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The Mapleton Archive
Henry Mapleton, c. 1860-65
The following letters, 1 written during 1854 and 1855 to Hon. Inspector-General of Hospitals Henry Mapleton, M.D., 2 then a Second-Class Staff Surgeon, were transcribed by his descendant, Patrick Walker, with minor assistance from Michael Hargreave Mawson, who also provided the footnotes. They are reproduced here by kind permission of Mr. Walker.
Letter 1 - Nigel Kingscote 3 to Henry Mapleton
◀ Nigel Kingscote, Poulett Somerset, and their wives, 1857.
The Crimea, on the Sea Horse, 10 miles south of Eupatoria, Sept. 16th 1854.
My Dear Mapleton,
Your letter of the 12th reached me last night and I asssure you most deep and sincere grief is felt by all of us at the tidings therein contained. Firstly at your being so ill and secondly that you will not be able to join us again. We miss you very much and have often said how much we wish the ‘Old Plunger’ 4 was with us, indeed you are often wanted, not in your Medical capacity I am happy to say, but in the general arrangements of the establishment and every other little capacity. We all sincerely hope that your `native air` will set you all to rights and is for your comfort. We hope that the little cottage and buxom young widow will soon be found or anything else you may wish. We shall all be glad if you can find the time to write to tell us when you get safely home, how you are and any other news you may have.
Steele 5 says you have no need of any authority from the Adjt. General here as the Medical Board is sufficient to send you home from Scutari. I am afraid the horrid climate of Varna will have played the devil with you, but I am sure ‘native air’ is a sovereign remedy for all ills.
Well! Here we are actually landed and I am writing under my little dog-kennel on the ground. No opposition to our landing most fortunately or we should have been in a mess, as, though the first day was fine until about 6 pm, yesterday there was a dreadful serf [sic] and very dangerous for landing horses. I am sorry to say your grey pony was drowned as the brute swam from shore instead of to it. They would let only two of yours come so I put that down as a public one and also the Bay which is here. The other 2, the small one and my old one are at Varna. When they reach this [sic] if I can I will sell them and you shall have the proceeds, likewise the cart and whatever there may be but it will be long before they arrive.
All the Infantry was landed the first day and a more horrible night could not be blowing and raining torrents. No tents but now I am happy to say they have all got tents as we have captured a good many Arabas 6 I suppose we shall advance tomorrow and the chances are that there will be a general action either on the banks of the Alma or the Katcha, perhaps on both which is about 15 or 20 miles in advance.
We landed over 27000 fighting men I believe, the French not so many 7 , but I am afraid Cholera has by no means forsaken us and many men died on the voyage up.
Nothing could be more propitious than our voyage here and we, accompanied by the Agamemnon, 8 and a French and English steamer, made a reconnaissance last Sunday of Sebastopol and all the coast from Cape Chersonese to Eupatoria which took us from daylight to sunset. We ran in within 2 miles of Sebastopol and quite close inshore in some places, once sending in our boats to sound, which created great excitement among the Cossacks who followed all along the coast and they set off for some horse artillery which however was too late. The Caradoc, 9 was a regular nigglry [?] but still we got on very well and being by ourselves was a great thing.
My Lord 10 is very well, was on horse back the whole of yesterday and the day before and none the worse for it. His first night under canvas was last night and he said he slept very well.
The sun has lost a good deal, though not all, [of] its power and as long as it does not rain too much we shall do very well.
All our horses got safe except one of my Lord`s who actually swam for two hours, but he is alive and kicks a bit.
The country here is one vast open plain, mostly cultivated, with villages where–ever there is water and the inhabitants infinitely more civil than the Turks. We pay for everything but those horrid French immediately plundered a village and tried to rape the women, and it is hard to keep our fellows from doing the same. Everyone sends their love. His Lordship is writing to you. Poulett 11 , hopes you will keep his sword as a small remembrance.
With every good wish in haste, ever yours very sincerely
Letter 2 – Joseph Prendergast 12 to Henry Mapleton
Balaclava. 3rd Oct 1854
My Dear Mapleton,
Yours with inclusions dated 16th Sept I only received two days ago.
The receipts duly signed I herewith return.
You will observe that the grey pony was drowned unavoidably upon landing in the Crimea.
The panniers were not complete according to the statement of contents inside their lids. The hurried disembarkation from the Hydaspes, 13 embarkation in Caradoc, departure from Varna and unsettled state ever since landing in the Crimea have fairly prevented my either making my complete re–arrangement or writing to you as I would have wished. Somerset 14 will write to you this day about the tent
The invoice of Medicine that you sent me, as well as the list of articles for his L`s 15 use I will retain for the present.
I cannot promise any satisfactory examination or settlement till in some fixed winter quarters where-ever that may be. Cholera is rampant throughout the Expedy. [i.e., "Expeditionary"]Army.
