Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

TO CORRESPONDENTS.

The Editor of The Dublin UNIVERSITY Magazine begs to notify that he will not undertake to return, or be accountable for, any manuscripts forwarded to him for perusal.

THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE.

No. CCLIX.

JULY, 1854.

Vol. XLIV.

THE WAR.

It is now fully eighteen months since every man in Europe, enjoying ordinary opportunities of observation, and possessing ordinary powers of reflection-excepting, perhaps, the premier and foreign minister of England, and the Czar — must have foreseen the war in which we are engaged as the inevitable result of passing events. During the whole of that period of anxious and harassing suspense, the issue was repeatedly foretold, as well by statesmen whose political position and former experience entitled them to claim peculiar knowledge, as by the organs of public opinion, whose conclusions were based upon the simplest teaching of common sense, and a mere every-day acquaintance with the work. ing of the vulgarest human passions. It is but a silly pursuit, after all, that looking deep into millstones, which is the craft of great diplomatists and mi. nisters of state ; and equally vain is the royal skill that, baffling the pene. tration of diplomatic eyes, exposes its cunning to the world. The game played between the Czar Nicholas and his English and French adversaries had its type in the origin and progress of many a quarter-sessions action of tres. pass; and, in the one case as in the other, lookers-on could see clearly enough the real facts of the case through the artifices used by “small nisi prius wits," on either side, mu. tually to obscure their designs and movements. The disclosures of the “ confidential correspondence" were not needed to inform the public of the intentions of Nicholas with re. spect to the Ottoman “sick man ” and his effects ; nor was any extraordinary penetration evinced in the general foresight that those intentions would

VOL. XLIV. NO. cclix.

be practically developed into acts of violence which regard for their own security would oblige the Western Powers to resist. Few persons enter upon a course of litigation without a confident expectation that the object, either of attack or defence, will be gained by a demonstration. The Czar would have paused for a more favourable opportunity of aggression had he dreamed that war would be the consequence of his attempt: Lords Aberdeen and Clarendon lured their adversary into actual war by leading him to believe that they would, at all hazards, avoid such an extremity. Both parties deceived themselves and each other, and the end, as foreseen, has arrived. Two fleets, forming the largest naval force ever maintained by England upon the sea, now blockade the Russian sea-board on the Baltic and the Euxine, and an army as powerful as England has ever employed in one series of operations, at this moment menaces the advanced frontier of Russia. The Duke of Newcastle has been divested of colonial responsibilities, in order that he may better discharge those of minister for war; the Guards have thrown off their stocks, and thus figuratively and literally the nation has stripped for the fight. Under these circumstances the actual position in reference to the enemy, in which the allied forces are now placed, and the organisation by which our own troops are prepared for the fierce and protracted struggle, which is, in all human probability, before them, become subjects of deep interest, demanding for their consideration a little of our space, and the grave attention of our readers. Both are the more needed, as the great extent of the lines of operations, the

extren e protraction of the stage of preparation for hostilities, and the confusion of intelligence caused by the mixture and clashing of telegraphic reports with authentic news, have so jumbled geographical facts and passing events in men's minds as to render it a work of labour to attain anything like a clear conception of the state of affairs so deeply affecting our interests, and respecting which the formation of a false public opinion may be so profoundly mischievous. There are, in fact, three sets of warlike operations, forming so many distinct campaigns, now in progress, the separate events of which are so mingled in the daily reports as often to render it extremely difficult to discriminate them, and to apportion to each occurrence its due value. Our present unambitious purpose is to en deavour to aid our readers in the comprehension of the truth and in the detection of the falsehood of the news they hear from hour to hour, by a broad sketch of the seats of war, in so far as that may serve to explain the plan of the several campaigns, and to indicate their probable future course.

The Danubian Principalities, Wallachia and Moldavia, have formed, as our readers will recollect, since the close of the last Russo-Turkish war in 1829, a sort of neutral border ground, nominally belonging to Turkey, and actually paying tribute to the Sultan, but under the protection of the Czar, who was, nevertheless, restrained by treaty from their military occupation, except under peculiar circumstances, and then jointly with the Turks, and with an equal force. The virtual com mencement of hostilities was, there. fore, the advance across the river Pruth, in July, 1853, of the troops which had been collected in the Russian province of Bessarabia during the preceding year. The declaration of war by the Sultan followed this movement, and hostilities were actu. ally commenced towards the end of October. In the interim much valuable time was lost to the allies in fruitless negotiation, and was so well employed by the Czar in pushing forward his corps that, when the first blow was struck,' the whole left bank of the lower Danube, from Widdin to the sea, constituting the frontier line between the Principalities and the Turkish pro. vince of Bulgaria, was in his pos. session. A glance at the map will

