Date: 8 June 1855
Recipient: Grace Fenton
Book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

88h Regt June 8th 1855

The bombardment of the Town recommenced the day before yesterday at 3 in the Afternoon I had gone to call on Genl Bosquet & was on my way there when suddenly all the batteries on our side began to send forth puffs of white smoke & soon the air was ringing with the increasing din it was 7 minutes before the Russian guns replied The fire was far more rapid than the last time & the guns heavier & nearer the Town so that before evening it was very plain that many of the enemy’s guns were silenced & their works much knocked about, I went to dine with Bosquet & reached his quarters just as he returned from a ride through his troops who cheered him with great vehemence he settled after dinner that if the report from the batteries continued the next morning to be favourable the French should attack the Mamelon in the evening, Next morning at Head Quarters I heard the light division would be called out either to support the French or to attack a different point, so set out as I felt anxious about Corbett & Edmund who had promised to come & breakfast with me on my road I went round by the different places where a good view of the firing was to be had I was much pleased to see the great difference between the result of this & of the last bombardment at the 88h I found that all the officers were ordered to stay in camp as they might be wanted I promised to dine with Corbett as a lot of fellows called in & he had just received a case of claret every body got very merry there were several collected in his tent discussing what was likely to be done when an orderly came round with a paper directing that Major Bailey should form a body a body of [200?] men on a storming party & should take with him Capts Maynard, Beresford & Leut Grier & that Capt Corbett should take 150 men as a reserve with Capt Wray & other officers & that they should be ready at 4 o’clock at first the news was received in silence for every body knew that it promised a terrible encounter but soon excitement overcame apprehension & every body set to work in high spirits to prepare it was nearly 4 & there was no time to get dinner so each one snatched up what he could I made Edward take something & did my best to see that all should go out in a fit state of body to encounter fatigue Corbet [sic] said when we were along Now Roger my boy we could not breakfast with you today but if we come out all right Edward & I will brush you up tomorrow at 6 & you shall take our likenesses he ordered dinner to be got ready for me I was too anxious to wait for it so took part of an omelette that was ready & prepared to march a little way with them before setting out he said to me Roger just stand sentry at my door for a bit while I read a little & he read in his Bible I taking care that no one entered, just then an officer came up with some money for him & he paid off a few debts & said now then if I dont get back mind I dont owe any body 4 shilling & thats more than some of you can say my boys I dare not go to Edward for a know that he would be thinking of his brother as I was & I did not wish to agitate him, besides I knew that he did not need reminding that in the midst of life we are in death while they were falling in I went down to the edge of the ravine down which the troops were to march to the trenches before the attack. The French Columns were approaching Zouave’s leading as they drew near our soldiers not on duty stood as a hedge on either side & cheered each Regt as they passed most of the French seemed wild with excitement though some looked very anxious & well they might for it was certain that many of those voices cheering so loudly would be still in death before the sun had set when they had passed I went back to our columns & heard Genl Pennefather going amongst the men begging them not to should as they were only giving the Russians notice of what was coming At the 88h I found Edward staying with his company & besides him instead of Grier a fine young fellow named Webb who had begged of the Col to allow him to go with the storming party instead of the reserve he told me that he wished to go with Edward soon the Col came up & shook hands with me & then gave the order to Major Bailey who cantered up & called out Now Edward Make your men move on I went with them a little way down the ravine & then they halted there shook hands with Edward praying silently that the hand of God might protect him in the battle there was no place where the English attack could be seen so I went up to the look out of our three mortor [sic] battery to watch the French assault the Mamelon[.] for a hour we waited & nothing could be seen the fire of our batteries was slack but the Russians fired over our heads & from every gun they could use & from their ships in order to hit the troops in their advance for it was evident that the intention to assault was known. At last with our glasses we could see the French troops creeping along the inside of their advanced trenches which seemed to get blacker & blacker as the stream of men wound round the inside a rocket went up from the Victoria redoubt on our right & immediately every gun in our trenches & in the French