Farsi    Arabic    English   

The Mishap of June 18.—Reinforcements

Karl Marx

London, June 23. June 18, the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo[219], was of course not celebrated in London this year. It was to be celebrated in the Crimea with a victory, not over the French but alongside the French. The event seemed all the more piquant since Raglan, Wellington's famulus, was carrying out his command more or less under the orders of a General of Napoleon III[a]. The inscription was ready, only the event that it was to immortalise failed to happen. It will not escape people's notice that in the history of the restored Empire there is a fatalistic predilection for resurrecting its great dates, affirming successes and disavowing misfortunes, in a second and improved edition. This glorious resurrection of Napoleonic dates, successful so far with respect to blows against the Republic, is failing with respect to blows against the enemy abroad. And the Empire without the victories of the Empire reminds one of the adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet which not only lacks the melancholy of the Prince of Denmark but also the Prince himself[b]. Paris had arranged for a great feat of arms in the Crimea on December 2, 1854[c]. It came to grief thanks to a surplus of rain and a shortage of ammunition. On June 18, 1855 an improved version of the battle, with a different result, was to be performed at Sevastopol. Instead, the Franco-English army suffered its first serious defeat.

London is in sombre mood; the stocks have fallen, and in one day Palmerston has forfeited what it took him months of the most subtle tactical manoeuvrings to secure. The defeats occurred on June 18; the telegraphed dispatch was not published until June 22. Last Thursday the official Globe[d] announced on Palmerston's behest that "nothing serious had happened". In the Commons' night sitting of the same date Palmerston solemnly repeated the same statement[e]. And now it has been established that he received the telegram as early as 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20. The Leader asserts that this happened at the urgent request of Paris, where the misfortune in the field had been turned into good fortune at the stock exchange[f]. However that may be, the cockneys[g] are seriously annoyed with Palmerston. Being beaten is bad enough. But to let oneself be carried away at Drury Lane and Covent Garden by the Ministers' tricks into ludicrous ovations at the capture of Sevastopol—this is too bad, Sir![h]

We prepared our readers sufficiently for the fact that Pélissier's stubborn persistence in attacking the southern flank heralded disaster for the allied armies. Immediately he assumed command we drew attention to the mitigating circumstance that lack of transport would place great obstacles in his way when it came to operations in the open field[i]. Both points have now been confirmed by the English press. For instance, today's Morning Herald says:

"The army cannot take the field—as, according to all rules of strategy, it ought to do, beat the relieving army at Simpheropol [...]. That it cannot do because the 'Government grave-diggers', Neglect and Delay, have been at their murderous work again, and of 20,000 baggage cattle, which we ought to have, we have not above 4,000 or 5,000; and this while disease is once more becoming rampant in a camp which contains every possible incitement to fever, cholera, and plague. This incapacity of moving them, the same as it was at Varna and in the Valley of Death, is the cause why, day after day, our generals are compelled to waste the lives of our soldiers in desperate attacks upon almost impregnable earthworks, while the noble army that should take the field is lying on the Chernaya, without cavalry or means of transport."[j]

The ingenious negligence with which, from the outset of the war, the Cabinet administered the resources at its disposal has been shown anew by financial reports which have just been published. According to this official report the balance in hand on January 1, 1854 of the money allocated for the army was £1,835,882 and the amount expended on the army on April 1, 1854 was only £2,270,000, so that less than three-quarters of the money voted by Parliament for raising troops was used. And what was it that, according to the report of the Roebuck Committee[k], ruined the army? Overwork. And what is the reason of this overwork? Lack of numbers. But this lack of numbers, as the financial report shows, was the result of a Cabinet intrigue. And Prince Albert complains that the Queen[l] has no troops at her disposal! And that the Cabinet's hands are tied! The Layard debate revealed that the self-same Cabinet, whilst complaining about lack of transport, sent troopships to Portsmouth via Newcastle-upon-Tyne to collect coal, or from the Clyde to Liverpool and from Deptford to Woolwich to be inspected by the Surveyor.[m]

The misfortunes of June 18 have made immediate reinforcements necessary. Accordingly orders were issued yesterday for immediate embarkation: the 15th Infantry Regiment, which has recently returned from Ceylon; the King's 51st Light Infantry Regiment, the 80th and 94th Infantry Regiments, all the India detachments from the various depot companies, and 1,200 men of the cavalry are to leave immediately for the theatre of war. Orders have been telegraphed to Marseilles for special steamships to be sent from there to the Governors of Malta and Gibraltar and to the Lord High Commissioner[m] of the Ionian Islands with the task of transporting all the men who are fit for service not only from the garrisons but also from the reserve of the Household Brigade and all the reserve battalions that can be spared before the arrival of the relieving regiments and militia. Sailing at once are: the 13th Light Infantry Regiment of Gibraltar, the 31st Infantry Regiment from the Ionian Islands, the 48th from Corfu, the 54th from Gibraltar, the 66th from Gibraltar, and the 92nd Scottish Highland Regiment from Gibraltar. British forces in the Crimea will thus be increased by more than 13,000 men. To this must be added four field batteries, a troop of mounted artillery and reinforcements for the siege train, all of which are ready and are only waiting for ships. Incidentally, England is in the same position as in 1854. No reserve army. And even worse. In 1854, as the Roebuck report admits, Palmerston prevented and delayed the formation of the militia; but in 1855 he succeeded in practically dissolving the militia which was already formed. As one can see from the above list, the reinforcements absorb not only the bulk of the army, but they also swallow up the depot battalions and break up the cadres. Thus England resembles Montesquieu's savage who fells the tree in order to get hold of the fruit[n]. The economical country par excellence is spending its military capital instead of the interest. This is the result of the manoeuvrings of the Cabinet in which Prince Albert demands that one have implicit confidence! Nothing could be less accurate than the view held on the Continent that England has too small a population to be able to raise armies. In 1815, after 22 years of war, England had more than 350,000 men mobilised! But the Cabinet purposely ignores both remedies: raising the bounty for the standing army, and balloting for the militia. What else can one expect from the Prime Minister, whose debts Princess Lieven paid in 1827, and whom she appointed Foreign Secretary in 1830, a man who procured for Russia eight years of dictatorship over Turkey by means of the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi, and eight days before the treaty expired, renewed it in the Dardanelles treaty?[220]