Kingscote has, I believe, sold one of your horses for you.
The Cavly [i.e., "Cavalry"] have not yet been used, I am happy to say, by his Lordship. He has written to you and always speaks kindly of you and frequently asks about you.
Yours sincerely in haste
J. S. Prendergast.
Letter 3 - Nigel Kingscote to Henry Mapleton
4 miles from Sebastopol Oct. 8th 1854
My Dear Mapleton,
Your two ponies and cart arrived from Varna about a week ago. I sold one pony for £10. The one you bought of me with the cart and harness for £20. I send you a check [sic] for the pony ,also a check [sic] on my own banker for the £20 as I am to be paid in money by the fellow who bought it. I do not think I did badly for you. I cannot tell you how much we miss you and wish you were here now as the weather, though fine, is quite cool and we are in a Russian General's house on the high ground between Balaclava and Sebastopol.
Long ere this you will have been satiated with accounts of the Alma, our march to Balaklava, a very plucky and wonderful stragectic [sic] one, and our now being in position round Sebastopol though we have not begun blazing at them yet as we have been hard at work dragging up the guns, ammunition etc., a very heavy job, a distance of 5 or 6 miles, and all uphill. However now the guns are all up and ammunition coming fast.
Ground was broken last night but at a very long range merely to put some big guns in position to help cover when the trenches are begun. The Russians have some heavy guns which they let fly at us every now and then and uncommonly well they shot, but the only casualties have been two of our men killed and a French Officer.
I long to begin at them and give it them well, but I expect we have a tough bit of work before us; from the nature of the ground and the place is bad to approach and very bad for digging, in fact the more you look at it the worse it is, but I do not doubt our getting into it in time and then the very best thing will be to blow the place up and cut away, or else we shall have a very rough time of it all the winter as they say there are large re-inforcements coming up.
We are in a wonderfully strong position and having thrown up a few earth-works in our rear it will take more pluck than the Russians have got to face them I expect 16 . They had a good licking at the Alma, but not so good as they ought to have had, had the French come on when they gained the heights 17 .
You will have heard of old Lagondie 18 being taken prisoner the day before the fight, he must have ridden into the Cossacks quite at right angles to where he ought to have gone. It is an immense relief to us being quit of him and I only hope he will not return. We can get on very well without him.
The Cholera is still among us but better now, though many Officers and men are sickly and we have had many deaths especially among the former.
No Army ever had a much harder time of it than ours since they landed in the Crimea. No tents till three days ago and a great deal of hard work with a long way to go for water sometimes. Officers have felt it more than the men not having a thing except what they carried on their backs. Now however they are all right. We were very lucky to get off without any casualties except Leslie 19 who is going on very well at the Alma as we were under fire nearly all the time. My Lord never seeming to know he is being shot at. He is remarkably well, indeed we all are and I sincerely hope by this time that you are, and with kind remembrances from all round me. Airey 20 is such a grand contrast to old de Ros 21 . Quite first rate.
Ever yours sincerely,
Letter 4 - Nigel Kingscote to Henry Mapleton
Headquarters before Sebastopol Nov 13th 1854
My Dear Mapleton,
I was delighted to get your letter of the 22nd Oct and we were all glad to hear of your safe arrival in England and sincerely hope you may soon get your strength up again. You must have had a very severe attack and it is with real regret that we all hear (Lord Raglan included) that you will not be able to come out to us again, but at the same time we thought that such would be the case and now all we hope is that some day or another we may be permitted to meet and see something more of each other. Poulett will not write today as I am doing so, but many thanks for your letter and when the Caradoc comes back from Constantinople will have a good look for your tent.
I am afraid all the enthusiasm of the British populace will by this time have subsided, and the reaction will be all the other way and we may be abused. However we can hear that all that could possibly be done has been done and never did troops fight better, bear the very great hardships they suffer, or work better than ours have done and are doing.
Now everything is in a terrible state up to our knees in mud and wet. As for the last week the weather has been very wet and blowing a gale of wind. 22 Cold would be almost better but one thing is our enemies have no tents and it must be more difficult for them to get up their supplies than for us. I only trust it is and that the beggars will starve, for at present one is very bloodthirsty against them as there is no doubt that they bayonet [sic] quantities of our wounded men on the 5th when they were lying on the ground. 23
The action of the 5th 24 was as hard-fought a battle as ever took place and how our single line of troops stood before the masses of Russians that came up against them I know not, and one [sic] or twice it was touch and go, indeed some of our artillery men were bayonet [sic] at their guns but we lost none of the guns. The French came up at the nick of time and fought well but would be better with a turn more dash. The Russians brought up a mass of cannon and threw shells like hail, indeed they do nothing without lots of Artillery and some day or another I prophesy they will get into a great mess when we have licked them and we are able to follow them up. What we want is more men and everything has fallen upon us as yet.