lines began to vomit out a stream of shot & shell the smoke from which condensing down, formed far away to seaward a thick pall which the suns rays could scarcely penetrate This fire lasted as far as I can remember 10 min or a &quarter; hour while it lasted probably nothing was more terrific was ever heard or seen[.] then the French began to swarm across their own trenches & rush up the hill side to the Mamelon there was a sharp Musketry fire for a few minutes & then I saw first one or two, then ½ doz & then scores on the top of the parapet & leaping into the interior for a time there was a sharp rattle of musketry & the flashes began to show in the twilight soon we saw them engaging on the other side & rushing up to the Malakoff “Hurrah they’ve got the Mamalon & are going rushing up to the Malakoff well done the French We soon however saw that there was a check instead of climbing the parapet as at the Mamalon they spread themselves out in the front & kept firing away without advancing, from the [interior?] Globes of fire, bursting with a thousand sparkles were constantly hurled amongst them[.] rifles spit out their fire & one or two guns still fit for use still ploughed their ranks their line got thinner I saw fellows stealing away back to the Mamalon & in a few minutes the attacking fire seemed to have melted away to nothing there was a slight pause but while congratulating each that at last the Mamalon was taken Musketry was heard on the other side of it & I saw something like a dark serpent turning up the hill leaving the Russian trenches while trying to believe this was a French reinforcement the stragglers began coming out of the Mamalon then a crowd & then the whole body were hurrying down the hill the breestwork [sic] of the Mamalon was crowded with Russians firing into their retreating enemy the heavy guns which had partially stopped began again & the Malakoff as a sort of bravado fired a gun at us as we looked on, A mortar at the left of it had been firing at us all the time for we were a conspicuous group & their missles [sic] kept coming over our heads each time clearing us more narrowly several round shot too whirred past & a few went right through amongst us being sufficiently [short?] for us to see them & get out of their way one poor fellow a Navy got confused I suppose when the cry arose of “here’s round shot look out” & was struck on the side of the head & killed on the spot a Sardinian officer had his sword torn from his side by another shot but was not hurt, I never thought I could have been so indifferent while shells here bursting in front on each side & behind but the absorting [sic] interest in the struggle before us almost conquered every feeling of fear[.] After a pause of ½ hour during which we were all very exceedingly depressed at the defeat the French had sustained a trumpet in their trenches sounded the pas de charge again a swarm of men issued from the lines & advanced to the attack there was a short but firm fire at the edge of the parapet & then we thought that we could see one of the figures on the parapet against the blue sky, was waving a flag & beckoning the assailants on & soon a few men were seen jumping into the inside by degrees the parapet was clear but the fire inside seemed gradually to retreat it was evident the French had retaken their fort while this was going on a A D C came up with a piece of paper to Genl Codrington, who commands the light division in Genl Browns absence he read & instantly mounted & rode off ordering all officers of the light division present to follow him we soon learned that the English were hard pressed & that Col Shirley who commanded the attack had written to say he could not hold the quarries which he had taken unless reinforcements were sent to him I waited a little longer to see if the French were likely to hold their conquest & finding they seemed secure thought I would go down to the 88h & see if any news had come up On my road I learnt that Major Bailey had been brought in badly wounded I made straight for Admirals tent & found him there talking to the Dr in bed his arm bound up & his night gown stained with blood he had been shot through the arm but no bone was touched or artery injured The wound was dressed & he was looking very cheerful though rather pale faint, & thirsty, I made him up at once a drink of Lemon juice water & sugar with a little of Corbetts Claret to revive him he drank it off greedily & then I got him some hot tea & he seemed as comfortable as the increasing pain would permit him to be, the Dr says that his wound is not dangerous & will most likely leave nothing more than a mark upon him, when we were alone he told me that when they rushed into the pits he was the second man in an officer of the 77h being before him At first he was only followed by one sergeant who said to him Capt Maynard I’ll follow you anywhere” that it was not until he shouted to his men that the Russians were retreating that the men followed in, so many of them are quite boys that it is not surprising After holding the pits while the Russians returned to the charge & being flanked they had to halt Edmund says that while rallying his men for the 2nd attack he felt himself hit &am p; got confused & faint & immediately grew very thirsty he was