A letter addressed to Thomas George Johnson's brother John, which
was published in The Morning Post
on Wednesday the 29th November, 1854.
13th Light Dragoons, Thomas George Johnson's Letter, Crimea, 7th November, 1854
Although he served in the Crimea as a Sergeant in the 13th Light Dragoons, Johnson enlisted in the 4th Light Dragoons at Maidstone in 1837 aged 13 years. He ended his career in the 13th Hussars as a Captain in 1869.
`Near Sebastopol, 7th November, 1854
My dearest Brother,
I can say but a few words. When last I wrote to you we were on the point of embarking for the Crimea; unfortunately I met with a severe accident, fell down the main hatchway and have to thank God I was not killed. I went to the General Hospital at Scutari, consequently was out of Alma, but joined the regiment as soon as possible, being anxious to participate in the next honours. Joined at Balaklava where we passed some weeks in the most arduous and harassing duties, both of outposts and pickets, almost surrounded by Cossacks, and we were obliged to be continually on the alert. At last we engaged them, but I suppose of this you have the account.
On the 25th October the enemy advanced and stormed our advanced position on some hills which were well fortified and unfortunately occupied by the Turks. The rascals fled before the Russians came within 150 yards of the forts, our artillery came up and the 13th covered the guns where we were exposed to shot and shell for upwards of two hours, but the positions being lost we slowly retired a short distance. The Russians advanced direct on to us on the ground of our camp, our heavy dragoons were ordered to charge them, and they fled although their numbers were sufficient to overwhelm our handful of cavalry.
At this time the light brigade was formed up on the left on some hills which commanded a long valley about two miles, at the end of which the enemy retired. By some misunderstanding we were ordered to advance and charge their guns which they had formed up full in our fronts at the extreme end, and here took place a scene and act unparalleled in history. We had scarcely advanced a few yards before they opened on us with grape and shell. It was a perfect level, the ground only wide enough for the 17th and 13th to advance, the rest of the brigade following. To our astonishment they had batteries on each side of the hills which commanded the whole valley; consequently a dreadful crossfire was opened on us from both sides and in front but it was too late to do anything but advance, which we did in a style truly wonderful, every man feeling certain that we must be annihilated; still we continued on up to the very guns, charged them, took them, but there being no support we were obliged to retire almost cut up. Out of our regiment we assembled 10 men mounted and one or two officers. Our Colonel being sick and our Major gone home we were commanded by the senior Captain. Two captains were killed and one lieutenant. Poor Weston was killed and two other sergeant-majors taken prisoners. The others were either killed, taken prisoners or dismounted. Of course the remainder retired and here the firing was worse than ever for the infantry aimed at us as we passed.
I escaped thank God without a scratch though my horse got shot through the head and in the hind quarters, and a lance was thrust through my shoe case. It was a most unwise and mad act. One thing, there is no blame attached to the Earl of Cardigan for he was ordered to do it and he did it most nobly. We rode up to the very mouth of the guns and since then the 17th and ourselves have scarcely been able to muster one squadron between us. The 4th Light Dragoons are nearly as bad. The Earl is very much cut up concerning it and points it out to the officers as the effects of charging batteries. There never was a more splendid Light Brigade before the battle, but now it is reduced almost to nothing. The daring of the thing astonished and frightened the enemy.
The shattered Remains of the Light Brigade moved up here near Sebastopol shortly afterwards and have remained pretty quiet with the exception of the continued bombardment dinning in our ears from morning to night, until the morning of the 5th November when the Russians appeared in force and we had then a most glorious but awful day. They estimated the loss of the Russians at from 13,000 to 15,000. Our loss is very great. The Duke of Cambridge had his horse shot under him and Sir G Brown was wounded, General Lord Cathcart was killed and many colonels and other officers were either killed or dangerously wounded. The battle lasted 7 hours and the Grenadier Guards were nearly cut to pieces. We brigaded for the first time with the French cavalry but were not engaged this day although exposed to shot and shell. We lost some horses and a fine young fellow, an officer of the 17th Lancers, was killed- a shell burst in the midst of them, he was the only one hurt and he survived but a few hours afterwards. We only lost a few men.
You will, I know, excuse this rambling scrawl as I have been disturbed fifty times whilst writing it, but I am sure it will be welcome. Many thanks for the newspapers, they are a source of great amusement and much gratification. I pray to God that I may return to see you some day, but He alone knows what will become of us if they keep us here much longer. The weather is getting to be very cold. We are all in ignorance as to the fall of Sebastopol and there is a great deal of dissatisfaction experienced at this procrastination, but I suppose our Chiefs know what they are about.'
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Thomas George Johnson
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