Date: 19 April 1855
Recipient: Letter to Grace Fenton
Book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

April 19th 1855

I have had hard work since my last letter & was not able to send any thing by the last post but a lot of Photographs, which will leave Kamiesh bay on the 13th Halliwell [sic] sent you a line, so that I trust you will not be without news, the attack on the Town commenced on Monday, in the midst of a storm of heavy rain & wind[.] I had been working my way towards the camp at the end of the previous week & intended to have been at Head Quarters by Monday evening, but when I went ashore in the morning the streets were a regular quagmire & the rain pouring down in such torrents, that I saw it would be useless to attempt moving the van so having nothing better to do I resolved to go up & see the row in front. I got on my black horse put on my long boots for the first time & that wonderful waterproof cap & set off over to try several Balaclava acquaintances who were making many efforts to struggle through the mud[.] Hard work it was for me well mounted to plough my way up how the pedestrians fared I will tell you bye & bye. On the top of the hill where the camp is the driving mist was so think that I lost my way & should not easily have found it again without the aid of the firing which told me in which direction I ought to go. we had heard from 5 in the morning the constant firing of heavy guns the sound was so deadened by the mist & rain it was at first doubtful whether the bombardment had actually begun however there was no mistake about it as I got near, unfortunately it was so thick that we could scarcely see more than the puffs of smoke from our own batteries of the Russian batteries I could see only indications through the mist which had been down in the early morning but all day the two parties had been firing almost by guess work, it was getting dark so I went straight to the 88h found Wray in his tent with Col Maxwell & joined them in discussing a game pie just arrived from Ireland

Wray got my horse put up close by, with a cloth over him & the sky over that & a bit of wall to windward[.] Leaving Wray I went off to Halliwells [sic] tent as I wished to spend the night with him[.] I soon found his tent but no one was in so I went round & roused his servant who on hearing my name said “Oh! Sir Master has been expecting you a long time he said that if you came I was to make you comfortable recommending him to obey his masters orders to the letter while he went off to tell Halliwell [sic] who was dining close by with Genl Brown he soon came back with the order to get me some dinner which I declined, he seemed to think the attempt to make him neglect his masters orders was an offence & I thought really I should be obliged to dine again to pacify him I did however at last convince him that I should manage very well with a bottle of Champagne & ditto of whisky & a box of cigars with the latest Galignani till Halliwells [sic] came back having arranged all this I sat cozily now & then stretching my head out of the tent to look at the shells as they wobbled about the sky one a double shell (2 chained together) came from the Russians they formed a beautiful exhibition of fireworks especially when they burst just before touching the ground[.]When Hallewell [sic] came with his “I say how do you do old boy?” I was in a complete state wishing happiness to every body in general & the present company in particular he being like minded we had a very pleasant evening talking of absent friends & Halliwell [sic] became enthusiastic about his recollections of my studio & our tête à tête lasted till 1 A M only interrupted by an occasional sortie executed by Halliwell [sic] when the sound of musketry came rattling up the valley his servant had laid for beds 2 extra planks on the ground & there were lots of rugs next morning early I set off by myself to Cathcarts hill the best spot for a general view of the Town[.] Halliwell [sic] had gone to the batteries to make his mornings report for General Brown’s information it seemed so far from the Town that I was afraid I could not see any thing from the hill & therefore came down towards Chapmans battery [referring to original sketch] E which is which is [sic] half way between A (Cathcarts hill) & the town rather nearer though at C there is a lime kiln at which they first began to burn lime. The Russians fired constantly[.] I thought I should have got a good sight here but found that being below the line from A to D I must go farther so went down the hollow of the hill D, looking sharp out for the ground is here covered with Cannon balls & I took care to keep well behind the hill in going down for I could hear by the whir & thud that the balls were coming up the ravine on each side when I got so far the row was so great I felt quite stunned & dare not go to the top of the hill D. There was no stop to the awful commotion in the air[.] The 68 pounders especially almost burst the ears & the shot from them sounded like an express railway train that had broke off the line & left up into the air the shot & shell did not disturb me so much as the awful clangour as if all hell had broken loose & the Legions of Lucifer were fighting in the air[.] I could only see the Russian redoubt indistinctly the mist was so thick & the smoke hung heavily but it was easy to see that they were not firing one quarter our 4. It must have been uncomfortable in their quarters, seeing that I was afraid I thought it best to go back to see if any shot were coming[.] At breakfast Halliwell [sic] told me that in the previous days fire the Russians appeared to have suffered little & that in the English batteries only 5 men were killed & 7 wounded[.] He seemed to have small expectations of successful result & I find this is the general opinion. As it is still raining & foggy & nothing visible of the effects of the fire I set off home Halliwell [sic] showed me first a Panorama of the Town & country which he had made for the Queen it is very good indeed & has been I have heard much admired in the camp (Par [parcuthoes?]) Sir John Campbell who commands the 4th Division told me that if he were ever at the head of an army Halliwell [sic] should be his quarter master General I hear his praise in every ones mouth.

