turks, the Sardinians and the Anglo-Indians.

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After the heroic courage which has been displayed before Sebastopol, and the superhuman exertions that have been made to effect its destruction—the intelligence of its fall—the news that those frowning parapets had crumbled to ruins before the iron storm of the allies, might well form an absorbing topic of interest to the people of such nations as were engaged in the struggle. ‘The joy and welcome with which such news would be received would be proportionably greater, from the excitement and anxiety which has been everywhere apparent.

Either from over estimating our own powers, or depreciating those of the enemy, public anticipation had long ago taken Sebastopol; but certainly the history of former sieges would not warrant us in looking forward to such results, Let us glance at a few of the most important sieges :—

1566- MALTA besieged by the Turks for four months, and then abandoned, after the loss of 30,000 men
1572 - HAARLEM, beseiged by the Spaniards. Commenced December 21, 1572; terminated August, 1573.
1683 - VIENNA, beseiged by the Turks, and after near three months' operations, raised by the attack of Sobieski.

1779 - GIBRALTAR, besieged by the French and Spanish, who after making all the efforts which military genius and courage could effect, for a period of three years, were forced to abandon the enterprise, 1783
1798 - MALTA, besieged by the English, and taken from the French in 1800 - being some days over two years in besieging.

The two latter sieges are those by which that of Sebastopol will alone bear comparison; in the one case, three years’ operations failed to take the place; in the other the British continued to invest the place for two years, and it was then only by dint of a close blockade, and the consequent starvation of the garrison, that the fortress surrendered. Even Wellington, whose sieges were certainly remarkable for expedition, took four months in besieging San Sebastian, a place insignificant enough when compared with the Crimean fortress.

Sufficient has been said to show that places like Gibraltar, Malta, Sebastopol, or Cronstadt, are not to be taken without the consumption of much time, as well as the expense of blood and treasure—if, indeed, they are to be taken with such sacrifices; and if for six months the allies have been before Sebastopol, the time has been long rather from anxiety and anticipation, than the period actually commensurate to the magnitude of the affair itself.

The most valorous efforts have been made to render the Crimean siege successful. Every week we have had fresh proofs of the courage of the besiegers, from whose resolution and endurance nothing but conquest could be augured. Scarcely a night passed but the Russian sortie was repulsed. Issuing from those ramparts and forts in overwhelming numbers, on some point which they had thought too weak to oppose them, their most desperate efforts have failed to occupy any part of the works of the allies. But let us describe one of these sorties, (which the besieged so constantly make,) to convey to the reader some idea of the scene presented. On the night of the 22nd March, the Russians, with a force of fifteen battalions of 1,000 men each, moving in two columns, attacked the lines of the allies. ‘The onset was made with fierce shouts and extreme fury; and General Canrobert states that the enemy were thrice driven back by the 3rd Zouaves. The Russians, however, succeeded at last in forcing a passage on the left parallel, which they turned; they then passed along the parallel till they came to the British right, where it was connected with the French works. Detachments of the 77th and 97th regiments (British) occupied this position, and though taken for the moment both in flank and rear, the gallant fellows of the 97th repulsed the attack at the point of the bayonet, in which service Captain Vicars, who behaved with distinguished bravery, was killed. While this combat was going on upon the right, the enemy also succeeded in penetrating to our second parallel on the left, called the ‘Green Hill attack,” and they likewise reached our mortar battery; but detachments of the 7th Fusiliers and the 34th, which had been at work hard by, having been promptly brought up, these troops advanced with so much steadiness and resolution, that the Russians were ejected, and fairly pitched over the parapet.

Even under the earth itself, the fierce combat has raged. At the head of our page we have illustrated an incident which recently occurred in connection with the siege operations, and the portrayal of which furnishes one of those terrible pictures so commonly occurring


A mine which the French had been for some time busily constructing, in order to blow up some of the Russian fortifications, chanced to be intercepted by a countermine of the besieged, and a fierce combat ensued in this subterraneous passage. By the lurid glare of lanterns the work of death went on; and had it not been for the aid of a detachment of Zouaves—whose courage has shown so conspicuously in the Crimean campaign—the Russians might have held the mine, and that portion of the French works would have fallen into their hands. The brave Zouaves, however, soon forced the enemy to retreat, and leaving their dead and wounded strewed along the passage, the mine, and the position it led to, was abandoned.

From their apparently inexhaustible resources of men and stores of war, the Russians have been enabled to support these fearful losses in defending the batteries and outworks; but let us see how they have suffered


The unmistakeable air of a doomed city is everywhere apparent, for the bombardment and fire of the allies have scattered ruin in every part of the town. The houses and even the public buildings are blown to pieces by the bombs and shells of the besiegers, or fall a prey to the flames which are constantly being kindled by the thousand fiery explosives hurled from the batteries of the allies. A new war rocket used by the French is said to have committed fearful havoc in firing the city, long spires of flame rising in all directions after their employment. Words cannot adequately convey any idea of the picture which Sebastopol must present, or the misery and distress endured by the garrison and inhabitants, whose courage and obstinacy in resisting the besiegers was so little anticipated by the allies.

There is one peculiar feature in this siege which has tended to prolong it—the south side of the town only was invested, the north side being left open and free to communicate with the country facing it. This partial investment was said to be unavoidable, with a besieging army so inferior in numbers as those originally landed in the Crimea. Sir John Jones, in his History of Sieges, enforces, with the following excellent observations, ”the necessity of investing a place on all sides, as, otherwise, a skilful governor may draw numberless resources from the territory open to him, to impede the attack. Sieges have frequently been undertaken without fully investing the place, and even with the side open by which supplies could be most readily received, and the result has been a very protracted or successful resistance. Ostend and Rochelle, in former times, are examples of defences prolonged for years, by means of succours received from the sea; and in the general war, at the beginning of the last century, two very strong instances of the fatal effects of leaving the communications of a besieged town open on one side can be pointed out. First, the siege of Verrua, by the Duc de Vendome, in 1704, which, being invested only on the right of the Po, and having its communication open with the army of the Duke of Savoy on the left bank, resisted till the besiegers had expended all the means they had provided for the siege. They were then obliged to invest it entirely, and trust to famine, which ultimately caused it to surrender. The second is that of the siege of the Citadel of Turin by the Duke de la Fueillade, in 1706, who, by committing a similar error to that of the Duc de Vendome at Verrua, of only investing the work on the left of the Po, and leaving its communications open on the right bank, wasted from the 14th May to the 1st September in a most murderous siege, and then, being attacked in his lines, was beaten, and obliged to retire with the loss of all his artillery and stores.

”Whilst the communications of a fortress remain open with an army in the field, to attack the fortress is to attack that army by a single front of fortification; and perseverance in such an attack must almost inevitably lead to the destruction of the assailants.” General Monk somewhere remarks that ”the belly is the best ally of besiegers” who properly invest a place.

The following extracts are from another of John Whyborn’s letters to his father and mother at Hastings, dated June 4th, 1855:-
“I am sorry to say that cholera begins to show itself among our ranks. Yesterday morning poor Thomas Phillips, belonging to Hastings, was taken