show that the river in this part of its course describes a crescent, with the convexity towards the southern or Turkish bank. From Widdin to Rassova its general direction is easterly ; from thence it runs northward as far as Galatz, and then again turns eastward, and so passes into the Black Sea by several mouths, of which the only navigable one, Sulina, is in the hands of Russia, whose province of Bessarabia, here intruding between the Principalities and the sea, is, from Galatz eastward, separated from Turkey only by the river. From the point where the Danube turns northward at Rassova, the distance to the sea, at Kostendji, is but thirty-eight miles, and the two places are connected by the wall of Trajan, an earthen rampart, still affording some advantages for defence. The Dobrudscha, about which we have heard so much of late, is the district enclosed between this wall of Trajan on the south, the elbow of the river on the west and north, and the sea on the east. It is now, since the advance of General Lüders, occupied by the Russians, and, as yet, is their only possession on the right bank of the Danube within the Turkish frontier. The front of the position of the allies in the campaign of the Danube is, therefore, now the slightly-curved line from Widdin to Kostendji, between which and their base, if, as we presume is the case, the entrenchments at Gallipoli are to be so considered, intervenes the second line of defence, extending from Tirnova on the west to Varna on the east. Behind that, and still nearly parallel to the Danube, are the ridges of the Balkan, and behind them again the city of Adrianople, forming the apex of a triangle, the base of which is the northern shore of the Sea of Marmora, with Constanti. nople and Gallipoli respectively at its extreme angles. It is to this district the principal interest of the war just now attaches and is especially fixed on the right bank of the Danube, its northern boundary, and upon the plain of about 100 miles in breadth between the river and the northern side of the mountain range of the Balkan. Here Omar Pasha bas maintained himself against the Russian attacks since October, and here the campaign of the Danube will, in all probability, before these remarks reach the public eye, be signalised by a great conflict between

the allied armies and the enemy. A brief description of the principal fea. tures of the locality will help to render past and coming events intelligible, and will not, we trust, be unacceptable to our readers.

In that part of its course with which we are now concerned the Danube has an average depth of about twenty feet, with a current of about two miles an hour, and a breadth va rying generally from 1,400 to 2,100 yards, but narrowed to from 300 to 500 yards in a few spots where fortresses, the names of which must now be familiar to English ears, have been constructed upon both banks, commonly opposite to each other. The most westerly of these upon the Turk. ish side, which have been the scene of operations during the present war, is Widdin, a place of considerable strength, and remarkable as the point from which the first blow was struck by the Ottoman troops. From thence, on the 27th of October, the river was crossed by a Turkish force, as a counter-movement to an unsuccessful at. tempt of the Russians to force a passage lower down, and, after a very brilliant operation, the fortress of Kalafat, on the left bank, and directly opposite Widdin, was taken, and occupied by 15,000 men. The next place of strength on the Turkish side is Nicopoli, situated about sixty-five miles below Widdin, opposite to which is Turnu. Lower down is Sistova, and, still descending the stream, are Rustchuk and Turtukai, opposite to the former of wbich are the works of Giurgevo, and over against the latter is the village of Oltenitza, both of which are remarkable as the objects of gallant attacks by the Turkish troops, nearly simultaneous with that upon Kalafat, to which we have already referred. In both operations the river was successfully crossed and re-crossed, and considerable damage inflicted upon the Russians; but, except at Kalafat, no permanent lodgment was made by Omar Pasha upon the left bank. Be. low Turtukai is the stronghold of Si. listria, upon which all eyes are now fixed, and upon the fate of which, in all probability, the course of the cam. paign of this year will depend. The

corresponding Russian post on the left bank of the river is Kalarash, and here, in fact, is the key of the first line of defence of the position of the allies. Should Silistria fall, the en. trance of the road which in 1829 led General Diebitsch to Adrianople will be opened; but at some fifty miles from the Danube, the second line of defence will intercept the Russian advance, under circumstances, it is to be hoped, very different from those which the «Crosser of the Balkan "* so gallantly overcame. Of this second line, Schumla, about sixty miles behind, or south of, Silistria is the centre; west of Schumla is Tirnova, pronounced by Colonel Chesney to be a very defensible position; while eastwards are the strong places of Pravadi and Varna, the latter having a port, or rather an open roadstead, on the Black Sea.

