Date: 4–5 April 1855
Recipient: Grace Fenton
Book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

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 Capt 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 half a mile coming towards the end upon a Russian cannon balls scattered about[.] Further on 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 upon them [ – ] following the curve 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 with cannon balls [ – ] we had gone a little further down & were admiring the rugged outline of the rock & pondering out where the face had been smashed by the Russians fire when we were startled by a great crack in the rock in front of us & a cloud of dust followed by a second knock upon the opposite face of the ravine as the ball bounded across it & then a heap of stones & the ball rolled away together down the ravine [ – ] further progress in that direction was voted unadvisable[.] Before getting to this place we had been to an elevation just behind one of batteries called strong hill were prevented by the sentries from mounting it, but making a flank march got to the front of it & lying down behind some stones had a very good look into the Russian batteries & saw some very neat shell practice from our battery into the Mamelon & some clatter from the Russians (against our English battery to which we were going next[.] Crossing a ravine down which the Woronzoff road runs into the town the road way was ploughed up in several places the earth shewing that it had just been turned up[.] On the hill top for half a mile in the rear of the battery at which the Russians were firing, the path of their balls of that days firing was marked by a regular sucession of furrows

General Barnards 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 this table, another made mutton of a sheep close by, so he has been obliged to move[.] I had a roll that day over Hecla’s head, I am very sorry to say that though the admiration of every body for his spirit & beauty he is not safe upon his pins & I have been for some time expecting what happened yesterday trotting down a bit of a hill rather smooth & gravelly he fell & shot me over his head[.] I have an impression that I made a summerseat [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 dog gallops & jumps beautifully the latter a very valuable quality here.

Every day the last week has been named for the commencement of the grand attack It is certainly to be soon 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 to the front in great quantities & today a large number of stretchers for the wounded have gone up[.] I go tomorrow but shall be two or three days on the road as I have to call at the Artillery camp & the heavy Cavalry & at the Kadikoi Hill. This morning I have been printing & have taken a few portraits amongst others that of Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar

While up at the Gaurds [sic] the other day the guests at dinner were all attired in what we call the Balaclava livery a grey coat lined inside with fur very light & comfortable & of no particular shape[.] I happened to say that I should like to be inside of one of them as lawful owner thereof so that I might come out strong as a Crimean hero. Today 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 me that it 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 4th light & have bargained with one of the ladies here for a wash of my clothes at 6d a piece,

You would be amused with the carnival put on by everyone that sports a petticoat here, people look at the wearers as if they were some strange natural curiosity, the washerwomen toss their heads & give themselves such airs – Mr Newlands of Liverpool who has come to look after the sanitory [sic] arrangements breakfasted with me 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 & the 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 are 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 after inhaling all day & 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, & in a valley up amongst the hills a regular race ground has been marked out [ – ] there are races in some part of the camp at least twice a week now that there is little doing & that the soldiers & officers are comfortable [ – ] they want something to keep them from stagnating, next Saturday there are races at the 88th

Two of the officers Wray & Another lunched here today & invited us all to go up, I have received a very long & welcome letter from Crimble Wednesday, Today when emptying my pockets I found a letter which I wrote to you at least a week ago & which I thought was ½ way to England[.] There has been very heavy firing today, but the promised opening of all the batteries did not take place[.] It is now said to be adjourned until the question of peace or war is finally settled [ – ] up to the present time the Russians have decidedly the best of it [ – ] that is the siege though [ – ] whenever they attack they loose [sic] heaps of men but they keep advancing their works & getting fresh batteries made & new rifle pits[.] Wray of the 88h told me that three nights since when he was in the trenches a sentry came & reported that the Russians had a large body of men & 2 guns outside their works as if going to attack, they got their support under arms & waited all night they saw these troops but there was no attack, next morning they found a new rifle pit dug close to their trenches, how the Russians must have laughed at the Gallent 88h [ – ] next night there was an attempt to repeat the same manoevre but when the evening brought out their troops the 88h fired at them & next morning there was no new rifle pit dug

I have commenced my march today [ – ] 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, It is astonishing to see how little I have done now that I have been here a month & yet I have been working hard all the time[.] My hut seems to be the rendevous of all the Col’s & Capts in the army, every body drops in every day & I can scarcely get time to work for questions nor eat for work[.] I wish you could do a little of it for me, even, if only to clear the hut of visitors you could be useful for when I scold William for letting any one in “he says sure I tell them shur but they dont mind”

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