Date: 24 April 1855
Recipient: Letter to Grace Fenton
Book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

Apl 24h 1855

The last week I have been up at the front have taken a complete panorama of the camp & town living all the time at Sir John Campbells who has treated me just as if I were on of his staff[.] Yesterday after finishing the last picture of the panorama I got Sir John to lend me a couple of mules & took my carriage down to a ravine known by the name of the valley of the shadow of Death from the quantity of Russian balls that have fallen in it. I had been down to the caves where our men lie in the day time when on duty in the Trenches 2 days before to choose the best view[.] If you remember I went with Wilkenson & our progress was stopped by a ball since the siege reopened it is very dangerous to go down there as all the balls from the Redan, the larrack battery, & the Gordon battery are all fired at the Chapmans battery & those that go too high come over into this valley, Though the fire still continues & is at times (especially from 8 to 10 in the morning & from 3 to 4 P.M.) very warm there have been latterly lulls in which the ear is left in peace & when I was in the valley on Saturday not a shot came over we were detained in setting off & so got down unluckily just about 3 P.M. yesterday I took the van down nearly as far as I intended it to go & then went forward to find out the chosen spot I had scarcely started a dash of dust behind the battery before us showed that something was on the road to us we could not see it but another flood of earth nearer shewed that it was coming straight & in a moment we saw it bounding up towards us it turned off when near & where it went I did not see as a shell came over about the same spot, knocked its fuse out & joined the mass of its brethren without bursting it was plain that the line of fire was upon the very spot I had chosen so very reluctantly I put up with another reach of the valley 100 yds short of the best point. I brought the van down & fixed the camera & while levelling it another ball came in a more slanting direction touching the rear of the battery as the others but instead of coming up the road bounded on to the hill on our left about 50 yds from us & came down right to us stopping at our feet I picked it up & put it into the van & hope to make you a present of it After this no more came near though plenty passed up on each side we were there an hour & a half & got two good pictures returning back in triumph with our trophies finishing the days work but taking the van to the mortar battery on the top of the hill in the front of the light division. The Russians seem as if it was their place first to fire enough to make us exhaust our Ammunition it is evident they have no fear of our taking the South side & they are now as busy as bees constructing new batteries on the north side. In the middle of last week every one was at Cathcarts hill looking out for the explosion of a great mine which the French had driven under the Gordon fort the time was announced for 4 P.M. as I had private information of the fact I was ready with my camera at the precise time but no event coming off I shut up & it was soon announced that it was postponed till half past 6 long after that time the hill was crowded with officers & soldiers we had an active discussion going on as to whether the mine had exploded or not, general opinion saying, yes, any how there was a very sharp musketry fire soon after lasting for about an hour & we heard next morning that the French had taken the battery & then retreated from it not thinking the position tenable[.] A night or two afterwards the English attacked & took one of the rifle pits which the French tried to take on the 23d of March & when they got such a complete licking. Our Men took & held it & worked so hard in connecting it with our trenches during the night that next morning the Russians were forced to abandon the rest. I was at Balaclava that night & coming up early in the morning found every officer I knew looking very grave for the Col of the 77h regt, Egerton, who much liked had been killed & a Capt Lempriere also a young & very [blank] officer of whom Egerton was very fond Halliwell [sic] tells me that Lempriere was shot dead in the attack that Egerton took him up & said “I’ll carry my poor boy into the trenches” then came back & was shot through the mouth & brain they were buried side by side next day[.] All the Army seem to long to take the field & have done with this constant frittering away of valuable lives –

When they do go out to attack the Russians it will be a very different affair from Alma, The Russians have got accustomed to licking the French & dont care for them, There was a very pretty scene here some days since Omar Pasha turned out the troops for a reconnaissance towards Tchernaya accompanied by French Cavalry – We did not know of it but saw puffs of smoke rising from the passes of the hills beyond Balaclava which at first we thought must be wreaths of mist as it was morning, I called up Sir John & with our glasses we made out three lines near the crest of a hill far off the top lines firing vollies of of [sic] musketry at something on the further slope[.] I met them coming back at night, but every day has brought something to interest or excite & there is so much worth telling that I can only just mention what occurs to me & generally it is the latest impressions which you get in my letters & which for the moment effaces it [sic] predecessors there are 2 things I have enjoyed whilst sleeping with Sir John the first lying in bed with the tent door open listening & watching the impact fire of shot shell & musketry, again about 7 there is often a pause & then while breakfast is getting ready I pick out a nice stone to lean against & lie down & listen to the larks overhead & watch the dreamy looking town which is at that time generally half bathed in mist an occasional white puffs shows that they are watchful in the quiet place & sometimes two opposing batteries have a little chat all alone & I establish my self as self appointed arbitor [sic] of the event giving equal praise to the Malakoff when it drops a shell neatly in the rear of the batteries as to Gordons battery when it makes the dust fly in an embrasure of the Malakoff. The Town may I believe be taken bit by bit as they are trying to do but it will take an awful time & cost a terrible waste of life every one almost, here has made up his mind that there will be peace & seems to be getting homesick – This would disappear at once if there were a chance of taking the field[.] Tomorrow I dine with Sir Richard England –