carried out by 2 men on a stretcher but feeling great pain from the motion he got up & walked the greater part of the way getting a glass of water when he got to the first tents, He could not tell me anything about the rest, the Dr told me that Major Bailey in the next tent was hit through the stomach & it was evident that he considered him in great danger officers kept coming up to see Edmund & to bring scraps of news Meanwhile I got a blanket out of Corbetts tent laid it on the ground & borrowing another made up a bed in Edmunds tent, When we were alone he asked me to read to him something out of the Bible so I read the 103rd & other similar Psalms I am sure we were both heartily grateful to God for his mercy in sparing Edmunds Mother the sorrow of losing her dear son By & bye an officer came in to say that Webb was killed, poor fellow when he told me he had got leave to go with Edmund I looked at his handsome face & felt horrified at the idea of him thus offering himself up for slaughter his body has not been found but it is said to be lying on the hillside close to the parapet of the Redan

Soon there came a rumour that Corbett was killed Meanwhile wounded me [sic] were going past some carried others staggering along to their own quarters groaning & asking for water or faintly asking their way Towards 11 a detachment of a 100 men who had been sent down to act as support if needed came back & brought the news that poor Corbett had been shot through the head & killed on the spot While leading up the reserve & that Wray also was missing when the muster roll was called as no certainty could be obtained I determined to get Edmund quiet for the night the Dr gave him a opiate & I mixed up for him a large cup of cooling drink & shut up the tent he did not sleep however though I could not help dining so early this morning I got him some cocoa & a biscuit as he was faint & then set off to head quarters to let them know where I was On my return I found poor Corbetts body in his tent lying on the bed where 24 hours before he had been lolling in the full enjoyment of life with a hearty relish for fun Wray was also lying dead in the next tent a cheerful winning looking fellow who seemed made for life & happiness out of 5 officers of the 88th who were in Corbetts tent when the order came to fall in 3 were killed 1 wounded & only 1 unhurt, that one, Beresford came up at that moment from the trenches covered with dust his clothes torn his boots split across & haggard looking eyes He told us how the Russians had met them when they advanced , in front & in both flanks & how Corbett on one side & Wray on the other had fallen dead almost together you will not be surprised that I feel wretched about their loss having been so intimate with them In an hour I am going to see them laid in their last resting place, It is said that the French attack the Malakoff tower & our men the Redan The tower is on fire in several places The French have had hard work all day connecting the Mamelon with their own lines & our en I suppose have been doing the same in the quarries The batteries have been throwing shell into the Redan & Malakoff which have kept quiet most likely reserving their efforts for tonight I will put in a line tomorrow before post I have written to Charlie so that he may tell your Mother about Edmunds wound Poor Bailey died at midnight after great suffering The 88h lost 4 officers killed & 3 wounded It is said there are 40 officers in the light division killed & wounded How many men we do not yet know I have done my work & have nothing to do but look out for a vessel I am much hindered by Sparling who has been drinking a great deal lately & who has in consequence a bad attack of dysentry [sic] which has laid him on the shelf I got a letter from Joe this morning Edmund will perhaps have to go home certainly he will if he wishes & before he can get fit for duty the hard fighting before Sebastopol will be over – June 9th Just after I left off writing Lord Raglan came up & enquired for the wounded officers & came to Edmunds tent & shook hands with him asking him how he was till he stayed about 5 min– & then shook hands & went away The officers say that he will get a brevet majority but we must not be too sanguine about this Col Shirley came up from the trenches about the same time he says the attack was most splendid & well managed throughout I gathered from all I heard that it was after taking the rifle pits & a work in advance of them that being short of ammunition the Russians advancing in great numbers Major Bailey withdrew the men to the rifle pits which they had taken, that then the Russians advanced & Bailey & Edmund called out “Come on 88th” & charged them with the bayonet & drove them back, then Bailey & Edmund again withdrew their men to the rifle pits to wait for ammunition Edmund saw a place where a few men could annoy the Russians much & went to ask the Col to let him put some men there he had placed some & was going back to bring some more when he was struck We buried the three poor fellows Corbett in the middle a crowd of officers followed them Corbetts testament was found on his body Wray was an only child I slept in Edmunds tent again He is all right only a little pale I have written to your Mother this morning