Date: 4–5 April 1855
Recipient: Grace Fenton
Book: Annie Grace Fenton letter-book, Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum, Bradford

April 4th & 5th 1855

I am still at Balaclava partly because there is so much to be done here everybody coming down occassionally & partly because while I live on board ship there is no need to waste time in cooking[.] This last week I have been travelling about with the van in the Guard [sic] & Cavalry Camp getting some interesting views with a few portraits of great guns [ – ] every body is bothering me for their portrait to send home [ – ] were I to listen to them & take the portrait of all comers I should be busy from now to Chrismas [sic] & might make a regular gold digging in the Crimea [ – ] but I am very anxious to get up to the front[.] I have been up twice since I wrote to see about a site & look for points of view [ – ] it is no easy work even on horseback the distances are so great & the ravines so numerous that it takes the best part of the day to go round the English & French lines of attack

In the beginning of last week we had a Siroco [sic] as I think I told you in my last & the heat was so intense that I could scarcely work after taking a picture from the top of the Gaurds [sic] hill[.] I wanted to get a negative of the little hills whence the Turkish troops were driven on the 25th of October & having received an invitation from the Col. of Sparlings Regt from whose camp there is a good view of the position I got a couple of railway horses & moved up there[.] After taking the views the foreground of which was formed by the camp of the 4th light the Officers got their winter dress on & I made up some interesting groups, from them

On Saturday night there was another alarm in the next ship, there was the same wild ringing of Bells, & the same scamper on deck but this time it was a mistake[.] Last night however just after I had come down from Capt Tanners hut on the top of the hill where I had been dining with 4 others & been obliged after dinner to sit on the floor round the stove the smoke of which half blinded us there was a 3rd alarm [ – ] on reaching the deck I saw a great volume of flame & smoke, close besides us [ – ] at first it seemed to be in the next ship but was really on shore about 20 yds from our stern [ – ] the wind was blowing down the Town & I really thought everything would be destroyed [ – ] there was a cry for the ships bucket & very soon the street which 10 minutes before was as still as death was crowded with men shouting in all languages every one giving orders no one obeying [ – ] a number of buckets were soon there & some kind of order was got under some tore down the surrounding sheds – others climbed upon the top of the burning buildings & emptied the buckets there, but the fire gained ground rapidly until the Engines came 4 of which at last subdued it[.] It was a narrow escape, when all was over up came the sappers & began making energetic preparations for extinguishing it commencing by clearing the ground of those who had rendered their aid needless much to the amusement of most & the indignation of a few of the excluded

In the morning I was up at the camp, called on Wilkinson & got him to take me to see the best views of the town; From his tent we walked along a kind of common for ½ a mile coming towards the end upon a few Russian cannon balls scattered about [ – ] as we got further the balls lay thicker but in coming to a ravine called the Valley of Death the sight passed all imagination. round shot & shell lay in a stream at the bottom of the hollow all the way down. You could not walk without treading on them. Following the course of the ravine towards the town we came to a cavern in which some soldiers were stationed as a picket [ – ] they had made a garden in front forming the borders of the beds of cannon balls. We had gone a little further down & were admiring the rugged out line of the rock & pointing out where its face had been smashed by the Russian fire when we were startled by a great crack on a rock in front of us & a cloud of dust followed by a second crack on the opposite face of the ravine as the ball bounded across it & then a heap of stones & the ball rolled together away down the ravine. Further progress in that direction was not desirable unadvisable;

Before getting to this place we had been to an elevation just behind one of our batteries called Story Hill; were prevented by the sentries from mounting it but making a flank march to the front of it & lying down behind somes [sic] stones had a very good look into the Russian batteries & saw some very neat shell practice from our battery into the Mamelon & some ditto from the Russians against an English battery to which we were going next. Crossing a ravine down which the Woronzoff road runs into the town the road was was [sic] ploughed up in several places, the earth showing that it had just been turned up. On the hill top for ½ a mile in the rear of the battery at which the Russians were firing the path of their ball [sic] of that days fire was marked by a regular succession of furrows.

General Barnard’s tent at which I was invited to sleep whenever I went to camp was towards the end of the range of this fire & a night or two since while he was in bed a ball came in & broke the leg of his table.

I had a roll that day over Hecla’s head, I am sorry to say that though the admiration of everbody [sic] for his spirit & beauty her he is not safe upon his pins & I have been for some time expecting what happened yesterday. Trotting down a bit of hill rather smooth & gravelly he fell & shot me over his head. I have an impression that I made a sommerset [sic] in the air. Any how it was a very clear fly out of the saddle. He was none the worse nor I, but we both might have been so I mean to sell him. It is a pity for he will follow me like a d[og] gallops & jumps beautifully, the latter a very valuable quality here & has forgotten the bad habit he had at first of kicking at one when getting the saddle.

