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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

And riot in the camp before Sebastopol


Crimean horrors]

Inkermann was followed by a gloomy winter. The Black Sea was swept by terrible storms which destroyed transport ships laden with stores for the army. The horses that charged at Balaklava became unfit for service; the men who had fought at Inkermann languished in field hospitals. In the wretchedly organized lazarets at Scutari the sick and wounded died by scores for lack of proper medical attendance. Shameful frauds were perpetrated in filling the contracts for preserved meats. With grim humor "Punch" exclaimed: "One man's preserved meat is another man's poison." After the harrowing misery that prevailed in camp had been pictured in the London newspapers, something like system was finally established in the hospitals by the energy of Miss Florence Nightingale.

[Sidenote: Sardinia's offered help]

Balaklava and Inkermann had a profound effect upon the diplomatic negotiation of the Powers. England and France attempted to induce Austria and Prussia to take arms against the Czar. But Prussia would do nothing without the Confederation; and Austria would do nothing without Prussia. Buol-Schauenstein, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, would gladly have mediated; but the prospects of success were not rosy. To the annoyance of Austria, Piedmont, which had maintained its position in Italy despite Austria, offered to take part in the war. Austria saw that she must

now act quickly if she wished to preserve her European prestige. On December 2, she signed a treaty with England and France binding herself not to negotiate separately with the Czar; to defend the principalities which she had occupied in accordance with her compact with Turkey, after their evacuation by the Russians; and to deliberate with the Powers as to the best course to be pursued if the war were not ended by January 1, 1855. The treaty was intended merely to thwart Piedmont.


[Sidenote: Crimean war scandals]

[Sidenote: Parliamentary inquiry]

Complaints of neglect and maladministration in the Crimea waxed ever louder. The reports of the war correspondents at the front aroused indignation in London and Paris. Now the London "Times" came out with a leading article which produced a profound sensation throughout England. The burden of it was a bitter complaint that "the noblest army ever sent from our shores has been sacrificed to the grossest mismanagement. Incompetency, lethargy, aristocratic hauteur, official indifference, favor, routine, perverseness and stupidity reign, revel, and riot in the camp before Sebastopol, in the harbor of Balaklava, in the hospitals of Scutari, and how much nearer home we do not venture to say. We say it with extremest reluctance, no one sees or hears anything of the Commander-in-Chief. Officers who landed on the 14th of September, and have incessantly been engaged in all the operations of the siege, are not even acquainted with the face of their commander." The exposures of the "Times" were taken up in Parliament. Already Lord John Russell had urged upon the Earl of Aberdeen the necessity of having the War Minister in the House of Commons, and recommended that Lord Palmerston should be intrusted with the portfolio of war. The Prime Minister refused to recommend the proposed change to the Queen, on the ground that it would be unfair to the Duke of Newcastle, against whom, he said, no positive defect had been proved. As soon as Parliament assembled on January 25, the opposition moved for a commission of inquiry "into the condition of our army before Sebastopol, and into the conduct of those departments whose duty it has been to minister to the wants of that army." Lord John Russell at once wrote to Lord Aberdeen that since this motion could not be resisted, and was sure to involve a censure of the War Department, he preferred to tender his resignation. The retirement of the leaders of the House of Commons served to paralyze the government's resistance. After a debate of two nights the motion for an inquiry was accepted by 305 against 148 votes. As Mr. Molesworth, who was present, wrote:

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