We tried all we could to form up the men on the beach but no go – it was like trying to make a parcel of foxhounds stand up in two ranks, with somebody crying out from the front “Pique comes on’ and someone else crying ‘President’. We all dashed into the battery and here I set our pioneers to work. They dismounted the guns, spiked them, broke all the carriages to pieces and knocked the trunnions off. We then charged up the hill which was covered with thick brushwood and mark the result. (I must mention that before we reached the battery we had eight men shot down from the heights.) We went up the hill strugging, as it was very steep and, as I said, covered with brushwood, the bullets pinging out of our heads in showers and the slope was evidently pretty thick with the enemy. We gained the crest from where we could see over the town and began peppering away at some Russians trying to drag a field-peace away and succeeded in bringing down two of them and one of the horses which I remarked were all loop-holed ready for an attack. They then fired the guns up the hill at us and wounded some men – one grape shot tearing away a poor fellow’s stomach. However, on we went, the men falling rather faster than we expected but they all behaved well, as Englishmen always do. Going up a horrid place like this, and not seeing a man for some time to revenge oneself on, is tantalizing to say the least of it. We pushed on to the top of the hill, at the same time a Marine was shot dead alongside me, to the right, but I managed to go on a little further from where only seven or eight men were to be seen, the hill being to steep and so thickly covered with brushwood.
Just at this moment a shot passed right through Captain Parker’s heart. Poor fellow, he has left a young wife and four children. I immediately ordered the Marines to fall out and take him down the hill to the surgeons. Not one of our party with me on top of the hill escape unhurt. In the meantime some of our party had gone round the crest of the hillbut they were met by a large body of Russians and the latter, knowing the ground, picked off our fellows like sparrows. While this was going on I met a French officer and two of our own and we thought it advisable to retreat to the bottom of the hill, form the men on the open ground and then try to enter the town by the gorge battery (‘F’ on the sketch). When I tried to descent the hill, I found all my left side so stuff and painful I could hardly move and my left arm was useless. If it had not been for a young French Middy and Mould our Marine officer, I would have been taken prisoner for a dead certainly. The 1st Lieut of the Eurydice was shot dead with three balls in him going down the hill. The men were so scattered, and so many had fallen, that the Captain deemed it prudent to order a retreat. As we went toward the boats the Russians brought their gun up again and blazed away at us but we returned fire with our boat guns. We managed to form about 40 or 50 men behind the rims of the Fish-house battery and in a small way covered the party embarking, but we were commanded from the hill and the bullets were showering down on the on the boats like hail. Three men were shot dead in the boat that I went off in and which was the last one to leave the beach.
Five youngsters were stationed on shore as aides-de-camp and I am happy to say all escaped unhurt. Young Johnny Kirkland was stationed in the fore magazine out of harm’s way, much to his disgust, but he had his heed up, I’m told, several times in the main deck; he is a universal favorite and a nice good tempered boy. Some Yankees were evidently fighting with the Russians, for one of our fellows ran his bayonet through one fellow who cried out in very good English, ‘You have done for me’. Some of the Russians had not time to get away from the Fish-house battery and three of them were found under a tarpaulin by a Frenchman who, on removing it, said in broken English, ‘Ah, me no tinkey you sleep’ and, so saying, ran his bayonet through one. The other two jumped up and ran away but were directly shot down. Now if any officer had happened to be in the way this would not have happened as it would have been just as easy to take them prisoner. It is said that the Frenchmen put all three on the Fish-house that was burning and that they were roasted, but I do not believe it – if I had caught them in such a barbarous act I would have cut them down with my own hand.
Poor Parker was seen by some of the men, just before I came up with him, to cut a Russian’s head clean off with one blow of his sword, I know that his sword was like razor and so was mine, but I could not get my revolver to bear on a single man.
I hope I shall never go on shore again with Jack in the bush – give me fair open ground for it. In the English Squadron we had 107 killed and wounded, the French had 87 – 194 in all. A good number, but nobody would mind wounds or anything else if only we had taken the place.
We sailed from Petropaulovski on the 9th of September and the same morning captured a fine large ship and a schooner laden with stores for the town. In fact what they were depending on for the winter, as we burnt all their fish and they will be frozen up in another month. We are now on our way to Vancouver Island for water and then go to San Francisco.
Although I am pretty comfortable, I would sooner have one out of the four pairs of soft hands there are at Sullington [his mother’s and 3 sisters’] but instead I have a huge Marine! However he is very tender and my shipmates are all very attentive. Howard had his left arm smashed by a bullet which is still in. They were afraid at first that he would have to lose his arm but he is getting on all right. Morgan was slightly wounded by a splinter from a shot which came in at one of our ports and took the legs off two poor fellows working the guns and wound four more. Another splinter took a fellow’s jaw right off. In fact they said the scene down in the cockpit was horrible but no swearing was heard. When we hauled off out of range you may be sure that I did not forget to thank God for his great mercy in having preserved me through this unfortunate day.
We captured 30 oxen with the ship, a capital thing for the wounded. For the past six months we have all been living on salt junk and hard biscuits with an occasional measley pig on Sundays for a treat.
All the poor fellows were buried close to the spot where the Admiral lies in Tareinski Bay.
The Russians behaved bravely and deserve the greatest credit. If ever a fellow merited ribbons and honoures, it is the ols Governor of Petropaulovski.
The next personal record we have of my grandfather is the log of his voyages in various naval ships from 10th July 1855 until 13th July 1862. It opens with him on board HMS Amphitrite. He is still with the Pacific Fleet and once again back in Eastern Siberia, this time at the port of Ayan in the Sea of Okhotsk which had just been captured from the Russians with whom we were still at war. I will skip very briefly over the events prior to his arrival at Esquimalt Harbour on Vancouver Island on 11th August 1856. He remained with HMS Amphitrite until 8th August 1855 when he transferred to HMS Trincomalee while cruising off Sitka in Alaska (which at this time was part of the Russian Empire as it was not bought by the United States until 1867). In HMS Trincomalee he sailed to San Francisco where he transferred to HMS Monarch, a ship of 84 guns wearing the flag of Rear Admiral Henry William Bruce, Commander-in-Chief on the Pacific Station. On 19th September they sailed from Valparaiso, a monotonous voyage which took them 47 days. He remained based on Valparaiso until February 1856. While there he notes, ‘6 Nov. Noon – arrived the mail steamer Santiago with the news of the fall of Sebastopol – fired a Royal Salute’.
On 6th February 1856 he sailed in HMS Monarch for Callao, close to Lima in Peru, returning to Valparaiso on 31st March. On 8th May he notes, ‘Arrived mail from England. Dressed mast heads and saluted in honour of the birth of a son to His Imperial Majesty Napoleon III’.
On 9th May his ship sailed once more for Callao, arriving on the 19th. Next day his log entry reads, ‘Heard the melancholy intelligence of PEACE (hope it is for the best). Dressed ship and at noon fired a Royal Salute’.