Every day this last week has been named for the commen[ce]ment of the grand attack. It is certainly to be, for the ships that are capable of containing invalids have received orders to be ready to start, shot & powder & heavy guns have been going up the front in great quantities & to day a large number of stretchers for the wounde[d] have gone up. I go to morrow but shall be two or 3 day[s] on the road as I have to call at the artillery camp at the heavy cavalry & at the Kadikoi hill. This morn[ing] I have been printing & have taken a few portraits, am[ong] others that of Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar. While up at the guards the other day, the guests at dinner were all attired in what we call Balaclava livery a grey coat lines inside with fur, very light & comfortable and of no particular shape. I happened to say that I shou[ld] like to be inside one of them as lawful owner thereof, so that when I got home I might come out strong as a Crimean hero. to day there came to my hut one of the party with one of these coats over his arm, which he handed to me the only drawback to my pleasure in receiving it being that the said gentleman had the night before informed us that he was thickly populated., I have been in terror ever since of being crawled away with. AS a precaution I have got my hair cut close by the barber of the 4h light & have bargained for a wash of my clothes at 6d a piece with one of the ladies here

You would be amused with the concert put on by every one that sports a petticoat here. People look at the wearers as if they were some strange natural curiosity[.] The washerwomen toss their heads and give themselves the airs of duchesses. While I was out riding this afternoon Mr Russell called at my tent. I have never met him yet; though always being invited to do so Mr Newlands of Liverpool who is coming to look after sund sanitary arrangements breakfasted with us this morning, he says he can make this place as healthy as any English town if allowed. he is going to make a slaughter house at the entrance of the harbour & have all the offal carried out 4 miles to sea. At present 80 sheep are slaughtered every day in the vessels in harbour alone and ht entrails thrown into the water alongside. All over the camp the animals wanted for food are killed close to the tents & the parts not used lie rotting for days. I never ride out without finding dead horses, even right away on the top of the hills near the sea. It is a great treat after the days work is over to get on to the hill tops & breathe the pure air coming from the water after inhaling all day the depressing atmosphere of Balaclava.

There are several places where one can get a gallop for ½ a mile over pretty level ground and in a valley up among the hills a regular race ground has been marked out. There are races at some part of the camp at least twice a week. Now that there is little doing and that the soldiers & officers are comfortable they want some thing to keep them from stagnating, next Saturday there are races at the 88h 2 of the officers Wray & another lunched here to day & invited us all to go up. I have received a very long & welcome letter from Crimble & also a note from Miss Burton asking me to take her brother’s likeness, A thing which I cannot easily do as I have never seen him & do not know where he is. I wish Marion of Regent Street to wait for payment till my return as his account is incorrect, but if he bothers you can give him 5 £ on account. I will write to Mr Agnew to place 50 £ to your credit. I have sent him some prints & shall send him some more by next mail –

Wednesday. To day while examining my pockets I found a letter which I wrote to you at least a month ago & which I thought ½ way to England You will receive it by the same mail as this. I hope you are by this time provided with a nurse, if not, do not delay the matter any longer as it will not do to look for one when she is wanted

There has been heavy firing to day but the promised opening of all the batteries did not take place. it is now said to be adjourned till the question of peace or war is finally settled. Up to the present time the Russians have decidedly the best of it in the siege, though whenever they attack they lose heaps of men, but they keep advancing their works & getting fresh batteries made & new rifle pits. Wray of the 88h told me that 2 nights since when he was in the trenches a sentry came and reported that the Russians a [sic] large body of men & 2 guns outside their works as if going to attack. They got the support under arms & waited all night they saw these troops but there was not attack next morning they found a new rifle pit dug close to their trenches. how the Russians must have laughed at the gallant 88h. Next night there was an attempt to repeat the same manœuvre, but when the enemy brought out the his troops, the 88h fired at them & next morning there was no new rifle pit dug.

I have commenced my march to day. The van is about a mile out of town at the quarters of the 71st. It is time to move for the whole place is one great pigsty e.g. There are only 7 conveniences in the whole town. I am sending some pictures to Mr Agnew & I shall try & send you a few so that you may entertain your callers with them. Should you see Mr Hawkins, tell him that I have got a very sedate likeness of Captain Turner. I am very pleased to hear about you piano being satisfactory. Get any music for it, that you may fancy. I hope Annie will have a tune or two for me when I come back, give my best love to her & tell her that I hope she takes care of you & waits upon you nicely. How altered they will be by the time I get back. It is astonishing to me how little I have done now that I have been here a month and yet have been working hard all the time. The days seem to fly past, & breakfast is scarcely over before it seems to be night again; My hut seems to be the rendez-vous of all the colonels & captains in the army. Everybody drops in every day and I can scarcely get time to work for questions, nor to eat for work. I wish you could do a little of it for me even if only to clear the hut of visitors, for when I scold William for letting any one in he says “Sure and I tell ’em Shur, but they dont mind,

Best love to Hannah kisses to my bairns

April 4 April 5. The rumour to day is that the firing is to begin on Monday & continue 5 days when the troops are to go in.