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Thirty Days in the Theatre of Battle with Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar Reverend George Tomlinson

1855 MSS Journal - Crimean War

Rare Primary Source Account - Florence Nightingale 1855


Crimea, 16 April - 16 May 1855. Manuscript fair journal with excellent firsthand observations of the Crimean War, by George Arnold, an ecclesiastic man who accompanied Bishop of Gibraltar George Tomlinson on his mission to Scutari, their travels and works taking them into regions greatly afflicted with chaos and battle. 8vo. 99 pages. Black calf boards, gilt ruled, original marbled endpapers. An eloquently written primary source account in an immaculate hand.

Travels through wreckage and half buried corpses, incessant fire and innumerable soldiers, all-too-near engagements with the enemy, sacred beneficence in the midst of musket fire, poignant imagery of the Crimean War is so articulately presented in the journal of a priest immersed in the battle scenes at Balaklava, Malakoff and Scutari.

Written by an English cleric of note, George Arnold served directly under the Right Reverend Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar, George Tomlinson (1794-1863), together facing peril by undertaking a mission of hope. Their ultimate purpose was to provide an official anointing for those who had lost their lives in service, to consecrate the burial ground at Scutari, however, their task was overwhelmed by the indiscriminate and exhaustive devastation of war, and by the prolific presence of makeshift graveyards and unmarked mounds, the number of deceased surpassing count.

The focus of the present journal is largely on the scenes of war, of secret campaigns and unrelenting assaults, of the movement of troops, of numbers killed and wounded, as opposed to the sacramental works for which they had initially planned. The majority of the time is spent in and around Balaklava (now part of Sevastopol). The travellers' quarters being directly in the army camps, affording the closest possible observations without actually engaging in battle themselves, historic battles and daily bombardments are mentioned throughout.

In an unexpected turn of events, the men of the cloth find themselves alongside Lieutenant General Sir George Brown as he made preparations for the Expedition to Kerch, embarking their vessel with his troops. [For distinguished service in earlier wars, Brown was appointed as the Army's adjutant-general in 1850. He was wounded at the Battle of Inkerman in 1854. After recovery, in May 1855 he led the expedition to Kerch, which devastated the town. The following month he was given tactical control of the assault on the Redan. The attack failed and at the end of June 1855 he was invalided home.]

The journey seems to have been cut short by the Bishop becoming ill with a terrible bout of "Crimea Fever". He was tended to by doctors, and by Florence Nightingale herself, who had just arrived in the Crimea. Upon regaining strength he was urged to return home due to the high risk of re-infection.

The writer also makes frequent mention of his tour to Crimea the previous year, having then also travelled with Bishop Tomlinson. He compares the condition of the regiments, the cities, the land, and so forth, after another year of war. [In 1854, during the Crimean War, the Bishop visited the British Expeditionary Force at Scutari, and on May 20 confirmed 302 men, and communicated on the next day between 300 and 400 men of the Force. In a letter addressed to the S.P.C.K. from Pera he described the moving scenes, and in the same letter outlined a plan for building an English Church at Constantinople, which came to be the 'Crimean Memorial Church.' The church was built in the Beyoglu - Taksim district of Istanbul, on land donated by Sultan Abdulmecit, and was constructed between 1858-68 in memory of British soldiers who had participated in the Crimean War. George Tomlinson was Bishop of Gibraltar from 1842 to 1863].

The work is dedicated in manuscript to Mrs. Tomlinson, the Bishop's second wife, whom he had married earlier that year, Eleanor Jane, daughter of Colonel Fraser of Castle Fraser.

Excerpts from the journal:

"... these times of warfare when nation are against nation and kingdom against kingdom, call forth our most serious attention..."

"... the detail of the proceedings of my venerable master and Bishop during his Lordship's late visit to the field of battle, and England's graveyard in the East... I have the particular privilege... of being an eyewitness..."

"... on the 16th of April the Bishop of Gibraltar... embarked onboard the steamship... for the Crimea." "... the scene was warlike indeed... for the most destructive purposes, the military equipment of the newest inventions... strewed the decks..."

"April 23rd ... As the day advanced so did our eagerness to descry Constantinople... I had been thrice this route before...12.30 pm... we approached the Port... objects of the Golden Horn showed out to perfection... We cast our anchor off Scutari at 4.30 pm... I well remember the animation caused by the arrival of the British Army this time last year... we left nearly 30,000 men if the British Army in the bloom of health and vigour of life... we returned and found melancholy and solitariness..."