On my return to Balaclava. , through the mud the people who had set out the walk were just recovering from their sufferings[.] One of them had failed to climb up a slippery bank on his hands & knees & had wisely returned the others had persevered & After much vain search had at 2 in the morning got the shelter of a tent where they lay (having feasted on a bit of biscuit) trying to sleep in their wet clothes on the sticky floor of the tent.All that week the bombardment continued we heard it at Balaclava faint or loud according to the wind & all sorts of rumours flew about That we were to be attacked tonight, that the Russians had sent out a flag of truce & wished to surrender, that the fleet was to go in, that it had been in & blown up fort Constantine that the Russian batteries were ground to powder, that one of ours was all destroyed & a score of others equally founded on fact[.] Meanwhile I was printing & making preparations for going up to Head Quarters sending up my boxes by rail & suing for a site for my tent on Friday I pitched my tent & got many of my things arranged there, The Artillery had lent me 6 horses to drag the van up the hill at the railway depot at the top[.] I took up as many boxes as the springs of the carriage could bear[.] When the tent was pitched I went to present a letter I had written to Lord Raglan asking for a soldier as servant & whilst there there came a sound of strange music anything but harmonious from the other side of a small valley across which lives Col Adye we saw it was the vangaurd [sic] of Omar Pasha’s Army, which had just landed at Kamiesch [sic] Bay Every body turned out to see them except Lord Raglan & soon we were all by Col Adye’s house watching them march past[.] They went past in good order by battallions [sic] & Regts the Staff at the head of the 1st Regt which had a band playing European music with moderate success, the men were fine Athletic fellows well dressed & armed as they came up to where we were all standing each band struck up & some times the strain was so ludicrous that it was greeted with a general smile. It was very beautiful to see them winding up the hill side to see Column after Column appearing on the ridge their bayonets flashing in the light & the officers prancing past on showily caparisoned Arabian horses. The Artillery went along the road below & in very good state it seemed Altogether about 18,000 men passed & then there came a host of baggage horses & stragglers they made a very favourable impression on every one [.] On going home at night their tents were whitening the hills on the ridge overlooking Balaclava & their sentries had replaced the French along the lines of defence in that part next day 9000 were passed but this lot were Egyptians & all coffee coloured these also were fine men. Finding that I could get no answer to my application about a servant I resolved to go at once to the front & take Sebastopol[.] Col Adye got me horses & I took the van to the rear of Cathcarts hill to be out of the sight of the Russians not that there is any danger of their hitting it but it might draw their fire & so somebody in the neighbourhood get hit[.] On the way I met General Barnard who asked me to dine with him the next day[.] At Cathcarts hill Sir John Campbell Commands the division & I had received a message from him offering assistance if I would come there so I presented myself to him & at once told him my difficulties about a servant & was immediately invited to take up my quartors [sic] with him[.] Meanwhile said he come down & have a glass of sherry & he led the way into a hole in the ground a natural cavern which he had found & took possession of just before the storm of the 14 of November. I tried to take a picture of the Town but the day though fine was hazy & I could not succeed I took some nice groups however & some portraits. One of the General sitting at the door of his tent, at 7 we sat down to dinner in the cavern the General his Aide’s Capts. Hume, Snodgrass, & Capt Layard a brother of the traveller & a very comfortable party & jolly picture we made a huge barrell of beer in one corner & the Arms stuck into nooks in the rocks giving us the look of a party of smugglers there was a novelty at dinner a salad & what do you think it was made of, give it up? Dandelion leaves very good it was with oil & vinegar[.] Sir John gave me his Marquee to sleep in & I could not have picked out a cleaner residence. It is about 200 yds nearer the town than any other tent & on the slope towards it so that as I lay in bed with the door open I could see the fire[.] I forgot to say that as soon as my work was done I resolved to go down & have a look from the hill which I had finished a day or two before[.] I got ensconced behind a big stone & laid my glass on the top & began to look for the damage done to the Russian batteries by our fire[.] I had a good survey & found that the banks of earth of which they were constructed were much shattered, that in some places & embrasures were knocked into one but from the fire kept up by them there was no appearance of their guns being dismounted. I had forgotten all about my former alarms in the interest of the examination when, still intent upon my observation I was startled by a long whistle just over my head before I had duck’d the ball was bounding up the hill behind kicking up earth & stone[.] I found the only damage I got, was a scratch on the forehead in my eagerness to humble myself. I waited a bit longer keeping a better look out for the puffs of smoke from the Russian batteries & then feeling a strong desire to go & see what they were doing in the battery in front of me I walked down the point of the hill & had the satisfaction of seeing several balls & shells go by most of them striking a little to the left. In the battery I was very comfortable for the wall sheltered me only it struck me as a queer sensation to hear the balls thumping into the earth against which one was leaning. Others came topping the ramparts & whistling overhead. I have a pass for the Trenches so was not turned out or put under arrest. In chatting with the Officers in command I was rather amused (being conscious of my own trepidation of spirits) to hear them say that he had watched me coming down the hill to see if I would hurry my pace when the ball passed & that I had not shewn any signs of noticing them I did not undeceive him. The [sic] was a sailor lying wounded in the battery & during a lull in the fire they put him on a stretcher & two sailors carried him up the hill, they got half way up when the fire began again it was very droll to see them struggle to one side whenever the whistle of a shot came near the officer in command offered to bet that if a shell dropped near them they would drop their burden & run & that the wounded man would get on his legs & follow they got him up safely when I thought it time to go back a young officer volunteered to shew me a place on the hill where I might sit in safety & watch we set off at full speed up the hill & were not long in getting to the indicated spot I find it is much worse to walk away from fire than fronting it I felt a strong inclination to look over my shoulder to see if any thing was coming. Next night I dined with General Barnard but this will do for this letter as it is a fine day & I am going to take a field day on General Pennefathers division it will be a month yet before I have done here I get on so slowly & there is so much to do. I have just got your letter about Joe’s boy I am right glad to hear of it especially that he has made such an appeal to my love & care as to present himself on my birthday.