The gallant struggle at Silistria has, in all likelihood, been decided even while we write, but some knowledge of its nature will be useful towards the un. derstanding of what may follow. The town, which contains about 20,000 inhabitants, is, according to Colonel Chesney, “ but imperfectly fortified, and it is commanded from the exte. rior, more particularly on the southwestern side. There are ten fronts, each of which has an extremely long curtain, and two small bastions; which, as is commonly the case in Turkish works, give an imperfect flanking fire to the ditch. The scarp and counterscarp have scarcely a relief of fifteen feet. The former is surmounted by a hurdle parapet, with a strong row of palisades rising above its crest on the interior side. There is a low and very imperfect glacis, but no covert way or outworks of the usual construction; the place of the latter being partly supplied by three exterior redoubts, enclosed to the rear. A fourth, outside the western angle of the town, and a fifth, similarly situated, near the eastern extremity, flank the works towards the river, and protect the trading vessels when anchored under the walls.” This place, with defences “ more nearly resembling field works than those of a permanent fortress," successfully held out in 1828 against a Russian army of 30,000 men, which, after remaining three months before it, with open trenches, retreated towards the end of October in that year, with a loss of upwards of 7,000 men.

• The title of Zabalkanski (Crosser of the Balkan) was conferred by the Czar Nicholas upon Count Diebitsch.

It was again invested on the 18th of May, 1829, by a Russian force of 21,000 men, and eighty-eight pieces of can. non, the operations being covered by an army of 65,000 men, and 240 guns the garrison then consisting of 8,000 Albanians and about 2,000 Turks. After a desperate resistance, when there were two practicable breaches, and the ammunition of the garrison was exhausted, they capitulated, on the Ist of July, and 9,000 men laid down their arms; the loss to the Russians in killed and wounded being 115 of ficers and 2,566 men. These are noble traditions, and well do they appear to be sustained by the conduct of the present gallant defenders of Silistria. As well as can be collected from the vague and confused accounts before us, the siege must bave been commenced early in May; and the latest authen. tic report of the strength of the be. siegers is contained in a letter from Ad. miral Dundas, bearing date the 25th of May, which positively states it to be 80,000 men, under the command of the Grand Duke Constantine. The garri. son is said to number about 15,000.

Upon this point, as we have said, the whole interest of the campaign of the Danube is now concentrating. The Russians have retired from their posi. tions in Lesser Wallachia, pursued and pressed by Turkish troops detached from the garrisons on the west of Omar's front. Kalafat has been left with but 3,000 men; and an army of 30,000 Turks, including a considerable force of cavalry, is said to be now upon the left bank of the Danube, pursuing the Russians, and with orders to press on to Bucharest with all speed. On the other hand, the Russian army in the Dobrudscha would seem to have moved towards Silistria, from the north-east; while the latest news favour the reports that a junction is about to be eflected, between Silistria and Schumla, between Omar Pasha and an Anglo-French force. On the 10th of June it was expected that 30,000 French, and 15,000, or 17,000 British troops, with forty-five pieces of cannon, would have been in line fifteen miles south-west of Varna, with the design, we presume, of joining Omar, and jointly attempting to raise the

siege - movements which can scarcely fail to be followed shortly by a general and probably a decisive battle.

It would be in vain to speculate upon the future, which is involved in such a cloud of complications; but the mere facts we have stated teach a les. son which ought not to be lost sight of. If the Eastern question has been put to the arbitrement of war, it is very plain that that end has been brought about by the force of events, and has not been aimed at by the directors of the tactics of the Anglo-French commanders. The slight sketch we have given of the topography of the seat of war must satisfy every reader that the President of the Peace Congress could not have devised a plan of a campaign more likely to be bloodless than that which was begun in the intrenched lines of Gallipoli. Nature, history, and the engineer's art, all combined to point out that spot as the most un. likely in all Europe whereon to meet a Russian enemy. The deep current and steep right bank of the Danube, a double line of strong fortresses, the rugged passes of the Balkan, the his. tory of Count Diebitsch's strange luck in finding Turkish traitors willing to treat with him at Adrianople, when his army was reduced to some 13,000 men, all bore witness to Marshal St. Arnaud and Lord Raglan, that fighting was not the work cut out for them by those who selected that base for their operations, When the - Crosser of the Balkan, in 1829, approached that position, which after all he never reached, and never would have reached had the Sultan been unrestrained by kind British and other friends from resisting with the means at his disposal, Silistria had been taken, Varna had fallen by treachery, and Schumila had been turned. The whole of Bulgaria, from the Danube to the Balkan, was at the mercy of the troops of Russia, and her ships had the command of the Black Sea. Yet for all that, as we have said, there is every reason to believe that Count Diebitsch never would have reached the Sea of Marmora, and never would have extorted the treaty of Adrianople, but for the evil council of the foreign ministers (among them the British ambassador) at Constanti. nople, and the feebleness and treachery of Sultan Mahmoud's own advisers, Many a feint has, however, been converted by an accident into a true at,

« ForrigeFortsett »