"April 24th... proceeded to the British Embassy... much surprised to find Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and his family busily engaged in preparing to embark onboard HMS Caradoc this afternoon for the Crimea... we took a caique and crossed the Bosphorus for Scutari... curious looking boats... For swiftness I think they are unrivalled. Many an Englishman has had unpleasant immersions by them."

"About 200 yards from this [wharf] is the Barracks, or General Hospital as it is now termed... this vast military habitation, perhaps the largest in the world... we inspected the hospital... much suffering would doubtless have been greatly alleviated could this arrangement have been made shortly after the Battle of Alma..." "From the hospital the Bishop went to the burial ground to make arrangements for the ensuing Consecration..."

"April 25th. Constantinople, I think, is the quietest city in Europe... Through the dexterity of Russian prisoners (in the hands of the British) we got in our needful supply of coals..."

"A strange fit has betaken the Turks in the present day, to destroy all the tombs in their cemeteries... The Sultan's new palace looked beautiful in the rays of the sun, being of white marble..."

"April 27th... lighthouse of Cape Chersonese... the lighthouse and Convent of St. George... the entrance to the harbour of Balaklava... truly marvellous!... the mass of shipping here is truly amazing... Admiral Boxer (the Port Admiral) came on board... look much altered for the worse since we saw him last year..."
[Admiral Boxer died of cholera while on a vessel just outside of this harbour only 5 weeks later, on 4 June 1855. The Cape Chersonese lighthouse was located close to the Russian naval base at Sevastopol.]

"... We arrived at Lord Raglan's about 1.15 pm... such a miserable building inhabited by the British Commander-in-Chief... at best a wretched tumbling down place. We met Lord Stratford de Redcliffe here... We were astonished to see so much of the remains of unburied animals lying about... from what I saw today of tent life, it was by no means an enviable one."

"April 28th... During the whole of the past night the bombardment was more or less heavy, and when the large mortars were fired we felt a trembling throughout the ship... on shore... the Mounted Police Corps are ever watchful, the Land Transport Corps ever engaged, the Provost Marshal ever disliked."

"April 29th. The Reverend Mr. Huleatt's servant was taken prisoner as a spy... sent on board in the custody of the Adjutant General's aide-de-camp. He was a German..."

"April 30th. We are to visit the trenches tomorrow. The firing of the large guns is frequent." "May 1st... through the Turkish camp. The air was poisoned with a horrible stench every hundred yards, arised from half-buried bodies of men, horses and dromedaries... Arrived at Chathcart's Hill... proceeded to the heights of Inkerman, where the 33rd Regiment is encamped... went to the Victoria Battery... amazing to view the ponderous works and labour that our army had gone through. We had a good view of the thorny Malakoff Battery, and would that we could foretell its fall."
[The Battle of Malakoff, which took place only four months after the writer's departure, resulted in the fall of Sevastopol. The Russian battery posted in the Malakoff tower was led by General Khrouleff and known as "Lunette Kamchatka." ]

"... I shifted my quarters, for the Russians threw their shells and rounds into the Sailors battery on our left... only three hundred yards... The view of the contest before us is exceedingly striking, the French batteries almost seem to vomit fire, but our batteries not so furious... the French have on their extreme left so hemmed the Russians in towards the Mamelon that they daily and indeed hourly expect an assault by our indefatigable ally."

"... met the Bishop about a mile and a 1/2 from Lord Raglan's, and 6 from Balaklava... met the Honourable Colonel Spencer, 44th Regiment... He was extremely amused at some Russian trophies which I was carrying..."

"May 2nd. A mysterious rumour was afloat that a secret expedition was to be dispatched... all steamers to be got ready to embark 1,000 troops... our vessel was included... turns out too true, and we are to go on shore..."

"Balaklava... a bazaar...stalls of fruit, tobacco, coffee, soups, wines hot and cold, cheese, bread and clothes. The vendors were chiefly Maltese, French, Turks, Greeks Bulgarians, Croats, Tartars, Spaniards, Italians, Germans and a few wandering Jews... varied coloured flags and the name of the proprietor on them. Crockford & Co. from St James Street, Crimean Army Fund, Silver & Co from Liverpool, Brown, Green & Co from Manchester, were the most conspicuous..."

"May 3rd. 4 am. The embarkation of stores and war materials commenced. General Sir George Brown and staff selected our vessel for their accommodation during the expedition. 300 soldiers of the Highland Brigade and a number of the Land Transport Corps, together with two field batteries began to embark.... Kerch is to be the destination... the opportunity for making an offensive movement against the enemy seems to arrive... the expedition... has invigorated the most sanguine anticipants throughout the camp."
[The city was devastated by British forces in 1855.]