I am thankful to say we all came safe out of the fight on the 5th though under a heavier fire and for a much longer time than at the Alma. Poulett had his horse shot under him and poor Genl. Stranways 25 [sic] was killed close by my Lord`s side.
Those brutes of Turks, as you well know, bolted from the redoubts round Balaklava at almost the first shot and consequently the Russians got our guns. We would have taken the redoubt again but I suppose his Lordship did not like to loose [sic] men for a trifle. 26
The charge of Heavy Cavalry was splendid and so exciting, the old lsquo;Plungers’ covering themselves with glory. Nothing could have been more spirited than the charge of Light Cavalry on the same day, the 25th, but alas with great loss and very little result, the fact was poor Nolan 27 , who took the order, exaggerated it very much, though written, but I cannot exonerate Lord Lucan 28 for listening to him. 29
The siege just crawls on, but we want to be as slow as possible now and wait till we get further reinforcements of men and guns, the French the same, but I do not for a minute doubt we shall be in this town sooner or later. The sooner the better if we had a chance of getting away as soon as it is all over, but I am afraid that is out of the question and we must make the best of being cooped up here all the winter. It is a bore but luckily we have a good house over our heads. Never was anything more fortunate, especially for his Lordship, than our getting it, the only house within miles and surrounded with shedding.
His Lordship is remarkably well and indeed all of us ["are" omitted]. Prendergast is a very good fellow but not quite a boon companion.
In great haste. Ever truly yours, N. Kingscote
“A good house over our heads” – Lord Raglan's Headquarters.
Letter 5 - Nigel Kingscote to Henry Mapleton
Headquarters before Sevastopol January 6th 1855
My Dear Mapleton,
Your letter of the 21st Dec reached me last night and I can in answer only repeat what I said in my former letter to you, which is simply this, that my Lord and all of us would be only too glad to see you back among us again, but we should be very sorry to think that by coming you would be in the least endangering your health, and my Lord`s expression was “I should be very sorry that he should run any risk”, which evidently you would be doing according to the opinion of your Medical Advisors who must know.
If you do come, which really and sincerely for your own sake I hope you will not do, remember my Lord`s express wish is that you should come to no other locality than Hd. Quarters. I speak perfectly openly to you and therefore tell you without humbug, we, (Lord `R` and us) should much prefer you to Prendergast who is not a companionable man at all, though in a professional point of view, I have no doubt he is very clever and I think my Lord has confidence in his professional skill, but still it is not the same thing as having the “Old Plunger” with us.
Here we are with nearly two feet of snow on the ground and it is freezing hard, but the men tell us they like this weather better than the wet. Under the snow the ground is very [word omitted in original] and deep, so travelling is very bad.
The sickness is very great. I am sure you will condole with me when I tell you my poor faithful old servant Yates died today from the effects of fever which had been on him for a fortnight, but until this morning we all thought he was getting better. He is the greatest loss to me possible.
Lord Raglan is very well but feels anxious I think about the sickness in the Army, (don`t mention this). 30 We hear the tide has now turned in England and the people begin to find fault with Lord R. and all of it was what we expected unless they would have a butcher`s bill 31 once a month.
As for the correspondent of the Times 32 , he ought to be hung [sic]. He not only lies but tells the Russians more than 50 spies could possibly do.
Omar Pasha 33 has arrived here and 17,000 Turks are at Eupatoria. Whether they will do any real good or not remains to be proved, they have already done good as they have drawn off nearly all the Russian cavalry. It is very middling fun being here but there is no help for it.
Burghersh 34 is in my room and sends his love to you and hopes you will remain in England and recover your health.
My Dear Mapleton
Yours very Sincerely
Letter 6 - Henry Fowle Smith 35 to Henry Mapleton
Headquarters August 27th 1855
My Dear Mapleton,
I dare say that you will not be very much surprised when I tell you that your old assistant has succeeded his Master; General Simpson 36 in a most kind manner, through Dr.Hall 37 , sent for me and asked if I had any objection to come and live with him & c.c. [sic] and although I remembered your old advice, I could not refuse. I am quite settled and happy now, you had all the real work. Prendergast all the care and pain, for the march was rather jolly than otherwise.
I don`t know when we shall succeed in taking this place but most certainly we ought to do so shortly, we are close to the Redan , the French within a few yards of the Malakoff, and powerful batteries advanced in every direction. The Russians have made a bridge across the harbour and have been seen taking a number of things over the other side. I wish they would evacuate the town and take themselves also. 38
The Installation of the Knights 39 took place yesterday, Lord de Redcliffe 40 performed the ceremony with great dignity, and his addresses were very eloquent. As also General Sir Colin Campbell 41 and Sir Edmund Lyons 42 replies, particularly the reply of the latter.