Yesterday in the Commons Roebuck gave notice that on July 3 (Tuesday week) he would table the following motion:

"That this House, deeply lamenting the sufferings of our army during the winter campaign in the Crimea, and coinciding with the resolution of their committee that the conduct of the Administration was the first and chief cause of these misfortunes, hereby visits with its severe reprehension every member of the Cabinet whose counsels led to such disastrous results."[o]

Roebuck's motion therefore deliberately includes: Palmerston, Russell, Clarendon, Granville and Lansdowne, at one and the same time members of the present Cabinet and the previous one. The small, venomous, Thersites-like but crafty barrister, the perfect master of parliamentary tactics, saw himself forced into tabling this motion, as his constituents at Sheffield threatened to subject him to a vote of no confidence at a public meeting, because he had denounced Palmerston on Tuesday and expressed his confidence in the same Palmerston on Thursday. Prince Albert's unfortunate interference in matters between the Cabinet and Parliament, and his challenging of the authority of Parliament was a further reason for this motion, which threatens to rob the Queen once more of "her confidential servants".

We shall report on the latest activities and fortunes of the Administrative Reformers, and the machinations of the clerics next time.

Written on June 23, 1855
First published in the Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 291, June 26, 1855
Marked with the sign x
Published in English for the first time in MECW.


[a] Pélissier.—Ed.

[b] An allusion to the English saying: "It's Hamlet without the Prince."—Ed.

[c] The third anniversary of the Bonapartist coup in France.—Ed.

[d] The Globe and Traveller. Marx refers to the issue of June 21, 1855.—Ed.

[e] Palmerston made that statement on Friday, June 22. The Times, No. 22088, June 23, 1855.—Ed.

[f] The Leader, No. 274, June 23, 1855.—Ed.

[g] Marx uses the English word.—Ed.

[h] Marx uses the English words "this is too bad, Sir!"—Ed.

[i] This refers to the German version of the article "Sevastopol" (see this volume, pp. 260-66) and to other articles in the Neue Oder-Zeitung.—Ed.

[j] The Morning Herald, No. 22465, June 23, 1855.—Ed.

[k] "State of the Army before Sebastopol", The Times, No. 22084, June 19, 1855.—Ed.

[l] Victoria. For an account of Prince Albert's speech see this volume, pp. 273-76.—Ed.

[m] Marx uses the English term.—Ed.

[n] Ch. Montesquieu, L'Esprit des Lois, V, XIII.—Ed.

[o] The Times, No. 22088, June 23, 1855.—Ed.

[219] In the battle of Waterloo fought on June 18, 1815, the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian forces commanded by the Duke of Wellington and Blücher defeated Napoleon's army.

[220] The Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi was signed by Russia and Turkey on July 8, 1833. Prior to that, in the spring of the same year, Russian troops had landed in Unkiar-Skelessi, on the Bosphorus, to help protect the Turkish capital from the army of Ibrahim Pasha, son of Mehemet Ali, the ruler of Egypt who had rebelled against the Turkish Sultan. In May 1833, the Porte concluded peace with Mehemet Ali through the mediation of Britain and France, ceding Syria and Palestine to Egypt. However, the Tsarist government, taking advantage of the tense situation and the presence of Russian troops in Turkey, induced the Porte to conclude a defence treaty with Russia which contained a secret clause obliging Turkey to close the Straits to all foreign warships except Russian vessels. This clause remained in force until the Turko-Egyptian war of 1839-41, when Nicholas I reached agreement with Britain and other Powers on joint action against Mehemet Ali, but was compelled to agree to the closure of the Straits to the warships of all states in peacetime.

The Dardanelles Treaty—a reference to the London Straits Convention signed on July 13, 1841 (see Note 98↓).

[98] This refers to the London conventions of 1840 (see Note 20↓) and 1841. The latter was signed, on July 13, 1841, by Britain, Russia, Austria, Prussia and Turkey, and also by France which, faced with the prospect of an anti-French coalition, was forced to withdraw its support for the Egyptian ruler Mehemet Ali, who had attacked the Sultan, and join the Powers in backing the latter. The convention also stipulated that the Bosphorus and Dardanelles were to be closed to the warships of all Powers in peacetime.

[20] The Afghanistan campaigns—during the first Anglo-Afghan war (1838-42) in which Britain strove to establish colonial rule in Afghanistan, British troops invaded Afghan territory twice (in 1838 and 1842). Both invasions failed to achieve their purpose.

At the insistence of the British government, Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia signed a convention in London on July 15, 1840, on military assistance to Turkey in its war against Egypt (1839-41). In the autumn of 1840 British and Austrian warships bombarded Beirut, Saint-Jean-d'Acre and other for-tresses on the Syrian coast, which had been captured by Mehemet Ali, the ruler of Egypt, between 1831 and 1833. Eventually Mehemet Ali was forced to relinquish his possessions outside Egypt and submit to the supreme authority of the Sultan.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 14 (pp.297-301), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
MarxEngles.public-archive.net #ME0917en.html