"... disembarked... all the streets have had their Russian names transferred to English... All the shops in the High Street were converted into depots for every regiment in the Crimea, so that messages or parcels may be left here... houses appear to be built of mud and small stones... the Raglan Hotel which is in course of erection... this place is to be opened by two West Indian or American women (mother and daughter)... they have been trading here some time... they have been the means of quenching many an agonizing thirst of our wounded and dying soldiers... There's a sharp contest going on in the trenches with musketry; rockets are fired off occasionally..."

"May 4th... Rode to Cathcart's Hill... the resting place of Generals Cathcart, Goldie and Tylden, besides several other distinguished officers who lay interred here... they lie here amidst of the roar of cannon... I wandered over twenty three large burial grounds chiefly belonging to the French, and I counted 19 large square mounds in three rows... hard to distinguish between man and beast in this quarter... within the boundaries of the Allied Army before Sebastopol, there are from two to three hundred large burial grounds... It was the Bishop's special object in visiting the Crimea to promote some means of having these honoured spots more respected and consecrated... there were only two or three places in a fit state for consecration... every regiment had its own graveyard."

"May 5th... The Turkish troops turned out for drill at 6am... Omar Pasha arrived during the morning. He returns to Eupatoria this evening... The scene is very imposing and exciting just now, and the Russians reply to our fire very fiercely... 5pm. The bombardment still continues... a perpetual pounding and whizzing till darkness..."

"May 6th... on the slope of Cathcart's Hill. All the men are under arms, and they have their colours with them. Fourteen hundred of them go to the trenches... This is General Sir John Campbell's division... The Bishop... went to bury a poor soldier of the 41st Regiment who was killed in the trenches this morning... The corpse was most frightfully mangled, and the blood was streaming from it on the stretcher... War and Death are awful realities!... the shrill rattle of musketry commenced in the trenches."

"May 7th. 6.15am. The Bishop is very unwell... Lord Raglan's doctor (Dr Smith)... pronounce symptoms of the Crimean Fever."

"May 10th... The fever is very violent and the pain is so great that it caused His Lordship to perspire dreadfully... 8.15am. The doctor came in and his opinion seemed very undecided... 11am. Miss [Florence] Nightingale and M. Soyer arrived from Scutari... 10.30pm... bombardment is very heavy tonight, moreso than we have yet heard..." "May 11th. Last night was one of the most wretched and cheerless we had during our stay in the Crimea... Miss Nightingale is to call on the Bishop at 10am... Although the weather was of the worst possible kind during the past night, the Russians nevertheless made three desperate sorties... Our loss was rather severe, being 30 killed and wounded... three officers."

"...The doctors have been and advise His Lordship to leave the Crimea tomorrow if possible, as they fear of his having a relapse of the fever."

"May 12th... A thick fog still prevailed... we found ourselves in the Turkish camp, about two miles out of our right course... a very uncomfortable dilemma, for our horse had become restless with its burden... 4pm... we embarked on board the HMS Himalaya..."

"May 13th... Many are the reflections that revolve in my mind... The changes of the climate forms one of the most remarkable features of the Crimea... the country would be very enjoyable if it was thoroughly Englishised... Divers were busily employed round about the unfortunate screw steamship 'Prince'... "

"May 14th... Arrived at Kamiesh [in Balaklava, Crimea]... We have but a half dozen invalids and a few return muleteers for Gibraltar... had to remain at Therapia for the night..."

"May 16th... very busy, for the burial ground is to be consecrated at 5 o'clock this afternoon... prepared for start to Scutari... nearly 6000 internments... a few simple monuments of stone, and a few wooden slabs with rudely carved names. But hundreds upon hundreds lie here, without stick or stone to inform a stranger who they are and of what they died. We sadly known they are 'Our Crimean Heroes'... "

End Excerpts.

Significant persons connected to the Crimean War are mentioned, most of whom the writer met in person.
Following are some examples:

Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe KG GCB PC (1786- 1880), British diplomat and politician, best known as the longtime British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. He was Ambassador to Istanbul from 1842 to 1858. In 1853 Stratford came in the midst of a crisis caused by the dispute between Napoleon III and Nicholas I over the protection of the holy places. This crisis ultimately led to the Crimean War. Stratford is accused of influencing the Turks to reject the compromise agreement during the Menshikov mission, or any other Russian treaty.