We have been constantly on the alert since the 14th and are daily expecting a determined attack on our trenches and towards Balaklava.
Why don`t you take promotion, surely it would be far better to remain at the Board with an occasional holiday than to join a Regiment again? Do you think I should endeavour to be made an Acting Staff Surgeon 1st class from my appointment or not? My service and the circumstances under which my appointment took place were so very different from yours, that I have not liked to ask it. Advise me like a good fellow what to do, of course keeping in mind what is right with respect to the Department, the office and myself. Dr Hall told me he thought I should obtain it if I showed a precedent.
When does Dr Smith 43 leave and who are we to have in his place? What kind of constituted board are we to expect?
I am truly disgusted at the manner we are treated, no honours, no rewards, all work and abuse; I wish I was out of it and so do four fifths of the whole department. If we ever hand it over to the Civilians and see what a nice state they would get into in less than a twelvemonth. Our Hospitals, field and otherwise, I feel confident you would be astonished to see and I truly believe that anything like them never has been seen in any former war and never will be surpassed in any future.
Write me a line soon and believe me,
Your ever sincere friend
H. Fowler Smith
PS If Col. Steele or Maj. Curzon 44 were aware of my writing I am sure they would desire to be kindly remembered.
“The Installation of the Knights”
1. Mr. Walker writes, There were originally considerably more than these six but in the 1930s the widow of the son of the Dr Mapleton to whom these were originally written, decided on a clear out and they were burnt! Horror of horrors.▲
2. Henry Mapleton's career was a long and distinguished one:
Born, 16th May, 1815
MD, Edinburgh, 1838
Assistant Surgeon, Staff, 12th July, 1839
Assistant Surgeon, 62nd Foot, 15th November, 1839
Assistant Surgeon, 40th Foot, 30th October, 1840
Assistant Surgeon, 3rd Dragoon Guards, 14th April, 1846
Surgeon, 40th Foot, 13th July, 1847
Surgeon 2nd Class, Staff, 22nd December, 1848
Surgeon, 55th Foot, 5th April, 1850
Surgeon, 3rd Dragoon Guards, 8th November, 1850
Surgeon 2nd Class, Staff, 5th May, 1854
Surgeon, 15th Dragoons, 6th July, 1855
Surgeon, 18th Dragoons, 19th February, 1858
Surgeon-Major, 12th July, 1859
Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals, 26th August, 1859
Head of Medical Branch, Medical Department, War Office, 1859-1864
FRCP, London, 1860
Married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Thomas Marrable. He was 51 and she was 37.
Retired on half-pay with the honorary rank of Inspector-General of Hospitals, 9th September, 1864
Died, 1st January, 1879, and buried in Woolborough churchyard near Newton Abbott in Devon.
Served with the 40th Regiment in the Gwalior Campaign of 1843, including the battle of Maharajpore (Medal). Sailed for the Crimea, but, due to ill-health, was invalided home from Varna (in Bulgaria), and did not take part in the invasion. Mr. Walker reports a family tradition that he became Physician to Queen Victoria later in life, but this has yet to be verified.▲
3. Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Nigel Fitzhardinge Kingscote, K.C.B., Scots Fusilier Guards. Ens. & Lt., 27 Oct 1846; Lt. & Capt., 28 June, 1850; Maj., 12 Dec 1854; Lt-Col., 17th July, 1855, retired by the sale of his commission. Extra Equerry to HRH The Prince of Wales. Served in the Crimean War, 1854-55, as Third ADC to Lord Raglan, including the battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkermann, and the Siege of Sebastopol. Received the K.C.B., the Crimea Medal with four clasps, and the Turkish Crimea Medal.▲
4. Contemporary British Army slang for a cavalry officer who was a dandy or man–about–town.▲
5. Major-General Thomas Montague Steele, C.B., Cor. 12th Jan 1838; Ens. & Lieut., 20 Jul 1838; Lt. & Capt., 29th Mar 1844; Capt. & Lt-Col 31 Oct 1851; Colonel, 28 Nov 1854; Maj-Gen, 17 Aug 1865. Served in the Crimean War, 1854-55, as Military Secretary to Lord Raglan and to General Simpson, including the battles of Alma, Balaklava and Inkermann, and the Siege of Sebastopol. Received the C.B., the Crimea Medal with four clasps, the French Legion of Honour (Officer), the Sardinian Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus (Commander); the Turkish Order of the Mejedie (Third Class) and the Turkish Crimea Medal. Appointed Aide De Camp to Her Majesty the Queen.▲
6. Bullock carts.▲
7. Assuming “not so many” is intended to mean “almost as many”, these figur