1854. H.M.S. Samson at Sebastopol

It is said that over 3,000 Coastguards, as Naval Reserve, served overseas during the Crimean War in 1854/5. I do not, as yet, have a description by a Coastguard of any Naval actions but have a letter by a British Navy sailor which gives a little snapshot of the fighting at Sebastopol.

From "The Illustrated London News", November 1854

The following letter from one of the crew of the 'Samson', has been forwarded to us for publication

Samson, off Sebastopol, October 18th 1854.

My darling Mother,

Another day of peril and danger is over in safety. We have, you must know, been cruising off this place for the last three weeks, and during that time we have been six times under fire whilst on detached service (or, rather, what they call "creating a diversion from the movements of the army), and once in general engagement, making altogether seven times, and only one man killed and three wounded, which we must ascribe to our usual good luck; but they say that fortune favours the brave, and that we flatter ourselves has something to do with it. However, I must now give you a description of yesterdays proceedings. In the morning, early, we were off Sebastopol, as we always are, looking out that none of their steamers escaped in the night, and we saw the English and French batteries open fire on the place; whereupon the signal was made to get steamers alongside for towing in, and at twelve o'clock that day they were well under way. At one o'clock the signal was made to the 'Samson', "prepare to engage the enemy;" then to the 'Terrible' and Tribune', (by-the-way, the French had commenced, by this time, on the opposite side). Accordingly, in we went, first ship of the whole English Fleet, and commenced. After a while the liners came in and then such a noise, din, etc., I never heard in my life! Fancy, what a sight -twenty-eight line-of-battle ships, steamers and frigates, I do not know how many, all firing broadsides as fast as possible, and the Forts returning it! Our attack was on the north side, and the French on the south side of course, was confined to the outer batteries, as there are eight ships sunk in the entrance, making it impossible for the ships to go in. Our line-of-battle ships' attack was, therefore, confined principally to Fort Constantine - a two-tier battery on the north side. But our liners were not close enough in and therefore their shot did not fetch with full force. The 'Samson' stationed herself right opposite a square Fort mounting eight guns, and did her work by silencing it three times, and knocking some good pieces out of it; but the worst of it was, that, not being able to take possession of it. As soon as we turned our attention and our guns to some other point, the fellows came running down again, and re-opened fire on us. We had besides that battery, one of five guns playing on us a good deal, though its attention was, in some degree, taken up by the liners.

Well, now for our damages. In the first place, we got a shell into us through our side, and it burst on the main deck, in the gun-room, literally smashing everything, knocking the bulkheads down, and destroying the cabins; You can fancy the state we were in below! Another burst on the upper deck, killing one man and wounding two more, and a great many others that I cannot tell you of now, as I have not the time, the mail just going away. Suffice to say, I am alright; so give my strongest love to all, and accept the same from your ever-affectionate son.


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1 Comment · 6430 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on May 04 2007


#1 | crimea1854 on 02/09/2008 08:29:16
From the list of casualties published in the London Gazette it was John Mahony AB who was killed, and Stephen Cook, Capt. Mainmast, & James Feast, Stoker, who were both 'slightly wounded', all being referred to in the above letter.

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