Rear-admiral Edward Boxer (1784-1855), a highly respected officer of the Royal Navy who died in the Crimea on 4 June 1855. In December 1854 he had been appointed second in command in the Mediterranean, and undertook the special duties of superintendent at Balaklava, which the crowd of shipping, the narrow limits of the harbour, and the utter want of wharves or of roads had reduced to a state of disastrous confusion. This, and more especially the six-mile sea of mud between the harbour and the camp, gave rise to terrible suffering and loss, the blame for which was all laid on the head of the admiral-superintendent at Balaklava, so that even now Admiral Boxer's name is not uncommonly associated with the memory of that deadly Crimean winter.

The Rt. Hon. General Sir George Brown (1790-1865), a British soldier notable for commands in the Peninsular War and the Crimean War. At Alma he had a horse shot under him. At Inkerman he was wounded whilst leading the French Zouaves into action. In the following year, when an expedition against Kertch and the Russian communications was decided upon, Brown went in command of the British contingent. He was invalided home on the day of Lord Raglan's death (29 June 1855).

Ottoman general and governor Omar Pasha Latas (1806-1871), a commander in the Crimean War, where he won outstanding victories at Silistra and Eupatoria and participated in the siege of Sevastopol.

Florence Nightingale, OM, RRC (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing, who came to prominence while serving as a manager of nurses trained by her during the Crimean War, where she organised the tending to wounded soldiers. She gave nursing a highly favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of "The Lady with the Lamp" making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.

The Right Reverend George Tomlinson (1794-1863) served as Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Gibraltar from 1842 to 1863. Pledging himself to reside from six to eight months of each year in either Gibraltar or Malta, this long residence usually being spent in Malta, he was active throughout the Mediterranean. During his time, a Bishop's presence was desired chiefly that he might minister Confirmation; episcopal authority and discipline were little known and quite undesired. Of Gibraltar, Malta, Trieste and Athens, only the first was consecrated. In Roman Catholic countries it was most trying to perform marriages and burials, and even more so, to secure places of worship, and an adequate degree of religious liberty. Nevertheless, in the course of twenty years his presence and influence effected a great improvement in the condition of Church affairs, facing difficult and discouraging conditions in both colonies, including resistance, especially in Gibraltar.

At Malta there was but one civilian chaplain under the Bishop's jurisdiction. But the position was easier for two reasons. The fine new Church of St. Paul, Valletta, was under the Bishop entirely, and was built under his supervision ; and owing to the very inadequate spiritual provision made for the troops, he was able to take a regular share in the ordinary work of ministering to them.

In 1843 he visited Athens to consecrate, on Palm Sunday, the Church that had been built in 1841. At Smyrna, on April 23, he consecrated the Consular Chapel belonging to the old buildings of the Levant Company. He made further church consecrations at Trieste, Messina, Oporto, Valletta, and Florence. In 1846 he visited Malaga, and consecrated the cemetery acquired in 1830 by the efforts of the Consul. In 1847 the Bishop was at Patras, where there was no chaplain, and spent Easter at Corfu, where there was no place of worship. In 1854 he held an ordination in St. Paul's, Valletta, ordaining a priest for Smyrna and two deacons.

During the Crimean War, he made two visits to the war-torn country, consecrating churches and burial grounds, burying some service men, and to maintain a connection with the long-neglected Churches of the East.

Bishop Tomlinson died at Malta on February 6, 1863, at nearly 69 years of age. His body rests in the Ta Braxia Cemetery.

The legendary HMS Prince was a Royal Navy storeship purchased in 1854 from mercantile owners by Admiralty Order. Commissioned under Commander Benjamin Baynton, she sailed for the Crimea, carrying 150 persons and a cargo of much needed winter uniforms. She was destroyed in November the same year at a deep water anchorage outside Balaklava by a hurricane which tore her from her anchorage and dashed her onto rocks: she broke up completely within ten minutes and only six of her 150 crew were saved. Twenty-nine other Allied transport ships were wrecked during the same storm.

The Battle of Malakoff took place only four months after the writer's departure, resulted in the fall of Sevastopol. It was a major battle fought between French-British forces against Russia on 8 September 1855 as a part of the Siege of Sevastopol, resulting in the fall of Sevastopol on 9 September, and the end of an 11-month siege. There were only seven surviving defenders of the stone tower, and as a result of press coverage of the siege of the tower, Malakhov Kurgan became a household name in Europe.

Current Condition

Wear to boards, otherwise in very good condition